by Erica C. Barnett
(This article was originally published by PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
On Thursday, the King County Council shelved a proposal by North Seattle Councilmember Rod Dembowski that would have kept 47,000 hours of bus service inside Dembowski’s district after the Northgate light rail station opens next year. The proposal came in the form of a budget proviso, or restriction on spending, that would have withheld $5.4 million in funding for King County Metro unless the bus service went to North King County.
The hours will become available because King County Metro is shutting down its Route 41 bus line, which duplicates the light rail route. Instead of being redistributed throughout North Seattle to feed commuters to the new light rail line, as Dembowski proposed, those hours are likely to go to South King County, where King County Metro’s preliminary report on equity shows the need is greatest.
Continue reading King County Council Rejects Redundant Bus Line Funding in North End, Citing Equity Needs
by Carolyn Bick
King County Metro bus operator Sam Smith is worried about job security. Already, he said, Metro had to cut 200 part-time driver jobs in August, as a cost-saving measure, due to the economic fallout of the current novel coronavirus pandemic. In September, Metro reduced bus service by 15%. If Proposition 1 — which would continue a portion of public transit funding for the next five years — doesn’t pass, Smith thinks his job is likely on the chopping block. He also worries about the effect a lack of funding will have on the wider public.
“Cuts in transit right now are counter-productive. Routes that run in heavily populated areas such as the A Line, E Line, and the 7 which serves South Seattle are packed at capacity,” Smith said in an emailed statement to the Emerald.
In an effort to prevent these cuts, the Transit Riders Union (TRU) will be holding a Day of Action on Oct. 6, which is meant to frame public transportation as a mutual aid effort and make the case for voters to pass Proposition 1 in November. The TRU will also join national transit riders unions across the country that day in calling for the United States Congress to pass the HEROES Act, which includes $32 billion in emergency transit funds.
Continue reading TRU to Hold Day of Action to Bolster Support for Crucial Public Transit Ballot Measure
by Jack Russillo
After suspending fares in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, King County Metro will resume collecting fares on Thursday, October 1.
All county transit services — including buses, Access paratransit, Vanpool, and Via to Transit — will be requiring full fares. Fare collection is already taking place on Sound Transit Express buses and Link light rail. Like all Metro employees, Metro requires all riders to wear a face covering, as does Sound Transit. Per state public health guidelines, all trips should be for essential reasons only.
Metro has also suspended fare enforcement at least through the end of 2020. Fare enforcement officers will still be a presence around transit stops, but they will be providing a broader range of customer services, like answering transit or safety questions.
Continue reading King County Metro to Resume Collecting Fares Without Enforcement on October 1
by Mark Van Streefkerk
On September 2, King County Metro announced the “Ready When You Are” campaign, which features innovations for transit, including automated plexiglass partitions and mask dispensers to keep operators and riders safer during COVID-19. County leaders, including Executive Dow Constantine and representatives from Metro and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) local 587, presented the improvements at the Metro Component Supply Center in Tukwila. The transit additions coincide with new and improved bus routes coming September 19, and are in preparation for restoring fares on October 1, although that date is not set in stone.
“I am here to announce that King County Metro is ready to serve,” Constantine said. “Ready to get you where you need to be. Ready when you are, which happens to be the name of our new campaign as we turn the corner and fully adapt to the new normal.”
Continue reading “Ready When You Are” Campaign Unveils Automated Plexiglass Partitions and Mask Dispensers on King County Metro Transit
by Mark Van Streefkerk
Changes are coming to South King County’s Metro bus routes on September 19 that will grant greater connectivity between Renton, Auburn, and Kent. The increased integration will provide more transit options for workers in the area, new Sunday service for some routes, and a flexible on-demand service for the Algona-Pacific area. An important addition is Route 160, which will connect Renton, Kent and Auburn, a corridor slated to become the Rapid Ride I-Line in 2023.
Continue reading New and Improved Metro Bus Routes Are Coming to South King County
by Roxanne Ray
(This article originally appeared in the International Examiner and has been republished with permission)
When you hop on a Metro bus, do you ever wonder about the life of your bus driver? Well, Metro driver Nathan Vass has thought about his passengers — and what’s more, he has written about many of them.
Vass is a man of many skills: a filmmaker, photographer, and writer, in addition to being a bus driver with a mastery of de-escalation. Most recently, in 2018, he curated a selection of his own blog writings about his Metro adventures and published a book collection titled The Lines That Make Us: Stories from Nathan’s Bus.
Continue reading “Positive Energy Has an Interesting Way of Building on Itself,” Says Nathan Vass, Artist, Writer, and Route 7 Metro Bus Driver
by Elizabeth Turnbull
“In the struggle for Black lives, we must also stand for Black workers.”
Waving signs reading, “King County Stop Union Busting,” and “Racism Is A Threat To Worker Safety,” protesters participated in a picket and rally sponsored by Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS) on July 20. Held near the office of King County Executive Dow Constantine, the rally included protesters demanding an end to racial discrimination in King County workplaces.
“In the struggle for Black lives, we must also stand for Black workers,” said Anna Hackman, a professor at Seattle Central College and member of the American Federation of Teachers. “This racist, capitalist system that takes our lives at the hands of police is the same one that exploits our land and our resources and our labor.”
Continue reading Picket and Rally Draws Attention to Ongoing Racism in King County Workplaces, Including Metro
by Jason Austin
Born out of a fight against bus service cuts in 2011 the Transit Riders Union (TRU) is an independent, democratic, member-run union of transit riders organizing for mobility and transit justice in Seattle and King County. We recognize that the uprisings sweeping the nation flow from centuries of racial oppression, increasing economic inequality, and years of unheeded calls for reform and restitution. TRU stands with protesters in Seattle, Minneapolis, Louisville and many other communities across the country demanding health, safety, and freedom for Black people in America and demanding justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and countless others killed by the police. Our members have spent the last three weeks using public transportation to travel to the protests. We were horrified to see our public transportation infrastructure being weaponized against the very people it was created to serve.
Continue reading OPINION: Riders Nationwide Have Called on Transit Agencies to Cut Ties With Police — King Co. Metro Listened
by Erica C. Barnett
It wasn’t so long ago — just 2018 — that Seattle could be proud of its status as the only city in the nation where transit ridership was actually going up, and the number of people commuting to the center city by car was going down. COVID-19 didn’t just reverse this trend; it obliterated it. Ridership on King County Metro buses is down about 73%, while ridership on Sound Transit’s light rail line has shrunk an estimated 70%. In an attempt to protect drivers from riders who might be COVID-positive, both agencies eliminated fares, and Metro implemented back-door-only boarding, in March. Both agencies also cut service, which has led to overcrowding on popular routes, such as the Route 7, that serve essential workers getting to and from the center city.
Continue reading As Metro Considers Post-COVID-19 Future, Agency Leaders Resist Push for Crackdown on Homeless Riders