On September 2nd Metro will suspend or reduce some bus routes to make the remaining service more reliable. The problem is a shortage of bus drivers and mechanics, and supply-chain challenges. Currently 5% of scheduled bus runs are being cancelled due to lack of drivers or buses. The change aims to shrink the schedule to match what can actually be delivered in the current environment, to minimize cancellations. Here’s a list of affected routes:

  • 15, 16, 18, 29, 55, 64, 114, 121, 167, 190, 214, 216, 217, 232, 237, 268, 301, 304, 320, 342: Suspended (no service).
  • 79, 225, 230, 231: Hourly across the board.
  • 7: 10-minute frequency in AM peak, 7.5 minute in PM peak.
  • 10: 15-minute peak, 30-minute evening and weekend.
  • 20: Half-hourly most times (including peak), hourly night.
  • 28: Hourly off-peak.
  • 36: 10-minute most times (including AM peak), 7-8 minutes PM peak.
  • 73: Half-hourly across the board.
  • 255: Half-hourly evenings.
  • 345: Hourly night.

[Correction: Route 28 and 345.]

Metro’s blog has a list of alternatives for the suspended routes, and other information about the change.

More below the fold.

The routes were selected based on ridership, equity, and the availability of other alternative routes in the area. Most of the reductions are in peak-hour service, where ridership has fallen the most.

Metro currently has 1,913 full-time and 571 part-time bus drivers. It needs an additional 113 full-time and 99 part-time drivers to maintain the current service level. For maintenance, Metro has 231 full-time bus mechanics. It needs 21 more mechanics for the current service level, or 12 more for the proposed September service level. If you know anybody who wants to drive or repair a bus, Metro is hiring.

Mike Lindblom in the Seattle Times ($) writes that the problem is not money: “Metro rode out the pandemic with at least $937 million in federal relief funds. The agency plans to spend $2.47 billion on transit operations in 2023-24, an increase from $1.98 billion the past biennium, plus additional capital grants and spending. King County carries $1.2 billion in transit reserve funds and remains on course to spend $220 million for rechargeable electric buses by 2034.”

A couple other transit tidbits: Lindblom’s article says the new RapidRide H line on Delridge Way has reached 6,635 daily riders, compared to 4,300 a year ago on route 120. And Metro General Manager Michelle Allison mentioned in a press briefing on these bus changes that more workers in Seattle are getting to work by transit than driving alone, according to a recent Commute Seattle survey.

On-topic comments for this article are on Metro service. Other topics belong in the Open Thread one article back.

242 Replies to “Metro Cuts in September”

  1. First comment ;)

    On a serious note… I guess I question the “the problem is not money” a little bit. The problem is a lack of qualified applicants _willing to work for the current pay_ (emphasis mine). It is clear that there are qualified people who are not working for Metro (not all commercial drivers up and left Puget Sound or anything). But the particular working conditions (a part of which is payment) are such that they are not coming to apply.

    Now, it could well be that the amount of money needed to compensate other potential issues (perceived or real), e.g. COVID concerns, fentanyl exposure concerns, etc. etc., is too high for Metro to be able to afford the payment. But, in a capitalist system, the way to get more applicants is to increase payment. Are there any contractual reasons why that could not be done? If not, has it been tried without success?

    1. Of course there are “contractual reasons” that Metro can’t give new hires sufficient hiring bonuses. They have a contract with the ATU (or something like it) that specifies how people are compensated and who gets what runs. They can give every driver in the system a bonus or they can give no drivers in the system a bonus.

      Sure, there are probably some “incentive” rewards allowed within the contract, but by and large new drivers have to enter at base scale and at the bottom of the seniority list. New drivers get crap shifts that nobody else bids on. That’s a part of the problem, too.

      P.S. I know you probably already know this, but you asked.

      1. Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I was thinking of offering to renegotiate the ATU contract to increase everyone’s pay, or the ATU itself suggesting it. I assume that the amount of money needed would be infeasible, though. But I was wondering if it ever came up.

        My general push-back is on the claim that “it’s not about money”. IMHO it very much __can__ be about money; people make trade-offs and the job offered by Metro is just not worth the money offered. I obviously understand that Metro funds aren’t infinite, so I’m not accusing Metro of bad will or anything. The funds they have are the funds they have. But I certainly would have liked to see the union try to push for that, for example (I get that there would be risk of ill-will during future contract negotiations, etc., too – so it’s not a simple thing).

        Anyway, just late night musings, I guess. Presumably with the economy starting to get worse, the problem will eventually solve itself without throwing more money at it.

        Thank you for your answer!

      2. Getting into a bidding war for drivers with other transit agencies seems like a losing proposition for everyone. It would essentially mean trying to maintain King County Metro service by starving nearby agencies such as Pierce Transit or TriMet of drivers, forcing bigger service cuts over there. Which works only until they do the same to lure their drivers back. And, by the time the cycle finally ends, everyone is still making service cuts, but paying far more money to get far less service.

      3. “Getting into a bidding war for drivers with other transit agencies seems like a losing proposition for everyone.”

        Not for the employees.

        Also, there is precedent for looking down on employers who collude to keep salaries low, whether it rises to the legal threshold of anti-competitive behavior or just skirts the boundary. We should support employment improvements for those who deserve it (and I think transit employees do), and advocate for finding funding sources to support it (e.g. as Ross did in a later post).

      4. To follow up on my own thoughts, I will cite this bit of today’s article in The Urbanist on this very topic.

        “While the labor market is tight both industry-wide and service sector-wide, other agencies have not struggled as mightily Metro. In contrast, LA Metro just announced it had hired 1,000 transit operators, allowing it to boost service. In a post Monday, the agency laid out its successful strategy, which included a union contract that raised pay and allowed the agency to hire new operators at full-time hours rather than requiring that they start at part-time. King County Metro faces similar obstacles in recruiting, still unaddressed.”

        This is along the lines of what I was suggesting (focusing on money) and Tom added to as well (with the observation about starting positions not being appealing).

      5. Ideally, the point of raising pay is to increase the total number of bus drivers; if you’re poaching drivers from other cities you’re not actually solving the shortage, and if the problem is driver pay then you aren’t increasing pay enough, or at least other agencies need to join you for it to work. So if the cause of the shortage is insufficient pay, I don’t see how a bidding war is a problem.

    2. Metro is about to get some former drivers back in the door (some of those who refused the vaccine). Between mask mandates being gone and unvaccinated employees returning to public-facing jobs, I have a bad feeling about what is going to happen to some of the returning unvaccinated operators. I hope the training includes information on N95s, as that may be what will keep some of them alive.

      1. Not to be morbid but, if they’ve lasted this long unvaxed in our COVID world, I wouldn’t be too worried. Almost certainly they’ve had COVID at least once by now and, if they took the same approach to physical distancing as vaccines, they’ve probably had it more than once.

        I’m glad I had the opportunity to be vaxed before getting COVID, but protection from infection is as effective at preventing future severe COVID as any of the vaccines, so the unvaxed operators will almost certainly be fine.

      2. Everyone has their own circumstances, and some of the unvaccinated are among those of us lucky enough to have avoided COVID. Some had non-superstitious/conspiracy-promoted medical reasons that the state or county might have refused to accommodate. Regardless of the circumstances, Metro did really well to only have a couple COVID deaths among its operators that I heard of. If even one who gets hired back gets COVID for the first time, and does not make it through, that’s one too many. Metro can provide crucial information to help the returning operators protect themselves.

        All that said, I tend to believe Metro is able to fill up its classes right now, and will have to turn away or delay some new applicants in order to make way for those returning from vaccine furlough. I still believe the problem right now is that Metro is institutionally set up to only hire so many drivers at a time, due to limited classroom space and trainers. They’ve had plans for a second classroom site, but that seems to always be in the future.

        The other side of the problem, I’m guessing, is on the back-end, with retirements and others moving on to other jobs. But lots of professional drivers are wanting to move on from their lower-wage, less-safe, lower-benefits jobs to drive for Metro, if Metro will but hire them and have the space to train them.

      3. I think choosing to drive buses full of people while unvaccinated is dumb from an individual perspective, but it’s still the individual choice.

        The good news is that, as long as the bus driver is reasonably young, their risk of dying of COVID is still pretty low, even unvaccinated. Not low enough that I would personally choose to undergo that risk just to avoid a needle being stuck in my arm, given the consequences.

        That said, the number of unvaccinated people in King County is pretty low to begin with, so the likelihood of unvaccinated bus drivers dying of COVID because of the removal of the mandate, I think, is still pretty low. Of course, the flip side of this is that removing the vaccination mandate is not going to be the silver bullet to solve King County Metro’s labor problems either.

      4. Would rehires have to go through the entire training? If they’ve only been out a year or two I’d think some of their previous training is still valid. Metro could set up a mini-training for them, especially if it expects a bunch of people to come back simultaneously.

      5. I still believe the problem right now is that Metro is institutionally set up to only hire so many drivers at a time, due to limited classroom space and trainers. They’ve had plans for a second classroom site, but that seems to always be in the future.

        OK, but are the classrooms full? In other words, is the “pipeline” full, and we will have a good steady stream of new drivers fairly soon? If so, then this problem is clearly temporary, and should be fixed fairly soon (I’m guessing by the end of the year). If not, then the county needs to look at reforms. This may be as simply as paying the drivers more, or giving them bonuses. Or it may require changes in the hiring process.

      6. Several other states have a higher rate of unvaccinated people, and people who refused to mask anywhere almost from the beginning. Granted, those states also less extensive transit systems, so fewer drivers and passengers are interacting at close proximity. But the problem of a mass of drivers and passengers getting serious covid cases would happen there before it happens here. And while quarantines and sick time were part of the reason for the driver shortage in 2021, it has not been mentioned as a significant factor in the shortage now that I’ve heard.

      7. The training classes were full as of a year or so ago. It’s a several-week program so candidates can only start it a few times a year. Metro was going to add a second class to double the capacity. I assumed it’s running now; if not, I’d want to know why.

      8. A few years ago, I remember reading about a phenomenon where bus drivers would complete the training course, get their CDL, drive whatever contractual minimum amount of time required (if any), and then leave to drive freight for more hours and more money.

        I wonder what the attrition is between completion of training for new bus drivers and a year or so of driving.

    3. When labor shortages due to economic booms in other countries occur, the national government comes up with programs to import foreign workers. That’s how the US created economic growth through much of its history.

      Unfortunately there are so many xenophobic people and politicians nowadays who are suspicious of foreign workers that don’t look like they belong on anti-immigrant Fox News that it’s not a realistic option any more.

      The employee shortage just one more evidence of our current structural political paradox. If these xenophobic people think it’s bad now, wait until they end up lying in a bed when they’re 90 without someone to hire to tend to them after they poop.

      I guess automation can eventually provide some relief but will the public grow to accept it?

      1. I was thinking the same thing. Every country around the world has transit systems, and there are lots of people living in low-wage countries who know how to drive a bus and would be more than happy to move to the U.S. and drive buses here, and would enjoy a big pay raise by doing so. But, due to anti-immigrant politicians, such an approach to the problem cannot even be considered. And, even if the federal government would allow it, this is something that the existing bus drivers’ union would probably fight tooth and nail. So, King County Metro has to get into bidding wars with other transit agencies for bus drivers instead.

        When the same thing happens across all economic sectors, the result is inflation. And that’s exactly what we’re getting.

      2. Part of the problem is, outside of a handful of cosmopolitan cities much of America has felt left behind in recent decades, and “Great Replacement” conspiracy theories have a lot of appeal to people who seemingly see the government giving handouts to foreigners when people who already live here need help too. Of course, the root of the problems those people have is the rampant deregulation and union-busting of the Reagan era, which many of them supported and continue to support, but you’ll never tell them that, especially since politicians would rather take advantage of their hardship than do anything about it (and a lot of the people suffering that hardship would rather other people suffer with them than actually do anything about it).

        None of this has much to do with bus driving, though, and it’s not a recent thing either. Xenophobia has a looooooong history in America.

      3. Al, I love a good anti-republican rant. You were on a roll, giving it to Fox News and xenophobia, but it took a left turn when you said America needs immigrants because someone has to clean up our s***

        Sam. Fox News watcher. Ronald Reagan fan. Truncation truther.

      4. Sorry, Sam. I’m being a caretaker for my 91 year old dad this week. He’s no longer strong enough to get to a bathroom so it’s my reality this week.

      5. If we are going macro I suggest folks watch the CNN documentary on San Francisco. It began as a celebration and ended up a funeral. .

        I have lived in and visited most of the western world’s great cities. There was a time I thought SF beat them all, including Paris. Seattle was always a wanna be compared to SF. A big dumb town with uncouth and uncultured loggers’ kids with second class culture and tacky architecture and a bunch of introverted techies.

        If you can kill SF with progressive policies you can pretty much kill anything, and might as well as forget about transit. The reality is the wealthy don’t ride transit, and now even the peak commuter transit slave doesn’t, so the poor are left to subsidize transit and ride among themselves because the folks with the money left the city which is the only reason anyone not poor rides transit.

        If the urban city is dead transit is doomed because the non-poor don’t ride transit except to a vibrant urban core.

        Tacomee has a point: progressives killed their experiment: the progressive urban city (and Seattle was always the weakest urbanism). Now they are bitching that transit is dying from the lack of ridership, or the insane idea wealthy neighborhoods are going to upzone so they can live there and walk to the bus so frequency is increased.

        TOD is Blake House/Rise because those folks must ride transit. If you build an urban city folks must go to like SF of yore they drive or take Uber. Today they don’t even go.

        I just can’t believe anyone can kill SF. Fuck transit. That is for the poor subsidized by those who don’t ride it which I can live with. But to kill SF, and even downtown Seattle, is a real crime. The solution at this point — at least when it comes to transit — is PURE subarea equity. Don’t charge me to take transit to a city because cars have been artificially disadvantaged when I don’t even want to take Unervthere and can afford to.

        To kill Seattle I can live with. It was always faux urbanism with uncultured nouveau riche and undereducated progressives, and a flight to SF was cheap. But to kill SH: truly unforgivable.

        The irony: Peter Thiel says he can’t move his company from San Jose to FL because housing prices are falling so fast in San Jose and increasing too fast in FL. What a tragedy. Anywhere in FL considered better than SF.

    4. Good point. Compare this to the police officer shortage. The city of Seattle is spending a lot of extra money to hire more cops. The county should do the same with drivers.

      My guess is the county is reluctant to do that, as it could backfire in the long run. The view (by many) is that this is a temporary, not a long run problem. If that is the case, I don’t see why the city of Seattle doesn’t feel the same about the shortage of police officers.

      1. Ross, I think the comparison to Seattle needing to hire more police officers is apt. https://policetribune.com/nearly-20-percent-of-seattles-police-officers-have-quit-in-the-past-18-months/


        “The recruiting strategy involves proposed hiring incentives of up to $30,000 for lateral transfers and $7,500 for new recruits.”

        WL makes a good point: an agency is going to have to pay significantly more to hire and retain the same number of drivers or police officers if there is a work environment they don’t want to work in when there are almost always lateral options. There is also the cost of replacing experienced drivers/police officers with new recruits.

      2. It is ironic that Daniel is advocating hire pay for operators, while the rest of us are pointing out that Metro is de facto capping the number of operators it can hire per year.

      3. I suppose police departments also have a limit on the number of hires they can have in a class, but they’re all in the guild, so code of silence on disagreeing with the the guild’s line about why it takes so long to hire police.

        Still, higher pay is preferable to lower accountability. Adding job duties like wearing a body cam comes with a price tag, and retraining time that might be taking away from classes for newbies.

      4. Brent, I am not advocating for higher driver pay because I don’t know if that is the reason Metro is having difficulty hiring drivers, and if Metro raises driver pay across the board but total funding does not increase Metro will have to reduce service anyway.

        The SPD is now offering large bonuses to police officers and recruits to join SPD although SPD pays more than any other police dept. in the state but still can’t hire the 500 police officers it will need to replace because they don’t want to work in Seattle, and like driving a metro Bus not a lot of people want to do that job, for any amount of pay.

        I am not sure driver pay is the main issue. Sure I guess if you offer enough money some people will do any job, but Metro does not have that kind of money.

        If ridership was really strong but drivers in short supply then I might think it is pay. But if ridership is down and it is difficult to hire drivers I begin to think it might be the atmosphere on the bus.

        The one place I would start to find out is a survey of drivers assuming that of course they want higher pay. But a well crafted survey should flesh out other reasons as well which might help in attracting more riders which means more farebox recovery which means more money which means more service.

    5. Exactly this. The problem is indeed largely about money: the Seattle area has thousands and thousands of humans who are perfectly capable of training to be a transit operator, but the amount of money offered for the job is not sufficient to entice them away from whatever else they’re doing with their time.

  2. And the destruction of route 255 continues. Ridership doesn’t support higher service levels. But if you want to get from downtown Seattle to S. Kirkland or downtown Kirkland, what a crapshoot to have to take a Link connection to a bus running every 30 minutes in the evenings. And based on my experience, depending on the operator the bus can be right on time at UW or 5-10 minutes late, with no way to know. How much better it would be if you can just get on a bus downtown.

    The promise that in return for adding the Link connection you’d have 15 minute service is broken .

    What was a 20-30 minute direct ride is now an hour-long unreliable ride.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. 30 minute service is bad. At least for me, it will still be a one seat ride, as I usually ride the 255 to the U-district, not downtown. Ideally, this would be only temporary, but I have a feeling with Metro’s equity focus, that when the service comes back, it will come back in other areas instead (such as RapidRide I, for example).

      The Kirkland area is also seeing big cutbacks in the 225, 230, and 231 as well, as there a huge difference in usability between half-hourly service and hourly service.

    2. I agree. In general the cuts to peak-hour service seems quite reasonable. For the most part, these were “express overlays” — buses that ran alongside more popular buses. Sometimes they avoided transfers for riders, other times they made the trip to downtown faster. But with dwindling ridership on the main route, they did not perform well (or rather, the combination did not perform well). I don’t see the peak-only cuts being especially painful, and they make sense, given the ridership.

      In contrast, a lot of the midday cuts are “to the bone”. The 255 is a great example. The 28 is another one. In terms of performance, they were average. But if you look at the overall transit system, they were very important. The 28 is part of the grid in Ballard — cutting service to hourly means that you essentially kill the grid — the line spacing is way too wide. Riders will have lengthy walks to other buses (sometimes involving a hill) or they just give up on transit. It also kills off the connection from various parts of Ballard to Fremont as well as the express from Fremont to downtown (using Aurora). The bus should run every 15 minutes, not every hour.

      The 255 is the same way. This is the only connection from Kirkland to the UW — the only connection from Kirkland to Seattle, for that matter. It provides service connecting Totem Lake, Juanita, downtown Kirkland, and the heart of the urbanized inner-suburb. It is a solid bus route, now essentially made a coverage route, despite the high density, and the importance of service across the lake.

