Metro employees deliver a busload of joy

King County Metro Transit employees have had a busy 2016 holiday season collecting toys, food and clothing to donate to children and families. So far this December, Metro employees have donated 70 coats and knit scarves and caps to the DESC-Crisis Solutions Center in Seattle. They collected 1,845 toys for Toys for Tots in King County, and roughly 500 pounds of food for the Des Moines Area Food Bank, which serves South King County.

Ride transit to Sounders victory celebration – but plan for downtown street closures

Congratulations to the Seattle Sounders FC on their 2016 MLS Cup championship! Now it’s time for all of Seattle to celebrate during a victory march Tuesday (Dec. 13)  through downtown, followed by a rally at Seattle Center.

Thousands of people are expected to attend. The march is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. at Westlake Center from Fourth Avenue and Pine Street and travel north before turning right on Cedar Street, and then north on Fifth Avenue before stopping at Seattle Center.

A rally is expected to follow from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

sounders_frie

Sounders FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei is greeted as the team arrived Sunday at King County International Airport/Boeing Field. 

Fans can ride transit to and from the parade, either by Metro, Link light rail or Sounder train. But plan ahead, and make sure to leave early, as several streets, including Fourth Avenue, will be closed during the march. Metro will reroute buses from Fourth Avenue once the street is closed to traffic. Specific route information is posted on Metro’s Service Advisories page.

Metro urges all transit riders Tuesday morning to plan ahead and prepare for possible delays. Riders also can sign up for Transit Alerts to get the most current information before you travel. to get the most current information before you travel. Information is available via text, email, tweets  @kcmetrobus, RSS via desktop or the mobile RSS reader.

Any transit service that travels to or through downtown Seattle will get fans close to the event. Returning downtown from Seattle Center, transit riders can ride the Seattle Center Monorail, or any bus southbound on Queen Anne, Fifth, Dexter, or Westlake Avenues. Again, expect crowds and likely delays.

For those traveling by light rail, Sound Transit will operate extra 3-car trains to accommodate crowds. Fans from South King County can return home via midday Sounder train service to Lakewood, which departs King Street Station at 2:32 p.m. Tuesday’s train will have four cars instead of the usual 2-car train.

 

RapidRide D Line gets extra bus trip to cover growing student ridership

Metro is always monitoring bus routes for reliability and frequency. Starting Dec. 1, Metro added an extra afternoon bus trip to the Rapidrapidride_d_scheduleRide D Line through Ballard to alleviate overcrowding as increasing numbers of students from Ballard High School ride the bus home.

Over the last few months, we heard from riders and operators about an increase in high school students boarding the D Line buses after the school bell rings. Metro has been using a standby bus on some days, which are placed along the route to fill gaps in service, typically when traffic is bad or buses are getting crowded.

Metro has now assigned the standby bus permanently. It enters service at 3:16 p.m., heading southbound from 15th Avenue Northwest and Northwest 85th Street to help cover the overflow near the high school and continue service to downtown.

The D Line is the second busiest of Metro’s six RapidRide routes and continues growing strong since it was extended to Pioneer Square. In October, the D Line hauled an average of more than 15,000 passengers every day. That’s a 22 percent increase over its ridership in October 2015.

The extra trip is an example of little changes Metro makes when possible to respond to concerns and emerging challenges. Twice a year, Metro also unveils big system-wide service changes — in March and September — to improve the frequency, reliability and access of our bus routes.

Veterans ride free to 6th annual ‘Seattle Stand Down’

King County Metro Transit is offering free rides to veterans attending the 6th Annual Seattle Stand Down on December 1-2 at South Seattle College’s Georgetown campusseattle_standdown_pass

The Seattle Stand Down event connects homeless and at-risk veterans with local resources and services. Representatives from businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions, and all levels of government are brought together at one location to provide housing assistance, case management referrals, employment opportunities, legal aid, medical screenings, eye exams, dental services, haircuts, personal hygiene items, and meals.

Representatives from ORCA LIFT, the reduced-fare transit card, and ORCA to Go, which provides information and sales of regular-fare ORCA cards, will be on-site both days.

Veterans traveling to or from the two-day event can ride free by showing one of the following forms of ID:

  • Veteran Health Identification Card
  • Uniformed Identification Card
  • DD-214

Veterans also can obtain a special two-sided free bus pass (pictured above) by contacting Hopelink at llink@hopelink.org or visiting one of the following service providers:

Metro bus routes that travel to or near the campus include routes 60, 124, 131 and 154.
Route 154 is peak-only service.   For additional information about transit
service, visit Metro Online or Metro’s Puget Sound Trip Planner, or call Metro’s Customer
Information line at 206-553-3000.

