King County Metro has some stickers to peel

The last time Metro has ran a “normal” level of service was March 22, 2020. Beginning March 23rd, King County Metro started operating reduced levels of service (not to be confused with reduced capacity, which Metro recently ended). These initial reductions, made with little process and planning, were adjusted over the next several months to match ridership and service needs. While the presence of financial trouble for Metro was foreseeable from the beginning, it was the service change of September 2020 (which we called Metro’s darkest day) when the focus of the reductions really shifted from lower ridership to lower revenues, and that is what drives the level of service to this day.

At the middle of 2020, Metro was pessimistic about the future, and was convinced that yet more service reductions would need to happen in 2021 and 2022, making an already bleak future for transit in the region even worse. Fortunately however, revenues have picked back up faster than expected, with additional resources provided by the American Rescue Plan. As a result, Metro has been slowly increasing service levels in 2021, and will provide a larger increase in service levels starting with the October 2nd, 2021 service change. These were covered in a recent King County Council Regional Transit Committee meeting, in which there was a presentation with an overview of the restored service (with a follow-up meeting planned for July 21st, to discuss further restorations in 2022). And in good news for those who have been patiently waiting for fully suspended service to return, this includes bringing back 22 of the 40 fully suspend routes (not including custom and school routes).

Maps of where restorations are being made (King County Metro). “September 2021” here should be October.

The routes coming back are below (bold = all day, italics = peak-only)

Fully restored routes

190, 217,237, 246, 249

Partially restored routes

9, 15, 17, 18, 22, 29, 113, 114, 121, 167, 177, 214, 216, 232, 268, 342, 630

Routes that remain fully suspended

19, 37, 47,116, 118X, 119X, 122, 123, 143, 154, 157, 178, 179, 197, 200, 219, 252, 931

Remaining fully suspended routes are either deleted or replaced as part of the North Link Connections project, and route 628 (Issaquah, Snoqualmie, North Bend community shuttle) is going from suspended to deleted (this is the only non-North Link restructure route to be singled out for deletion, rather than continued suspension). Lastly, route 177 is getting a routing change not specified in the presentation or documents, which seems to me likely to add a stop at Federal Way TC (previously the route came close to the TC but didn’t enter it, and served bus stops 1-2 blocks away). This would replace the supplemental service from Federal Way TC to Seattle normally provided on route 179 (which will remain suspended).

The presentation slides discuss how service is being restored broadly. Metro underwent a feedback period and equity analysis, which resulted in seven routes being added to the restoration proposal. On all-day routes, Metro is restoring 100% of non-peak service, reflecting a faster increase in demand for non-peak service than peak service. This essentially completes the restoration of midday and weekend service system wide, with the exception of routes 47 and 200 (which will remain suspended) and potentially other STBD routes (since Metro is counting baseline service provided by the county). For peak-only routes that are being restored, Metro is restoring at least 50% of trips, or 8 trips, whichever is greater (with obvious exceptions being peak-only routes that had fewer than 8 trips, such as route 237). This is in response to feedback indicating that peak service being restored should be usable by most people who would ride. Peak routes with very few trips are too limited for many people, even some who commute during the normal hours.

New peak service patterns

Slightly modified image from the presentation, showing nearly full peak and off-peak coverage despite continued suspensions

Of course, the restoration of suspended routes is nearly all peak-only routes, in part because all but 7 of the suspended routes are peak-only to begin with. Because many people depended on its network of peak routes prior to the pandemic, and the recovery is moving more quickly than most could predict, Metro expects an increase in peak demand. However, Metro is still budget constrained, and isn’t ready to restore all service at once. Because of this, metro is selectively restoring routes so as to serve the most people with as few resources as possible. They accomplish this by, when applicable, only restoring one (or sometimes multiple, but usually fewer than the total) route when multiple routes serve the same area or stops. For example, 257 and 252 are the same up to Kingsgate P&R, but serve different areas after that. Metro is keeping route 252 suspended, since 257 is already running, and users of the 252 tail have an easier transfer than route 257 users would if it were reversed. You see this pattern with the following groups of routes (with the * indicating a route that remains suspended):

  • C-Line, 116*, 118X, 119X
  • 19*, 24
  • 37*, 55, 56, 57
  • 101, 102, 143*
  • 121, 122*, 123*
  • 177, 178*, 179*, 577
  • 197*, 586
  • 216, 218, 219*, 554
  • 252*, 257

As a result, Metro is able to operate with nearly 100% of the coverage of the pre-pandemic system even with 18 routes still fully suspended.

