King County Metro

Metro announced yesterday that it is largely restoring pre-pandemic service levels on Monday:

The result is Metro will operate more than 11,000 weekday bus trips, or 85% of its pre-COVID service level. Saturday service will be 8,200 trips (99%) and Sunday service will be 7,000 trips (99%). Starting Monday, Metro’s will increase the number of transit operators providing service from 64% to about 80% of pre-COVID levels.

Ridership is still down about 70%, but King County is likely to enter Phase 2 soon and have activity pick up. Quite a few non-core routes will remain shut down, but many peak expresses will return.

The South Lake Union Streetcar and Trailhead Direct will not operate. Metro promises the Reduced Schedule and Canceled Trips pages will have specific weekday schedule information on Saturday.

As September’s service change will cut about 15% off last January’s route network, we may be at this service level for quite some time, and worse off on weekends.

39 Replies to “Metro recovery starts Monday”

  1. Looks to me like Metro’s doing the best it can, under conditions where Uncertainty’s the only thing certain. Question, though: since money’s tight, when the quarantine lifts, any chance there’ll be volunteer slots for on-site passenger information?

    Because one constant seems to be that across the board, if it’s a “System” it’s going to be stressed to where its condition is between “Stressed” and “Useless.”

    Mark Dublin

    1. “Because one constant seems to be that across the board, if it’s a “System” it’s going to be stressed to where its condition is between “Stressed” and “Useless.””

      Very good point. Even before the pandemic we were expected to bear the burden of extra work to derive value from systems or to fix their errors, whether it’s filing appeals, proving “worthiness”, waiting on hold on the phone forever. (And in the case of sound transit, traveling to other stations and taking buses to your finals destination if you are disabled because elevators are constantly broken). But during the pandemic these systems have mostly gone from difficult to use to useless. It’s clear who the systems are meant to serve, those extracting rents from them (executives, wealthy, and government officials).

      1. But here’s my point, Steve. Call them “Systems”, “Agencies”, or “Governments”, these are all our TOOLS! If I drive it badly or fail to keep up maintenance, my car can’t be blamed for falling apart, depreciating, or getting me KILLED.

        Those miserable Breda buses didn’t write their own wretched specifications, or accept their own 100% contract-non-responsive deliveries. Nor did they crash through the Exchange Building’s walls to enforce the disconnection of several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of signalling and dispatching equipment two weeks into twenty years of service.

        Is “The Good The Enemy of the Possible?” Well the Mediocre is always the fail-proof ally of the REALLY REALLY BAD!!! Remedy? Our Time demands a citizenry drilled from pre-school in the habits and skills of running our everyday world, instead of just yelling at the help we grudgingly hire, and hatefully fund. Leave calculus to LWIT and Shoreline CC and make the ironclad State mandate be Public Administration.

        Metro, ST, Community Transit, Pierce….where is the numerous, informed activist lobby our region needs to keep public transit in hands that, year after year and day to day know and care how to run it? My own apology for “System-bashing” phrasing. At our steering wheels and train-controllers, our supervisors’ posts and our information phones, hundreds of us already ARE Regional Transit 2020 and Counting.

        Whatever the Governing Board will call itself, since it’s a beautiful day, its elected members and staff are taking each other’s SAT-Free graduation pictures on the grounds of the State Capitol. Which in turn are finally allowing grass and thistles to reach the heights God gave them, flaming colors and itchy allergens glorying in their new freedom.

        But for Seattle Transit Blog, an assignment. Immediately start identifying, and confronting, actual candidates to be elected to the Board of the Future. Because if an agreement cannot be reached with union-represented police, my threat to yield my remaining time to Alex Tsimerman will no longer be an idle one. For, since Mussolini got the trains running on time and not Hitler, he’ll have to start addressing the Chair as “Il DU-CHE!”

        Mark Dublin

  2. Does phase 2 mean the “essential trips only” message goes away? I’ve mostly been ignoring it as of late, as I do not consider it fair or practical for transit-dependent riders to live their lives in phase 1 forever, even while the rest of the public has moved on. When you consider transit-dependent employees of nonessential businesses who will be returning to work, it becomes even more impractical.

