Due to a dramatic ridership decline as a result of COVID-19, Metro has reduced bus service to match ridership demand. But with revenues cratering, yesterday it announced a permanent 15% service cut compared to pre-pandemic levels for its September service change. This includes a 50% drop in Seattle-funded service, allowing it to continue to the following March service change even though the Transportation Benefit District (TBD) expires in December.

Metro is facing a $200m drop in projected 2020 sales tax collections, and an $80m fall in farebox revenue, largely offset by $243m in CARES act funding. For the period 2020-22, Metro estimates sales tax and fare shortfalls of $465m and $130-150m, respectively.

The restored network will “focus primarily on a network of all-day routes throughout King County, including preserving frequent service on Metro’s busiest routes, while restoring peak service sufficient to meet returning demand to the extent possible given the current financial challenges.” Beyond mid-day service, Metro continues: “While some weekday peak-period commuter routes will be restored, many peak routes will remain suspended in anticipation that long-term commuter ridership demand will take time to recover as many large employers continue having employees telework. Night, evening, and weekend service also will be significantly reduced.”

The theme of these cuts resembles the service reductions part of Metro’s proposed “Triplett Plan” of last recession and Community Transit’s suspension of Sunday service, more than Metro’s proposed 2014/15 service reductions. The difference is that the reductions proposed for September, rather than being somewhat uniform in nature, focus specifically on excess peak service. This is in line with the collapse of peak ridership due to COVID-19, a trend that will likely continue in some form for years after the sudden normalization of telework, and fears of spreading COVID-19 persist. Metro plans on slowly restoring some suspended service as revenues pick back up.

The changes are broken down by routes fully operating, routes with reduced service, and routes that are fully suspended until revenue recovers. Metro also separately calls out routes affected by the Renton-Kent-Auburn Mobility Project, which was largely planned ahead of COVID-19, and replaces many bus routes in the area with a new, more efficient network of routes. Below are the list of routes in each category, with peak-only routes shown in bold:

Routes fully operating

  • RapidRide A, B and F lines, 21X, 24, 101, 107, 111, 128, 131, 132, 153, 156, 182, 187, 193, 224, 230, 231, 239, 257, 303, 304, 309, 311, 330, 346, 347, 348, 631 (Burien Community Shuttle), 635 (Des Moines Community Shuttle), 773, 775, 901, 903, 907, 930
  • Routes operating at full service levels that were restructured through the Renton, Kent, and Auburn Area Mobility Plan: Routes 102, 105, 148, 150, 160 (new), 161 (new), 162 (new), 165 (new), 168, 181, 183, 184 (new), 906, 914, 915, 917

Routes operating at reduced levels:

  • RapidRide C, D and E lines, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 21, 26, 27, 28, 31, 32, 33, 36, 40, 41, 43, 44, 45, 48, 49, 50, 55, 56, 57, 60, 62, 64, 65, 67, 70, 73, 74, 75, 106, 118, 119, 120, 124, 125, 204, 208, 212, 218, 221, 225, 226, 240, 241, 245, 250, 255, 269, 271, 301, 331, 345, 372, 373

Routes fully suspended

  • 5X, 9, 15, 17, 18, 19, 22, 29, 37, 47, 63, 71, 76, 77, 78, 113, 114, 116, 118X, 119X, 121, 122, 123, 143, 154, 157, 167, 177, 178, 179, 190, 197, 200, 214, 216, 217, 219, 232, 237, 246, 249, 252, 268, 308, 312, 316, 342, 355, 630 (Mercer Island Community Shuttle), 931

Routes deleted due to the Renton-Kent-Auburn Mobility Plan (mostly replaced by other service):

  • 158, 159, 164, 166, 169, 180, 186, 192, 908, 910, 913, 916, 952

Ahead of the September 2020 service change, Metro will restore some suspended service on June 22. Metro has not specified what these restorations will be, except that they will make adjustments based on ridership and community feedback, and that most peak-oriented commuter service will remain suspended.

44 Replies to “Metro to come back in September with 15% less service”

  1. I thought and continue to think that eliminating the route 9 for pandemic reasons is misguided. Not only does is serve First Hill hospital workers, but it serves Rainier Ave, which has experienced over-crowding on the route 7. Restoring the 9, even to partial service, would benefit First Hill workers while providing social distancing relief on the 7.

