Metro sent an email alert today: “After two Metro operators identified a manufacturing issue in the steering system in some vehicles, Metro proactively removed 126 buses from service out of its 1,500-vehicle fleet. The identified problem did not lead to any accidents or injuries. Metro inspected all its buses to ensure all vehicles in service continue to perform safely and within specifications. The defect does not extend to all New Flyer buses and many remain in service.”

Metro recommends checking whether your trip is affected:

  • Text your bus stop number to 62550.
  • Sign up for text or email Transit Alerts.
  • Follow Twitter @kcmetroalerts.
  • Use Metro’s Trip Planner, One Bus Away, Google Maps, Bing Maps, etc.
  • Call Metro Customer Service at 206-553-3000 weekdays between 6am and 6pm.

We’ve been on a roller coaster of transit expansions and contractions almost every year for a decade:

In 2012 the Ride Free Area in downtown Seattle ended due to cost pressure from the 2008 recession.

In 2014 Metro had major cuts and laid off most of its non-operations staff as a 2-year recession tax surcharge expired.

Sometime around then Rapid Ride C, D and E opened, and Link went from 8-minute to 6-minute peak frequency.

In 2015 the economic recovery allowed the next three rounds of cuts to be canceled.

In 2016 University Link opened, ST3 passed, and the Seattle Transit Benefit District started funding additional Metro service in Seattle, starting with splitting the C and D and extending the C to South Lake Union.

In 2019 buses were kicked out of the downtown tunnel.

In 2020, COVID and lockdowns led to another major round of cuts, capping bus capacity at 25%, limiting transit to “Essential Trips Only”, half-hourly frequency on Link, and a reduced renewal of Seattle’s Transit Benefit District.

In 2021 most of the all-day service recovered but is still lower than 2019 levels, and Northgate Link opened. Metro and ST Express planned increases and has the money for them but new problem arose: a driver shortage prevents them from expanding or running all their intended service. Link and RapidRide expansions were delayed by the concrete strike, and Link by track plinths in the Eastside and other factors.

It feels like we’ve been a transit recession since 2020 with no end in sight. And now defective buses have caused even more cancellations. I just wish we could get closer to 2019 levels and at least remain stable there.

To top it off, Metro bus reliability is lower than in 2021. (Urbanist) The first 24,750 additional service hours Metro gets will have to go to “the 40 routes where 20% or more of trips are running late” before it can add additional frequency or coverage. This also feels like déjà vu since it happened before in the past fifteen years: Metro had to add buses just to maintain reliability amidst worsening traffic congestion before it could add frequency.

On-topic comments for this article are trip cancellations, transit reliability, and the roller coaster of expansions and contractions. Please keep current cancellations in separate threads from longer-term issues so that people can find urgent information quickly.

76 Replies to “Metro Cancellations”

    1. From what was mentioned over on the Northwest Bus Fans group, it was the newest XDE60 coaches (6200s and 8200s).

  1. In the long run, as labor becomes more expensive, transit needs to become less labor intensive in order to remain viable. After all, arguably the biggest reason for the private car’s dominance of transportation is that, except in very unusual cases (e.g. Uber/Lyft), there is paid labor is limited only to vehicle production and maintenance, with each trip requiring no labor at all. No labor means cheap marginal costs and 24×7 availability (there is higher energy costs, but, compared to paid labor, fuel is cheap).

    Currently, the only way we know of to make transit less labor intensive is to build larger and larger vehicles to maximize the number of people that can move under one driver. That scales well when huge numbers of people are all riding the same route at the same time, but doesn’t work when demand is more dispersed, and service needs to be spread over a bunch of different routes.

    Ultimately, if we don’t want transit to be forever plagued by driver shortages, the buses are going to have to be capable of running driverless.

    1. Asdf2, it won’t be long after buses are driverless that cars, especially fleet cars like Uber, will become driverless. So any cost advantage will disappear.

      People own cars at least in this region because most need to. I think cost is a minor issue (except for artificially high prices for parking) when someone chooses to drive over transit. I think safety is first, then door to door service, time of trip, convenience. These are the same reasons folks choose to use Uber/Lyft despite the higher costs of Uber/Lyft over public transit, at least for one rider.

      I believe driverless technology will benefit public transit because it will look much more like Uber/Lyft due to the lower costs without a driver. I think major car/rental companies and ride sharing app companies will form fleets of cars folks will lease with a per trip charge for most urban trips. This model will replace buses, and ideally transit agencies would contract with the private carriers to subsidize the ride share for poorer folks.

      At the same time I think such a system could be the solution for first/last mile access to Link. No longer will a rider need to walk to and wait for a bus to get to Link, or find a park and ride stall, and the same service will be available at their destination if necessary. Like Orca the light rail fare and fair for the driverless shared ride could be split. In this situation Link would be a good choice for longer routes like Everett to Seattle or SeaTac, while Link would still be popular along its core Northgate to Sodo route due to population density.

      I think the most transformational thing for public transit in the future is having transit come to the rider rather than the other way around, which has always been public transit’s Achilles heel compared to a car of Uber. For that public transit needs to be much smaller rather than larger like a bus. Jeff Speck won’t be thrilled, but his existential issue these days is how to revitalize downtown urban cores with the loss of the suburban work commuter, although folks are studying this issue.


      1. Struggling to see how the content of this comment (driverless low-capacity transportation) is related to either:
        a) trip cancellations
        b) transit reliability
        c) the roller coaster of expansions and contractions

      2. Asdf2, it won’t be long after buses are driverless that cars, especially fleet cars like Uber, will become driverless. So any cost advantage will disappear.

        No, you have it backwards. People who tout driverless micro-transit often forget that if the taxicab is driverless, the bus is too. Once you do a real apples to apples test, the bus is much cheaper to operate.

        Look at the costs: Now assume there is no driver cost. You still have distance based costs as well as fleet based costs. Imagine it is rush hour, and every vehicle in your fleet is in use. You have thousands of cars, going every which way, each carrying their own riders. Or, you have a few dozen buses, carrying the same number of people, on predictable, fixed routes. The latter is much cheaper.

        It is tempting to think that the taxi-cab model is much better for the rider, but that depends. If it isn’t busy, it is fine. But when things get crowded, it is a different matter. Sometimes the wait is enormous, as is the cost. With a regulated system, the cost is always the same. But with the Uber/Lyft model, a shortage means that drivers can charge a fortune.

        Then there is the space that cars take up. Buses take up less space per person than cars. So much so that it is common in various places to have HOV or transit lanes. If both transit and taxicabs become cheaper to operate, then this should increase, not decrease. Taxicab regulations first came about because there were simply too many of them in downtown areas. An unregulated market lead to terrible traffic. Uber/Lyft owes a lot of its success on the ability to skirt those regulations. That doesn’t mean that municipalities aren’t dealing with it, one way or another.

        Ultimately, the advantages of transit will continue to exist, and become more economical. Transit costs scale in a positive direction, while taxicabs don’t. Likewise, transit uses less space to operate*. Again, this scales. What this means is that if costs go down (which they would with driverless buses) then more people take transit, which in turn becomes more efficient. It is the opposite with taxicabs. Operation costs scale to a very minor degree, while the geometric challenges actually get worse.