      I’m not saying I have easy alternatives, but some of the cuts in the middle of the day are especially tough.

      1. Even within the eastside, I think there are plenty of better places to cut service than the 255. For example, the 249 could be suspended again. The 271 could be truncated to Eastgate for all trips, suspending the long Issaquah tail.

        I think the pattern we’re seeing here is that Metro seems particularly reluctant to cut service in any way that reduces coverage, instead, preferring to maintain existing coverage and cut frequency instead. I think that’s a bad idea, and that frequency on core routes need to be prioritized over coverage to fringe places. For instance, everybody on the 271’s Issaquah tail has cars and there are tons and tons of unused parking capacity at the South Bellevue and Eastgate parking garages. By contrast, driving to Seattle to avoid service cuts on the 255 requires lots of sitting in traffic, both within Seattle and on the bridge. And, for lots of activities, having the car available for an evening return trip often requires driving into Seattle in the middle of rush hour. This is a very different situation from somebody along Newport Way driving to the 550, as the Bellevue section of I-90 never has any traffic problems.

        Even the 230 and 231 connect big activity centers in the north eastside in a straight line. These are the kind of routes we should be building up service on, not treating them as coverage routes for whatever random houses between the activity centers that these buses happen to pass by.

      2. “The 28 is part of the grid in Ballard — cutting service to hourly means that you essentially kill the grid”

        The 28 was half-hourly. That’s not feasible as a grid route: you could only transfer to it on rare lucky occasions.

      3. The 28 was half-hourly. That’s not feasible as a grid route: you could only transfer to it on rare lucky occasions.

        I disagree. It was bad, but now it is terrible. Hourly service in the heart of the city? That is nuts. A grid is more than just transfers — it also provides straightforward same direction one-seat rides. If I want to get from Chuck’s in Greenwood (85th and 8th) to Fremont, it is a straight shot. This is true for trips all along the corridor. Often this meant a long wait, but still worth it consider the walking distance to the other routes. Going from half hour to hour is brutal. The route becomes largely useless, unless you time your world around it (which means it is largely useless). It becomes a big service hole.

        The same is true for two-seat rides. For example, from Wallingford to 80th and Greenwood at noon: https://goo.gl/maps/fpmoFvX3LDNdQH5c9. There are times where the 28 is the best option, and times where it isn’t. But because the 28 is so straightforward, it is the best option (or tied for best) almost all of the time. By my calculations, about 3/4 of the time (or 45 minutes out of the hour). This will drop to about 1/4 of the time (or 15 minutes out of the hour). Keep in mind, the other options take a lot longer (around 15 minutes). So now, most of the time, you have to spend an extra 15 minutes for a fairly straightforward trip in the city.

        I agree that 15 minutes would make it a better grid, though. It doesn’t mean that this will be a hugely successful route, but it plugs the hole and makes a lot of one and two seat rides a lot better.

      4. How is that different from the situation with the 8, 10, 11, and 49? The 28 overlaps with the 40 between Fremont-8th. On 8th it’s a 7-block walk to the D. Yet you want to delete the 49 and 11 and reroute the 8 to Denny-Madison.

      5. Ross, why would you take the 28 to 80th and Greenwood from Wallingford? Didn’t you mean “80th and Eighth NW”?

    3. “The promise that in return for adding the Link connection you’d have 15 minute service is broken .”

      That was before covid and the driver shortage. In a recession it would be cut back anyway. We’re in a situation similar to the 2014 cuts, and have been since 2020. I’m getting tired of it lingering on and I wish it would end, but that doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon.

      Some people are predicting an overcrowded D when the 15 is suspended. There’s a corridor that clearly needs it service hours but won’t be getting it.

      1. While the exact justification wasn’t known, it was entirely foreseeable that when the route 255 was truncated, that if ridership didn’t support 15 minute headways, that the next time there was a crisis, the headways would be cut back. Whether for financial limitations or operator shortages. It’s already been cut to 20 minutes daytimes.

        It makes the return trip to Kirkland painful when the transfer isn’t a timed transfer and there’s no attempt to coordinate. In Europe there are often times transfers where the bus waits for the train. But that’s not how we operate. 30 minute headways aren’t good for replacing a direct route. Issaquah and Redmond and Bothell get better service than Kirkland in the evenings with this change.

  3. I can’t believe the 55 is being suspended. That’s bad for West Seattle. There’s already few one seat rides from Admiral to downtown and this will make things worse.

    1. If only the Admiral District had a more direct route downtown that did not involve backtracking to the Alaska Junction first. Let’s just call it 56.

      I’ve been wondering where route 55 found its riders, and why it lasted this long. It was basically a way to add a peak-direction express version of the C Line, just like 15 is an express version of the D Line, 18 is an express version of 40, and 121 is an express version of 120, er H Line now, that serves no unique tail losing service the way the tail-ends of 15 and 18 will lose service at a few suburgatory stops.

      I had to look up route 154 from the 121 map to remember what it was (and it is long gone, an extinct Sounder-Boeing express). Federal Center South riders are down to four trips each way a day, with the first transfer opportunity at Arrowhead Gardens.

      Metro was pretty surgical with these particular cuts (the ones I’m talking about, not necessarily the whole mothball list) with most of these routes’ riders likely to barely miss them (excepting Federal Center South commuters, who will have to transfer somewhere on Roxbury to get to Burien, and had a lot more runs and much better frequency once upon a time). Most 121 commuters will keep driving to TIBS, assuming they can find parking there, or catch the H Line or 131 if not in an automobile.

      1. I’m not going to miss the 55 — it’s indeed pretty surgical, dumping peak-hour riders on California Ave between (but outside of) Alaska St and Admiral Way.

        However, it definitely fits the pattern for this WS resident that Metro continues to treat WS as a bunch of disconnected bedroom communities that really only need to get from their homes to downtown and back. I work from home and my needs are increasingly to get within and between these areas during decidedly non-peak and weekend hours. I’ve got a bunch of axes to grind here focused mostly on the fact that connections within and between the west-of-Duwamish neighborhoods are pretty poor despite certain bus lines being frequent and nice.

        Why is the ponderous and infrequent 128 coverage route the only one-seat trip between White Center and Alaska/Admiral? Why is it actually impossible to get from Highland Park along 9th to anywhere on California Ave without going through downtown? Will someone, anyone, please commit to the 22? Could the transfers at Westwood Village maybe not totally suck someday? And in all seriousness, the 56 doesn’t run all day….why, exactly?

        The whole network west of the Duwamish was due for a re-think a long time ago.

      2. The 55 does suck, I agree. The 56/57 is my first choice to get from Admiral to downtown, but those buses are infrequent and prone to cancellations. The 55 is a good fallback plan. It gets a fair number of commuters on California between Admiral and Alaska Junctions and is pretty quick overall.

        Coming back home to Admiral the 56/57 is even more likely to be canceled. I usually take the water taxi or the C to 128/50 because the 56/57 is so unreliable. A drawback – the C is most always full by the time it gets downtown because it starts at South Lake Union.

        So at the end of a workday if a 55 happens to come I’m pretty happy. I’m in no hurry so I don’t mind the Junction detour. Plus it’s much less crowded than the C. It’s funny many of the people waiting for the C could hop on the 55 and probably get where they’re going.

      3. “The whole network west of the Duwamish was due for a re-think a long time ago.”

        You should have seen West Seattle before the C and before the 2014 cut restructure.

      4. Exactly, I bet 80% of the ridership on the 55 is people who were waiting for a C-line bus and a 55 happened to come first.

        I’m just glad they didn’t cut service from the 50 or the 128 which are the real workhorses for connecting from the Admiral District to the rest of the bus network. Unfortunately, Admiral District doesn’t have the density to support more buses to downtown other than a few express routes in the morning.

        In an ideal world, I would run the 56 as an all-day route that stays entirely within West Seattle with a connection to the C-line at the Spokane St Park and Ride. The peak commute routes could still continue downtown as they currently do. After West Seattle link opens I would replace that with a terminus at the Delridge light rail station. As any 50 or 128 rider knows, it takes about 30 minutes to get from Admiral District to the West Seattle Bridge on a bus via the Junction or 3 minutes in a car down Admiral Way, so the bus is not a practical option for >95% of users.

        It will be interesting to see what they do with the link restructure. I suspect the temptation will be to continue to feed all of the buses into the Junction, but I hope they think more creatively about sending buses down Admiral Way to the Delridge Station. Riders who want to access the Junction can just hop a train back to the Junction from Delridge.

  4. I was wondering how the mother of mik-run expresses, route 342, had stealthed its way through the Link restructure proposals.

    1. It is a weird bus, that’s for sure. But it really isn’t anywhere near Link, which largely answers your question. Prior to the pandemic it performed about average, so it wouldn’t be under pressure from that standpoint. It also runs only a handful of times a day — my guess is Metro didn’t want to bother getting rid of the route, simply because it takes effort and can upset people. Now that Metro is getting rid of a bunch of routes (at least temporarily, if not permanently) it became an obvious candidate.

    2. Stride 1 & 2 may supercede the part south of Bothell. It probably serves Boeing workers.

      1. Taking a route away before the replacement arrives is one way the system loses riders permanently. That said, I don’t know how many different daily commutes route 342 serves within its lengthy scoliosis, or whether the Stride 2 Line connects well for the current random local commutes within the 342.

        As an aside, I wish ST would not duplicate numbers within its own list of services. Why not call them STRide 501, 502, and 503? That way, it will be obvious they are buses, and avoid the confusion of the “1 Line”. Which 1 Line?

        And Metro ought to be planning for replacement numbers for bus routes 1, 2, and 3.

      2. The signage for Stride is supposed to be S1, S2 and S3. Of course, South Sounder is designated S and Link is designated 1 and 2.

        It’s halfway to the German labeling of a mode letter and a number. In that concept, Sounder would be something like T1 or C1 and Link would be something like L1.

        Heaven forbid that Sound Transit develop anything consistent across the agency! It’s important to confuse infrequent riders!

      3. Isn’t Link moving to an L1-type nomenclature? So Link is L1, L2, L3; Stride is S1, S2, S3; and others have individual letters: T (T line), N (Sounder North), S (Sounder South).

      4. Brent, the 1 has been going to Kinnear since the late Pleistocene. ST should change its number…..

        Jes’ sayin’

  5. I like that Metro is trying to time routes 7 and 36 to Link frequency. But I suspect there are times of day, like right after Franklin High gets out, that that won’t cut it for handling ridership.

    I must admit that my main route, 60, is well below 0.5 load factor most times I ride it. The exceptions are if I forget to avoid the pre-morning-bell and post-afternoon-bell runs, when every day is like the Superbowl Parade for a portion of an hour. Cleveland High students have learned that if they want to get a seat on the northbound 60, they must first go south to the bus stop a couple blocks south of the school. Lots of students who wait at the bus stops across from the school are getting passed up. Running the bus every 12 minutes all day has barely made a dent in the problem.

    Most hours of the day, 20-minute headway would provide more than ample capacity on route 60. Just not those two hours.

    I would like to suggest that, instead of running route 60 far more often than the ridership merits all day, that there be a peak-direction express between Cleveland High and Beacon Hill Station, with a platoon of runs starting about an hour before morning bell southbound and ending after morning bell, and a platoon of runs starting at final bell northbound, and ending about an hour later. These could be done with artics, where route 60 is usually done entirely with 40-footers.

    I’d happily give up that too-much-frequency on route 60 for better timing with Link, and a solution to the route being overwhelmed for less than an hour twice a day.

    1. And by peak-direction express, I meant peak-direction overlay of route 60, serving all the local stops.

    2. I like that Metro is trying to time routes 7 and 36 to Link frequency.

      I doubt it. I’m sure Link influences ridership to some degree, but not a lot. It isn’t like the 347/348, where a huge portion of the riders get off at Northgate and transfer to the train.

      My guess is the cuts are merely designed to minimize the pain. It is really bad to go from 7.5 minutes to 10 minutes frequency, but it is much worse to go from 15 to 30. Yet they both save just as much. The fact that these routes now mirror Link frequencies, is just an unfortunate coincidence.

      As far as the 60 goes, it is a similar issue. Going from 12 minutes to 15 minutes isn’t very painful. The problem is, it doesn’t save that much. In contrast, going from 12 minutes to 20 minutes saves as much as the cutbacks on the 7 and 36 (7.5 to 10) but is a lot more painful. Going from 12 minutes to 20 minutes is really tough. It isn’t about capacity, it is about ridership, and what it does for folks who take the bus now. Running a few express buses on top of things (to deal with capacity issues) makes the savings even smaller. I could definitely see the 60 going to every 15 minutes midday (with 12 minute service peak, extending into school hours) but 20 just seems brutal.

      1. Reading your comments and trying to find anything useful from them is brutal.

      1. There are plenty of things Metro shouldn’t be doing at Cleveland High (and other high schools?), like making students walk a few blocks on a narrow sidewalk or in the street in the wrong direction to get standing room on a bus going in the right direction, not timing routes 107 and 60 better to be virtually part of the same platoon, wasting gobs of service hours on the 107 loop-de-looping through the Georgetown saloon ghost town and causing students to walk in the street to the next stop south of the worse-than-useless loop-de-loop to get home faster southbound.

        I have no dog in this fight. I just recognize that my all-day stretch limo coming every 12 minutes should get some service cuts before much fuller routes do. And as Ross points out (he managed to get this right) the savings from going from 12-minute headway to 20-minute headway are substantial.

        But the students need more service at the time it is needed. Sure, Walker points out that schools can offset their bell times from each other, but there is only one high school on this twice-a-day one-hour bottleneck, and a middle-school further north that is a much smaller contributor. Sure, they could move the middle school bell time for the sake of separating the dozen or so riders from that school (I’m taking a wild guess, but haven’t seen that many when I get stuck on the bus at the wrong time of day), but is it really worth it for them to change the schedule for the rest of the student body?

  6. Mike: please double check; the second bullet seems overstated for some of the routes listed.

    1. The 28 peak hours is unaffected. I’ll check whether any of the others have unaffected periods I missed.

  7. A little surprised that route 320 is getting the axe. At least anecdotally, I’ve always seen that bus half-full when at Northgate in the morning. Route 20 is fairly busy along Lake City but empty south of it. Reducing it to 30 min service unevenly affects the most productive portion of the route.

    1. @jordan, Is route 320 half full north of Northgate, or south of Northgate heading to South Lake Union?

      And what is your definition of half full? Someone in half the seats by themselves (load factor 0.2), half the seat-space taken (load factor 0.5), or standing room only (load factor 1.0)?

      1. I’d see it at Northgate headed south. I think when we see a bus, especially post-COVID, that has each row of seats occupied by at least one rider, it’s easier to say half-full. But if we use actual capacity numbers, the bus is really at 30-40% full. By transit standards, that’s a productive route. Anyways, my experience is based on just seeing one trip of the 320 at the same time. daily.

        But you bring up an interesting point that CT planning and customer service discussed together.. Before COVID, commuters were complaining of crowding on certain routes and asked for more trips. But planning would always (and irritatingly) rebuff customers and cite ridership data that there’s still plenty of room. So customer service managers went out to see for themselves. They discovered that even though there was still capacity, the perception of crowding was real because 1) some people had belongings or puffy coats that would spill into the next seat and 2) people enjoy their personal space.

      2. @jordan, thanks for the response.

        I’m still curious how full the 320 is before arriving at Northgate, vs. how full it is after departing, and how many riders are riding through the stop.

        I hope Metro is parsing the 320 ridership data, since it could be a much different set of riders south of the station (riders transferring from other commuter-oriented routes and headed to SLU — a group which will cease transferring at Northgate after Lynnwood Station opens) than the local tail (riders catching whichever bus to Link comes first, and then transferring at the station, or actually working at Northgate or somewhere along the local tail).

      3. @ Brent

        I will say I DID notice 1 or 2 people occasionally exiting the 320 at Northgate. So that would indicate the majority of riders are SLU employees. And if you go to Metro’s blog that details the upcoming reduction, there are several commentors complaining the 320 is packed since Amazon returned to the office a few weeks ago.

        Since April, I have a new job in SODO and no longer commute through Northgate. So I haven’t seen the 320 lately.

  8. “Lindblom’s article says the new RapidRide H line on Delridge Way has reached 6,635 daily riders, compared to 4,300 a year ago on route 120. ”

    Any guesses how much of a factor these things are in this?
    1. Return of riders to transit after Covid.
    2. Riders from other routes.
    3. New riders because of the buses being faster, more frequent and more reliable.
    4. New riders because of better bus stops.

    A 50 percent + increase is notable. A little understanding of how this happens needs to be explored.

    1. The obvious thing to do is to compare the daily riders of a current downtown to sw Seattle or Burien-area route (like the route 131 or 124), with the daily riders on that same route a year ago. Is ridership up 50% on the 131 or 124?

    2. The 131/132 appear to me to be unchanged. The 120 was already faster than them; the 131 and 132 exist for their unique coverage middles. The 124 is significantly east of these routes and doesn’t go to Burien, so it can’t be substituted.

      1. Knowing the route 131 and 124 year-over-year ridership increase would be helpful in understanding why the H Line had a 50% yoy increase over the route 120. If the 131 and 124 also had a 50% yoy increase, that would eliminate some of Al’s possible theories for the H Line’s ridership increase, like better bus stops or being faster.

  9. I used to ride the 255 from the tunnel to juanita and back quite a bit. First the ne restructure then rhe link changes have truly murdered the route. A lot of different promises were made along the way and they actually increased frequency on it during the pandemic. Between losing both ends (downtown and brickyard) and these new cuts, it’s kind of a why bother route now.id guess it’s probably not long for this world especially with a looming recession. Does anyone know when the 255 was created?

    1. The 255 was already running when I first moved to the Seattle area in 1981!

      In fact, I think it may be one of those routes that even pre-dates the formation of Metro. The 255 alternated with routes 251/254 to provide half hourly service between downtown Seattle, Montlake, S. Kirkland and downtown Kirkland. The 251 and 254 continued to Redmond (along NE 70th and NE 80th) while the 255 continued to Juanita and Totem Lake.

      The 255 interlined in downtown Seattle with route 226 which went via Mercer Island to Bellevue and Crossroads, kind of a precursor to route 550. The 251/254 interlined with route 235 which went via Mercer Island to Bellevue and then Kirkland.

      To finish the history… there was also route 253 which went from downtown Seattle via Montlake and Medina to Bellevue and then Crossroads to Redmond mainly following RR B routing in Bellevue.

      But Route 255 was once one of the mainstay routes on the Eastside. If systemwide ridership has recovered to 60 or 65%, I bet that route 255 is now carrying less than 25% of its pre-truncation ridership. They often put short coaches on the route now.

      1. -As a former Eastside resident, I remember well the half-hourly combo service between Kirkland and downtown during the ’80s and ’90s, and how both of these routes have gradually shrunk/vanished.
        – UW workers used to have great pesk-time connection between between campus and various Eastside destinations.
        – The Bellevue Transit Center had what was referred to as “Pulse Time” where riders were able to make timed transfers.
        – Progress sometimes seems more like Regress.

