Rapid Ride Metro Transit Bus reticulated bus headed to Seattle, WA from Edmonds. WA via Hwy 99 Aurora Ave
PatricksMercy/Flickr

In response to “crowding” (by current standards) on some routes, Metro is restoring some trips this week on weekdays from 10am to 5pm:

Based on operator availability, we are dedicating roughly 15 additional buses starting today to six routes where coaches are either reaching capacity or passing up customers to maintain social distancing guidelines. These high-demand routes include:

  • Route 7
  • Route 36
  • Route 180
  • RapidRide A
  • RapidRide D
  • RapidRide E

The buses have been added on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., as that period has the highest ridership and most reports of pass-ups.

Metro continues to demonstrate operational flexibility that some observers, including me, thought was not in its nature. Other than the D, these are among the routes that have seen the smallest ridership drops, presumably because of transit-dependent riders and “essential” but not virtualizable jobs.

Last week Metro also released ridership numbers for the week ending May 1. Overall weekday boardings are at 105,000, or a 75% decrease from 2019. Not surprisingly, the drop is deepest in the weekday peaks, with late-night and weekend ridership declining much more gently. Meanwhile, bus service has dropped only 27%, meaning the average bus has almost three times fewer riders.

39 Replies to “Metro restores some trips, ridership still way down”

  1. Increased confirmed cases, and confirmed deaths from 30 days ago. Masks are voluntary for riders. Drivers are required to secure the wheelchair of a coughing or sneezing passenger without a mask. What would go wrong?

    1. Like most of your strawman trolls, this is assuming a wheelchair passenger sneezes without a mask during the couple minutes it takes to secure a wheelchair, and that they’re sneezing so often they’re likely to sneeze then. On the few buses I’ve been on there have been no wheelchair passengers at all.

      It is odd that the most vulnerable people who are most likely to get sick are up front with the driver. But that’s how our buses are designed. What solution is there that allows disabled people to get to necessary appointments and shopping, doesn’t violate the ADA, and doesn’t depend on more expensive Access vans and wheelchair-equipped taxis than we have?

      1. LA Metro (and many other transit agencies), requires riders to wear masks. On KC Metro, wearing a mask is optional. Which policy is safer for everyone on board?

        I do, however, have a great deal of admiration at Metro’s ability to write doublespeak. “The new (mask) directive requires voluntary compliance.” Requires voluntary compliance. Genius.

      2. A hard requirement that you must wear a mask to ride is unenforceable. You can’t just leave people stranded because they forgot their mask.

      3. This blog is built on the idea that the needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few. Better to leave an unmasked passenger stranded than endanger everyone on board the bus. Again, which policy is safer for everyone on the bus? Everyone needs to wear a mask? Or, it’s optional?

      4. One clear solution would be to prohibit any disabled wheelchair person from boarding the bus. A sensible precaution that should be enacted during this pandemic. If you are disabled and on a wheelchair, you shouldn’t be outside. If you need to make an essential trip, then a medical facility should arrange for transport. All other goods should be delivered to said person’s home. I’m in favor of Metro banning all wheelchair passengers until a vaccine is implemented.

      5. Ness, you know requiring masks isn’t crazy idea I cooked up, right? That Costco, Whole Foods, almost all airlines, and many transit agencies and businesses all require masks. It’s not optional, it’s mandatory. The Mayo Clinic requires masks. VP Pence didn’t wear one, and he should have either been made to wear one, or been asked to leave. “Yeah, Sam, but there are sick and vulnerable people in hospitals!” And there are sick people on transit, and they, and everyone else on board, should be able to travel in the safest environment possible.

      6. “If you need to make an essential trip, then a medical facility should arrange for transport. All other goods should be delivered to said person’s home.”

        How will you get the medical facilities to pay for this? Or will you just assume it’s happening and leave people stranded. Who will pay to deliver goods to their home? Do they have Internet access and a computer to do online ordering? People with disabilities have expenses you don’t have, and some of them are on limited incomes. This isn’t Australia where they might get a government-paid aide to do their shopping.

      7. No the barmy idea you cooked up was banning disabled people from leaving their homes unless a medical transport comes and gets them

        Hint: you’re making a LOT of assumptions you shouldn’t. Mike & A Joy pointed some out.

