One of the biggest challenges Metro faced last year was keeping riders informed of service disruptions. The ability to provide real-time bus information won’t be available this winter, but Metro is introducing some new tools designed to speed the flow of customer information.
This season, customers will be able use the Internet to quickly see which buses in the Metro system are on snow route based on “geographic area.” Just as congestion is measured by color on congestion flow maps, the use of green, yellow or red on Metro’s new online snow map will give riders a snapshot of bus operations in each of seven geographic areas of the county. Green will indicate buses are operating on normal routes, yellow will signify minor reroutes (primarily in higher elevation areas), and red will alert customers that buses in the entire geographic area are on snow route or are being significantly impacted by snow.
If a major snowstorm spanning several days strikes, Metro will activate a newly designed Emergency Service Network for its fleet. When the network is activated, Metro’s regular routes will be replaced with 70 pre-identified “priority” snow routes across the county designed to be reliable in severe weather conditions. Metro will make every attempt to keep service operating on these routes as long as transportation service providers are able to keep roads passable.
Also new this season is an improved Metro Online website with better design and easier navigation to keep riders connected to transit information. Customers are also being encouraged to sign up online for enhanced Metro Transit Alerts being launched today that will deliver email or text messages about widespread service disruptions or weather events impacting their individual bus route.
Improved operations and coordination
Keeping county roads clear
The Road Division has worked with the state and several local cities to develop a snow route map that prioritizes snow and ice removal on major arterials, public and school bus routes, emergency corridors leading to hospitals, and access to highways.
Road Division staff has also enhanced the online Road Alert website to reflect both King County and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) road closures. During times of adverse weather, the online map and email alerts are a valuable tool for motorists.
The division has also doubled its supply of anti-icing material and purchased additional storage tanks to have more on hand in more locations. The additional tanks will allow crews to refill the trucks more quickly and get the anti-icer out on the roads faster. And, it has increased its stockpile of bulk salt through a cooperative purchase with WSDOT. Not only did that get the county a better price on the salt, but the bulk quantities will also speed up operations when crews are mixing sand and salt together.
Also new this year, the division will be testing a GPS tracking application on some of its snow plows aimed at more quickly deploying crews where they are most needed. This pilot project will also help the division track and measure the effectiveness of its storm response.
Metro Transit riders without Internet access can also pick up a newly produced Metro & Snow brochure available on buses and at Metro kiosks throughout King County.