Without injection of funding next year, Metro says, it's bye bye to Lakeland Shuttle service

If there is no new money after Metro Transit's two-year, temporary funding from a congestion reduction charge runs out in mid 2014, it will blast a $75 million hole in what the agency has to have just to keep bus service as it is, King County officials say.

Which would leave the agency no option, officials conclude, but to slash service 17 percent by the fall of 2014 — in part by axing the Lakeland, north and south shuttle services on which so many Auburn residents depend.

That dire scenario, coupled with the fact that the City of Auburn pays King County $100,000 plus a year to keep just the Lakeland Shuttle going — it only runs during the day — has Auburn officials weighing alternatives to Metro Transit.

"We know that in the case of any budget cut to Metro Transit, Auburn would lose service," said Mayor Pete Lewis. "If you do the same thing over and over, expecting a different result, there's a definition for that ... it's called insanity.

"It just seems to me that if we know we are always going to be cut, we need to do something so we don't have to depend on that service," Lewis said.

One school of thought says that instead of reupping with Metro Transit, the City should take the leap and create its own reliable home-town service.

"We thought, well, the Muckleshoot Tribe already has a shuttle. Why don't we team up with our sister jurisdiction and talk about creating a shuttle system that works for Muckleshoot and Auburn both?"

The City wouldn't have to run it, Lewis added, it could contract the service out and have the Tribe run it for the City.

City officials are also talking about creating a shuttle system just inside the City.

"I'm not sure we'd be looking at buses. We might be looking at something like modern trolly cars, maybe see if we can get some grants for it. We can get compressed natural gas vehicles or electric vehicles on a grant. They don't have to go at high speed," Lewis said.

Also, according to the county website, ever since 2009, "funding from property tax, gas tax and grants has declined by one-third... and continues to fall. An additional $50 million is needed for 2014 just to stabilize the declining county road system — and more is needed to maintain and rebuild the system."

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