Just announced by King County Executive Dow Constantine‘s office – he’s proposing that Metro Transit break away from the County Transportation Department and become a self-contained department:
King County Executive Dow Constantine directed work to begin on a plan to move Metro from a division within the King County Department of Transportation to a standalone County department. This would increase innovation and accountability in four areas: increasing mobility options, capital construction, investing in Metro’s workforce, and expanding the transit system through partnerships.
“This region increasingly depends on fast, reliable transit. So it’s no surprise that Metro is one of our most vital, visible, and popular services,” said Executive Constantine. “By elevating Metro as a standalone department, we can better encourage innovation and accountability so that we continue to make strong progress in mobility, delivering capital investments, focusing on employees, and forging strong community partnerships.”
The move builds on the successes in creating the Metro Connects long-range plan, the ORCA LIFT fare for riders earning lower incomes, and services that are better integrated with Sound Transit.
Over the coming months, Executive Constantine will form a work group with County Councilmembers to identify shared objectives and priorities for Metro as a standalone department. Following thorough business planning and budget processes, a formal proposal will be transmitted to the Council in fall 2018 as part of the 2019-2020 budget process. It’s anticipated that Metro will become a department early in 2019 following Council actions.
King County and Metro Transit merged in 1994, following a voter referendum. Metro later became a division within the King County Department of Transportation, along with the Road Services, Airport, Marine, and Fleet Administration divisions. Metro is the largest single division in King County government, providing $1.6 billion in transit services in 2017-2018 through 4,800 employees – including 2,800 transit operators.
Metro provides 500,000 rides daily through bus service and under contract for Sound Transit and the city of Seattle. Metro’s daily ridership is above 400,000 and with service expanding, Metro is the largest transit agency in the state and serves the nation’s fastest growing transit market in the country.
You can read Constantine’s letter to KCDOT director Harold Taniguchi here. The plan was announced to Metro employees yesterday, via a memo from Taniguchi that a WSB reader sent us this morning – when we subsequently asked Metro/KCDOT for confirmation of the plan, the response was the official announcement you see above. (Text of the Taniguchi e-mail is after the jump:)
Dear DOT employees,
Today Executive Constantine informed me that he is working with the County Council to make a big change: In early 2019, Metro Transit will become a stand-alone County department, no longer part of the Department of Transportation.
This change makes sense. Public transportation is a top priority for the Executive and our region. Population and job growth mean that Metro must provide more and better travel options for all who live and work here—and Metro has a long-range plan for doing just that. By becoming a department, Metro will be in a better position to partner with other agencies, to deliver the large increases in service and the investments in facilities and vehicles that will be needed, and to grow and support its top-notch workforce. Building upon the strength of Rob’s leadership, and the momentum of the division, now is simply a good time for this reorganization.
Much needs to be done over the year ahead. The Executive will be working with Council members this fall to shape their expectations and a framework for Metro’s new structure. Metro will be working on its own internal plans for moving forward as a department.
What will this change mean for DOT employees? For most of you, the work you do every day won’t be affected. Some Metro employees will see changes in what you do and your organizational structure. General Manager Rob Gannon and his leadership team will be keeping you informed as plans are developed.
The DOT Director’s Office staff, which provides a number of support services to Metro, will also see changes. I deeply value the employees in my office and the excellent services they deliver. We’ll be working hard to ensure they are supported through this transition.
I’ll also be working closely with Rob and the rest of my leadership team both to support and communicate with you and to ensure that Metro and the rest of the department continue to get the services they rely upon.
The elevation of Metro to the department level is an opportunity for the rest of the department to take a fresh look at how we can best serve the people of King County. At the same time, I know that changes like this can be stressful and uncertainty can be unsettling. Your division directors and I will be actively listening and responding to your questions, concerns and ideas as we work toward a successful transition and continue providing outstanding service to the public.
Harold S. Taniguchi, Director
Department of Transportation