First round of Metro bus cuts takes effect Sept. 27

King County Metro Transit will make a first round of bus service cuts in the Valley and the wider region Sept. 27, canceling, reducing and revising bus routes.

In the Valley, one bus route changes. Two others go away.

Route 208, North Bend to Issaquah, is being changed. Trips will be added to provide two-way service during the morning and afternoon peak periods. Service frequency will be reduced from 60 minutes to 120 minutes.

Route 209, a different route from North Bend to Issaquah, is being cut. So is Route 215, a route from North Bend to Seattle via Issaquah.

According to Metro, 209 and 215 are among the lowest performing peak-period-only routes in the system. The Snoqualmie Valley Transportation shuttle will provide alternate service to and from North Bend, and 208 will provide alternate service to the Issaquah Transit Center.

Get more details about the service changes at the Metro website.

Cuts are meant to bring Metro’s spending within its existing revenues. This summer, the King County Council adopted service cuts totaling 349,000 hours between September 2014 (161,000 hours) and February 2015 (188,000 hours); specific routes for the February cuts will be reviewed and made final by an executive/council ad-hoc committee.

The King County Council will determine future Metro transit service levels this fall as part of deliberations on the county’s 2015-16 biennial budget.

The cuts and reductions come after six years of work by Metro Transit and the county to preserve service for riders in the face of decreasing revenues. Metro reduced spending, increased fares, charged temporary fees and made other changes to reduce costs. Service cuts were identified based on analysis of ridership productivity, where service is provided and who depends most on transit service.

In April, voters turned down King County’s Prop. 1, which would have upped sales taxes by a tenth of a percent, and also upped car tab fees by $60. The money would have been split, 60/40, between Metro Transit buses and road maintenance for the county and local cities.

County sales tax revenue forecasts continue to show fluctuations in Metro’s key revenue source — which provides more than 50 percent of transit funding. In turn, Metro continues to budget bus service based on identified dependable revenue levels.

Several ongoing discussions and efforts are underway to review operational costs, fare policy, customer service and future service reductions needed to bring spending within actual revenues.

Metro will launch low-income fares in March.

The agency is also working on a community mobility contracts program, allowing cities or other entities to buy back planned service reductions or purchase new transit service from Metro.

A customer review panel will also consider ideas to improve the experience of Metro system riders.


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