City’s bus routes may be on the chopping block
April 9, 2013
By Peter Clark
Metro Transit released a report April 1 that revealed the possibility of cutting Issaquah routes should legislative funding dry up.
With 65 bus routes throughout the county in danger of being canceled and another 86 having their services reduced, the report essentially served as a reminder for the eventual expiration of the car tab tax passed as a stop gap measure to continue Metro Transit support. The 2012 Service Guidelines Report measured and analyzed transit service based on measures of productivity, geographic value, social equity and ridership. It determined that the current cost model was unsustainable.
“Our analysis shows that we should be adding service to meet growing demand, but the sad reality is that, without ongoing and sufficient funding, potentially one-third of our routes are on the chopping block, and another 40 percent of our routes face reductions and revisions,” Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond said. “The result would be even more crowded buses, riders left at the curb or people climbing back into their cars — something that would worsen the region’s traffic congestion and hurt the economic engine of the state.”
Hitting close to home, three of the 65 routes on that chopping block run through Issaquah, providing services to those in need of public transportation. The free 200 route is one of the three. A valued part of the city’s few transit opportunities, it winds its way from Second Avenue to Issaquah High School and the community center to Fred Meyer and back.
“There are real people that ride each of those routes and some have to rely on them,” said City Council President Fred Butler, who serves on the Sound Transit board and is a member of the King County regional transit committee. He has been very active in trying to address transportation issues. “People who are entirely dependent on transit are hit the hardest. Especially on route 200. A lot of seniors use that route, a lot of students use that route.”
State Sen. Mark Mullet is trying to find room in legislative goals to respond to the hurdles facing the future of King County transportation. With the increase in pressure from the Washington Supreme Court’s decision for greater school funding, he said it won’t be easy.
“It’s an uphill battle,” Mullet said. “For me, it’s a big concern, but I’ve been in a minority.”
He acknowledged that education is a very important topic, but said he did not want transportation to take a back seat.
“If you don’t come out of this legislative session doing both, I don’t think you can consider it successful,” he said of his fellow legislators. “They think they’re saving money, but I think that at the end of the day, they are keeping us from economic growth.”
If the Legislature does not authorize funding to fill the approximate $75 million deficit in funding, Metro Transit will have to make decisions regarding the possible route deletions and reductions. With the car tab tax expiring in fall 2014, the agency’s annual $75 million budget shortfall will include $60 million for operations and $15 million for replacement bus purchases.