Metro is taking action to address cost, quality, and equity in Access paratransit

(Editor’s Note: Updated 6/14/17)
By Chris O’Claire, Metro Transit Assistant General Manager, and Priscilla Vargas, Managing Director of Paratransit & Rideshare Operations

Metro Transit is committed to continuing to improve the Access paratransit service we provide to qualifying riders who cannot ride fixed-route bus service. The King County Auditor’s Office has presented the findings of a performance audit of Access Transportation to the King County Council. Metro concurs with the recommendations of the audit and is moving forward to address each of them.

The audit results echo feedback Metro staff solicited and received from customers over the last year, even as Metro worked collaboratively with the auditor. Metro listened to public feedback from customers, caregivers, stakeholders, and a community advisory group. Together, this feedback identified areas of improvement that Metro used to inform current and future service improvements

Access customer prepares to board service provided by Metro

In recent months, Metro has already taken steps to reduce costs, better monitor and enforce cost controls and good service quality, and assure equitable access to Access Transportation. Specifically,

  • Metro is buying smaller paratransit vans this summer to improve service flexibility and performance.
  • More fare payment options will be available to customers this summer.
  • New online scheduling features will be implemented later this year so customers can make ride requests outside of normal business hours.
  • Under a new contract expected in 2018, Metro will conduct a monthly review of the mix of service being used to provide rides with the goal to optimize the most cost-effective service. In addition, the contractor will have financial incentives to reduce the cost of each trip and financial disincentives intended to avoid higher trip costs.
  • Also under the new contract, Metro has defined a contract management plan that specifies contract compliance, methods for verifying compliance, and a schedule for reviewing and enforcing performance standards.
  • (Revised) Metro has agreed to adjust drop-off times has already taken action under our current contract to schedule drop-off to no more than 30 minutes from the start of an appointment time by the end of 2017.
  • Preventing excessively long trips: The scheduling system has a series of parameters that ensure trips are scheduled consistent with comparable fixed route trips; however, actual on street conditions can result in longer than anticipated trips. Longer than anticipated trip times area also experienced by users of the fixed route system when the on-street conditions result in the actual trip taking longer than the scheduled trip. Metro staff currently monitor the trip lengths which are also subject to review by the FTA. If a customer feels they have experienced an excessively long trip, we encourage them to report it to Metro customer service so we can monitor emerging patterns in customer experiences and take action if performance falls short of FTA requirements.
  • Access will explore translating its “Access Ride Guide” into King County’s 13 top tier languages. A shorter summary of services is currently translated into 10 languages and some materials are translated online as part of our commitment to address language barriers to our materials. Translation and interpreter services already used by Access also bridge the language challenge experienced by some Access customers as they apply for and use services. Access also works with Community Access Transportation program to better meet the unique needs and help overcome the language barriers of various communities.
  • Access also will work with the Executive’s Office and DOT Director’s Office to begin the Equity Impact Review. The process will include review of the Equity Impact Analysis tool as well as tools currently used by Metro to conduct equity analysis for the fixed route system.

More details about these actions are provided in a survey available to customers now. Metro mailed this survey to active Access users and has been talking directly with customers in outreach events targeted to hear from populations with limited English proficiency or other barriers to completing a paper or online survey. Metro is invested in making sure we heard from our customers and that the actions we intend to take will respond to their concerns. The survey is available online in English and Spanish is open through the end of June.

Metro’s bus fleet is currently 100 percent accessible to riders with disabilities. For riders with disabilities who cannot ride the public bus system, Metro provides a paratransit service, fully complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Metro also goes above and beyond the ADA to better serve areas and times not served by bus service and at a lower fare – a key element that can drive up costs while we fulfill King County’s greater mission of providing mobility to those who are most dependent.

Metro is committed to continually looking at improvements to the system as we move forward, and we will work with the King County Auditor’s Office and the public to make progress on the recommendations. We look forward to working together to providing a service that is responsive to our customer’s needs.

Do you use Access Transportation? Find out what Metro has planned and let us know how well we listened 

Invitation to provide feedback on changes planned in near, mid, and long-term

King County Metro is inviting more feedback through a survey of customers on how actions planned now, under a new contract, and in the future address key concerns identified by customers.

