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County council passes September Metro cuts
The King County Council has approved the first 161,000 hours of Metro transit reductions that cuts seven bus routes and revises two serving Bellevue starting Sept. 27.
Monday's vote came a week after the council failed to pass legislation detailing plans for moving forward with a potential 550,000 total cuts in Metro service over a long-standing revenue shortfall.
Councilmember Rod Dembowski had called for a delay on July 14 to allow the council's transit committee to review a revised ordinance that was substantively no different than what had been agreed to the week before. The transit committee passed the legislation to council with unanimous approval July 15.
"We should be growing the system," Dembowski said, pointing to growing transit ridership. "It's tragic that we're cutting it."
Another 188,000 service hours are to be cut in February, barring an upward trend in the county's economic forecast and review by an ad hoc committee that Monday's approved legislation will create. County Executive Dow Constantine will be a member of that committee.
Bellevue Transportation Director Dave Berg said the city will continue to oppose revising Route 271, which is to be rerouted from the Bellevue College campus to 148th Avenue Southeast in cuts proposed for next year. Students and faculty also widely oppose the revision.
"It's not a very hospitable pedestrian route, especially for anybody with any type of disability," Berg said of the proposed route revision.Whether Route 271 and others could be spared changes under a buy-back proposal remains uncertain as the city waits for the county to provide cost proposals. Berg added buying back routes will be a regional discussion.
"There are no routes that begin and end wholly in Bellevue," he said.
Berg credits the city's transit master plan for giving Bellevue the resources to advocate saving two routes — 235 and 245 — from Metro reductions, as they were identified in the frequent transit network.
Bellevue Senior Transit Planner Franz Loewenherz said the master plan started as a 2012 city initiative to address the future of transit service and infrastructure needs, assuming there could be reduced funding on the horizon.
He said ridership has increased 144 percent from 2003 to 2013, and is expected to triple by 2030. With Sound Transit's East Link extension set to begin operating in 2023, Loewenherz said the city will be focused on ensuring future route changes do not threaten light rail and bus connectivity.
The KCC-adopted legislation sets aside another 201,000 hours in Metro service reductions pending adoption of a 2015-16 county budget.
County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove said the county is already in a deeper financial hole than when it started eyeing bus routes for service cuts and reduction, especially with revenue coming in lower than forecasted. He added national experts are heading over to look at whether using reserves could spare some future cuts.
"That would be one-time funds, and that's not always very dependable," Upthegrove said.
September Deleted Routes
Route 210 (Issaquah-Factoria-Seattle CBD)Route 211EX (Issaquah Highlands-First Hill)Route 215 (North Bend-Seattle CBD)Route 243 (Jackson Park-Bellevue)Route 250 (Overlake-Seattle CBD)Route 265 (Overlake-Houghton-First Hill)Route 280 (Seattle CBD-Bellevue-Renton)
September Revised Routes
Route 212 (Eastgate-Seattle CBD)
Route 249 (Overlake-South Kirkland)