Community Post

Metro Facing Big Cuts

The buses that serve the CD are already incredibly crowded, with standing-room-only conditions even outside of the peak commute times. The sinking economy is threatening to make that problem a whole lot worse because the sales taxes that fund King County Metro are taking a bit hit.


In a press release issued today, a massive funding gap could force the agency to cut 800,000 to 1,000,000 hours of service per year.  That equates to a cut of 20%.

What might that mean for us?  The #3 and #4 buses run about 5 times per hour each during peak periods.  A 20% cut would take that down to 4.  The #48 has similar service levels and could see similar cuts.  The #2 route has 4 trips per hour at peak times, and could be cut down to only 3.

What this means:  Buses that are already overcrowded could end up packed to the gills and forced to pass up people at stops. People who depend on transit will have a harder time getting to work on time, in an economy where keeping a good job is crucial.

What can be done: The county is trying to get authority from the state legislature to impose a car license tab tax to fund transit.  Contact your legislators to make sure that happens.

There’s also been a long-standing and bone-headed county policy that has put the majority of new transit hours in the suburbs, and not in Seattle. It’s only fair that those hours are rolled back under a similar scheme, i.e., the cuts start in the less utilized suburban and rural routes, and impact city routes last.  Contact your county council member to make sure that the suburbs don’t get to keep their new hours while we lose service we’ve had for years.

0 thoughts on “Metro Facing Big Cuts

  1. I’ve said this before, but I think part of the issue is a massively inefficient system.

    The 48 runs 5 times an hour but it’s route takes it on the most gerrymandered route map ever, from Columbia City to Ballard, which results in chronic tardiness (a rush hour bus through Montlake that’s late? shocking). Are people really riding the bus from Ballard/Crown Heights to Columbia City? Really? The 2 and 3 are just as bad–how many people that you know commute from Madrona to SPU?

    I think there are a ton of inefficiencies in the system that could be addressed, making buses just as frequent and more reliable. But as I’ve said, politics is playing a role in dictating bus routes and that is a disaster.

  2. My understanding is that Metro hates short routes and strings these long meandering routes together because they improve their cost metrics. A big chunk of metro’s “waste” is the time that drivers spend at the end of the routes before starting again. That time provides a buffer that insures that the bus will start off on-time when it restarts the route in the other direction.

    So short routes have proportionally more waste since there’s more time at the end of routes vs. the time where they’re actually carrying riders, even if it degrades other metrics.

  3. Seriously is there any question at this point that Seattle gets totally screwed by the equity split with the east side. I’m on the east side everyday (usually on bike) and with the exception of the commuter buses (554, 550, 212, 217, etc.) the east side buses are empty.

  4. Again I love the 48 although I don’t often go all the way to Rainier Beach and use mostly it to get to the U District or Roosevelt. But, I also depend on it for Ballard or Columbia City trips.

    Yes, I would love it to be more timely.

  5. I hear the logic but it’s taken to an extreme. Must the routes be so long and convoluted and, thus, inefficient and unreliable, to gain, err, efficiencies?

    I’m not a transit/transportation planner, but it just seems to me there are some glaring examples of routes that are so poorly thought out (or vestiges of some policy) and should be reviewed and reconsidered. Speaking firsthand, I do not think that is King County’s strong suit. Additionally, I do not think the current course toward sustainability of raising taxes and fees is a tenable one without some assumption checking. And, yes, the 80-20-20 rule is braindead.

  6. Yes I will call but really cut some of the management before buses. The main point is to run buses. If they aren’t running buses, what is the point of the whole agency? Yes, there has been a drop in revenue, but the schools and the state run with a rainy day fund. Where is the metro rainy day? If this happens I will reconsider supporting either of the County Council Members wanting to be County Executive. Contacting the Council Members and insisting they fund a solution might help. Do we want someone running the county that can’t solve this problem? Service is the business of these public sectors.

    Metro announced a raise fares when gas prices were high. Gas prices are now lower. I would love to see the Metro budget, now. Remember public money pays for the highways not the auto industry or just the drivers. Using the bus cuts back on the number of roads and parking spots needed and has many other positive affects on the environment.

  7. I ride the bus to and from work Monday through Friday. Being such a frequent bus rider I feel that only 3 out of 10 bus rides qualify as crowded and the most crowded (sometimes uncomfortably so) bus ride is eastbound on the 14 when the homeless are headed to the Shelter on 14th South between Main and Jackson for the evening.

    Not being a transit expert, my solution is that more people should take the bus. The city gets more revenue to support transit and we help the environment. Occam’s razor – sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution.

  8. That shiny new trolley in South Lake Union, the SLUT, runs nearly empty much of the day. My bike commute path crosses it. When I see it pass, I never see more than a handful of people in it, and sometimes only one or two. “Future” bus service hours were used to pay for part of its operation. See Those are bus hours taken away from the rest of the overburdened system in Seattle. Yes, I will admit my disdain of people who will ride a pretty streetcar, but are too precious to board a bus. Never mind them – we’ve got plenty who fill the buses already. The numbers show that these toys are not an efficient use of our public resources. (And the tracks are a hazard to bicyclists, even careful ones like me!)

  9. The 2, 3, and 4 are often full during any time of day, and standing room only is common from 4 to 6 or 7 pm and, of course, less full as the end of the route comes toward the end.

  10. and let me say the SLUT doesn’t collect fares. I tried to figure out how to pay and realized that I don’t have to and that it would be difficult to do so. It is a free ride for the few who use it and an expense for the rest of us.

  11. all i can say is that I sure am sick and tired of the # 4 passing me by cuz its too full, and not having another bus behind it.

  12. I ride the 4 at least 5 times a week, usually heading home between the hours of 5-6, and the only time is gets crowded is from the courthouse to Harborview. I beginning the link I live in some type of transportation bubble – or is it because I moved here from New York I have a different definition of crowded?

  13. Is Seattle represented fairly? I’m not sure, but at first glance the suburbs seem to have more than their fair share of representation.
    Maybe these folks can help or should be elected separately:

    Regional Transit Committee

    Chair: Dow Constantine
    Vice Chair: Kathy Huckabay, Sammamish City Council
    Council Membership: Pete von Reichbauer, Jane Hague

    Suburban Cities Membership:
    Federal Way City Councilmember Jeanne Burbidge
    Issaquah City Councilmember Fred Butler
    Maple Valley City Councilmember Noel Gerken
    Renton City Councilmember Marcie Palmer
    Bellevue City Councilmember Conrad Lee
    Burien Mayor Joan McGilton
    Kenmore City Councilmember David Baker

    Seattle City Council Membership:
    Councilmember Jan Drago
    Councilmember Tom Rasmussen

  14. I can’t speak to the #4, but if it is anything like the #2 during most of the day and evening it is not empty either. I don’t ride that much later in the evening around 10pm and therefore cannot comment now on ridership, but at one time I did work evening and truly appreciated the later buses. The reality is that all these routes are well-used and serve areas with a density deserving service and that in order for transportation to be useful it has to run regularly, often, and early and late, unless it is a van ran by a business for its employees.

    I have been on the #4 and #3 going downtown later in the afternoon with standing room only starting at Swedish to downtown. First Hill also impacts all these routes including the #2, but again to be useful they must go somewhere beyond First Hill.