Boosted service will remain

As undoubtedly a pleasant surprise to some, King County Metro will retain additional service added to some routes during COVID due to overcrowding. These routes get a partial offset of 2020’s service reductions, or in some cases, have more service than before the pandemic (the RapidRide A-Line, for example, in ridership-heavy south King County, sees 10-minute midday headways seven days per week, when previously it only got as good as 15 minutes outside of peak). Originally, this was necessary due to the harsh capacity limits in place at the time to enable social distancing. Increased service in these areas helped offset scenarios where people reliant on transit may have had to wait for a long time, being passed up by full buses. Now, with full capacity restored, these extra trips will serve to ensure that there is space for returning riders. Exactly how many people will be returning to transit is a big unknown, and with ORCA passport program seeing many renewals, there is the potential for a huge increase in peak demand. The extent of this increase, however, is hard to predict, with employers making different decisions in terms of hybrid work and offering flexible hours. Leaving this additional service in place for the time being will help ensure that Metro doesn’t run out of capacity when people start to try out transit again. While these additions weren’t made permanent, this may happen over time, and even more service may be added if ridership levels demand it.

49 Replies to “Most fully-suspended routes to come back in October”

  1. Thanks for this post, Alex, and your many others on the details of Metro service and its impacts!

    The elephant in the living room for revenue to support this upgrade is how public policies will impact sales tax and, to a lesser extent, fare revenue.

    On the sales tax front, it is one thing for politicians to proclaim that it is safe to go out and spend money. It is another to actually have the conditions in place to make it safe to do so. The proclamations are plentiful. The backbone to tell businesses they have to follow some minimal pandemic safety practices is largely missing, from the federal government, from the state, from the county, and also from the cities. When you go into a restaurant and see the food prep workers not wearing masks, you know the collective governments screwed this up.

    People avoiding businesses because of gross lack of food safety, and rampant masklessness among customers of unknown vaccination status, is surely not the way to bring in more sales tax revenue. But too many businesses are assuming that if the government does not require something, then there is no public health threat from not doing it.

    Lots of potential and former customers will beg to differ. It does not have to be a majority of customers, just enough to reduce business over what it would have been in a masked-up environment, to impact sales tax revenue. Yeah, some will choose to stay away from masked-up businesses for the most bizarre of reasons, but they are a distinct minority.

    I’ve already beaten to death the need for the county to step in and have its own mask mandate on public transit regardless of what the CDC says (and lots of groups are having fervent disagreements with whether the CDC’s guidance on masks makes any sense). Granted, fare revenue will have a long road back to where it was in 2019. But what is the point of restoring all this service if, just days or weeks before, Metro scares off most choice riders by removing the requirement to wear a mask on the bus?

    1. I suspect not that many riders will be scared off. In the buildings people are riding to, people aren’t wearing masks anymore, so if you’re not comfortable without masking on the bus, you’re probably not comfortable in the building anyway.

      There are also other potential riders who don’t ride the bus today because they don’t like masks and nowhere they go requires them anymore, except the bus. So, whatever riders Metro loses by dropped mask requirements can be made up elsewhere.

      1. Being around co-workers and able to social distance at one’s workplace is a different experience than being on a crowded bus with unmasked strangers, some of whom seem scarcely aware of the existence of COVID-19.

        Plenty of stores require masks. Sadly, those tend to not be the ones in the food service industry.

        Anyone avoiding the bus right now because they don’t have a mask is missing the box of blue masks at the front of each bus and on each light rail vehicle.

        Yes, there are people who boycott business that require masks. They are vastly outnumbered everywhere they hold their obnoxious breathe-ins, and insist their senses of entitlement to get other people sick outweighs the rights of the property owner to tell them they are trespassing. We should not be setting public policy based on that kind of behavior.

      2. I think Brent makes a good point: much of the objection to using transit to commute to work will come from co-workers in the same office space. Folks know their fellow office workers, feel they have some control over exposure, and can find out if anyone is not vaccinated. Plus businesses can require non-vaccinated persons not return to the office, and I suppose require masks at work. They can’t do that with public transit. Maybe very specific peak express buses to and from work with few stops is a good way to see if commuters can be enticed back onto transit, assuming they are willing to return to the office. Maybe even company specific shuttles.
        Litigation is a real concern for employers.

