King County transit task force receives top honor

January 27, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 1 p.m. Jan. 27, 2011

King County Executive Dow Constantine congratulated Issaquah Councilman Fred Butler and other members of a transit task force Thursday for receiving a prestigious honor from the Municipal League of King County.

The recommendations from the 28-member Regional Transit Task Force represent a potential roadmap to long-standing differences related to Metro Transit bus service. The task force released the report to county leaders in November.

The group has received the James R. Ellis Regional Leadership Award for the effort, Constantine announced Thursday.

“We asked 28 local leaders to set aside arbitrary political divisions and come up with transit recommendations that meet the needs of the entire county, and they exceeded all expectations,” he said in a statement. “That takes real leadership, and I’m pleased to see their hard work and vision recognized by the Municipal League.”

The award honors individuals and organizations for contributing significant leadership in the examination of regional public policy problems.

The task force recommended for Constantine and the County Council to rethink how the mass transit agency transports riders and maps bus routes. Members called for Metro Transit to tie bus service to productivity, connections to job markets and demand for transit — instead of adding or reducing service based on geographic formulas.

Butler, a longtime transit expert and a member of the Sound Transit board, served on the regional task force.

“I was proud that our recommendations focused on transit efficiency, but also recognized that our transit system must serve those who are most in need of transit service, and that we have to create a fair distribution of service for all residents and businesses throughout the county,” he said in the statement. “I believe we have outlined policies to create a strong integrated transit system.”

The report also urged county leaders to update the way Metro Transit is funded.

The agency relies on sales tax revenues — a source hit hard by the economic downturn. If additional stable revenue sources cannot be found, the county estimates Metro Transit could face a yearly operating deficit of $117 million by 2015.

County Council members adopted the task force’s recommendations in December. The list serves as the foundation for a joint council-executive staff group crafting strategic plan for the transit agency. The proposal is due to the council by the end of February. The council intends to adopt legislation in time for Metro Transit to incorporate changes into the 2012-13 budget.

“The task force has set a new benchmark for how we can collaborate on solutions to the most urgent challenges facing our region,” Puget Sound Regional Council Executive Director Bob Drewel said in the statement. “With transit funding in decline, the region requires innovative thinking and actions. The task force has provided the county with a new blueprint for making decisions about transit services.”

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