To better serve Access Transportation customers, Metro already is taking steps to improve service under existing contracts. Those steps include improved scheduling and routing for customers, an upcoming option later this year for making online reservations, and updated travel time estimates that account for current traffic congestion levels.

Access vanUnder a new contract, Metro will do a number of things, including increasing performance goals and incentives and disincentives for meeting those goals, have Metro customer service handle customer complaints, and provide more travel options for customers at the time of booking.

More work remains aside from the current and upcoming contracts, and Metro will continue to explore other changes requested by riders, including flexible pilot programs, vehicle tracking and arrival time estimates and options for paying fares.

Members of the public can learn more about these actions and provide feedback on them via a survey or attending an outreach event through June 5. A link to the survey and calendar of events is available on the project website.

On April 13, Metro released a Request for Proposal for Access Transportation service. Customer feedback, work with a national consultant to help identify service models that were appropriate for King County, outreach to multiple agencies across the Country to gain insight into best practices being applied at other transit locations, and preliminary findings from a King County audit, which is still in process, were taken into consideration in preparing the request for proposals. Information about the Request for Proposals is available at King County’s procurement website.

Metro and its contractors work to provide safe, reliable and consistent Access Transportation services for customers. We appreciate and value the feedback of customers and advocates as we work to improve existing service and strive to improve service going forward.

Need information about this process, the survey, or a calendar of events in a different format?

Leave us a message at 206-263-9768 with your phone number and a good time to reach you. We’ll call you back to discuss options.

 

Usuarios de Access le dicen a Metro qué es lo que funciona o no funciona y comparten ideas

En julio, Metro invitó a los usuarios de Access Transportation y a sus cuidadores a ofrecer sus observaciones sobre el servicio de Access. Más de 800 personas opinaron sobre lo que estamos haciendo, lo que es más importante para ellos y cómo podemos mejorar el servicio de Access.

Un resumen detallado de los comentarios está disponible en el sitio web de Metro, pero aquí tenemos un resumen rápido.

A quiénes escuchamos

access-heardfrom-2015-spanishA través de la encuesta en línea –

  • Gente de todo el condado de King (aquí se encuentra un mapa de Google con los códigos postales de quienes respondieron).
  • Clientes de Access (46%) y cuidadores de clientes (21%); clientes que reúnen los requisitos y cuidadores que nunca han utilizado el servicio (6%); organizaciones que atienden a clientes (16%); y las personas interesadas en asuntos de discapacitados, pero que no utilizan Access (11%).

A través de nueve reuniones de las partes interesadas – Centenares de usuarios de Access, profesionales interesados en el programa Access, cuidadores y grupos de apoyo.

Por llamadas telefónicas, correos electrónicos y cartas – Cerca de 100 personas, la vasta mayoría de las cuales eran usuarios de

Lo que hemos escuchado

Hicimos preguntas acerca de la satisfacción con los diferentes aspectos de Access, incluyendo la calidad del servicio, centro de llamadas / servicio al cliente, conductores, comodidad y limpieza de los vehículos, y seguridad personal. También preguntamos qué opinión general  tenían de Access. Lo que es difícil de reflejar son las innumerables historias que escuchamos que captan los comentarios resumidos aquí y la urgencia con que, según ellos, se necesitan hacer las mejoras.  Aquí están algunos de los principales temas que escuchamos:

Las cosas buenas que Access debe seguir haciendoaccess-wordle-spanish

  1. Los usuarios necesitan y valoran el servicio de Access. Una persona escribió: “Continúen proporcionando un servicio a discapacitados y a personas mayores de una manera profesional y cortés, con conductores competentes y el personal que toma las llamadas”.
  2. Access permite que nuestros clientes tengan libertad. Uno escribió que Access ofrece “… la posibilidad de llegar a lugares de difícil acceso para mí”.
  3. Mantener  la capacitación de los conductores y contrata aquéllos que tienen compasión. Los clientes notan el arduo trabajo de los conductores y valoran a quienes son cariñosos y respetuosos.
  4. Seguir contratando a personal cortés, amable y profesional en el Centro de Llamadas. En general, la gente expresó gran satisfacción con el personal por la ventaja de poder llamar y hablar con alguien directamente cuando quieren programar un viaje y averiguar lo que se necesita para el viaje.

