Back door of a Breda trolley bus

This is King County Metro’s back door policy, stated in my words:

Passengers may exit through the back door on any trip that is pay-as-you-enter at any time, except at downtown bus stops when the Ride Free Area is not in effect (7 pm – 6 am).

Jim O’Rourke, Metro’s Manager of Operations confirms:

Current policy is as Oran states – back door is OK outside of the CBD.

As for the signs on buses, Linda Thielke, Metro spokesperson, says “[management] will work to see what can be done to get the signs altered; but it may take some time unless it’s already part of the decal campaign for this summer.” The policy change by Metro’s Operations folks probably didn’t reach everyone, thus signs that continue to conflict with the new policy.

So there you have it. I hope that riders, drivers and management will all get the memo on this policy for consistency and efficiency of bus unloading.

130 Replies to “Back Door Policy Followup”

  1. Get-r done.Seriously common sense, quite worrying about falling off the fence.Is this why they created the Regional Transit Task Force?

  2. On the way back from the meetup, a driver on route 16 announced “front door only after 7”, at 3rd & Virginia. Consistent with the policy, but I’m not sure if he ever opened the back door after we left downtown.

    Some consistency is all I really ask for: if I’m going just a couple of stops, should stay near the front, or move towards the back? If I’m in a standing-room-only bus, and my stop is coming up, should I start shoving past people to get to the front, even though I’m right next to a perfectly functional exit-device?

    1. I had the same problem on a 10 on the way back from the meetup. Driver wouldn’t open the back door for someone on 15th Ave E, even when they asked.

      1. If drivers (according to policy) opening the back door to allow passengers to exit is optional, then no complaint has any foundation. Those complaints result in a sit-down meeting between the driver and their Base Chief, which – depending on the base chief – can be a conversation about policy, or what amounts to a verbal reprimand even if the driver violated no policy.

        Save your complaints for real issues.

      2. “Current policy is as Oran states – back door is OK outside of the CBD.”

        Unless there is a valid, reasonable, articulable safety concern, this is no longer optional.

      3. And “OK” does not mean “mandatory” – it means “authorized”. There is no stipulation anywhere about a “valid, reasonable, articulable safety concern”, nor any definition of what that means.

      4. “Customers may exit through either door.” That is the policy.

        Driver’s do not get to override a basic operating policy willy-nilly. Do you have the “option” of changing the route mid-trip? Can you just decide to skip every third stop? No? Well, you don’t have absolute discretion over this, either.

        If you’re going to cite “safety concerns” to deny rear-door exit in a specific circumstance, you had better have a good reason. That reason must be articulable (i.e. able to be clearly, verbally expressed) and must be good enough that a reasonable person might be swayed by your logic.

        I don’t care of those terms are used in the driver’s manual — hint: they probably are! — because they are a foundation of essentially all liability law.

      5. “Customers may exit through either door.” That is the policy.”

        No, sorry. It isn’t. No such written policy exists that I’m aware of, or has been communicated to the drivers. At any rate – “may” does not mean either “must” or “must be allowed to”.

        It’s more of Metro management weasel-wording.

        I’m all for having a definitive policy – and demanding that drivers adhere to it. We don’t have that, despite Oran’s claims and yours. Want one? Me, too. Tell Metro management, and don’t take it out on the drivers.

      6. d.p. quoted “customers may exit through either door.”

        Beavis said “No such written policy exists that I’m aware of”. Really, Beavis? d.p.’s quote came straight out of The Book, Section 6.19 and 6.20, February 2011 edition. That’s what spurred me to write the original article and where my conclusions were based off of. I even cited it in my original article. Now I don’t believe you when you say you read it over four times.

      7. And if the PDF that I linked to in the original article is too much for you, I highlighted the relevant sections and took a screenshot of it. Click to open new page. Click on the image in the new page to enlarge.

      8. To be fair, they’ve not issued any bulletins that I’ve seen. (EBOperator?) The only way I knew about the change is by looking it up. We’re caught in the middle here until Metro gets the word out – Until then, can you hold off on complaints to drivers?

      9. I’m of the school of mind that says the bus driver is “the captain” of the vehicle and as a passenger I have a responsibility to follow their instructions and any signs and placards highlighting policy requirements and State laws. If I think the driver is wrong, it is better to comply (e.g. which door to exit through, paying a fare etc.) and not argue with them. You can always file a complaint later.

        Now if the placards and signs describe a policy that is no longer applicable that is a cause for complaint.

      10. “Driver’s do not get to override a basic operating policy willy-nilly.”

        Actually we do – It’s called safety. I know plenty of drivers don’t open the back door when it’s obviously safe to do so – I’ve been in the back of plenty of 550s wishing the driver would open the door. But there are times we can see a hazard that you can’t.

        Try to understand that we’re frequently caught in the middle. We get a lot of conflicting ideas of what policy is from customers and even supervisors and base chiefs from time to time. By all means, request that Metro clarify the policy and communicate it to drivers.

        FWIW: I suspect you’re the type to call and complain about a driver while you’re standing behind them. Lighten up and try to understand that there is a lot of confusion over this policy. To fix the situation, you’ve got to start with Metro.

      11. No, Vélo,

        I do understand that most of Metro’s problems are systemic rather than individual, and I act accordingly. I’m unlikely to report even the most infuriating/incompetent of drivers because I know it will not change the system as a whole.

        And frankly, the few times a driver has acted so egregiously that to not report him/her would have been negligent — an in-service 24 that didn’t bother to stop and pick up passengers on Denny because his lazy ass wanted to get to the end of his shift sooner; a woman who actually kicked me off her bus because I told her that “1 ZONE” is not the same the same as “OFF PEAK” on the ORCA reader and that I’m entitled not to be overcharged — I reported by phone, was greeted with an utterly dismissive tone by the operator, and never received any sort of follow-up.

        Customer service seems about as foreign to Metro as reliable transit service.

      12. One more thing, Vélo,

        I know you don’t like my attitude on this blog. It’s actually a bit of a shame, because I can tell that you’re one of the excellent, deeply committed drivers who works hard to make my life easier rather than harder.

        Our differing personalities may lead to a disconnect in how we express ourselves, but I’m sure you can tell that I’m passionate about good vs. fatally compromised transit. I think you might be surprised — shocked, even — just how polite, jovial, and appreciative I am in person to those of you who work as well as you can within the existing system.

