Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
In 2013, King County, the Sound Cities Association, and the City of Seattle joined together to ask the State Legislature for a new set of local funding tools for transit as well as roads and bridges. One of the proposed tools was a vehicle renewal fee, which would generate about $85 million annually for Metro. The fee would have to be approved by a public vote. The Legislature considered a statewide transportation funding package that included local funding tools for King County, but did not approve the package.
Local leaders continue advocating for transportation funding solutions, and state legislators keep working toward a package they can support. Governor Jay Inslee has called a special session of the legislature, but it is not yet clear what transportation measures will be considered. In case the legislature does not authorize transit funding tools, King County and its coalition partners are exploring options for transportation funding that could be adopted locally. A local solution would require approval by King County voters, and April 2014 is probably the earliest a vote could occur.
In the meantime, Metro is continuing to benefit from the numerous financial reforms we have adopted over the past few years and we are continually looking for new efficiencies-but there are no remaining opportunities to save the amount needed to close the projected gap.
Metro has already taken many steps in recent years to contain costs. Reforms have included:
- Cutting staff positions and programs
- Adopting efficiency measures recommended in a 2009 King County performance audit
- Negotiating cost-saving labor agreements
- Reorganizing service to increase productivity
- Raising fares four times in four consecutive years—a total 80-percent increase
- Reducing benefit costs through participation in King County’s Healthy Incentives program
- Spending down reserves
These efforts have been recognized in a recently released Municipal League report.
Metro has raised fares by 80 percent in recent years. To cover the shortfall, fares would need to be raised by a minimum of $2, so a one-way adult base fare would be $4.25. An increase of this magnitude would likely lead to a significant loss of ridership, and cause many employers to reconsider their participation in Metro pass programs. Such an increase would also make riding the bus cost-prohibitive for people who have low incomes and depend on transit. Metro’s current fares are comparable to those in other major cities.
Metro’s 2013-2014 budget assumes that sales tax revenue would grow 4 to 5 percent annually. So far this year, the actual sales tax revenue is expected to be modestly above that amount. While this increase is welcome, it will fill only a small portion of the gap.
Metro’s four current RapidRide lines, along with two more scheduled to launch in 2014, support some of the highest ridership corridors in King County. RapidRide has already received nearly $120 million in federal grants, which are covering the majority of the program’s capital costs, such as buses and station improvements. Metro has also been awarded a $1.3 million state grant to help fund the operation of the F Line. Metro’s five-year projection indicates that RapidRide lines will deliver more than 15.5 million combined trips annually, making them among the most highly used bus routes in King County.
If the proposed 17-percent service reductions are imposed on the fixed-route system, Access service may also face reductions.
There may also be an increased demand on Access service. The proposed bus service cuts eliminate bus routes, increase spacing between bus stops, and reduce service frequency and span, resulting in more crowding on buses. For some bus riders with disabilities, any one of these factors may make using the bus impossible, resulting in eligible riders shifting to Access.