¿Qué es lo que Access no hace bien y que hay que cambiar?

  1. Programación y elaboración del itinerario de rutas: estar en el vehículo demasiado tiempo; conducir por todos lados para llegar de un punto a otro, saltando a veces la parada de un cliente para recoger a alguien más; los conductores dependen de un GPS deficiente y no están facultados para realizar ajustes sensatos en tiempo real para responder al tráfico. Esta fue la preocupación más común que escuchamos.
  2. Falta de fiabilidad en el servicio: no llegar a tiempo; llegar demasiado temprano o demasiado tarde; largas esperas por la llegada del autobús.
  3. Comunicación deficiente o inexistente sobre la hora de llegada o de salida. Es particularmente estresante cuando surge algún problema y no se puede localiza al despachador.
  4. No hay flexibilidad para el pasajero: problemas con la política de cancelaciones; un cliente escribió, “Para mí es un castigo tener que reprogramar mi horario, reajustar mi viaje o cansarme de esperar a Access cuando tengo que llegar a tiempo al trabajo; los conductores de Access, por el contrario, pueden darse el lujo de retrasarse y soy yo quien paga las consecuencias.”
  5. Poca uniformidad en la calidad de la conducción y del servicio del centro de llamadas: muchos elogios y alta satisfacción con los conductores, especialmente los experimentados, pero hay mucho trabajo que hacer con los menos experimentados; se necesita más capacitación; la comunicación y las cuestiones interculturales fueron planteadas por pasajeros cuando el conductor no dominaba bien el inglés.

Sugerencias de los clientes para mejorar el servicio

  • Utilizar una tecnología diferente para elaborar horarios y rutas.
  • Ofrecer más flexibilidad y adaptabilidad a los conductores para responder a las necesidades de viaje en tiempo real de los pasajeros; la tecnología GPS mejorada podría ayudar.
  • Proporcionar la capacidad de hacer reservaciones usando tecnología diferente. Comunicarse de manera más eficiente en tiempo real. Un sistema reservación en línea sería genial, o confirmaciones de texto o de aplicación de los tiempos de recogida o descarga; seguimiento de cada vehículo; proporcionando a los conductores fotos de los pasajeros que van a recoger.
  • Ofrecer más flexibilidad en la programación y cambio de viajes. Un elevado interés en reservaciones del mismo día; deseo de hacer reservaciones con más antelación y ser capaz de hacer ajustes de viaje en tiempo real si las necesidades cambian.
  • Mejor seguimiento de quejas y preguntas. Tener un equipo independiente para manejar las quejas; mejorar el seguimiento para no transferir la llamada a otro agente al que habrá que volver a contar los hechos.
  • Valorar a los miembros del personal. Incentivar y recompensar a los excelentes conductores y al personal del Centro de Llamadas; aprovechar los comentarios para mejorar el rendimiento de aquellos que no están proporcionando un buen servicio al cliente.
  • Ofrecer diferentes formas de pago. Mayor integración de ORCA con Access y tener la capacidad de deducir la tarifa de tarjetas ORCA, pagar con tarjetas de crédito, o tener una tarifa que no implique cambio.
  • Ofrecer más oportunidades para recibir comentarios de los clientes.

access-glance-2015-spanishLos pasos siguientes

Esté pendiente de la información que se brinda en este espacio sobre cómo estamos respondiendo a los comentarios y a las oportunidades para proporcionar comentarios adicionales. Nuestra próxima fase de diálogo se llevará a cabo a finales de este invierno cuando esperamos recibir comentarios sobre nuestras respuestas a las sugerencias que se dieron.

Para obtener más información, visite metro.kingcounty.gov/programs-projects/access-transportation o comuníquese con DeAnna Martin, planificadora de relaciones con la comunidad, al 206-477-3835 o deanna.martin@kingcounty.gov.


How’s our translation? If you speak English and Spanish and want to help us improve our translations, compare this post to the same post we made in English and share your feedback by emailing community.relations@kingcounty.gov.