        The fact is Brent is correct that the risk is higher than initially stated when the vaccines came out. This became apparent when the Texas Democrats left the state for D.C., and several vaccinated folks who were routinely tested upon return tested positive. A report yesterday noted almost 5000 vaccinated persons have died from Covid-19 although the numbers don’t look like they account for co-morbidities, and that number is not unexpected out of 200 million vaccinated folks according to Dr. Fauci.

        It looks like vaccinated folks can be asymptomatic carriers. The vast majority of vaccinated folks who do get Covid-19 after vaccination have mild or no symptoms, which in some ways makes them more dangerous to unvaccinated folks, especially kids at home even though kids have a very low complication rate, and they do carry low viral loads. But who risks anything when it comes to their kids.

        I just don’t think many of us anticipated that so many citizens would object to getting a vaccine that is effective, free, and pretty much risk free. Even though over 99% of infections today are in unvaccinated folks, citizens still see very high infection rates and worry.

        You have two dynamics at work when it comes to returning to in-office work and peak hour commuter transit: 1. the risk is greater than thought, especially for unvaccinated persons, and folks see public transit as the highest risk of all because they have no control over it and with whom they must ride with; and 2. most workers don’t want to return to the office. I saw a poll the other day on the eastside about what was the best thing to come from the pandemic, and not having to commute to work was by far the number one choice.

        Over time, whether due to vaccinations or simply getting Covid-19, herd immunity will be somewhat achieved (and a booster may be required). The risk of public transit should subside but not go away, although and a lot of folks are buying cars. But I don’t think the desire to not commute to and from work will ever wane, and my guess is the permanent loss of commuter ridership will be greater than expected. Northgate Link and reopening the S. Bellevue Park and Ride to the 550 will be the tea leaves for the future.

      3. What about going into a grocery store? You don’t have control over who’s in the store with you. It’s inconsistent to treat transit as higher risk than a grocery store.

      4. WA Labor & Industries only allows vaccinated employees to not wear masks if the employer is verifying vaccination status. If the employer does not verify, then masks are required for all. Most states do not have this rule.

        My employer decided to not verify vaccination status, and then just decided to not open the office at all for now.

    2. Masks were always an imperfect stopgap solution. The only way out of this situation is to require vaccination.

      If you are vaccinated, you are now very safe from covid. You are more likely to die from being run over by a car on your way to the bus stop than from covid. If you can’t be vaccinated, then sorry, but you’d better stay home, until our politicians wise up and force everyone to get vaccinated.

      At this point I hope everyone who is refusing to get vaccinated dies a painful death. I have no sympathy for the very people that are prolonging this.

      1. With all due respect to the Two-Americas narrative, about 30% of the unvaccinated nationwide are too young to get vaccinated. In Washington State, it is closer to 35%. Those percentages will slip upward over time as we wait a few more months for vaccines to be approved for them.

        Let’s say another 10% are kids old enough, but with parents not informed enough to let them get vaccinated, people with genuine medical conditions that contra-indicate vaccination (which is why we don’t get to say “Go get vaccinated” but rather “Please talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated.”), people who have tested positive too recently, people who have no access to transportation to get to the vaccine (which, AFAIK, can’t be delivered via USPS to random members of the general populace the way a lot of other medicines can), people who are afraid to get the vaccine without being able to do so anonymously, and other miscellaneous situations.

        Can we at least put that two-Americas narrative on hold while waiting for most of the remaining 15%+ of the population that is ineligible to become eligible for vaccination? By then, the adult vaccines might even shift out of “emergency use authorization”.

        When making your decision about whether to wear a mask in public, know that you cannot easily know if you are asymptomatically spreading the virus without getting tested (and even the tests are not 100% accurate), realize that the other person you could infect by not wearing a mask might have young kids at home, and don’t even try to guess whether you want that person off the voter rolls by the next election. Those are all known unknowns.

        The ability of masks to dramatically reduce the possibility that you could infect someone else, as well as dramatically reduce the possibility someone will infect you (which makes it really, really unlikely when compounded with the protection of your vaccine) is a known known.

        Both the vaccine and masks are not entirely your-body-your-choice. They are also everyone-else’s-health-your-choice.

      2. “Masks were always an imperfect stopgap solution.”

        They’re incredibly effective. They stopped not only most covid infections but also most flu infections last year.

