The Metropolitan King County Council has just canceled plans for two more rounds of bus-service cuts, citing a resurgence in sales-tax income and a tougher look at Metro Transit’s own budgets.
That means nearly 250,000 annual service hours are likely to be saved. Previously, Metro expected to delete 16 routes and 169,000 annual service hours in February, followed by another 80,000 annual hours in March 2016.
A final decision won’t be made for another two months, as the council works through its budget cycle. “I congratulate my colleagues on returning this legislation to committee, and I hope to never see it again,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski of Seattle, who pressured the county earlier this year to look for savings instead of deeper cuts.
The reversal follows more than a year of warnings from Metro and County Executive Dow Constantine that cuts are unavoidable. Councilman Larry Phillips of Magnolia cautioned Monday that the county still needs to take a hard look to confirm the latest numbers and decide to preserve more service.
The council met Monday afternoon.
Another 151,000 hours of annual reductions that took effect over the weekend, including the elimination of 28 low-ridership routes, will stay in place.
Metro is now expected to gain sales tax income even faster than numbers showed earlier this year, when a $31 million windfall for 2014 was expected. New budget figures from Constantine showed the biggest reserve fund piling up to as high as $280 million after the next four years, if the cuts had proceeded.
Seattle voters will decide this November whether to increase city sales taxes by 0.1 percent, and tack on a $60 car-tab fee, for transit. That proposition was originally designed to stave off Metro cuts — supporters will now tout the measure as a way to add transit in the nation’s fastest growing city.
Dembowski himself supported the April tax measure, but said Monday that, “In the campaign, some of the critics raised an important issue, that using the increasing revenue from the strong economy, are we being as efficient as we should be at Metro? I think we owe it to the taxpayers and the riders to run the most efficient system we can.”