The Seattle Stand Down will open for registration at 7 a.m .on Thursday, December 1. Services will be available from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. On Friday, December 2, registration will begin at 7 a.m. with services available from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

More information is available at www.theseattlestanddown.org.

 

 

Ride Metro to Huskies, Seahawks games

The Huskies and Seahawks both play at home the weekend of Nov. 19. As the teams set their sights on playoffs, King County Metro can be a convenient way for riders and fans heading to one or both games.

Fans and regular Metro riders should be prepared for heavy game-day traffic and delays in and around the University District on Saturday, Nov. 19, and in and around Pioneer Square and downtown on Sunday, Nov. 20.

Huskies vs. Arizona State, 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19

husky_stadium-1

Metro operates Husky game-day non-stop shuttle buses to UW Husky Stadium from park-and-rides at Eastgate, Houghton, Kingsgate, Federal Way/South 320th Street, Shoreline, South Kirkland, South Renton and Northgate Transit Center.

Pre-game shuttles leave designated park and ride lots as they fill starting 2½ hours prior to kick-off time, with the last buses from each park-and-ride leaving approximately 40 minutes before kick-off, except for the Federal Way shuttle; this trip can take up to one hour and the shuttles are scheduled accordingly.

A $5 round trip voucher is required for each person age 6 and older to board the shuttle. Purchase vouchers from the vendor located at each park-and-ride lot. No passes or transfers are accepted on the Husky park-and-ride shuttles, including ORCA and UPASS. Game tickets are not accepted as fare on any service.

Post-game shuttles depart from designated locations near UW Husky Stadium. The last park-and-ride shuttle leaves the Husky Stadium area 30 minutes after the game.

Buses rerouted

With shuttles picking up and dropping off on Montlake Boulevard and NE Pacific Street, riders of regular Metro routes serving the UW Link light rail station (31, 32, 44, 45, 48, 65, 67, 71, 73, 75, 271 and 372) will be rerouted to 15th Avenue Northeast and Northeast Campus Parkway before and immediately after the game (see for more info).  Riders headed to or from Husky Stadium can walk or ride a free shuttle the rest of the way.

The UW Link shuttle operates about every 7½ minutes from a posted shuttle stop southbound on University Avenue Northeast just north of Northeast Pacific Street. It serves stops along Pacific before turning around at Montlake to provide westbound service back to the University District.

Seahawks vs. Eagles, 1:25 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20

Seahawks shuttles serve the Eastgate park-and-ride, Northgate Transit Center, and South Kirkland park-and-ride and travel nonstop to CenturyLink Field. Nearly all regularly scheduled Sunday transit service – including Sound Transit Link light rail and the First Hill Streetcar – that serves downtown Seattle also travels to or near CenturyLink Field and is a great way to get to Seahawks games and other stadium events. Sound Transit also operates Seahawks Sounder trains with stops in Auburn, Kent and Tukwila.

Metro’s park-and-ride shuttles leave parking areas two hours prior to kick off time and as they fill, with the last bus leaving about 30 minutes before kickoff. The park-and-ride shuttles do not operate for weekday games.  Fans who miss the shuttles can ride regularly scheduled service from the same locations to get to the game.

A cash-only, exact fare of $4 one way or $8 round trip per person is required on the shuttles. No ORCA cards, passes or transfers are accepted.  A valid regular fare is required on all other regularly scheduled Metro service. All pre-game shuttles arrive near CenturyLink Field on Fifth Avenue South at South Weller Street.

After the game, shuttle buses returning non-stop to Eastgate and South Kirkland leave from southbound on Fifth Avenue South at South Weller Street, and the Northgate shuttle leaves northbound on Fifth Avenue South from just north of South Weller Street. The last bus leaves 45 minutes after the end of the game.

For information about regular transit service to games, or to plan other trips, visit Metro Online or Metro’s online Trip Planner. When planning your trip, check Metro’s Service Advisories page to find out about any known revisions to your routes.

Plan for transit delays during Monday Night Football

The Seahawks play their first Monday Night Football game of the season next week on Nov. 7. That means buses and downtown streets are likely to be crowded as thousands of football fans converge on CenturyLink Field just as thousands of commuters are trying to get home from the office. seahawks_crowd

King County Metro urges riders to plan ahead. The Monday Night Football match-up starts at 5:30 p.m. Buses are likely to be delayed on surface streets and inside the Downtown Transit Tunnel.