      8. Costco, Whole Foods, almost all airlines, and many transit agencies and businesses all require masks.

        The obvious difference between those organizations and a typical bus is that they all have security guards — usually more than one. In contrast, you are asking an ordinary bus driver to act as a security guard. Even if they successfully hauled someone off the bus (or prevented them from getting on) they would clearly expose themselves, and have no way of changing clothes or washing up before continuing their work (i. e. driving the bus). Those are two very significant differences.

        Just think it through Sam — it isn’t that hard.

      9. Some disabled people actually have jobs, and may not be able to work from home. As things open back up, they’ll need to get back to work like everyone else.

        People seem to assume that physically disabled people are all on disability or retired, which isn’t the case.

        I actually believe that people riding the bus should be required to wear masks.

    2. Most high risk individuals, and that includes the wheelchair bound, are using masks for their own basic health. Your scenario is contrived to the point of meaninglessness.

      1. I should think somebody who’s sneezing a lot is the most likely to wear a mask, or stay home for a couple weeks. It’s the ones who are hardly sneezing or not at all who aren’t wearing masks

    3. Increased confirmed cases, and confirmed deaths from 30 days ago

      Where? What data are you looking at? For King County there were 23 new cases reported for May 12th. That’s the lowest number since March 7th. According to the King County Daily COVID-19 outbreak summary the number of new cases has been showing a modest but steady decline since April 1st.

      1. The page you link to clearly shows a decreasing trend (hint, that’s the dashed black line). I thought you were a better troll than to try and compare one days data against another single day’s data a month later. Plus the April 12th number is clearly an anomaly of reporting; look at the graph for tests reported. Speaking of, since we are now doing far more testing than in April you’d expect a higher number of reported cases. In other words, the data is even better than it seems.

        But Metro is not a State wide agency so King County data is what you should be looking at. And clearly the number of cases is declining. I’m actually in favor of Metro not only requiring masks but being required to collect data, as Inslee wants to make restaurants do, of the identity of everyone who boards. Shouldn’t hard since these are essential trips only, right?

      2. For whatever it’s worth, the NYT is reporting that new cases in WA overall (not just King County) are increasing; I cannot link the graph directly, but if you go to https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html#states (registration required, but outside the paywall) you will see that currently (as of my typing this post) WA is the state with the highest number of cases in total whose rate of new cases is increasing. However, that particular statistic has changed on a regular basis, so I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on it, I guess. It is, however, depressing to think about.

        For King County, CovidActNow shows WA at R=1.1 (https://covidactnow.org/us/wa) and King County itself at R=0.98 and trending back above 1 (https://covidactnow.org/us/wa/county/king_county) – though their county estimates are pretty noisy, as the error bars show (and they themselves admit). So in that sense, yes, King County cases are improving, but probably not for long.

        To go back to the more specific discussion, I am not trying to support or refute Sam’s specific position about cases decreasing on some perhaps-cherry-picked dates, but I think it is worth considering that most of the numbers are in fact pretty noisy, and that the general trends are not positive.

        And I, too, would agree that masks should in fact be required to ride public transit at this point, but that they should also be provided if riders do not have them. This should, I think, satisfy everyone’s concerns here, other than budget hawks since it would be an additional expense. (They could be fabric, reusable masks, so in the long run the number of new masks required should in fact decrease, but the upfront cost would be high). However, I am fully aware of the range (if not specific) logistical issues required in doing such a thing, as well as the budgetary impact. So I understand why it is not done.

      3. Pretty much all states other than New York are reporting increased cases. As there aren’t any plans to change things, as people start to move around more the number of cases is going up.

        UW Virology data:
        https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america/washington
        Top graph shows increasing mobility recorded by cell phone data. Second graph shows testing and confirmed infections. Selecting “Confirmed Infections” allows a comparison between that graph and the increased mobility graph above it.

  2. If metro is willing to pass stops due to passenger count they should be willing to deny boarding based on no face covering.

    1. If somebody is outside the bus when it’s moving or the doors are closed they can’t do much about it except bang on the side of the bus. If somebody is inside the bus or about to enter and the driver tells them no and they become belligerent or pull out a gun, then the driver is in danger, and fewer people will be willing to work as drivers when there’s already a shortage of drivers.

