Bike racks at Metro base, photo by VeloBusDriver

Recently, a couple applicants for King County Metro driving positions who were turned down complained they were turned down for not owning cars.

I checked with Jeff Switzer, at King County Department of Transportation, who told me car ownership is not a requirement. However, you will need a plan for how to get to any of the seven bases around the county, for any shift at any time of day, dependably. Be prepared to explain your plan for “reliable transportation to work” during the inverview.

Former Metro driver David Lawson recounted his answer that got him hired:

I can’t afford one reliable car, so I have two cheap cars. I take care of both. When one is in the shop, the other one is working.

If you show up to the interview in a Car2Go, be prepared to explain your credible Plan B for getting to work.

As Zach detailed, 20-30% of drivers at the Seattle bus bases don’t alone drive to work.

Sadly, simply living near the bases won’t work. You don’t get a choice of base when hired. Eventually, you may be able to pick a shift for your preferred base, and at your preferred time of day, but that comes with seniority.

That said, now is one of the best times to become a Metro driver. With the severe driver shortage, drivers are on the waiting list to move to full-time shifts only 6 months as of late, if they have a good record, per Gutierrez. The job listing says under a year, but the shortage is apparently actually worse than that. Every Metro driver still starts on part-time, but the interminable multiple-year waits to get more hours are a thing of the past.

22 Replies to “Drive for Metro: Doesn’t Require Driving to Metro”

  1. Eventually, you may be able to pick a shift for your preferred base, and at your preferred time of day, but that comes with seniority.

    Especially for Vashon.

  2. This is the reality of my job 2. Trucks have to leave on time so during bad weather, they still want you there. Car or no car. With a Metro driver almost 400000 people are relying on about 2500 drivers. They are giing to hire the ones who have the least chance of being stranded. Car or no car. It is not a 100% guarantee but that is how they look at it.

  3. As long as buses use combustion engines, probably can’t build housing near bases. But as LINK builds out, might be good to build bases at the tracks.


    1. I’ve seen bus share space at rail yards here and there in a couple cities. Can’t remember where, though ..

    2. I’d rather live in a place next door to a bus base than one of the apartments in that big new complex that’s six feet from the freeway in Olympia.

      1. A few months ago I got the same sense walking through a beautiful park about a quarter block from I-5 in Olympia. I’d certainly rather live just over the fence from a freight railroad- except if it was carrying oil or coal- than a freeway.

        I think that one of the religiousfanatical stipulations in the last monorail effort was that the thing had to run on rubber tires. Which, as everybody knew, were quieter than steel train wheels. Maybe as clearly depicted in The Blues Brothers, the Chicago ‘El has always had a lot of close human neighbors.

        In my old neighborhood of Rogers Park, apartments in sandblasted three story brick buildings cost more than anything in the new apartment building you mention. That’s probably why.

        Though in Jake and Elliott’s transit-oriented Chicago neighborhood, there’s frequently a sudden high-decibel event when the a Romanian gangster’s daughter who Jake has just dumped gets an Constitutionally protected open-carry permit for an RPG.

        Which transit-wise is still easier to live with than the Seattle Times and associates weeks before a transit election.


  4. To be honest. My preference is that a driver doesn’t own a car but at least drives a car 3 days a week. Driving a bus, truck, fork lift, tow truck, or whatever is a skill. You cannot get that skill from not driving. You have to be alert for other drivers, pedsestrians and cyclists. All 3 cut me off on a daily basis. It may be their fault but it still goes on your work record if you come in contact with one. Also, if I am paired up with another driver, for whatever reason, I have a right to be with another experienced safe driver. You can’t learn that rding trains all day long. I also know from bus drivers I do talk to that having so many new drivers being put on the road so fast has caused problems also. If I was told my partner ( driver) did not own a car, I would question not only their attendance but their skill. It wouldn’t be any different from a web designer that doesn’t own his own computer or a plumber that has no tools. I use transit when I can. Have for 35 years. But professional drivers need road time. So. I feel bad for them but there are other jobs.

    1. A few questions for you, James.

      1. Do you think Metro should specify a minimum number of hours per week driving a private motor vehicle?

      2. Length, width, weight, and number of axles?

      3. If a driver lives walking distance from work, what distance per week should they have to drive the car they’re going to have to buy or rent for necessary practice?

      4. How often should a driver be required to have an instructor ride to work with them to check the quality of the driving habits they’re giving themselves?

      5. For trolley routes, which really do take some specialized training, will Instruction Department have nearest carnival put tickets for those bumper cars with a pole holding a contactor against a wire mesh on ORCA? Live mesh roof over whole trolley map will also save fortune. Those huge bumpers too.

      Twenty years after ten and a half years full time driving after two and a half part, most of it out of Atlantic Base, vast majority under wire, including Bredas in the pole days, it’s like this. Sources tell me that the excellent training I had retired or died with my instructors. Confirm or deny?

      Number of times I’ve seen Tunnel drivers block a tube-full of traffic because ’til a supervisor resets their power exceeds all the dewirements I ever saw down there. And have overheard hybrid drivers on-site asking control what the DSTT is. Didn’t catch answer, though, so still checking.