        “Drivers do not get to override a basic operating policy willy-nilly.”

        Actually we do – It’s called safety.

        Thus my distinction between “reasonable and articuable” and “willy-nilly.”

        Yes, it’s legalese. But it absolutely applies here. The stakes may be lower, but you have no more need to subvert policy for reasons you can’t explain than a cop has a right to stop and frisk random black people because he something fuzzy “just wasn’t right about them.”

      13. d.p.

        “an in-service 24 that didn’t bother to stop and pick up passengers on Denny because his lazy ass wanted to get to the end of his shift sooner;”

        You don’t know why the driver didn’t stop, and there could be any number of legitimate reasons for it. “Lazy ass wanted to get to the end of his shift sooner” isn’t likely among them as you have no idea when that driver’s shift ended; how far behind schedule they were (could be another 24 was right behind them), or they might have just spotted YOU at the stop and didn’t want you on their bus due to past experiences with your belligerance.

        ” a woman who actually kicked me off her bus because I told her that “1 ZONE” is not the same the same as “OFF PEAK” on the ORCA reader and that I’m entitled not to be overcharged”

        Unlikely to the point of being ludicrous. If you were asked to leave teh bus, it was probably because you were acting like an aggressive jerk and the driver didn’t want you on board for security reasons.

        You hardly bolster any arguments you have with fantasy stories like these.

      14. Well, you seem to be endeavoring to test my patience, yet I’m somehow managing to retain my composure and to calmly respond to your reflexive defensiveness.

        You don’t know why the driver didn’t stop, and there could be any number of legitimate reasons for it.

        1. I was on the bus already. It was the last run to downtown before it headed back to base. It was supposed to be in service, guaranteed.

        2. On Denny, just before turning on 2nd, the driver passed up riders who literally waved at him to make sure he saw them. Seconds later, he changed the sign designations to “base.” Totally intentional.

        There is no legitimate reason for taking a functioning in-service bus out of service mid-route. Unacceptable.

        You were acting like an aggressive jerk and the driver didn’t want you on board for security reasons.

        1. I was totally calm. Unfortunately, I encounter mis-set ORCA readers all the time. I’m used to it.

        2. The difference this time was that she refused to fix the ORCA reader. She insisted that “1 ZONE” means “off peak.” I could see that her screen showed “$2.50,” but she simply refused to admit that she could possibly be wrong. Sounds a bit like you on this blog, actually.

        3. I informed her — again, calmly — that it is my right as a customer not to be overcharged, and that I would gladly swipe my ORCA if she would re-set the reader. She refused me service, and so I reported her.

        I dare you to find fault in any of my actions.

      15. d.p.

        “I was on the bus already. It was the last run to downtown before it headed back to base. It was supposed to be in service, guaranteed.”

        If you were still on the bus, then it was still in service doing what is known at the end of inbound runs as “drop off only”. Depending on where that bus’s last time point was (identify the time of day and location that you boarded and I’d be happy to look up the specific run for you), it could have had scheduled regular (pick up and drop off) service that ended where you have described. This has nothing to do with drivers being “lazy”, much less their ass being lazy, and your comments to that effect reveal an anger and ignorance based bias that make your comment about you demonstrating “patience” a bit laughable.

        As to the peak/one-zone issue, any coach that originates within the CBD during peak hour (up until 6pm) indicates that peak fare is to be collected at all time points up to the terminal – even if some of those time points have arrival times scheduled after 6pm. As an example, when I drive the 15X originating from downtown at 5:45pm, passengers board in the RFA, and disembark outside the RFA. Even though they disembark after 6pm, they still pay the peak fare.

        Again – help me identify the route and run of the bus you were on, and I’ll track down the specific run card for it.

        There ARE explanations for what you experienced. I’m sure getting all huffy, pisseed off and belligerant wagging your anonymous e-finger at them nasty, ignorant, lazy bus drivers may meet some sort of Freudian need for you, but it isn’t likely they’re fact based.

        Good luck with that “patience” thing.

      16. First example:

        24. Inbound. I got on along Elliott, and this was quite a while ago, so I’m sure the run cards have changed.

        Nevertheless, the 24 has a time point at 2nd and Broad, so the driver was not within any sort of grey zone here.

        And I’m unaware of any buses that are allowed to go “drop-off only” before reaching the free ride area. Until our service is much better structured and more comprehensive than it is today, no buses should be allowed to do so.

        Second example:

        44. Inbound. Literally 8:00 at night. The physical sign correctly stated the off-peak price. The ORCA reader continued to show the peak price.

        I never raised my voice in the slightest. I simply insisted on my right not to be overcharged, even by 25 cents, and I refused to swipe my ORCA until it was corrected.

        She was simply being stubborn. And wrong.

        She could have just fixed the ORCA reader, like the dozens of other drivers I’ve informed of mis-set ORCA readers did. Or she could have chosen to be stubborn and wrong, but allowed me on the bus without swiping.

        Denying me passage on account of her stubbornness is possibly illegal and certainly unconscionable.

      17. Also, why do you insist on repeatedly explaining “transit fares 101” to me (“You see, Billy, if a bus leaves the CBD before 6:00…”), when I clearly understand them better than many drivers?

        I’ve never complained about it here before, but I’m shocked how many drivers don’t know off-hand that inbound trips scheduled to arrive in the CBD after 6:00 pm are always off-peak.

      18. “, the 24 has a time point at 2nd and Broad, so the driver was not within any sort of grey zone here.”

        Here’s where you again demonstrate you don’t know as much as you apparently think you do. Not all 24’s have time points there – it will depend on the run. This goes for other route as well. For example, when I used to drive my last trip on the inbound 25, my last time point was at 2nd and Pine. The 25 that is continuuing in service has time points all the way down to 3rd S. and S. Main. As a result, I ran my inbound 25 as drop off only, changing my sign to “To Central Base” at 2nd and Stewart. I would drop passengers off anywhere on 3rd normally serviced by the continuuing 25 – even though my last time point was 2nd and Pine.

        So unless you saw the run card of this 24 – you quite simply don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. I’m sure that surprises no-one at this point.

