This guest post is by Representative Jessyn Farrell (D-Northeast Seattle), who also serves as Assistant Deputy Majority Whip.
There’s nothing worse than waiting at the bus stop and having the bus pass you by because it’s too full. If King County Metro goes through with their planned 17 percent service cut, that’s going to happen to all of us a lot more often.
Even as transit ridership increases, King County Metro is set to slash their service due to substantial budget shortfalls. That is why I am sponsoring HB 1959, which would provide these desperately needed local funding options for transit agencies.
To date, King County Metro has been able to avoid major service cuts by surgically targeting less-used programs and services in order to save more popular ones. They have eliminated things like night service on little-used routes and shifted those service hours to higher demand area. They have also cut labor costs and closed the ride free zone.
The service cuts will become much harsher starting next year, however. Without support from the legislature, either through direct funding or local revenue options, Metro will cut service by 17 percent. That’s like closing down one lane of I-90 completely and another for 12 hours a day. As you can imagine, these cuts will have a major impact on transit users, but also on the broader regional and state transportation system.
There will also be significant economic impacts across the state if these cuts go through. Workers will waste more time in traffic and waiting for the bus. Businesses and farmers will have a harder time getting their goods to our ports. This rise in gridlock will also increase the volume of carbon pollution we send into our air and oceans.
When King County Metro was last facing service cuts, the legislature authorized a temporary congestion reduction fee that temporarily stabilized budgets of transit agencies. It was temporary because the state expected to move quickly to provide a more stable, comprehensive funding source for public transportation.
That state support has not materialized, however, and with transit services in jeopardy, we need to take action to ensure our economy, our environment, and our quality of life aren’t degraded. My legislation would give King County the local funding options they need to save core programs and high-demand service routes.
This bill is at a critical point in the legislative process and needs your help to get through the House and the Senate. I urge you to contact your legislators to express your support for local transportation options.
Strong public transit improves the transportation system for all of us – even drivers, who don’t have to deal with us bus riders taking up space on the road! With our public transit system on the line, we have to give our community the tools to prevent these devastating service cuts.