Access users tell Metro what is and isn’t working, share ideas

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In July, Metro invited Access Transportation riders and their caregivers to give us feedback about Access service. More than 800 people weighed in on how we’re doing, what’s most important to them, and how we might improve Access.

A detailed summary of the feedback we received is available on Metro’s website, but here’s a quick rundown.

Who we heard from

access-heardfrom-2015-englishVia online survey –

  • People all over King County (here’s a Google map showing the zip codes of responders).
  • Access customers (46%) and customer caregivers (21%); eligible customers and caregivers who have never used the service (6%); organizations that serve customers (16%); and people who have an interest in disability issues but do not use Access (11%).

Via nine stakeholder meetings – Hundreds of Access riders, professionals interested in the Access program, caregivers, and advocacy groups.

Via phone, e-mails, and letters – Nearly 100 people, the vast majority of whom were Access riders.

What we heard

access-wordle-englishWe asked questions about satisfaction with different aspects of Access, including service quality, call center/customer service, drivers, comfort and cleanliness of vehicles, and personal safety. We also asked for people’s overall opinions of Access. What is hard to reflect back are the countless stories we heard that capture the feedback we’ve summarized here and the urgency with which people feel improvements are needed. That being said, here are some of the main themes we heard:

What does Access do well and should keep doing?

  1. Access is very much needed and is appreciated by users. One person wrote, “Continue to provide service for people with disabilities and seniors in a professional manner with courtesy, skilled drivers, and call takers.”
  2. Access gives our customers freedom. One wrote that it provides “…the ability to get to places I wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to.”
  3. Keep training and hiring compassionate drivers. Customers notice the hard job drivers have and appreciate those who are caring and respectful of them.
  4. Keep hiring courteous, kind, and professional Call Center staff members. In general, people expressed high satisfaction with the staff and with the ability to call and speak with someone directly to schedule a trip and communicate about trip needs.

What does Access not do so well and should be changed?

  1. Ride scheduling and routing: being on the vans too long; driving all over to get from point A to point B, including sometimes past one customer’s drop-off location to pick up someone else; drivers depending on poorly functioning GPS and not empowered to make sensible adjustments in real time to respond to traffic. This was the most common concern we heard.
  2. Lack of service reliability: not arriving on time; arriving too early or too late; long waits for rides to arrive.
  3. Poor or no communication about arrival time or at pickup. It’s especially stressful when there’s a problem and dispatch can’t be reached.
  4. Inflexibility for riders: cancellation policy issues; one customer wrote, “If I have to rearrange my schedule, adjust my trips or give up on waiting for Access to get to work on time, I am punished; but Access can be late as much as they want and I have to deal with the consequences.”
  5. Inconsistency of driver quality, call center: many commendations and high satisfaction with drivers, especially the experienced ones, but we have work to do with the less-experienced drivers; more training is needed; communication and cross-cultural issues were raised by riders whose drivers are English language learners.

Customer ideas for improvement

  • Use different scheduling and routing technology.
  • Offer more flexibility and adaptability to drivers to respond to real-time travel needs of passengers; improved GPS technology could help.
  • Provide the ability to make reservations using different technology and communicate more effectively in real time about trips. An online reservation system would be great, or text/app confirmations of pickup or drop-off times; tracking of each van; providing drivers with pictures of passengers they are picking up.
  • Offer more flexibility in scheduling and changing trips. High interest in same-day reservations; desire to make reservations further in advance and be able to make trip adjustments in real-time if needs change.
  • Better follow-up on complaints and questions. Have an independent team handle complaints; improve tracking so people don’t get passed around to different places and have to re-tell their stories.
  • Value staff members. Incentivize and reward excellent drivers and Call Center staff; use feedback to improve performance of those who aren’t providing good customer service.
  • Offer different forms of payment. Better integrate ORCA with Access and be able to have fare deducted from ORCA cards, pay with credit cards, or have a fee that doesn’t involve change.
  • Provide more opportunities for customer input.

access-glance-2015-englishNext steps

Watch this space for information about how we are responding to this feedback and opportunities to provide additional feedback. Our next phase of engagement will take place later this winter, when we’ll seek feedback how we did at responding to what we heard.