      19. You are wrong. Go ahead. I dare you. Try to find a 24 run card that ceases to be in service a mile before downtown! Every 24 run appears on the printed schedule at least as far as Bell, guaranteed. (The 19/24 and their through-routes are the only service along this part of 2nd.)

        Did you notice how, in your 25 example, even the non-through-routed runs had time points all the way to Pine? Hmmm… big difference!

        Yeesh, Sir!

        Your responses all boil down to “drivers are infallible” or “drivers are victimized.” Maybe your illusion of the first is causing your delusion of the second.

      20. As I’ve already pointed out – this bus was obviously not out of service as you were still on it.

        It’s common practice – even GOOD practice – to change signage for normally through-routed coaches to change their signage as they enter the CBD (or just before – I usually change mine from north to south before I get to Cedar St.) so that people expecting a 24 that becomes the 132 don’t board. Normally through-routed coaches headed out of service on their last trip are often followed within a few minutes by an in-service coach.

        The idea, Genius, is that people don’t get confused by getting on a bus that they expect to turn into the 132 just to be kicked off a few blocks later.

        I highly suggest you become a bus driver so you can show us all how it should be done.

      21. [throws up hands]

        Beavis, you do not just pass up riders starting at a mile before because they “might have wanted a 132.” If if you do, then you are wrong and you are negligent.

        You still haven’t found me a single example of a (non-commuter) bus that goes “drop-off only” before the ride free area.

        If you’re in-service toward downtown, I can get on your bus. Period.

      22. Beavis, you do not just pass up riders starting a mile before downtown because you think they “might have wanted a 132.” If you do, then you are wrong and you are negligent!

        You still haven’t found me a single example of a (non-commuter) bus that goes “drop-off only” before the ride free area.

        If you are in-service toward downtown, I can get on your bus. Period.

      23. “I know you don’t like my attitude on this blog.”

        That is an understatement. You come across as a know-it-all who makes our lives difficult. If you get left at the curb more than occasionally, I suspect your attitude is showing up in relations with your drivers.

        File your complaints with Metro and we’ll hash it out with our chief. I suspect more than one of your complaints will simply be tossed into the recycling bin after a short discussion.

        Good luck.

      24. I’m genuinely sorry to hear that.

        I know my frustration can seem to reach a fever pitch in this corner of cyberspace. Frankly, Metro makes my life miserable sometimes and I may inadvertently pass that along. Sorry.

        I can’t apologize for my convictions or experience, whether or not they make me seem a know-it-all. I do know more about what makes functional transit than those steeped their entire lives in the Seattle experience, and I will not hesitate to refute a malformed notion.

        I respect you as a driver and as a contributor, and I strongly suspect that you would never encounter so much as a whiff of “attitude” from me in person.

        Take care.

    2. When I drive standing room only buses – frequent as I often drive the 5, 15, 18, etc. – I invite people to exit through the rear door and come around the front to take care of their fare. Having to stand in a moving bus is claustrophobically stressful enough without forcing folks to play full-contact football just to escape the bus.

      That said – this is another area of inconsistency, and drivers are not well directed on how to best accomodate passengers in this type of situation. What I just described doing as a matter of regular practice, I have had one Supervisor/Trainer tell me never to do – IN THE NAME OF CONSISTENCY! He actually argued that what I do raises expectations for passengers that other drivers will do the same, and not all drivers do.

      Metro management SUCKS on clearly stating policies, largely so that they can hang the drivers out to dry when customers complain.

      1. You’ve not only got a point, Operator McGee. You’ve also got the right to have above type of superior put their thoughts in writing, and an additional grievance procedure to respond.

        You’ve got a union local with four thousand members and a political action committee, to take your case to the elected officials who write your rules.

        I believe, though it’s been awhile since I paid dues, that your local also still has an internal grievance policy against union brothers and sisters who tell you to do stupid and dangerous things.

        Worst thing about the Free Ride Zone is not lost revenue- ease of boarding may balance that out. Real problem is resulting conflicts and contradictions in door use, which have been operating obstacles, argument instigators, and safety hazards since its inception.

        As regular Route 44 passenger, I’d say that a standing coachload of rush hour passengers on a Breda on a hot day not only has grounds for complaint if forced to use front door only, but also at least one lawsuit each.

        Local 587 has the right to insist that transit find means to handle Downtown circulation that collect revenue differently.

        Mark Dublin

      2. ATU 587 has no “internal grievance policy” against anyone but its elected officers. There is no means (via the union) of making a complaint against another member that I’m aware of – and if there was, it’s highly unlikely it would extend to “a supervisor told me something I don’t agree with”.

  3. This isn’t a “work to see what can be done” matter. The back-door-after-7 policy was changed after a driver was nearly killed on account of it.

    Those signs need to come off stat, bulletins be posted to both passengers and drivers on the policy change while removal is in progress. Alert should be on website if not there already.

    Have been advised King County Executive Dow Constantine is in a position to issue a direct order to make these things happen. Everybody reading this, copy and paste to e-mail address below:


    Response should work very well to prove what can be done. And how fast.

    Mark Dublin

    1. An while we’re at it, tell Dow one more thing:

      While the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel is technically in the Free Ride Zone, enforcing the front-door-only exit after 7 effectively turn a 60′ two door bus into a 60′ one door bus.

      Resulting dwell-times routinely delay arriving LINK trains by several minutes before entering Westlake, causing night passengers to miss connections with buses on one-hour headways.

      Monday’s County Council meeting ended with reference to possible transit cost savings. Cost of lost goodwill here, let alone combined rail and bus operating delays, cancel out risk of lost fares.

      Tunnel platforms should be proof-of-payment, as designers intended. ‘Til then, after 7, pay front, exit rear. Might gain votes from public and Council.

      Mark Dublin

      1. “Resulting dwell-times routinely delay arriving LINK trains by several minutes before entering Westlake”

        No, they don’t. A lot fewer buses travel through the tunnel after 7 – I’ve often driven the length of the tunnel after that time and not seen another bus either in front of or behind me, much less a waiting train.

      2. I’ve been on plenty of trains that have had to “wait for traffic” northbound to ID and Westlake Stations, and southbound to ID Station, off-peak. The lone bus may not see the train behind it, but the train has to wait nonetheless. And then, the buses after the train have to wait.