    1. asdf2, KCM Customer Services told me on the phone that “Essential” is self-defined. Hard to feature drivers demanding proof. Has anyone ever really been challenged?

      Mark Dublin

      1. Under the Governor’s “Safe Start” re-opening plan, nonessential travel restrictions are not lifted until phase 3. So technically people should still be limiting their travel. It’s a little confusing.

      2. Essie,

        While Phase 2 still has some travel restrictions, it does allow “limited non-essential travel within the vicinity of your home”. It doesn’t define any of those terms, though I would interpret it as including travel to any of the allowed activities/venues in phase 2, including travel by public transit.

    2. I imagine the text on buses will be going away around this service change on the 22nd. Metro’s social media posts already lack it, replaced with a reminder to keep distance and do not ride if sick (the latter part being a reuse from the height of the regular cold-and-flu season). I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of buses that don’t have the “essential trips only” banner flashing by, mimicking how it started showing up on a handful of buses just before the announcement was made regarding essential trips.

      We are in agreement here. Those of us who, for whatever reason, do not drive or do not have a car will not stand for being “stuck” in phase 1.

      1. First “hit” in my War On Phase One”, in fifteen minutes I’ll walk out of Olympia Roasters with a perfect “Ristretto” (even sounds short, doesn’t it?) which I’ll drink while I look at City Hall’s new windows. Effective vandalism defense has been to replace them immediately, and “the line is holdin’.”

        Salient two, South American chicken sandwich or “flan” from the food court two blocks down. Forget which movie intelligence agent discovers there’s no difference between good and bad flan, but I got my sources.

        And later, maybe if I do my Capitol walk before four (My doctor, Capitol State Police, and Jay Inslee all agree it’s Essential) Phase One could go down in a pile of ham, pears, and liberal northern European bread-crumbs.

        Olympia’s Spaced but we’re not Licked.

        Mark Dublin

    3. It wouldn’t make sense to keep the “essential trips only” sign up when non-essential businesses are reopening. But, I believe the the onboard passenger limits are still in effect, so Metro can’t want too many people coming back to transit just yet.

    4. I really dislike the term “essential” on Metro buses. One could argue that almost any bus trip is essential unless it’s joy-riding. Whether it’s going to work, purchasing goods and services for survival, meeting others to provide assistance or companionship or traveling to places that allow us to do more things at home, they all seem justifiably essential.

      The only other possible non-essential reason could be implied to mean to not travel to protests. Is this the messaging subtext that Metro wants to suggest? Does this mean that Metro is wanting to discourage people from protesting?

      The message was fine when most places were closed and there were only a few “essential destinations” that were actually open. However, that’s no longer the case. That “essential” message probably needs to go.

      1. That’s overreading into it. The message was simply a reminder of the governor’s order. Its intention at the beginning of the lockdown was to ensure hospital workers, supermarket clerks, and infrastructure maintainers could get to work in a socially-distanced way when we knew less about the virus’s trajectory and nature. In April when it was installed nobody had ever heard of George Floyd and he was still alive. The message has peristed due to inertia, and because local officials don’t know about or believe the evidence from other countries that full buses are safe if everybody wears masks, and it’s hard to get all Americans to wear masks anyway. The protests took officials by surprise and their reaction has been to keep the status quo. Both the governor’s, Metro’s, and citycounty’s stay-home approach has always been voluntary. Businesses are closed to eliminate destinations, but people have the freedom to self-select which trips they consider essential. In Italy the police arrest you and the mayor swears at you if you walk 200 meters outside your house for anything other than exempted purposes and you probably have to show a letter to prove you’re an essential worker. Washington has never done that. “Essential trips only” is a reminder and a suggestion, and its meaning is left open to interpretation.