Visit Metro Online or Metro’s online Trip Planner to find out your options for riding transit to and from the game. When planning your trip, check Metro’s Service Advisories page to find out about any known revisions to your routes.

Metro will assign extra staff in the Downtown Transit Tunnel to help customers board on crowded buses. If you use an ORCA card, be sure to have it ready for speedier boarding. Sound Transit plans to operate extra 3-car Link trains to help handle the large crowds expected after the game.

NO SEAHAWKS SHUTTLE: Park-and-ride shuttle buses that Metro normally operates before and after Sunday games will not be available for Monday Night Football. No other service changes are planned during Monday’s game. There are no special fares. All service requires a regular fare payment.

 

Farewell to Metro’s Breda trolleys

Metro said goodbye this week to one of our longest-running bus fleets. The Breda articulated trolleys served King County commuters for 26 years, and were the first buses to operate inside the Downtown Transit Tunnel when it opened in 1990.

“They have been true workhorses. When you count all 236 buses in the original fleet, they logged more than 100 million miles and they provided seats (and some standing room) for about a half- billion riders,” Metro General Manager Rob Gannon said.

Gannon, along with Senior Deputy King County Executive Fred Jarrett and Metro Atlantic Base Operations Chief Tim Mack, led a brief ceremony Thursday on Beacon Hill to celebrate the history of the Breda fleet. About 40 people, including transit enthusiasts and current and former Metro employees, turned out for a final ride on the bus’s high floors and a chance to hear the sounds of transit past — like an actual bell ringing at bus stops.

Operators Larry Kingsbury and Mike Freund took the last Breda bus for its final in-service trip along Route 36.

The Bredas played a big part in Seattle’s transit history. When the tunnel was built, Seattle’s light rail still was nearly two decades away. Metro needed a bus that could switch from diesel power on city streets to electric power inside the downtown tunnel to avoid harmful emissions. Metro selected Breda Costruzioni Ferroviare to specially build these dual-powered coaches, which were the first to operate as dual-power diesel/electric trolley buses in North America.

In 2005, after their service in the tunnel ended, Metro took out the diesel components and repurposed 59 of them into straight electric trolleys.

As a Metro Councilmember in the 1980s, Fred Jarrett voted to build the downtown transit tunnel and become the first agency to buy and operate dual-powered diesel/electric Breda trolleys in an underground tunnel. This week, as Senior Deputy County Executive, he joined in retiring the Breda buses at the end of their useful life.

“What I remember is the innovation. Nobody had been able to make a bus system work that was not fully electric, in a tunnel,” said Jarrett. “And Metro was willing to take the risk, and partner with the federal government, to demonstrate what we could do to bring transit into the late 20th Century and into the 21st Century.”

The Bredas had a reputation for being difficult to maintain. Parts were unique and had to come from Europe. But the Bredas outlasted the average diesel bus by 10 years, and the Bredas that were converted into trolleys averaged 656,000 miles over their lifespan.

“That our mechanics and operators kept them running is a testament to our staff,” Gannon said. “Some of us are sentimental about seeing them go. Others of us know it’s time to wave goodbye and move on to our next era of coaches – like the state-of-the-art trolleys you see running behind me — and the improvements they bring in service.”

Last fall Metro introduced its first new trolley fleet in 30 years. These are state-of-the-art trolleys, a mix of 40- and 60-foot-long New Flyer coaches, equipped with low floors for easy boarding, air conditioning and backup battery power for traveling off-wire. As of October 14, Metro has put 152 of 174 new trolleys into service.

Keeping our trolleys safe and reliable

By Grantley Martelly, Managing Director of Safety and Security

&

Chris Parrott, Superintendent of Metro Transit Vehicle Maintenance

King County Metro operates the nation’s second-largest trolley fleet, and we are committed to preserving our long safety record, for our customers and our employees. Last year we introduced our first new trolley buses in 30 years.

It is not unusual for a new fleet to come with unexpected challenges. Metro has experienced two issues with the New Flyer trolley fleet. One is a mechanical problem that causes the trolley poles to disconnect unexpectedly, temporarily cutting off electric power to the bus. Secondly, there were two incidents in which mechanics received an electric shock while performing routine inspections beneath these coaches at the bus base.

