Bus riders in King County may find that some of their usual routes either no longer exist or have been altered when Metro implements a wide swath of service cuts on Sept. 27. The transit agency will eliminate 28 routes and revise or reduce another 20.
The cuts will result in the loss of 151,000 hours of service.
County officials say the reason for the cuts comes down to money. The transit agency faces an annual deficit of up to $75 million.
For months, as Metro riders faced the prospect of looming cuts, county leaders sought a solution. During a special election last April, King County voters considered a transportation measure to fund countywide service and road repairs.
While Seattle voters supported a combined sales tax hike and car-tab fee to pay for roads and buses, the measure failed most everywhere else in the county. Ultimately, it went down in defeat.
With that failure, Metro identified routes for elimination, reduction or revision. The transit agency selected routes that duplicated service or had low ridership.
Mayor Ed Murray hopes to counteract service shortfalls in Seattle with a second transit measure to preserve citywide service. Nearly identical to the failed county measure, Proposition 1 will enact a 0.1 percent sales tax increase and impose a $60 car-tab fee. The measure would also institute a $20 car-tab rebate for low-income vehicle owners.
Seattle voters will decide on the city-only measure this November.
City leaders estimate that if the measure passes, it could raise $45 million annually for 10 years — but even a successful measure will still come too late to stave off cuts planned for this month.
And this month’s cuts are just the start: Metro also plans to eliminate, reduce or revise more routes in February 2015. Those cuts have already been approved by the King County Council.
Even more cuts had been planned for the latter half of 2015, but County Executive Dow Constantine said the timeline for those cuts has been pushed back.
In a press release issued on Sept. 17, Constantine said “reforms, efficiencies and a decline in fuel prices” mean a brighter financial outlook for the transit agency. He said the next round of cuts won’t take place until March 2016.