    I’m curious to see what ridership will be like on the restored West Seattle peak routes. I imagine the bridge closure will incentivize more commuters to ride transit than otherwise would during this pandemic.

    1. I think in a grid system, the 9 is like the 48. I think it and not the 7 (assuming making it local) should be the full-time route on Rainier, especially after East Link opens.

      After East Link, it seems pretty obvious to me. When the Rainier freeway station was still open, I used it to go from Bellevue to First Hill on occasions when the 550 was timed well with the arrival of the 9.

      As for going downtown, transferring to Link today may be faster (I’m not totally sure), but if anything, transferring at Judkins Park Station will almost certainly be faster.

    2. The 7 and the 9 are both fairly uncomplicated. So it shouldn’t be very hard to put them back when the time comes.

      Mark Dublin

  2. I’m still not clear what the status is on Seattle TBD renewal? Has the city simply given up, or is it simply Metro being conservative since they can’t assume a renewal until it’s official?

    Recall from past service that no TBD means that evening and Sunday service is reduced to every half hour on nearly route in the city that’s not RapidRide, including popular routes such as the 40, 41, 62, etc. And, after 10 PM, all routes are reduced further to hourly with a few exceptions (RapidRide, 7, 36, and 49). And, night-owl service would be eliminated completely.

    1. They haven’t given up. If they chose not to go to ballot, or the measure failed, there wouldn’t be enough money to make it to the March service change. There used to be enough surplus to cover the gap, but that doesn’t exist anymore.

      Best case, a November measure passes and Seattle bus service bounces back in March.

    2. I think there’s still a reasonable chance the TBD goes back to the ballot, but the Council’s focus is certainly elsewhere so Metro recognizes there is a real risk it doesn’t happen. I don’t think the Mayor would spend what little remains (if any) of her political capital pushing hard for TBD renewal.

      I’m 95% confident if any TBD is on the ballot it will pass. The strong turnout in a presidential election will outweigh any no voters upset their route has been cancelled or working from home permanently and no longer care about transit.

  3. I wonder if sound transit will restore its link cuts in anticipation of partial metro restoration. I’d be ok with 15 minute daily headways on link, at all times including weekends.

  4. Any news on Sound Transit? I’m worried about the 545, the route I take to MSFT (if we ever go back to the office…)

    Not that anyone is shedding a tear for MSFT employees, but the 545 was consistently packed during rush hour, standing room only. If they limit the number of people on the bus and cut frequency, it’s gonna be a mess. Same for many other routes too.

    1. As long as office workers continue to work from home, I don’t think we need to worry about overcrowding on the 545.

      As long as the return to office happens gradually enough, Sound Transit will have time to adjust.

      Hopefully, the September service change puts some number of rush hour buses on standby, so they can quickly be deployed to existing routes, as capacity needs dictate, without needing to wait all the way until March.

  5. The last three posts that had pics of transit: Waterfront Streetcar = Eliminated. Route 2 Express = Eliminated. Route 167 = Suspended.

    1. That’s so we remember what they look like when it’s time to bring them back.

      Mark Dublin

  6. Well if it’s any consolation (misery loves company), BART is running their trains every half hour until 9pm. In some ways , we have more service via link. Also, no signs that San Francisco Muni will be restoring metro light rail service any time soon. We are all in the same storm, it seems.sigh.

    1. BART’s running each of its Services every 30 min. That means SF is still getting a train every 7.5 min, Oakland every 10, and the inner East Bay/Peninsula 15. Only the Concord and D/P branches are actually getting that 30 min Service.

  7. One of the downsides of building affordable housing in the burbs … poor transit. And now no transit. There’s a big new homeless/low income apartment complex behind St. Luke’s in Bellevue at the north end of Bellevue Way. And Sophia’s Way is also located there. Only the 249 goes by there. And it’s been cut for months, and now it looks like it won’t return until next year.

