Multiple levels of transit-service updates were presented at s King County Council committee meeting that just wrapped up. In the big picture, transit executives and councilmembers alike observed that transit usage has changed in a big way, largely because of the pandemic-triggered change in work styles – only about half as many people as pre-pandemic commute five days a week, for example. Metro‘s new general manager Michelle Allison noted that the system will recognize this in its marketing: “We want transit to be your first choice” for all kinds of transportation needs. (It’s not just Metro – the councilmembers also heard from a Sound Transit executive who said that for one example, Saturday ridership on light rail has doubled.)
However, it was also acknowledged that the bus system is not yet back to full speed – “near-term delivery challenges” is how the ongoing problems were described. While the steering issue that took more than 200 buses out of service are “on track” to getting handled, a worker shortage is still a major factor. Allison gave the councilmembers the newest numbers:
-119 fewer full-time-equivalent operators (drivers) than needed
-36 fewer maintenance mechanics than needed
The first number is higher than a month ago, when Metro told us they estimated 99 more FTE drivers were needed. So trip cancellations aren’t going to go away any time soon.
Back to the big picture – the councilmembers also were asked to approve a “recovery plan” that basically acknowledges the current level of service – including reduced/suspended routes – and a new strategy for future planning. As explained in the plan’s staff report, one component of the strategy will be regional “restructuring” that will, among other things, review suspended/reduced routes. From the staff report:
To allow time to address operational capacity and staffing shortfalls and to coordinate service restoration with several significant high-capacity transit expansions, the Service Recovery Plan proposes that Metro will use service restructure projects as the primary means for reshaping service and reinvesting suspended hours back into the system. The Plan notes that Metro’s adopted policies would be followed in developing these service restructures. It also states that Metro does not plan to restore all suspended hours to the system in the same routes and times that they were removed, but that each mobility project would maintain service investments (service hours) within their geographic project areas, so there would be no net reduction in the total amount of service in an area.
As proposed, the service restructures would be organized into six geographically focused mobility projects:
•Seattle, Vashon Island Restructure and Restoration. For routes within Seattle and on Vashon Island that are not part of the other mobility projects described above, Metro proposes to pursue a new mobility project to consider service recovery options for routes that are currently reduced or suspended.
The Service Recovery Plan states that the following routes with reduced or suspended service hours would be included in this restructure, coordinated by geography:
o Central Seattle: 3, 4, 7, 9X, 11, 12, 27, 40, 43, 47, 48.
o Queen Anne/Magnolia: 19, 24, 29, 33.
o North Seattle: 15X, 17X, 18X, 31, 32, 45, 62, 79, 255, D Line, E Line.
o West Seattle/Vashon Island: 21X, 22, 37, 55, 56, 113, 116X, 118X, 118, 119X, 119, 120, 131, C Line.
o Other areas: 231, 631, 906, 914, 915.
Metro says 17 routes remain fully suspended – that would include West Seattle’s Route 37. Allison also noted at the meeting that, as we’ve reported, RapidRide H Line is launching March 18th – but rather than an addition, that’s a conversion, of the existing Route 120.