In any major city, a popular hobby is to bash the local transit agency. Think of a city you envy, and its residents despise a system that you can scarcely dream of. King County Metro is no exception. We all have our gripes.
As a reality check, the American Public Transit Association named our very own bus operator the best North American transit agency of 2018, based on its performance over the past three years. Ridership has shot up in a national context of stagnant or declining ridership, which one can explain by a booming and densifying city. But Metro’s electric bus, ORCA Lift, and Commute Reduction programs have also served as national examples.
Although Metro hasn’t done every route restructure nerds like us would like, the Northeast Seattle restructure inspired by U-Link follows all the main principles that optimize for all-day ridership. Metro must have an operational culture, that does the same thing the same way every day, but has managed to cross that with innovation.
Regrettably, for all its virtues, Metro isn’t in a position to solve the most pressing problems of urban dwellers. While it can make the rider experience better at the margins, the biggest problem is that transit vehicles are stuck in traffic. To solve that problem, riders are reliant on Sound Transit, which serves many stakeholders besides its riders, and Seattle DOT, which is having trouble executing on big capital projects at all.