Public to weigh in on drastic bus cuts

SEATTLE -- King County Council's Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee will hold a public hearing Tuesday to discuss possible transit cuts that could affect hundreds of thousands of Metro riders.

The meeting at 3:30 p.m. at the Union Station in the 400 block of S. Jackson Street was called to discuss the potential annual shortfall of up to $75 million that Metro faces.

If the cuts go into effect, as much as 600,000 service hours -- or 17 percent -- could be cut by 2014. Unless new funds become available, roughly two-thirds of Metro bus routes could be eliminated, reduced or revised, officials said.

Metro has had a funding shortage since 2008, but has managed to side-step major service reductions by raising fares and digging into reserves. King County has adopted recommendations from a performance audit to save about $22 million annually, and has secured $121 million in grant funding to help develop high-volume RapidRide lines in major travel corridors.

The potential cuts come on the heels of a new report from the PIRG Education Fund that found young Americans are part of a major demographic shift increasingly relying on public transportation to get around. According to the study, "A New direction: Our changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America's Future," Americans will use about half as much gasoline and other fuels in 2040 than they use today.

Rob Johnson, the executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition, said time and increased ridership will begin to have an ever-growing affect on local transportation systems.

"The trends highlighted by this report have significant implications for the Puget Sound area," Johnson said. "It's crucial that Washington's leaders right-size our plans and projects to ensure that we don't build projects for tomorrow based on assumptions from yesterday."