In a compromise vote Monday, the Metropolitan King County Council clung to hope of averting about one-third of proposed bus-service cuts in 2015.
But it’s too early for riders to relax.
A final decision isn’t due until late this year, when elected officials pore through their budgets and see more sales-tax figures.
The year began with King County Metro Transit proposing to cut 550,000 annual service hours unless voters passed new taxes for roads and buses in April. The measure failed.
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In June, Councilmember Rod Dembowski proposed and won 5-4 passage of a counterproposal to make only the first and easiest cuts as scheduled this September, then try to avoid many of the 2015 cuts. The county would look harder for ways to save, such as accumulating less reserve cash.
Sales-tax revenue estimates issued in March for 2014 ran close to $30 million above earlier versions, giving Dembowski optimism. And he argued that current farebox income, averaging $1.14 per ride, was far too low.
However, Executive Dow Constantine vetoed Dembowski’s bill, arguing among other things that the council member was destabilizing carefully made county plans, “and we can’t spend money we do not have.”
Monday’s version, passed unanimously, goes ahead with the proposed Sept. 27 cuts, of 161,000 hours, and mandates 188,000 hours cut in February — but without listing specific routes yet, a council statement said. Some or all of the remaining 201,000 hours that are in jeopardy in mid- to late 2015 may or may not get cut, based on future information.
Metro says the austerity is an aftershock of the 2008 recession, when the county maintained buses by spending reserves and boosting fares, as its peers around the U.S. slashed service.
Monday’s compromise doesn’t immediately alter Seattle’s November ballot measure for a city-only increase in sales and car-tab taxes, to replace a now-unclear amount of bus service to be lost within the city.
What travelers and taxpayers can depend on is a half-year of negotiations and ballot debates, in which the details are fluid.
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.