On Wednesday, Councilmember Rod Dembowski was the first to share the news of upcoming Metro service cuts, made in recognition of sharp drops in both ridership and sales tax revenue during the COVID-19 crisis. Late yesterday, Metro told us that those cuts would start Monday, and that the agency would cut about 25 percent of its service, affecting nearly every route in the network. The cuts are intended to be temporary. Service will ramp back up whenever the COVID-19 situation allows King County residents to resume normal activities. Metro indicates that they will not be laying off operators for now.

We are still waiting for details on which trips will be cut, and how the cuts will affect frequency and span of service. As soon as Metro provides us with more detail, we’ll tell you about it. But you don’t get to 25 percent without major pain, and it’s reasonable to expect substantial frequency reductions and likely some span-of-service reductions as well. For now, we only know the following:

Routes entirely canceled. The following routes will not operate at all, starting Monday (UPDATE: Metro’s latest information moved route 309 off this list):

  • 9. Use route 7, with a transfer to route 60 or the First Hill Streetcar.
  • 29. Use route 2.
  • 47. Walk to route 10.
  • 78. Walk to routes 65 and 75.
  • 125. Walk to route 120 or 131, whichever is more accessible.
  • 200. Most destinations on this route will not be open. For service to Swedish Issaquah, walk from Issaquah Highlands P&R.
  • 208. No replacement service.
  • 237. Use Sound Transit routes 532 and 535; park at Kingsgate P&R.
  • 308. Use route 312 or 77. No replacement service to Horizon View.
  • 309. Use route 312 and transfer to local service to First Hill.
  • 330. Use local services serving Northgate, and transfer there.
  • ST 541. Use ST 542.

Routes with no cuts. There are a few routes with no cuts at all: 22, 105, 118, 119, 154.

Every route not on one of the above two lists will have some sort of service cut, probably substantial. Again, we don’t know yet what those cuts entail. Given the sudden onset of these cuts, we’ve asked Metro to share that information as soon as possible. Once we have it, we’ll pass it along.

49 Replies to “Metro to impose 25% service cut Monday; details still unclear”

  1. I still find it odd that the 208 is eliminated as opposed to the peak only 628. IIRC, peak runs were supposed to be the ones reduced/eliminated.

    1. I can’t help but notice that Congress’s $1 trillion relief package has not one dollar to help cash-strapped transit agencies. It shows what a dismally low priority transit is on a national level.

      1. Maybe it has something to do with the parts of the country with decent transit voting against the party in power by over 60 points.

      2. The GOP has been formulating these stimulus/rescue packages, and they are decidedly anti-transit.

        I’d expect $0.00 for transit and a big chunk for the auto manufacturers and dealers. Plus some more for big oil.

      3. The 60-year starvation of transit service along with pro-car propaganda and the growth of car-dependent cities has made entire generations believe transit is ineffective, obsolete, and a giveaway to the undeserving poor. Most people support minimal coverage transit at the current level, but can’t imagine transit could ever be an effective alternative for them, and would be too expensive to even partly implement a level competitive with driving. The view from Pugetopolis is misleading: 90% of the country has much worse transit than we do.

        Some of these people know transit is effective in Europe, Asia, and New York, but still think it’s incompatible with American freedom and capitalism. Congresspeople see the benefit of the DC Metro, MARC, and Amtrak every day — many of them and their family members and staff use it — but they resist doing the same in Los Angeles or Columbus or Atlanta or Raleigh.

        Part of it is simply party politics and seeing transit as socialism, but this underlying factor is a bigger one. Our own state views transit more favorably than Congress, but it won’t support a Canadian-style solution statewide, and prevents cities and counties from raising enough taxes or a sustainable kind of taxes to implement it.

    2. These cuts are not enough. We should run a bare bones skeleton service that is 10 percent of normal. With a few lifeline routes running every 30 to 60 minutes on weekdays with no weekend service. We must do everything to flatten the curve. We must all stay indoors!

      1. 10% of normal would be two days a week. The very people who need this most — those with low-paid essential jobs — often work evenings, weekends, and nights. You can’t have 24-hour services without people to run them.

