On King County Metro, starting today, transit capacity is restored to 100%. Pierce Transit, Community Transit, Everett Transit, Kitsap Transit, and Washington State Ferries have restored capacity a few days earlier on July 1. For Sound Transit Link Light Rail and ST Express routes operated by Metro, capacity is restored today, and other ST service (including Tacoma Link and Sounder) restored full capacity on July 1st. This change came quickly after governor Jay Inslee formally reopened the state on June 30th as planned, lifting most state-wide restrictions (though not affecting public transportation). Though a welcome change, this does not affect the mask mandate. Masks are still required to be worn on all public transportation services.
When the capacity restrictions were first implemented in April 2020, it was one of the most important tools we had at the time to slow the spread of the pandemic. But limiting capacity to 18 passengers for 60 foot buses and just 12 passengers for 40 foot buses made public transit harder to use due to the risk of being passed by full buses, and caused agencies to insist that people limit transit to essential trips only. As Metro reduced service in 2020, it had adapted the reductions to preserve more service in higher-ridership areas like S. King County (even adding service on the RapidRide A-Line), but even still it was very common to see buses with “BUS FULL” on the sign even where service was most preserved.
As vaccinations opened up to everyone in April, Metro opened up capacity to 40%. This was nearly double what the original capacity limits were, and meant that riders didn’t need to worry as much about the bus passing them up. For riders who sat out transit during the pandemic, this meant that returning to transit was less likely to leave more essential riders waiting for the next bus. But this was still far from normal, and relied on many fewer people taking transit than before the pandemic. With capacity opened back up, it’s even easier to leave the car at home and rest assured that essentially everyone who wants to take transit can. Just be sure to mask up on the bus, and the more people we can get vaccinated, the better.