Sound Transit proposes reducing 560 bus route between the ferry terminal and the airport

Sound Transit, trying to close a multimillion-dollar deficit, has proposed ending mid-day and weekend bus service between the Fauntleroy ferry terminal and the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

The regional transit agency has suggested that seven routes "where ridership has been consistently low" be reduced or eliminated, according to an agency news release. Among those is a portion of 560 — the span from West Seattle to Burien, which includes stops at the ferry terminal and the airport.

The recommendations will be vetted at a hearing next week, when Sound Transit's board will take testimony from riders. The board is expected to make a decision in December, when it is slated to vote on Sound Transit's 2011 budget.

Kimberly Reason, a spokesperson for Sound Transit, said Islanders troubled by the agency's recommendation should voice their concerns.

"The decision to actually eliminate that segment has not been made. The board is considering a range of options," she said.

The route reductions stem from a gaping financial shortfall Sound Transit is facing, the result, Reason said, of the ongoing recession and a decline in tax revenues. Agency forecasts, she said, predict a $3.9 billion shortfall between 2011 and 2023 — a 25 percent decrease over the revenue projections made in 2008.

Under the current proposal, the 560 bus would run only during morning and evening peak hours and not at all on the weekends. It now runs every 30 minutes between 5 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. and every hour until 10:30 p.m., weekdays and weekends.

The route is popular among Islanders heading to the airport. Greg Conway, who hops on the 560 bus when he goes to the airport, said he was disappointed to learn of the proposed cutbacks when he rode the 560 recently.

"It's such a great deal to take the 560," he said. "It's an effortless way to get to the airport from Vashon."

The proposed route reductions will save the agency approximately $7.5 million a year, Reason said. The reductions underscore the new financial realities in the Puget Sound region, she added, "where nearly every jurisdiction is struggling."

A public hearing about the proposed route reductions will be held from noon to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, in the Ruth Fisher Board Room at Union Station, located at 401 S. Jackson Street in downtown Seattle. Comments can also be e-mailed to U.S. Mail can be sent to Sound Transit at Union Station, 401 S. Jackson St., Seattle, WA, 98104-2826.

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