  2. You can probably get pretty close 25% service cuts with minimal pain by cutting every route with better than 10-minute frequency to just 10-minute frequency. Frequency greater than 10 minutes serves no purpose but crowd relief. This is a cut that a large number of passengers wouldn’t even notice.

    Cancelling routes (aside from commute routes that duplicate other routes) means destroying vital services. It is a completely unacceptable approach.

    Metro needs to assume that passengers will not get the message, because they won’t. Cut accordingly.

    1. Very few Metro routes run at more than 10-minute frequency even during peak. RapidRide C/D/E, 3S/4S, 40, 41, 62, 120, 255, and that’s about it. Cutting those back to 10 minutes at peak wouldn’t get you anywhere close to a 25% cut.

      Also remember that service gets less efficient as it gets less frequent, so cutting 25% of hours likely means cutting more than 25% of trips.

      1. If bus drivers continue to get paid, I would assume a 25% cut in service would save far less than 25% in dollars.

        How much actual money is being saves from this?

      2. David, a question for you. Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, shut down all travel. Air, trains, subways, buses and ferries. Their goal was to stop the spread and growth of the virus. It worked. They have no new virus infections. What is Metro’s goal in making service reductions?

      3. If you would like to advocate Chinese-style travel restrictions, I suggest you start your own blog.

      4. Yeah, but that is where I would start. Running buses during rush hour tends to be more expensive, so there is that. Still, you are right, it is unlikely that cutting service to ten minutes is sufficient.

        The point is, I would first start by focusing on rush hour service. We are seeing that with some of these proposals, such as the axing of the 309. I would expect the 15 and 18 to be killed off for the same reason (although in the case of those buses, they do have some unique coverage areas).

        After that, I think the choices become very difficult. Frequency costs money, and you get diminishing returns. Seeing the frequency go from 10 minutes to 12 minutes hurts, but not as much as seeing it go from 30 minutes to an hour. Yet they cost the same (all other things being equal). At the same time, you don’t want to prop up a 30 minute route that hardly anyone rides, while hurting a popular route. It is a balancing act, and I feel sorry for the folks that have to do this.

      5. My question was actually a sincere. I honestly want to know what the motive or goal is? I mentioned China as an example of a city that clearly stated their goal in shutting down transit. I’m not clear on Metro’s goal in reducing service, and I thought you could educate me. Is it to save money on fuel? Something else? Does anyone here know?

      6. I’ve already told you the reason. People will starve in their homes and die of preventable conditions if they can’t get food or medicine. Electricity, water, and telecommunications may fail if workers can’t maintain them. Hospitals can’t function without nurses, orderlies, logistics staff, and food service workers, some of whom don’t make enough money to drive to work. If you’re counting on Amazon for delivery, somebody has to load those trucks and drive them.

      7. China isn’t exactly the model for how to handle this crisis.

        Anyway, the goal for Metro is to provide enough service as they can with less money.

      8. Mike, you’re answering a question I didn’t ask today. I’m not asking why doesn’t the Metro shut down all transit. I’m asking what is Metro’s stated goal for reducing transit?

        And btw, Wuhan shut down ALL transit, and nurses and doctors and patients still managed to get to and from medical facilities. Utilities didn’t fail. People got food. Wuhan survived no transit, and so would Seattle. Necessity is the mother of invention. But that’s not my question today. I simply want to know, what is Metro trying to achieve by reducing service? It’s not a trick question.

      9. If bus drivers continue to get paid, I would assume a 25% cut in service would save far less than 25% in dollars.

        Part timers will lose their hours first. They’re not getting benefits so it’s real savings for Metro. Full time drivers may see a reduction in hours but the cost of benefits remains fixed. However, any OT will likely be eliminated which again is real money. Then there’s the cost saving in fuel and maintenance; less buses they have to try and wipe down every day.

        School bus drivers are really taking a hit. For drivers in districts like Bellevue if they are furloughed they lose all seniority when they come back. If the don’t the paychecks go to zero but they keep benefits.

        Seattle uses a third party contractor but I’m guessing the choices are equally as bad. Part time drivers are just SOL.