  3. “Metro continues to demonstrate operational flexibility that some observers, including me, thought was not in its nature. ”

    Question, Martin: Any chance that traits like operational flexibility, Nature gifts not to agencies, but completely to the people who, day by day and minute by minute, run them.

    Granted, at an unhealthy remove, I’m seeing more than one entity whose long-time personnel are either retiring or passing away.

    At the very time when events are presenting their very young successors with a situation completely lacking in the strongest necessity for Organization itself:

    Practical Precedent.

    Suggesting some caution a critic like me needs to think about. Any official I cross “bounds” with….if a successor can’t be found, am I looking at credible threat of being stuck with their job?

    Habit these last couple of weeks. When in these pages or elsewhere I’m made aware of a policy I’ve got questions about, like who determines either Destination- or Essential-ity, I call KCM or ST information and get put to someone who has to implement policy hands-on.

    Impression I’m coming away with is decent people doing their best, under considerable stress and some personal danger, to be decent. Which is what’s been leading me to encourage these people to get their stories into these pages.

    Being members of The Public, whatever the institutional arrangements, these people are our employees, who need and deserve our help and our guidance. Major concern, though….are any of them being threatened for communication with these pages?

    Mark Dublin

    1. I think that it’s important to note how adding buses every few weeks is really facilitated by real-time arrival information. Most of the stops on these routes have arrival signs, for example.

      A big hero during this pandemic is technology. It has made social distancing possible!

      Real-time arrival was considered an expensive pipe dream 25 years ago — both at stops and on mobile devices. I expect a wave of new technology enhancements (and user expectations) in the next few years to be introduced.

      1. We don’t yet have real time arrival information, so it still feels like a pipe dream. The current system is no more accurate than the first attempt back in the early 00’s.

      2. “Most of the stops on these routes have arrival signs”? Have you traveled down Beacon or Rainier or Delridge Avenues before? Rainier has maybe one or two displays. I’ve not seen any on Beacon or Delridge.

        The extra runs are unscheduled.

      3. Yes Mike I have.

        There are at least 9-10 real-time arrival signs at Rainier stops, we specially where boardings are high..

        More importantly, real-time arrival using a mobile phone app is pretty common. Any time I’m waiting for a bus at a stop with at least five people, between 1-4 are looking at arrival time estimates on their phone. Riders are going to be looking for good real-time info more and more — and that can let Metro be more flexible about adding runs as they restore service.

      4. I guess I have seen more than one on Rainier. I didn’t realize how much they added up. Still, that’s the only non-RapidRide route I’ve seen them on.

        “Any time I’m waiting for a bus at a stop with at least five people, between 1-4 are looking at arrival time estimates on their phone. ”

        I’d call that more of a stopgap than a feature. That’s four people using a data plan for the same thing (the phone companies love it) and not telling the others what it says (so that everybody would know). That’s actually a good example of American individualism and inefficiency; the Uber of public transit.

      5. Or, it’s a good example of how building an app to goes on people’s phone – hardware that nearly all people have already – is a better investment than building a physical device at each stop that only serves to provide information that most people will have on the phone already. I’m sure if you did not have a phone and asked someone standing next to you for an update, they would be happy to share. It’s like asking someone on the street for the time or directions, information you can easily get on your phone but occasionally people don’t have watches/phones/maps so other people will politely assist. If you had a phone in your hand and the app installed, it would be odd to ask the person next to you to look it up. It would also be odd to just verbally announce bus arrival times to the general public.

        At South Sounder stations, there is literally a person paid to stand at each station to provide updates and answer questions during the morning commute. A good job for the 1970s, I suppose, but a waste of money in 2020 when nearly everyone has a cell phone.

  4. Grief, could you please identify, by job description at least, exactly who you mean by “they?”

    Because if Metro is having a hard time finding drivers to hire, I’m not sure either the King County Sheriff or the Seattle Police would have any easier time filling the job-skill required for the enforcement you’re talking about.

    I do think, though, that, for the money and personnel you’re demanding, your elected representatives and mine could come up with the real solution: a major public-private initiative to flood the system with masks.

    Force One, the trade schools. Whole new specialty in precision machining, whose students can start becoming skilled professionals in a brand new economic sector from Day One.

