Vital Nature: Metro budget cuts

Chart courtesy of Metro Transit
Chart courtesy of Metro Transit

King County’s Metro is projected to face tremendous budget shortfalls in 2014, with route reduction and deletions that will affect two out of three routes. Metro depends on sales tax revenue for about 60 percent of its operating funds, and will need to cut services by 17 percent to break even this upcoming year. This means 65, one-third of all routes will be terminated entirely, and 86 will be reduced or revised, including routes 221, 226, 241, 256 and 271. This entails that approximately 600,000 service hours are to be cut.

A hearing and public testimony was held on May 14 in Seattle, where citizens had the opportunity to comment on the subject and share their own experiences.

If a solution to the funding predicament is not reached, Metro will induce a countrywide outreach process beginning this upcoming fall to inform the public of funding cuts and to give them a chance to help shape proposals.

Tax budget cuts are not the only reason Metro is losing funding. In 2011, King County passed a $20 “congestion reduction charge,” which mandated the owners of each registered vehicle in the country pay that fee. That brought Metro $25 million a year as a part of the deal that also got rid of the Ride Free Area. Unfortunately, this annual charge will expire in 2014, so daily car-commuters won’t be required to donate to Metro.

So, why can’t Metro just raise fares to close this funding gap? Well, riding fares have already been increased by 80 percent in recent years. This deems Metro unable to increase rates without most likely losing riders and company business partners. If they were to cover the shortfalls in this way, fares would need to be raised to a minimum of $2 for seniors, disabled folks as well as minors, and the one-way adult base fare would have to be $4.25.

This would likely decrease the head-counts on each bus, and would cause many companies to reconsider their partnerships with Metro.

To keep our bussers on their feet (and on the bus) we need to support the system and let others know how vital it is to the interworking of our society. A simple sign of support can be shown by simply riding the bus. Showing support does not require a daily commute commitment; perhaps you won’t take the bus not every day, and perhaps not everywhere.

But occasionally riding the bus will put your money on the matter, and send your humble subsidy. Thousands of locals rely heavily on our convenient bus system to get where the need to go on a daily basis.

Of course, not everyone is faced with the obligation to ride the bus, so why should they be concerned? Well, the amount of carpoolers on any given road directly affects the amount of traffic.

A single bus could hold around 100 people; now, imagine each of them in separate cars. Metro provides rides to thousands upon thousands of city-dweller s a day, and needs your support to keep their functionality alive and thriving.