    1. Yes, I am surprised they cut the 249 for that reason. I could have imagined cutting the South tail end (the Enatai and Beaux Arts loop) and the East tail end (through Tam’O’Shantner or whatever it’s called) but keeping the central portion (between Bellevue TC and Overlake P&R) which gets the most ridership anyway. But I guess that was too complicated a change to enact.

    2. The north end of Bellevue Way is all residential. In any case, it’s not that far to walk to available bus service. Bellevue Way isn’t that long; the required walk is probably under a mile.

    3. I think the 249 needed a serious overhaul as it was. I wonder if perhaps it will never come back, but just be replaced by portions of 2 or 3 other routes.

      1. I concur. The problem with the route is its too many twists and turns so you can’t ride it in a straight line for more than a couple miles. So, getting anywhere useful typically requires a transfer, but a transfer to an hourly bus is a big pain.

        Typically, routes like this arise when Metro takes all the areas they don’t want to serve, but feel they have to, and lumps them together under a single route that runs as infrequently as possible in order to keep the costs down. Of course, ridership will be bad, but that’s expected. The idea is to sacrifice the cost of one bus so the other buses can go elsewhere and carry more riders.

        A lot of the root problem comes from South Kirkland P&R being out of the way, thereby precluding a bus from Kirkland to Bellevue that just goes straight down Bellevue Way all the way.

      2. It was portions of three other routes. When routes were consolidated, the lowest-ridership tails were stitched together in one route. The next question is whether some of these segments should remain long-term, or whether this is just a holding pattern to kill it softly in the next recession, which is now.

      3. My sense is that the main ridership is in the Overlake P&R to South Kirkland P&R segment, followed by South Kirkland P&R to Bellevue TC segment. The two loops at the ends are just coverage, though even the Enatai section gets some riders, despite being really weird in its path.

        I could imagine combining the Enatai loop with the 241 (by having the 241 continue down along 108th and then jotting back over to Bellevue Way at the south-most end) – that would still cover the hardest-to-reach part of Enatai and Beaux Arts without having to loop all the way around. The 271 could cover Bellevue Way (though Medina would lose all coverage then), or they could preserve the central segment as its own route. Not sure what to do about the far East portion, though, maybe cover it with some other Redmond-based route? Or maybe an offshoot of the 225? It’s a really long section. It might almost be better served by two branches, one from Overlake TC, one from Overlake P&R, and don’t go quite all the way to East Lake Sammamish.

        Then again, as @Mike Orr mentioned, they might just cut it altogether and force the few riders on the ends to find some other way to go (Enatai people can walk to the 550, as @asdf2 pointed out in a different context, most residential areas are within a mile of Bellevue Way). The middle section riders might need to walk all the way down to BelRed and catch the 226.

      4. The next question is whether some of these segments should remain long-term …

        If you are going to run a north-south bus west of I-90 and south of SR 520, it should run on Bellevue Way. Nothing else comes close in terms of density. Sending that bus up to Kirkland via Lake Washington Boulevard would be a straight shot. However, Metro also likes serving the Kirkland park and ride, which would make that trip an awkward one. Furthermore, the 250 also provides service between downtown Bellevue and Lake Washington Boulevard — there is only so much service the area can afford.

        The best thing to do is send the 271 down Bellevue Way and onto the freeway. Then take the coverage part of the 271 (everything in Medina) and run it to South Kirkland (and beyond)*. That way Bellevue Way has frequent service, and Medina at least has a connection to downtown Bellevue (and South Kirkland). It also means that when there is a cutback (like right now) Bellevue Way has service, while Medina does not.

        * I would probably try and combine the Medina part of the 271 with the 246. Something like this: https://goo.gl/maps/bo51NdmPw41rHiR6A. That is a coverage route that is better at covering things. Right now the 246 runs on 100th, which is needlessly close to Bellevue Way. The 271 runs on 84th, which is a terrible street; it abuts the golf course, and few of the streets to the east go through (e. g. https://goo.gl/maps/Mdi7oGDnbBxm9WxZA).

    4. As I wrote on the previous post, that needs to be fixed. It is ridiculous for the 271 to continue to go through Medina, while there is no service at all on Bellevue Way. Medina has nothing but houses on big lots, while Bellevue Way has plenty of apartments. The 271 should be rerouted to use Bellevue Way, which would enable the bus to serve the freeway stops on SR 520 without a time penalty.