      10. I thought you were repeating your recommendation yesterday to shut down all transit. If Wuhan is typical of China, its cities are walkable and mixed-use so transit isn’t as necessary for basic things like it is here. Its new middle-class neighborhoods may be more car-dependent, but it was their residents’ choice to live there; it’s not like China didn’t offer them an alternative.

      11. I simply want to know, what is Metro trying to achieve by reducing service? It’s not a trick question.

        No, but it is a question that has been answered, and is clearly stated at the beginning of this article:

        Councilmember Rod Dembowski was the first to share the news of upcoming Metro service cuts, made in recognition of sharp drops in both ridership and sales tax revenue during the COVID-19 crisis.

        Got it? They are making cuts because ridership and revenue are down. I can explain those terms, but you can (hopefully) look them up on your own.

      12. @Sam Wuhan has a transit system that is orders of magnitude more extensive and heavily used than Seattle. Wuhan’s rail system has 9 lines and over 200 miles of track, and a DAILY ridership of 4 MILLION (for a city of 11 million, mind you), and that’s not including busses. Shutting something like this down is indeed an effective way to force social distancing. For Seattle and vicinity, by far most trips in which people come in to contact at either end of the trip are done by car. In suburban King County and SnoCo and Pierce, I suspect this accounts for well over 90% of person to person transmissions! Hence, I submit that if you really wanted to force social distancing by shutting down transportation, you wouldn’t pick on the busses you’d shut down the highways to all but emergency and commercial services vehicle traffic. So more like Italy, which has started questioning every car on the road to make sure the trip is an “essential” one.

    1. Yes! They are thinking about the social distancing thing. Give that agency an award for creating thinking to protect their drivers and passengers.

      1. Makes a lot of sense. Not only does it help keep people away from the driver, it also avoids the need for staff to touch bills and coins that have passenegers’ germs on them. KC Metro should do the same.

    2. CT’s existing fare subsidy may be higher than Metro’s. Metro’s fares cover 20-30% of operating expenses while Intercity Transit’s covered 2% before it went fare-free. I don’t remember IT’s previous fare but let’s say it was $2.00. 2% of that is 4 cents, so that’s what the increase in cost is. It may be easier for smaller agencies like CT to do this than Metro. Metro also has an increasing number of low-or-no-fare options for lower-income people, which is the same as eliminating fares for part of the population.

      1. CT’s farebox recovery ratio was 19.3% for 2018 and 20.3% for 2017 per the agency’s CAFR’s. (The stated goal is to maintain a ratio of around 20%.)

    3. Good job Community Transit! As a CT district taxpayer and occasional rider, I applaud the agency for taking this action to reduce the exposure risks to their drivers despite the financial implications. Thanks for passing on the information/link.

  3. Sound Transit is also planning cuts to Link, Sounder, and express buses starting Monday. No details yet.

    Seems like rush hour buses should be trimmed to weekday off peak levels first. How close would that get Metro/ST to their targets?

    1. They’re still hanging onto the Sounder North. That train already has dismal ridership with its 2-3 car service. Just axe it.

    2. They sent an email yesterday. Link will stay at 14 minute frequency even after Connect 2020 is done. I wish they’d at least go to base 10 minute frequency and just cut the additional peak service.

      1. A reliable 14 minutes with next-arrival times will be better than the unreliable 14 minutes without next-arrival times we’ve been having.

  4. I was under the impression that this would be cutting excessive peak service (the 41s every 4 minutes, the 48s every 7.5 minutes), but it’s actually a large scale reduction in the scope of service. It’s a “sorry, you don’t get your bus anymore” and not just a “you’ll have to wait longer for your bus.” Oh, and cutting the span of service? Need to take the bus, and thought about taking the early morning or late night bus to avoid crowds because you’re smart and want to do the right thing? Metro is taking that away too. Metro *says* to do social distancing, but then (it looks like) still cuts bus trips for not being crowded enough. How disappointing.

