By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Metro believes it can handle the demand for bus service that will eventually arise due to the West Seattle Bridge closure.
That’s despite its plans for long-term cuts.
We covered a briefing this morning with Metro officials as they announced that some service will be restored June 22nd, both for buses and the Water Taxi. But – the September “service change” will see some long-term bus cuts, especially with an eye toward the end of some funding Seattle has been providing via the Transportation Benefit District.
First – here’s the full Metro announcement, regarding the entire system. An excerpt:
The transit services in operation in September will be about 85% of pre-COVID levels, providing an estimated 11,000 weekday trips on 121 bus routes. Service will focus primarily on a network of all-day routes throughout King County, including preserving frequent service on Metro’s busiest routes, while restoring peak service sufficient to meet returning demand to the extent possible given the current financial challenges. The cuts are made with direction from the City of Seattle in expectation that the Seattle Transportation Benefit District will discontinue revenue collections at the end of the year. (Metro says it still is awaiting something “definitive” from the city on whether a renewal measure will be pursued.)
While some weekday peak-period commuter routes will be restored, many peak routes will remain suspended in anticipation that long-term commuter ridership demand will take time to recover as many large employers continue having employees telework. Night, evening, and weekend service also will be significantly reduced.
Two West Seattle routes will not come back at all in June or September – the 22 and 37. Metro says those were the lowest-ridership routes on the peninsula even pre-COVID-19 (although some riders have pointed out the chicken-and-egg nature of ridership dropping because of cuts). The only West Seattle routes listed as NOT facing long-term cuts are 21X, 128, and the 131. And beyond September, Metro expects to need to make more cuts, as its projected revenue loss through 2022 – between taxes and farebox – is $615 million.
Metro, by the way, is looking at late June/early July for reinstating fares – they have some safety measures to implement in the meantime.
Since the Metro announcement did not specifically mention response to the West Seattle Bridge closure, that was our question.
“We’re very well aware of (those) challenges,” Metro GM Rob Gannon replied, saying Metro has been “working nonstop” on related issues since the closure, coordinating with the city. He left the specifics to Metro’s Bill Bryant, who promised that WS riders “will see real improvements” on June 22nd and September 19th. He also noted that – for WS and elsewhere – Metro has the ability to increase service on routes quickly, “if we see a spike.”
The expectation that they can meet West Seattle demand is also based on the expectation of relaxed social-distancing guidelines. Metro in the meantime stresses that it’s doing what it can to increase confidence n safety. But it’s been talking with the city regarding increasing West Seattle demand and while the service might not be “as convenient as in the past” or cover the previous span of hours, “it will be adequate to provide the needed capacity.”
As for the Water Taxi, Bryant said it will return to its full “winter schedule” – 5 days a week, commute dayparts – on June 22nd, with the shuttle routes returning too. Longer term, they are considering adding a second boat for the WT – the dock at Seacrest could handle up to 3 sailings an hour. What about shuttle routes that cover more of the peninsula than the standard two? That’s not in the plan for June or September, Metro says, but is under consideration for longer-term planning.
Again, this briefing wasn’t specifically about West Seattle transit – it was Metro’s systemwide announcement of June/September plans – so we expect to hear more specifics in the “Reconnect West Seattle” plan that SDOT has promised. Metro also will have more details soon on the June 22 increases system-wide.