    2. I used to live in the Juanita area too 20 years ago when the Bredas were still around. I could hear them 8 blocks away coming down 124th! It’s sad to see the 255 get massacred. The decision for it not to operate downtown and the repeated floating bridge closures. If I still lived in Juanita, I’d probably take it to Evergreen Point and transfer to the 545.

    3. The 255 was running in 1979 when I rode its through-route 226.

      Metro will never delete Kirkland-UW service, not when it’s the only route to Seattle for the northwestern Eastside.

    4. It’s obviously been a long time, but I recall that there was service via 520 when I answered questions for Metro on the phone in 1975/6. I think it was 255 even then. The route went on to Juanita then ended at Totem Lake.

      IIRC it went up 108th while the 235 used Lake Washington Boulevard. The South Kirkland P’n’R was already open.

      A popular bus even then.

      1. Metro was formed in 1973, so that’s probably when the route 255 was created. Not sure of what transit company ran between Kirkland and downtown before Metro. Btw, there used to be two versions of the 255. The regular one that went on 108th, and the flyer that went on 405. I wonder in 1976 if the Metro information hold music was disco.

  10. Had East Link been opening this summer, some Metro bus drivers would be Metro-employed Link train drivers. How has the delay affected the number of drivers?

    1. I would assume that driving Link trains is more attractive than driving buses, even if the hourly pay is the same. I remember reading that there are additional training requirements, so it makes me wonder how large the Link-certified driver pool is compared to the “normal” pool.

  11. If funding is not an issue according to Lindblom, and Metro had adequate mechanics and drivers pre-pandemic with the same levels of service or greater, then the two factors I would look at are:

    1. Commercial driving dealing with the public is worse than commercial driving for freight because you are dealing with the public, and today that public a bus driver is dealing with can be rough. I have a friend who flies for UPS and it is one of the most prized pilot jobs because you deal with freight, not humans, and actually freight per pound is worth much more than flying humans so pay, benefits and time off are great. If the pay is the same, would you rather drive a truck filled with freight with few stops or a Metro bus? The same things that keep riders off transit keep prospective drivers off transit.

    2. Unemployment is at very low levels, especially for jobs in this stratum of the economy, and in WA minimum wage is high (and as Lazarus’ pointed out does not include tips). So there are lots of jobs available to choose from. If someone wants to smoke pot they can find a non-driving job paying the same. https://www.transportation.gov/odapc/dot-recreational-marijuana-notice

    I think there also may be a stigma attached to driving a Metro bus, especially for younger people.

    Still the deficit in drivers and mechanics is not very great, and the cuts are to poorly performing routes that don’t look like they are coming back for structural reasons that are unlikely to change, so a revisit of those routes makes sense anyway.

    1. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/public-transit-the-new-drug-den-what-s-being-done-to-keep-you-safe/ar-AA1b6Mm9?ocid=hpmsn&cvid=8a7037cdfa534635bacda88afd98cd0e&ei=12

      “One Metro driver stated: ““Somewhere along the way, someone said it’s cool to smoke drugs on the bus,” Rigtrup said. “No one’s going to stop you, and that’s where we are today.”

      ““This is a passionate topic for me. I want my riders back, folks,” said Erik Christensen, a Metro driver for 22 years who recently begged members of the King County Council to understand the urgency.”

      “Metro Transit drivers have told KIRO-7 and the ATU that police will not typically intervene or remove someone smoking fentanyl on public transit. “I’ve had King County Sheriff Deputies within feet of the individual smoking, and said they couldn’t do anything,” said the driver.

      “A new pilot program just introduced by Metro bolsters the number of unarmed transit security guards. The Safety, Security, and Fare Enforcement (SaFE) Reform Initiative includes a plan to hire dozens of guards.”

      “Switzer said the “standard procedure” for unarmed transit safety officers is to make verbal contact, and try to gain compliance peacefully and respectfully from the a rider who is violating the Code of Conduct, “in an effort to keep the coach moving and to get other riders to their destination without delays.

      “If the person does not comply, the Transit Security Officers (TSOs) will request the rider to deboard the coach at the next stop. Switzer said if a rider refuses to leave, additional steps can be taken, but “Transit Security Officers have not been authorized to physically remove anyone from the coach unless the person poses an imminent safety risk to other riders or the officers.” Switzer added, “New Transit Security Officers receive standard training which includes guidance for interaction with people who are engaged in illegal activity, including smoking drugs on buses and at transit locations.”

      “You could put 200 security guards out there, it would not help the problem of smoking fentanyl on the buses because it’s too widespread,” said the unidentified driver, who added that his fellow drivers are often advised to take their bus out of service if a drug using rider is unconscious, or refuses to leave. “They would leave the person on until they decided they were ready to leave,” he said.”

      I am sure articles like this don’t help recruiting Metro drivers, and these article, or articles about downtown Seattle where so many buses run through, are nearly a daily feed. Or riders as the one Metro driver told the council.

      Safety is a deal breaker for discretionary riders, and apparently no one cares about the non-discretionary rider now that discretionary riders are no longer riding transit.

    2. I personally have never encountered anyone smoking fentanyl on the bus, and if it were as widespread as some claim it is, I would have.

      That said, even if bus drivers have to deal with the public, bus mechanics don’t, so even if fentanyl use on buses were widespread, it shouldn’t have anything to do with finding people to repair and maintain the engines.

      1. It sounds like you are assuming a uniform distribution of fentanyl smoking habits across bus routes (perhaps it’s uniformly over miles of bus routes instead, but let’s keep it simple) and over time.

        Out of the 150 or so bus routes that metro operates, how many have you personally ridden in the past year, and how uniformly distributed were your trips? No need for details of times of specific routes driven, a count of each (X routes out of N total, Y hours of the day out of 20 total, assuming no travel time between 1am and 5am, and let’s keep it simpler yet by not worrying about distribution across days).

        Once you provide X and Y, we can validate your claim that “if it were as widespread as some claim it is, I would have”.

        Look forward to your X and Y.

        For the record, my X and Y are 2 and 2-3, respectively, as I ride only a couple of routes for specific purposes, and very rarely. So I will make no claim of generalizing out of my own experience (which, like yours, is that I have not personally encountered fentanyl smoking on Metro).

    3. I think there also may be a stigma attached to driving a Metro bus, especially for younger people.

      Wait, what? Why on earth would there be a stigma attached to driving a bus. If anything it would be the opposite. Drive for UPS? Yawn. Drive for Metro, and someone is essentially going to say “thank you for your service”, although probably not in those words. Being a Metro driver means being a public servant. It also implies you are more of a “people person”, and can handle the added responsibility that comes with it.

      1. It’s pretty well accepted that riding the bus carries a stigma. https://ssti.us/2012/07/23/the-bus-stigma-why-it-exists-and-should-we-care/



        Getting school bus drivers includes overcoming stigmas. https://www.rohrerbus.com/stigma-vs-reality-4-false-statements-bus-drivers/

        It doesn’t appear to be an attractive job. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hWYt_5BORw


        At least this article suggests lack of dignity is an issue in recruiting and retaining bus drivers.

        Of course society doesn’t have a super high opinion of truckers either. https://www.2290tax.com/blog/trucker-stigma/

        “Drive for UPS? Yawn. Drive for Metro, and someone is essentially going to say “thank you for your service”, although probably not in those words. Being a Metro driver means being a public servant. It also implies you are more of a “people person”, and can handle the added responsibility that comes with it.”

        I agree that is how it should be, but I am not so sure that is how it is in reality.

      2. I think that you answered your own question. Being a public servant carries stigma for a non-trivial minority (or perhaps even majority) of the population, even among the youth, and the added responsibility can be seen as a deterrent to the job. Driving for UPS (if I recall correctly) is still a unionized position for now, and thus a leg up on both public service jobs and non-unionized driving positions like the Amazon DSP ones.

      3. Being a public servant carries stigma for a non-trivial minority (or perhaps even majority) of the population

        Seriously? I’ve honestly never met anyone like this. It is a cliche, but the “thank you for your service” expressed for service members is quite common. To the point where many a service member feels like it is trite, or completely misses the point (“I got into the military to get out of poverty lady, but you’re welcome”). People routinely praise teachers, nurses, and fire fighters. They are generally given *more* credit because there is a general understanding that by serving the public, they are making a sacrifice — doing something for the greater good, not just the money.

        I’m just trying to wrap my head around the idea that anyone would feel the opposite. Don’t get me wrong — I understand why someone wouldn’t particularly care one way or another. But to actually dislike someone for serving the public seems perverse.

        [Profanity Warning — The following paragraph contains vulgar language. If you can’t handle it, skip to the next paragraph.]

        Good Lord, are there really that many selfish dicks in this country? I get “Fuck the Police”, but fuck the nurses? Fuck the teachers? Fuck the fire fighters and the bus drivers too? I mean, what the fuck? Is the country really that fucked up, and if so, who gives a fuck what assholes like that think. If some dipshit asshole denigrates my profession because I have the audacity to actually help people, then why the fuck should I care? Let the haters hate. Fuck ’em.

        It is hard to imagine anyone avoiding being a bus driver because idiots don’t appreciate it. There are plenty of good people out there who feel the opposite. Like literally every single person I know.

      4. Don’t get me wrong, I feel the same way as you do. Some of this may be our respective ages, backgrounds, etc. Unfortunately, however, I have also heard plenty of people stigmatize public service employees as “lazy”, “entitled”, “overpaid”, etc. etc.

        Here is one article which discusses it in a fairly principled way while still accessible to lay people like myself:


        Having said that, it is not a consistent view, by any means, of course. An example of the diversity of opinions (towards “public service employees” as a general group) is discussed in this study:


        In that study, the associations (if I understand correctly) are considered to be overall “slightly positive” but with considerable spread of opinions, and potential correlation of the negative opinions and opinions of politicians (as a separate category from public servants).

        I’m not a political scientist so I will not go any deeper in this discussion :) But I think that there is evidence to suggest that a non-trivial subcategory of people do hold such opinions, unfortunately.

        Hope this helps.

      5. Amongst the wealthy and some older people sure there’s a stigma about the bus. Many Millennials and Gen Z reject that notion and are going car free or limiting the amount of cars in their household because of how much owning a car adds up cost wise or want that flexibility of other modes of transit have. Because car ownership is very expensive compared to a yearly bus pass when you add up car payments, gas, insurance, maintenance, etc.

      6. Zach: to be clear, I was discussing stigma in the context of bus driving as a job, not riding as a passenger (though I completely agree with your comment – just wanted to clarify my own point in case it had been missed).

        As someone who has been a life-long pedestrian, I am glad to see that there is less ‘stigma’ associated with riding transit, also, yes.

      7. @Daniel — You are conflating two different things. There is some stigma to riding a bus (although I think it is pretty rare around here, and limited to a small subset of wealthy people). It is certainly not typical, or part of our heritage (quite the contrary). But driving a bus? At worst it is like driving a truck, the very competition that contributes (in part) to the drivers shortage.

        In short, driving stuff is just easier than driving a bus. But the amount of stuff being driven around (in the city) has seen a big increase in the last few years. There is a major shipping company — Amazon — that simply didn’t exist a few years back. They are often shipping things that we used to ship ourselves — at least the last mile. They aren’t alone. Walmart can ship you toilet paper and eggs two. People have been shipping restaurant food for a really long time (I used to deliver pizza) but again, this has seen a huge explosion, as companies no longer have to hire their own delivery staff. Then you have the taxi-cab service, which has also gotten big. All of this leads to lots of professional drivers. This (along with a general labor shortage, and everything else mentioned here) likely plays a big part in the shortage.

        But a stigma to driving a bus, as opposed to any other type of driving? I don’t buy it. Again, I feel it is the opposite. I wouldn’t let my daughter marry a lawyer, but a bus driver? Sure.

        [Sorry, another lawyer joke. ]

        But seriously, I just don’t see how anyone — other than a very uptight, upper-class, privileged person — would feel that way about bus drivers. That is a very small, tiny, minuscule part of the country in general, and especially the Northwest. They would feel the same way about any middle-class profession (including someone in the military). The idea that such an attitude would influence someone’s decision to get a job driving a bus seems like a huge stretch.

      8. Driving a bus is operating heavy equipment. I’ve never driven a bus, but I have driven a 24ft box truck though downtown Seattle. White knuckles sometimes. Drivers certainly earn their pay.

        Add the crazy that goes on in many local bus routes? No thanks.

        Funny how you think bus drivers are “public servants”. I do, but then again I think sinking billions into subways when we can’t pay a living wage to bus drivers is 100% bullshit. Most posters here feel otherwise.

      9. Ross, then do how do you explain assaults on public servants if everyone worships “public servants”, whether bus drivers, police (the most exposed group), yes nurses, anyone who deals with the public? Why do you think public buildings have metal detectors and Link and Metro have secured driver areas and “ambassadors” and police officers carry guns?

        There are bad people in this world, crazy people, drug addicts, just mean people who would kill you or your family for $10 without any remorse. If you interact with the public you learn this, whether a bus driver or like I was a bartender.

        Take off the rose colored glasses.. It is a mean world. The crimes people commit are beyond humanity.

        Using the F word won’t change the fact healthcare workers — THE public servants you extoll — won’t take transit from MI to First Hill if it requires a transfer at 3rd and James which is no man’s land. Because they are doing the work you and I won’t but not if it requires a risk of being assaulted or killed.

      10. “Take off the rose colored glasses.. It is a mean world. The crimes people commit are beyond humanity.”

        Violent crime is definitely a problem in the USA, Africa, South America, India, etc, but it’s nowhere near the problem it is here in places like most of Europe, Japan or Australia.

        However, the policy and social changes required to turn this country into a functioning society goes well beyond what a transit web site should be covering.

      11. If crime and public safety are depressing ridership and making it difficult to hire transit drivers and causing a decline in urban areas where transit should thrive it is THE issue for a transit blog.

        Safety for the discretionary rider — or as transit experts call them choice riders — is a deal breaker. Fares, coverage, transfers and frequency are meaningless without safe stations, stops, trains and buses, when transit has such structural deficits compared to driving, especially with WFH, and these riders pay full fare. Unless you want a transit system for only the poor and non-discretionary rider.

        At its best transit is around 5% of trips. Best to not go to 3% or 4% although it really isn’t transit’s fault although secured stations are a start.

  12. One under appreciated benefit of RapidRide is that, when times get tough, there is an implicit promise from Metro to preserve frequency on the RapidRide routes, if necessary, by making bigger cuts elsewhere. That’s not to say RapidRide is completely immune from cuts, but even the F line is in no danger of being reduced to 30 minutes, even during revenue shortfalls, primarily because it is RapidRide.

    This may be the real reason why every city wants RapidRide even if they don’t have the ridership for RapidRide to make sense – the red branding protects them from service cuts in future recessions. As the number of RapidRide routes increases, eventually, either cuts to non RapidRide routes will have to get bigger, or the promise of protection of RapidRide routes will have to get broken, at least for the lower performing ones.

    1. Yet another reason why the RapidRide brand is stupid. No bus service should receive extra service merely because it has a different name.

    2. > One under appreciated benefit of RapidRide is that, when times get tough, there is an implicit promise from Metro to preserve frequency on the RapidRide routes

      It’s a bit beyond an implicit promise, a lot (not all) of Rapidride’s were built with federal funding. One can’t really lower the frequency too low without consequences either a) clawing back the federal money or b) and more likely the fta will be unlikely to provide money the next time. I mean one can’t just accept a 100 million dollars for capital improvements for a bus line and then slash it’s frequency to 20/30 minutes.

      > This may be the real reason why every city wants RapidRide even if they don’t have the ridership for RapidRide to make sense

      That being said, most of the RapidRides were built from the highest ridership routes. It isn’t really too surprising that they’d receive the least cuts. I mean routes 40, 62, 8, 44, etc.. have high ridership and aren’t on this list of cutbacks either.

      1. Right now, the RapidRide lines are pretty good, except for the F. But, Metro’s long range plan shows RapidRide expanding for political reasons into routes with far lower ridership. Once you get stuff like the K line added to RapidRide, you have more and more service hours going to protected routes, which, in turn, forces bigger and bigger service cuts during economic downturns for non-protected routes.

  13. I invite you to ride the E line up to Aurora Village any time of day. On the 3 trips I operated each day up until last shakeup, I typically found evidence of drug use on the bus at least once a trip if not every trip. Individuals openly smoked drugs in the shelters at Aurora Village or along the route. All that I witnessed was before Noon as I only drive in the mornings now so I’m sure it was even more chaotic later in the day.

    The lack of security and unreliability of the system have prompted me to avoid transit for the last several years. I’m hopeful it will turn around … some day, but I’m no longer operating buses in Seattle*. It’s too discouraging.

    * Sort of: I’m operating ST 545 which has been a pleasant diversion from years of chaos.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and posting. I’m not sure why anyone would want a job working around open drug use, but many of college educated types on this blog seem to feel it’s no big deal. Hang in there!

      1. I’m not sure why anyone would want a job working around open drug use

        You’ve just described every bartender in the world. Sometimes people use too much alcohol, cause a disturbance that the bartender needs to deal with, and that’s certainly not a very pleasant part of their job. And yet, lots of people are bartenders because the pay offered compensates them for the unpleasantness. Seems that balance is not currently there for transit operator jobs.

    2. Drug use on the E and (former) 358 are common. This isn’t new. I believe I made comments on this in the past and they were “ad hominem’d.” On a recent jaunt on Link, I complained to ST concerning someone smoking fentanyl on the train. I don’t know what else someone smokes on a foil and folds in half passed out.

      I used to commute via the 301 from Shoreline. I loved the route and where it dropped me downtown. The transition to link was less than stellar with a wonky transfer in Northgate and a longer commute.

      I’ve since changed jobs and now drive to work because transit is not convenient whatsoever. When I do transit, I often carry protection because I there is zero security.

      1. “I complained to ST concerning someone smoking fentanyl on the train. I don’t know what else someone smokes on a foil and folds in half passed out.”

        Heroin? But fentanyl has largely driven other drugs out due to its intensity and price, so anyone you see nowadays is likely smoking fentanyl. Fentanyl also smells like burning rubber, so that’s hard to miss, and might make you think the bus tires are burning. And even if you take something else, fentanyl is often laced into it anyway without your knowledge.

    3. Of the hundreds of buses I’ve been on since the beginning of the year, only one or two of the have I smelled drugs on. That’s mostly in Central Seattle, SODO, and Northeast Seattle (south of Northgate), and secondarily in West Seattle, Southeast Seattle, and the Eastside. 99% of the drug users I’ve seen or plumes I’ve smelled are at bus stops, not in buses or trains.

  14. The solution to bus service cutbacks is hire more people and have a more professional workplace. That’s more pay, cleaner buses and better security. It’s not rocket science.