      3. Waiting for a bus or train to clear a tunnel segment or the station is not the same as a delay. Both trains and buses can and do remain on schedule, even with front door only loading, which doesn’t take all that much longer and is time-compensated by their being fewer buses (a lot fewer) that time of day.

      4. SO, delays are okay, as long as they can be calculated accurately and accounted for in the schedule?

      5. Beavis, trains entering downtown always get delayed behind one-door-operating, slow-boarding buses (particularly 71-73, 41) every single evening, though it’s particularly bad on Thursday-Saturday and after Sounders games.

        Don’t try to argue this fact. It makes you seem like one of those drivers who’s never actually used the thing for their own transportation and has no conception of the passenger experience.

      6. d.p.

        I use the bus. My family uses the bus. Most importantly – my customers use the bus. Front door loading doesn’t produce a significant delay either above or below ground. Metro has done actual testing on the issue, and we’re talking about a matter of seconds at best. Read delays are caused by things like wheelchairs, cyclists, and above all passengers fumbling for currency or the pass that they forgot was required to ride the bus.

      7. Mark Dublin Q.E.D.’d you just a few posts below.

        Link-to-17 transfer. Hourly bus. Should have been a comfortable transfer, but he barely made it because of all the cumulative crap that happens with one-door operations — change-fumbling included.

        It all adds up, Beavis, subway or surface. A few seconds here. A few seconds there. You miss a light. Then you miss the next light. Then someone standing patiently at the back gets yelled at to come to the front (consistency!). That’s a few more seconds. Next, a change fumbler. Now you’ve missed another light.

        Suddenly a 5-mile trip has taken an hour.

        If you’ve never in your riding life been made horrendously late, stranded somewhere for a long time, or been otherwise f$%ked by the above process, than you’re the luckiest person in Seattle.

    2. A driver was not nearly killed because of a policy involving doors. A driver was nearly killed because some juvenile miscreants attacked an old woman for no reason, and lax to nonexistent security onboard Metro buses to the detriment of the safety of both drivers and passengers.

  4. “policy is as Oran states”

    Except Oran didn’t originally state any such thing. Oran orginally stated that the policy was gone – that back doors could be used to exit at any time, and that stickers should be removed – “wiped off the face of Metro’s buses – literally”, you said.

    One commenter then claimed that some driver had spontaneously invented a policy about not using the rear doors in the CBD after 7.

    Why not issue a full-blown CORRECTION and admit you WRONGLY REPORTED ON THIS, Oran?

      1. Read Oran’s original article (linked in this one). He made the claim that the policy on rear door use for exiting passengers had been abolished. Others picked up on this, and turned their ire on drivers, who – had Oran reported the facts correctly to begin with – would have understood that not to be the case, and that drivers were enforcing the ACTUAL policy vs. the one that Oran simply made up.

      2. I’m getting tired of repeating my points over and over but I’ll admit that my references to which policy I was talking about isn’t clear. If you read the entire paragraph, then you know what I meant. Next time I’ll proofread my writing better and believe me, I reread my own writing many times over many days before deciding to publish an article. It is easy to take writing out of context if you read just that one sentence and nothing else.

      3. Here’s a few others from the original article then, so we don’t have to rely on one:

        “The rule is now effectively rescinded after a Metro bus driver was assaulted last year for not letting more people out the back door.”

        “Metro spokesperson Linda Thielke confirmed to me that “bus drivers do have the option to open the rear door to allow passengers to exit the coach during [7 pm – 6 am]“. Meanwhile, signs on the rear door, inside and outside, continue to say “Use Front Door Only 7 PM – 6 AM”, even on RapidRide buses.”

        “Customers should be encouraged to exit through the rear door whenever possible*.

        “Many drivers now open the rear door but some didn’t seem to get the memo, not letting passengers exit through the rear door in broad summer daylight with no apparent security hazards.”

    1. 1. Take a deep breath.
      2. Count to ten.
      3. Reread Oran’s post. The policy “is as Oran states” is in reference to his paraphrasing of the policy in the first sentence of the post: “Passengers may exit through the back door on any trip that is pay-as-you-enter at any time, except at downtown bus stops when the Ride Free Area is not in effect (7 pm – 6 am).”

      1. My breathing is just fine. YOU go read Oran’s ORIGINAL post. I’ve read it 4 times now. It gave the definitive impression that the policy was no more (anywhere), and that drivers were to blame for not opening the back door to let passengers exit.


      2. Misinterpretation of what I wrote.

        The strict policy of never opening the back door after 7 pm is no more. In nearly all cases drivers can and should let people out the back door.

        I didn’t blame drivers in the original post. I blamed Metro’s poor communication, whose recipients are drivers and passengers who aren’t aware of the new policy.

    2. Beavis,

      You said “Except Oran didn’t originally state any such thing.”

      Read this article again. The first sentence says This is King County Metro’s back door policy, stated in my words:

      That’s my statement that O’Rourke confimed.

      My report was based on what Metro told me and what documents I can find. I wasn’t aware of the 7 pm CBD rule. That is a failure of communication on Metro’s part.

      1. Oran,

        Note the word ORIGINALLY. Referencing your original article. Your statement here gives the impression that it was your original take on the policy (i.e. back door exiting now mandatory – this time my paraphrase) was what O’Rourke was confirming.

        I agree wholeheartedly with your last sentence – which is why on the original article thread I encouraged you to follow-up. Thanks at any rate (critique of inaccuracies in the original article aside) for doing so, and I encourage you to continue. As I have said – drivers will be as thrilled as passengers to see Metro clarify its policy so we can deliver folks the service that serves them best without all the confusion for drivers and passengers both.

      2. Not sure what your “worst fear” is (mine is losing a child to violence), but if it involves something to do with a blog post, then you are probably doing O.K. in life.

        An interest in accuracy should b its own encouragement.

  5. Oran,

    I encourage you to also directly quote (not paraphrase) what either Thielke or O’Rourke has told you – and reference your original article. Look for words along the lines of “drivers have the OPTION” of opening rear doors. This is typical of Metro policy weaseling, much along the lines of their policy that drivers “not engage in fare disputes” without defining what a fare dispute IS, then disciplining drivers when a customer calls to complain that they felt humiliated when asked to pay the correct fare.

