Now that we’ve all had a chance to vent about it, I chatted with Metro’s Linda Thielke about this week’s surprise cutbacks in service.

Our speculation about causes was basically correct.  As a cost-cutting measure in 2009, Metro was going to cut back during the last week of the year, when ridership is historically pretty low.

With the beating the buses took last week, though, it was clear they were going to need to pause at some point soon.  Given that this is one of the lower-ridership weeks of the year, they decided to bring the change forward to 2008, despite the short notice.

Frankly, I would have made the same decision.  Unfortunately, the announcement was largely lost in the hoopla about the snowstorm.  Although I think they could have done a better job giving it prominent play on the Metro website, it turns out the changes were announced as early as Dec. 23.  Part of the problem, of course, is that a lot people gave up on riding the bus last week and so didn’t have the opportunity to see the alerts.

A timeline of the news releases that Ms. Thielke made is below the jump.  Part of the blame, as always, falls on our local media, who mostly chose sensationalism about the storm over information readers and viewers could have actually used.  But I still wish Metro had thought to pass it on to lesser outlets like The Stranger and STB, who reach fewer people but do a good job of covering transit information for people truly dependent on the bus.

As for me, I wish I’d taken the time to poke around the Metro site last week, while snowed in.  My apologies to the readership.

–News release went out Wednesday, Dec. 23 and was also posted on county home page;

–Coach announcements made Dec. 26, 27 & 28;

–Rider Alerts posted Dec. 26 at the bus stops most impacted (couldn’t get to all 9,000 stops in one day);

–Updated information on Metro Online starting Dec. 26 (had to wait to see if we would be past the snow routing by Dec. 29);

–Another news release and phone calls to dailies and broadcast outlets on Dec. 28.

8 Replies to “Follow-up: Partial Holiday Service”

  1. Thanks for the follow up! I’m glad to see Metro tried. Unfortunately I left town the afternoon of the 23rd and came back the afternoon of the 28th. I wasn’t far away, just rural Thurston county. Sure wish KING was as trustworthy in getting the transit info out so I could have planned better, like getting up an hour earlier.

    Kudos to STB! And next time I’ll do my part in keeping better tabs on Google Reader when I’m out of the city!

  2. “We’ll Get you There”, didn’t work. I hope this snow storm, and the uncoordinated response from Metro, SDOT, and WSDOT serves as a wake up call to local electeds that public transit is unreliable and unpredictable during a moderate weather event. Major cities around the country have snow and ice storms much worse than Seattles, yet manage to keep basic transportation corridors, and service, running.
    Metro’s web site was pathetic. Unpublished routes, crashed servers, flat out wrong information, and finally going to a ‘partial holiday schedule’ (what ever that means for the average rider) for the balance of the year reflects the systems inability to cope with adverse conditions.
    WSDOT salts roads and bridges. The roads clear up rapidly. SDOT scrapes and packes the ice. Let’s make up our minds, because buses with chains on, don’t do well on cleared freeways, and buses without chains in the city get stuck. Seattle and Metro should decide what corridors will get priority salting and sanding in advance, and double up service with standard coaches to keep the transportation lifelines running.
    Metro had tons of drivers sitting around all day doing nothing, while Seattle streets froze solid, day after day, and riders were left standing at bus stops wondering if a bus would arrive or not. If by chance one did, it was jammed full, and kept right on going.
    Seattle, King County, Sound Transit and Washington State can and must do better to restore public confidence in basic transportation services!

    1. Why don’t you just take a cab then you whining self centered prick! Nobody can win in these extreme situations with people like you! You forget that major cities get these storms every year and are prepared. This type of event happens infrequently in this region. Do you want cities with already decimated budgets to “plow” money into snow removal when the likelihood it would be needed is a rare event! WSDOT, SDOT, Metro….no one can win! Sure, they all could have done better, but this region was pounded by this storm, a record snowfall event in the history of Seattle I might add. I drive for Metro and I beat my ass up out there “getting you there”. There are the drivers that just go out and look for a convenient place to get stuck, but there are way more of us that put in 12 – 16 hour days and nights trying to “get you there”. We deal with way more than you can even imagine, so you just take the cab from now on and we’ll have one less annoyance to deal with!

  3. I don’t see why you let Metro off the hook so easily. Just because Thielke is kind enough to “chat” with you and provide you with her cover-my-ass timeline? The information was not conveyed to the public in a timely or adequate fashion, plain and simple.

    If we demanded competence from our government (whether it is dominated by Democrats or Republicans), all of the “leaders” of the various divisions associated with delivering Metro transit service and communicating information would be forced to resign (i.e. Taniguchi, Desmond, and Thielke).

  4. I understand the need to get buses in working order and my issue with all of this has been with the poor communication. If you have the timeschedule for specific routes bookmarked (as I do), there’s nothing on the page indicating a route is on the “reduced holiday schedule”. I never go to the homepage, so would have missed any announcements placed only there.

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