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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


King County Metro is "Ready When You Are" with new safety innovations and route changes

Summary

King County Executive Dow Constantine today announced Metro is rolling out more than 1,400 first-of-their-kind automated safety partitions between passengers and the driver, to be installed on Metro buses, including Sound Transit Express buses operated by Metro. Metro also will equip over 100 buses with on-board dispensers to provide masks on the busiest routes.

Story

To provide greater operator and passenger safety, Metro ceased front-door boarding and collecting fares on  March 21.

Metro is now installing safety partitions to allow front-door boarding in preparation for restoring fares, targeted for Oct. 1, although a firm date has yet to be announced.

The plexiglass safety partitions will swing into position when a driver opens the front door, minimizing interaction between boarding passengers and the driver. The partition also can be opened manually by the driver to allow them to leave their seat to assist passengers, including those who use mobility devices.

“We were the first community in the U.S. to experience COVID-19, and King County Metro led the way across the nation to make transit as safe as possible,” said Executive Constantine.

“With the addition of safety partitions – designed, engineered, and fabricated by Metro’s in-house vehicle maintenance staff – we have a new, first-of-its-kind innovation in the fight against this pandemic. Along with new mask dispensers and all the other safety measures Metro takes every day, we are proving Metro is ‘Ready when you are,’ whether you’re currently using transit or planning to resume your commute in the future.”

Each automated partition is estimated to cost $3,200, about half the $6,000 cost for a comparable manual-only door from an outside vendor. Metro is using CARES Act funds to help pay for the equipment.

Metro has more than 1,000 barriers out of 1,444 produced today, and expected to have all partitions installed by October.

Metro’s preparation for fare collection included the re-opening of the ORCA Pass Sales Office and regional efforts to encourage riders to obtain and use an ORCA or ORCA LIFT card for the easiest and healthiest way to pay.

"I applaud Metro workers for making transit safe, continuing to serve their communities, and for demonstrating national leadership over the past year," said ATU 587 President Ken Price. "As we move forward, we all realize that cars and congestion aren’t the future we want. What we want is safe and reliable transit."

Improved access to masks for riders

Alongside new safety partitions, Metro is installing mask dispensers on 102 buses this month, starting with RapidRide buses on the A and F lines in south King county and 60-foot trolley buses on routes 7, 36, 43, 44, and 49 in Seattle. Metro intends to install more dispensers on other high-ridership routes in the future.

Each dispenser holds about 150 masks, and Metro will monitor demand and refill them as needed. The King County Council designated funds to purchase and make available masks on public transportation.

“Beyond staying at home and social distancing, our wearing masks or other facial coverings has proven to be one of the most useful tools in staying healthy and protecting people around us,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who along with Councilmember Rod Dembowski sponsored budget legislation supporting this mask distribution effort. “It is up to all of us to wear a mask when we go out in public and travel on Metro.”

Metro continues to require that everyone on transit wear a mask. The requirement is highly visible —from the “MASKS REQUIRED” on electronic destination signs, to posters inside transit vehicles, to onboard audio announcements, to daily customer communications via email, social media, text, and website. “Masks Required” decals in English and Spanish also are being added to bus doors.

Metro regularly observes mask compliance on a sample of its four highest-ridership routes (RapidRide A, D and E lines and Route 7). The percentage of passengers using a mask across those routes ranged from 72 percent to 85 percent in recent weeks. Metro is working to collect more data on mask compliance across the entire system.

Ready When You Are

Metro is kicking off a public information campaign to inform riders of the changes, and to promote safe practices. This will include exterior bus ads and social media posts. 

September service additions in south King County, other reductions now online and in Trip Planner

There is good news for riders in several south King County communities. Starting Sept. 19, residents will receive a new route, Route 160, which connects Renton, Kent, and Auburn and will convert into the RapidRide I line in a few years as transit improvements are made along the new route’s corridor. In response to community input and concerns, Metro is adding more evening and weekend service for shift workers, better east-west connections and integration with Sounder Commuter Rail, and—where possible—faster travel times and direct service to key destinations.

