When it comes to revamping King County Metro’s bus service in Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray has a plan – and it all hinges on extra funding approved by Seattle voters in last year's Proposition 1 ballot measure.
“We’re building a bus system that deals with the very changing workforce and lifestyles of this city,” Murray said Wednesday. “During the last two weeks … riders around the city have noticed something different.”
Murray, along with King County Executive Dow Constantine and City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, celebrated Seattle’s largest bus service expansion in 40 years. They explained some of the more immediate results to local media outlets at Northgate Transit Center.
“This isn’t the Seattle of the 1970s — lights are burning around the clock,” Murray said. “Proposition 1 … enabled the city to buy more bus service from King County Metro, to offer better service to the people in this city.”
The expansion is divided into two phases; the first began two weeks ago and added bus service, restored service or took steps to improve reliability on 53 routes in Seattle. Metro Transit will roll out the second phase in September, essentially doubling the service additions.
“By the time we are fully up and running, we will have the equivalent of 50 more buses for 12 hours per day every day on the streets of Seattle,” Murray said. “There will be more buses during rush hour, there will be more buses in the afternoon and on nights and weekends.”
Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved the bus expansion last fall when they passed Proposition 1. The measure funds the services on the back of increased annual car fees and an additional 0.1 percent sales tax.
Constantine said it is important to make Metro’s expanded services accessible to those who need it most.
“By putting more service on the road in partnership with the city and making it accessible to those who need it most through Orca Lift, we ensure that transit works better for everyone,” Constantine said.
Orca Lift is a recently implemented reduced fare program for low-income riders. It provides a 50 percent discount on Metro Transit buses, Kitsap Transit buses, Sound Transit’s Link light rail service, King County Water Taxis and Seattle streetcars. The program started in March. Part of Proposition 1 helps support the reduced fare program within the city.
San Francisco is the only other major transit agency in the country to implement reduced fare program.
In addition to expanded services and ORCA LIFT, King County Metro recently hired more than 100 part-time transit operators and promoted more than 70 part-time operators to full-time operators.
The Mayor’s Office estimates the increased car fees and sales tax will provide an extra $45 million for transit services annually over the next six years.