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County Council approves transit service reductions compromise, preventing cuts to 200,000 service hours | King County

The Metropolitan King County Council today 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.

”I appreciate the broad support expressed by today’s Council vote supporting a measured and budget-based approach to transit service changes,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, chair of the Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee, 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.”

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.

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 ordinance also calls for a report from the County Executive by September 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 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, in the release. “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.”

Following the vote, Metro Transit, Council Chair Larry Phillips, Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott, and Councilmembers Dave Upthegrove and Larry Gossett released this statement on the final proposal:

We all want to keep buses running. Cutting service will impact our communities – and our economy. Yet we have an obligation to live within our means; it’s what voters told us to do in April.

“The legislation approved today was developed in the spirit of compromise and meets our need to better align costs with revenues by authorizing 350,000 hours of bus cuts. Despite some claims to the contrary, our economy is recovering – but slowly. The latest revenue forecast confirmed that Metro’s financial situation has not vastly improved. In fact, it’s slightly worse.

“Our Council has a long history of working together to keep buses rolling. We’re pleased that after a month of political games, we’ve arrived at today’s compromise with leadership from Chair Phillips and Executive Constantine.

“In the coming months, Metro will prepare for cuts in September and February. The cuts authorized by today’s vote will be made based on Metro’s Strategic Plan which was unanimously adopted to keep politics out of route decisions. Metro will also complete another outside audit initiated by the Executive, to continue the County’s work to make sure our department is running as efficiently as possible.

“This legislation is not perfect. But we have a bus system to run, and the people of King County deserve some certainty about whether their bus will continue to serve them. It is time to move forward.”

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