King County Metro is the largest transit agency in the entire Northwest. We provide bus, paratransit, vanpool and water taxi services. We also operate Seattle Streetcar, Sound Transit Link light rail and Sound Transit Express bus service. We’re proud to be part of Executive Dow Constantine’s broader vision to continue to expand our regional transit network by putting people first. We’ve earned recognition ranging from Best Large Transit Agency in North America in 2018 to Most Equitable Large Transit Agency in Combatting Climate Change just last year. Most importantly though, our shared success is due entirely to our community members, our customers and our employees. So, especially in challenging times, you deserve to know what’s working, what’s not working and how we’re fixing it.
What we know is working–95% of the time–is our all-day, frequent transit network. We are honored to connect you and more than a million weekly riders with countless destinations. So far this year, we launched the RapidRide H Line, which connects Burien, White Center, Delridge and downtown Seattle. We introduced Metro Flex, an on-demand service for parts of King County previously too far from bus or light rail. We’re also marking our 50th anniversary by welcoming even more battery-electric buses into our fleet as we strive to be the first large transit agency in North America to be 100% zero-emission.
What isn’t working is the 5% of trips we’re forced to cancel. For our agency, national supply line and workforce limitations have sometimes meant we don’t have enough people to drive the buses or to keep them running smoothly. Your trust in our service powers Metro’s present and future, and we never want to cancel a single trip. Please know that, if not for Metro’s teams working around the clock, the cancelled trip percentage could easily have been double. I say that not to excuse Metro, but to thank my colleagues for their ceaseless dedication, both now and as we work toward long-term solutions.
Metro adjusts its transit schedules twice each year to better serve you. As we plan the September service change, we already know that despite our best efforts, we will not have the operators, mechanics and other staff necessary to avoid cancellations. Rather than promise what we know we cannot deliver, we are building schedules in which we—and, more importantly, our riders—can have confidence.
Starting Sept. 2, our schedules will be aligned with the realities we’re facing. This approach will give you the certainty that the trips listed at the bus stop, on our website and on your phone will be there on the road when you need them. However, the decision was not easy. While many riders will not see changes to their service, we will be temporarily suspending some trips and about 20 lower-ridership routes. We are sharing this information and highlighting alternative options nearly four months in advance to be transparent with our riders and to help them plan.
The vast majority of Metro’s routes–124 of 156 of them–will be preserved and see no changes. Similarly, 92% of boardings will not be directly impacted. We’re preserving service where there is high ridership, where few transit alternates exist, and where a larger percentage of riders are BIPOC or have lower incomes. By adjusting schedules and suspending routes, the upcoming service change will deliver roughly the same number of transit trips currently operating on the road, without the day-to-day variability that has inconvenienced riders during the past several months.
When I first started at Metro—long before I was promoted to General Manager—I quickly learned that every route is a contract between our agency and its riders. I know how many people rely on transit. I also know the impact to your life when we deliver anything less than the best. The approach we’ve chosen for September was reached after many hours of deliberation at all levels of the organization on the best way to serve you. Ultimately, it was rider feedback from recent months that won the day. Time and again, you shared your frustration as trips—and even occasional routes—had to be cancelled, sometimes at the last minute, and the real impacts those actions have had on you. Moving forward, we always want you to know your bus will be there and be on time.
Please know that making our transit schedule more accurate is neither a rest nor a retreat. Metro is working harder than ever to deliver your service every day, to strengthen and improve our agency, and to grow transit region-wide. This approach puts us in the best position to do all of those things. In fact, we’re engaged in full-scale business transformation across recruiting, training, retention, supply lines and agency-wide innovation. Guided by our community and our riders, we will add more service as quickly as we can—and then continue to build.
At Metro, we know you’re counting on transit to live, work and play in neighborhoods with fresh air not exhaust fumes, to build more bike paths not freeway lanes, and to access opportunities that are open to all. That’s why we’re committed to planning and delivering world-class transit service that connects every corner of King County and beyond.
Thank you for your understanding, your support and your partnership.
Michelle Allison is general manager of King County Metro.
- King County Metro Matters Blog: “Metro will adjust schedules on Sept. 2 to improve trip reliability,” May 11, 2023.
- King County Metro website: kingcounty.gov/MetroCareers