Facing unprecedented revenue losses as a result of the COVID pandemic, King County Metro has notified 200 part-time transit operators that they will be laid off as of Aug. 7. Per the labor agreement, employees are laid off in order of lowest seniority and the employees who received layoff notices were driving routes part-time for Metro for the past year or less.
Service and workforce reductions are a result of an unfortunate financial reality. King County’s most recent economic forecast estimates that from 2020-2022 Metro will collect $465 million less in sales tax revenue and $130 million to $150 million less in fare revenue. Reductions already experienced and projected from farebox, sales tax, and transportation benefit district funding mean Metro faces a $2.2 billion revenue loss for 2020-2028.
As defined in the labor contract, employees are laid off based on order of lowest seniority and these layoffs are not reflections of performance. To assist the part-time drivers affected by layoffs, King County is providing career support and identifying other work placement opportunities within King County. Employees also will be offered direct access to a temporary program that is in development to support COVID response efforts elsewhere in King County. Also, affected employees are placed on a two-year recall list for the transit operator position.
Metro has operated a reduced service network since March in response to COVID-19. As of June 22, about 85% of pre-COVID transit service is operating. Recent average weekday ridership is estimated to be about 36% compared to 2019. The amount of service hours we provide is directly related to the number of operators we need. Fewer services hours means fewer drivers are needed.
Future service adjustments and reductions are also planned for September as Metro responds to ridership levels and continues to provide a reliable regional network, particularly for those who most rely public transportation. To reduce the number of potential layoffs, King County recently made a voluntary separation program available to retirement-eligible employees.
Despite the challenges facing our county and beyond, Metro is committed to keeping our region moving forward and emerging with a stronger and more robust transit system that provides safe, equitable, and sustainable mobility.
Will there be more transit operator layoffs in the future? Current plans for layoffs are driven by financial realities that include lower revenue from sales taxes, fares, and agency partners. Based on current workforce projections, additional layoffs are possible, however our goals moving forward remain to address financial challenges without laying off employees to the extent possible. Factors affecting future rounds of layoffs include how much further attrition occurs within the workforce, including how many employees choose the voluntary separation program. More information will be known in the coming months.
How does the percentage of workers laid off compare to the total driver workforce and the part-time workforce? Metro has approximately 3,143 part- and full-time transit operators. The 200 part-time drivers identified for layoffs represent 6% of the total transit operator workforce and 25% of the 786 current part-time transit operator workforce.
How many retirement eligible operators have signed up for the voluntary separation program? Metro is accepting applications through July 31 and will have a tally available after that.
How much is the pay for transit operators who are placed in the forthcoming temporary COVID-response program and for how long? Employees potentially would earn their part-time transit operator wages and work half-time, and the duration of positions may vary but could last through the end of 2020. The average part-time driver hourly wage is $29.82 and ranges from $24.08 to $34.40 per hour.
Will revenue collected by the proposed Seattle ballot measure prevent reduction in staffing? Due to budget constraints, Metro is making staff reductions at this time and is planning to reduce transit service in September in anticipation that the current revenue collections in the Seattle Transit Benefit District will expire. If a ballot measure is passed by voters, revenue could be collected beginning in 2021 and Seattle has identified that it plans to contract for Metro service at that time.
Full fare with orca cards and or cash onlywould be a good thing. Stop the transfer systme, it is very much abused by some passengers. It would increase revenue and keep metro from being camp Metro. There are a more than a few freee riders who get on the bus don’t want to get off, abuse other riders or disturb them, verbally abuse and at times get physical with operators, empty their bladders on the bus, smoke whatever, have defecated in their clothing. There is more but that is enough.
Layoffs should not occur at all. Riders are increasing. This pandemic will not last for ever.
Maybe make paying optional? I get that this is a hard time for people, and some need the bus but can’t afford the price, but for those of us who can afford it and want to support those who make our commute possible, let us pay!
Actually, there is already a system in place to help alleviate the economic burden of bus fare for low-income riders… it’s called an ORCA LIFT card. Just reopen fare collection as normal, and the people who qualify for reduced fare will continue to pay the reduced price.
This is superior to your alternative because if we do what you say there will be a lot of people who can afford bus fare not paying it. The ORCA LIFT system works because people have to go through a screening process to get the reduced fare.
Send your donations to Metro… That way no covid is spread to the drivers who would then unknowingly spread it to others.
How about you reinstate fare collection at full price? Doing so would make buses a MUCH safer place, and would also give Metro additional revenue in its time of need.
Let me guess: No, because we don’t want to risk our bus drivers health (by having homeless joy riders coughing and sneezing without a mask spending hours on the bus at a time).
These layoffs are unacceptable. Despite the revenue shortfalls our city is growing in size. Moreover, this is a county of tremendous wealth. County government is privatizing bus service and subcontracting it to low-wage labor — and cutting much-needed bus service to working and poor people at a time of rising need. Meanwhile the County is continuing to hire six-figure salary management. It is top heavy and needs to be cut. Find the money and chop from the top.
The county should be figuring out how to retain its front line workers!!
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