      3. Ross, the difference is the number of drivers per rider for Uber vs. public transit for the same number of riders, which is why public buses — especially large and full buses — have a cost advantage today. Every Uber car has a driver for 1-4 passengers. So if Uber goes driverless the number of fewer drivers needed for the number of riders is tenfold compared to a bus.

        At the same time eliminating the driver should allow public transit agencies to run smaller buses/shuttles more frequently. I think post pandemic the articulated bus every 30 minutes model is not a very good model.

        I agree congestion can make a difference, except Uber can use HOV lanes, and congestion is pretty mild today and likely in the future absent large population increases. It will also be interesting to see what kind of capacity increase driverless technology provides for our existing roads. Congestion rarely makes up for door-to-door service and the safety advantages, and time of trip, although the cost is higher for Uber today.

        I have heard the cars don’t scale argument many times, and pre-pandemic that was true on some freeways during peak hours. Hence WFH. I don’t think the average customer considers that argument when deciding which mode to use. I also think driverless cars/Uber will result in fewer cars being privately owned.

        Your point is that driverless buses will cost less to run (if the unions consent) so either fares will go down or maybe frequency will increase with the additional savings. Just like today, the cost differential between driverless public transit and driverless private transit like Uber will be a factor, but at some point as both costs go down and the differential gets narrower (and today with more than one rider on an urban route Uber is the same cost as the bus) the cost factor will become less of a factor.

        Look, I don’t know the future. I know the present and Uber/Lyft are wildly popular, (and so is just driving your own car), but too costly for poor citizens and too costly for longer trips if alone. I think Link will do well in urban areas for the reasons you mention (congestion) but Uber cuts into Link in the urban core as well because the cost differential is low, and maybe the occasional long route like Lynnwood to the airport (if very slow), but time will tell if the archaic system of large buses running at less and less frequency because of budgets is the future of transit.

        For whatever reasons today, despite the additional costs over public transit for owning a car or taking Uber a very large percentage of citizens accept that additional cost for the advantages they see. In the future local governments will need to study the total costs for the traditional public transit system to a subsidized system of private transit like driverless Uber. I suppose at worse local governments could allow transit riders to choose, even if that rider had to pay a bit more for private Uber transit. Allow the poorer rider a certain subsidy for public or private transit depending on income and let them choose.

        In any case I think this will be one of the transformational issues over the next decade, and I hope governments don’t get left behind by clinging to the past.

      4. At the same time eliminating the driver should allow public transit agencies to run smaller buses/shuttles more frequently.

        Absolutely. And as frequency increases, so does ridership. This is another way transit scales.

        As for the size of the vehicles, I expect some smaller buses to be used on less popular routes. Definitely. There are a lot of places where I could see vehicles as small as minivans.

        But if they are running an articulated bus now, they will likely run it in the future. The reason there are big vehicles is because they are sometimes full. Again, Jarrett Walker has written about this: As he put it, Run the biggest bus you will ever need. This means that a bus may be almost empty in the middle of the day, but was full during rush hour.

        And if the bus is full and large, it stands to reason that it is running frequently. So while it might run infrequently and be largely empty the rest of the day, it will be frequent during peak.

        If the vehicles are driverless, then it might make sense to run smaller vehicles, just more of them. But in this case, this means basically doubling the number of buses, and doubling the number of miles on the buses. I doubt it is cheaper. It gets back to the taxicab thing. Ultimately, it is just cheaper to run more efficiently, even if you don’t have a driver.

        We see that with SkyTrain. There are no drivers. The farebox recovery is quite good … for North America. There are various systems in Europe and Asia that do much better, even though they have drivers, simply because they are more efficient. They pick up way more riders per mile. SkyTrain does really well, but it is nothing like, say, the London Underground.

        My point being that drivers are a huge cost, but they aren’t the only cost. I’ve rented my share of cars, and it isn’t cheap, even though I’m asked to do all the driving. Even if you rent them by the hour, it isn’t cheap.

        But we could ignore all that, sure. America could ignore the obvious cost advantages of a good transit system, and live in a dystopian future where we live out a tragedy of the commons while embracing the Musk-inspired marketplace as the solution instead of the source of the problem. Yep — I could see that.

    2. At least in this case, the trip cancellations appear related to problems with the vehicles, not driver shortages. This is something we will have to deal with regardless of whether vehicles are driverless or not.

    3. Autocars are still trying to prove their safety. The first driverless fleets are likely to be a few limited corridors, and maybe limited to 10-20 mph. I can’t see all Metro streets being safe for driverless buses anytime soon. It might start with the RapidRide lines, but even that would be a major project. As if Metro has money to buy driverless buses. It’s about to replace its entire fleet with electric buses for environmental reasons, because that’s a county and state priority, and I haven’t heard that those will be driverless. So if random streets like 108th in Kirkland, 116th in Bellevue, and Bel-Red Road aren’t safe for driverless buses, there won’t be any local bus service between Bellevue and Kirkland?

      1. Driverless transit will (eventually) be a game-changer for transit operations. Whether or not the bus has a driver or not doesn’t the operator’s liability in the event of a crash, so as soon as the driver’s unions let operators go driverless, it’s done.

        Meanwhile, driverless SOVs will forever be a nightmare of legal liability, and I think that’s why we’re not seeing much movement on the regulatory front in the USA to allow driverless vehicles on public roads. I assume that all the major auto manufacturers would love to be able to sell a driverless car, but want the NTSB to release them of liability if their car causes any damage or injury. I’d be willing to bet the NTSB has told Tesla and the like that the moment they take the steering wheel off the dash, they’d be liable for any damage their self-driving car causes – and that’s a crazy level of financial liability for any manufacturer to take on.

        May the fusion-powered self-driving car forever be 10 years away. We certainly have better things to do to make transit better today than wait for some fantastical tech to materialize tomorrow.

    4. I see that autonomous buses will be easier to implement than cars will. I see the technology issue as speed.

      There are already several towns using one of a few autonomous shuttle vehicle types today. The key to their safety is speed. A vehicle moving at 15-20 mph like these demonstration vehicles do won’t be prone to the dangers of a 60 mph vehicle.

      When the technology reaches safe operations at 25 or 30 mph, I expect the call for autonomous transit to be taken much more seriously. It would be great for the last mile transit needs to and from rail stations. That’s especially true inside Seattle, as the speed limit is mostly 25 mph.

      While fast autonomous cars are scary and probably many years away , a slower moving feeder system seems easily attainable.

      1. I think driverless technology will be one of the biggest labor issues over the next decade. The number one job for males in the U.S. with a HS degree is some kind of driving job, and participation in the work force by this group is at historic lows (hence the labor shortage), and IMO contributing to some of the extreme political ideology among this group. The rail strike and earlier truck strikes showed this segment, if organized, can bring the economy to a stall. Just look at the opposition to airlines wanting to go to one pilot even though much of the flight is automated.

        I agree with Al that driverless technology will benefit shared shuttles and buses first, especially with any kind of segregated fixed route. (Which would suggest Link should be the first to go to driverless). BAT lanes or HOV lanes would be the prime areas to experiment, but really it is the technology for the grid that is the big issue. Someone will have to oversee all those driverless cars zooming around, and probably use some kind of mileage/use tax to make up the lost gas tax and add some market priced control over the number of cars on the road. Google and Apple have the maps, and Uber and Tesla some of the grid technology already.