      The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel experience tells a lot about the main requirement for transit driving. After losing two beyond-ST3-grade votes, Metro decided we’d build a system that would start carrying local and suburban service underground through Downtown Seattle three years after groundbreaking.

      Requiring hundreds of drivers. For an uncountable number of years ahead past now, impossible to automate, counting present train operations. My sense of acceptance by both management and labor? Tunnel would’ve lost in a landslide worse than Sounder north of Mukilteo. The ten positive votes I’d swear to left DSTT along with the double wire.

      Now a about trolley-driving itself. Our passenger loads, on our grades, blew out a fleet of good diesels we used as substitutes when we re-wired the trolley map in the ’70’s. If we can’t find the cable car and counterbalance machinery, no trolleybuses, no Metro Transit.

      But more important, since we’re talking about machine- handling practice, airlines used to start pilots on gliders. Like the pilot who landed safely in the river did, probably on his own dime. For a smooth ride that doesn’t either stall under special-work or tear it down, a trolleybus really runs on gravity, road grade, and momentum.

      With the driver knowing exactly where along the wire his “shoes” are. Since we don’t have yellow dots on the pavement like MUNI, parking meters and hydrants work too. Bus “rodeos” still don’t have wire. Which brings me to main point.

      Early on in Tunnel operations, a disgraceful number of drivers demanded that Tunnel work not require trolley qualification. Reason? Because qualified driver might have to take work on the Route 7- wire easy, passengers tough. Or the 4- every wire complication from Seattle to Odessa.

      Tell me, James. If you’d been negotiating, would you have caved like Metro did? Or note how lucky so many drivers are that there are other jobs? Because like trolleybuses run on voltage and physics, professions run on training, morale, and attitude.

      Mark Dublin

  5. I have a similar problem with my own workplace, Community Transit. Service is sparse with an hourly bus that gets me to work super early or I have to stay after work super late. At my base, there’s probably two people who take the bus. Everyone else drives.

  6. How is this even an issue in the year 2016? In addition to transit and biking and Car2Go, there is Uber and Lyft. It’s bad enough for private companies to practice transportation discrimination, but for a public transit agency in a progressive city, it’s pretty laughable.

    1. Only three of the Metro’s bases are in Seattle. Two are in Bellevue, one is in Tukwila, and one is in Shoreline.

      Employees don’t apply by base. They apply in one pool, get trained, and then when the next Pick comes, pick from among what is left at the bases after thousands of more senior drivers have picked. All the work packets from Seattle bases may have already been picked by the time the most junior drivers get their turns.

      1. Thank you for explaining the employees choices. This is somewhat similar to that of some fleet shops. That being said, I don’t want people to believe that we should not try to use other means than a car. It does however give a broader view to readers. Not everybody’s life fits into the one size fits all transit only life. I read these articles all the time and sometimes feel that the attitude of the blogs are dismissive. Thank you for not portraying that view.

      2. Metro needs to change this, bluntly. It’s worth having separate worker pools for Seattle, Bellevue, Tukwila, and Shoreline. Maybe Metro is too big and should be broken into separate agencies for different regions.

        You could bicycle to any of the bases but it’s about 2 hours from Seattle to the non-Seattle ones.

      3. I happen to know that the “big railroads” have separate boards for separate regions. If you’re on the nationwide “extra board” you may literally have to rent rooms in another city to do your job, but most people aren’t.

    2. “How is this even an issue in the year 2016? In addition to transit and biking and Car2Go, there is Uber and Lyft.”

      Let’s suppose you live a couple miles from North Base, but get assigned to South Base. You can’t take Car2Go, because it’s not in the home area, and your Uber/Lyft ride might run as much as $40, one way. That’s a good chunk of the day’s pay lost in commuting. Nor is biking a reasonable option when the shift begins at 5 in the morning. Like it or not, owning a car and driving down the empty highways is effectively the only option.


      BK, you’ve just revived the spirit of the days when Washington east of the Mountains was a place where a labor-abusing employer would find a certain (too bad in those days all the videos needed a piano player under the screen) cat branded on the smoking timbers of their sawmill. Doubtless made the State Legislature fund more transit than now. And schools.

      Two employers you mentioned need above link in tomorrow’s e-mail, and some window-stickers with the ATU Local 587 on their car windows. One of them with a purple mustache added to the emblem. So today’s posting makes you the kind of Labor advocate that one Presidential candidate says is helping to elect her opponent.

      One day a month, EVERY driver should CarShare to work! Or take a cab, recommend Orange, when Uber and Lyfft rares go up beyond the value of your house, and hand driver an ATU card too. Car-To-Go and Zipcar get left with a really big cat on the windshield! Word of caution, though.

      The Industrial Workers of the World had a famous songwriter named Joe Hill (who probably had people in Ballard) who got executed after the Copper Barons, who didn’t wear hoodies to work with Google patches, framed him for murder. But because Joe would stand up at union meetings and shout: “Workers of the World arise, you have nothing to lose but your chairs!”….who wouldn’t have shot him?


