King County Executive Dow Constantine has just outlined a three-part plan regarding Metro‘s future, ranging from a way for cities to avoid service cuts within their borders, to a way to counter the claims that Metro doesn’t spend its money wisely, to a way to figure out how to improve customer satisfaction.
First, Constantine said he remains “fully committed to a regional transportation solution.” And he says a statewide package remains “desperately needed … but doing nothing while we wait on Olympia” is not an option. So, he says he’s “creating an enhanced Metro program for cities … to have a clear path for” buying additional hours of Metro service. He says this is intended as “a bridge” until a permanent funding solution is found: “Until the Legislature acts, I cannot ask cities to accept cuts that they are willing locally to prevent.” He says this won’t prevent the first round of Metro cuts this fall but if cities choose, might be able to hold off subsequent rounds. (The four West Seattle bus routes slated for “deletion” aren’t scheduled to go away, for example, until September of 2015.)
He says he’s also calling for “new transparency” in how Metro spends and is run, to “clear the air” and “get the right information” to people to refute a perception that Metro doesn’t spend its money well. He says Metro’s costs are 99 cents per mile, while the industry standard is 98 cents per mile, and “growth in Metro costs is now well below the national coverage, 19th out of our 30 peers.” Constantine says he’s calling for a financial audit of Metro’s reserves and capital-spending plans. He says Metro spends cash on buses rather than go into debt.
Exec calls for peer review and financial audit of Metro's operations, and establishes new Customer Service Panel to make recommendations.
— Dow Constantine (@kcexec) May 12, 2014
And he says he’s forming a new customer-service panel to find out “how to make the experience of riding Metro, even better.”
The first part of his announcement would seem to pave the way for Mayor Ed Murray‘s expected announcement tomorrow of a Seattle-only tax-increase proposal. Voters in the city approved Proposition 1, though it was defeated countywide because of a strong “no” vote outside the city; that was pointed out by City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who was among those joining Constantine at the news conference that has just ended.
4:13 PM: Here’s the full county news release. And Mayor Murray’s office has just sent word that his announcement is set for 9 am tomorrow.
5:18 PM: And carrying over the footnote from our earlier item previewing this story – you’ll be able to follow up on the county news today and the city news tomorrow morning, by hanging out with the West Seattle Transportation Coalition tomorrow night.