      1. If the 271 moves to Bellevue Way, will that obligate it to detour into South Kirkland P&R (please, no)?

        If no, riders would need to backtrack to Yarrow Point to connect to Kirkland. (The numbers are small enough that it’s probably acceptable).

      2. If the 271 moves to Bellevue Way, will that obligate it to detour into South Kirkland P&R?

        No, of course not.

        If no, riders would need to backtrack to Yarrow Point to connect to Kirkland.

        That would be a huge upgrade compared to backtracking from the UW (which is how one backtracks on the 271). Actually, in both cases, folks can also backtrack to downtown Bellevue, and take the 250. But sure, someone could backtrack to Kirkland as well as Redmond if they are up the street a ways. So yeah, that is another added bonus (that comes from having the 271 serve the freeway stations).

        The main point is that this: https://goo.gl/maps/bo51NdmPw41rHiR6A + this: https://goo.gl/maps/CtBtoN8GQeUznMhw6 is way better than the current mess that exists west of 405 and south of 520. The bus to the UW — which will have good frequency — goes on the best north-south corridor in terms of density and speed. The other bus does the work of two bus routes. It is clearly coverage, which means that neither will ever be frequent unless they are combined. It is similar to the Magnolia buses — the delay caused by going back and forth is much better than the alternative — terrible frequency or no coverage at all.

        There are various parts of the East Side that are really challenging — this isn’t one of them. It should be redone, and adhering to tradition is a terrible excuse for not doing so.

      3. I think planners severely undervalue the utility of transfers at the 520 freeway stations (which, in part, is probably why it is “acceptable” for the 271 to go through Medina at the cost of the freeway stations). They are basically as good as light rail stations. They connect directly to HOV3+ (AND toll) lanes, and westbound between stations, there is a dedicated bus lane. It’s a bit of a pain because you have to cross to the other side sometimes, but it beats riding all the way back to Bellevue and switching to another slow bus.

      4. If I were the people who now have no bus service along that section of Bellevue Way, and especially if I lived in those new low income/homeless apartments, I’d call the office of King County District 6 Council member and Council Chair Claudia Balducci, whose district that area is in. Or better yet, have an advocacy group call her office on my behalf. Council members listen to advocacy groups. And Metro listens when County Council members call.

    5. If in addition to community colleges and light industry we design housing into our transit stations from the drawing boards, the wages workers and faculty can earn will easily cover rent and purchase. Don’t you think?

      Mark Dublin

  8. How is it that this blog has still not covered anything related to Black Lives Matter? Metro provided vehicles to transport police to the protests, and has since cancelled that service. Metro has taken stances against racism but still hasn’t physically supported the protests with transit. The CHAZ has set up an pedestrian only zone and dramatically altered street use. These are all topics related to this blog. How have you missed this? Why are you absent in this critical moment?

    1. Brian, I nominate you to write about it. Submit a guest post or a Page Two post on the subject. When can you have it done by?

  9. I would imagine that Transit Riders’ Union has strong contacts in Black Lives Matter. Can anyone tell us whether there’s any liaison between these two organizations that should be partners?

    And what we as members, and transit advocates, can do to facilitate this cooperation now and in future?

    Mark Dublin

  10. Some random ideas on how to conserve service hours:

    Queen Anne: Turn the 1/2/3N into a shuttle looping around Queen Anne.

    2/13: Split. Have the 2 run from Pike Place, cutting over at 15th Ave. Boost frequency on 13 and interline with the 14 (with turnbacks at 31st Ave). Operate with Artics if available

    3S: Have route start at 1st/Mercer, rather than going up 5th Ave N. Operate with Artics if available. Eliminate route 4.

    5: No substatial changes, different interlining partner.

    7: (This will be controversial) Truncate at Judkins Park. No service is cancelled, line is still upgraded to Rapidride.

    8/11: Flip their Western segments. 8 goes to Pike Place (Or is truncated at CH Link), and the 11 goes out Denny (With the 11 being rerouted to John).

    10: Stays as is.