At no time were passengers on these buses at risk. Metro has since taken steps to improve training and workplace safety for vehicle maintenance staff in response to these incidents.

As for the dewirements, we expect to retrofit the entire fleet with stronger springs in the next two months, along with a software update.

4300_pioneersq

Pictured: A Metro 40-foot New Flyer trolley bus.

Trolley poles dewiring

Customers on our trolley routes may have noticed the poles increasingly disconnecting from the overhead wire while the bus is in motion. While this happens occasionally every day with our older trolley buses, it became increasingly frequent for drivers on the newer trolleys a few months after they began service – sometimes as many as 20 times in one day. Routes 3, 7, and 70 have seen some of the most dewirements.

In spring 2016, Metro notified the manufacturer, New Flyer, and the trolley pole system manufacturer, Vossloh-Kiepe, asking them to identify solutions to the problem.

After testing the manufacturer’s solutions, we began implementing two fixes for these problems and we are already seeing improvements.

First, we addressed a software issue that made it more likely for poles to disconnect. Testing and observation revealed the system was programmed in a way that made it overly-sensitive, causing the poles to automatically retract unnecessarily if the bus traveled outside a certain range from the wires, or hit potholes or an uneven road surface. Under the warranty, the manufacturer provided us with a software update that is better calibrated to our environment, and we recently installed it. We are already seeing improvements.

Secondly, each trolley pole system is equipped with a set of four industrial strength springs, which hold the poles up against the overhead electric wires. Over time, we could see that the original springs on these new coaches were unable to maintain enough pressure to keep the poles in place on the wires, and the poles would intermittently disconnect. Under warranty, the manufacturer tested stronger springs, and they appeared perform satisfactorily during testing.

springs

Metro is installing new springs on our trolley pole systems to fix a problem with the poles dewiring.

Yesterday, Oct. 26, Metro received the first major shipment of new springs from the manufacturer, and our staff is working to install them. Depending on the pace of shipments from the manufacturer and continued good performance, we expect to retrofit our entire fleet by the end of the year.

Electrical shocks under the bus on two occasions

On May 9, a mechanic inspecting one of the trolley buses leaned against a metal rail while opening a valve underneath the bus, which subjected him to a charge of 300 volts, according to a preliminary report. The trolley’s power system was connected to overhead wires at the time. It is unclear how many amps – the rate of flow of the electric charge – to which he was exposed. The mechanic received medical attention prior to returning to work.

During our internal safety investigation, it was discovered the “hot coach detector” had been disconnected on this one bus at the time of this incident. Our trolleys are equipped with these detectors, which are designed to alert operators or maintenance staff if stray electric current is present anywhere on the bus. If a hot coach incident happens while the bus is in service, the detector automatically disconnects and retracts the power poles and shuts off power to the bus. Passengers were in no danger of coming in contact with stray electric current thanks to the design of these fiberglass-shell coaches, where all metal components inside the bus are isolated from metal where stray current could go. Other components outside the bus, like bike racks and ramp lifts, also are isolated from any possible stray electric current to protect the public.

After this incident, our fleet engineers immediately inspected Metro’s entire new trolley fleet and confirmed that hot coach detectors were functioning in all other buses. Metro worked with the manufacturer to install a software update across the entire new trolley fleet so that an additional warning is triggered if the hot coach detector becomes disabled.

On August 31, a second mechanic received an electric shock while inspecting a different bus from underneath. That mechanic also opened a valve and touched a steel beam when the shock – estimated at 25 volts – occurred. According to our preliminary investigation, the hot coach detector was working properly but the employee did not check it prior to performing maintenance.

Metro has since taken steps to improve training and workplace safety for vehicle maintenance staff in response to these incidents. You can find out more about that plan online. We are detailing these actions in a response to the state Department of Labor and Industries, which investigated one of the incidents and fined Metro $10,800 for two safety violations related to training and documentation. We report to L&I prior to a Nov. 1 deadline on how we have remedied the violations.

These were isolated incidents. Metro has no record of any passengers or customers ever being shocked while on a bus. No passengers reported being shocked before or after either of the hot coach incidents. None of our operators reported a problem with this bus. In addition, Metro operators are trained on safety procedures in the event of a hot coach incident while the bus is in service to ensure the public is never at risk.

As of October 14, Metro has put 152 of 174 new trolleys into service. These are state-of-the-art trolleys, a mix of 40- and 60-foot-long buses, equipped with low floors for easy boarding, air conditioning and backup battery power for traveling off-wire.

