Dear Customers, Colleagues, and Community Members,
At King County Metro, we’re dedicated to providing safe, equitable, and sustainable transit to our region. That’s why we’ve moved quickly and responsibly to respond to novel coronavirus (COVID-19), guided by the directives of Public Health – Seattle & King County.
Because the safety of our customers, community members, and employees is our first priority, I wanted you to know about the systems that are in place, the protocols we’ve recently upgraded, and our planning and preparation looking forward. We take very seriously our role in helping protect our community and connecting you to where you need to go.
Everything we do at Metro is with you—and your safety—in mind. After novel coronavirus emerged, we quickly transitioned to ensure that every bus, streetcar, and water taxi is disinfected by Metro’s crews every single day. Our trained team members focus especially on high-touch areas, including buttons, handholds, pull cords, rails, and stanchions. We’ve since shared these leading practices with other transit agencies across our state and the country to inform their responses.
Crews utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE) apply Virex-II-286 in backpack sprayers on buses and streetcars. Water taxi interiors are disinfected after each commute. At the direction of King County Executive Dow Constantine, Metro quickly set up its own Department Operations Center (DOC), effective Monday, March 2. The DOC grants Metro more flexibility to manage system changes, make real-time decisions, and increase capacity to respond to an evolving situation. We remain in close contact with Public Health – Seattle & King County to monitor and respond to the situation seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
All of us are playing a vitally important personal role, too. We’re being vigilant about not touching our faces. We’re washing our hands more frequently and thoroughly than ever before. We’re thinking of others by covering our coughs and sneezes, and avoiding travel when we’re sick. And we’re making a habit of social distancing by avoiding crowded places and close personal contact.
We’re providing regular updates on our Metro Matters blog under coronavirus, on our Facebook and Twitter channels, and through Transit Alerts. As always, we encourage your feedback and are dedicated to continuous improvement driven by community partnership and engagement.
At Metro, we are building your mobility agency with equity and accessibility at its core. While the majority of our passengers have other transportation options and choose transit, many of our colleagues, friends, and neighbors rely even more heavily—or perhaps exclusively—upon transit.
During novel coronavirus, I commit Metro to continue to champion our values. While we must do more, all of us at Metro believe strongly in our mission to eliminate disparities by race and place. And we’re incredibly proud of our Access paratransit program, which delivers more than one million trips each year to customers whose disabilities prevent them from using Metro’s accessible fleet.
Alongside our community partners, we co-design, plan, and implement our service to increase connections to opportunity—particularly for communities of color, those with fewer resources, and customers with disabilities. That will not change and we continue to work with communities to improve our services.
In an unprecedented situation, I want to thank my Metro colleagues for their commitment to the communities we serve, their dedication to Metro and to each other, and to their hard work and flexibility in their response. Metro’s employees are keeping our county moving.
Coincidentally, Wednesday, March 18 is Transit Operator Appreciation Day. If a Metro operator or other employee provided you with excellent customer service, or if you just want to thank them for getting you where you need to go, please submit a commendation this week (or any week) at www.kingcounty.gov/metro/greatdriver. I appreciate so many of you sharing your praise of the heroism and quick-thinking of our drivers earlier this year during the shooting in downtown Seattle in January.
At the guidance of the executive and Public Health – Seattle & King County, employees who are at higher risk of a severe illness are encouraged to stay home at this time and, like all of us, to avoid large groups of people. And, while the signs of COVID-19 can be similar to a variety of other conditions, employees who are sick should stay home regardless of the symptoms.
King County also has a number of resources available to all employees in addition to health benefits. These include the Employee Assistance Program, King County’s Health & Wellness Program and Wellness Center, and the King County Emotional Crisis Line.
To keep our community healthy, Executive Constantine, in coordination with Public Health – Seattle & King County, has directed Metro to keep providing safe, reliable transit and take steps to support social distancing. Metro is developing plans and adjusting operations daily to ensure these goals are met. One of many contingencies we are preparing for is if fewer Metro employees are available to work on a given day and how to provide the best service possible in those types of scenarios.
In keeping with King County’s values, we do not take this planning lightly and equity is always central in our decision-making. We will seek the least negative impact upon communities and geographic areas. And we will ensure that at-risk populations are prioritized.
Guided by Public Health – Seattle & King County, we’re also mindful of social distancing and avoiding crowding on buses. Reductions in ridership following the executive’s and the governor’s State of Emergency proclamations, recommendations from Public Health, increases in telecommuting, canceled large events, and school closures have resulted in our passengers having more room on buses and other transit vehicles.
Again, for updates on any potential schedule changes and for all things Metro, I encourage you to sign up to receive Transit Alerts, to subscribe to our Facebook and Twitter channels, and to read our Metro Matters blog.
I’m very proud to be part of the work to respond to these challenges while delivering the service you count on. I have seen again and again our extended King County Metro community rise to the occasion. I am confident that, together, we can continue to demonstrate our leadership and our values every day.
Moving forward together,
King County Metro, General Manager