    If policy states (officially, unofficially or otherwise) that it’s the driver’s OPTION whether to open the rear door after 7pm, then it’s up to the driver, and no complaint has any foundation. There are valid reasons a driver may not want to open a rear door after 7, and if they indeed have the OPTION, then it makes no sense to penalize them for making that choice.

    Do continue to nail down Metro on this policy – drivers would welcome the clarification as much as you would. Your complaint about “inconsistency” can be traced in part to Metro managements policy-weaseling for giving drivers the impression that they are empowered to choose how to handle certain situations on a case by case basis, when the reality is what is happening is that Metro tells us we have a “choice” – then we get reprimanded or written up for exercising that choice. If that ain’t a recipe for “inconsistency” then I don’t know what is.

    1. Beavis,

      I directly quoted all the relevant information in this post and the original post.

      From my original post, Thielke said “bus drivers do have the option to open the rear door to allow passengers to exit the coach during [7 pm – 6 am]“. So yes, drivers have the option. What passengers expect when they read that is they can exit through the back door at any time, except in very rare cases and by policy in the CBD.

      The driver must communicate that reason to passengers on a case by case basis and it must be a very good, convincing reason.

      1. Oran,

        “Relevant information” would include direct quotes from the policymakers and (preferably) some form of written policy.

        No, there is no such policy that drivers must communicate their reason for not opening the back door; nor that they provide a “good, convincing reason” (good for whom? convincing to whom?).

        What I’d give to have you become a bus driver for a year!

      2. Beavis, I expected communication as a matter of courtesy and common sense, not policy. Also as a way to head off unfounded complaints. They’ll still come in but you did your best.

        Yeah, if everyone drove the bus for a year. The same goes for any position dealing with the public.

      3. And that comment wasn’t meant to minimize the tough job drivers do. In my first year of college I thought of doing part time bus driving (back when Metro was actively recruiting drivers) but I wasn’t old enough and I didn’t even have a drivers license.

      4. Oran,

        What you are asking for is what we as drivers are encouraged through policy and practice to avoid – getting into arguments with passengers. If drivers are going to be expected to justify their decision to open or not open a rear door to passengers, that’s an invitation to such an argument, the potential for on the spot escalated conflict (at worst) and at best a lot of wasted hours dealing with subsequent complaints called in when passenger(s) who disagree with the driver’s judgement either confront the driver about that, or call in complaints.

        I like you support a definitive policy from Metro. Unlike you, I know that one does not exist – and believe that your claims to the contrary on a well-trafficked transit blog encourages people to enforce misperceptions about policy as they ride the bus and ultimately to take out their frustrations on drivers.

        So a bit more “encouragement” from my quarter: nail down Metro on a written policy on this if it’s something you believe is important enough to spend the time on, find out whether and how this is being communicated to drivers – THEN hold drivers’ feet to the fire for not following policy.

        As it is, what you have is an informal declaration from a Metro spokesperson, a Transit Manager, and an expectation that you’ve come up with out of thin air that isn’t supported by written policy.

        Not a great recipe for positive change, that.

  6. It’s time to cut the Gordion Knot and end the Ride Free Area.

    Even though the RFA only costs Metro roughly $4 million a year, it is being cited as an example of Metro’s inefficiency, and freebies for riders, as a reason to deny Metro $50 million in CRC funding. Though their math is off, the perception is out there, and being pushed by the anti-transit cranks and “conservative” talking-point tanks like the Washington Policy Center.

    The hit to service time due to pay-after-you-shove-to-the-front-to-exit is greater than the cost of downtown dwell time for cash fumblers that would result from reverting to universal pay-as-you-board. As buses get more and more crushloaded, pay-after-you-shove-to-the-front will become a bigger and bigger bottleneck.

    Metro could take easy steps to reduce the downtown bus pile-ups that might result if the RFA is eliminated tomorrow. [Hit the replay button.] Of course, they need to reduce the time value of paper transfers that are more valuable than ORCA transfers. And, given that their argument for continuing to use paper transfers is the cost of obtaining an ORCA, they should stop allowing passengers to use RRFPs and youth fare ORCAs as flash passes, since the passengers already have the ORCA in hand and have numerous places and ways to add value. Metro certainly shouldn’t be dispensing full-value paper transfers to someone who paid a reduced cash fare. I would even suggest a 25-cent surcharge on cash payment, but I’m not going to hold my breath that Metro would consider that any time soon.

    Metro/ST could work together to determine which downtown bus stops are the most-heavily used and biggest bottlenecks during afternoon rush hour, and station fare inspectors at those stops during those hours, to staff the back doors. This would have the added benefit of giving cash fumblers the last choice of seats or letting them stand.>

    This can all be done cheaply without having to deploy off-board ORCA reader machines.

    The problem with the convoluted back-door policy is not that drivers don’t follow it, but that the general public doesn’t understand it, and even if they did, the effects of following the policy cause noticeable slow-downs (and continued threats to the safety of operators in the RFA off-peak). If Metro wants to convince the anti-transit faction on the county council to pass the CRC, this would be the ideal time to set a date for the elimination of the RFA. If the CRC money is at stake, I’m sure the City of Seattle would be glad to give up the RFA in exchange for getting the CRC.

      1. I take it then, d.p, that if Metro does as I asked above, then they are worthy of the CRC money?

      2. I’m not anti-CRC money, Brent. Metro needs that CRC money to do anything resembling a decent job. Metro needs sources beyond the CRC money in the long run.

        What I’ve been demanding in CRC-related discussions is that Metro show some effort — publicly, to the majority who (unlike me and unlike the minority who advocate the status quo) are pre-disposed to vote against the CRC because Metro has acquitted itself so poorly — to demonstrate that it is able to make revenue-neutral yet palpable structural improvements to keep the CRC money from falling down a black hole.

        Your suggestion above would represent a great leap forward in Metro function.

    1. “The problem with the convoluted back-door policy is not that drivers don’t follow it. . .”

      How does one either understand a policy that is “convoluted” to begin with?

      Clarify the policy and the expectation for both drivers and the public, and consistency (better customer service – the goal of both drivers and customers) should follow.

  7. Huzzah!

    Ironically, of course, last night when I was getting off the 7 the driver didn’t open the middle door (the 7 often runs the articulated buses with three doors! why don’t all the articulated buses have this?) and I had to scramble to the front …

    1. Was that a Rapid-Ride branded bus, or is Metro putting three-door buses into general circulation?

      Also, was it a trolley?

