METRO: County Councilmembers get updates on where it’s at, where it’s going

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.

19 Replies to "METRO: County Councilmembers get updates on where it's at, where it's going"

  • Doug February 21, 2023 (12:52 pm)

    Where it’s at?  It’s got two turntables and a microphone!

    • WSB February 21, 2023 (2:37 pm)

      Sorry, I realize “where it’s at” is a dated phrase. I keep trying to excise those from what I write, not always successfully.

      • Jethro Marx February 21, 2023 (4:08 pm)

        Doug is song-checking a classic grunge hit from Odelay by Beck.

        • WSB February 21, 2023 (5:00 pm)

          As I said a couple days ago with “golf car vs. golf cart,” I always appreciate learning something new. Thanks.

  • DRW February 21, 2023 (1:02 pm)

    I still can’t believe that Sound Transit changed the 560 to start at Westwood. That decision alone cutoff easy access to the airport for an entire island.

    • Kyle February 21, 2023 (8:27 pm)

      Take the 128 to the Tukwila light rail stop.

    • bolo February 21, 2023 (11:11 pm)

      I don’t like it either but maybe I understand why they shortened the route? Many many many times when I rode the 560 out of Alaska Junction I was most often the only passenger, or maybe one of only two or three total. Sometimes a few more would board in White Center. Evidently not popular enough.

  • hj February 21, 2023 (1:17 pm)

    So there’s still a driver shortage? I will admit that I am not up to speed on this, but I had a friend (fully-qualified, CDL, etc.) who joined Metro as a driver about ten years ago and found that the strict seniority rules in place at that time made it extremely difficult to maintain a sustainable schedule, and the low turnover rate at that time meant that it would have been several years before the situation would have improved. Does anyone know if things still work the same way over there?

    • CarDriver February 21, 2023 (3:39 pm)

      hj. This is how the majority of union jobs have always been. Seniority on the job is how promotions are made. Sorry, but showing up and saying I’ve got a degree so I don’t need to start at the bottom and work my way up doesn’t work here.

      • hj February 21, 2023 (5:14 pm)

        You know what isn’t working right now? Having a constantly understaffed system that results in suspended routes for the populace that the system is supposed to serve.

      • Kyle February 21, 2023 (8:30 pm)

        You can’t attract enough staff to work the routes with this system. You can still have seniority, they just don’t need to toil for years as part time first since you don’t have enough full time to begin with. The pipeline is broken.

        • Vicky February 22, 2023 (6:46 am)

          I was part time a total of 12 months.  It didn’t take years.  I started in 2018 and was full time by March of 2019.  Coming from a job that was seniority based (a state agency) to metro, I was pleasantly surprised with how accommodating they were.  

        • NotOnHolden February 22, 2023 (9:57 am)

          Yeah, that’s the problem to me, the PTTO situation.  I am very aware of the ATU 587 contract and it makes sense to have the Vehicle Maintenance Shifts and Operator roles have seniority.  The union is not at fault here.  We could do a deep dive into the human resources department at Metro that may or may not be properly staffed to handle the massive recruiting effort that is involved when bringing on Operators and Vehicle Maintenance people.  Also, the King County Drug and Alcohol program is involved here, too as they handle all of the FTA mandatory testing for CDL holders, guess how many people that have?  Not enough.   AND the HRIM group that has to make sure all the data is properly entered for new hires.  When Metro became its own department HR was sort of an afterthought and they have struggled to maintain proper staffing levels to handle all the work it takes to recruit and onboard new employees.  And that’s just one facet of Metro HR, there is so much they have had to deal with in the last 3 to 4 years.  

    • Peter February 21, 2023 (7:24 pm)

      As I found when I applied for a job with King County a few years ago, their union contracts are draconian. You start at the bottom, period. Demonstrable skills and years if experience do not matter. That guarantees that all new hires have zero skills and zero experience because anyone with skills and experience will not work for King County. That creates a very steep learning curve, and creates a structure where any increase in services takes years longer than it would if skills and experience were taken into consideration in setting wages and position. Unions contracts are 100% to blame for Metro’s staffing problems. 

  • Millie February 21, 2023 (3:13 pm)

    From my previous experience at King County, the transit drivers are union members.  So, yes, seniority based on hire date would be followed.  The longer employed, the better routes are available for bidding when schedule/route changes are made.   Hope this helps!

  • bolo February 21, 2023 (11:22 pm)

    Would need to see some polling or research to form an objective opinion on our community’s upside or downside from the benefits given to developers for developing along or near mass transit routes. (Allowed to build MFH w/o off-street parking) and (I think)(Several years tax-free.)

    But always wondered what if the mass transit system cannot maintain its service level. Do the developers have any responsibilities in helping to maintain transit service levels?

  • Admiral February 22, 2023 (12:50 am)

    Run the 56 and 57 more than just commute hours and I would 

  • anonyme February 22, 2023 (4:44 am)

    Restore Route 22 weekend service.  Weekday service to Arbor Heights is abysmal enough, but there is zero on weekends.

  • April February 22, 2023 (9:57 am)

    Transit will NEVER be my first choice! I’m not spending 2 hours on a bus when I can get there in 30 minutes with  my car. Or even 45 minutes on a bus when I can get there in 15 with my car. Can’t even go from Admiral to White Center on one bus anymore, so not worth it!

Sorry, comment time is over.