    12: Cancelled in favor of RRG.

    21: Modifed to connect to Admiral Wy and terminate at Aiki Beach

    24/33: No major changes. Some parts transferred over to 31.

    27: Rerouted to 9th/Seneca, terminating at 1st Ave.

    28: No major changes.

    31/32: Combined into a single 31 route, with all service going to Magnolia, and covering some parts of the 24/33.

    36: Combined with the 49.

    40: Route truncated to Pike Place.

    50: Rerouted to N. Admiral

    60: Truncated at Beacon Hill Link, with north end extended to Judkins Park Link.

    70: Converted to RR South of 45th Only. Extended in the South to Mt Baker Link (to backfill some of the service I’ve taken off Jackson).

    101/150: Truncated at RB Link.

    106: Split. North end would operate as per the Metro Connects plan (and renumbered), and the South end would do the same.

    RRC/D: Routes are recombined, and taken over by Sound Transit. RRC still exists S of Alaska Junct, but RRD is completely intergrated. RRH would be extended to Seattle Center W to cover the gap left behind.

    RRG/FSC: These services are also taken over by ST.

    512: Truncated at Northgate.

    522: Truncated at Northgate.

    542/545/550/554/555/556: Consolidated into a single service operating between the University District and Issaquah, at frequent headways.

    578: Truncated at KDM Link.

    1. Some of your suggestions on route changes have merit but the problem is that Metro doesn’t have the time to implement any of them for the September change because changes require public input and you can imagine the reaction of riders to changes and especially if they are mayor changes. Plus any changes have to be approved by the King County Council and they will get a lot of feedback from their constituents opposing changes and in the past even minor changes have gotten opposition from council members.

      The best that Metro can for September is cut the service as they have proposed which still make some people unhappy but they need to be done to meet the expected percentage of riders and the loss of financial support.

      When the financial picture improves they can look at making the system more efficient but right now they need to cut expenditures and the best way to do that is to cut service. Not ideal but it is the reality of the situation.

      When the financial picture improves

    2. I don’t think truncating the 7 can be seriously considered until Judkins Park Station opens, which won’t happen for another 3 years, by which point, tye recession will be over. And you absolutely cannot force a transfer at Mt. Baker while Link is running only every 30 minutes.

      1. It’s not meant to be an all at once thing, but something to be phased in, but it does assume the kind of frequecies that ST was planning for on Link pre-covid. Most of ideas are just implementations of Metro’s LRP, but there’s some that aren’t (Like the Queen Anne route) that are in the spirit of similar consolidations. One big theme here is Robbing Peter (Downtown) to pay Paul (The Neighborhoods), the 7 cut was simply the most prominent of that. If you insisted on not truncating the 7, I’d move it to either Boren, 9th/Seneca, or to Seattle Center West.

    3. There’s at least a 2-year gap between the September service change and when RapidRide G starts, and longer until Judkins Park Station opens. Both of those will trigger reorganizations that are waiting until then. Metro just likes to not talk about specific reorganization alignments until a year before a new service starts. However, its long term plan tells what it wants to do, or at least what it thought in 2016 it wanted.

      I’ve heard Metro avoids artics on Queen Anne because the crests are hard on the expansion joints.

      Metro’s plan for the G is to delete the 12 and convert the 8 into a Denny-Madison route to Madison Park, which your proposal calls the “11”. (The 8’s southern part would terminate at MLK & Madison, which I fear will make it a weak route.) Metro wants to delete the 11, which I think is shortsighted. The 11 has emerged as the highest-ridership route on Capitol Hill. The 10 was moved from Pine to John in 2016 and riders were expected to move with it but instead many switched to the 11. There’s a lot of ridership and trip pairs between Pine Street and Madison Valley, more so than Madison Valley and John/Denny or Madison Valley and western Madison, so I’m concerned deleting this corridor and forcing people to John or Madison. Metro’s response is to turn the 2 into a Pine-12th-Union route to combine the Pine and Union corridors. That will help preserve the Pine-Madison corridor to some extent around Trader Joe’s but it will be less effective further east in the valley.