      1. If it was the 7, it was a Breda, and those middle doors frequently malfunction.

      2. What Beavis said. I have only take the 7 twice in the last six weeks, both trips a Breda, and on both trips the middle door was busted.

      3. Yep, the 7. I’ve never had the middle door not work. I gather these models are older. Better stop request chime as well.

      4. One of my favorite Breda malfunctions is what I call “haunted doors”. Several of the Breda’s sensor switches occasionally get fouled up, and the rear doors will open and close of their own accord on trying to leave a stop. The driver’s only option is to flip a toggle switch (awkwardly and unexplainedly located under the driver’s fan upper left of the windshield) and disable the back doors altogether to allow them to close, the brakes to release, and the coach to continue on.

  8. Monday night at 21:15, made my hour-headway Route 17 connection at Century Square but had to run- which 25 pack and white ORCA card make indavisable. Any delay- SOL.

    But time and space spent on above argument better spent on developing alternatives. Will write posting on subject from my own experience if necessary, but would like to collaborate with at least one coach operator on a heavy PM route including rush and after-7, and someone in shop who knows card-reader and bus door technology.

    One serious suggestion right now: Eliminate the Free Ride Zone on a temporary basis, maybe one shake-up, and see what happens. Have riders pay as they board everywhere, leave by all doors everywhere and all the time, and encourage rear door deboarding during rush.

    If there are real problems- cancel the experiment. My guess is if done right- especially if ORCA cards become easier to get, public will like the change.

    Mark Dublin

      1. There is a useful comment section in the petition signing box. If you sign the petition, please say something in the comment section to urge Mr. Dunn (or whoever else who receives it) to support the Congestion Reduction Charge.

  9. More than likely several operators will never see this memo or hear about it.

    1. The next step is to obtain a copy of the original memo that drivers got. So anyone can print it out. It really shouldn’t have to come down to this.

      1. You’re right – it shouldn’t come down to this. Either Metro, the union or both should have it accessible online. I’ll see if I can track it down (will mean poring through ragged-pages on clipboards) and if/when I do, I’ll share what I find.

        I *do* remember seeing the memo, but can’t recall the specific language. I took it as authorization to do what I’d already been doing because it made sense to me from a customer service standpoint, but don’t remember how it was worded.

  10. Interesting that drivers now must allow back door use under most circumstances. Too bad the policy excludes the CBD, where use of both doors is most helpful.

    1. I guess Metro thinks people will wrongly try to board at the back door outside of RFA hours.

      Revenue seems to have trumped safety in developing this franken-policy.

      1. More the reason why the RFA should be replaced with a Proof of Payment Zone. It seems to be working well on the A Line, which covers far more ground than downtown. It also has the benefit of added security on buses where it’s most needed.

      2. There is nothing unsafe about front door only use in the CBD after 7. Not sure how safety is in any way compromized. It works fine.

      3. Beavis, did you not hear about the driver who was assaulted because she wouldn’t let some punks get off at the back door?

      4. Yes, heard about it. What about it? It didn’t happen downtown, and I would argue that it didn’t happen because she wouldn’t open the back door. It happened because some scumbag punks felt at liberty to beat the shit out of an old woman.

    2. It is not too bad that the policy excludes the CBD, as crowded stops in the CBD is where people attempt to get on the back door after 7pm without paying their fare. This puts the driver in the untenable position of having to ask people who “snuck on” to come forward and pay their fare, causing additional delay.

      1. Then why not extend the hours of the RFA to cover times of heavy use, and then allow passengers off at the back door during non-busy times?

        That should address both the safety issue you are pointing out and the one you are ignoring.

      2. That would kind of contradict the meme that the RFA should be eliminated rather than extended.

        And @Brent – the driver that was assaulted was assaulted well outside the RFA. What’s your point?

  11. “Passengers may exit through the back door on any trip that is pay-as-you-enter at any time, except at downtown bus stops when the Ride Free Area is not in effect (7 pm – 6 am).” And when the moon isn’t lined up perfectly with the stars and when there’s a football team in town who’s name starts with consonant and when there’s a poodle onboard that is white. Why? Because it’s Seattle and that’s how we do things. Consistency and Convenience builds ridership.

    1. Ever since “Almost Live” got put off the air, passive aggression and proud defiance of common sense have gotten completely out of hand in Seattle and environs. To save our city and region, we need to massively petition TV to put that program back on the air in reruns until someone can invent a new updated version of it.

      “Billy Kwan and The Front Door Only After 7 of Death!” Things should start to straighten out.

      Mark Dublin Uff-da Sticker Certified Graduate of the Ballard Academy of Driving

      1. They do show reruns of Almost Live on KONG, unfortunately they air at 2 am Sunday morning.

  12. A quasi-related issue is what to do if a passenger wants to get off a bus that’s waiting at a light or stuck in traffic, but there isn’t a bus stop sign at that precise location. Unless, possibly, if the passenger has a bike or a wheelchair, the service delay from opening the door is zero and, in some cases, travel time for everybody else can actually improve if it means that the bus doesn’t have to stop at the next official stop down the route. From the passenger’s point of view, being asked to wait a full signal cycle for the bus to get across the intersection, then waiting another full cycle to cross that same intersection the opposite direction of foot amounts to a good 5 minutes or so of going nowhere.

    My experience on this has been inconsistent. Sometimes, drivers will open the door if you ask. Other times, they won’t. While I understand there are many cases where opening the door isn’t safe, for example, if the bus is in the left lane, or there’s enough space to allow a bike to pass the stopped bus on the right. But most of the time, the only difference between the bus’s location and a bus stop is the yellow sign, which, by itself, has no effect on safety.

    In general, I support the idea of stops after traffic signals, rather than before them, as stops before traffic signals can lead to awful delays – one signal cycle for all the cars in front of the bus to move, then the light is green when the bus finally gets to the stop, which means it turns red right as the bus leaves the stop, which means a second cycle to wait for the light before it can continue on with the route. Traffic signals after the intersection avoid these types of delays, but can lead to the aforementioned problems for people getting off at that stop.