      2. When non-essential businesses reopen, it’s implicit that workers and customers will go to them and some of them will take transit, no matter whether the “Essential trips only” sign remains or not. The state has never fully defined what an essential trip is, and it shouldn’t, because people have to be caregivers for elderly relatives or bring groceries to them or fix their computer if it breaks, and the official lists may forget to include things like that.

      3. Yeah, I’m with Mike. I would routinely take the bus one way, and then walk back. I would also take a bus to a different neighborhood, and eat or drink there (of course that part hasn’t happened in a while). Anyway, the point is, drivers like me aren’t using the bus, nor should we.

    5. “I believe the the onboard passenger limits are still in effect”

      That will cause a collision. Many of the core routes have less than four seats empty now. With four buses an hour that means only sixteen additional people can be accommodated without passing people up. There will be tens of thousands of people returning to work and shopping, and at that rate they’d have to wait all day for a bus and still never get on. Busloads of people will be able to use the peak expresses, but the core local routes are are already running 95% of their normal trips. Only the lowest coverage or duplicative all-day routes have been suspended.

      1. Yeah, leaving people behind just isn’t going to work. The only good solution I can think big is to wave a magic wand and get everyone to universally wear masks, then dispense with the limit.

      2. I don’t think the limits are strictly enforced. On some of the busier routes, I don’t think the limits even can be enforced. But with the trend line of new cases per day in the state increasing since May, I’d think twice about getting on a crowded bus.

    6. My company is interpreting King County and Washington State guidelines for Phase 2 as “get your ass back in the office!” and I’m sure we’re not the only ones doing so.

      So if KCM is sticking to “Essential Trips Only”, they need to revise their Phase 2 guidelines.

      1. They might want to re-think their interpretation. The businesses I’m aware of have phased in limits on what percentage of original staff can return to the office and only that many can return if there is a plan to assure social distancing guidelines are met.

      2. For professional services, it appears that the Phase 2 50% employee occupancy is no longer applicable. As long as the business meets the very annoying, but very necessary distancing, PPE, monitoring, cleaning, etc requirements, they can open up.

        So right or wrong, businesses will open, so I have no reason KCM won’t amend their “Essential Trips Only” policy come Monday.

        Phase 1.5 does require 25% occupancy, hence some companies having already phased in employees.

      3. It’s not “Essential trips only” that matters; it’s the cap on capacity. If a 55-seat bus passes up stops when it reaches its 16-person limit, it makes the buses unusable. Today I saw the third “Bus full” sign I’ve seen, on a 10 surprisingly. The other two were 132’s.

        I wonder if the signs are defective, because the second 132 I saw looked empty. I couldn’t see into the 10 because I was too far behind, but that route is always pretty empty and less used than the 11, and I’d just gotten off an 11 that had only three people on it. And the bus didn’t say 10 on the side or back; it said “Bus full” on the side and “Reserved” on the back. But it stopped at the Olive Street stop and let two people off and turned right like the 10 does, so what else could it be?

      4. But it’s capped at 12 and 18 on paper only. It often runs higher. For example, let’s say you drive the A Line. You have 15 people on the bus. Someone rings the bell. There are 10 people waiting at the next stop. You open the back and middle door. All of those 15 people are going to pour onto the bus, and there’s not a thing you can do about it. Get on the PA and say you’re not moving until people get off the bus, and you’re probably going to be assaulted.

        I imagine there are drivers out there with near empty buses driving around with the “bus full” sign on so they have an easier day.

      5. The rules are that if the bus is approaching a bus stop and it’s under the limit or anybody is getting off, the bus stops at the stop and lets everybody at the stop board even if they make it go over the limit.

        And the limit is flexibly enforced; some drivers are more willing to go slightly over the limit than others. The first time I took the 132 to Costco in March, it became full midway and wouldn’t let more people on. The last two times I took it from Costco, there were no open seats so I was probably one over the limit and took a sideways closed seat. Since I had heavy groceries and was tired after shopping, I was glad the driver hadn’t noticed it or didn’t enforce it and I didn’t turn around and get off the bus. Under a strict cap that wouldn’t be possible. But you can’t count on it: the driver could have just driven past the stop. And that’s always a risk as long as the formal cap is in place. Not that drivers don’t sometimes make exceptions, but that you can’t be certain 100% of the time that they will make exceptions. That translates to not being certain whether you’ll be passed up at a bus stop, or even being passed up by multiple buses in a row, or repeatedly day after day.