        Due to labor contracts and politics it will likely be private shuttles that adopt the technology first, along very specific and segregated routes (Bellevue has plans for this to bring Link riders to Bellevue Way). The key about eliminating the cost of the driver is it allows a lot more frequency without additional cost, which to follow up Nathan’s point should result in more frequent service but in smaller vehicles. We just won’t need articulated buses with increased frequency.

        Public transit has to be careful labor and politics and just the slowness of public decision making doesn’t leave it behind when this technology comes out, because the winners and losers will be determined pretty quickly. Just look how quickly Uber killed the taxi monopolies.

        If Uber/Lyft with partners like Ford and Avis suddenly have low-cost driverless fleets zooming around, get those apps on people’s phones, get people signed up for monthly leases, and get more sophisticated ride share apps for longer trips, while Metro or ST are still using drivers and the differential in cost for public transit shrinks, public transit as we know it might change with governments instead choosing to subsidize driverless Uber/Lyft for poor citizens just like they do with ORCA.

        I also think that poor citizens might demand door to door subsidized driverless Uber-like service rather than walking to and waiting for a bus, not exactly the vision Jeff Speck had although I agree with Speck that Uber is contrary to urbanism. Uber is just better transit if you can afford it.

        Driverless cars will take longer because there likely will have to be a phasing in in which some lanes (like HOV lanes) are restricted to driverless as the system gets built out. At some point there will have to be some kind of master oversight of the road grid directing and controlling driverless cars. The key for public transit will be which is cheaper: continuing with the old model of public transit with the first/last mile issues and safety concerns, or simply subsidizing ride shares for poor citizens so finally rich and poor have the same transportation.

        My guess is many governments will get out of the expensive and cumbersome public transit system like we see today (except for longer distance rail through congested areas) and instead choose to subsidize (based on taxes) ride share for poorer citizens, especially with ride sharing that will reduce the cost per trip. Then you have very frequent transit in small vehicles (cars and vans) for everyone that is door to door.

      2. The number one job for males in the U.S. with a HS degree is some kind of driving job, and participation in the work force by this group is at historic lows (hence the labor shortage)

        Citation please!

        Seriously, I can’t find anything to support either claim. Quite the opposite. When it comes to employment, there is this: Of the jobs that don’t require a degree, I don’t see a single one that requires driving.

        As far as workforce participation rate, it is relatively low compared to most recoveries, but it is much higher than during a recession. Unemployment is very low. Hard to see why someone right out of high school, not headed to college or the military would not take a job.

        But again, please cite evidence to support these bold claims. I never got past that.

    5. I don’t think we can assume a long term labor shortage. It wasn’t too long ago that we were assuming the opposite. Andrew Yang, for example, resurrected a Nixon idea — just pay people a minimum salary, whether they work or not. This has some appeal from a bureaucratic and political standpoint (no means testing). But Yang didn’t pursue it from that angle. He suggested that as machines improve, we will have massive layoffs in every industry. What is common in primary and tertiary industries (a handful of miners, farmers or factory workers doing the work of thousands with the help of machines) will become common in every industry.

      I’m not sure if either will be the case. More than anything, we simply see shifts from one type of work to another. For example, my guess is we will see a shift away from restaurant work. A lot of machines will do the work in the back, while the customers will do a lot of work in the front. The latter is already happening. Once it happens — once people get used to the change — there is no going back. What started as an adjustment to the labor shortage should continue, even if there is a labor surplus.

      Which means it is quite possible that there will be no bus driver shortage ten years from now. We may have a long list of applicants who want to drive (assuming they can pay them well).

      Of course none of that means that driver costs won’t be a big issue. To quote Jarrett Walker (

      Driver labor, and related time-based costs, are the dominant element – often 70% or more — of transit operating budgets in the developed world.

      This is a major consideration in every restructuring decision, as well as every capital expenditure. RapidRide G is very expensive, but the buses will run much faster, which means that it will cost less to run them. Creating a grid means more transfers, but better frequency for the same cost. While the driver shortage is something new, agencies focusing on driver efficiency is not. Likewise, agencies are well aware that self-driving buses would be a major boon to transit operations.

      1. The larger societal issue is basic demographic change. It’s closely tied to migration and birth/death rates.

        I view lots of our current labor shortage as a by product of overly restrictive immigration policies. It was easy to migrate to the US if you were from Europe in the 1800’s. Then it was easy to migrate from rural America to urban America in the 1900’s. It’s all slowed down thanks to larger racial and religious bigotry attitudes. The largest pools of eager migrants are from places that don’t look like the typical American with European ancestry.

        Europe already sees the demographic problem but still shudders as waves of Eastern European and Middle Eastern and African and Asian migrants arrive. China relied on urban migration to enhance their productivity but now rue over their aging population pyramid dampening future economic growth.

        It wouldn’t take long to get new transit drivers from other countries to migrate here. There are still lots of countries that are more repressive, particularly with disliked ethnic groups and LGBT+ people. If we could be clever enough to bring them in, the driver shortage could go away in less than a year.

      2. Al, how would you ensure the immigrants drove, let alone drove transit? Why would they take a driving job if they have a green card when an American in the same situation doesn’t want the driving job. Why wouldn’t the immigrant take a job at Amazon, or WSF, construction, landscaping, house cleaning, or some other place rather than driving? There are something like 10 million job openings in this country, many low skilled.

        I think you are correct restrictive LEGAL immigration has created a worker shortage, but that shortage has been exacerbated by as you note demographics, more education for workers, fewer students participating in the workforce, the pandemic and pandemic stimulus, and a continuing dropping out of the work force for these kinds of manual workers. It isn’t as if total U.S. population has declined. What has declined is the rate of participation in the work force, although as savings and government stimulus runs out, and the stock market declines, participation is ticking up.

        Increasing legal and especially illegal immigration (because those workers often have no legal protections) was the primary goal of the Bush/Cheney administration in order to destroy labor, and it worked. From 2000 to around 2022 wage stagnation benefited capital, the differential between CEO and worker pay exploded, and kept inflation low although many workers had to work 2 and 3 jobs. Finally we are seeing some bargaining power among unions again.

        There is a very simple way to get more drivers: pay a competitive wage and benefit package, and better hours so the job is competitive with other unskilled work, and probably a premium to other work if the driver has to interact with the general public (on public transit). There are some parts of this region they could not pay me enough to drive a bus.

      3. I view lots of our current labor shortage as a by product of overly restrictive immigration policies.

        Absolutely. That, and the pandemic. Trump got elected and then we had a pandemic. The borders were shut down, as was the economy. Then the economy suddenly restarted, leading to shortages of all types, except for money (thanks to the government). We had major resource shortages, and major labor shortages. We are still adjusting to these shortages. The economy is still in flux. For example, this is a recent story about how the ports are doing better: The supply chain is improving. But the biggest improvement is just less demand. Why?

        Demand has shifted toward services — restaurant dinners and plane tickets, hotel rooms and entertainment.

        During the pandemic we wanted stuff. Now we want to do things. Thus the labor shortage. The waiters who were laid off got another job, or went back to school. This, along with the major reduction in immigration, is a big reason why it is hard to hire bus drivers.