    If, however, you locate the official stops after the intersection, but at the same time, open the doors anytime the bus is already stopped at a red light when the stop request light is on, you can get the best of both worlds (red light stops would be for exiting only – to enter, you would need to board at the nearest signed stop). I’m yet to see a single transit agency do this, but I think it would be a nice improvement, if done right. One stop in particular that would really benefit from this arrangement is Stewart St. and Denny Way, for those headed from the eastside to capitol hill.

  13. Eric,

    I wish you’d raised this question earlier, because this far down the comment line, I’m not sure how many people are still following this post, and this is important.

    The decision when, where, or whether to let someone off outside a zone is one of those things that gets easier to handle gracefully with experience.

    It’s sixteen years since I drove, and haven’t read “The Book” in awhile. I think that as a general rule, drivers are not allowed to open the doors outside of zones. There are exceptions. I think some routes are officially permitted, on request, to leave passengers off-zone for their comfort and safety.

    I doubt a driver would be punished for an off-zone stop if safety required. I remember a driver getting hit so hard his eyesight was damaged for failing to get the door open on demand. I also remember being reprimanded for stopping at an officially-closed zone in light traffic to save a woman from a half-mile walk across the I-90 construction zone in freezing November twilight.

    Would have done it again same situation, and I think so would most drivers of my record and seniority. Most supervisors wouldn’t have written me up,either, just as most police are too busy to ticket the average jaywalker. Unless I caused a rear-end collision- or opened doors off-zone and a deboarding passenger broke their ankle, or ran across the street and got hit.

    Over time a driver learns to work with the traffic signals. Stopping only at zones takes practice. A senior driver will clear signals a new one will hit. Trolley experience really counts, for same reason gliders are good training for powered flight: driver must learn to use natural forces like gravity and momentum to supplement controls.

    Where fully-reserved lanes and full signal-pre-empt aren’t possible, I wonder if every signal could be fitted with a reader to hold green or maybe flashing yellow until a bus already in “decision distance” gets through. With skilled bus drivers, I think this would almost eliminate the problem of a red light stop just short of a zone.

    Thanks for this comment. Really merits a posting.

    Mark Dublin

    Far-side stops have above-mentioned advantage re: traffic. But a red-light stop just before the zone is frustrating to drivers and passengers alike, and hard on the bus. Extra acceleration also wastes fuel as well as operating hours.

    Ideal solution would be control-mechanism approaching every signal to hold the green until a bus within “decision” distance gets across the intersection-usually a matter of seconds.


    1. Mark,

      Buried in your response there is a fundamental reality in our work: drivers often risk reprimand if they choose to deviate from policy – even when it’s in the best interest of delivering good customer service and safe to do so. A driver must calculate as you have the risk of such a deviation weighed against one’s level of seniority – i.e. “can I successfully weather a disciplinary action and/or is it worth the trouble in order to accomodate this customer”.

      It’s a lousy choice to have to make, and lose-lose for the driver.

  14. I just spent 3 minutes trying to get on an overcrowded 10 because the driver wouldn’t open the back door. Every time I thought I could climb the steps, new people appeared squeezing up from the middle of the bus.

    “Mere seconds” my ass, Beavis.

    1. If this happened after 7 p.m. as your post would indicate, then you’re damn well not supposed to board through the back door ANYWAY.

      You truly do raise whining to a new and unpleasant art form.

      1. You truly lack reading comprehension, Beavis.

        Outbound. Pike and Boren. Massively crowded 10 bus. I was waiting at the front door.

        A dozen people who should have been let off the back were forced to squeeze, one at a time, to the front.

        I kept trying to board through the front, and they just kept coming and coming. For three minutes.

        But you claim 1-door entry and exit adds “seconds.”

      2. What time? If it was outbound, and during (or straddling) RFA time, then it makes sense that it was front door only. People have to pay their fare. Open the back door – and people will leave without paying their fare – and the 10 is pretty notorious for fare evasion.

        Stop and smell the roses, wait your turn, and go on about your life at peace with God and the universe.

        3 minutes? My ass. More of your bizarre, fantasy-based hysteria.

      3. Can you really never imagine a circumstance in which a Metro driver does something wrong or counterproductive?


        Really, really?

      4. Can you really never imagine a circumstance where something happens for a reason not evident to your [ad hom] self other than driver incompetence?

        Or do you really thing we take some kind of pleasure in pissing people like you (or anyone) off?

        Get a grip.

      5. It’s not about my “narcissism.”

        It’s about drivers who obsess over minutiae of policy and managerial structure to the point where they lose sight of the big-picture consequences of less-than-adequate driving and service: missed connections, the need to massively over-budget travel times due to inconsistency, total loss of faith in public transit leading to pathetic mode-share and no votes on initiatives, and so on.

        Sound familiar?

  15. UPDATE 7/29

    Today’s “Operations Bulletin” includes the following under “Operator Reminders”:

    Rear Door Operation
    You may allow passengers to deboard via the rear door after 7 p.m. and until 6 a.m when all routes are “Pay-as-you-enter”. You may also allow passengers to deboard via the rear door whenever you have security concerns. Otherwise rear doors should not be opened in the Ride Free Area between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.


    Passenger Overloads
    When you experience a coach overload, encourage passengers move to the rear. On outbound trips, you can permit customers to exit via the rear door and walk up to pay their fare. When a coach is overloaded and additional riders cannot be accomodated, call the coordinator immediately, giving route, run, direction, location and number of standing customers.


    Proper fare collection
    Operators must follow all policies and procedures concerning the collection of fares as described in The Book for both Metro (Section 6) and Sound Transit Express Service (Section 8.61). Operators are not permitted to create individual policies regarding fare collection, but must abide by established procedures


    A couple of observations:

    1) Note the “management weasel-words” I talked about before – (Operators) MAY allow passengers to deboard via the rear door. . .”

    2) Under the “Passenger Overloads” – how the heck am I supposed to know how many standing passengers there are? Should I ask people to count off?

    3) Not sure what the deal is wht the “proper fare collection” bit. What the heck is that one all about??

      1. I would say that either “shall” or “must” are definitive/directive over the word “may”.

        Wouldn’t you?

      2. . . and yet the policies in the book are often themselves ambiguous.

        And yet this bulletin uses the word “may”.

        Are you with me yet?

      3. Anybody’s guess. My own take is that the intent is to give drivers the illusion of having some sort of choice in the matter, while reserving the right to penalize, reprimand, and otherwise scapegoat them for exercising that choice.