Metro has safely operated electric trolleys for a total of more than 40 years, and we are committed to keeping safe and reliable transit service as our top priority.

 

 

Oct. 30 is the last day for public feedback on Metro’s late-night bus service plan

There are only 12 more days for the public to weigh in on Metro’s proposal for expanding and improving late-night bus service in Seattle. The proposal would offer new transit options for those getting to or from jobs, the airport and nightlife between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Metro has about 40 routes with some level of late-night service througnight_owl_1hout King County.  Of these, 20 provide trips after 2 a.m., including three Night Owl routes that loop through some Seattle neighborhoods only between 2:15 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.  The Seattle Department of Transportation funds all service on Night Owl Routes 82, 83 and 84, and partners with Metro to fund additional night owl service on the C and D Lines.

The public is encouraged to review the proposal and offer comments via an online survey until Oct. 30. The survey is available in English, Spanish and Chinese. Metro and SDOT staff are meeting with groups that represent workers and other riders who depend on the service and will ride buses late at night to talk to riders about the proposal and get feedback. Public comments will help shape a final proposal, which could go before the County Council later this year. If approved, it will take effect in September 2017.

Metro’s draft proposal would replace the three Night Owl routes with late-night service on regular, all-day routes that serve the same areas. The draft proposal also includes new after-hours bus service to Sea-Tac Airport for travelers and workers, for whom there currently are limited options after 1 a.m. It also includes hourly all-night service on the RapidRide C, D, and E Lines, which currently operate all night but with less than hourly frequencies.

While overnight ridership represents a small portion of Metro’s total ridership, it has increased by 20 percent in the last five years. Metro conducted a first round of public outreach last spring and developed the latest proposal after hearing from more than 2,600 transit users. Among their highest priorities were better transit options for:

  • Workers in jobs with non-traditional work shifts such as health care and many segments of the service industry.
  • Travelers and workers heading from downtown to Sea-Tac Airport after Link closes.
  • Customers enjoying Seattle’s nightlife, including music and arts venues.
  • Those who are experiencing homelessness.

The proposal would make several changes, including:

  • Replace current Night Owl routes 82, 83, and 84 with two late-night round trips – around 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. — to each of the following routes: 3, 5, 11, 70, 62 and 120.
  • Extend Route 124 all the way to Sea-Tac Airport after 1 a.m.
  • Improve late-night transfer connections between buses in downtown Seattle.

Current Night Owl routes do not match daytime routes, which some riders find confusing. To improve awareness of late-night bus service, Metro will work to improve customer information related to late night service options.

Univision honors Metro’s Penny Lara during Latinx Heritage Month

The people of King County are fortunate to have Penny Lara. A longtime advocate for equity, Lara is a transportation planner at King County Metro focused on improving access to transportation for communities with special needs.

Lara came from the Department of Public Health, Seattle-King County, where she played a key role in implementing ORCA LIFT –the reduced fare card for low-income riders —  and building upon her experience leading efforts to enroll King County’s Latinx community in health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Lara’s energy, enthusiasm and efficacy has not gone unnoticed. This month, Univision recognized her as one of three community members who have done outstanding work to engage the Latinx community. She was featured in a video that aired during Latinx Heritage Month.

“Knowing that I’ve been an instrument in helping build healthy and connected communities for families such as my own is an honor,” Lara said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to work in many capacities for my community, both locally and across the border, and hope to continue to work with the amazing teams at King County to bring more resources to all of our families.”

Lara has 20-years of knowledge and experience working with diverse and immigrant populations on health, social justice and equity. Among her accomplishments:

  • She was first to implement the “Promotoras” (Community Health Worker) model for health education outreach in King County;
  • She was creator of the Washington chapter of One Billion Rising – a global movement to raise awareness about domestic violence.
  • Founding member and implementer of the innovative health program Ventanilla de Salud (Health Window) – a top performing program at Mexican Consulates in the U.S.
  • Served as a strategic advisor and cross-cultural liaison for Vicente Fox,  former president of Mexico, on the Advisory Council to the Institute of Mexicans Abroad.

Recognizing the “cultural, educational and political influences of Latinxs in the Northwest,” King County Executive Dow Constantine proclaimed Latinx Heritage Month in King County from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. King County is home to nearly 200,000 residents of Latinx ancestry.

As Penny Lara continues her work to build a more inclusive community, Metro is proud to have her on board.