Editorial: A Metro Transit campaign promise that should not be kept
The King County Council should not implement major Metro Transit cuts it threatened if Proposition 1 failed. Make some cuts but begin the hard work of reforming the agency.
Seattle Times Editorial
KING County elected officials threatened to make deep cuts in Metro Transit service if voters did not approve Proposition 1 on the April 22 ballot.
That is one campaign promise the Metropolitan King County Council should not keep. Amid a backdrop of concern about Metro’s problematic cost structure and its unsettled transit-union contract, voters were unmoved. They handily defeated the ballot measure to increase the sales tax and license tab fees despite Metro’s release of lists of bus routes that would be eliminated or cut back.
The County Council can, and must, do better. Council members now have a chance to do so on Monday when they consider what to do with Metro’s budget — either implement the heavy-handed cuts promised in the campaign or do what the voters expect them to do: be nimble, creative and shrewd in service to taxpayers and transit riders. That especially means continuing to make reforms of an agency that has an unsustainable cost structure — something the Municipal League of King County has pushed since 2008.
Councilmember Rod Dembowski offers a prudent approach that cuts services only for this budget year, while delaying other threatened cuts. That delay could minimize cuts that might be unnecessary as Metro’s revenues increase, as they are expected to. That also gives the county time to settle a contract with the transit union, giving a clearer picture of Metro’s financial landscape.
Additionally, the approach buys time for the second part of Dembowski’s plan, which is threefold:
• Commission an independent audit of Metro’s operations, finances and policies
• Change fare policies to increase revenues to cover about 30 percent of costs, up from 28 percent.
• Improve Metro’s cost structure to be “equal to or better than” similar transit agencies across the country.
Dembowski’s proposal was approved in a 4-3 committee vote Wednesday. Monday, the full council has a chance to let voters know it took their message at the polls seriously. Time to get to work on improving Metro Transit.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).