        It isn’t clear to me whether any of this will be a long term problem. We aren’t Japan. Oh, and Japan somehow deals with it*. Japan has a very robust bus system in every city. It complements the rail system. Their population is aging, but they manage. As an advanced but relatively insular society, many have suggested that Japan look to increase the number of immigrants or foreign workers to deal with the problem. We should (and probably will) do the same.

        * To be clear, Japan has a major labor shortage right now, like many countries across the world. I just mean that Japan was doing OK prior to the pandemic.

      4. “Al, how would you ensure the immigrants drove, let alone drove transit? ”

        Green cards are often sponsored by employers. That can include transit agencies. This is not an issue.

        Plus, labor unions were larger when we had high volumes of immigration. Unions may be part of a situation but unions are not limiting migration. It’s a bunch of xenophobic right wingers that are. They even demonize other Christians coming from Mexico even though they are Catholic. Turn on Fox News any day and a notable percentage of the narrative is unfairly tying immigration to every ill in America. (That’s on top of obsessing about Hunter Biden while silent about the financial corruption by the Trump kids and their dad.)

      5. So if an immigrant decides they don’t want to drive for Metro they are deported back to their country? Sounds like one of the cruise lines. Or Kuwait.

        Actually I think you will find labor and labor unions are in favor of limiting illegal immigration because it erodes their bargaining power and wages. Do you really think the union representing Metro drivers wants a bunch of desperate third world immigrants competing for their jobs who if they don’t drive go back to their country of origin? Union workers today are seeing some of their best wage increases in decades because there is a scarcity of them.

        I remember all the anger in Great Britain when Poland joined the EU and Polish immigrants flooded the country, and caused a lot of problems because they were ill-educated and ill motivated after being under Soviet control for decades. The Irish and Italians were not welcome either during their great migrations. We have immigration laws for a reason: to limit immigration to those who have skills that are in short supply, to limit immigration to levels that can be absorbed by local communities gradually, and for political asylum. I think probably the U.S. has done the best job of any first world country in the world at accepting immigrants. Just compare the terrible job France has done with its Muslim immigrants who are segregated in the outskirts of Paris.

        Wouldn’t it just be easier for Metro or other transit agencies to offer a competitive compensation package rather than create a class of immigrant driver slaves like you see in the Mideast? Or maybe enclose drivers in a safe compartment? Or maybe address the public safety issues in Seattle?
        Or move to driverless technology if cost is the main issue for drivers, because it sounds like most have little concern about eliminating millions of driver jobs that are held by some of the least skilled Americans, probably a good way to make this class — that happens to run red to begin with — even more politically extreme, at which point we can deport any drivers we brought over to drive transit.

        Driving a bus is a crummy job that is looked down upon by society and transit agencies are just not offering enough money or safety to compete with other sectors of the economy for these low skilled workers compared to jobs that are not as crummy. That is how the market works. Fix what makes the job crummy, or pay enough so someone is willing to take the driver job that is crummier than another job they can get.

      6. DT, you apperar to be substituting “illegal” for “non-white” in your statement. I’m not talking at all about illegal immigration.

        Congratulations for repeating the tacit falsehood that non-white=illegal narrative code switching of Fox News.

      7. No Al, I am not “substituting “illegal” for “non-white” in my statement, but thanks for the cheap shot.

        I am suggesting your idea is flawed and unnecessary. I am not even sure how you would design a green card process for a job as unskilled as bus driver, and assume the process would select the most qualified applicants who speak and read and write English and have the most education, which could negate your vision of racial equity in the selection, especially with so many well-educated people desperate to get out of Ukraine. Then those drivers would need to be added to the union which would require collective bargaining, unless you plan to abolish the union, and if they did not do exactly what they were told they would be deported back to their country of origin, despite a war. Which probably is why government agencies don’t participate in the green card process because my guess is the biggest objection would come from American minorities.

        There are lots of drivers and low skill workers in this country and this region. Raise the pay to drive a bus until the job is attractive to them, along with the conditions of work, and yes most will likely be American people of color so your race baiting really is not relevant to this issue.

        Arguing to design a government sponsored green card program to bring in desperate third world driver slaves in order to lower the compensation public transit agencies have to pay to attract mostly American POC workers to do the job is not going to fly. The crummier the job the more it must pay before someone will take that job, especially in a market in which illegal immigration has been reduced. So make the job less crummy, or raise the pay to offset the undesirability of the job. The government must compete in the same market-based employment supply as everyone else.

      8. “Just pay the bus drivers more” is easy to say, but it means that every service hour costs more, so a fixed budget requires less service. It would better for Metro and its taxpayers if it could use cheaper immigrant labor instead.

        In actuality, though, Metro does not control the immigration laws, and Daniel is right that the existing bus drivers union would never accept any deal that allows Metro to hire immigrants to drive wages down.

        The inevitable result is Metro getting into a bidding war with other transit agencies across the country for what bus drivers exist, a very happy bus driver’s union, and riders wondering why the level of service goes down and down while tax revenue goes up and up.

        The only way this cycle ever breaks is driverless buses, but that requires significant technological leaps and could still lead to big pushback from other unions, such as mechanics.

      9. DT, attracting workers from elsewhere is a great idea if we had higher unemployment.

        But we don’t. There are only a few countries that are lower or at our level, and almost every other one depends on easing immigration rules to fill unserved jobs.

        Simply put, we have a general labor shortage and it’s not just bus drivers. it’s true for many employment sectors.

        Here’s a link to a map showing unemployment rates by country.

        I’ll even go as far to say that bus drivers get a decent salary + benefits now if they are full-time. They do much better than school teachers or nurses. While it would be benevolent to sweeten the pot more, it wouldn’t solve the labor shortage problem.

        The history of US economic growth has always been linked to migration, as I said at the outset. While I’m not advocating for fully open borders, I am saying that we need to raise our quotas and to try to higher trained bus drivers from other countries.

        A final comment is that English is more commonly found than ever. Many countries require that everyone has several years of English in their schools. I’ve recently been chatting online with a 43 year old in Tabriz (born the year of the Iranian revolution) in English Even he can can read, write and speak a decent amount of English.

      10. I believe negotiations are going on to increase the top Metro driver hourly wage from $37 to $40. Bottom scale is $26 so would go up to $29. The biggest deterrents I see are must have access to car. Must be drug-free. And, can only work part-time to start. However, once full-time, I think driving a bus would beat similar driving jobs like mail carrier, bread truck driver, ups, etc., because of the ability to select which days off, choose time of day worked, and choose location of work. On the other hand, become a bread truck driver, and there is no flexibility. You will have Sundays and Wednesdays off, and will work from 4 AM – Noon.

      11. The biggest deterrents I see are must have access to car. Must be drug-free.

        The first doesn’t seem that crazy — just ironic. You must have a car, so that we can build a car-free society for everyone else.

        The latter is quite reasonable, the problem is the testing. If a guy has had any alcohol and shows up for work, he should be fired. But if the guy smoked some weed the day before, he should be fine. Unfortunately, that isn’t how the drug testing works. They expect you to live a “drug free” life, except in the case of alcohol. It should now put cannabis in the same category. You aren’t allowed to show up high, but if you had a drink or some weed the day before, fine.

      12. we have a general labor shortage and it’s not just bus drivers. it’s true for many employment sectors.

