Thursday, July 7, 2011

Future of Metro - Am I missing something?

Okay, can I vent a bit? King County is threatening to cut metro service - some routes all together - unless a 2 year $20 tab tax is approved. What in the world?!

Details here:

Congestion Reduction Charge - Future of Metro - King County Metro Transit

Let's break down the logic here:

Congestion Reduction Charge

The 2011 Washington Legislature authorized King County to approve a temporary congestion reduction charge to help fund Metro Transit services. This would be an annual $20 fee on every vehicle licensed in King County for each of two years.

Why exactly is this temporary?  How are revenues going to increase over the next two years, or what is expected to happen to ridership after two years to deem the tax no longer necessary?  This will only get worse until someone realizes that cost of riding Metro has to go DOWN and the convenience needs to go UP.  Even worse, ridership would in fact DECREASE if routes are cut.  No?  Less convenience and more crowed buses due to the cut in buses and routes equals rider drop.

The Legislature approved this temporary charge recognizing that Metro service is critically important to support economic recovery, give people an alternative to paying high gas prices, and relieve traffic congestion — especially during major construction of road and bridge projects in the region. The Legislature also recognized the sweeping reforms Metro has taken in recent years to reduce costs and make the most of every taxpayer dollar.

Economic recovery?  Alternative to paying high gas prices?  Do legislators realize I pay much more in bus fare than I would in gas to ride Metro?  A peak ride to work costs $2.50 in the morning, followed by another $2.50, or if I work late, $2.25 home.  So, at a minimum that's $4.75 per day.  I bet I can drive to work and back at least about a dozen times before hitting $4.75 in gas.  Five days a week adds up to at least $23.75 in bus fare.  At what point do people stop driving to actually save money?  This is definitely not a good argument, especially since fares have increased - more on that below.

What has Metro done to cut costs and increase revenue?

After Metro’s income from sales tax began falling short as a result of the weak economy, the agency launched a comprehensive action plan. Metro cut staff positions, postponed most plans to expand service, canceled replacement bus purchases, increased revenue through a shift in property tax from county ferries to Metro, dug deeply into reserves, and made some reductions in bus service that had relatively little impact on riders.

Metro adopted efficiency measures recommended in a performance audit that will result in ongoing savings of about $20 million annually.

Result of the weak economy?  Please!  Shouldn't ridership go UP when people can no longer afford to drive?  I'm pretty sure the issues with Metro as well as the Ferry system flared up when our car tabs became reasonable - long before the economy tanked.  But...that's another blog.

Metro’s employees stepped up to do their part to preserve public service. Last year, Metro and its unions negotiated cost-cutting labor agreements.

I'm sure this is a can of worms, but I'd rather not harp on Metro employees and their unions.  I do, however, wonder how lawsuit payouts are affecting expenses.

The County Council approved four fare increases — a total 80 percent increase — in the past four years.

Here's the icing on the cake!  Not only are we being asked to pay more in car tabs, but we've been taxed to ride the bus.  We are paying 80 percent more to ride the bus.  And, this announcement poses this like a positive.  I just don't get it.  How are you going to give the public an incentive to take public transportation if you make it MORE expensive than driving, and cut out routes and scheduled stops?  It just doesn't make sense. 

Enough ranting - sorry folks.  These are the things I think about on my bus ride - every day.

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