I’ve never understood why there are two separate organizations dealing with public transit in our area. What is clear is the difference between how the two agencies fund their operations. Metro’s 2013 budget explains how they plan to spend their projected $639 million income for the year. In 2012 they provided about 120 million passenger trips that included dial-a-ride-transit and Access service for people with disabilities who cannot use regular bus service.
In 2013, fare box revenue and sales tax will make up 77% (23 and 54 respectively) of Metro’s income. However, the anticipated loss in income from sales tax due to the slower economy and the phase out of the $20 “congestion reduction charge” for license plate tabs is projected to require a 17 % reduction in service in the near future. The only way to avoid the cuts in service is to find additional funds from some source.
Sound Transit, however, is apparently under no obligation to match projected expenses with income. Their 2013 budget of $1.1 billion exceeds their projected income by $264 million. The far box revenue from the 28.4 million riders they anticipate in 2013 makes up less than 5% of the budgeted expenditures. Part of the problem is that while Metro helps those who cannot use regular bus service, ST has the Sounder program for those who prefer trains to buses. It's not clear what the extra service costs Metro but the limited ridership and high Sounder Train operating costs require ST to provide a $20,000 a year subsidy for each Everett Sounder rider (see 6/12/12 post).
Even this subsidy pales in comparison with the fact ST, in 2013, plans to spend $92.4 million expanding a Sounder Rail system that already costs nearly $40 million to operate, and has projected annual ridership of only 2.8 million, slightly more than the 2.4 million riders from a single express bus route, ST550. (The route ST will probably replace with far more expensive and far less accessible East Link light rail.)
The $264 million deficit in 2013 will increase dramatically when the $300 million spent in 2013 on Central Link extensions expands to the nearly $2 billion required to complete the nearly $20 billion Prop 1 package over the next ten years. The end result will be a financial “black hole” from the large construction debt and huge increases in subsidies to operate the longer routes (6/21/13 Post).
Allowing both organizations to continue to operate in this fashion is truly unconscionable.