        “If you are vaccinated, you are now very safe from covid”

        Breakthrough cases are increasing, and emerging or future variations may be vaccine resistant. The percent of breakthrough cases is small now but it may be increasing or not all cases are getting into the stats. There hasn’t been enough time to know for sure, and three things are coming: school openings, office openings, and the full effect of spikes in low-vaccination states and counties spreading to the rest of the country. Los Angeles has a mask mandate again. Three months ago it was believed that breakthrough infections rarely occurred, that it took 15 minutes in close proximity for the virus to have a good change of spreading, and that vaccinated people can’t infect unvaccinated people, but the delta variant and more evidence over time have upended this.

        Breakthrough cases are usually mild. Society has forgotten what the public health officials said that the beginning: the vaccines almost completely prevent deaths and serious illnesses, but that doesn’t mean they eliminate infections and mild illnesses to the same degree. In that sense they’re like the flu vaccine: they hinder infections and make them less severe, but people still get the flu. In time we may expect covid to become a long-term mild illness for the vaccinated, and it’s not worth wearing masks to drive it down further. But we’re still in the middle stages of the pandemic and things are changing, so let’s wait another year before making long-term assessments.

        In the meantime I’m still wearing my mask on buses and in stores and restaurants, and emphasizing outdoor hobbies and non-large gatherings. I’m gradually relaxing it such as when taking down the trash or getting the mail. And I like to wait until a month after other people take off their masks and we see whether a spike occurs. I also have elderly relatives I don’t want to pass it to. I don’t wear masks around them since we’re all vaccinated, but I don’t want to be a conduit for a breakthrough case.

      3. According to The NY Times this is one of the worst summer cold seasons — both for catching the cold virus and the severity of symptoms — because our immune systems have not been going through “their daily workout” due to masks and social distancing.

        Now that folks are not wearing masks and are socializing they are exposed to the usual viruses our immune systems usually fight off.

        This could mean a tough flu season this winter.

      4. Gee, maybe we shouldn’t stop using masks then

        Maybe we should care about people besides ourselves as a rule rather than an exception

      5. I saw that article this morning although I can’t find it now. It said there’s some flu with a 3-letter name that’s higher than usual now because people weren’t exposed to it last year and little children never were. So there are both advantages and disadvantages of avoiding viruses. It ended saying this winter’s worst-case scenario would be if covid, the flu, and this three-letter flu are all circulating highly at once.

      6. Thanks, Mike. R.S.V. isn’t “a flu”, but it can be nasty for young children th first time they contract it. It was called “the croup” when I was a little boy; my mom had an old blue electric teapot she used as a vaporizer. It shorted out and caused a shower of sparks once. Freak out!!!!

      7. I’d never heard of RSV or the croup before this article. Maybe I know it under a different name.

  2. On all-day routes, Metro is restoring 100% of non-peak service, reflecting a faster increase in demand for non-peak service than peak service.

    Excellent. Just to clarify, I’ve been looking at the first chart in this excellent article published back in September: https://seattletransitblog.com/2020/09/01/two-axes-to-swing-for-metro-in-september/. It shows, for example, that the RapidRide C went from 12 minutes weekend midday frequency, to 12-15. If I read this right, that will be reversed. In fact, everything other than that first column (M-F Peak) will be reversed. The 5 will go back to running every 15 minutes in the evening, instead of every 20 minutes. The 8 will go back to running every 12 minutes in the middle of the day, instead of 15, and so on.

    At the same time, some routes get a boost in their non-peak service. Complicating matters, we also have a major restructure in the north end, and it isn’t clear to me what frequency those routes will have. Before the pandemic, the 65 and 67 ran every 10 minutes midday. But according to the restructure proposal (https://drive.google.com/file/d/15KIWmlXqbe0zCSch9AZxCkyQ_AFlFBlH/view) it will degrade to every 12. Similarly, weekend service is supposed to get worse. I’m not sure if the proposal reflects cuts that were supposed to happen (and now aren’t) or what.

    You may not know the answers to these questions, but when you do, I think an updated chart like the one published earlier is very helpful.

    1. “Restoration” refers only to covid reductions. There are also TBD reductions, because the TBD renewal in 2020 was at a lower rate than the previous one. The March 2021 and October 2021 service levels reflect the TBD-supplemented service hours, and the covid reductions are subtracted from that.