      The 7 Metro considered combining with the 48 but later turned against it. The 7 is one of Metro’s highest-ridership routes, and connects demograpically-similar areas in south Raininer, north Rainier, and Jackson Street, as well as downtown. There’s a good argument for keeping that corridor unified, and not getting overenthusiastic about grid abstractions.

      “RRG/FSC: These services are also taken over by ST.”

      That wasn’t in ST3. ST can’t spend money non non-voter-approved projects when it hasn’t finished building the voter-approved ones. And doing so would mean less money for North King’s ST3 projects.

  11. There is no obvious way to layover at Judkins Park, or turn around. Even if there were, the plan doesn’t make any sense. It wouldn’t save money. You have the 7 suddenly stopping at Judkins Park. Meanwhile, you’ve extended the 70 all the way to Mount Baker Station. That means that riders get off the 7 and wait for the 70 to get downtown. Not only is that bad for riders, but it is very expensive.

    It makes way more sense to just tie together the 7 and 70, which was the plan all along.

    At the same time, you don’t want to make any significant changes to the 24/33. Magnolia riders still get their one seat ride to downtown, but Rainier Valley riders don’t. Sorry, but that’s crazy.

    So too is the idea of a looping bus on Queen Anne. There is no good way to loop, and a loop wouldn’t save much time, while being an obvious degradation for riders. Queen Anne operates as a “spine”. Areas where there are more demand (lower Queen Anne, Queen Anne Avenue up to Galer) get a lot more frequency, while less densely populated places (like 6th Avenue West) do not. It is a good design. It could be tweaked a bit, but the overall idea is solid and robust. Even if service is cutback, the central core areas have good frequency.

    Most of ideas are just implementations of Metro’s LRP, but there’s some that aren’t (Like the Queen Anne route) that are in the spirit of similar consolidations.

    An upper Queen Anne circulator is certainly not in the spirit of any part of the LRP. Nor is a 7 truncated in the middle of nowhere. The long range plans retain Queen Anne bus routes and the 7 (as RapidRide) but more to the point, they have lots of other, similar routes. I wouldn’t even call your proposed changes consolidation. An example of consolidation would be getting rid of the 78, and putting the service hours into the 75. Your plans consist mostly of truncations, which is all good and well, but before there is the underlying infrastructure (i. e. Link expansion) to support it. It would lead to a devastating loss in frequency, without that much in the way of savings.

    1. Correction: I meant to write “devastating loss in ridership without that much in the way of savings”.

    2. My assumption is that Riders on the 7 are going to be transferring to Link, not to the 70. Though again, I’m too attached to a Judkins park Truncation. My truncations are meant to preserve headways outside of Downtown so that there’s a higher base to build off of when the economy rebounds. For the 24/33, it’s more that I couldn’t find much interesting to do with them, they could interline with my 11 or 106 N.

      The Queen Anne part isn’t in the LRP, but it’s in the spirit of the North Seattle restructures. The 13 would be boosted to 7.5/10 min headways (Like what’s been proposed for the 67), and 1/2/3N would operate at 15 minute headways.

      And while my plan is mostly truncations, it’s because I’m making a bet that forcing more transfers to save freqency will save more ridership in the long run than an “across the board” slash in frequency. I’m trying to avoid a negative frequency/ridership spiral.

    3. The 1/2 and 3/4 used to be combined on Sundays, and I think a 1/2/3/4 shuttle during snow periods has occurred. The 2 would layover at its terminus and then continue as the 1, and vice-versa. The “4 Night/Sunday” route started at the 4’s terminus, looped through the 3’s tail, and went downtown. Both of those tails are gone.

      By the way, historically the 1 was through-routed with the 36 (which was part of the 1).

      1. Yeah, I remember riding on the old AM trolleybuses back in the 90’s, so I remember the old 1-36 interline. Though my interline wouldn’t have the doglegging down to Galer, but going straight west on McGraw. It’s off-wire yes, but it’s short and flat, and I think it could be a way to get KCM comfortable with taking the Trolleybuses off-wire.

  12. Route 157,158,159 cuts is not fair for people who choose to live kent because it costs too much to live in Seattle. So to just cut all of them is very upsetting. I have lived in kent for last 10 years and worked in downtown depending on those routes

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