    Set a living wage across all Puget Sound Transit providers…. get all the agencies and unions to sit down and come up with a way forward.

    Have only two training facilities to train drivers for all the agencies. Come up with a program that’s both very good and as short as possible. New hires need to start training the day after they’re officially offered a job.

    New contract that absolutely forbids part time drivers or split shifts.

    Charge Sound Transit twice was much per driver hour as they’re paying now. The idea that it’s cheaper for ST to use other agencies drivers needs to die.

    Of course there’s no political will to get this stuff done, but it needs to happen anyway.

    1. Charge Sound Transit twice was much per driver hour as they’re paying now. The idea that it’s cheaper for ST to use other agencies drivers needs to die.

      That seems silly. That would be like Metro saying that RapidRide bus drivers should get paid twice as much. From a driver standpoint, ST Express buses are just like Metro buses, except the buses are a different color. Funding comes from a different place but that is largely irrelevant.

      It does beg the question though: Should we cut back more on ST Express routes? I know some ST Express improvements have been delayed because of the driver shortage, but I don’t know if there have been the type of cutbacks mentioned here. This is not a funding issue, the fact that they are different agencies shouldn’t make any difference. The cuts in service should be based on all the factors that went into these cuts.

      For example, why is the 586 still running? It fails on every measure:

      1) It is extremely expensive to operate.
      2) It picks up very few people (making the ridership per driver time very low).
      3) There is an obvious alternative (take the bus/train to Downtown Seattle and transfer).

      Is ST being treated in a special way, just because it is a different agency? If so, that is BS, and needs to stop. Normally cutbacks are the result of funding — but clearly, that isn’t the case here. This is a labor shortage. The amount of money each agency has is irrelevant. ST routes should be scrutinized in the same manner as Metro routes.

      1. I think increasing the amount charged to ST is worth exploring. If Metro is having a hard time staffing its own routes why should it make things harder on itself by sending some of its personnel over to work for another agency at cost?

        Sound Transit doesn’t want to invest in its own training and management apparatus for operators? Fine. Charge them a solid premium for that service Metro is providing them, and plow the cash back into whatever incentives it would take to bring more drivers on board.

      2. “If Metro is having a hard time staffing its own routes why should it make things harder on itself by sending some of its personnel over to work for another agency at cost?”

        Is this actually happening? Is ST contributing to Metro’s shortage? All the ST Express runs I can think of are either many years old or the result of Link restructures. Yanking ST service to backfill Metro runs is arbitrarily harming one set of riders for another simply because of politics/bureaucratic distinctions.

        The main issue is simply that Metro is ten or twenty times larger than ST. It’s easier to find a hundred people than to find a thousand. So ST’s impact on Metro is a drop in the bucket.

        The same holds true for Link vs buses, for those who are worried about ST finding enough Link drivers. I don’t think Link will have a problem finding a handful of drivers for Line 2.

    2. “The idea that it’s cheaper for ST to use other agencies drivers needs to die.”

      Are you talking about ST using PT drivers for some King County routes to save money? Or ST using any non-ST drivers at all? ST doesn’t have bus drivers so it doesn’t have a rate for them. I don’t see why it should have to. If ST doesn’t want to operate buses, let the agencies who have expertise in that area do it. As for the difference between Metro’s and ST’s rate, that has to do with the cost of living in Pierce vs King County, the fact that PT doesn’t have expensive peak express routes or as much infrastructure for a large network, and what each union negotiates. I don’t see the rate differential going away.

      1. Look, anybody with a CDL license in greater Puget Sound is going to migrate to jobs that pay better. Pierce Transit isn’t one of them. Metro isn’t one of them. Until transit pays more than driving a cement truck…. there’s a problem. Driving a bus is driving a bus. Seattle-Everett-Tacoma… it’s the same job. Pay the same prevailing wages truckers make and offer much better benefits. Problem solved. If you think the Unions wouldn’t love to negotiate with all the transit companies that the same time, you don’t know much about unions.

        Sound Transit needs to pay up because Pierce Transit can’t afford to train drivers for them for free. There’s a cost there and because ST has most of the money, they have to be willing pay. Sound Transit needs to start investing more in local transit because without good local transit, why even have regional transit?

  15. Does Metro still require it’s operators to own cars? I understand this impetus for anyone driving a bus out of South Base, North Base, etc, but for the bases in SODO it seems like it would be worth providing an exception (I.e. if you don’t have a car you can still drive a bus based out of SODO). I’ve heard in the past many applications have attempted to drive for Metro but been rejected for this reason.

  16. Cutting the 28 does not seem like a good value. It goes from every half hour to every hour. This means you save one trip per hour. It gets worse. The 28 is paired with the 131 or 132. Neither is getting a cutback, which means that those buses will just layover at the north end of downtown, or return to base. In other words, at best you save money on the part of the route that goes from the north end of downtown to the north end of Seattle. That takes 27 minutes. So basically 27 minutes out of the hour, which is very little in the way of savings, for essentially destroying a route.

    In contrast, the 7 takes 55 minutes to go from Rainier Beach to the north end of downtown. It will lose two of its runs every hour (going from 8 trips to 6). That is 110 minutes of savings per hour.

    The 7 is a far more important bus, and it carries way more riders per hour than the 7. But not four times as many. The pain of losing frequency on the 7 is minimal compared to the hammering of the 7, and yet the savings from cutting the 7 is a lot more.

    The 28 provides unique coverage for a fairly wide swath of town. For many riders, there is no reasonable alternative, other than walking a long distance. In contrast, the 79 (a new bus, which will be cut in a similar fashion) does have alternatives. If you are trying to get to a Link station, several buses cross it. In almost all cases, at worse you have a two seat ride to your destination.

    The cutbacks to the 225 look bad as well. To be fair, these at least save the agency more money (it takes about an hour to run the 225) and at least much of the route overlaps other (more frequent) buses. But still, it creates a big hole in the Rose Hill and Finn Hill neighborhoods (where the alternative is a much longer walk) even though there are some apartments and destinations in the area. It also makes the combined headways from Totem Lake developments to the freeway (where riders can pick up the 255) much worse. The 239 runs every half hour, so now those riders now have 15 minute combined headways only half the time (instead of all the time).

    The same thing is true for trips from Juanita to downtown Kirkland, as the 230 and 231 will each run every hour. Overall, the area south of 522 and west of 405 gets hammered quite hard. To be fair, ridership is lower here than Seattle, and it isn’t being subsidized like the Seattle routes. But this isn’t an entirely low density area — there are apartments scattered here and there, along with significant destinations (e. g. Lake Washington Institute of Technology).

    1. What’s particularly bad about cutting service on the 225 is that the length of the route makes for a very inefficient schedule when the bus is running only hourly. Two buses isn’t quite enough to run the route, so they do it with three, but running the route with three buses involved a whopping 55 minute layover period in Kenmore, on top of a more reasonable 15’ish minutes at Overlake. This is a very high layover time to service time ratio, and ties up a lot of bus driver hours just sitting there with a stationary bus, carrying no one.

      In general, as route frequency drops, service efficiency (percent of service hours that the bus is moving vs. stopped in layover) drops with it, due to the constraint the buses exist only in integer quantities, if you can’t run the 225 with 2.1 buses, you have to round it up all the way to 3. This is true with any route, but is particularly bad with the 225. Cutting out half the service saves a lot less than half of the bus driver labor.

    2. I am confused how they come to the conclusion of cutting the 28. Even if they have to pick something from the same base, running 62 every 20 minutes is much less painful than running 28 every hour. Are they forbidden to touch any Frequent routes?

      1. To quote King County Metro’s blog post: “Routes protected from significant changes also serve a higher percentage of riders who have lower incomes or identify as Black, Indigenous and other communities of color.”

        That leaves Seattle and East King bearing the brunt of the service cuts, with South King losing almost nothing.

      2. They can (and have) cut frequent routes (like the 7). Same with cutting routes that have a lot of routes that have low-income riders (like the 7). I think we are left guessing with the 28. Two theories:

        1) They want to “spread the pain”. This is the only midday cut in that part of Seattle.
        2) The 28 just doesn’t perform well.

        I think part of the issue with the 28 is that it doesn’t run often enough. I think the 28 is one of those buses that would respond extremely well to an increase in frequency. In effect, other buses “poach” their potential ridership, simply because they are more often. For example, consider a trip from Greenwood to Fremont. But assume you are closer to 8th than Greenwood Avenue, and heading towards the west part of Fremont. The 28 saves you walking, and you spend less time on the bus. It is, in that respect “faster”. But the 5 runs so much more often that it isn’t worth waiting for the 28. Thus the catchment area for the 5 is much bigger. Run the 28 more often, and this difference disappears.

        Same goes for trips downtown. The 28 overlaps the 40 in places. It goes on Aurora, and is thus much faster to downtown. But again, waiting for the 28 simply isn’t worth it. Folks take the slower bus (or walk farther) simply because it runs more often.

        In many cases, they do neither. They reach the point where the 28 is just too infrequent, and the alternative is too slow (or involves too much walking) and instead find some other way to get there (like driving, calling a cab, etc.). Given existing ridership, the 28 does not seem like a good candidate for increased frequency, but my guess is if you did run it every 15 minutes it would get a lot more riders, and overall ridership would increase.

      3. How much of the 7 is actually being cut through? My understanding is that it was just a couple of peak-hour trips, increasing wait times by no more than a couple of minutes.

        In any case, I agree with you about the 28. And I’d like to add another, easily fixed problem with the 28, which is its northern terminus. For some reason I don’t understand, it stops by the QFC only in the northbound direction. In the southbound direction, the bus is sitting right there in layover, but you have to walk south a full half-mile to 95th St. before you can reach a stop where the driver will let you on the bus. Not letting people get on the bus near a shopping center that the bus is already stopping at just doesn’t make sense. It’s like Metro wants this bus to fail.

      4. “part of the issue with the 28 is that it doesn’t run often enough.”

        8th Avenue NW is single-family. The only multifamily/retail is at the major east-west intersections. It doesn’t have two strong ends like the 48; the north end just peters out at a supermarket plaza. That’s what makes it a coverage route. Downtown-8th is redundant with the 40. I don’t buy that there’s a lot of demand from northern 8th to Fremont, or that we should make if frequent even if it is. It would be better to make 15th-Fremont frequent because that’s where more people are. 8th can upzone if it wants more transit.

        I believe in high frequency everywhere, but the 28 is an illogical legacy route. So it should be the last to become frequent, and maybe only after the D, 40, and 44 are running every 10 minutes full time.

    3. I agree re the 28. I wonder if it could make sense truncating the 28 at Leary, which would give people the opportunity to transfer to the 40 or 44. It would inconvenience people going downtown but compared to only running the bus hourly, could still be a win. It would also mean no service on 39th, but that’s close enough to Fremont that they have other options (5, 31/32, 40, 62). Based on the current timetable, I wonder if Metro could even boost the frequency to 20 minutes to compensate for the transfer penalty?

      In other circumstances, a challenge could be figuring out what to do with the 132 that the 28 is through-routed with, but the 132 is keeping its frequency so clearly Metro already has layover space somewhere close to downtown they can use. Leary has so much parking that there has to be layover space somewhere around 8th & Leary that Metro could use, or just loop back and layover on 100th like it does now since 100th to Leary is a pretty quick trip right now.

      1. Just realized that Metro isn’t also cutting the 132 to hourly off-peak, so maybe this wouldn’t work, but it is a bit crappy to cut the 28 to hourly just so that the 132 can remain half-hourly. One other possibility would be truncating the 132 at SODO Station, which based on the timetable would save 40 minutes round-trip vs running all the way to Bell.

        It does seem in general that Metro should be focusing on truncating bus routes parallel to Link at the closest station, as long as there’s a good local overlay remaining with close stop spacing.

      2. I wonder if it could make sense truncating the 28 at Leary, which would give people the opportunity to transfer to the 40 or 44.

        In theory this sounds good. I would much rather have the northern part of the 28 run every 15 minutes, then the entire line run every half hour. But I see a couple problems with that:

        1) It would be difficult to turn around and layover in Fremont. The routes is short enough that a live loop would work. So maybe it could loop around using 39th, Fremont and 36th, like so: https://goo.gl/maps/zvce5aw7PhBCTSXLA.

        2) You don’t necessarily save that much money. From Holman Road to Fremont takes about 15 minutes; from there to downtown takes about 10. The loop (using Fremont Avenue) would use some time, shrinking the savings. You could maybe run it every 20 minutes (instead of 30) which is a significant improvement, but not as good as 15.

        As we both mentioned, the pairing is a big deal. It saves a considerable amount of money, while providing the same ability for riders to reach the other end of downtown (from the north).

        I think it could work, but it doesn’t strike me as the sort of place that is begging for a restructure. It is another place that needs just a little extra service so that it can run every 15 minutes. To get that service might mean making this sort of restructure, but it might mean a bit of extra funding, or restructures in other places. I think Magnolia could use a restructure more than the 28, but that is a tricky one, and involves some of the same issues (like forcing transfers to go downtown, pairing with other buses from the south).

        It is worth noting that these cutbacks are meant to be temporary. This is one reason why they are so painful. With a restructure, you can make the sort of changes you mentioned. But with this, we are stuck with the current routing, and making painful cuts (which hopefully won’t last long). In this case though, I think the 28 needs better frequency than it has right now to be effective.

      3. “It is worth noting that these cutbacks are meant to be temporary.”

        But, how temporary is it? If a recession is coming soon while bus driver pay increases, the staffing shortage could quickly turn into a funding shortage. When that goes away, there’s a backlog to fill of adding schedule padding to maintain reliability in the face of worsening traffic congestion. Then, there’s the “equity” focus, where Seattle gets the short end of the stick because people of color aren’t a high enough percentage of it’s population. The Northgate Link restructure already shifted service hours out of Seattle and into South King. Future restructures could do the same thing, with service hours taken from Seattle to fund upgrading the 160 to RapidRide. Some of the service cuts that were made to the 554 back in 2012 have still not been restored and seem likely to never be restored. Temporary cutbacks have ways of becoming effectively permanent.

      4. “there’s the “equity” focus, where Seattle gets the short end of the stick because people of color aren’t a high enough percentage of it’s population.”

        South Seattle is also gaining service.

        “The Northgate Link restructure already shifted service hours out of Seattle and into South King”

        There were allegations of this but it’s unclear. Balducci (I think) said that Metro subareas shouldn’t be able to keep their hours in restructures just because they had them before, but the council never voted on it so I don’t know if it’s in effect. The loss in the Northgate Link restructure may be simply that limited tax revenue or the driver shortage swallowed the hours. Which South King County route can be attributed to losing the 41’s hours?

      5. RossB, definitely good points about the 28. If it were just about getting the 28 to 15 minute headways from 30, I don’t think it would be worth truncating, but getting it back to 20 or even 30 minute headways from 60 minute is huge. The average 30 (or 40!) minute savings for a rider would go a long ways to mitigate the transfer penalty, especially for riders who aren’t going downtown but would have been transferring anyways.

        As for turnaround, I would think 6th to 43rd would work fine, especially if Metro runs all 35′ or 40′ buses on the route. There definitely were tighter streets in Wedgwood back when the 71 was running all 60′ buses.

        I certainly hope this is temporary, but as asdf2 notes, there’s been plenty of “temporary” cuts that have become de facto permanent. If Metro plans on running these reductions for even one service change interval, that’s still 6 months of really bad service in the middle of Ballard.

        Whatever the fate of the 28 is, another improvement would be to stagger its schedule vis a vis the 5. Right now, at any given E/W street on Sundays, they’re basically synchronized in each direction, so if you’re in the middle and miss one there’s no point walking to the other unless the other is really off schedule. If they were off-set by 15 minutes, you could at least go to the other, especially if you’re headed downtown anyways. Obviously there’s complexity since they’re both through-routed with the 132 and 21, but it would make the low-frequency routes we have more useful.

      6. I had forgotten that the 5 itself is half hourly on Sundays now. That makes the cutbacks on the 28 even worse if somebody living a little bit east of 8th doesn’t even have a frequent #5 to fall back on. That’s a large gap between Aurora and 15th with no frequent service.

      7. Metro had no problem turning the 28 around at Fremont/34th when it operated as a night and weekend shuttle to the 26. I believe they turned the bus around at SPU.

        Other routes that had night and weekend shuttles that you probably couldn’t do today:
        * The service on 15th Ave NW north of Leary Way connected with the 18 (likewise the West Seattle end of the old 15 connected with the 18 at the park-and-ride on S Spokane Street)
        * The service on Delridge Way connected with the 18 at S Spokane Street. I suppose the current Route H could act as a shuttle to Route C (just kidding).

        In addition, most of the shuttles in northeast Seattle are full time shuttles now (Routes 65 and 75). The route that was a night/weekend shuttle in southeast Seattle is now the 50. Even Queen Anne had a night and weekend shuttle on Route 1.

  17. Metro could solve their labor problems once and forever by just making cuts like these permanent.

    Metro could also solve their labor problems by more aggressively restructuring to encourage transfers to Link. One 4-car Link train with one operator carries what 10 Metro buses with 10 operators carry, and Link moves them faster and more reliably.

    It seems sort of silly to be cutting Metro routes without at least trying to maximize efficiency by encouraging more Link transfers.

    That said, certainly there are some Metro routes that are obviously underperforming. Those routes should still be cut – regardless of the labor situation.

    1. Metro could solve their labor problems once and forever by just making cuts like these permanent.

      That is a really bad idea. First, it wouldn’t solve the problem. Just because you have a smaller staff doesn’t mean that are suddenly immune to labor shortages.

      Second, it means you have a worse network. I’m all for restructuring. I’ve written many articles arguing for restructures that would increase frequency. I’ve lauded David’s excellent proposal from the day it was written (https://seattletransitblog.com/2013/08/19/your-bus-much-more-often-no-more-money-really/). We still aren’t there yet, despite Metro making some progress in building a network that is similar.

      But reducing overall service levels actually makes it *more* difficult to reach that kind of efficiency. As Mike pointed out above, if the buses run less often, then transferring is more difficult. If transferring is more difficult, then it is tougher to have a grid. It is one thing to be told to transfer to a bus that runs every ten minutes. It is another if that bus runs ever twenty. Likewise, if the feeder bus runs infrequently, you lose riders as well. One of the big selling points the UW Link restructure — and why it was so successful — was because the buses that used to go downtown (71, 72, 73) went from half hour to every fifteen minutes. So riders had much better frequency if they had to transfer, and much better frequency for trips to the UW. But that happened just about the time that Seattle put extra money into service, allowing some of the routes to run even more often.

      There is a tipping point of sorts for various routes as well as the network. For example, take a trip from Alki to downtown. If the 50 runs every fifteen minutes, and the C runs every ten, then I don’t mind the transfer. But if the 50 runs every half hour and the C runs every fifteen, forget about it. I’m driving (and if I don’t own a car, I’m buying one).

      In short, it is much easier to build a more efficient network as you increase funding.

