News from Metro's General Manager
November 18, 2011
New budget will provide two years of stability, improvements
The King County Council last week adopted a new, two-year budget for Metro that preserves our current level of transit service in 2012 and 2013.
This was possible because of the many actions Metro and the County have taken over the past few years to cut costs and increase revenue—including the County's adoption this summer of the temporary $20 Congestion Reduction Charge.
Metro continues to find new operating efficiencies. Our budget for 2012-2013 eliminates 21 staff positions and saves more than $5 million by reorganizing workgroups, changing business processes throughout the organization, and obtaining new contract pricing for paratransit service for people with disabilities.
These efficiencies, plus labor-cost savings, lower-than-expected employee health care costs, and growing fare revenue as ridership rebounds and our services get more productive, are helping to improve our financial position. A key performance indicator, our farebox recovery rate, is nearing 30 percent—an all-time high. Of course, our sales tax revenue remains highly susceptible to weak economic growth, and we also are concerned that future federal funding could be at risk.
In addition to operating more efficiently, we are planning many changes to make the transit system more productive, as I described in my last newsletter. By using our new service guidelines to restructure parts of the system and reinvest service hours from low-performing routes to heavily used corridors, we'll make better use of the public's tax and fare dollars to get the most people where they want to go.
We won't rest in our work to control costs and seek sustainable funding as we look ahead to 2014, when the Congestion Reduction Charge will expire.
The new budget reflects our strategic plan for providing the highest-quality products and services possible as we move toward a sustainable public transportation system that helps our region thrive.
The budget funds some key improvements, including about $10 million to operate new RapidRide service. By the end of 2013, all six planned RapidRide lines will be providing fast, frequent trips in major corridors around the county. The RapidRide program got another boost this week when Congress appropriated $37.5 million in grant funding to build the E and F line infrastructure—once again showing how well this program competes for limited federal transit funding.
The capital side of the budget provides funding for a new suite of customer information products that are long overdue. Not only will this allow us to deliver information via the next-generation information technologies our customers will be using, it should result in operating efficiencies. More on this in a future newsletter.
Another customer service enhancement in the budget is the installation of ORCA vending machines at various high-volume locations, such as park-and-rides.
The capital budget also provides for replacement of our aging trolley-bus fleet; we plan to start putting new trolleys on the road in fall 2014. The new vehicles will be equipped with an auxiliary power unit that increases flexibility and improves on-time performance by allowing off-wire travel.
These are just a few highlights. When the current biennium draws to a close at the end of this year, we'll update our budget page on Metro Online to make it easy for you to see where our funding comes from and where it goes.
Kevin Desmond, General Manager
King County Metro Transit