By March 31, 2021, or sooner, Metro will install mask dispensers on its entire bus fleet of 1,404 coaches. Each dispenser will be stocked with double-layer, surgical masks from Metro’s supply of one million. These masks meet the recent, more stringent mask standards from Public Heath – Seattle & King County. Even as mask dispensers are installed on all buses, we still urge our riders to use their own masks whenever possible. Per guidance from Public Health, masks are more effective when they are multi-layered and snug-fitting.

Metro has been requiring masks throughout our system since last May. We’re happy to report that roughly 90% of our passengers wear masks while traveling. On coaches with mask dispensers, 94% of passengers wear masks. Metro is currently reviewing the new federal mask mandate and will continue to update and refresh our policies and practices. More information on mask compliance and methodology can be found on our rider dashboard called “The Dash” and at kingcounty.gov/HealthierMetro.

Metro first installed mask dispensers on select routes with higher ridership in September 2020. We’ve since outfitted 342 coaches with mask dispensers, making masks available to all customers traveling on routes 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 10, 12, 13, 14, 36, 43, 44, 49, 70, 120, as well at the RapidRide A, B, D, E and F Lines. More than 300,000 masks have been distributed on our coaches to date.

Multi-layered safety approach and continuous improvement

In a quest to create the safest environment possible for our operators and passengers, mask dispensers are just one of several mechanisms Metro has employed to reach this high level of compliance.

Passengers are reminded of the mask requirement by the “MASKS REQUIRED” message on electronic destination signs and bus exterior signs as buses approach bus stops, and see “Masks Required” decals in English and Spanish on our bus doors as they enter. There are also posters inside transit vehicles and onboard audio announcements. On King County Water Taxi, there are signs and other reminders throughout terminals, at ticket kiosks, and onboard. Additionally, all Metro customers receive daily customer communications featuring health and safety guidance via email, social media, text, and our website.

These efforts are coupled with additional layers to protect customer and employee health, including disinfecting every vehicle every day, upgraded air filters, introducing fresh air through opening windows and doors, closing off certain seats and limiting passenger capacity to support physical distancing, and installing transparent safety partitions.

We’re committed to continuously improving our safety practices as new information and technologies become available. Over the last three months, for example, we’ve again increased the frequency and level of detail in our bus cleaning. This includes hiring 23 more utility service workers and further optimizing the high-touch cleaning process, which allows more time for additional cleaning.

New onboard announcement and “Behind our masks” video

Starting this week, riders will hear a new onboard audio announcement from Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 President Ken Price, the labor union that represents Metro’s bus operators and other transit workers.

“I’m Ken Price, president of ATU, Metro’s transit workers union,” says the new onboard announcement launching this week. “Masks are required on King County Metro. Wearing a mask protects you and it protects the health of Metro’s essential workers. So always mask up on Metro and keep that mask on for the entire trip.”

Speaking of Metro’s essential workers, the new “Behind our masks” video features some of the transit employees keeping our region moving with reminders about who you help when you wear a mask.

“We are all looking forward to the days free of masks, distancing, and shutdowns,” says a Metro employee in the video. “Small sacrifices make big impacts.”

Though vaccines are an exciting development, we know that masks will be required on Metro, and society at large, for the indefinite future. Thank you for doing your part to protect yourself, your bus operator, and the community.