By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
West Seattle won’t just be the hardest hit if Metro has to carry out its plan for cuts – it will be the first hit.
So if you have something to say about the routes proposed for reductions/eliminations, it’s time to say something if you haven’t already. You have another chance to do that today, if you work downtown, with Metro’s next public meeting at Union Station at noon.
Metro’s been making the rounds, including a stop last week in West Seattle. That came almost a month after Metro GM Kevin Desmond had summoned news media to a meeting room downtown (WSB coverage here) to warn again that service slashes loom, outlining which ones were on the endangered list and how the process would roll out.
There was some hope then of a breakthrough in the Olympia-centered battle over transportation funding, including money for roads as well as transit. But it hasn’t happened yet, and most recently, while briefing the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council last Thursday, two of our area’s state legislators reiterated the lack of a deal.
So absent a major U-turn, you might say, the first batch of cuts for our area is approaching the onramp – detailed in a plan that is being drawn up right now, to go to the County Council within weeks, since these cuts would take effect in June.
These are the cuts that Metro says are required by the looming expiration of the Alaskan Way Viaduct “mitigation funding.” That funding for more service along the “corridor” including West Seattle to downtown was announced with a flourish five years ago, at a media event headed up by then-County Councilmember Dow Constantine and the man he succeeded as County Executive, Ron Sims:
(WSB photo from September 2, 2008)
As the official county news release from that day underscores, what was announced then was meant to get people through the first wave of construction – it was noted that “discussions” were in progress regarding mitigation for construction of the “central” AWS replacement.
Since then, work has begun on that replacement – the tunnel (though it’s had some rough patches) – and timetables have been clarified. But there is not yet any “mitigation” for how the work will continue to affect mobility along the corridor. Local leaders contend that the state needs to deal with the fact that construction won’t be over until 2019 – the tunnel’s completion will be followed by the central Viaduct’s demolition, and work on surface transportation in its wake.
For starters: The plan that is being drawn up right now, to send to the King County Council within a few weeks and to be considered next month, is intended to cover what will be lost when the Alaskan Way Viaduct “mitigation funding” from the state expires in June of next year. That money was supposed to cover extra bus service for the corridors most affected by Highway 99 construction – mostly our area. Metro says mitigation isn’t just needed until the tunnel is open in 2016, but all the way until Viaduct demolition and waterfront work is complete in 2019. However, at this point, the money runs out in mid-2014, and no replacement is in sight.
Metro reps warned that the service added when that money kicked in isn’t the exact same service that will be taken away if they have to eliminate 45,000 hours of service when the money runs out next June 30th. Instead, the cuts are based on their “service reduction priorities,” which are gone through in this order:
1st: Cut the lowest-performing service that meets certain criteria
2nd: Restructuring routes so that the end result has the least amount of impact
3rd: Cut the next-lowest-performing service
4th: Reduce lowest-performing service on corridors below target service levels.
So Metro says it’s gone through that list in a “data-driven exercise” to come up with what’s proposed for that first round of cuts, including four route deletions. These are the south-end cuts Metro says would take effect in June if the “mitigation funding” isn’t replaced.
First, the ones that would be eliminated (Metro’s word, “deleted”):
*Route 22, deleted
*Route 37, deleted
*Route 57, deleted
*Route 113, deleted
Those with proposed service reductions in June include these south-end routes:
*Route 21, no service after 10 pm
*Route 21X, one fewer trip each in am and pm
*Route 55, one fewer am trip, two fewer pm trips
*Route 56X, two fewer trips each in am and pm
*Route 116X, one fewer am trip, two fewer pm trips
*Route 118X, one fewer trip each in am and pm
*Route 120, two fewer trips each in am and pm
*Route 125, no night service after 9 pm & no weekend service
*Route 128, no night service after 10:30 pm
*Route 131, reduce night and weekend service
*Route 132, reduce night/weekend service
And for most of the reduced routes, that would just be Round 1 – at some point if/when the other systemwide cuts started being phased in at the September 2014 service change or beyond, they would be cut further, with 27 percent less service in this area at the end of the reductions. (Again, those are not the ONLY cuts this area would face. The second round, including the entire system, would be sent to the County Council in March or April.)
At the public meetings, Metro is stressing points already made by its management – that this comes at a time when ridership is up and would merit more service, not less, and that it has already taken action to reduce its expenses.
At last week’s West Seattle meeting, recapping the frustration of trying to get legislators to approve even just the permission for the county to ask voters to approve funding, Constantine’s transportation adviser Chris Arkills said that county leaders “are determined to NOT let this happen,” and will turn to “existing taxing sources” first if they have to, though they would not work as well as the “motor-vehicle excise tax we’re trying to get through the Legislature.”
One of the challenges right now, it was pointed out, is that there’s some public perception that the bus-funding crisis is just going to affect bus riders. At last Tuesday’s meeting, West Seattleite Michael Taylor-Judd wondered if Metro is sounding that alarm loudly enough – “It’s important to let everyone know this isn’t (just) a transit-rider issue, it’s an (everybody) issue,” including drivers who should be upset they’re facing thousands more cars back on the road with them.
Metro reps pointed to this map showing those potential effects.
But they also say they have some tinkering capability in terms of what to cut, so that’s why they’re asking one more time for comments on potential impacts of what’s in the plan – including the list above. Besides the list of meetings and other events on the county website – which includes a White Center presentation at next month’s North Highline council meeting, 6:30 pm January 9th at the NH fire station (1243 SW 112th) – you can e-mail comments to HaveASay@kingcounty.gov, and/or take a survey here.