      It seems sort of silly to be cutting Metro routes without at least trying to maximize efficiency by encouraging more Link transfers.

      I agree, but for the most part, that has been done. Furthermore, this is temporary, and not meant to be part of a bigger restructure. There are still a few routes that I would eliminate (mostly from the north end) but those are all peak routes. It is clear that midday changes needed to be made, and I don’t see much in the way of truncations that could be done.

      What, specifically would you do?

      1. “One of the big selling points the UW Link restructure — and why it was so successful — was because the buses that used to go downtown (71, 72, 73) went from half hour to every fifteen minutes.”

        The 71 never went to 15 minutes in 2016, it still ran every 30. I don’t think the 73 did, either, but I couldn’t vouch for it since I rarely took it. The 72 was completely cut. The 15 minute service along NE 65th St. was achieved by (or in conjunction with) the 62, not by the 71 alone.

      2. Er, no, the 71, 72, 73 didn’t become frequent. The hours went into other routes: 44, 45, 65, 67, 75, 372, and creating the 62. The 72 was deleted. The 71 would have been deleted but one county concilmember got that reversed. The 73 went to limited hours I think, but was later re-expanded (but still infrequent).

      3. OK, I stand corrected on the numbers. But my point still stands. Look at the Map for Seattle transit before U-Link: https://seattletransitmap.com/version/1602/SeattleTransitMap_v1602_web.pdf. The green lines are frequent, which means the bus runs every 15 minutes (or better). Notice that there are no green lines for a huge swath of northeast Seattle. Now look at the map after U-Link: https://seattletransitmap.com/version/1603/SeattleTransitMap_v1603_web.pdf. The 65, 75 and 372 are all frequent. The area that lost their one seat ride to downtown also got much better frequency to the UW. Things got even better (and the map got even prettier) as Seattle chipped in money for routes that were now really successful: https://seattletransitmap.com/version/1803/SeattleTransitMap_v1803_web.pdf. Now the 65 and 67 are running *better* than every 15 minutes. This is essentially the pre-pandemic map. Almost every route in Northeast Seattle runs at least every 15 minutes, and some run better than that. The exceptions are peak-only routes, or those that are largely redundant or coverage in nature (71 and 73).

        The change is dramatic, really. A huge swath of the city went from no frequent transit on any of the corridors, to frequent transit on pretty much every one.

      4. @Mike Orr,

        Thanks for correcting that statement about the 71, 72, 73. That was a real head scratcher.

        That said, the retention of the 73 in its current form has always been a bit confusing to me. It seems a bit like Metro is keeping it around mainly for reasons of nostalgia and not for sound transit reasons. Nobody is going to take the 73 from Jackson Park or Pinehurst to UWMC when they can just ride Link. But somehow Metro keeps this route locked in 1980’s amber.

        And don’t even ask me to explain the 67/65, etc, etc, etc.

        Metro CEO has pretty much come out and said she doesn’t understand the current labor situation and doesn’t know how to correct it. So Metro hiring their way out of this hole is unlikely.

        That leaves just service cuts or increased efficiency to bring the situation back into balance. It looks like the reduction in operator hours is just 4% of the total.

        Are we to believe that Metro is incapable of generating a 4% improvement in efficiency? Really?

    2. I’m not sure if a restructure would actually save that many drivers. It might if Metro wanted to cut long routes stuck in peak traffic maybe — but the number of buses assigned to those is not very high and there are part-time drivers. Also, Metro supplies drivers to ST. So the overall effect could only be a dozen or two drivers at most and it may not even be that.

      Then there is the coverage issue. Route 106 parallels Link for about 4 miles in SE Seattle but Link stops are far enough apart to necessitate running the overlay bus service.

      That’s why I asked the earlier question about if the ST (East Link) delay is a factor in the shortage of drivers. The delay was announced a year ago which seems plenty of time to figure out the revisions to the number of drivers but I’m not sure.

      A PS that the lack of a bus turn-around at Judkins Park limits possible future restructuring in Seattle. That’s going to hamper restructure options in an area where bus density is high. Many other posters don’t see it as an oversight — but I do. The same can be said for Rainier Beach, where it’s very awkward (and eats into driver time) to turn around a bus (like Route 101 or 150) there. If a more rail-focused structure is ever to come about, those deficiencies will have to be addressed though some longer-range capital projects that have not been developed. It’s kind of ironic in a way in that ST is building big bus plazas outside of Seattle that will serve only a handful of buses each hour — while most Seattle stations which are served by many more buses do not have a bus plaza.

      1. ” If a more rail-focused structure is ever to come about, those deficiencies will have to be addressed though some longer-range capital projects that have not been developed.”

        Rail-focus structure isn’t the solution. It’s the problem. Billions for tunnels and trains…. zero money for divers and buses. If you haven’t noticed, public transit is going forward…. it’s stuck in reverse. These are not temporary cutbacks to Metro… They’re the new floor and I’m guessing more cutbacks will be on the way soon…..

      2. There are definitely restructures that could make for a more efficient system. Redo the routes, and you could end up with a lot of buses running every 10 minutes or better. When you have frequency like that, not only is it better, but it is more resilient. You save more and hurt people less when you decrease frequency. This is what is happening with the 7. It is probably the last bus to cut when it comes to riders effected, or equity. But while many will see a degradation, going from 7.5 to 10 minute headways is not nearly as bad as going from 15 to 30, even though it costs the same. Likewise, 10 to 12 is not as bad as 15 to 20 or 30 to 60. Restructuring to achieve better baseline frequency means we can weather the storm better, while taking advantage of the good times as well.

        But I agree, there aren’t that many Metro buses that can be truncated at Link. That is why I asked Lazarus for specifics. Unless you do something radical, there are only a handful of Metro routes that make sense for truncation. As you mentioned, most of these are peak-only. Most of these are eliminated (temporarily) with this change. There is much better potential for an efficient network in areas that don’t have Link truncations (greater Central Area, Magnolia, etc.).

        As for Judkins Park, I don’t see much value in truncating buses there. The problem isn’t lack of layover or turnaround; it is just where the stop is. It only makes sense to serve the station with north-south buses, and yet the train runs east-west. It wouldn’t make sense to truncate the 48 there. That would eliminate the connection with the 7 and the main Link line. Same with the 8, and it makes more sense to just not run a bus on MLK (and run the 48 more often). Similarly, the 4 should be eliminated, as it is costly and doesn’t provide much functionality. No matter what though, I don’t see the value in buses truncating at Judkins Park — the geography just isn’t right for it.

        As for Rainier Beach, the geography is right for it. The problem is, the stop spacing of Link (as mentioned). The 106 doesn’t really feed into Link — not many riders transfer at Rainier Beach Station. Many more get off at stop in between those served by Link. You could truncate the 106 at Mount Baker, but then you lose the connection with East Link. I guess the 106 could end at Judkins Park, but at that point, you are very close to Jackson, where you can make connections to First Hill. I would rather send the bus up to First Hill and SLU (using Boren), although that would cost money, not save it. Anyway, the point is, Rainier Beach makes sense as a truncation point, but the buses that continue north aren’t actually redundant. The 106 fills in the holes that Link missed in Rainier Valley, while the 107 covers another part of town.

        You could truncate buses like the 101 and 150, but that doesn’t save you a huge amount of time. These buses spend most of their time getting from Renton to the freeway. Once on the freeway, they quickly get to the SoDo busway. Getting to Rainier Beach Station isn’t trivial (although it is faster than getting to SoDo). You would save money, but mostly by not running the bus through downtown, which is generally really unpopular (and why buses from West Seattle don’t end at SoDo). You would add something, in that you connect various parts of Rainier Valley better. To me, that is what BAR Station is all about. Buses like the 101 can either truncate there, or at the very least let off passengers there, as a connection to Rainier Valley.

        The biggest potential savings are much further south, mostly on ST buses. During rush hour, it takes the 577 about an hour to complete its run. In the middle of the day, the 578 takes about 45 minutes from Federal Way to the north end of downtown. Cutting and truncating these routes would be a significant degradation, but it would save a lot of time.

        Even now, the 586 continues to spend oodles of driver time on a route that is completely redundant. I find it odd that Lazarus chides Metro for not truncating more buses, when it is ST that should do so.

      3. “ As for Judkins Park, I don’t see much value in truncating buses there. The problem isn’t lack of layover or turnaround; it is just where the stop is. ”

        If there is nowhere to turn a bus around, there won’t be a bus system structure that looks into it. It’s a chicken or egg debate.

        For example, the Mt Baker TC could be moved to Judkins Park. There is ample freeway land to do that off of Rainier where the loop ramp is (and proposals have been made to move that ramp to terminate perpendicular to Rainier and shave off the last part of the loop where it merges). That would then trigger a whole new set of restructuring opportunities and challenges that could be considered that boggles the mind. That would then free the current Mr Baker TC site for high density housing.

        The bus route issue with Judkins Park is that a rider can’t get to First Hill or Capitol Hill from the station except for Route 9, which runs only a few times daily. Even Ross has proposed running up Route 7 on Boren in the past. There is also a missing bus route from Beacon Hill to Judkins Park or Mt Baker, and Metro has proposed a bus connection using College St in some long range plans. Finally, drop off and pick up for Judkins Park is best on 23rd but there aren’t really any good spots for those vehicles to turn around either without using narrow residential neighborhood streets.

        Keep in mind that Judkins Park in 2025 is very different than in 2015. There are thousands of new apartments around the station. It is quickly looking like the area around Capitol Hill station.

        I’m not naive. Restructures in a city are hard. There would be winners or losers. I’m simply stating that the lack of a turnaround limits the possibilities of ending a bus route at Judkins Park as part of any future restructuring.

      4. RossB, I’m not sure that the 101 and 150 are that fast for the segment of their trip on I-5. At least on weekends (when we’re generally taking the 101 or 150), northbound I-5 approaching downtown Seattle is often a parking lot. I think there’s a HOV lane on the left but the buses can’t use it because they need to exit on the right to get onto the busway.

        I’m not sure what it’s like during the week, but I can’t imagine there’s less congestion than weekends. There might actually be quite a bit of time savings truncating at Rainier Beach, in addition to better schedule adherence.

      5. I’m not sure what it’s like during the week, but I can’t imagine there’s less congestion than weekends.

        I can. It seems like there is a longer period of congestion during the weekends, although maybe it doesn’t reach the peak levels during the week. Overall though, I don’t think it effects that many trips. I do think it would be nice if WSDOT completed the ramp from the I-5 HOV ramps to the SoDo Busway. That has been on the “todo” list for a long time. My guess is the ST3 plans (which largely do away with the busway) killed any hope for it.

        I could see buses truncated at Rainier Beach, but when people have talked about it before, there was a lot of pushback. It is a big time-penalty. The same is true for buses to the south, but the savings are larger. The train is an express from Tukwila to Rainier Beach, making no stops for miles and miles. Without traffic, from Federal Way to Seattle, I calculate the time penalty of using Link at 14 minutes, while from Renton to Seattle it is 10. But the savings from using Link are much greater, and the Federal Way section includes the biggest destination on the south end of Link (the airport). There is a also a bigger chance that the savings disappear from using I-5, given the longer stretch of the freeway.

        I do think Metro should revisit the idea (frequency is more important than speed) but I would start from places further south. We just need to complete Federal Way Link first.

      6. If there is nowhere to turn a bus around, there won’t be a bus system structure that looks into it. It’s a chicken or egg debate.

        Not really. Some places make sense for bus layovers, some don’t. For example, Capitol Hill Station is really not a great place for a layover. This is a major destination, as well as having a Link station. It definitely makes sense to run buses by there, but not to terminate buses there. It is on two corridors, but not at the end of them. I realize that both the 60 and 9 terminate close to CHS, but that actually costs us money, and is a bug, not a feature. Same with the streetcar. CHS just doesn’t lend itself to the obvious value as a terminus, the way that so many of our stations do. Northgate serves as the terminus for freeway buses from the north. Mercer Island has I-90 buses. Judkins Park, just like CHS, doesn’t doesn’t have the sort of geography that makes sense as a terminus. The whole point of a layover at these places is to save money. The buses could continue to downtown, but that costs a lot more. I don’t see any savings coming from a Judkins Park terminus.

        For example, the Mt Baker TC could be moved to Judkins Park.

        Yeah, sure, but that doesn’t really get you anything. The only potential savings come from the 8 and the 4. In both cases you miss the critical connection with the 7 as well as the connection to the main line (e. g. a trip from the C. D. to the airport). Overall, it just isn’t worth it. You can save a lot more by simply getting rid of the 4. It is quite likely that there is a good place to turnaround and layover by Judkins Park, it is just that it doesn’t make sense to do it.

        The most important thing to do in the area is make the buses faster. The 7 should run in its own lane much of the way, if not entirely. This would benefit the buses that overlap (like the 48 or 106) and save a lot more than any truncation at Judkins Park would.

        The bus route issue with Judkins Park is that a rider can’t get to First Hill or Capitol Hill from the station

        So what? The city is full of indirect routes. The thing making Judkins Park special is a connection to East Link. If you are on the bus to Bellevue, it is unfortunate that you don’t have a fast, frequent ride from Judkins Park to First Hill. But you can just get off the bus downtown, and transfer there. If you are headed to Capitol Hill from the East Side, you just stay on the train.

        There is also a missing bus route from Beacon Hill to Judkins Park or Mt Baker, and Metro has proposed a bus connection using College St in some long range plans.

        Yeah, sure. But keep in mind, all of these things make frequencies worse, not better. It would make a driver shortage even more miserable. The more complicated you make the system — the more you eliminate transfers — the less frequent the system becomes. What is the point of running a bus every hour from Beacon Hill to Judkins Park? There isn’t any, really. Folks will just ride the 36/60 to Jackson, and then take the 7/106 back. Less direct, but a lot more frequent. Same with the tail of the 4. It runs every half hour *before* the pandemic and driver shortage. Most of the riders just take some combination involving the 48. East Link doesn’t really change anything, as the trip from downtown to Judkins Park is very fast (on Link) so people just transfer there*. It is very difficult to have a frequent network if we hang on to outdated routes like the 4, or try and invent similar ones.

        I’m not saying we don’t need more layover/turnaround spots. But these tend to be driven by the road and bus patterns. That is why the Mount Baker transit center exists. It is why so many buses lay over at Lake City. It is why we are discussing a turnaround spot for the 28 in Fremont, or why I think it would be great if there was one at 145th and Lake City Way (so that buses could terminate there, instead of by the Fred Meyer). There are spots in the city where the roads converge, and you get very little by extending a bus further. Judkins Park is not one of those spots.

        * It is worth noting that even from Cherry Hill, it takes about 8 minutes to get to the Pioneer Square Station (https://goo.gl/maps/xuUzX62kk1ZTdSCZ6). If you straightened out the 4, and had it stick to 23rd, it would take about as much time (https://goo.gl/maps/MVMzLyoS8iM3Zcdh7). So even from Cherry Hill, the time penalty is simply the extra time spent on Link, which isn’t much. It is quite possible that from First Hill — where there are a lot more riders — you save nothing. Thus even if every bus doglegged on 23rd, you wouldn’t save much of anything.

  18. I am surprised my route, the 249, is not part of the “cuts”. There have been two specific trips cancelled every day for months (as well as a few other trips cancelled sporadically).

    It is far more disruptive to have a scheduled bus trip cancelled than to have it not scheduled at all, so I wish they did this sooner.

  19. Three questions:

    1. Has Metro ever surveyed its drivers to find out why Metro is having difficulties hiring drivers? Those are the folks who would know. I would think bidding for routes would tell Metro a lot.

    2. Has Metro itself ever stated why it thinks it is having difficulties hiring drivers and mechanics and how it determined that? I sometimes get the feeling Metro doesn’t want to acknowledge the reasons why in order to not further spook riders and potential drivers or acknowledge to existing drivers Metro is not paying a competitive wage.

    3. Are there any restrictions on carrying a firearm on transit other than state law?

      1. I don’t need to take the survey but enjoyed looking at it. I don’t have what it takes to drive a Metro bus. Or be a police officer which I put well above a bus driver in importance to society, and I don’t think there is any doubt the loss of 300 SPD officers has created a situation that is at the heart of the driver shortage.

        The pay is too low, I don’t have the patience, and I got my fill of dealing with the public working as a bartender. I don’t have a rose colored view of “the public” some on this blog have.

      2. #9. Metro says an applicant must be comfortable receiving verbal abuse in the workplace, or they won’t be hired.

  20. Are Sound Transit or Community transit making service reductions that we know of yet?

    1. I haven’t heard of any. Metro is announcing this early because it’s so large and unexpected.

    2. CT already made cuts last year, and those included CT-operated ST-X bus routes like the 511 and 512. Sound Transit also hasn’t been able to make the 550 full-time frequent due to staffing shortages, which in effect is a service reduction as well.

  21. Of the upcoming 20 suspended routes, just 5 are south of Seattle. Btw, if it were up to me, I’d truncate the northbound 7 at 5th and Jackson. Riders can take Link the rest of the way. That move alone would save about 150 hours a day. Then I would sit back and wait for the thank you emails and calls from people grateful that I saved them from the hellish slog through downtown.

    1. If Metro is going to truncate routes through Downtown, I’d look to the ones leaving Seattle first like Routes 101 and 150. They even have level transfers at SODO, while using CID to get to Link requires a level change.

    2. It’s only 10 minutes from 5th & Jackson to 3rd & Virginia on the 7, so it wouldn’t be a huge savings, compared to West Seattle buses that would get double the savings by truncating to SODO. SODO is also a surface station, vs below-ground for ID Station, so the transfer penalty would be larger for the 7.

    3. And the 7 is the primary route in southeast Seattle, so it should be the one that most goes downtown. It’s the one people on other routes transfer to.

    4. In addition to what others said, many the 7 busses become the 49 anyways, so they’d have to head to downtown to reach UW. Or one could have the 49 and 7 busses do turn arounds, but one really isn’t saving that much time then compared to having the bus continue straight on.

    5. The route 7 makes 276 trips per day. Shaving 20 minutes of each trip would be a huge total savings. And, no, many 7’s do not become 49’s. Most don’t, in fact. Also, the only reason I made the 7 truncation comment was as a test. The comment section gaslit me by telling me that dumping downtown-bound 255 passengers off a 5 minute walk away from UW station is a step up in service from a one-seat bus ride to downtown. The comment section said 255 passengers are being “saved” from a hellish slog through a gridlocked downtown. I wanted to see if they were consistent. As I suspected, they weren’t. No mention of a hellish slog when arguing against a route 7 truncation. PS, I’m not allowing reply comments to this comment. So, no screaming “apples and oranges!” at me.

      1. Um, the blue “Reply” link is lit, though not by gas. Let’s see if the “Post Comment” button works.

      2. “255 passengers are being “saved” from a hellish slog through a gridlocked downtown”

        The gridlock is between Montlake and downtown. On 520, I-5, and Stewart Street before the first stop. So you want to go to Link or the U-District or North Seattle, but you have to pass UW station and go several more miles, and if there’s congestion, you’re stuck on the bus.