    1. In most cases people will still have a bus, just not their favorite bus and they may have to wait 10-15 minutes longer. The 9 is slightly more direct than the alternatives, and compensates for daytime congestion on other routes. Congestion is suspended so the 7 is probably running pretty fast, and Link is still an alternative from Rainier Valley to Capitol Hill, which is still somewhat close to First Hill destinations. The 47 will distress elderly people who can’t walk up the steep hill to Broadway — that was the complaint when it was deleted during the recession — but there’s still the alternative of a flat walk to the 10 (although it’s not as close as it appears from the northern terminus). the 208 is unfortunate, but it is a very low ridership route. I’m assuming the rest of the cuts will be pruning late-evening service and a reduction from 10 minutes to 15, and some but not many reductions from 15 to 30 minutes.

  5. David, the alternatives seem incomplete.
    Route 9: Link is very relevant. Route 29: routes 1, 3, 13, and D line are relevant. Route 125: Route 128 is relevant. Route 237: Route 311 connects Woodinville and NE 128th Street. Route 308: most rides are attracted from NE 145th Street, so routes 65 and 64 are relevant; in LFP, routes 331 and 342 could help. Route 309: also Route 522.

    1. Thank you. I was looking for the most likely alternative for the worst-affected passengers that could fit on one line.

  6. Hah. Routes 47 and 78 should be eliminated anyways – COVID or not. It’s a bit frustrating that Metro and ST tells that public “hey everyone, we’re gonna cut service in a few days but not gonna tell you which ones until the last minute!”

    CT is also going to cut service. At least they’re waiting until they have a concrete schedule before announcing it to the public.

    1. The situation is unprecedented and is changing fast. A bureaucracy turning around in one week is pretty good. There’s a lot of work behind changing schedules and hundreds of driver shifts and personnel matters and informing the public and following regulatory procedures for this kind of cut.

  7. Couple questions. Why should we believe any statement or assessment issued by the government of the country that contains Wuhan? And given his own unvarying record as to factual veracity, same question for the loser of our own last Presidential election. Who’s about to finish up four years’ free rent in the White House.

    But this afternoon, these are incredibly minor details. We and the rest of the world are now living in the beginning couple weeks of a political revolution whose end few of us will live to see- personal demise due not to Covid 19, but possibly conditions during the years of its aftermath.

    Being fair historically and across Administrations, a lot more years in the making than events blamed on Wuhan. But now landed square in the laps of transit passengers up ’til very recently riding on student passes. Whose lifetime careers and education could be a lot worse disrupted by present systemic damage than the Viet Nam War did to mine.

    Remind me, David, are you still driving? Because from here on, I think it’s really critical that us readers, posters, and commenters take max advantage of STB’s medium and the rest of the internet to stay current with the representatives elect to run transit. And the operations personnel with their hands on steering wheels, controllers, and communications. Giving them the widest and most constant exchange of fresh information they need to get results as nearly right as changing events permit.

    Does Seattle Transit Blog have any stats as to the age-group of its participants? Subtract any student passenger’s age from eighteen, and you could know how soon they’ll be a State legislator. Sitting Governor really did tell me once that as campaign workers, student-government constituents could win him any election in Washington.

    Lot of political parties overseas have Youth Wings. Absolutely perfect for internet communications. Like martyred labor agitator once said just before they shot him for it, we’ve got nothing to lose but our chairs. Contagious but not Covid 19.

    What’s Federal law say about our tax classification 501 (c)(4) and politics?

    Mark Dublin

  8. Just got breaking news from the Seattle Times that Metro has announced that they will not collect fares starting on Saturday during the virus crisis.

    1. Pierce Transit would be next, but regular PT coaches have rear doors that can only open when pushed from the inside. Additionally, they have many MCI coaches with only front doors and narrow aisles on Sound Transit runs. Those were always a mobility bottleneck tradeoff for a little more comfort.

  9. In addition in not collecting fares passengers will be directed to board through the rear doors. Passenger who use mobility devices or the boarding ramp can still board through the front door.

    1. I assumed it was all-door boarding like on RapidRide but the KUOW announcement said “rear doors”. So I guess this is to social-distance passengers from the driver and free fares is a necessary corollary. Rather than the other way round (free fares because service is so limited and rear-door boarding because of free fares).

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