      The 11 was 15 minutes weekday and Saturday daytime; it’s now 20-minute weekdays and 30-minute Saturdays. It’s not in the list to restore. The 67’s 10-minute frequency was funded by the TBD, which was reduced in the renewal. The 47 was deleted by Metro in 2014 if I remember and picked up by the TBD in 2016, but it’s not in the current TBD. There was a report that the city is considering a non-TBD maneuver to save it (like how it saved the night owls in 2014 before the TBD existed), but I haven’t heard anything final about that. The fact that Metro is keeping it suspended rather than deleted may mean negotiations are ongoing.

      If the economy is good and baseline and TBD revenues are higher than expected, then we’d get additional service beyond these. That would fill in some of the gaps between the 2019 and 2020 TBDs.

    2. As far as I know, this seems right. The PDF about the 65 and 67 probably isn’t correct anymore because that was timestamped August 2020, probably when Metro was still thinking it would need to cut more service in 2021 and 2022.

      But for anything in Seattle, the picture is complicated by the STBD, which is separate in a lot of ways. I don’t remember if the 10-minute 65 and 67 relied on STBD funding.

    3. The first couple U-Link restructure proposals had 10-minute service on the 67. Then the council restored the 71 and added some service to the 73, and the hours came out of the 67. So U-Link launched with 15-minute service instead of 10 minutes on the 67/75. I think the 45 had something similar. Several months later, when revenues came in higher than expected and the TBD was in full force, it raised the 67/65 to 10-minute service like it originally wanted. That lasted until the 2020 covid reductions and the TBD reduction.

  3. Two non-returning routes that ought never return are 122 and 157. But the unique corridors they serve ought, nevertheless, to get service again.

    For route 122, a connection to Tukwila International Blvd Station, instead of Burien TC and expressing downtown, is long overdue.

    For route 157, a connection to Tukwila Sounder Station ought to suffice, and then add more trips to serve more Sounder runs. But the route, freed up from having to go downtown, could then head on over to Southcenter and a swath of the businesses in that sprawling shopping-plex.

    1. I’d send the 122 to Burien TC and end it there. The 156 goes to SeaTac, and the 635 goes to Angle Lake, and sending it to TIBS would be really redundant. Burien would enable new connections, and it will probably have frequent peak express service to Seattle again starting in October. However, the 121/2/3 are really basically Burien TC to Seattle buses, just with tails out to serve a few more people. Tails are cheap by comparison once you commit to serving a major stop with a peak express route. The operator just has to drive a little farther, and it helps more people get all the way to Seattle. I wouldn’t add more trips just to add the 122 tail, but if there are going to be a lot of buses already and the tails on their own don’t justify higher frequency individually, then that seems like a good time to branch out. People won’t get frequent service on their individual tail, but when you have a bus from your house directly to Seattle, frequency also probably doesn’t matter as much since it’s already so easy.

      The problem with the 157 is that it’s *only* tail, plus the expensive part, but no major stop or transit center (except the P&R, which has a faster alternative already so it doesn’t count). It doesn’t have a lot of ridership, doesn’t connect any transit centers, and had very few trips making it hard to use. It does serve some unique areas though, so it’s a shame that all they got was a 7 trip per day peak express route, and now nothing. I’ve argued for a Link connector here (since the I-5 routing is so close), but a Sounder connector would work fine as well (at least during peak). I will say that Sounder connectors make a ton of sense and should be more widespread, because it’s like an express to Seattle without the expensive part. Depending on the length of the route, you could use one or two buses, and give an area essentially a peak express to Seattle every 20 minutes. Sounder connectors can get people to Bellevue and Redmond more easily too if the 567 ever comes back. 566 will do but the 567 is designed to get bus loads of people (and in normal times, these buses fill up) from Bellevue to the trains, and connect(ed) with every Sounder trip.

      1. Sending route 122 to Burien is an exercise in re-inventing the flat tire. That’s what was done before, and the local tail had abysmal ridership. Going on an express bus along Highways 509 and 99 was a little faster on the bus before all of West Seattle had to start going through South Park to escape the peninsula and head north.

        Route 122-to-TIBS might be a significant improvement over route 156 for those who live along that ziggy-zaggy mess of a route. A restructure that lets route 635 cover neighborhoods south of Angle Lake Station and lets route 122 carry the load for the densest most-apartmented streets west of 1st Ave S, north of 200th, and south of TIBS might provide cover to euthanize the segment of route 156 west of Pacific Highway.

  4. Look at those equity-priority areas in Lake City, Pinehurst, and Northgate in page 21 of the presentation. That may keep Metro from shifting hours out of notheast Seattle further. (Although it seems it didn’t really shift the 41’s hours to South King County like the council was considering, it just let those hours die.)

