Officials tout Metro Transit savings amid King County budget talks

October 21, 2011

By Staff

NEW — 8 a.m. Oct. 21, 2011

Officials said King County Metro Transit is on track after declines in sales tax revenues battered the regional transit agency.

The agency’s budget is part of the King County Council’s ongoing deliberations about the 2012 county budget. The council is scheduled to adopt the spending plan in late November.

For Metro Transit, earlier savings related to cuts and efficiencies resulted in about $400 million in savings — including $143 million in ongoing annual savings. The proposed 2012-13 budget for Metro Transit adds $18.2 million in additional efficiencies through staff reductions, space consolidation, pension reductions and health care savings.

Overall, the cuts reduced Metro Transit’s expected operating costs by $25 million in 2012-13.

Officials said changes in fare and service-planning policies should increase the agency’s fare box recovery rate by about 3 percent — meaning the fare box recovery rate should be more than 30 percent next year.

Metro Transit’s cost per hour is expected to drop $6.59 by 2013.

“As a result of the new Strategic Plan for Public Transportation we will soon see the end of unproductive service and duplicative routes that will result in a more efficient bus system,” Issaquah-area Councilman Reagan Dunn, Regional Transit Committee chairman, said in a statement.  “In addition, the financial crisis at Metro has forced the agency to comb its budgets for efficiencies that have resulted in tens of millions of dollars in savings. I look forward to the full implementation of these changes in the coming years and a more efficient bus system for the future.”

Metro Transit faced a $200 million budget gap in 2010 and 2011.

“People rely on transit to get to and from jobs and community activities, so in these difficult financial times, we have a responsibility to stretch our public transportation dollars as far as we can,” Councilman Larry Phillips, Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee chairman, said in a statement. “The numbers are in for the 2012-2013 budget, and we can see the results of our cost-cutting and productivity measures paying off in lower operating costs and increased fare box recovery rates.”

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