As we learned this morning, King County Metro says that if state lawmakers don’t authorize “a permanent and sustainable source of revenue” in the coming months, 65 Metro Transit bus routes may get the axe, and service could be reduced on another 86 routes. In total, King County Metro could see up to a 17-percent reduction of service. That’s the takeaway from the ominous 2012 Service Guidelines Report, which was sent to the King County Council today.
The trouble is King County Metro has a projected $75 million annual budget gap - a problem that was momentarily soothed at the county level by a temporary $20 per vehicle Congestion Reduction Charge, which is set to expire next year. Throw in decreased sales tax revenue thanks to the recession and a now depleted Metro financial reserve, and you’ve got a problem with the potential to really screw a whole lot of bus riders. Unless, of course, a “permanent and sustainable source of revenue” is found by lawmakers - either at the county level or in Olympia. Currently there are several proposals that would do the trick, and lobbying efforts are in full force.
How dire is the situation? Jeff Switzer, a spokesman for King County Metro, says the agency is cautiously optimistic a crisis can be averted.
“The prospect of cutting 17 percent is daunting, but without ongoing stable funding we may find ourselves there,” says Switzer. “We have to be focused on finding a solution.”