      3. Only because our genius designers destroyed what was a well-used freeway station at Montlake. Literally widening the roadway by 60+ feet but removing the freeway station. Keeping a freeway station would have allowed better connections to north-south transit and a reasonable connection to the UW Link station while still allowing buses continuing to I-5 to make this stop. If given the mandate to do so, they could have retained a freeway station here. But no one seemed to care. So we are left with diminished transit infrastructure at Montlake. Even when the HOV access gets finished, it’s still going to be stuck with general purpose lanes across the Montlake Bridge, bridge openings, Montlake congestion, stadium events, etc.

        It sucks what the road and transit planners and politicians did here which diminished the transit function that existed here for almost 50 years.

      4. Sam, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”.


        On this blog transfers for eastsiders or “suburbanites”— even if there are no real savings — are no big deal, especially if they fabricate Link’s ridership, but transfers for Seattleites no matter how many service hours it saves is verboten.

        Transfers for MI nurses on 3rd and James in the dark for a 6 block bus trip up First Hill to save $1/trip the city is subsidizing? No problem. Truncating hundreds of 7 buses onto Link, to avoid downtown congestion and remove those buses from avenues the Mayor and DSA are trying to rehabilitate, a horror.

        The reality is everyone hates transfers. It is the great flaw in our light rail paradigm when no one plans to live in TOD along a freeway, unless the housing is subsidized, which is not what those cities think they were promised. The reliability of the feeder buses is as predicted for east—west routes: terrible, Metro doesn’t have the money for the frequency to make up for the transfer, some stations are not well designed, and not only are trip times worse they are now 2 or 3 seats when counting first/last mile access.

        The demise of downtown Seattle devastates Link, especially the suburban lines, because it was always a hub and spoke system. I thought TT asked the perfect question when it comes to future ridership on Lynnwood, FW and East Link: where are those riders going so they somehow got to Link and are waiting on a platform for a train? The answer to that question will tell you just how many will be on those platforms. Not many because they only take transit to downtown Seattle. Or did.

        Suburbanites don’t take intra-suburbia trips. The one place they take transit is downtown Seattle, and they don’t need or want to go there today.

        The irony is the suburban discretionary riders have options to transfers they don’t like: WFH, the 630, 554, 332 and probably several other bus routes, driving, Uber, employee subsidized parking, private shuttles, a different job. They will always find a better alternative, or demand their council does. Especially is safety is an issue.

        They don’t want to be on transit anyway, and yet these are the full paying normal riders some transit advocates want to poke in the eye with pointless transfers when suburbia is subsidizing Link and Metro based on class warfare.

    6. Yeah, truncating the 7 downtown would be silly. The savings would be minimal, and a ton of riders would be hurt by it.

      The biggest potential for truncations would be routes that are further south, and primarily run by Sound Transit. Start by axing the 586. The savings per rider would be huge (although only during peak). But they could go further, and send all the buses from Tacoma to SeaTac. The buses save time by not going all the way to Seattle, while you can essentially get rid of the 574. Yes, this would definitely be inconvenient for riders — many would hate it — but the savings in driver-time compared to the number of people being hurt would be huge. You could do the same from the north, although the savings wouldn’t be that great (as it would only be during peak hours).

      Not that I would prioritize that. There are many better places to restructure — in areas that have nothing to do with Link. For example, Magnolia. The solution isn’t obvious, but the problem is. You have two buses that go downtown, neither of which is frequent. You have the 31, which connects to the UW, but is also infrequent. The 32 (which is paired with the 31) runs along the same pathway as the D, one of the more frequent buses in the area. Again, it isn’t obvious how to fix it, but you start by having only one route go downtown. Then you have both branches of the 31/32 cover the rest of Magnolia. That means that you save significant service hours by sending people to the remaining Magnolia-downtown bus, and the D. Done right, and you make trips to the UW much better as well.

      It is really about making a more efficient system. There is a balance to be made. As you get closer to downtown, making a transfer is more annoying. You may have sat on the bus for a good half hour, only to transfer for the last couple minutes of your trip. This is why buses from West Seattle are truncated in West Seattle, not SoDo. The savings are bigger, and less annoying for riders. It is why no one truncates buses at Capitol Hill Station. I came up with a restructure for the greater Central Area, and yet people can still have one seat rides to downtown, the closer they are to it. You can go overboard in the name of efficiency, but our system, in general, is the opposite. Generally speaking, we truncate just fine. The bigger problem is just an outdated network that places way too much emphasis on one-seat rides to downtown (a hub network) instead of better frequency (a grid).

  22. Is there any data out there on King County Metro’s cost per service hour over time, juxtaposed with tax revenue collection and general inflation? Is the cost per service hour growing at a sustainable rate, or is it slowly getting out of control? If the eventual resolution of the driver shortage is an increase in driver pay, this means the cost per service hour going up, likely faster than tax revenues can keep up.

    I vaguely recall somebody saying in a comment that each service hour now costs over $200. I also vaguely recall that back when I started following STB, around 15 years ago, it was just over $100. The consumer price index hasn’t doubled in 15 years. And, if there really is a long term trend of cost per service hour growing faster than inflation, you can only keep up by raising tax rates so many times to plug the gap.

    Of course, the king county population has grown a lot in 15 years, which should theoretically mean more inflation-adjusted tax revenue at the same rate. But, if the growth is sprawl, rather than infill, this means either the residents of new neighborhoods subsidizing service to existing neighborhoods while getting no service to their own neighborhood, or new routes being created to serve the new neighborhoods, which means service getting thinner, and available revenue to fund existing routes not keeping up with increased costs.

    Unless I’m missing something, somehow, costs need to be kept in line with revenues, otherwise, it’s just going to result in a slow, long-term decline in service until there’s nothing left.

    1. That is a very good post asdf2 (you have had several recently).

      The main issue IMO is inflation which hits fuel prices and wages particularly hard. For ten years inflation was 0-1%. Now it is 5-8% depending if you include fuel or housing.

      You raise another good point: as more suburban areas densify they are going to demand transit service more commensurate with the taxes they pay toward Metro. At the same time it is nearly impossible to serve these suburban areas without park and rides, although Metro is experimenting with micro transit in Sammamish. Metro can apply “equity” so far to service before those paying the bills call BS. If WFH hadn’t happened this conflict would be more apparent right now. WFH is immediate; the allocation of transit taxes theoretical for most.

      For the last decade the Eastside has subsidized bus service (Metro and ST). The subarea is not very transit oriented so that helps.

      Finally Link has not only sucked out a huge percentage of transit funds from the system but taken (so far) the highest ridership runs, which makes sense. But ST apparently thought everyone would live in TOD that is very unlikely post pandemic or riders could fly to Link stations for first last mile access when in reality Metro has been stuck with the most difficult runs (east/west in Seattle). This has not saved nearly as many service hours as ST claimed. Meanwhile Metro riders are demanding better frequency because now they have a transfer to Link and the transfers at the stations are not as fast as some assumed and Link has greater stop spacing.

      One of the factors in service hours is depreciation because buses have to be replaced. Almost universally transit agencies that face an O&M shortfall because costs exceed revenue + farebox recovery skimp on the replacement fund, including ST whose fleet is not as young as it was.

      Although these cuts only amount to 4% I think they are a good exercise for future cuts. I think you make a good point that when Metro says it has a driver/mechanic shortage what it means is it doesn’t have the money to lure those workers to a job (driver) that has other negatives.

    2. @asdf2,

      You are correct. Labor and fuel inflation will be a problem for the transit agencies in the future, but the pain will not be felt evenly.

      Those modes that are fuel and labor intensive will see the largest impact. Meaning express and suburban bus routes will become a big cost sink.

      Link won’t see as big an impact because Link operations aren’t as labor or fuel intensive.

      1. The biggest problem for transit agencies in the future, in my opinion, will be the rise of the free transit movement. (Everything … housing, food, transit, clothing, medicine, etc., is a “human right”). Combine that with declining revenues. Combine that with ST’s habit of giving away for free incredibly valuable properties to non-profits that are property tax-exempt. Combine that with a bloated, job-for-life, “work from home” transit agency workforce. Etc. Etc. Operator labor cost will be one of their lesser worries.

    3. Here’s a partial answer to your question.l from KC Metro…

      Transit Operating Cost per Vehicle Hour
      2008 $123.80
      2009 $122.47
      2010 $126.02
      2011 $129.51
      2012 $135.68
      2013 $139.30
      2014 $142.46
      2015 $142.91
      2016 $140.86
      2017 $151.33
      2018 $154.26
      2019 $161.87
      2020 $214.08
      2021 $204.96


      If you look at the financials for the relevant years you can ascertain the tax revenue component in the non-operating revenues section. The CPI or (any other inflation metric you’re interested in) is pretty straightforward also. It shouldn’t be too difficult to assemble the data should a ready-made version not be an option. It would be interesting to see the outcome.

      1. Just looked it up. Since 2008, the consumer price index has increased by around 44% while King County Metro’s cost per service hour has increased by about 65%. Which seems bad, but not too bad, until you consider that the former is through April 2023 while the latter is only through 2021, and we know 2022 was a year of high inflation, plus a driver shortage. So, the $204.96 may very well end up around $230-240 by the time the driver/mechanic shortage is dealt with.

      2. @asdf2,

        That is actually pretty bad. It basically means Metro’s costs are increasing 50% faster than inflation.

      3. West Coast inflation. Labor costs drive up the cost of everything…. Seattle is an expensive city to live in, so business raises wages and prices and we’re off to races….

        Let these numbers be a warning to anybody who believes that removing restrictive zoning is going to lower housing prices… It costs a lot of money to get anything done in Seattle, starting with construction.

      4. In economic terms, we could be looking at a phenomenon I just read called Baumol Cost Disease (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baumol_effect). It’s a theory that claims that as the economy as a whole becomes more productive, productivity does not increase in all economic sectors equally. The Baumol Effect says that sectors whose productivity does not increase must still increase wages based on economic productivity in the rest of the economy in order to attract workers who would otherwise work in one of these more-productive economic sectors.

        This sounds like a pretty good description of what might at least partially be explaining the long-term situation with bus drivers. As the economy as a whole grows, the cost of bus drivers must grow in proportion in order to attract and retain bus drivers, even while the productivity of a bus driver remains the same.

      5. @asdf2 — From what I’ve read, the economy has not become more productive. There are a lot of different ways to interpret the numbers, but the output per worker isn’t especially great. I think inflation is caused by a several things:

        1) Resource shortage. This is what caused inflation in the late 60s and 70s. It resulted in “stagflation”, which according to standard models, makes no sense. Inflation is often the result of an economy that is overheating. In the 70s, though, it wasn’t, but the price of goods just kept going up. That’s because a key resources (oil) became a lot more expensive. The economy was way too dependent on cheap oil, which was no longer cheap. Things haven’t changed that much. Meanwhile, there are other resource shortages as well. For example, various food shortages, such as high egg and poultry costs from bird flu.

        2) International supply chain issues. The economy was very dependent on cheap good overseas being delivered “just in time”. This saves money, but is very fragile. Things aren’t as bad as they were a couple years ago, but there are still adjustments being made. The war in Ukraine and the continuing cold war with China doesn’t help. The government is spending money to make the U. S. economy more self reliant (and thus more resilient) but changes take time.

        3) Labor shortages. These don’t hit every sector the same way. As Al wrote, a big reason for the labor shortage is the lack of immigration. The numbers get complicated, but prior to the pandemic, the number of immigrants working increased smaller than the number of U. S. born workers. There has also been a significant demographic shift, with a lot more Asian workers. The Asian workers tend to be a lot more educated — with higher rates of schooling than the average American. Thus the folks coming to this country who are more likely to work in a restaurant, or drive for a living, make up a much smaller part of the populace.

        4) Shifts in demand. For example, rooftop solar installation went from a niche job, to being quite popular across various parts of the country. There are a lot more delivery jobs than there were five years ago, let alone twenty. This definitely effects the supply of bus drivers.

        This is all very recent. The numbers shown there are not. I think that deserves a second comment.

      6. There are two periods represented in the numbers — the Great Recession and the pandemic. During the recession, costs per service hour went up roughly 2.5% a year. This might seem a bit high, but it is important to remember locality pay. Wages in Topeka are bound to be lower than wages in Seattle. Seattle weathered the great recession way better than most cities. Housing prices skyrocketed. Thus prices in Seattle (for just about everything) went up much higher than other parts of the country. An average 2.5 increase over that period sounds quite reasonable.

        The pandemic created all sorts of volatility, in various sectors. There is a nationwide driver shortage, as the demand for delivery drivers increased substantially. If the drivers were negotiating now, they would definitely have the upper hand. Not only would they have a strong moral case for being paid a lot more (given the continued high cost of housing in the area) but they could easily take other jobs if they had to. If very well paid teachers were willing to strike (admittedly, over issues beyond just salaries) it seems like bus drivers would be too. Management is likely well aware of this, which is why I expect prices to continue to increase.

        It is very difficult to say what the future holds though. An economic downtown, along with increased immigration from the south, and next thing you know, plenty of people want a nice middle-class job with good benefits and long term stability, like driving a bus.

      7. Changes in the tax structure and regulations since the 1970s have funneled the benefits of productivity increases to the CEOs , corporate boards, and shareholders instead of the workers. This increases inequality and leads to all kinds of distortions like high housing prices, catering to the luxury market, and bus drivers’ salaries that don’t keep up with the costs of living.

      8. There was inflation for goods during the pandemic because folks could not go out or use services and the state and federal governments flooded citizens with cash. The production of oil and goods, plus supply chain issues, caused goods inflation.

        That has mostly resolved post pandemic. The driving force for inflation today — and inflation is compounded upon itself — is the money supply, both from Covid stimulus and waiting too long to increase interest rates, and then it took a long time beginning just last spring to increase interest rates despite large increases because rates were so low. Thus the Federal Reserve is trying to lower the RATE of inflation on top of the inflation that is now permanent by raising interest rates and selling off its $8 trillion in bonds rather than purchasing them (quantitative tightening as opposed to quantitative easing).

        As noted above, inflation and the cooling of inflation is not even across the economy. Oil is down pretty dramatically which affects nearly the price of everything. Housing is cooling except there are too few houses for sale because no one wants to give up an interest rate below 3%, with WFH fewer folks are moving due to work, and this affects first time buyers because folks are not selling to move up. Rental housing remains high because many renters can’t migrate into home ownership, but housing prices are dependent on where in the U.S. you live. I think this area will see a multi-family housing glut because future population estimates are turning out to be inflated and there has been such deurbanization in many cities.

        One area the Fed and experts thought would cool more was employment. Instead unemployment remains at historic lows, in part because so many left the work force. Ironically the amount of Covid stimulus citizens hold remains very high while at the same time credit card balances are increasing at historic rates.

        I think Larry Summers has it correct: a recession is coming. Very low interest rates and trillions in unwise Covid stimulus when the pandemic was over — at least for employment and citizens going out again — lasted so long it will just take a very long time to wring out of the economy and to change citizen spending habits, which means the recession will not be steep but will be very long.

        Banks are starting to ramp way back on lending, and trillions of corporate debt at very low interest rates is set for refinancing, so look for a lot of defaults, especially in commercial property. Ironically the new SFH market is still strong but for starter homes, because there is a shortage of starter SFH because not enough folks are selling right now because if you go from 2 7/8% interest rate to 6% you get much less house for the same monthly payment and a lower selling price. But until unemployment rises and more Covid stimulus is exhausted we will continue to see fairly strong inflation.

        Most expect 2023 to be the year state and local budgets, including agencies, have to address deficits now that 2022 is the new normal. We are seeing that in school districts across the board. CA just went from a $100 billion surplus estimate to a $32 billion deficit. The federal government took in $250 billion less in taxes than it expected. Most cities are looking at grim budget cuts. Inflation is a killer because rarely do prices decline after inflation, and about the only way to stop inflation is pain in the economy which means less tax revenue.

        When it comes to the price increases for Metro Ross is correct, they mirror the great recession and then the pandemic because those affected borrowing rates, fuel, and wages. The slight yearly increase over the CPI has to do with how the COLA is applied to wages, and healthcare costs. I have to think Covid also increased the cost per hour i n years 2020 and 2021.

        However you cut it Metro’s cost increases are unsustainable, especially with reduced farebox recovery and likely revenue decreases due to tax revenue decreases. The driver shortage is a triple whammy: 1. Metro has less money to pay drivers; 2. Inflation is strong in this area and unemployment low so driver wages are up; and 3. Metro has to compete for drivers when driving a bus is less desirable than many other driver jobs so Metro really has to pay a premium for a driver.

        I have said it for a while: the real discussion in 2023, for Metro or local cities, is where to cut, and folks are not used to that, and easy money led to some unwise expenditures, none unwiser than spending tens of billions of dollars running Link to the suburbs, even before the pandemic. Metro is wisely looking mostly at ridership when deciding where to cut (and maybe more cities like Seattle and MI will subsidize Metro service).

        When some on this blog talk about Link ridership estimates on future lines I come back to TT’s line: tell me where those folks are going standing on the platform and I will tell you how many of them there will be standing on the platform because most of those folks own cars. Federal Way, Lynnwood, and Redmond are not hot beds of urbanism. Folks ride Link — or ST express buses — because they need to go someplace they can’t drive to. ST’s future O&M estimates were just increased by $1.2 billion and farebox recovery is around 1/2 of the assumptions (40%) and we haven’t opened up the suburban lines yet. You don’t have to be Larry Summers to know how that turns out. Just look at MTA today.

      9. “Changes in the tax structure and regulations since the 1970s have funneled the benefits of productivity increases to the CEOs , corporate boards, and shareholders instead of the workers. This increases inequality and leads to all kinds of distortions like high housing prices, catering to the luxury market, and bus drivers’ salaries that don’t keep up with the costs of living.”

        Mike, generally Metro driver salaries incorporate the local CPI in annual cost of living increases and exceed them. Same with police and fire which is a real problem for cities today and 2023 budgets. The fact the CPI increased so little kept salaries down, along with high immigration. I do however agree with you about the disparity between CEO and worker pay. Local housing prices increased because the AMI increased so dramatically over the last 10 years. Metro drivers were not the only workers who were receiving annual 2.5% pay increases while the AMI was increasing 10%/year so they went backwards, especially if they did not own their housing, although if they did they saw a windfall.

        Metro is competing for the same pool of commercial drivers with other companies. Salaries, inflation, driver costs (and other costs for Metro) have gone up while the number of drivers has gone down. Plus driving a bus is considered a more difficult and demanding job so Metro has to pay a premium to attract drivers.