        Absolutely. The big question is whether it will be long term or not. There are a lot of things that are going on in the economy that are very unusual. We won’t know whether this is a trend or a blip for a while.

        I agree though, I believe we should increase legal immigration.

      13. Unions may be part of a situation but unions are not limiting migration. It’s a bunch of xenophobic right wingers that are.

        It has been that way for centuries. It is laughable when white people say things like “my people came here legally”. Yeah, because you are white. You have the Asian Exclusion Act and the Chinese Exclusion Act that go way back. Even the Magnuson Act (yes, that Magnuson) was only a small step in the right direction. So was the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. It wasn’t until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 that we had anything like a colorblind immigration policy. Up until then, it was very easy to come this country … if you were white. (Not that it was easy to live in this country as say, Irish).

        Worth mentioning is Operation Wetback (yes, that is what it was called) which was implemented in 1954. Tens of thousands of Mexican immigrants were kicked out of the country. It is quite likely that many of them had ancestors who had lived in what was now the United States before the U. S. bought it, or won it in battle (think Texas, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico). Their ancestors lived on that land, it changed ownership, and then generations later they get kicked out. We aren’t talking ancient history here — that wasn’t that long ago.

        So yeah, it does make sense to increase immigration, for many reasons.

    6. Ultimately, driverless cars will not happen until it is perfected/the threat of litigation is nil. As to driverless transit, DC’s Metro (a city with a real transit system) had a driver praised for bypassing a station in a split second decision when a fatal shooting by an off duty FBI agent took place at Metro Center. In our gun culture, I expect more such incidents.

  2. In regards to returning to levels of service similar to 2019, SDOT Director Greg Spotts was the latest guest on the Seattle City Makers podcast, and mentioned an idea promoted by a speaker at a recent conference (I don’t remember the details): transportation agencies should stop comparing current service levels and ridership with 2019, and instead consider the current demands and needs in the “new normal” of 2022 and beyond.

    Regarding capacity fluxuations via anecdata: Metro is still running 60-ft articulated buses for the 15x, but I haven’t seen anywhere close to full seats on a 15x since 2020. Is there any reason to run a three-axle bus over a shorter two-axle? It seems hard to believe that operating costs for a 40-ft bus are that similar to a 60-ft’r. Another thought: does anyone know if the training requirements for an articulated bus are more stringent than a “normal” bus? It seems like reducing the number of routes which are primarily articulated would speed up Metro’s ability to fill the driver seats.

    1. “In regards to returning to levels of service similar to 2019, SDOT Director Greg Spotts was the latest guest on the Seattle City Makers podcast, and mentioned an idea promoted by a speaker at a recent conference (I don’t remember the details): transportation agencies should stop comparing current service levels and ridership with 2019, and instead consider the current demands and needs in the “new normal” of 2022 and beyond.”

      Did Spotts state what the “new normal” is, or how it will be determined? I assume he is speaking about ridership, not so much frequency or coverage. For light rail farebox recovery is supposed to cover 40% of M&O (that ST just increased $3 billion through 2044). I agree with Nathan’s question about making frequency and capacity meet the “new normal”, although at least on the eastside Metro/ST feel 15-minute frequencies are necessary for “peak” buses, even if barely full.

      I know it is not a popular concept on this blog, but “new normal” ridership levels need “new normal” frequency and coverage (i.e. costs). I think 2023 might be the time to begin to look at a system wide restructure because I don’t think the “old normal” ridership and farebox recovery are returning or improving over current levels.

      1. folks continue to guess what the new normal will be and when it will arrive. times, they are a-changing.

      2. As eddiew says, guessing at the “new normal” is folly – I shouldn’t have implied that he used that phrase, as I’m not sure did. It also seems prudent to mention that the only transit that SDOT runs is the streetcars, which are about to go off a fiscal cliff; but providing priority for non-automotive transportation options is important for maintaining transit reliability (which is a function of frequency, speed, and operational flexibility when the vehicles themselves are unavailable).

        Frequencies in service of current ridership and demand are already here, in the form of relatively reduced frequencies during former peak periods, and relative increases in frequencies all day (and later into the night). For example, I think commuter-oriented buses should be reduced or eliminated in favor of getting people where they actually want to go with greater reliability. This harms my bus commute since the 15x is ~10 minutes faster than the D, but if it lets the D run a few more times later at night, then I’ll take that trade.

        There’s a reason 15-minute-or-better frequency is considered “high frequency”: people if the next bus is arriving within 10-15 minutes, people will generally be okay with waiting for it. However, if the next bus is in 20, 30, or 60 minutes, “discretionary riders” will generally look for other forms of transportation.

        I’m curious about bus capacity and how reducing vehicle size (particularly with the acquisition of electrics) may save some costs. I remember being packed like sardines on my commute bus home 3 years ago – being forced to stand on any bus seems to be a much more rare occasion today.

    2. It may be that using both 40 and 60 foot buses is useful because it means that a larger pool of vehicles are available. That might reduce some of the difficulty of keeping the fleet maintained. If we were committed to 40 foot buses only, the agency would perhaps need more 40 footers.

    3. The issue is the level of service; i.e.. how long passengers have to wait. That matters regardless of how full the buses are, because it makes the difference how easy it is to take transit and how many activities you can fit into your day. I’ve hard people who drive everywhere tell me the reason they don’t take transit is they can’t do everything they need to do in a day. By “2019 levels” I was thinking longingly of 10-minute midday service on the 44, 45, 48, and 67, and 15-minute service on the 11. It’s a political decision what level of service to aim for, and I think we should aim higher, as other cities do, both non-American cities and Chicago and San Francisco.

  3. Someone on twitter mentioned that although having 10% of all buses out of service seems like a big hit to capacity, Metro has been operating below capacity for a while now. To me, that means Metro will likely recover quickly (as in, before the end of the week) as they replace these problematic buses in the rotation.

  4. re Orr post:
    Yes, pay-on-entry fare collection was implemented in fall 2012, simultaneously with the restructures around lines C and D; I doubt cost pressure was the primary reason; suburban councilmembers resented that downtown Seattle alone had that perk; Metro was very unique in that practice; there were costs to pay away from downtown; there long dwell times on outbound trips at heavily used stops as long lines of riders went past the farebox; the new method is more standard and more efficient overall. The simplification of the fare structure in 2018 helped.

    Yes, the first round of cuts of the reduction network were executed in fall 2014. Some think they were not needed as reserves had already been built up enough as the recession was ending.

    Lines C and D were implemented in fall 2012; the E Line was implemented in Spring 2014; the F Line in summer 2014.

    U Link opened in March 2016; Angle Lake opened in fall 2016.

    The first STBD election was in November 2014; the first purchases were probably in 2015. The second STBD election was in November 2020. Yes, the STBD spent about 54K annual hours to split lines C and D in March 2016 and extend the former to SLU.

    In 2019, transit ridership fell as service in downtown Seattle was slower and less reliable: the county sold CPS to the WSCC and ended bus operations prematurely; the city council voted 5-4 to end it in March rather than September; WSDOT was building the deep bore and closing the AWV; buses were on a revised pathway in 2019; ST East Link had taken the bridge center roadway and the D-2 roadway, I-90 service was slower and less reliable.

    Before Covid, under joint operation, Link peak headway was six minutes. During Covid, ST made Link headways longer. Peak headway is now eight minutes.