      6. “flexibly enforced” also opens the door to racially biased enforcement. The last thing we need right now is reports of bus drivers stopping for white people, but being “full” when all the people waiting at a particular stop are black.

        I don’t know if this is happening or not (although, after reading about the systematic racism in this country, I’m not too optimistic), but best to just remove the opportunity for such incidents completely. And, the simplest way to do that is to remove the cap.

  3. Cure for joy-riding? Fare inspectors come on board, say “Cell-Phones!”, and make everybody watch the Bolton hearings live. Making it Essential to “Run Screaming,” thereby creating more Space.

    And am I lookin’ at a general WAR ON JOY, or just while riding on transit? Are we going to boycott anything invented while happy? Elon Musk may be spoiled and power-hungry, but are we going to leave our crews forever stuck in space if his screens weren’t soaked in tears?

    Tesla just looks grumpy in all his pictures because in his day, exposure for the average flash was three hours, and a smile looks really idiotic after fifteen seconds. Mustache didn’t lighten things up either.

    But as pursuant to “tap” policy, which features the word “Warning”, let’s just say Solemn Promise: Our Joyriders’ Union have cars whose handling we also kind of like. Your call.

    Mark Dublin

  4. September’s service change will cut about 15% off last January’s route network,

    I seems like it would make more sense to phase in additional trips as demand increases and adjust according to where the greatest demand is. All the while aiming to arrive at the expected reduced service level budgeted for in September. Especially since summer is a traditionally low use time and will especially be so with large events cancelled.

    1. Not correct, but I think you know that and are just trying to get a rise out of people.

    2. I wouldn’t say it is great. Lots of cities have shown that if folks wear masks and keep quiet, it isn’t very good at all. On the other hand, if a busload of people close all the windows, and then start singing, or making out, then it would be a great way to spread the virus. I wouldn’t recommend that, though. Such activities should wait until this thing is over.

    3. Gregory does have a point. The virus isn’t spreading from country to county, and state to state, through magic. It’s spread through travel. And transit is travel.

      1. So’s walking across parking lots, Sam. And all the other places people are not just casually but defiantly going, with a real head of steam on to spite every official and source who’s cautioning them to minimize contact to avoid contagion.

        No matter how screwy the source, has anybody got even a bad fake video of Jay Inslee forcing people to pack up closer in bars and restaurants? Definitely makes me want to put my American flag in the wash, after all the grass-stained Red White and Blue all over the Capitol.

        But if I did that, it’d mean I hate America, wouldn’t it? Because according to the Flag Code, I’m already in enough trouble because I won’t burn it like the rules say I have to. Hey, wait a minute…..if you’re saying travel is dangerous, aren’t you really fighting to extend PHASE ONE?

        Knew it.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Transit buses operate on a short enough distance scale that it’s not going to spread the virus anywhere it isn’t at already. It is flying that spreads the virus from city to city and driving that spreads the virus from cities to rural arras.

      3. He wrote public transit. It is spreading and has spread largely through private transit (cars and planes).

    4. So is an infected person driving to an uninfected place, or picnicking in a crowded park.

  5. Welcome to Seattle Transit Blog, Greg. So just to bring you on-board, a little exercise. Tell us your sources. You know, also, that the worse everything really is screwed up, the more you’re going to have to fix.

    Highly recommend, though, that when the pandemic is over, you might want to spend a few years driving buses or trains or both. You’ll learn a lot about machinery, and people, and government that’ll serve you in good stead whatever you decide to do next.