        It is a catch-22: if Metro spends the money to retain more drivers with a fixed budget it will have to reduce expenditures which means lower levels of service, which Metro is doing. I like that Metro is focusing on ridership when considering cuts (and would like to see a more transparent dollar/rider mile matrix for all routes although maybe it exists already), and think it is time to rethink the whole “transit grid” approach when a large demographic has basically left transit and they tend to live in the same areas (hence plummeting ridership on ST express buses). But at some point cities in areas like East KC will want to look at taxes paid toward Metro vs. services received, especially when they now understand subarea equity through ST.

        Seattle subsidizes transit through two levies https://sdotblog.seattle.gov/2023/03/17/seattle-transit-measure-thank-you-seattle-we-are-adding-250-more-bus-trips-citywide-starting-march-18/, MI will subsidize the 630, and that may be a model in the future in which cities through local levies determine how much additional service they receive, although they will want a base line of service commensurate with taxes paid and I would hope better efficiency.

      10. Funny how somehow paltry (compared to many other countries) Covid relief checks are somehow responsible for excess money supply, but the massive “All of you just got a whole lot richer” tax breaks for wealthy people somehow didn’t.

        Anyway, I can tell you the primary cause of price increases where I work is a lack of materials. We have to use suppliers and components that are not our first choice, and quite a lot of effort has to go onto making adjustments each time we buy something that isn’t quite right, but can be made to work.

        Also, Motorola recently discontinued a line of microprocessors heavily used throughout industry for a number of vehicle, industrial equipment, construction equipment, etc control systems. Control boards sitting on the shelf now sell at a premium because there are no equivalent products being made. Eventuality something will be on the market, but everything I’ve seen suggests ton expect a painful few years of trying to get a large number of products that uses an embedded microprocessor.

      11. Pretty much Glenn, it no different then the old nugget of Boomers blaming Millennials for buying avocado toast instead of housing when discussing the wealth and asset disparity between generations. I got like barely anything out of the stimulus compared to what wealthy people got out of it in exploiting the PPP loan scheme as we saw when many businesses got caught with their hands in the cookie jar like Ruth Chris (who later gave the money back but only after being publicly shamed into doing so to save face).

        As for inflation, some of it is external like supply chain, tho I definitely see some of the causes for inflation from internal attitude of a business that is “we can get away with higher prices”, tho i will say not every industry and company is like this and some are more egregious about it than others. But to say inflation is something to blame on poorer people getting stimulus checks ignores where the problem comes from.

      12. I think Zach and Glenn don’t quite understand how the pandemic stimulus was structured. https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/26/politics/6-trillion-stimulus-where-it-went/index.html

        First a huge amount went to cities and agencies, especially transit, especially large blue cities. A lot also went to hospitals.

        Next was extended unemployment insurance, and that was abused by some although I think Inslee plans to pardon those who received benefits they were not entitled to. For those truly entitled to benefits it took months to get the benefits, and the state lost $690 million to Nigerian scammers.

        There were also payments to landlords due to the eviction moratoria which nearly wiped out many small landlords, but of course those landlords now want to recoup those losses in rent hikes.

        There were the payments and loans to businesses if they kept employees on the payroll. This program was also ripe with fraud.

        Probably the most impactful benefit for the ordinary citizen was the cash payments under the child tax credit, which many progressives wanted to continue because they felt it reduced child poverty more than any other program or subsidy. These payments were dependent on income.

        At the monetary level the Fed. purchased trillions in mortgaged back securities and treasuries to fund all this stimulus — and had been doing that since 2008 without inflation — and to make sure there was lending available at very low interest rates, which included the infrastructure bill and the final inflation reduction act. Many were worried about repeating the mistake Obama and the Republican controlled congress made in not pumping enough stimulus into the market which dragged the great recession out by several years.

        Although I qualified for some of these benefits I and my firm received none because of income or we didn’t opt for the loans or didn’t lay off any workers during the pandemic.

        It is a pretty simple economic concept: if you increase the money supply without increasing goods, services and productivity equally or at all the prices of the goods and services will go up. Some of that was just folks stuck at home unable to spend so they accumulated a lot of savings. Some were the stimulus payments, especially the direct cash payments for the child tax credit, which of course required children to qualify for.

        But probably most was the Fed, and easy money, both from quantitative easing and from very low interest rates for a very long time, which usually leads to poor decision making.

        The good news is the country avoided a depression. The bad news is things were closed for far too long. The other bad news is the combination of factors has led to steep inflation, which is a tax on everyone, and maybe the most regressive tax of all. Unfortunately, the medicine is pretty sour tasting: place the economy into a recession resulting in steep job losses and bankruptcies and defaults for a pretty long time with very high borrowing rates for individuals and public entities, while reducing federal spending pretty dramatically.

        We can argue about how we got here, but we are here, and the only issue now is the sour medicine to cure inflation which so far is not working, so the Fed plans to up the dose. At nearly $32 trillion the federal government cannot afford any future stimulus and in fact must cut pretty deeply, and so will cities and agencies, and the fed cannot afford to and doesn’t want to purchase mortgage-backed securities to lower mortgage rates so folks can buy a house.

        Not a very good time to belong to a blog on public transit and housing.

      13. “The driving force for inflation today … is the money supply, both from Covid stimulus and waiting too long to increase interest rates”

        Bird flu decimated the egg supply, and a whole new flock of disease-free chickens has to grow up before it can recover. There were also domestic problems with the milk supply, and climate droughts and floods and abnormal temperatures hurting grain and cherry supplies and other foodstuffs. Russia’s war in Ukraine has taken both Ukrainian and Russian wheat, oil, gas, fertilizer supplies, and other staples off the market. That hasn’t affected the US as much as other countries because we have large domestic supplies of them, but it could become a larger issue longer term. Restaurants have to pay higher wages and bonuses and are doing without a full workforce, so they raise prices. All this contributes to inflation, more than $1500 in stimulus checks do.

        The reason for the stimulus checks was to help the people most in poverty or who were laid off during the lockdowns. The government didn’t know who those people were so it couldn’t target the support just to them, so it gave it to everybody. If it hadn’t done so, a lot more people would be homeless or couldn’t buy food or medicine or school supplies, and that would have made them more susceptible to dying from covid. That would have been very bad. I gave my stimulus checks to somebody who needed them. Others threw them into their investment accounts, where they raise asset prices but not retail-goods prices (i.e., the inflation that matters).

        And the inflation rate and the consumer price index are just averages. The effects are a lot more on some people and products than others. The price of housing and healthcare in Pugetopolis has been rising faster than the consumer price index, so bus drivers have less purchasing power even with CPI increases.

      14. “the only issue now is the sour medicine to cure inflation which so far is not working,”

        That’s because it can’t; it’s the wrong tool for the job. The egg shortage is not caused by low interest rates or too much borrowing; it’s caused by a lot of birds dying. People won’t stop buying eggs completely, so they pay the higher prices. Restaurants with egg-based menu items have to keep buying eggs. The reason the Fed is the only one doing anything about inflation is Congress is so polarized it can’t do anything, and several Congresscritters are arguing in bad faith and holding up action. So the Fed is the only one that’s left, and the only thing it can do is raise interest rates.

      15. Pretty much Mike, people blaming the covid stimulus for inflation is basically gaslighting the poor for a situation that no one wanted to be in. And the supply chain played a big role to inflation problems but the as you say the Fed hands are tied with dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t due to Congress polarizing inaction on budget and debt.

        People saying we need to face cuts to transit service because of budget shortages get real quiet or flustered the moment you point out that we could do the same thing to highways and cut back highway or road maintenance. Which in lies the hypocritical nature of people to treating highways and transit as two different modes of transport differently despite serving people equally in getting from A to B and equally have merit to fund them well in hard times.

      16. “People saying we need to face cuts to transit service because of budget shortages get real quiet or flustered the moment you point out that we could do the same thing to highways and cut back highway or road maintenance. Which in lies the hypocritical nature of people to treating highways and transit as two different modes of transport differently despite serving people equally in getting from A to B and equally have merit to fund them well in hard times.”

        Zach, I am saying there will be cuts to highways and transit, and everything else, at the federal and local level. Even pre-pandemic transit ridership was down 15% across the U.S. between 2012 and 2018. https://nap.nationalacademies.org/read/26320/chapter/2

        Hard times just means there is less money. Unfortunately, with a $32 trillion national debt Congress can’t spend more and the R’s plan to roll back expenditures to the levels in 2022 is a pipe dream. Much deeper cuts will be necessary.

        Meanwhile inflation is making everything much more expensive which means you can’t afford as much of it, whether that is transit drivers or more highway lanes or police, fire, basically anything. And the country is just beginning a long recession that is already reducing tax revenues. It is just a very bad place to be with a $32 trillion debt, rising inflation, and the Fed pursuing a course that believes only a recession can reduce inflation which reduces tax revenue despite higher costs for cities, states, and the federal government from higher unemployment.

      17. “with a $32 trillion national debt Congress can’t spend more”

        It can spend more; Congress is just having a tantrum. Debt to GDP is lower than many industrialized countries and lower than in the post-WWII era. Reversing the Trump tax cuts would lower the debt dramatically, as similar moves under Clinton and Obama did. Resisting the “Defund the IRS” calls would allow it to effectively collect taxes it’s already owed. What the rest of the world wants is sensible and stable US policies, including maintaining our infrastructure and investing in our citizens adequately.

    4. As bus service hours get more expensive, automated transit systems whether they are trains, funiculars, people movers, and urban gondolas get more compelling. Both Reese and Alon have been warning that BRT systems will get more expensive as wages for drivers and maintenance increase.

  23. I saw a red bus on the 49 twice today. I’ve been seeing this more in the past couple months, RapidRide buses on non-RapidRide routes. It must be part of the limited bus availability problem. Or a subtle way to promote RapidRide.

  24. A solid read about California transit. From the link below…

    Transit agencies face a conundrum. Because they view transit ridership largely in equity terms, they design the systems largely as social-welfare programs designed to provide poorer residents with a means to get around. Yet when they dump billions of dollars in boutique rail lines, they inevitably cannibalize funds from the bus routes that serve the bulk of their riders – and few drivers end up taking those rail lines, anyway.


    1. The article is only available to subscribers (at least that what’s I get when I try to read it.) But this is such a defeatist attitude. You will never generate better denser land use and transit friendly development if you limit yourself to buses and buses do not scale. They don’t scale in labor costs, in road usage, in service quality. If rail is designed appropriately it does scale and can support greater density which supports walking, pedestrian friendliness, better for the environment, etc. Transit can support multiple functions. If you want to view it only as social welfare then you might as well make us Houston or Phoenix

      1. “You will never generate better denser land use and transit friendly development if you limit yourself to buses and buses do not scale. They don’t scale in labor costs, in road usage, in service quality.”

        Ah, let’s try to keep this conversation based in reality… the here and now. Metro is cutting back service and PT and CT have already cut service back maybe to the point of no return. Without a functioning bus system…. do we even need trains?

      2. You will never generate better denser land use and transit friendly development if you limit yourself to buses and buses do not scale. They don’t scale in labor costs, in road usage, in service quality.

        That is ridiculous. First, you don’t need rail or even transit to get transit oriented development: https://www.governing.com/archive/transit-oriented-development-doesnt-need-transit.html?platform=hootsuite.

        Second, buses definitely scale. There is an economy of scale that comes as ridership increases. The more often you run a bus, the more riders you get. The more often you run buses, the smaller the transfer penalty becomes. With a smaller transfer penalty, you can evolve towards a grid, which improves many trips, while actually costing less money to operate. On heavily used routes, you can add express buses. These skip stops, or even entire sections of the route. They operate on top of routes that have plenty of riders, yet are still crowded, despite running frequently. These are all examples of economy of scale.

        As you reach these greater economies of scale, you also become more resilient to downturns. This particular problem is a great example. Basically, there is a driver shortage. This is fundamentally no different than a funding reduction. You can’t run as many buses as you want. Now look at how this particular agency is handling things:

        1) Some peak-only express routes are cancelled.
        2) Some low frequency routes get a lot less frequent.
        3) Some high frequency routes get a little less frequent.

        Although the third choices clearly effects the most people, it is also the least damaging. Going from 7.5 minute headways to 10 minutes headways is a clear degradation, but it isn’t the end of the world. As it turns out, it is the same frequency as the train. Not ideal, but not horrible either.

        In contrast, going from 30 minute frequency to 60 minute frequency is terrible. yet the savings are actually smaller. The part of our system that has scaled up is more resilient than the part that hasn’t.

        There is a very good case to be made that you shouldn’t invest in rail until you have invested heavily in bus service. Don’t build rail along a corridor with mediocre bus service or mediocre bus ridership. There are exceptions and other considerations. If you can leverage an existing rail line (like Sounder) and get decent ridership, go ahead. It is worth considering the speed difference, and it often doesn’t make sense to invest in bus infrastructure to the same level as rail. But that is the basic idea.

        The problem is, ST hasn’t done that. Various corridors did have plenty of ridership (and still do). Downtown to UW for example. But much of what is being built has no justification based on current ridership, or expected ridership, given the minor improvement in speed (e. g. Tacoma-Dome Link). The decision to build such rail is based on mode fetish or a major misunderstanding of how to build a good transit system.

      3. The Toronto Transit Commission for a while did not (maybe still does not) list the exact frequency when buses came more often than 10 minutes; it was indicated only as “FS” (Frequent Service) in the schedules listed at bus stops and in pamphlets. Perhaps Metro could simply do the same thing and bypass the whole debate about how much people are hurt when a really frequent bus (like the 7) goes a little less frequent.

    2. Do California transit agencies view transit as largely social-welfare programs, or does a conservative Orange County paper just say that? Are all California transit agencies really the same? Does San Diego MTA have the same view as North San Diego County, LA Metro, VTA, BART, MUNI, Golden Gate Transit, Amtrak, etc? Even when Golden Gate is mostly commuters, and BART was built with a vision of middle-class suburbanites?

      1. I’ve ridden transit all over North America and Europe and believe me… the less money you have, the more likely you are to be riding public transit. This is a fact and I’m ok with it. I truly believe that transit should serve the least among us. So yes, transit is a social welfare program is the best sense. The folks working at Dollar General need good bus service. Does Bellevue really need a train?

        So at the foundation of all transit is a bus service that works…. cutting back bus service to poorer populations while expanding “White Rail” projects to more affluent neighborhoods isn’t fair.

        Here’s a cleaner link to article without a paywall. R Street is often worth a read because they’re all over the political map.


      2. The premise in this article makes no sense.

        Transit’s problems have little to do with money? Really?

        Yet it talks about service cutbacks. About unattractive transit.

        And underinvesting in roads.

        It seems like the argument is to run buses for the poor folks and to invest in roads for the people who can afford it. Welcome to infinite sprawl and segregation.

        If you look at every well-functioning pedestrian friendly city, whether that’s Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong or Zurich, Paris, Frankfurt or Stockholm, they have a mix of modes, with lots of rail, and people of all income levels using transit and it serves neighborhoods of all income levels.

        If you want to make transit a social welfare service that only serves that segment with buses, I don’t know what you will get. Nairobi?

      3. Like anywhere else, California transit operators have to follow the subsidy money.

        At least California has state money paying for transit. Now that a majority of the state population lives in areas where PT, CT or metro runs maybe our legislature will get a clue. Of course, the beneficiaries will very likely be more at agencies other than Metro if that happens.

        Until Marin adopted a local sales tax for additional local transit service, bridge tolls paid for much of the Golden Gate subsidy. However, Golden Gate gets that tax money from another entity. Thus most routes literally had to cross the bridge because the tolls provided most of their subsidy.

        Many other transit agencies in California get local funds from a different sales tax agency. Those agency boards are comprised of local elected officials from cities in that county. That affects where they can offer service.

        So the City of LA hands money that they control from the countywide sales tax authority not only to LA Metro but to a their own LADOT to run neighborhood circulators, for example.

        Even BART’s capital expansion relies on countywide sales tax funding. That’s why it seems silly when people who don’t understand that the extension to East San Jose was not funded by San Francisco local funds get outraged that the money wasn’t spent in San Francisco instead. Only Santa Clara County voters funded the line south of Warm Springs with local taxes.

      4. Just spend two hours getting from Anacortes to Snohomish (which should take just a bit over an hour), but sure turning a bunch of narrow, two lane rural roads into dangerous, narrow, major highways serving nothing but sprawling multi-acre parking lots is apparently working swell.

    3. Ah, the old “Think Tank” opinions about California transit from a Californian whose opinions include ” The state has been underinvesting in freeways given that it perceives transit as the future – and lawmakers are busy trying to re-order development patterns so that more of us live in high-density, transit-dependent neighborhoods.”

      Now that the tone of that opinion piece is understood, I’m interested in how to translate this last paragraph in the article:
      “Instead of thinking like businesspeople who need to meet the needs of customers, California transit officials act like government bureaucrats who are married to high-cost government and union solutions, and mainly want to impose their preferences on us – rather than lure us into transit by offering high-quality transportation alternatives. Until they change their thinking, Californians will continue to vote with their gas pedals.”

      So how does said ‘business person’ supply what their customer wants?
      They charge for it.
      Note his use of the term “FREEways”. Who pays for that?

      So explain how the ‘FREEway Customer’ pays for the road they drive on?
      (I’ve already explained ad infinitum how much a driver pays via the gas tax per mile, and what the average road costs per mile (based on road type))

      I want to see what this ‘business person’ comes up with.

    4. This is a biased opinion piece . It lacks anything deeper than anecdotal right-wing whining.

      However this statement caught my eye:
      “After that system experimented with free ridership during the pandemic, vagrants overran their buses and trains.”

      Sensationalistic? Maybe. But free fare advocates need to be aware of this.

  25. More on the 255, someone already touched on this, but if a route is going to be truncated to a Link station, there should be a threshold of service that it shouldn’t fall below, and that threshold should be high.

    A sincere truncation question. Why are some routes that seem like they would be a good candidate for truncation, not truncated? Like in the case of a downtown-bound freeway route not truncating at a freeway Link station? What’s the reason they aren’t truncated, when it seems like they should be?

    1. An equally serious question: Why does Sound Transit send a fleet of 59X series buses up I-5 during the hours that Sounder trains are operating? The 59X buses are expensive to operate and most of them and their drivers can only make one run in their shift. Sometimes they are fast and sometimes they take 2 hours. They make no stops until Sodo so they aren’t serving any intermediate points. Why not equalize the pricing and put all those riders on Sounder trains?

    2. Another consideration in the truncate-vs-not-truncate debate is what it means for people not going downtown. Is the truncation point a popular destination itself? Does it offer connections to lots of places that are quicker than going through downtown?

      Traditionally, the arguments against truncation on the 255 tend to assume that downtown is everyone’s destination, an assumption that is simply not true. The truncated 255 is a big win if you’re headed to anywhere around UW, and is also a win if the destination is anywhere north of the ship canal or Capitol Hill. Me personally, I have little reason to go downtown much these days, and the vast majority of the time I am on the 255, I’m going somewhere where truncation is a win.

