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Public Reacts To Proposed Metro Bus Changes

Bryan Buckalew

King County Council heard public comment Wednesday on a package of changes aimed at streamlining Metro bus service. This was the last time riders had the chance to voice their opinion on what will be one of the largest overhauls in Metro Transit history. The agency is planning to restructure about 50 different bus routes, reducing and eliminating some in order to add service to others. KUOW's Bryan Buckalew spoke to some riders who are likely to lose service, and he has this report.


The thing about changing Metro bus routes is that every rider has a different reason why his or her route shouldn't be changed. Take Paul Meyer, for example. He lives near Seward Park and if he wants to go downtown, he takes the 34 or the 38 direct. Both of those are likely to be eliminated and if that happens, he'll have make a transfer from bus to light rail to get downtown. He's done that before, but —

Paul Meyer: "I have found that the buses come so infrequently, you can miss a bus and then have to wait another 45 minutes to an hour for the next bus."

Debra Anderson has a different story.

Debra Anderson: "I don't drive. I've never driven. Don't plan to drive. I plan to keep a small footprint."

Anderson lives near Highland Park and rides the 23, another route that's likely to be eliminated.

Bryan Buckalew: "So if you lose your route, you'll just walk the mile each way, every day?"

Debra Anderson: "I have no other choice except to move."

Bryan Buckalew: "Would you move?"

Debra Anderson: "To another state."

Still, regional transit planners say the changes are necessary. In 2010, in an effort to deal with shrinking budgets and an increase in rider demand, King County started looking at which routes were underutilized. Here is Councilmember Larry Phillips:

Larry Philips: "I've said before many times, the era of the empty bus is over, and that's what we're trying to achieve through these reductions."

The idea is to provide faster and more frequent service on heavily used routes by reducing or eliminating routes that don't see a lot of riders. The changes will enable Metro to deliver two new RapidRide lines, one serving West Seattle and another serving Ballard. King County Council will take a final vote on the package in May. If passed, the route changes and eliminations will take effect September 29. The downtown Ride Free Area will also be dropped at that time.

For KUOW News, I'm Bryan Buckalew.

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