        This sort of thing goes on a lot at Metro and is the cause IMO of much of the frustration you’ve appropriately voiced regarding confusion among drivers and passengers about policy and what can or can’t be expected, as well as the consistency issue.

        Item #3 on this particular bulletin is another example, and one of ongoing contention between drivers and management particularly when customers complain.

        Example: “Operators are not permitted to create individual policies regarding fare collection, but must abide by established procedures.”

        Well – The Book says not to engage in “fare disputes” (not defined), and that if a passenger refuses to pay the correct fare or show a pass, that the driver is supposed to state the fare one time (if they’re comfortable) and SAY NOTHING ELSE.

        Now how and when is that ever really appropriate? To simply state the fare and then ignore the person talking to you? Does telling someone who isn’t paying the correct fare, has an expired transfer etc. to go ahead and have a seat constitute the “creation of individual policy”?

        This crap gets REALLY old, and from our end being blamed by customers who don’t see the management end – what drivers have to deal with in re: “weasel” policies – is highly frustrating.

      4. Why give an illusion? Why not be direct? Why would anyone, including management, want to deal with time wasting crap as a result of poorly written policies? I sure don’t.

      5. See my response below. It’s so that they can avoid responsibility and instead encourage the public to point the finger at drivers. Which is exactly what’s happened – even right here on this blog. They win.

      6. Responsibility for what? I don’t see why would they want to encourage finger pointing at drivers, as it’s already inherent in the job. No encouragement needed. Even with ideally written policies, it’ll still happen, unless you have driverless buses and trains.

        Previously you wrote “No such written policy exists that I’m aware of, or has been communicated to the drivers.” If you read a recent copy of the Book you’d know that’s false and I believe another statement of yours contradicts that (mentioning the earlier memo).

        A few days ago on the 255, the driver didn’t open the back door on a crowded bus full of standing passengers stating “front door only after 7pm”. I was standing in the back and saw the man shouting “back door”. Someone else complained, the bus is already 30 minutes late and this isn’t helping at all. Who’s to blame here? Driver not aware of a written policy that has been around for months? Or driver making a choice as suggested by the word “may” in the policy? He “may” open the back door so why not in this case? I can see the back door and what it opens out to, it’s safe.

      7. Oran,

        How do YOU reconcile your interpretation of the policy in the book and the language in the Operator Bulletin published just yesterday?

        What’s YOUR explanation?

        Again – would love to see you take up driving a Metro bus for a year. It would open your eyes enormously.

      8. (sigh)

        No, Oran. It doesn’t. What you said on this thread is that the book (which you quoted) states that “passengers may exit through the back doors” after 7pm. In other words – it’s up to the passenger. What O’Rourke put out Friday is that “drivers may allow passengers to deboard” – in other words, it’s the driver’s choice.

        Are you seriously not seeing this? Are you seriously not seeing how this policy has yet to be stated clearly to either drivers OR the public we serve? Or are you haning on to the idea that it’s clear as a bell, and drivers must always open the back door when asked – because that’s what the policy states?

      9. “Passengers may exit through the back doors” but can they open the back doors at will? No, it’s up to the driver (unlike most other major US city where passengers control the back door). However, save for a blatant safety violation, there’s no logical reason why any driver would choose not to. In the case I cited, there wasn’t any.

        I agree that the policy is not clearly written. That’s why I sent a request for more information on the intent of the policy and supporting documents. The person who wrote the statement is confused to the audience the statement is meant for. To passengers, all they care about is what they can or can not do, not what the driver can or can not do.

      10. “To passengers, all they care about is what they can or can not do, not what the driver can or can not do.”

        I hate to tell you this – but what passengers can or cannot do is fully dependent on what the driver can or can not do.

      11. Don’t feel bad, that’s exactly what I meant in the first sentence of the comment you replied to. Passengers cannot open back doors (except using the emergency release), drivers can. So when it says passengers may exit through the rear doors, it actually means drivers may let passengers exit through the rear doors. That’s my guess on what they were thinking anyway.

      12. I guess by “can” in this context I meant “authorized” to, rather than physically able to. IOW, drivers are hamstrung by policies (understood, misunderstood, clear, cloudy or otherwise) that manifest in what passengers can or cannot do aboard the bus (such as leaving through the back door).

        At any rate – I’ll EOT my own participation (overdue – my apologies) and let some others chime in if interest is still there.

  16. In other words Oran – you’re looking for consistency from drivers, when drivers ourselves don’t even get consistent information from our own managers about the very policies they expect us to follow. Yet we’re the ones who get hung out to dry, and on whom our customers most often focus their frustrations. Are you getting it yet?

    1. Oran – do you have a response to this?

      Again – how can customers expect consistency – when drivers ourselves don’t even get consistent information from our own managers about the very policies they expect us to follow?

      How to you explain why there are still stickers that say “front door only after 7 pm” on all buses”?

      How do you explain why the Book says one thing – and drivers were told as recently as YESTERDAY something different?

      How do you explain how more than one driver (see Velobusdriver’s comments) have expressed confusion at not being aware of any memo about a policy change being displayed for drivers?

      Keep in mind a couple of other things. Drivers don’t have meetings. Drivers aren’t given e-mail. 100% of communication with drivers (save the occasional refresher training) from policy issues to scheduling is done via paper and clipboard.

      1. Well that just shows that communication within Metro is completely broken. Drivers not knowing about policy changes. Management not knowing about outdated stickers. Website with outdated/incorrect information. etc.

      2. You can’t “break” what’s never worked to begin with. At any rate – it’s not the fault of the drivers. People earning a hell of a lot more than we do make those decisions, and it’s either incompetence, or deliberate obfuscation by Metro management that’s causing it to continue.

        At any rate – your original premise (both in your original article and this follow-up) that the no back door after 7pm policy has ended is flat-out false (or at best still confusing and debatable). Putting stuff like this out encourages others to take out their frustrations either through complaint or on the spot conflict against drivers, neither of which is helpful or appreciated.

      3. Yes, it’s true, the policy that told drivers to NEVER open the back doors after 7pm has ended. The result is a confusing mess caused by a reactionary change to a policy that never should’ve existed in the first place, poorly stated and communicated. Note that unlike drivers, passengers were NEVER told of the policy change. Maybe in this case, ignorance is bliss.

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