Metro Transit leaders are again warning of a funding shortfall due to lagging sales tax revenues during the Great Recession, and temporary funding runs out next year.
Without a stable source of revenue, Metro estimates 17 percent of bus service will face cuts and revisions. A report outlining routes at risk of cancellation or reductions will be delivered by Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond to the King County Council Monday, April 1. The report will outline potential service cuts and what bus riders face unless Metro can obtain a stable revenue source.
A sense of Déjà vu is not misplaced — Metro proposed the same level of cuts in 2011 and is currently projecting a $75 million annual budget gap beginning in 2014.
In 2011, Metro warned that Renton could see five of the city's 20 Metro routes disappear: Routes 110, 161, 167, 280, 908. The majority that remained would be reduced and reorganized.
The county temporarily averted bus cuts by enacting a two-year Congestion Reduction Charge, but that $20-per-vehicle charge expires in 2014. Metro also made extensive financial reforms and raised fares to keep buses on the road. Metro’s financial reserves, which also helped provide a one-time financial stop-gap, will be depleted and not available on an ongoing basis to sustain service.
Metro operates 217 routes and is the ninth largest transit system in the country. The agency has a fleet of 1,400 buses that carried 115 million passengers in 2012 – Metro’s second highest ridership ever. Metro’s largest source of funding is sales tax revenue, and since late 2007 the weak economy has caused ongoing revenue shortfalls. If new funding does not become available, Metro’s 2013-2014 budget assumes that deep service cuts will begin in fall 2014 and continue in 2015.
The state legislature is considering funding solutions for transportation needs statewide, including transit. King County has joined with the Sound Cities Association and the city of Seattle to ask the legislature for local transportation funding tools.