To learn more, visit metro.kingcounty.gov/programs-projects/access-transportation or contact DeAnna Martin, community relations planner, at 206-477-3835 or deanna.martin@kingcounty.gov.

Help shape the future of Access Transportation – Tell us what you think by July 10

AccessBoardingInformación en español

NOTE: This post was edited on July 1 to indicate that the due date for participation has been extended from July 5 to July 10.

Metro needs your feedback to help shape the future of Access Transportation, Metro’s ADA paratransit service.

We’ll reach out to the public several times this year to learn about what’s working well and how Access could be improved. Your feedback will inform Metro staff as they plan for new Access contracts that will take effect in 2018.

In this first phase of outreach, we want to hear about how we’re doing with Access service, what’s most important riders, and ideas for improvements.

Tell us what you think about Access Transportation by July 10

Learn more

Bus announcement volumes adjusted

Beginning Tuesday, Jan. 26, we will be adjusting the volume level of internal stop announcements and external route and destination announcements on all buses to better serve transit customers. Plus, we’re going to be doing external bus announcements at all bus stops served by two or more routes and phasing out external announcements at bus stops served by just a single route.

1115BusAnncmntVolTest018b

Metro gathered a group of riders in November 2015 to give feedback about volume levels for bus announcements.

Consistent audio announcements are required by federal law and provide independence to riders who with vision impairments or other disabilities.

Improved stop, route and destination announcements will meet or exceed Federal Transit Administration requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act and better serve all riders who use the Metro system. The changes address an FTA audit that found Metro did not meet stop and route announcement requirements.

Since November, we’ve implemented comprehensive on-board stop announcements on 100 bus routes, with more to be phased in during the coming months.

Learn more about Metro’s accessible services programs online and contact customer service to talk with a Metro representative about how to navigate the system.

Rally at Westlake Park celebrates 25 years of Americans with Disabilities Act

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Braille and raised text identify Metro coaches for riders.

On Wednesday, July 22, our community is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act with a rally 4-6 p.m. at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle underscoring the positive changes created by the ADA. Transit service will take people to and from the event and we extend the invitation to riders to mark the occasion and join in the celebration.MetroHistoryDisability_19 MetroHistoryDisability_20 MetroHistoryDisability_5

People living with disabilities or who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices ride Metro each and every day, enjoying the freedom the transit system supports. Decades ago, before ADA, Metro pioneered the use of specialized lifts to support riders who use wheelchairs, opening up a world of transit access previously unavailable.

Systems to make riding better for those with disabilities continue to evolve. We make stop announcements for the sight impaired, and ensure that our website and online timetables work with screen readers. Recently, Metro’s Transit Advisory Commission – which represents concerns of all riders, including those living with disabilities – asked Metro to install tactile coach numbers on the inside of our buses. We’re installing these on our fleet – both braille and raised numbers – and by taking this step, we further assist riders who are blind and support their independence.

These measures demonstrate Metro’s continuing commitment to making transit accessible for everyone. The 25th anniversary is an opportunity for us to mark the success we’ve achieved and recommit ourselves to continuing improvements that better serve riders with disabilities.

Metro relocating two bus stops on Third Avenue in Downtown Seattle

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Two bus stops on Third Avenue will be relocated May 4, 2015. The bus island on Pine Street also will be removed as part of upcoming construction.

Riders who travel Third Avenue in Seattle will see Metro’s two busiest bus stops between Pike and Pine streets relocated starting May 4, shifting one block south through July as part of a public safety effort by the City of Seattle.

The move also makes way for construction by the city intended to improve bus capacity along the corridor.

The Pine Street island bus stop also will be removed in coming weeks as part of the work.

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Rendering of a ‘mountable curb’ planned for southbound Third Avenue.

3rd Ave Cleanup 3up_RA2

Stops to close May 4 and upcoming reroute for routes 7, 11 and 84.

The changes will affect riders on more than three dozen routes: Routes 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 11, 13, 15, 21, 29, 55, 56, 57, 66, 70, 82/83/84 Night Owls 116, 118, 119, 120, 124, 125, 131, 132, 304 & 355 and the RapidRide C, D, & E Lines, Access service and other inbound bus routes that serve these stops (5EX, 14, 24, 26, 26EX, 28, 28EX, 36, 49). Metro is posting signs at the existing and future bus stops to let riders know where they need to board and exit buses.

