Don’t have time to read 131 wonky pages of budget talk? Here’s a cheat sheet on what King County Metro has in store for the next two years.
Last week, King County Executive Constantine released a proposed 2019-2020 budget including a $2.5 billion budget for Metro Transit. Metro Transit’s* investments and budget are guided by its Metro Connects long range plan and four main strategies, including: “1) make transit easy to use, available, and accessible to all; 2) get things built and build capacity; 3) partner with others; and 4) enable employees to do top‐quality work.”
Transportation Choices has been advocating for the following items in Metro’s 2019-2020 budget to help meet our health, equity, and sustainability goals and we are thrilled to see many of our priorities supported. We also recognize that there is more work to be done to ensure these projects are well resourced, implemented on time, and utilize an equity lens.
Below is our budget breakdown and ways for you to get involved in the review process:
Increasing transit service hours:
Metro is adding 130,000 transit service hours. We are excited for the increase in service hours to continue to connect our region and produce faster and reliable service. We anticipate that Metro will continue to work with the City of Seattle to prepare for the period of maximum constraint in early 2019 when buses come out of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel and the Alaskan Way Viaduct closes.
Metro is revising its RapidRide timeline and focusing on delivering six RapidRide lines instead of 13 by 2025, and seven by 2027. Unfortunately, the RapidRide timeline is not aligned with the current Metro Connects goals and the corridors are not meeting our regional needs. We hope Metro continues to find opportunities to fund and accelerate the delivery of our RapidRide system. Metro should also continue to use an equity lens on how they prioritize RapidRide projects and improve transparency around what they can deliver long term.
Updating fare enforcement:
We are thrilled that the budget highlights the need for updating its fare enforcement program and includes money for continued research and staffing for the program. We look forward to continuing to work with Metro and our coalition partners OneAmerica, Puget Sound Sage, Transit Riders Union, and Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. More about our fare enforcement work here.
Improving fare affordability:
A major finding from the fare enforcement study was that many people couldn’t afford transit, even with the ORCA LIFT program in place. Looking at other reduced fare programs is a natural next step. Metro is committed to developing a holistic plan for a new income-based fare pilot for those who are least able to afford transit. Metro will convene a stakeholder group to inform the development of this pilot program and address pricing, eligibility, distribution, and process matters. This is a valuable step as Metro continues to make transit a public service that is accessible to all. Check out our coalition’s joint response to Metro’s fare report here.
Expanding bus bases:
In order to increase service hours, Metro needs to expand its bus base capacity to maintain current and future bus fleets and remedy overcrowding at current stations. Metro’s budget highlights a plan to construct a new base in Tukwila. This is a moment for Metro to invest in capital improvements and create job opportunities and new buildings. Metro should use this opportunity to collaborate with Tukwila residents to ensure the base is a benefit to the community and set aside money to fund equitable community engagement processes and resource community groups.
Prioritizing community-based partnerships:
In our work, we continue to advocate for equitable community outreach methods at transit agencies and government organizations to ensure community needs are represented in decision making spaces. Metro has committed to partnering with community-based organizations in 100 percent of its major mobility planning outreach. We are glad to see this piece in the budget and want to ensure there is funding to support community-based work and increase true partnerships rather than checking an engagement requirement.
Increasing non-motorized transit access:
Metro’s budget includes more than $15 million for non-motorized projects, including safe bike and pedestrian infrastructure and connectivity. Although it is great to see non-motorized investments in the budget, this amount is far below the level that is needed to achieve its Metro Connects vision. We hope that we can invest even more in safe and comfortable access to the transit we are able to deliver.
Understanding new mobility
New transportation modes—autonomous vehicles, ride shares, and bike shares—are rapidly emerging and it is important that our agencies put people first and ensure that our transportation system works for everyone. As Metro moves toward a focus on broader mobility solutions, we hope that the agency will develop an equity- and people-first focus.
Outside of Metro Transit, we are excited about the work at the King County Office of Equity and Social Justice that continues to collaborate across departments and with Metro to help center equity. The budget has set aside funding to bring on another staff person to the team.
Metro has also included priorities in the continuation of testing and implementing an all-battery electric fleet and improving the quality of Access paratransit service. If you would like to learn more about any of the mentioned priorities in the Metro Transit 2019-2020 budget, you can check out Metro’s complete budget here.
Your voice is valuable! Here’s how you can make an impact and engage as Metro continues to review and finalize its 2019-2020 budget:
Note: all meetings will be held in Council Chambers on the 10th Floor of the King County Courthouse, 516 3rd Ave in Seattle, unless otherwise noted.
Wednesday, October 3, 2018, 9:30 am
The Budget and Fiscal Management Committee begins its review of the Biennial 2019-2020 Executive Proposed Budget on Wednesday, October 3, 2018 with a briefing from King County’s separately elected officials. Opportunity for public comment.
Thursday, October 4 – Special Evening Meeting, 6:30 pm
Chief Kanim Middle School, 32627 Redmond-Fall City Road SE, Fall City, WA 98024. Tuesday, October 9, 9:30 am. Opportunity for public comment.
Agency Review and opportunity for public comment.
Wednesday, October 10, 9:30 am
Revenue briefing and opportunity for public comment.
Tuesday, October 30, 9:30 am
Revenue briefing and opportunity for public comment.
Friday, November 9, 9:30 am. Budget panel review and possible action – morning and afternoon sessions.
*Starting in 2019, King County Metro will become its own independent County department called Metro Transit, overseeing all of the county’s public transportation and passenger-only ferries.