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Metro warns of major cuts to bus service unless lawmakers act

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King County Metro

Facing a $75 million shortfall, Metro Transit says it will have to slash its bus service by 17 percent next fall unless the Legislature intervenes.

The cuts would mean the elimination of 65 bus lines; another 86 would have to run on reduced schedules.

"About seven out of 10 riders would have to walk farther to catch a bus, transfer more, lose their service during some times of day, or lose their service altogether," the agency said. "Even more would ride crowded buses—or be left at the curb as full buses pass them by."

Why the funding gap? A temporary $20 car-tab fee approved by voters to stave off such cuts is about to run out. And the agency’s main source of revenue is sales tax, which has taken a major hit since the great recession.

Metro general manager Kevin Desmond says many buses are already crowded.

“Ridership’s been increasing in the county now for three years, and we forecast continued demand pressure on our system as the economy continues to expand," Desmond said at a news conference. "Per our guidelines, we actually should be increasing our system by 10 percent right now.”

Instead, the agency released a series of maps that illustrate how the cuts would slash routes all over Seattle and King County starting next fall unless the state allows local governments to find new sources of tax revenue.

Some ideas include a 1.5 percent motor vehicle excise tax in King County, which would also help pay for road maintenance, or a new permanent car tab fee that the County could put before voters.

Visit King County Metro's website for an interactive map of potential impact by area. 

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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