Issaquah councilman shapes bold reform plan for Metro Transit

November 16, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

Report urges transit agency to rethink  bus routes

King County Metro Transit should rethink how the public transit agency transports riders and maps bus routes, a regional transit task force has recommended.

The recommendations in the Regional Transit Task Force report represent a potential roadmap to long-standing differences related to Metro bus service.

Issaquah Councilman Fred Butler, a longtime expert on regional transit issues, served as a member of the 28-member task force.

“The task force really developed the overarching policy direction,” he said. “The future work is developing the specifics to implement that, and the specific criteria that will be used.”

Butler also serves as a member of the Sound Transit board and the King County Regional Transit Committee, the advisory group to the King County Council for mass transit issues.

Instead of adding or reducing service based on geographic formulas, the plan calls for service to be linked to productivity, connections to job markets and demand for transit.

“These recommendations help meet the goal I first set last year: to allocate transit based on what makes sense, rather than on arbitrary political divisions,” County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. “Rather than quarrel over an ever-shrinking pie, we need to work together to provide bus service that is productive and meets the needs of the entire county.”

Next, Constantine plans to incorporate the recommendations into a strategic plan to be sent to the County Council. The council is expected to take final action on the framework by mid-2011, so the recommendations can shape the development of the next transit budget.

Butler and other task force members logged eight months to produce the report in semimonthly meetings on Mercer Island.

The discussions focused on how to ensure geographic and social equity through Metro routes. Members recommended directing buses to job and population centers.

“It was probably a graduate-level course in transit systems and operations,” Butler said. “We looked at every aspect of it. We started out with what I would call Transit 101 to understand the Metro Transit system.”

The process resulted in spirited discussions among the elected officials, business leaders, representatives from nonprofit organizations and labor groups, and Metro riders.

“While everyone may not have been 100 percent pleased, it was a consensus report,” Butler said.

The task force presented the plan Nov. 5. The document is expected to form the foundation of a unified regional effort to petition the Legislature for a system to provide the majority of public transit dollars through a more sustainable revenue source, rather than sales tax dollars.

Otherwise, Metro — the ninth-largest bus system in the United States — could face deep service cuts in the years ahead. If additional stable revenue sources cannot be found, Metro faces a yearly operating deficit of $117 million by 2015, resulting in 600,000 fewer hours of bus service.

The report recommends continued efforts to reduce operating costs at the transit agency. Metro has already implemented steps to save money in response to a county audit.

The report also stresses the role of public transit as a tool to support economic vitality and land use.

“The task force’s work balancing the interests of individual stakeholders with the interests of the region and the Metro system as a whole is truly remarkable and exemplary,” County Councilman Larry Phillips, Environment and Transportation Committee chairman, said in a statement. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to implement their recommendations.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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Comments

4 Responses to “Issaquah councilman shapes bold reform plan for Metro Transit”

  1. Joe on November 17th, 2010 12:55 pm

    The county and state should send every registered voter or driver or resident a postcard that asks two questions.

    1) What address do you most travel from?
    2) What address do you most travel to?

    This could be used to planning all transportation including Metro.

  2. Jane Kuechle on November 18th, 2010 2:12 pm

    I was pleased to join Council Member Butler on the TS Force. As an Issaquah resident and frequent bus rider I was asked to represent the interests of those who have limited transportation options such as people with disabilities and people who are elderly. I was pleased with the Task Force recommendation around social equity which emphasized the right of everyone to not only get to work. but to shop, to get to medical appointments and to participate in their community (worship, entertainment, civic government, etc.). Task Force members remain committed to staying involved and seeing the process through the adoption of the recommendations by the Council and the pursuit of more stable funding.

  3. Metro Transit offers information about ridership, delays and more : The Issaquah Press – News, Sports, Classifieds in Issaquah, WA on January 13th, 2011 6:00 am

    […] Staffers developed the website during the past year. Offering the performance information to the public is a recommendation from the Regional Transit Task Force. (Issaquah Councilman Fred Butler served on the task force.) […]

  4. Councilman Fred Butler announces re-election campaign : The Issaquah Press – News, Sports, Classifieds in Issaquah, WA on March 29th, 2011 5:24 pm

    […] a Sound Transit board member, served last year on a regional effort to guide King County Metro Transit service in the decades ahead. In addition, then-County Executive-elect Dow Constantine tapped […]

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