King County Metro closely tracks how your bus is performing – whether trips are late, early or on-time. Our nearly 3,000 bus drivers work to reach their time points as carefully as possible, but even the most amazing driver still can get stuck in persistent traffic challenges any time of day or anyplace in King County.
When service reliability becomes an issue, Metro works with cities to see if more bus lanes, green lights for buses, or other traffic changes can help. We also invest in bus service “running time” (by adding minutes to the schedule) to ensure buses arrive at their stops on schedule even with the increase in traffic congestion
As a result, Metro’s On-Time Performance (OTP) metric hit an eight-year high in April this year despite worsening traffic. Systemwide, buses were late 12.3 percent of the time (the lowest since 2009), and on schedule 80.7 percent of the time (the best since 2015).
Riders have experienced longer delays in the past, with a low point being in late 2015 as the local economy heated up and more traffic congestion slowed buses throughout the service area. Now, thanks to big investments in its schedules, Metro’s bus service reliability metrics are hitting their highest points in nearly a decade.
These good service reliability numbers come on the heels of major investments in Metro’s schedules in 2016, 2017, and March 2018. Metro invested the equivalent of more than 3 percent of all its service hours again between 2016 through the March 2018 service change, all in the interest of improving the quality of its service. That’s seven consecutive service changes (which happen twice a year).
Metro reinvested many hours into schedules with the U-Link/NE Seattle Restructure in March 2016. In 2017, Metro set aside a large amount of hours to specifically improve Operator access to restrooms, which also helps improve bus service reliability for customers.
Metro has grown the entire system by 15 percent since 2014, partially supported by the increased financial support of its partners, most notably the City of Seattle.
Examples of high ridership routes with big improvements in OTP over the past year (April 2018 vs. April 2017):
- Route 8, +10.2% (81.0 vs. 70.8%), Daily Riders: 8,500+ (Queen Anne/Mount Baker)
- Route 62, +8% (74.9% vs. 66.9%), Daily Riders: 7,900+ (Downtown/Greenlake/Sand Point)
- B Line, +16.4% (90.7% vs. 74.2%), Daily Riders: 6,300+ (Bellevue/Redmond)
- C Line, +9.9% (87.4% vs. 77.5%), Daily Riders: 12,200+ (West Seattle/Downtown)
- Route 101, +6.9% (90.5% vs. 83.6%), Daily Riders: 4,500+ (Renton/Seattle)
Metro ridership continues on an upward trajectory with October 2017 recorded as Metro’s highest daily average ever at 418,000 rides. 2018 monthly ridership numbers for January, February, and March are all higher in 2018 than they were in 2017.
While Metro has made big gains, there’s still a ways to go to get from surpassing 80 percent OTP during some months, like February 2018 (80 percent) and April 2018 (80.7 percent) to averaging 80 percent or better for an entire year. The current 12 month average for OTP through April 2018 is 77.5 percent.
In the face of the upcoming “period of maximum constraint”, which includes removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the closure of Convention Place Station removal of buses from the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel in 2019, Metro will confront a number of new challenges that will make improving OTP a tough task in the near term. Steps are underway – including $30 million in project investments by Metro, Sound Transit and Seattle – to keep people moving while these major projects reach milestones that will position our region’s mobility for decades to come.