Lack of revenue may lead to loss of bus routes

December 3, 2013

By Peter Clark

Issaquah’s free bus could be on the chopping block

Without funding, King County Metro Transit could leave Issaquah with only five bus routes next year.

As temporary funding expires in 2014, Metro Transit has reacted by exploring possible cuts to services. A state Legislature special session to pass a transportation package might still happen, but the regional agency is planning ahead for the worst.

“Unfortunately, as a result of the great recession, we’ve lost a considerable amount of the tax revenue that we use to operate our system every day,” Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond said in a video on Metro’s website. “We’ve raised your fare, we’ve spent cash, we’ve improved the efficiency of the system. But we’re running out of the cash reserves and one-time revenue to keep service on the road.”

In total, Metro Transit looks to cut 74 bus routes and reduce service on another 107 routes starting next year. In Issaquah, the proposed changes would delete routes 200, 215, 217, 210, 211, 209 and 927. It would also change the routes of 208, 271 and 269.

Metro Transit decided which routes to change by gauging how well the route performs compared to others and judging whether alternatives exist to serve riders.

“Unless we can find the revenue for a permanent sustainable future for Metro, we’ve got to start considering reducing the system,” Desmond said. “We now have proposals out for public review, and consideration for about 17 percent of reduction in the system. We want you to get involved.”

The city understands the need residents have for keeping the routes. The free 200 bus has long been used by citizens and visitors alike to get around town.

City Communications Manager Autumn Monahan said the city wants to work with the county organization.

“We’ve done a significant amount of outreach to our community about these proposed cuts, including on our website and social media,” she said. “Meanwhile, the city’s Transportation Mobility Team, an interdepartmental, internal team, has been working very closely with Metro on this issue.”

She said that team has already spoken to City Council members about the proposed cuts.

“The team presented this topic to the Council Infrastructure Committee last week,” Monahan said. “After some discussion, the council members asked the team to study a few options, which may include other partnerships with Metro and/or private partnerships. The team is also reaching out to a variety of our social service partners to better understand the community’s needs.”

She said the Transportation Mobility Team will update the committee during its February meeting.

Metro Transit is aware of the disruption caused by the proposed changes. The agency has scheduled a number of meetings around the county to gather rider-input and present a case for why adjusting the system might become necessary.

Eastside meetings begin Dec. 11, at Bellevue City Hall, from 6-8 p.m. There will also be one at the Peter Kirk Community Center in Kirkland 6-8 p.m. Jan. 16.

Desmond encouraged people to participate in the meetings.

“We don’t want to be cutting service,” he said. “In fact, we should be growing here in King County. But unless we find new revenue, we are looking unfortunately at having to reduce the system.”

Without statewide action to find revenue, cuts would be made in June and September of next year, with more to come in 2015. Only 33 routes countywide would remain unaffected.

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