    Mark Dublin

  6. One surprising piece of good news for Eastside transit is that the 250 (at least the Kirkland->Redmond segment) is actually showing some fairly decent ridership (by Eastside COVID standards). I’ve ridden it a few times since the start of June and there seems to be a fairly consistent 3-5 people on board. I would even go out on a limb and say that the 250 is actually doing better on ridership than the 255, something I never would have imagined possible a few months ago. The 255 is still extremely empty, and is not helped at all by Link’s 30-minute frequent.

    I’m going ask again – if enough drivers are coming back to restore most bus service, why can’t Link service be restored also? We can’t on the one hand, choose a bus network that funnels riders onto Link and, other hand, put Link at the bottom of the priority list for service hours.

    1. It’s different agencies with different overall assumptions and expectations making the decision. And ST mumbled something about biohazards and the number of security staff.

  7. The list of routes is out. Excerpts from the email:

    “Routes 21 Express, 74, 102, 111, 118, 119, 125, 208, 212, 217, 218, 221, 224, 226, 257, 301, 304, 311, 330, 773, 775, 907 and 930 will resume service. King County Water Taxi Vashon and West Seattle routes will resume their Winter schedule on Monday. Metro bus routes – including DART routes – that operate on weekends will resume full service on Saturdays and Sundays starting June 27 and 28, with the exception of routes 22, 47, 249 and 910 which remain suspended on weekends. Routes 63 and the 628 – Snoqualmie Community Shuttle – have been fully canceled.”

    “On Capitol Hill Route 11 is traveling via John St instead of Pine St in both directions between 15th Av and Broadway [around CHAZ]. Metro Trolley routes are motorized.”

    “Be aware of … coach capacity guidelines.”

    The coach capacity page ( says:

    “40′ buses: 12 riders. 60′ buses: 18 riders…. If a bus is below the optimal number, drivers will allow passengers to board at a stop even if the total number of new passengers means the coach’s limit will be exceeded. However, in such a case, passengers may make their own decision to wait for the next bus if they are able.
    Also, if the bus stops to allow passengers to exit, the driver will allow all intending customers to board even if doing so exceeds the optimal number. When a bus reaches or exceeds the optimal number, the driver will pass subsequent bus stops unless current passengers wish to exit. Drivers may show their bus is at capacity by switching the external destination sign from the “Essential Trips Only” reminder, to “Coach is Full, Sorry.” Bus drivers will stay in frequent contact with Metro’s Transit Control Center, alerting them if they reach capacity, if they have to pass up a stop where passengers wish to board, and when the number of passengers drops back below capacity.”

    “The optimal number of passengers in the ADA priority seating area is one, which will be counted as part of the total number. However, if the ADA seating area is empty, a customer needing that space will be allowed to board.”

    It tees me off slightly (and I can’t remember the modern word, something like “toast”) that the Vashon peak expresses will run while the most popular frequent routes are capped at 18 with no extra runs. The 132 is already reaching its cap sometimes. On routes with four buses per hour at 55 seats each, that normally accommodates 220 seated passengers or 400 with standees. With the cap it’s 64 people, a 70% decrease (or 80% with standees). When businesses open up, ridership as low as 50% might be plausable, but not 30%. Neither Metro nor the county or Seattle have even acknowledged this as a problem. I’m wondering how the hell I’d be able to get to work since my bus is normally full until 9:30am. The arguments of “Take Uber! Get a car! Get a bike! Get a horse!” don’t sound reasonable, and I don’t think Seattle will become a non-transit riding city like it was in the 80s, so the demand will be there.

    On another note, it implies the 47 weekdays will be running. I love that silly little low-volume route, A coverage trolley route… it sounds like an oxymoron. It does fill up peak hours, so I guess it’s in lieu of extra service on the 10, 11, or 49.

    1. It tees me off slightly (and I can’t remember the modern word, something like “toast”) that the Vashon peak expresses will run…

      I don’t think they are. The 118 and 119 are on-Vashon routes that go to and from the ferry terminal. Metro says that the 118X and 119X—the ones that actually go on the ferry—are still suspended. Bringing back the 118 and 119 restores transit service on Vashon but passengers will need to connect to and from the C Line via the ferry on foot.

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