As if a looming 17 percent service cut, which we covered last month, wasn't bad enough, yesterday morning, King County Metro general manager Kevin Desmond told the county council's transportation committee that state funding for transit during the Alaskan Way tunnel construction won't be sufficient to mitigate construction impacts after 2014 (when tunnel construction, of course, will still be underway—the tunnel won't be finished until 2016 at the earliest).
That's the same year that tunnel tolling will begin—moving more cars onto downtown streets, and increasing the need for downtown transit.
As part of the tunnel agreement, the state pledged to provide Metro with about $30 million for additional bus service (to add trips or increase service hours for bus routes serving commuters impacted by tunnel construction), plus a couple million and change for monitoring bus service downtown and transportation demand management downtown and in Seattle's South End. Overall, Metro estimates the extra funding bought about 49,000 new service hours on about 20 routes in 2012.
According to Metro's report, "The mitigation funds have proven to improve service reliability by covering the increase cost caused by slower travel times and by adding bus trips; both actions made riding the bus easier and a more attractive travel choice for more trips along the corridor."
According to Metro, transit rides account for 17,000 more trips in the viaduct corridor since the state started funding additional transit service, and 25,000 fewer trips on the corridor are being taken in single-occupant cars.
That's the good news. Here's the bad news: The funding for viaduct construction mitigation runs out next fall, at the same time that the temporary $20 vehicle license fee that preserved Metro service over the past two years expires. Combined, the two cuts add up to a "disaster," Desmond told council members yesterday—45,000 transit hours a year, which amounts to a 14 percent cut in service on the Alaskan Way Viaduct corridor.
That "disaster" is made worse by the fact that the state legislature declined to give King County the authority to levy a one percent motor vehicle excise tax to pay for about $15 million of annual transit service in the corridor back in 2009, when the county asked for MVET authority. That tax would have gone into effect in 2009 or 2010.
Contacted today, Desmond elaborated.
"The clock is ticking, and we've got to find funding to keep that service in place," he says. Without it, "It undermines the entire project in a lot of ways."
He added: "We're not causing the problem. The project itself is causing the impact, and therefore, we believe the sponsor of the project itself—the state—is responsible for addressing the impact at least through 2016.
"Otherwise, it gets a lot worse."