(Editor’s note, 4/3/20: This blog post is now out-of-date and Metro has made additional service reductions. Please go to kingcounty.gov/ReducedSchedule for the latest information.)

As our region continues to respond to COVID-19, King County Metro plans to temporarily move to a Reduced Schedule—which affects how often buses run and when they operate—starting Monday, March 23. Some bus routes will not operate and nearly all routes will see individual trip cancelations.

These service reductions are in response to significant drops in ridership, and are designed to maintain a resilient and sustainable transit system able to ramp back up when this chapter closes. We have no plans to reduce our current workforce. Many of Metro’s riders have heeded the steps advised by leaders and public health officials in recent weeks to limit the spread of novel coronavirus by avoiding traveling and teleworking. The ridership on Thursday, March 12 was 45% less than a comparable day in 2019—a reduction of 185,000 passengers.

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. We do not make these decisions lightly and have designed the reductions to maintain some service on as many routes as possible. We know that people rely on these routes to access medical care, grocery stores, and other vital services. We’re actively talking with community groups who represent populations likely to depend on transit, including those that represent customers with accessibility challenges. We will remain engaged with them to understand their mobility needs and determine how best to serve them during this time. More detail on service reductions will be shared by Friday, March 20.

During the last two weeks, Metro has moved quickly to respond to novel coronavirus. These planned service reductions follow our earlier public safety actions of transitioning to daily disinfection of coaches and transit vehicles/vessels; setting up a Department Operations Center to guide fast response; temporarily moving customer-facing sales and service operations to phone and online; and suspending fare enforcement inspections. However, as Executive Constantine and Gov. Jay Inslee shared last week, additional steps have become necessary to encourage social distancing and to limit social interactions in order to save lives.

“It is time, right now, for people to assume that they and everyone they meet is infected, to avoid any unnecessary interactions that might lead to further infection, and to wait and monitor to see if they have in fact been infected so that they can isolate and recover without presenting a risk to others,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Go to work if you must. But hunker down if you are able. Postpone anything you can. Treat the next two weeks as a period of self-quarantine, to protect yourself and the lives and health of your loved ones and the entire community.”

We acknowledge the inconvenience these changes will cause to riders and thank them for their patience and consideration of others during this unprecedented time. Amid the evolving public health situation, Metro is committed to keeping our customers informed, continuing to listen to the community, and providing transit service in a safe, equitable way.