    Yes, the H Line was delayed one signup by the concrete strike; there had been other delays. The G Line was delayed for several years for other reasons.

    1. “Pay away” was and is MASSIVELY more efficient than PAYE on outbound trips. If you have to have folks file by the driver, at least do it one or two at a time instead of twenty. How hard is that to understand?

      Sure, there are definite disadvantages to letting the buses in the CDB be bum carriages, but the additional cost in dwell time in the highest demand area for curb space! of the current system is seriously inefficient.

      A lot of you weren’t riders when Pay Away was in force, otherwise you’d understand. Sure, there were places like 42nd and the Ave and Northgate where a lot of people debarked where there were long lines on the buses, and when a lot of people are standing, it is nice to be able to exit either door. But overall Pay Away results in faster fare collection.

      1. the additional cost in dwell time in the highest demand area for curb space! of the current system is seriously inefficient.”

        Are you saying that bus stops should be opened up to other curbside uses? Or are you claiming that bus dwell times from large boarding parties force following buses to consume curb space outside the red-and-yellow?

        Neither of these implications make any sense.

      2. Yes, they force following buses to stop twice, once to wait for a blocked stop zone and once to occupy the zone and perform boarding / deboarding operations. Since parking is not allowed on arterials during peak hours downtown, yes, the buses normally wait in “non-stop zone” stretches of the roadway alongside the curb.. Occasionally, though, there isn’t enough room there so they have to stop away from the curb.

        Of course it didn’t happen all the time, or even very often at all in this time of low ridership. But pre-pandemic it definitely contributed to the slow passage of buses through the CBD.

    2. Yes, pay-on-entry fare collection was implemented in fall 2012, simultaneously with the restructures around lines C and D; I doubt cost pressure was the primary reason; suburban councilmembers resented that downtown Seattle alone had that perk; Metro was very unique in that practice; there were costs to pay away from downtown; there long dwell times on outbound trips at heavily used stops as long lines of riders went past the farebox;

      Seattle PI on the ending of the Fare Free Zone:

      starting in October 2012, riders will have to start paying again as Metro plans to phase out the ride free zone. King County Executive Dow Constantine announced that change Friday as part of a political compromise to gain key votes for a $20 car tab fee to spare Metro bus service from drastic countywide cuts.

      Little of both.

      1. Presumably Seattle could have kept the ride free zone if it upped its $400,000 annual payment set in 1973 to Metro’s actual cost in 2012 of $2.2 million for the ride free zone. Otherwise that differential was being subsidized by the suburbs, which would also subsidize much of the $20 tab fee to spare Metro bus service from drastic “countywide cuts” that would have fallen mostly on Seattle. The suburbs didn’t resent the fact only Seattle had a ride free zone; they resented that they were paying for much of it.

        At least at that time most bus routes, at least commuter routes, ran through downtown Seattle, and the bus ridership took a turn for the worse when the buses reached the ride free zone. Tom writes, “Sure, there are definite disadvantages to letting the buses in the CDB be bum carriages, but the additional cost in dwell time in the highest demand area for curb space! of the current system is seriously inefficient.” One of those definite disadvantages was workers who were commuting to downtown Seattle either refusing to take the bus or get off before the ride free zone and complaining to their employers (when the executives and partners drove to work and had subsidized parking).

        Personally, I liked the ride free zone because there were so many buses running from 3rd and Yesler up to Westlake so frequency was almost immediate. Back then Westlake Center was vibrant during the lunch hour and Pioneer Square was not, and did not have the same level of retail vibrancy, so I would take the bus to Westlake for lunch. It seemed like a rip off to pay full fare to take a bus a few blocks. But if I had been older or a woman I might have been more hesitant to just jump on a ride free bus. By around 2018-19 I definitely would not have wanted to ride a ride free bus in this zone, (or wait for a bus on 3rd and Yesler when the courthouse had to be closed due to danger) although things were looking a little better in Sept. 2022 when we left downtown Seattle, at least at Yesler if not Pike.

        If there was a way to ensure the buses were safe and clean, and a way for Seattle to pay the true differential, ride free buses in the downtown core make it easier to take transit, at least north and south, and contribute to urbanism. But if a bus is not seen as safe and clean no one is going to take it no matter what the cost, and today Uber/Lyft are real competitors with buses in the downtown core. Eastside riders don’t have the option of Link which does not have a ride free zone so they would have to ride through the ride free area, and eastside work commuters are touchy about safety and cleanliness, and have a lot of options that don’t include Seattle. These days with such a steep decline in the peak commuter to downtown Seattle I suppose Seattle could revisit ride free buses that might have a rougher character, although ridership would be lower without all the work commuters and costs probably much higher than the $2.2 million in 2012.

        I would be interested in knowing how many intra-downtown Seattle transit trips folks take today, as opposed to commuters going into and out of downtown. There just seems like a lot less retail or restaurants that would encourage a worker like me to take a bus or light rail from Pioneer Square to Westlake because Westlake doesn’t have much to offer either, unlike in the 2000’s. I went almost two years during the pandemic not leaving my office in Pioneer Square, and that psychologically changed a lot of us. Before I never took my lunch to work and always went out to eat and walk around, and today even on Mercer Island I bring my lunch to the office every day and eat it there.

      2. Daniel, I think you are a wee bit hyperbolic with your fantasy of ‘burbanite riders fleeing the buses at the edge of the Ride-Free Zone. I admit that I have rarely caught the bus at Fourth and Jackson where this flight to the safety of the sidewalk presumably would occur, but when I have or when I just walked by, it always seemed that more people were boarding than alighting there.

    3. I attended the 2012 county council hearing that ended the ride-free area. There was discussion of why the RFA was started and whether it was still worth it. The RFA started in the 1970s when downtown was in a similar cycle of deterioration and crime as now, as most American inner cities were then. The RFA was intended to entice shoppers downtown, get office workers to lunch restaurants, and reduce intra-downtown driving. Seattle fully paid for it initially, but gradually the cost increased beyond what Seattle was contributing, and Metro paid the difference.

      Over the years there was increasing discontent about the RFA: Metro subsidizing it; the never-ending confusion pay-as-you-leave caused; the boundaries that left some neighborhoods in (Intl Dist), some neighborhoods out (Capitol Hill), and some half-and-half (Belltown); other cities not having it; the 7pm rule that started in the 90s or 00s; etc.

      The recession forced the issue because Metro was facing cuts. The legislature authorized a 2-year tax surcharge to keep service hours up. Conservatives on the county council wanted to use that as a wedge to end the RFA, to eliminate the subsidy to Seattle. There was also the longstanding 40-40-20 rule that functioned to shift service hours from Seattle to the suburbs to eventually equalize the level of service: increases went mostly to the suburbs, and decreases went mostly to Seattle. And the council would arbitrarily veto route restructures if one squeaky wheel complained about losing a one-seat ride or a detour.

      All that was doable while Metro could afford it, but with the economic crash the RFA and arbitrary vetoes would cut into needed service hours.

      The council enacted a three-way bargain: it approved the 2-year tax surcharge, eliminated the ride-free area, and abolished the 40/40/20 rule. It told Metro to use its new metrics (ridership and coverage) for future restructures, and it promised not to arbitrarily veto restructures anymore.