  7. One of the drivers of the 84 (yes, I’m one of the people who takes a Night Owl on a regular basis; no, I don’t want them to stay) told me that brand new drivers are usually on the commuter routes and that the more senior people prefer the others, including the Owls. He said he has ~10 years with Metro (I’ve no idea how senior or not that is relative to the overall pool of drivers). A driver on RapidRide B said a similar thing, that as a newer driver this was his first time driving a B in the early afternoon (I was on it at about 1pm on a weekday) and he normally does the peak express trips.

    Is that how it usually shakes out?

    1. I can’t speak for anything in the Seattle area, but talking to TriMet drivers over the last 35 or so years this is more or less what happens here as well.

      Generally the newer drivers start out working the extra board because generally that is fewest working hours.

      The next sign up the drivers select their run (which can be several different routes combined, such as a #14 early morning that turns into a #8 later in the day to meet the mid-day demand). The peak period service tends to go fairly late in the sign ups since they are usually relatively few hours, but some drivers prefer those depending on what they are. In TriMet’s case, the #72 tends to go fairly late in the sign up process as it tends to not be a pleasant route, though at least one driver prefers it.

      So, as the route sign-ups go down the seniority list, the less pleasant runs wind up with drivers that have less senority.

      As the labor union (but different locals) is the same in most cities in the USA, I would imagine that the process works similar in most cities.

    2. My understanding was that new drivers either got short peak commute shifts or split shifts with a long break in the middle of the day neither of which added up to a full time job.

  8. James, I just recalled a historic point that needs remembering. In coal, timber, and factory country, workers with cars finally had a choice about having to live on company property and answer to its rules and rent-a-cops 24-7-365.

    Which was a good deal worse life than a 4 am work report after leaving your own home. Though still better than your family’s sweet old farm, whose filth, hunger, boredom, and danger propelled many young people onto company property.

    What we call Sprawl was once called “freedom”. But now that people can literally no longer literally move for the sheer number of cars, same urge for freedom will lead people to change their lives for same reason their great grandparents did.

    But one thing about bicycles. Mud mixed with waste from hay-burning engines was even less bike-friendly than streetcar tracks. Which also existed. Burgeoning ridership in the late 19th century provided first voting block for pavement.


    1. I want to give you answers to questions 1-3. These are difficult questions so give so give me some time.4-5 are harder to understand. It appears thst you have been a very skilled prfessional driver for a long time. If you have been driving for Metro since before the Trolley rebuild of 1978, then you have been driving longer than anyone I know or longer than anyone from this blog has even been here. 40 or more years. I remember the rebuild. My Dad had to explain to me that a Trolley was not a train. My grandparent’s house was along the 43 line. It later became the 44. My grandma was a regestered Republican. She only cared about trolleys was because it was quieter. She pushed others to ride busses but would not get on one The term is now called NIMBY. Different times. My other grandma, Mom’s side rode the Phinney, (#5) for nrewbees, for several years. She had no license. She drank apparently. My mother drove her around to do errands at Food Giant which is now the QFC on 45th. When I hung out with my gtmrandma on mom’s side we took the bus.I was 6. That is how I learned how to ride Metro. By the time I was 10, I rode on my own. I could get from the AVE to Ballard or from Downtown to Phinney on my own. If kids did that today, their parents would be arrested. Different times. I spent years on the bus. Saw the International District as a tour underground 1yr before opening. It was a Catwalk over the station. I saw Westlake mezzanine open and look down and see dirt below on the main bus floor in 1989. I rode school busses that were provided by Metro. We were bussed miles from our own houses to mix the cultures. So much has been fixed since then . (NOT)! Racism fixed by busses. (NOT). The bus was white with yellow annd brown stripes. But they took out the brown comfort seats and put in green school bus seats. (Who remembers that? Who is a real Seattlite? ) Just kidding. Starbucks hipsters with no understanding of Seattle history are also loved. We need their money. Keep blogging. Keep talking. We will improve our crap city together. Goin to sleep.

  9. I’m a Metro driver without a car. When I was hired, they asked if I had “reliable transportation” and I said yes, because between biking, walking, transit, car2go, etc, I am extremely reliable (the only time I have even been late for work was when I was borrowing a car).

    Brent, you say you don’t get a choice of what base you work at when you start. That’s not exactly true. If there are 20 people in your training class, then Metro will provide 20 available pieces of work for the students to choose from, located at Metro’s various bases in Sodo, Shoreline, Bellevue, and Tukwila. So there’s a decent chance that you’ll be able to choose your preferred base, unless you’re the last one to pick (although I was the last one and still got Central Base in Sodo, which is 1.3 miles from my house). I was prepared to commute to Bellevue, knowing that I would be working in the Afternoon, so if I didn’t feel like biking, there would be transit options before and after my shift. I also knew that I would only have to do it fora few months before our next shakeup, when it would be easy to pick work out of the Seattle bases (many drivers live in the northern and southern suburbs, so the Shoreline and Tukwila bases are the most popular, meaning the Sodo bases are easy to find work in, even with low seniority).

    And that being said, I highly recommend regular bus riders apply! Most people in my training class had never been on a Metro bus before! I think a basic understanding of the rider experience should be required for the job!

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