Saving service, part II

Assuming its final budget passes next week, the King County Council will not–I repeat not–cut bus service in 2010. From yesterday’s PI:

The council’s soon-to-be-released budget plan will not cut Metro Transit bus service next year as first proposed to fill a projected $213 million revenue shortfall over the next two years, councilmembers announced.

Instead, the council says its final 2010 budget plan will sufficiently plug the gap by diverting money from the King County Ferry District and by adopting recommendations from an audit that found $44 million in potential savings through running more efficient bus routes and other changes. In addition, Metro will eliminate 43 staff positions unrelated to bus service and start selling full bus-wrap advertising.

This is goodness–well, maybe not goodness, but not nine percent across-the-board cuts, either.

Though I happen to love the Water Taxi, I’m all for putting the Ferry District expansion on hold while we figure out how to keep existing transit service afloat. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) I have a feeling that the audit “efficiencies” they’re proposing to implement will actually negatively affect on-time performance, but that’s just a hunch, and regardless, I’ll take ’em.*

I am very (very!) glad to see that bus wraps are back in the mix. When the Council banned them in 2006, Metro lost three quarters of a million dollars in painless** annual revenue. At roughly $100 bucks per service hour, that’s a lot of service to give up over a handful of complaints.*** And since the program capped the number of wrapped coaches at 25, it affected a very small percentage of riders on a given day.

Me? I’d ride a wrapped bus every day (shoot, for every ride) before I’d give up service. But I digress.

The no-service-cuts budget also includes a 50-cent fare increase over the next two years: the 25-cent increase planned for January and another in 2011. Eh–so it goes. Ideal transit scenarios aside, I guess we all have to be willing to pay our fair share.

Update, 11/23: Looks like the budget was unanimously approved today.

*That is, assuming they don’t involve adopting the proposal to replace trolleys with diesel/electric hybrids.
**A vendor managed the selling and installation for a cut of the profits.
***Less than one percent of all of KC Metro’s complaints that year