      1. Initially the RFA was 24 hours, so you always paid on the non-downtown side. When it was PAYE the back door opened to let people leave. When it was PAYL the back door was always closed. It remained that way in the late 70s and 80s.

        Sometime around the 90s or 00s the 7pm rule started, so that runs after 7pm were not RFA but always pay-as-you-enter. That caused lots of confusion and disuptes. My confusion lasted for years and never ended until the RFA did. The previous rule was geographical, so I could visualize myself paying on non-downtown side. The later rule made it temporal too, and that was hard to keep track of in my head. I’d forget about the rule, not know what time it was, or not remember which rule applied to this trip. In winter 7pm was darkness, but in summer it was light, so you couldn’t depend on the ambient daylight to tell you where to pay. So I kept trying to pay when I shouldn’t, or not paying when I should, or standing by the back door when I should or when I shouldn’t. That caused a delay because the driver would sometimes: open the back door, tell me to come up front and pay, or not open the back door when he should. Sometimes there was a rule that the back door never opened after 7pm, then there wasn’t, but drivers would open or not open the back door at random so you never knew whether they would.

      2. +1 on confusion generated by RFA. It would cause buses to operate on pay as you exit mode far from downtown, even after RFA hours ended, as a bus that began its run downtown at 6:58 might not complete it’s trip until almost 8:00.

        The thru routing of routes 43 and 44 added to the misery. Even though route 44 is not advertised as going downtown at all, a trip on route 44 that originated from route 43 was still pay as you exit, generating more confusion.

        On top of all this, when a bus is operating in pay as you exit mode, entry and exit must share a single door, which makes the bus run slower. RFA may have made for faster bus travel times *within* downtown, but it came at the cost of making the entire rest of the bus route slower, once the bus left downtown and switched to pay as you exit mode.

        And, even within downtown, I don’t think RFA ever really mattered that much anyway in terms of revenue. Downtown is a big destination, but the vast majority of trips that involve downtown, the other end of the trip is outside downtown, so they still have to pay regardless. Most people who go downtown regularly also have passes, so RFA doesn’t matter for them. Even among those who don’t, if you got downtown on a bus, you can pick up a free transfer, so again, RFA doesn’t matter.

        The only people that really benefitted financially from RFA are those that drove downtown, but wanted a bus ride to the other end of downtown after getting there (perhaps because parking at one end of downtown is cheaper than the other end?). But, this is a very small group of people.

        In any case, eliminating the ride free area was absolutely the right call, even if the council didn’t necessarily do it for the right reasons.

      3. I always like the LA solution to RFAs. That would be free (or lower fare) local circulators. It’s much easier to implement and monitor than with long routes that are free for some trips and not others. It’s also not fair to let a well paid office worker Downtown to get a free ride when working class riders in other areas do not. That’s especially true when Downtown is set up well for walking (sidewalks, density, mixed uses) but other areas are not.

      4. I don’t like the free local circulator approach because it’s an inherently inefficient use of resources. In spite of having multiple buses per minute running down 3rd Ave., you have to add yet another bus down 3rd Ave., just to be “free”. This “free” bus costs money to run, which ultimately comes out of bus service in other parts of the city.

      5. The number of homeless on downtown buses during the ride free era wasn’t that different from now: a small minority of riders. Still it was an issue at the 2012 hearing: some objected to eliminating the ride free area because it would mean homeless people in Pioneer Square couldn’t access services in First Hill and Belltown. As a compromise, when the RFA was eliminated a free downtown shuttle was added, a Hopelink van. It was marketed as general circulation for everybody, but some predicted at the time that few middle-class people would ride the “homeless van”, and apparently they didn’t.

      6. The LADOT Dash system actually does have a fare — but it is only 50 cents full fare. That’s much cheaper than a full price LA Metro local bus fare of $1.75.

        Here is a link to the network:

        Having short routes carrying the short trips frees up the longer routes to move faster. Once a bus gets crowded, it can be time consuming for riders to get on and off. LA has had some seriously bad bus overcrowding on many routes before Covid. Our buses sometimes get overcrowded but it isn’t a systems issue like what LA Metro has.

      7. “some objected to eliminating the ride free area because it would mean homeless people in Pioneer Square couldn’t access services in First Hill and Belltown.”

        And, those making the objections completely ignore the fact that First Hill, Pioneer Square, and Belltown are all within a 20 minute walk of each other. And, waiting for a shuttle that runs every 30 minutes with no schedule is no faster than just walking, anyway. Especially since one way loops take a long time to get anywhere when going in the direction opposite the loop.

        There is also a second issue that simply giving homeless people free bus tickets probably costs substantially less than running a separate bus.

        And, as to middle class people not riding the solid ground shuttle, who can blame them? Nobody wants to ride a bus with “building community to end poverty” printed on it, unless they are really desperate. Especially since walking, and/or regular bus routes will probably get them where they’re going faster.

        [Edited to fix a typo in “poverty”.]

      8. asdf2, pay away outbound was a problem only at high-volume destinations or on over-crowded buses when it was hard to get to the front. At 95%+ of outbound stops stops one or two people would flash a pass or throw money in the farebox and hop off.

        And in almost every situation when the bus was delayed by people stuck in the back or a long line of departing passengers, only that bus was affected. Downtown delays, especially on trolley routes, can affect several buses

        Yes, it was confusing for occasional riders and tourists.

    4. This is another advantage of off-board payment. It makes implementing a ride free area trivial. Everyone has to tap to get on, but if they tap again (after they get off) within that zone, it is free. It works well with a hybrid system, too. Add the tapping machines (tappers?) at all of bus stops within the ride free zone. The rest of the stops require paying at the front. You’ve installed only a handful of tappers, sped up boarding, and provided a ride-free zone that is pretty easy to understand.

      1. Very well said, Ross. All the advantages of not paying on the bus itself on the outbound leg, but no confusion WHEN to pay.

  5. Metro is suspending a number of peak-only routes now (list is in the updated blog post), fortunately it looks like the all-day routes are doing a bit better than yesterday.

    I wonder if this is related to the steering issue that TriMet ran into with their new articulated Nova buses. Obviously Metro has New Flyer but it could be that the steering mechanism is sourced from some common supplier. When we were in Portland this weekend, FX2 was still running with their standard 40′ buses; if that’s any sign, it could be a while before the issue is resolved.

  6. Metro is now suspending a number of peak-only routes, presumably to keep the all-day routes running better (full list in the updated blog post). It seems like that’s working, where the D, E, and 40 are showing fewer canceled trips than yesterday.

    I wonder if this is related to the problems TriMet had last month with their new articulated Nova buses on their FX2 BRT line. Obviously Metro is New Flyer, but possibly there’s a common supplier for the steering mechanism. We were in Portland this last weekend and they were still running 40′ buses on the FX2 so it could be a while before there’s a fix ready to install.

  7. Overall, I’d say Metro has been the most consistent transit outfit in the Puget Sound. Metro has had a bit of rollercoaster but poor Pierce Transit has been on a 20 year decline. Broken down buses aren’t the end of the world here. Metro shall recover.

    It’s crazy that our local bus outfits, like Metro, have to rise and fall with the economy and yet Sound Transit has this insane rigid 40 year plan that has little to no wiggle room for a bad economic downturn or even a political upheaval that changes funding.

