To encourage more space between bus drivers and riders, King County Metro is in the process of installing a temporary divider—which we are calling a safety strap—on buses to cordon off the front area of the bus for passengers who require priority seating.
The safety strap reinforces guidance you may have already seen directing passengers to use the rear door to enter and exit the bus if they are able. Seniors and people with disabilities should continue to use the front door.
If you are behind the safety strap and need to speak with the driver for any reason—including requesting seating in the forward section or to off-load your bicycle, please signal your driver or speak loudly enough that they can hear you. Please limit conversations to urgent needs or requests, and do not attempt to bypass or remove the safety strap. Safety straps are also being installed on Sound Transit Express bus routes and streetcars.
Amid the evolving public health challenge, Metro remains dedicated to providing safe, equitable, and sustainable transit to our region. In recent weeks, we moved quickly to respond to COVID-19, guided by Public Health – Seattle & King County, including:
- transitioning to daily sanitizing of buses and other transit vehicles;
- setting up a Department Operations Center (DOC) to manage fast response;
- educating the public and encouraging higher-risk employees to stay home;
- shifting customer-facing sales and service operations to telephone and web; and
- suspending fare payment and directing passengers who are able to enter and exit buses through the rear doors.
Moving to a Reduced Schedule was in response to a drop in ridership since the emergence of COVID-19. Realizing the potential impacts of COVID-19 on our workforce, the decision was also informed by a desire to maintain a resilient and sustainable transit system to keep our region moving every day, while ensuring Metro can ramp back up when this chapter closes. We are working to provide essential transit service to our community—including first-responders, grocery store workers, and medical professionals—and keeping people as safe as we are able.
As King County Metro and our region respond to COVID-19, we are regularly posting answers to questions we’ve received from community members, customers, and the media:
What protections has King County Metro put in place for drivers physically while they’re operating the vehicles? Are you considering any actual physical barriers for bus drivers?
Safety is Metro’s #1 priority and we continue to support our employees, passengers, and community members, including through the ongoing daily sanitizing of buses and other transit vehicles. In addition, we deep-clean every vehicle monthly and, if ever an unsanitary situation arises, the vehicle is immediately taken out of service for sanitizing and deep-cleaning.
To encourage more space between bus drivers and riders, King County Metro is in the process of installing a temporary divider—which we are calling a safety strap—on buses to cordon off the front area of the bus for passengers who require priority seating. The safety strap reinforces recent guidance directing passengers to use the rear door to enter and exit the bus if they are able. Seniors and people with disabilities should continue to use the front door. Safety straps are also being installed on streetcars.
We also conduct twice-daily sanitizing of high-touch areas of our bases. However, the results of sanitizing on buses or vehicles, or at bases are often not visible after the cleaning agent dries. We have a task force in place dedicated to cleaning and we’re committed to continuous improvement across our agency.
Have any public transit drivers contracted COVID-19?
Metro is not aware of any of our bus drivers contracting COVID-19. A van driver for our Access paratransit service reported a positive diagnosis on March 24, 2020. The driver has been directed to self-isolate for at least 14 days and last worked on March 22. Access vans are fully sanitized each evening after service and, after hearing of the positive test, the driver’s van was immediately taken out of service for deep-cleaning. The workplace where the driver works was also deep-cleaned and sanitized. The driver interacted with 10 office employees, and transported a total of 12 customers on March 21 and March 22. These employees were immediately notified and sent home, and we’re in the process of contacting the passengers.
What is the compensation plan for public transit drivers whose hours are impacted by the service reduction?
Drivers reporting for work are still being paid during Reduced Schedule. Some drivers may be reassigned to different routes or other tasks. Even those sent home without assignment are paid.
What protections has King County Metro put in place for compensation or sick leave for drivers who have contracted COVID-19 or who are at risk?
Drivers have the option of using leave in the event they are sick, are caring for family members, or are distancing themselves from interacting with the public due to being in a higher risk category.
What proportion of drivers are over 60? Do you know what proportion is particularly at risk?
We have approximately 3,100 transit operators operating Metro bus service. An estimated 25% are age 60 or older. We do not have a method to determine other higher-risk categories, other than employee self-reporting.
How are changes and updates being communicated to drivers?
Generally, we communicate workplace information through employee bulletins, and discussions at the bases via chiefs and supervisors while also trying to avoid large gatherings.
- King County Metro Transit
- Public Health
- Other King County services