King County Metro vision, policy updates focus on equity and sustainability

Sept. 16, 2021
The result will be ensuring transit investments go where they are needed most.

King County Executive Dow Constantine has introduced transit legislation that directs future investments upstream by intentionally weaving together King County Metro's policies and the Metro Connects long-range plan.

The result will be ensuring transit investments go where they are needed most.

Constantine, community leaders and elected officials are celebrating and marking the beginning of formal consideration of the legislation by the King County Council and the Regional Transit Committee. Constantine recognized and honored equity cabinet members who co-created the policies.

“These comprehensive changes take King County’s equity work to the next level, driving innovation and investments in public transportation service to the places where it is needed most,” Constantine said. “They chart our path forward to benefit everyone – especially priority populations – across the region and connect people to opportunities at every stage of their life. Investing where needs are greatest is our highest priority.”

King County policy direction on public transportation is updated periodically by the county council and the county executive to address the growing region’s needs. In 2020, the county council adopted the Mobility Framework, which elevates the importance of equity and sustainability as King County Metro adapts to changes in how the public travels. The proposed policy updates build on that framework and extend its reach across Metro’s long-range plans and policies.

“There has never been a more pressing time to center equity than right now,” said Dave Upthegrove, prime sponsor of the legislation, Regional Transit Committee chair and King County council member. “We know that access to reliable, fast and frequent transit can make day-to-day living easier – whether it’s getting to work quicker, having multiple options for getting to the local grocery store, or just knowing that your bus will come when scheduled.”

Overview of key policy changes

Community engagement is key to developing policies rooted in community perspectives and driving resources to where they are needed. The proposed documents strengthen King County Metro’s community engagement goals to focus on priority populations and to involve impacted communities early and in upstream decision-making processes.

Service guidelines help King County Metro evaluate, design and modify transit services to meet changing needs and deliver efficient, high-quality service. They ensure that decision-making and recommendations are objective, transparent and aligned with the region’s goals for public transportation. They also establish criteria and processes that King County Metro uses to analyze and plan changes to the transit system.

Proposed updates to the service guidelines include:

  • Prioritizing service growth investments based on equity, productivity, and then geographic value.
  • Expanding the definition of social equity to also include, in addition to race and income: disability, immigrants and refugees, and linguistically-diverse populations. Further, a measure was added to gauge low- and medium-income jobs along travel corridors.
  • Clarifying that service hours directly replaced by a partner agency’s service could be redeployed to meet countywide goals. Proposed policy would clarify the possibility and approach.

Metro Connects is King County Metro’s long-range plan for providing more service, more choices and one easy-to-use system. It currently provides a vision for the service network in 2025 and 2040 with fast, frequent and reliable service all day, every day throughout King County. It outlines innovative travel options; clean, safe and customer-friendly vehicles and facilities; and information that makes transit work for everyone.

Proposed updates to Metro Connects include:

  • Extending timelines to 2050 and replacing the 2025 network with an “interim network.” The service network maps will be updated with revisions to the RapidRide network and changes that better serve equity gaps identified.
  • Updating planning dates, service proposals, and capital costs for future transit networks.
  • Updating the estimated gaps between available and needed funding.

King County Metro’s Strategic Plan through 2031 outlines Metro’s goals, the strategies and objectives to achieve them and the measures to determine if it is succeeding.

Proposed updates to the Strategic Plan include:

  • Simplifying and streamlining measures.
  • Increasing transparency by creating a public-facing performance measurement dashboard so staff, elected leaders, and the public can more easily track progress on Metro’s strategies and goals.
  • Aligning goal areas with the Mobility Framework.
  • Aligning goal areas with King County-Cities Climate Collaboration.