    I’m not at all sure which is worse… Metro, currently staring down another recession with broken down buses and a labor shortage… or Sound Transit, trying to build new subway lines as the downtown tunnel slowly crumbles with broken tile and worn out escalators with no money for a remodel?

    Is it time to just blow up the entire system and start over fresh?

  8. “ After two Metro operators identified a manufacturing issue in the steering system in some vehicles, Metro proactively removed 126 buses from service out of its 1,500-vehicle fleet.”

    Huh? Do you really mean “operators”? As in “drivers”? Or do you mean “maintenance workers”? Because it makes a big difference.

    If this steering system fault was discovered by actual operators, then more than likely they discovered the problem in “operation”, because that is what operators do. But that would also mean that it was likely that passengers were onboard at the time, or that the bus was operating on city streets, and both of those possibilities would represent a serious safety issue.

    But if the issue was discovered by maintenance workers in the shop, then that is as it should be. The maintenance workers SHOULD be discovering problems like this before the buses hit the street. After all, that is their job.

    But your use of the term “operator”, and the lack of any clarifying information on the Metro webpage, leads me to believe that this issue was more than likely discovered in actual operation. And that is a shame, because it implies that Metro maintenance staff dropped the ball again. Sort of like they did with the escalators in the old bus tunnel.

    So maybe some clarifying info would be nice. Maintenance staff or drivers? In operation or in the shop? Passengers onboard or not?

    1. That paragraph is a quote from Metro’s email. I’ve only heard “operator” used in terms of driver. I don’t know why Metro doesn’t just call them drivers, but a lot of companies have highfalutin’ job titles.

      1. @Mike Orr,

        Ya, that is my understanding to. Operator is essentially driver. Which would mean that, more than likely, this problem was discovered in operation on city streets.

        And, yes, it is a “manufacturing” issue. But I would still expect maintenance staff to pick up such an issue before it became a problem in operation. They are the ones looking at the nuts and bolts, lubrication leaks, metal wear, etc. and they should be measuring tolerances continuously.


      2. We don’t know what the problem is, when it started, or what the drivers’ experience was. Without that we can’t tell whether maintenance should have discovered it first. Metro pulled the buses off the road immediately; that seems pro-active to me.

      3. @Mike Orr,

        Oh, it just gets worse. The Seattle Times is out with an article in the issue now and it isn’t good.

        Apparently the issue is related to “loose steering”, and was in fact discovered by operators during regular operation.

        But the kicker? The problem was encountered by two operators over a month ago! And then again on Nov 28th! And Metro didn’t pull the affected buses until just this last Tuesday. So Metro basically kept those buses in operation for over a month after the problem was first discovered. Not good.

        Metro should have got their maintenance staff on it when the problem was first reported. They should have been able to at least identify the issue. Why they didn’t is a mystery.

        New Flyer is apparently claiming the problem is related to a “unique customer component”, whatever that means. But it sounds like something specific to Metro.

        Crazy. But at least the buses have been pulled from service.

    2. And how exactly, Great Guru, are “maintenance workers” going to discover a steering problem that occurred in only two actual vehicles? Are you certain that those two buses had visited the garage before the defect was noted? The maintenance folks move buses between parking spaces and the garage and back, a few hundred yards at most.

      1. @Tom T,

        “Great Guru”? Thanks for the backhanded complement, but there is no great knowledge or spiritual insight involved in this one. This is how things work, or at least how they have worked since the advent of mass production.

        If you have a systemic or recurrent problem in your fleet, the first step is always to have your maintenance experts start targeted inspections. Doesn’t matter whether the problem is related to cars, buses, trains or planes, the first step is to deploy your maintenance professionals/engineers to locate and isolate the problem. That is how it is done.

        Oh, and in modern times you should go through the maintenance logs too. Because maintenance can also be the source of the problem.

        But you never, ever, put suspect vehicles out into service and just wait for them to break. Doing that puts the safety of the general public at risk. You just don’t do that. Ever.

        Watch the King5 report on this issue. Ken Price of the ATU refers to this problem as “potentially catastrophic”. I don’t know how much of that is truth vs union hyperbole, but he is the expert. We should at least listen to him.

        And beyond that, obviously Metro can identify this problem during maintenance, because that is exactly what they eventually did. Only 2 (or maybe 3) buses had this problem occur during service. However Metro identified another 122 buses that had the same problem and removed those buses from service. Metro used maintenance inspections to identify those 122 suspect buses, so obviously it is possible.

        No Great Guru capabilities required. Just good maintenance practices.

        The only question is, why did Metro wait so long?

    3. I prefer “driver” over operator. To me an “operator” is the organization or agency, and drivers work for an operator.

      Of course, in the early decades of telephones and elevators, there were people called telephone operators and elevator operators. So I can appreciate the confusion.

  9. Has anyone seen any cancellations? I haven’t seen any on the 132 or 49 in the afternoon, or the routes that share their stops.

    1. There’s a number on the 40 and RapidRide routes, along with suspended peak-only routes. I find the Pantrograph missed trip report handy to look at since it calls out individual trips well, vs OBA that often just shows them as “scheduled” until they disappear. There’s almost certainly other routes that have indirect cancellations since Metro is shuffling vehicles around.


    Maybe OT. Don’t know anymore. If so, feel free to delete.

    I can guess the turn that might be the problem, as I’ve seen them jackhammer the tracks up in the same area 3 times.

    It seems like we’ve lost all institutional expertise. Why don’t we build it up within government, rather than overpay contractors, who clearly also don’t have the expertise, to screw it up? We are going to be building transit for the foreseeable future. Maybe it would be better to have this work done in-house and rebuild expertise and knowledge-base within government.

    1. Because if the government does it itself, it’s socialism, as opposed to paying a 10-20% premium for a private contractor to profit on a project.

      Obviously paying a contractor to do the job 5 times is better than a government department doing the job itself once.

      (There is more nuance to it, obviously, but if an agency has a 20+ year capital projects sequence, they should be doing a lot more in-house than they are. Even WSDOT has transitioned from in-house design to subcontracting and it’s made their projects objectively worse, but at least they don’t have to deal with inflexible staffing when project funding waxes and wanes? Short sighted and stupid.)

  11. As someone who goes into the office once a week, the 15X from Ballard are getting cancelled more often. Using parking apps and the day I choose in the non busy tourist season, I can find parking (albeit not at the prettiest lot) for a few dollars more than a round trip (morning/evening rush hour) D line bus. Until my car gets broken into downtown, I am more likely to drive.

    I suppose one day, when we have articles again, we may want to have a topic which discusses the biggest sin: not passing Forward Thrust, or the Kubly dual tunnel ST3 cluster!@# (Let’s have West Seattle light rail and Big Tech stops and pass up a cheaper and more popular Ballard to UW, a route 8 gondola for the Big Tech stops and West Seattle BRT_.

    1. Several routes were suspended on the Service Advisories page yesterday, including the 15, 17, and 18. Those were suspended for snow and then suspended again for the bus shortage. They’re off the list today. I should have included the advisories page in the links.

  12. I just discovered there’s a spam queue, and approved two comments by Skylar on cancellations that got stuck in the queue. I passed on one by Anonymous on commercial-vehicle labor relations. It wasn’t worse than other posts, but since the entire subthread is getting tangental I stopped it there.

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