  5. What about 535? Also, can service be restored now. Iwork for a large company in Downtown Bellevue and it is requiring everyonw back in office on August 2nd. Im sure other employers are making similar requirements.

    1. The 535 is running now, hourly weekdays and Saturdays, half-hourly in the peak direction. Somebody posted a list of ST Express’s October’s service levels but it’s buried in a comment thread some weeks back and it’s hard to find future service plans on ST’s website. You can email ST and ask, and tell them about your company’s plans.

      1. From Sound Transit’s service change page:

        “560 – West Seattle to SeaTac to Bellevue: Adjusting scheduled travel times to reflect current traffic levels in Downtown Seattle.”

        Huh? The 560 doesn’t go through downtown Seattle. Why does the traffic level in downtown Seattle have anything to do with it.

      2. Also, I don’t see anything about the 567 – I hope it’s going to be coming back sometime, and they’ll keep an eye on the 566 load to maybe bring it back sooner (say, after Microsoft brings a lot of people back to the office in September)?

      3. “The 535 is running now, hourly weekdays and Saturdays, half-hourly in the peak direction”

        You would think a corridor that’s supposed to be getting 15-minute service all day, 7-days/week with STRIDE could at least get better than hourly all-day service with a regular numbered bus in the interim. Especially on Sundays, when the current service doesn’t even run at all.

        The physical improvements from STRIDE are nice, but for non-rush-hour travelers, the biggest improvement by far is not the new stations or interchanges, but simply having a bus that runs more often (and runs at all on Sundays). This is something that Sound Transit could do today.

      4. That has long been ST and Metro’s modus operandi, “Just wait a while more, Link or RapidRide will solve everything.” But then the waiting turns into ten or twenty years, and all pleas for relief are ignored. The 550 is still half-hourly Sundays and after 7pm. “Just wait for Link.”

      5. “560 – West Seattle to SeaTac to Bellevue: Adjusting scheduled travel times to reflect current traffic levels in Downtown Seattle.”

        That may be accidentally copied from the other routes. The actual traffic may be in southern West Seattle due to the bridge closure. Brent said cars are stampeding through South Park, so maybe they’re clogging up Westwood Village too. Do we have a reporter on the scene to confirm traffic levels in Westwood Village and White Center?

  6. While I am not a fan of peak-direction-only bus routes during normal times, during the pandemic, these will probably be much safer than the local milk runs, and simultaneously make the milk runs safer via silo-ing different groups of riders into separate routes. They’ll bring back choice riders, and maskfulness will be closer to 100%.

    1. I get what you’re saying. But you’re essentially making a classist argument:

      “Middle class people are more likely to wear their masks and less likely to be infected than poor people. Therefore, to get middle class people to feel safe on the bus, we must protect them from poor people. Since only middle class people ride the peak only express routes, running them is a good way to do that.”

      I don’t really buy that line of thought. Being poor does not make you more dangerous to be around or less likely to wear a mask. Nor is there anything to stop poor people from riding the single direction express routes, anyway, nor should there be. This argument is pure classism, plain and simple.

    2. My experience riding transit for the past 14 months is that the idea homeless people and people suffering from mental illness have different attitudes towards mask-wearing is a myth. In many cases, it’s not that they don’t want to wear masks, but that they don’t have masks to begin with. The single event that improved mask-wearing on Metro was adding mask dispensers on all buses. Sure, there’s still some that don’t wear them or wear them properly, but I’ve seen plenty of seemingly-affluent people that have the same problem.

      At the same time, transit systems I’ve ridden on that haven’t added mask dispensers (Community Transit, for one) still have a pretty big problem with people going without masks. The fact is, though, the mask mandate is unfunded unless masks are freely available, and the only way to keep public transit public in the face of that mask mandate is to make them available. The only way I could support a continuing mask mandate on transit would be for the federal government to continue providing funding for mask purchases by the transit agencies.

      1. Masks are extremely cheap and the overhead of installing the dispensers is, at this point, a sunk cost. Even after mask mandates go away, I still support Metro continuing to restock them for those that feel more comfortable wearing one.

        I personally have used the Metro masks on occasion. They’re a lot less comfortable than my own, but sometimes, I forget and don’t realize it until I get to the bus stop, and going back for it would cause me to miss the bus and be stuck waiting another half hour. So, I take one of theirs and try not to forget mine next time.

