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King County Council gets run of comments on transit cuts

A large number of Bellevue College students and faculty came out to City Hall to ask the King County Council to reconsider route revisions and transit cuts during its public hearing Thursday. - Brandon Macz
A large number of Bellevue College students and faculty came out to City Hall to ask the King County Council to reconsider route revisions and transit cuts during its public hearing Thursday.
— image credit: Brandon Macz

A strong contingent of Bellevue College students and faculty amassed at Bellevue City Hall on Thursday to push the King County Council to reconsider rerouting Route 271 away from campus as part of a 16-percent cut in transit service to shore up losses in state sales tax revenue over the past five years.

The council began taking public comment about the cuts and route revisions after Proposition No. 1 — a funding measure for the recently formed King County Transportation Benefit District — failed in April. The first round of service reductions is slated for September, cutting 161,000 hours in King County and another 56,000 hours in northeast King County in February. Two more rounds of cuts will occur in June and September 2015. The council is set to approve the cuts at its June 9 meeting.

Alex Clark, environmental and social responsibility representative for the Associated Student Government of Bellevue College, said students and faculty were happy when planned cuts were scaled back and Route 245 was spared the chopping block, but moving Route 271 away from campus will affect 900 daily riders.

"The stop that's proposed to be cut is in the heart of campus," he told the Reporter on Thursday.

Ahead of public testimony, King County transportation staff updated Eastside residents on the proposed cuts and its formula for selecting which routes to reduce, cut, consolidate or change. Audience members chuckled when they were informed the county's transportation service development manager had been delayed when the bus he needed to take to the Bellevue Transit Center had passed him at his stop due to overcrowding.

"I have no response for that one," said John Resa, the county's principal legislative analyst.

A Bellevue College staff representative echoed other comments from students and faculty that having the closest stop to campus at 148th Avenue Southeast will require walking a third of a mile to classes, creating not only problems with distance — especially for those with disabilities — but also safety for those attending night courses. Many said traffic on 148th is already bad, and one wheel chair-bound student said it is hard to navigate sidewalks along the street. Another student told the council revising Route 271 eliminates a connection from the Eastgate Park and Ride to the Issaquah Transit Center.

My-Linh Thai with the Bellevue School Board asked the King County Council to consider how other proposed route changes will affect students in the Bellevue School District, including creating safety issues and trouble getting to school and after-school programs.

One Crossroads resident told council that reductions to Route 226 will cause problems in the lower-income area of the city. She said the time that would need to be taken by users to take the route would strongly take away from time better spent home with family. An Issaquah resident said cutting Route 927 would cripple public transportation within the city.

A Bellevue resident, who admitted to being among the 58 percent in King County Council District No. 6 who voted down Prop 1, said his vote doesn't mean he opposes public transportation, but his concerns lie with metro operations. He said there is a problem with subarea equity that should be addressed in the same manner that Sound Transit operates, and that riders should pay their fair share while lower-income users should pay less.

Several members with HopeLink, including CEO Lauren Thomas, told the council they are concerned how transit cuts will affect its vulnerable clients' ability to remain in their homes. Not all of their clients qualify for travel through Medicaid, and asked the council consider delaying its reductions until these issues are further addressed.

Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci asked the county council to reexamine a letter it received from the City Council that included requesting Route 271 be preserved. Bellevue's Jane Hague on the King County Council said it would help to have county planners review the city's strategic transit plan to see if it is possible to restructure routes.

The city of Seattle is considering a citywide tax hike to spare Metro cuts there. Balducci told the Reporter she requested city staff perform its own analysis to see if there is a way for Bellevue to shore up its losses. She said she has concerns about seeking local solutions to a regional problem, adding Thursday's hearing helped to put faces to the issue.

"This meeting tonight really helped to put some meat on those bones," Balducci said.

 

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