County Council compromise lessens immediate impact of transit cuts by 200,000 service hours

From a press release:

The Metropolitan King County Council on Monday unanimously approved a compromise plan to move forward with certain bus service reductions for Metro, while deferring an additional 200,000 hours of service reductions originally proposed for June and September 2015, pending adoption of the 2015/2016 King County budget.

Following the defeat of Proposition 1, the county executive asked the Council to approve legislation that would reduce Metro bus service by 550,000 hours between September 2014 and September 2015.

The ordinance approved today implements ONLY the service reductions originally proposed for September of this year, with a focus on cutting bus routes that are in the bottom 25 percent of productivity in accordance with the County's adopted Transit Service Guidelines.

"I appreciate the broad support expressed by today's Council vote supporting a measured and budget-based approach to transit service changes," Councilmember Rod Dembowski, chair of the Council's Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee, said in a press release. "We listened to the community and today's action is responsive to the concerns that have been raised. I thank my colleagues and Executive Constantine for their hard work in forging today's legislation."

"Passing this legislation with a unanimous majority signals the County Council's interest in listening to the voters and continuing the hard work of putting service on the streets despite financial challenges," said King County Council Vice Chair Jane Hague.

The adopted legislation also authorizes 188,000 hours of service to be cut in February 2015, but does not approve the specific routes to be eliminated or revised. The 188,000 hours would be adjusted based upon the recommendation of an ad-hoc committee created to review the July and August economic forecasts and additional financial data from Metro Transit.

When the service reductions in February are set, the County Executive would transmit a service reduction ordinance for consideration by the County Council.

"The League of Women Voters is pleased with the Council's action today to move forward with a ‘more measured approach' to the proposed cuts to Metro Transit and to establish a process that may minimize the impacts of some of the most devastating proposed cuts and restructures," said Janet Winans, League of Women Voters Seattle-King County Transportation Chair. "We have provided testimony to support Councilmember Dembowski's ongoing efforts on this issue, including the substitute ordinance that was passed. The League supports the Council vote to move forward to postpone the decision making for 200,000 service hours of 2015 transit cuts until further work on a collaborative process can be completed and more information can be available."

The ordinance also calls for a report from the County Executive by Sept. 30, 2014, describing revenue and expense reduction options available to avoid service reductions proposed for 2015. This report will build on existing work to identify further savings and additional revenue already underway by the County Council, including an independent audit of Metro's operations, finances and fund balance policies, changing fare policies to increase revenue, and a peer review of Metro.

The compromise acknowledges the need for additional community input and calls for community workshops on proposed transit reductions with affected communities and stakeholders. It also requires a report to be transmitted to the County Council with any future service reduction proposal, setting forth other options considered.

"The Washington State Hospital Association, including Virginia Mason, is supportive of the proposed approach going forward," said Ross Baker, Public Policy Director at Virginia Mason. "We support a healthy and growing transit system and look forward to taking part in the community workshops with Metro."

"The Native American community of Seattle and King County are incredibly grateful to Councilmember Dembowski for his courageous and outspoken fight to preserve the current route to the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center," said Chris Stearns, Native American attorney and past Chairman of the Seattle Human Rights Commission. "The center is our community's home, and the bus cuts that were averted today would have hurt our community immensely. We are encouraged that the Council is willing to work with the Native American community and with the help of leaders like Rod, we are going to hold their feet to the fire."

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