      2. Also worth noting – the frequency of the CT buses is even worse than Metro. Over there, you miss the bus to go back home and retrieve your mask, you could be stuck waiting for nearly an hour. Or course, people will violate the mask rule to avoid that. There was one point, over on Caltrain, when I came very close to running on the train without paying, as letting the train go by while fiddling with the ticket machines would cost me an hour. As it happened, the machine finally printed my ticket just as the train approached, but if push came to shove, I was going to do it. It’s the same thing with CT and masks. When the frequency stinks, people will do what they have to do to avoid missing the bus and being stuck with a 58 minute wait – even if it makes them a scufflaw.

      3. I agree that masks are cheap, but it seems Metro easily could be spending thousands of dollars a day on them. That’s not much for an agency the size of Metro, but it’s not like they have extra money just lying around. Given that Metro doesn’t have enough money for all of the service they want to provide, money they spend on masks is money they can’t put into actual transit. If the CDC thinks masks are important on transit, the federal government should provide the funding to make sure everyone who wants to ride transit has access to them.

        As for CT, my experiences have been on the 512 and 115/116 on weekdays, both of which had 15-minute or better headways. It might very well be worse on the less frequent corridors, but it’s still a problem on the frequent routes.

      4. Metro spends money on advertising. Just imprint the Metro logo on the masks and write it off on that budget. Or, get sponsors that want their name in public view. Polyclinic sent me a really nice cloth mask in an advertising flyer. I have no reason to use Polyclinic but I’m advertising for them on a daily basis. Especially effective last winter when I was doing ski patrol!

      5. That’s a great idea, Bernie. I’d actually love a Metro/Sound Transit/STB-branded reusable mask…

      6. I’ve never seen anybody take a mask out of the dispenser in the dozens of trips I’ve taken. Maybe once or twice. Almost everybody already have masks. A few people who should get one get on in back, and I’m not sure if they realize there’s a dispenser in front.

      7. I’ve seen the dispensers get used basically every trip we’ve taken since they were installed. I’ve also seen drivers refuse to let someone board when they don’t have a mask and the dispenser is empty. On one level I appreciate it, but at the end of the day, it’s another barrier to the public actually using public transit. Unlike fares (which directly help keep the service running) and something like clothes (seen as generally socially-necessary for centuries, with some obvious exceptions), masks are neither necessary to keep transit running, nor are permanent additions to the social compact.

      8. It may be different on different routes, as many behavior/fare issues are. I frequently ride the 10, 11, 49, C, 131, 132, 550, and Link; and occasionally ride the 7, 40, 50, D, E, and SLU streetcar; so that’s what I see.

  7. Today on a Link train I noticed that the redundant word “station” was no longer being used in the voice announcements or on the in-train LCD screen. This was on one of the 1st-generation Link trains. Good riddance!

    1. Funnily enough, I was on Link today too and noticed the same thing. While I have little problem with omitting it from the displays, I am very deeply ruing its removal from the announcements.

      It also reminded me that the whole University stations mess didn’t get conclusively resolved.

    2. Yes, I’ve seen that on three trains now. On one train I also heard a new male voice, and it wasn’t the newest generation of train with light strips at the doors. Good riddance to the word “Station” on the displays. Now it just says “ENTERING CAPITOL HILL DOORS LEFT”:. The next thing is to get rid of the word “Entering”, especially when the train has finished entering and is now loading and departing. However, I do miss the word “Station” in the audio announcement a little bit. It will take some time to get used to “Now entering Capitol Hill” instead of “Now entering Capitol Hill Station”.

      1. Yes. To be completely accurate, the announcement “Now entering Capitol Hill.” should occur when the train passes under I-5 northbound and under Boyer southbound……

        /snark

  8. I was just driving up Avondale Road today, noticing the taped up bus stop signs for route 931, then checked this post and noticed that route 931 is *not* coming back this October. Granted, ridership on it is probably not particularly high, but from a coverage standpoint, this route seems important to run, as it is literally the only bus for miles around, and if anyone’s car breaks down over there, they have no alternative.

    Also, if I recall, the old schedule was better than most peak only routes, running bidirectional and with late morning/mid afternoon trips covering a good chunk of the midday (at least Monday-Friday).

    1. After March 2020, Route 931 was expected to cover North Creek east of new Route 230, in addition to Bear Creek, Cottage Lake, and Woodinville High.

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