    Force Two…. What has Amazon got to lose by adopting this Big Time? Jeff, tell me why this ISN’T yours to OWN? We’ll even let you keep it, on the condition you stop firing people for demanding their rights. Honest, she can’t help it.

    And Force Three, we all know individual people who have been making masks in the form of aprons and potholders ever since the economy started to shake. AlaskaUSA Federal Credit Union, help these people organize some cooperatives.

    But in the Early Meantime, what are the chances that the Division that’ll really have to do what the drivers you’re endangering can’t, can carry enough masks to de-fuse an average shift’s worth of Situations? For purpose here, I don’t think we’re talking surgical.

    Mark Dublin

  5. I’m interested in knowing if any of the knowledgeable people here know if the federal aid that came from one of the stimulus bills has been enough to make up for losses in sales tax and farebox revenue that Metro relies on.

  6. Calculation that has to be figured in, though, is the cost of handling, securing, and accounting for cash fares.

    And not least, the amount of operating time lost as cash fares are searched for, discussed, and disputed. There’s a reason residential toilets don’t have coin slots, and why toll streets hardly exist, and -roads are in the minority.

    We’re not talking “free”. Just a more economic way to pay for.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Toilets don’t have coin slots, but the people using them have to pay water and sewage charges. I’m really enjoying not having to pay for the bus, but I don’t know how many people who don’t ride the bus are willing to pay higher taxes to make that permanent, if farebox revenue accounts for approximately 40% of Metro operating costs. People have been pretty generous so far in approving sales and property tax increases for transit, except for the car tab fiasco. Maybe if Democrats take over the federal government this fall there will be more aid forthcoming, but federal transportation aid is usually for capital expenditures, not operations and maintenance.

      1. Voters turned down a flattish car tab in an off-year spring election to fund KC Metro expansion. They then voted for a more progressive (based on car value) MVET to fund ST in a presidential election. I could take Sam’s approach and conclude that voters prefer a progressive MVET to a flat MVET.

    2. Farebox revenue is around 20-30% per county policy. When costs rise and it approaches the floor, they raise the fare.

      1. The net farebox recovery is somewhere less than that. There are costs to fare collection, including carbon footprint for extra dwell time to have everyone board through the front door single file with one person fumbling change gumming up the works.

        County policy is to keep farebox recovery at a percent of total operating costs, even though that measure is not a terribly useful measure. Of course, with no farebox recovery, we’ve seen Metro can violate that policy, thank common sense.

  7. Don’t sense any major push for making toll roads standard in order to decrease taxes. If the balance sheet shows that taxes cost us less than fares, shouldn’t self-interest dictate we go the tax route?

    Understanding, though, that taxes can have qualities, across a wide spectrum of fairness and cash value. Arguing categories always generates more heat than light.

    To pay for transit, I’ve always liked the “feel” of my ORCA card. Gives me a sense of participation and ownership. In addition to something shiny I can hold up into the headlights of an approaching bus or railcar on a rainy November night in Seattle.

    One condition, though. Being on record as having PAID for a whole month’s transportation, the System had better not demand that under penalty of law, I owe it anything else at all.

    Occasional friendly reminders aside, my credit union’s never once set Superior Court on me for putting money in one account of mine instead of another. Way I look at my transit system, I’m a member of that too.

    Mark Dublin

  8. Tough call. I know that attention only compounds the problem, but it also doesn’t hurt to make it clear that a sustained campaign to constantly expand the number of people who aren’t allowed to ride the bus has been duly noted.

    And provision made to be sure it gets nowhere, by bus, rail, or any other form of conveyance. Forbidding transit to wheelchair users has been against Federal law for thirty years, and the stipulation seems to be in perfect health.

    As I’ve noted, whether my ORCA card presently gets inspected or not, I now always keep it in the same pocket as both my rental agreement and my US passport. Oh, yeah and my car title.

    But as the kind of miracle dividend that often attends breakthroughs in curative medicine, my hope is for a vaccine (good if it needs a real sharp needle) to cure the desperate need of a large percentage of our population to blame their every problem on somebody weaker than themselves.

    Purdue Pharma, give us this one and all that bother about the opioids is forgiven.

    Mark Dublin

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