Metro plans service cuts, threatening some Vashon runs
By NATALIE JOHNSON
Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber Reporter
July 12, 2011 · Updated 11:32 AM
Unless the county implements a $20 fee on vehicle licensing, King County Metro is poised to cut a significant portion of its bus service, likely including routes that serve Islanders both on Vashon and at the Fauntleroy ferry dock.
Due to a significant drop in sales tax revenue in recent years, Metro is now faced with an annual budget shortfall of $60 million. After raising fares four times since 2007 and eliminating more than 100 workers in the last two years, Metro is nearly out of ways to save the system, according to a county press release.
King County Executive Dow Constan-tine proposed a temporary $20 Congestion Reduction Charge on vehicle licenses that would help bridge Metro’s budget gap and maintain current bus service levels. The fee would end in mid-2014.
The charge is being considered by the King County Council, which must decide by July 25 whether to vote on the proposal, put the issue to voters in the fall or take no action, forcing Metro to cut service, said Rochelle Ogershok, a spokesperson for the county. The proposal requires a two-thirds supermajority to pass the council — already considered by some political observers an impossibly high bar for the measure to overcome.
“If we don’t have this congestion reduction measure, or if it fails, it will be necessary for Metro to make a reduction of hours over the next two years,” Ogershok said.
In anticipation of such a reduction, the county has already outlined a plan to reduce Metro’s service by 17 percent, or 600,000 service hours, that would be implemented in several phases over the next two years. The first phase, slated for next February, would include the elimination of route 116, which runs from the Fauntleroy ferry terminal to downtown Seattle and is heavily used by Vashon commuters.
Later cuts could include eliminating the 118 and 119 express routes — which provide direct service from the Island to downtown Seattle via the ferry — and reducing service on routes 118 and 119, which travel throughout the Island. Route 54, which also takes ferry passengers downtown, would also see reduced service.
Laura Wishik, who takes route 119 from her home on Maury Island to the north-end ferry dock to commute to Seattle, said she worries the reduced service on Vashon could have wide implications, especially for people who rely on the buses.
“I have a car, and I can drive to the north end if I have to, but there are people on Vashon who don’t have cars,” she said. “For some people it’s a much bigger deal.”
County Councilmember Joe McDer-mott, who represents Vashon on the nine-member council, believes the proposed cuts would affect the county significantly.Enacting the temporary fee, he said, is the best option, as Metro has already taken great measures to reduce its budget.
“Metro has already streamlined its service, … from reducing staff to finding millions of cost savings in its budget. At this point in time, to preserve the same number of service hours we need to address the gap in the budget,” he said.
McDermott added that putting the decision to voters didn’t make sense, as it would cost the county about $1 million to put the measure on the ballot in the fall. Only a long-term solution, he said, would likely end up on the ballot.
Ogershok emphasized that the outlined cuts are subject to change based on public feedback received by the county.
“Certainly over the course of the next two years, we will get public input on proposals being made to reduce service. … Based on input there may be tweaks,” she said.
Comment on Metro proposals
The last of three public hearings on the Congestion Relief Charge and the first round of proposed Metro cuts will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 21, at the Burien City Council Chambers. County residents can also give feedback on the charge and proposed route reductions by visiting www.kingcounty.gov/council/testimony.aspx or by calling 263-9768.
Contact Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber Reporter Natalie Johnson at email@example.com or 206-463-9195.