An audience of nearly 300 people, many of whom depend on public transit for transportation, met with members of the Metropolitan King County Council at the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club Sept. 30. The Council hosted a community Town Hall meeting on the changing face of public transportation with the arrival of Link light rail and the fiscal challenges facing Metro.
“This meeting is an opportunity for you to get involved,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, who represents the Central District, Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill on the County Council. “We need to hear from you about how these changes impact your lives.”
Gosestt said he hosted the Town Hall to hear from residents concerned about recent service changes made by Metro in order to coordinate with new light rail service. He said many of the neighborhoods he represents are urban communities for whom public transit is their primary source of transportation.
The meeting gave residents direct access to the officials at Sound Transit and Metro Transit responsible for the service changes that have occurred in the Rainier Valley.
Ron Tober, Deputy CEO of Sound Transit spoke to the audience about the agency’s effort to mesh Link light rail, the train running through the heart of the Rainier Valley, with the transit service that also travels along Martin Luther King, Jr. Way S. In response to concerns raised about the noise of the trains as they run, Tober said Sound Transit has begun using a new lubricant to reduce the noise of the wheels on the track around the Mt Baker rail stop.
With the arrival of light rail there was also a shift in transit service along the rail corridor. Victor Obeso, Metro Transit’s Manager for Service Development, stressed that with the start of Link, Metro’s focus was to “complement, not duplicate” light rail service. He said the changes were made in conjunction with a community outreach program in which Metro contacted more than 50,000 households in the area.
Obeso acknowledged that trip patterns would change for some bus riders as a result of service changes, but he said Metro remains committed to providing reliable bus service along MLK Way. He said many of the passengers served by the old Route 42 still have service available through the expansion of Metro Routes 8 and 107 into their neighborhoods.
Obeso also told the audience Metro will be adding more bus service along the MLK corridor in February, after Sound Transit starts connecting directly to SeaTac Airport. Obeso said that Metro expects to add 35,000 additional hours of transit service to Southeast King County when the light rail transition is complete.
Gossett said that while the County Executive’s budget proposal calls for a 9 percent reduction of bus service countywide over the next two years, he feels reducing service should be Metro’s last resort and made it clear that he wants Metro officials to look at all options before coming to the council with service cuts.
The Council has just started its deliberations on the 2010 county budget. There will be four public hearings on the budget proposal, which the Council traditionally adopts the Monday before Thanksgiving. For more information on the meeting and the 2010 King County Budget, go to the Council’s Budget Web site at: www.kingcounty.gov/council/budget.