Last chance to save the 271

DSC_0559On May 15, an estimated 25 to 40 students attended a public hearing on the cuts to Metro at Bellevue City Hall. The Office of Sustainability funded students to take route 271 to the hearing. While ensuring that the 271 continues to route through campus has been the primary advocacy of Sustainability and the Office of Student Legislative Affairs, the 271 is one of many routes that will have reduced service due to a shortage of funding. “Based on the forecast of increased sales tax revenue released in March, [Metro has] scaled back [their] proposed cuts from […] about 17 percent of current service […] to about 16 percent,” or 550,000 hours.
Should the revisions pass as is, the nearest bus stop would be a third of a mile away. Students point out that “BC is the second most used stop on the 271, after Bellevue Transit Center,” there are “no real savings in distance of time, [ … it would] hurt Metro fare revenue by making access unreasonable,” and “put evening and disabled students at risk.”
At the most recent hearing, Bell feels that “[BC] made a strong impact.” “[As a result of] our presence, the chair addressed Bellevue student issues right off the bat and we had staffers approach us about how to deal with these concerns.” The showing of students and faculty members is a part of a continuous effort to appeal to various councils as well as educate and get students involved. Additionally, in a unified effort in opposition to the proposed cuts, President David Rule signed a letter along with numerous other presidents of community and technical colleges collectively representing approximately 87,000 students.
According the King County Metro website, “For more than five years, Metro has taken extraordinary actions to preserve bus service as we experienced a $1.2 billion shortfall in sales tax revenue caused by the recession. […] We have run out of tools to close the large, ongoing budget gap. Without new funding, we have no choice but to cut service to balance our budget. Metro determines what services will be cut based off variables such as cuts to the lowest-performing services, restructuring route networks and reducing lowest preforming services “on corridors that are below their target service levels.”
With the failure of proposition 1, the sales and use tax and vehicle fee for transportation improvements, alternatives to the Metro cuts dwindle. The proposition was largely voted down by voters on the eastside of Seattle, whereas the Seattle area predominantly voted to pass the measure. Currently the eastside receives 17 percent services but pays for 35 percent. According to Paul Bell, OSLA legislative director, there are several proposals being circulated. One of these proposals is the Seattle voters “eat the cuts” due to widespread support for the services to not be cut as reflected in the position one voting numbers. Were the city to take this route, Bell suspects that they may not want to pay for the eastside services and only buy back the Seattle routes.
The last big hearing will be held on Tuesday, May 20, at the Renton Event Center at 6 p.m. Those wishing to testify are suggested to arrive early. For those looking to testify who cannot attend, testimony can be submitted online through Metro’s website. To see a full list of proposed cuts go to metro.kingcounty.gov/am/future.
“We worked very hard to avoid cuts and don’t want to make them,” according to Metro. “We know from our extensive public outreach over the past six months that many people will be impacted. People who rely on Metro will lose service, be inconvenienced, or ride on more-crowded buses. We value every one of our customers and will continue to do the best we can to get you where you want to go.”

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