Tag Archives: service cuts

Where everybody knows your name

From The New York Times (via John in The Market), a story of “Bus People” for whom commute = community.

AS the city bus rumbled through northwest Queens one recent cloudy morning, Mary Apelian, who lives in East Elmhurst, offered the lowdown on her fellow passengers. She pointed out the young man whose wife just had twins (“He says he doesn’t get much sleep”)* and the woman whose grandchild was gravely ill in the hospital a while ago (“We were all so concerned we sent him a gift certificate”). And where’s Mitch? Wasn’t she supposed to be riding today?

Welcome aboard the QM22, where everybody knows your name. Passengers are apt to announce “It’s so nice to see everybody!” as they board and to be greeted by choruses of “How-are-yous,” near-cheers, hugs and kisses. They call themselves the “Bus People” …

“We’re all like family,” said Ms. Apelian, who has been riding the QM22 for more than two decades. “Everyone has a different story, and we share it all.”

I’m sorry that this story has a sad ending (the route is a casualty of NYC’s massive transit cuts and will be discontinued in June), but I still find it inspiring. This, ladies and gentlemen (well, and this, this, this, this, and this), is the reason I ride the bus. When’s the last time you got a birthday card from someone sitting next to you in traffic?

*Can I ever relate! I miss my bus naps.

Speaking of community…

One of my very favorite organizations, Transportation Choices Coalition, held a bake sale at Aurora Transit Center this morning (yes, folks, it has come to that) to draw attention to the funding crises that our state’s transit agencies are facing.

(via: STB)

Wish I could have been there. In addition to supporting more transit options in the region, I also fully support increased dessert options in my household. We’re down to a single Girl Scout cookie, and Chicklet’s already got dibs.

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

Saving service

For the past several weeks, since hearing news of Metro’s dismal budget outlook (higher than projected fuel costs, lower than projected sales tax revenues), we transit types have been wondering whether we’d be faced with service cuts, fare hikes higher than the original 25-cent proposal, or both. Folks, hold on to your bus passes: We might not have to deal with either.

Today, Ron Sims is proposing a “plan C” that this bus chick can get behind. From the KCCK himself:

I fundamentally believe that a robust transportation network that moves people between their homes and their jobs is critical to our long term economic prosperity. An accessible, reliable and affordable public transportation system is vital to our community. Moreover, reducing the number of cars on the road is essential to reducing carbon emissions and protecting our environment. Thus, we must do all we can to keep our buses running and maintain our existing transit service. We must also remain steadfast with the implementation of the service expansion we promised voters when we asked them to approve the Transit Now initiative.

Therefore, I am proposing a measure that will not reduce bus service and will limit our [fall] fare increase to 25 cents … with another 25 cent increase in 2010.


These fare increases, however, by themselves will not be enough to make up the financial shortfall over the next two years. Rather than reducing services, I further propose that the shortfall be covered by the sale of some Metro capital assets such as the Bellevue Metro site worth approximately $18 million and by cutting capital projects totaling approximately $65 million. In addition, I propose to spend operating and capital reserves of approximately $45 – $60 million. This is an appropriate time to use these rainy day funds given the unprecedented financial storm pounding Metro today.

I admit I don’t fully understand the implications of the asset sales (the Bellevue property, at least, is not currently being used), and Lord knows I’m not a fan of fare increases, but given Metro’s funding constraints and service obligations, this seems like a reasonable (and reasonably creative) response to the crisis. Now is the time for more transit and more incentives to ride, not cuts. Sims’ proposal keeps us from losing ground–at least until we can identify more progressive (and predictable!) sources of transit funding.