Metro has an agreement with the City of Seattle to redesign the streetscape on Third Avenue to improve the customer experience for riders and for people who shop and work in the city. We support the city’s efforts to improve the customer experience and address safety concerns at these locations. This work also will introduce proposed improvements being considered for implementation along the entire Third Avenue corridor.

Metro, UW, and riders team up on OneBusAway feature that makes stops more accessible

Riders who are blind lead the crowdsourcing effort to make StopInfo better for everyone

SightImpairedSignFor bus riders with limited sight, navigating transit and locating bus zones can be a daily challenge. To help provide more thorough and useful information, University of Washington computer scientists have teamed up with Metro and created a website called StopInfo – a crowd-sourcing effort via OneBusAway that provides specific information on location, safety features and stop closures for Metro’s bus stops in King County. In particular, it seeks to collect and share information that blind people have identified as important when they ride the bus. It relies on bus riders using the OneBusAway application to update and provide information about each stop.

While the application was developed to provide information to assist people who are blind, it provides information that could be helpful to all riders. Crucial information like where the stop is in relation to the intersection, whether there is a shelter or bench, or if a stop is well-lit can make the difference between a smooth commute and a frustrating experience.

StopInfoAppScreenTo access or provide information on StopInfo via OneBusAway, click the information icon to the right of the stop number. Want to add or improve the information about a stop? Select, “verify or add stop information,” at the bottom of the screen. Android users: stay tuned for another month or so… at this point StopInfo only works with the iPhone version of OneBusAway.

Through the end of the year, top contributors who add or verify information about stops can earn free bus tickets. The more people who use this feature and contribute to it, the more helpful it will be for riders.

Through research done by developers, they have learned that StopInfo is already working for riders who are blind or partially sighted. Users report feeling more comfortable about taking new or unfamiliar trips with the help of StopInfo.

Read more about StopInfo on:

>>UW’s blog
>>Reuters

Editor’s note: October is Disability Awareness Month. This article is the second in a series. StopInfo is a project Metro has invested in because it will make Metro services more accessible to riders. Learn more about Metro’s history of making transit accessible in this blog post.

Join us in honoring October’s Disability Awareness Month

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You may have seen these ads on your bus already. They started appearing last month as part of Metro’s “We are Metro” courtesy campaign inspired by the Transit Advisory Commission.

This October, we invite you to join us in recognizing Disability Awareness Month. We are proud to continue a campaign we started a year ago: We are Metro – Community driven! The diversity of people who use and operate Metro’s services is one of the things that makes our Metro community great. Recent bus cuts and an unmet demand for more service mean that now more than ever, how we treat each other can make or break our transit experience.

What can you do to help?
Having your fare ready when you board or using an ORCA card can be your way of keeping the bus moving. Understand that a customer with limited mobility may take a little longer to pay fare. Thank the bus driver. Offer a priority seat to a fellow customer. Help a parent stow away a stroller. Keep what you bring on board with you from blocking the aisle whether it is a pet, a mobility device or a suitcase. Keep your music and cell phone conversations to yourself. There are lots of things we can do to make the bus ride a good experience.

Join our growing community

Sign up to receive emails about Metro accessibility. Join more than 11,400 people to learn about things such as changes to affect customers with disabilities and opportunities to provide feedback on accessibility issues.

We invite you to share your stories and pictures…

  • here on the blog
  • tweet us at @kcmetrobus
  • post on Metro Facebook, or
  • simply add the hashtag #WeAreMetro to any social media post.

Share with others what you observe others doing or what you do to make sure your fellow riders have a good experience.

This month the Metro Matters blog will be highlighting existing programs and tools to make our services easier to access. Metro has a long history of working to make sure that services are accessible, no one is left behind and all of us have a better ride. Thanks for joining us in making Metro a community that works for all of us.

Editor’s note: the Transit Advisory Commission are Metro customers appointed by the King County Council to advise Metro on your behalf. We represent all the county council districts and half of us represent customers with disabilities. Would you be interested in joining us? To learn more about the Commission or to apply to be a member visit the Transit Advisory Commission website. We Are Metro!