      The 594 is a different case. The only logical truncation point is Rainier Beach, but Rainier Beach has almost nothing there. You can catch a bus or Link and get better access to the Rainier Valley vs. going through downtown, but this time, only people headed to the Rainier Valley would be winners and people headed anywhere else would be losers. For example, if you’re going to Capitol Hill or literally anywhere north of downtown, you want a 594 that stays on the freeway to downtown. Same if the destination is Bellevue, or even West Seattle.

      1. In three years or so, there will be a sudden increase in riders wanting to go from Tacoma to the Federal Way Commons, a slight drop in those wanting to go straight from Tacoma to downtown Seattle, and a noticeable drop in riders wanting to ride a bus from Federal Way to downtown Seattle.

        None of them will be screaming for a truncation or route consolidation.

        But if the choice is between 30-minute all-day headway between Tacoma and Seattle and 30-minute headway between Federal Way and Seattle, 20-minute headway on a new Tacoma-Federal Way-Seattle all-day route, and 10-minute headway between Tacoma and Federal Way with no off-peak bus route between Federal Way and Seattle, what would Sam ride?

      2. In three years or so, there will be a sudden increase in riders wanting to go from Tacoma to the Federal Way Commons, a slight drop in those wanting to go straight from Tacoma to downtown Seattle, and a noticeable drop in riders wanting to ride a bus from Federal Way to downtown Seattle.

        Why would there be a sudden increase in people wanting to go from Tacoma to Federal Way? Are they building office buildings there, or something? Why would there be a decrease in people wanting to go from Tacoma to downtown Seattle? Obviously the pandemic reduced demand in a major way, but if anything, I see the numbers increasing slightly (from where they are now).

        The third statement makes some sense, but now you are talking mode. Mode choice depends a lot on alternatives, but that has little to do with destination choice. I used to commute from Pinehurst to Factoria. The buses were terrible. Driving was terrible, too. I usually drove. If the buses were better, I would have taken them more often. But I still wanted to go from Pinehurst to Factoria. Mode choice is very different than destination choice.

        None of them will be screaming for a truncation or route consolidation.

        Nobody ever screams for a truncation or route consolidation. I shouldn’t say nobody. Rather, it is only transit nerds who push for it. If you polled people n the area, they would have kept the 41 by a wide margin. Many would use it to connect to Link, so that they could get to the UW or Capitol Hill. Many would just continue to ride it downtown. Some would even transfer from their other bus to that bus to get downtown (if they saw the bus pulling up). But that is neither here nor there. At some point, you have to make changes that are for the greater good.

        A lot depends on money. Sound Transit focuses on regional bus service, and is willing to spend a lot of money on routes that Metro would have long abandoned. ST buses running to and through Tacoma perform better than a lot of other ST buses, making the case for them relatively strong. This is what makes a future restructure interesting. There are savings to be made while still retaining bus service from Tacoma to Seattle. You could get rid of the 586 yesterday. You could get rid of the 574 the day that Federal Way Link opens. Or you could simply truncate the 574 and run it opposite the 594. That gives riders 15-minute headways from Tacoma to Link, and half hour headways from Tacoma directly to Seattle, while saving a considerable amount of money. There are a lot of variations, especially when you consider the 578. It would not surprise me if ST — having lots of money for these sorts of trips — splits the difference. They don’t focus on improving headways, but retains a few express routes from Tacoma to Seattle.

        But *right now*, the problem is not money, it is a driver shortage. That’s why I find their insistence on running the 586 very irritating. If is the same group of drivers. By the same metrics that Metro used to judge buses (cost to riders, driver time savings, etc.) the 586 would certainly be cut. But since it isn’t, other, more damaging cuts were made.

      3. “ None of them will be screaming for a truncation or route consolidation.”

        Truncation or route consolidation is almost universally not a “win” for a transit agency. Riders like familiarity. It’s why so many Metro routes today inside Seattle were once streetcar routes as an example.

        It should also be mentioned again that some people pick housing locations because of the destinations available on a nearby route. For example, blind citizens will choose housing on Route 50 because the Services for the Blind is on the route.

        Major route restructuring is something that isn’t good to do any more frequent than every five or ten years because riders make life decisions because of the route. It’s a reason why I’m a fan of bus operators only making minor adjustments when a Link station opens, and pursuing a more major adjustment a year or two after opening — when many riders are less likely to dislike the change and can better understand the advantages of transferring at a nearby Link station rather than have direct service.

      4. Ross can believe nobody in Tacoma will want to ride to Federal Way to connect to the 1 Line and all the destinations it serves. He can believe the world is flat, for all I care.

        But when Ross talks up BRT as better than rail, don’t go for it. He is busily undercutting what BRT service we have (e.g. RapidRide). BRT has no better friends than those who support it only when trains are on the ballot.

      5. “Why would there be a sudden increase in people wanting to go from Tacoma to Federal Way?”

        Pent-up demand. The same reason Northgate Link, the 62, and the A were so successful.

      6. “Why would there be a sudden increase in people wanting to go from Tacoma to Federal Way?”

        “Pent-up demand. The same reason Northgate Link, the 62, and the A were so successful.”

        Mike, is there no transit service between Tacoma to Federal Way today? How is “demand” on transit being pent-up today from Tacoma to Federal Way? Or do you mean changing the mode from buses to light rail will incentivize more folks to take the bus to Link to go from Tacoma Dome to Federal Way and then a bus to Federal Way? After all, Sounder S. ridership has plummeted.

        Northgate Link’s ridership is much less than estimated, and how much of that was just switching folks from buses to light rail? I think there are some who think switching mode from buses to Link despite the additional transfers will increase ridership, but then are others who believe it won’t, and one seat routes like the 332, 630 and 554 will remain more popular than Link.

        I think the poster you were replying to was channeling TT’s comments: tell me WHY folks will be going from Tacoma to Federal Way and I will tell you how many riders there will be. There isn’t any pent-up demand to ride transit from Tacoma to Federal Way just for the hell of it.

      7. The answer to my original question about Sam is either:

        (1) He won’t ride, as he does not ride the bus.


        (2) He will ride whichever service is available to get where he wants to go.

        I’m debating with the least pro-transit transit analysts in the galaxy.

      8. “is there no transit service between Tacoma to Federal Way today?”

        The 574 is half-hourly. The 500 (local) is hourly. That deters people from taking transit or making the trip. Link will run every 10 minutes, which will make it easy to get to Federal Way instead of hard.

      9. “Northgate Link’s ridership is much less than estimated…”

        Sorry Daniel. That’s a lie!

        The ST data for March 2023 shows that the three Northgate Link stations had about 20,800 average weekday boardings. To get a total rider estimate the number should be doubled to 41,600 average weekday riders. Note that these data is from March, and other months are reliably higher especially because of the Mariners.


        The ST legacy web site stated that Northgate Link would have 41,000 to 49,000 riders in 2022. There were months in 2022 as high as 21,500 boardings (43,000 total).


        So it’s not way off! It’s actually pretty dang close and within ST’s stated range.

        Sure overall Link ridership is down but the Northgate segment really isn’t off.

    3. UW station street level .should be heavily modified to allow for seamless transfers to SR520 route buses… like looping them around the station between the station and stadium so the bus picks up right in front of the station and loops around the station headhouse. It would begin to remedy the failed UW station design.

      1. The situation at UW Station is very unfortunate. The one thing that area has going for it is a lot of empty land. It is also on the Burke Gilman. So I would expect a huge bike cage, with lots of free bike parking. Nope. For 520 buses, I would expect something just like what you suggest. Nope.

        Technically, the fault lies with the UW. But ST deserves some responsibility for not pushing the UW to make these improvements. ST has been meek, ignorant or apathetic about improvements in the area that would make a huge difference to a lot transit riders.

      2. Route 255 now has a stop northbound in front of UW Station and Husky Stadium (perhaps farther north than ideal for entering UW Station).

        That took cooperation with UW to redo the Triangle the way it should have been done in the first place. (Okay, it should also have had a tunnel to elevators to get up to the west side of Montlake Blvd in front of UW Medical Center, but that ship has sunk.)

        If I’m reading the map correctly, ST Express 542 fails to take advantage of this stop. That is on ST.

        The maps for routes 48 and 271 aren’t clear whether they loop around the Triangle, but the schedules still don’t even treat UW Station as a time point. If they aren’t stopping in front of UW Station, that is on Metro.

      3. Brent,

        The 542 definitely uses that northbound Montlake stop that the 255 uses as well, in addition to the right-lane left-turn signal to get around the Triangle. and onto Pacific.

      4. Thanks for the info Skylar.

        I’m glad these buses got that special accommodation for that right-lane left-turn signal, even if some detractors saw the need as imaginary.

    4. Interestingly, when my SE Seattle neighbor wants to go to SouthCenter on transit, he usually takes Link to TIBS and then takes RapidRide F rather than going on Link to SODO to catch Route 150.

  26. Canceling the 320 and 64 is probably not too smart now with Amazon returning to office, probably questionable ridership data from the pandemic.

    1. Your argument might require you to admit the pandemic is not over. Otherwise, Metro is justified in going with the latest data.

    2. And why should the taxpayers accommodate your expensive special express routes for your imaginary need? They are harshing my freedom vibe.

      1. I can’t speak for the cost, but when I was living in Ravenna, I remember both the 76 and the 64 being well attended, so the usage, at least, was not imaginary. Whether there was “need” is another question, I suppose – presumably a lot of people living in the Ravenna Wedgwood area commuting to SLU do have personal vehicles and could drive to work, if the annoyance of having a 3-seat ride to go 4 miles became too great. Someone like me, who did not have a car, would probably have looked for another job rather than put up with it, or suffer if the economy were bad. So it’s a matter of “choice” rather than need, at some level, sure. But that’s no different from someone not working in SLU (for the record, this is all hypothetical; I’ve never worked in SLU myself).

      2. I’m not really that wedded to eliminating all SLU Expresses. I’m just feeling a certain schadenfreude about the predicament of someone whose anti-social dogma is getting run over by karma.

        The jollies anti-maskers get by making sure those who need masked-up transit options get no such consideration, even if it is just a tiny section of a train, will hopefully be temporary. His one-seat ride will soon be gone forever. That gives me some solace that there is justice in the universe. But he’ll still have a pretty nifty three-seat ride. For the moment, I’m pretty much cut off from north Seattle.

      3. Brent, not my expensive express routes. I drive to work from QA in my SOV. Just thinking out loud on behalf of SLU workers who need to commute. And the pandemic is beyond over.

      4. Brent White, what nasty schadenfreude, unfortunately so misplaced as I live in QA and have always driven to work. I do enjoy taking transit from my SFH with the kids on the weekends. Glad ST and Metro aren’t catering to the extremists such as yourself anymore.

      5. Is there any data on how many Amazon workers take public transit to the office in Seattle vs. company shuttles? One of the issues for Metro — and company shuttles — is to determine or anticipate which of the 3/5 days workers want to go to the office. A bus or shuttle packed on Tuesday could be empty on Friday. So far it appears Tuesday — Thursday are the favored office days, although that crams the offices on those days. There will also be the gradual shift of workers to the Bellevue office over the next year, and that figure could be 10,000, or more based on office capacity.

        I would also be interested to know how many Amazon employees wear masks at work. Based on my experience I see maybe 1% to 2% of citizens wearing masks in public, although I don’t know about on buses or trains where some think the risk of transmission is much higher.

      6. SLUer,

        Out of curiosity, what prevents you from taking transit to work? QA is one of the better connected neighborhoods, so I am wondering what the rest of us who are passionate about transit and improving it for everyone’s needs can learn from someone who seems particularly well positioned to use it yet does not.

        Thank you in advance for any insight you are willing to share!

      7. Anonymouse that’s a good question. QA has good public transit for the last mile (my house is less than 2 blocks from two bus lines), but it doesn’t connect easily to other job centers such as SLU, UW, Capitol Hill. All the QA bus routes end up going to the traditional downtown CBD via Third Ave with a stop at Seattle Center/Climate Pledge (useful for weekends with the kids). I can walk to SLU faster from QA than I can take two buses to get there during rush hour.

        The other reason why I drive to work is that I often drop my kids off to school prior to getting to work. I also have good parking benefits at my work. There’s no disincentive for me to drive given I live so close, so even gridlocked traffic at rush hour is no big deal, I’ll still be home under 15 minutes, but I can take care of errands on the way home (stop by Met Market, pick up some takeout or dry cleaning).

      8. Thank you for sharing. The issue you are mentioning related to the cost of transfers is similar to the one I mentioned about the 64 going away causing the 4-mile trip from Ravenna to SLU to become a somewhat annoying 3-seat ride.

        FWIW, I have often done chores after work using transit, but I understand that it can be difficult for everyone to do so, especially when it comes to shuffling after-school kid activities. It sounds like there are few things to sway you towards using transit more often, given your setup; is there any single thing that you believe would make a big difference in your case? Better transfers, higher overall frequency, etc.

      9. I’m fine with the SLU expresses if the ridership justifies it, and for SLUer getting better transit options.

        I hope SLUer will be fine with riders who can’t ride the 1 Line north of Westlake right now being able to do so. I don’t think what I am asking for is extreme. I think opposing it on purely dogmatic reasons, when it has no negative impacts on his ability to travel, is beyond extreme.

        I’m sorry Queen Anne transit to anywhere but the Central Business District sucks.

      10. SLUer,

        Try telling the three people I know who have gotten COVID in the past month that the pandemic is over.

      11. Anonymouse, what would it take to sway you to drive more often? Because that is basically what you are asking SLU’er, assuming I guess that transit is somehow more moral.

        The reasons SLU’er gave are pretty much the reasons you will get from anyone on the eastside or anyone who drives, except he didn’t add safety, weather, convenience, or need to carry tools. Those have always been the reasons: kids/daycare (and pets), easy parking, ability to do errands after work, time of trip, ability to carry things, don’t have to mingle with the public and according to Brent get Covid or breathe in fentanyl, wait in line, stand during the trip, etc.

        All those folks zipping around in cars think driving is morally superior, for them and their families. Nothing is going to get them onto transit unless they have to commute to work in downtown Seattle. It would be the same for me to ask you what society can do to get you to drive more often because it is assumed driving is morally superior (including an EV). If you asked the folks in my city what could be done to get them to ride transit more — considering, we have almost no transit — they would say nothing. Or think you were joking. WHY would they want to ride transit more?

        But at least you asked. For decades this region — mostly Seattle — and its transit agencies have asked how we can make driving so unpleasant folks are FORCED to take transit. Mostly that meant commuting to downtown Seattle with very expensive parking. It took a lot of force pre-pandemic, but now we have WFH and much less congestion and much less transit ridership. Unfortunately the transit agencies never learned to compete, or to treat discretionary riders like customers (and transit gets a pretty rough section of society) so while they were focused on forcing commuters to take transit Uber snuck up on them and stole 194 million miles/year in Seattle.

      12. DT: I would encourage you to not read morality statements in my questions which are not explicitly there. I give you the benefit of trusting that you say what you mean to say; I would explicitly request that you do the same for me.

        Having said that, I will answer your question in good faith as well :) I will have to start driving when I need to help elderly or ill relatives to get around to medical appointments myself, instead of relying on other family members to do it. That is pretty much the main solution I have not been able to work around conveniently. Think things like going to colonoscopy appointments, chemo appointments, and the like. Yes, we could do those with cabs or Uber or what have you, but illness is a messy business, and not one some people feel comfortable sharing with strangers unless absolutely necessary. So we would probably keep it in the family, as it were.

        Short of that, probably not much. I hope that that answers your question.

    3. I think there are three things Metro look at: cost, pain and ridership:

      Cost: It is especially expensive to run peak-direction service. https://humantransit.org/2017/08/basics-the-high-cost-of-peak-only-transit.html.

      Pain: In the case of these buses, there are alternatives. They delay the riders, but not by much. The pain of this change seems minimal to buses that are going from half hour to hourly service.

      Ridership: The ridership on these routes is extremely low. They might get higher as more businesses (like Amazon) open up, but it is unlikely they will be really high. Even if it is, I don’t think you can justify it, given how little value it adds. If we resurrected the 41 it would get very good ridership again. It might be one of most productive buses (like it was before). But you can’t justify it, because forcing a transfer (as annoying as it is) is nothing compared to the pain felt by having buses run infrequently.

      The biggest argument for cutting buses like the 320 and 64 is not about ridership — but about the fact that cutting it causes very little pain, but saves a lot of money (or in this case, driver hours).

    4. I don’t know that the 320 or 64 run often or late enough to make a huge difference for the Amazon workforce. My partner works out of SLU and some of her team doesn’t come in until 10 or later, while the last run of the 64 gets to SLU before 9 and the 320 at 10.

      In any case, those folks can still get to Amazon with an extra transfer to/from still-frequent buses (62, 65, 372, 522) and Link, with lots of frequent bus service from downtown to SLU (40, 70, C) if they don’t want to walk from Westlake, or they can take the 70 from the U-District. Picking various arbitrary points from NE Seattle and comparing peak weekday and weekend times to get to SLU suggests the change might add ~10 minutes of one-way travel time which is inconvenient but hardly the end of the world.

      1. That is a point that the peak expresses are poorly-timed for the non-managerial portion of the white-collar world that has gotten used to sleeping in. (The same goes even more so for First Hill, and its round-the-clock pain.) The government wanted employers to flex their start and end times out of peak. The white-collar world complied. Now, the transit needs to follow.

        Having one operator drive a 64 type of route back and forth with less frequency is cheaper and uses up fewer operator pick packets than having a platoon of operators driving just a couple or so runs on a peak express.

        Being able to do full shifts of the same express sure beats forcing operators to pick split shifts, and then immediately quit because they have an outside life. Or it enables operators to graduate to full-time more quickly. If Metro can get to the point of hiring operators straight to full-time, that would get more applicants.

        There might still be some part-time work available, but I bet there are senior operators who would love to pick those packets without losing their seniority.

  27. Does AM peak ridership still exist?

    So many Metro routes appear to ramp up toward mid-day service levels by 8 am, or later.

    Will Sound Transit redefine peak hours to just be in the afternoon as the opening of the 1 Line to Lynnwood City Center approaches? That could make it easier to keep up with maintenance, and have enough operators.

    I realize AM peak could still return, but we can pretend we’re post-COVID for this analysis of what current ridership is.

  28. The city of Mercer Island announced the suspension of the 216 today.

    https://kingcounty.gov/so-so/dept/metro/routes-and-service/schedules-and-maps/216/ Here is a list of the east/west routes in service (although the 216 is suspended) from Issaquah. The 218 does not stop on MI.

    There wasn’t any outcry on MI, probably because the 554 and 550 between them (and the 630 I suppose) have excellent frequency, and the 216 and 218 are really Seattle express buses for peak commuters. I have to imagine Issaquah signed off on the suspension since it mainly affects Sammamish and Issaquah.

    It is a little interesting that the 216 is being suspended completely while Metro is implementing a pilot micro transit program in Sammamish of all places. I have to imagine ridership on the 218 and 216 has plummeted.

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