"Doing this means people in Renton, Kent and Auburn will have better bus service that goes the places people in our community said they want it to go," aid Councilmember Dave Upthegrove. "Despite the challenge of COVID-19, we are moving full speed ahead in order to provide access to jobs, school, and childcare for people who need bus service the most during these tough times."

To help mitigate the effects of the extended closure of the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge, Metro is restoring nearly all bus service on routes 55, 56, and 57 to and from West Seattle, which had been reduced due to COVID-19.

An overview of the Sept. 19 changes are on Metro’s service change webpage. Riders can use Metro’s online trip planner and enter a date of Sept. 19 or later to see their options. Metro also has identified options for riders whose routes are suspended or canceled at this time.

Service revisions and reductions are necessary as Metro responds to lower ridership demand and reduced revenue. Metro currently carries about 148,000 riders each weekday, about 38 percent compared to last year.

Some weekday peak-period commuter routes will be restored, and service maintained on heavy ridership routes in south King County. Meanwhile many peak routes across the county will remain suspended in response to lower ridership as many employees continue to telework.

Additionally, night, evening, and weekend bus service in Seattle funded by the Seattle Transportation Benefit District will be reduced due to the loss of vehicle license fee funding and the expiration of STBD at the end of 2020.

Overall, Metro will fully operate 55 routes at pre-COVID service levels, have reduced service on 70 routes, and continue to fully suspend service on 55 routes – many of which are peak commuter routes that previously served many riders who now are teleworking. 

Metro will operate more than 10,800 trips each weekday, nearly 7,100 trips on Saturdays and more than 6,400 trips on Sundays.

Monitoring and adapting during response and toward recovery

Metro continues to monitor ridership trends and phases of reopening designated by county health officials and the Governor. Metro will adjust service to respond to changing conditions and evolving ridership demand to the extent possible within available resources.

“Our focus remains on providing a safe, equitable, and sustainable network that allows our region to respond and to recover,” said Interim General Manager Terry White. “We’re also carefully monitoring ridership demand and trends, and are committed to adapting and responding because we realize our customers are counting on us.”


Relevant links


Quotes

We were the first community in the U.S. to experience COVID-19, and King County Metro led the way across the nation to make transit as safe as possible. With the addition of safety partitions – designed, engineered, and fabricated by Metro’s in-house vehicle maintenance staff – we have a new, first-of-its-kind innovation in the fight against this pandemic. Along with new mask dispensers and all the other safety measures Metro takes every day, we are proving Metro is ‘Ready when you are,’ whether you’re currently using transit or planning to resume your commute in the future.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

Beyond staying at home and social distancing, our wearing masks or other facial coverings has proven to be one of the most useful tools in staying healthy and protecting people around us. It is up to all of us to wear a mask when we go out in public and travel on Metro.

Jeanne Kohl-Welles, King County Councilmember

Doing this means people in Renton, Kent and Auburn will have better bus service that goes the places people in our community said they want it to go. Despite the challenge of COVID-19, we are moving full speed ahead in order to provide access to jobs, school, and childcare for people who need bus service the most during these tough times.

Dave Upthegrove, King County Councilmember

I applaud Metro workers for making transit safe, continuing to serve their communities, and for demonstrating national leadership over the past year. As we move forward, we all realize that cars and congestion aren’t the future we want. What we want is safe and reliable transit.

Ken Price, President, ATU 587

Our focus remains on providing a safe, equitable, and sustainable network that allows our region to respond and to recover. We’re also carefully monitoring ridership demand and trends, and are committed to adapting and responding because we realize our customers are counting on us.

Terry White, King County Metro Interim General Manager

For more information, contact:

Torrie Rynning, Metro, 206-263-3233


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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