It’s in the numbers—just-released data show how Metro is doing

We just released a report full of data about how Metro measures up to the public’s expectations. Is our service reliable? Are customers satisfied? How do our costs compare with other agencies?

StrategicPlanProgressReport2014Our annual Strategic Plan Progress Report answers those questions and more. It provides data on 61 performance measures, with symbols indicating progress toward our Strategic Plan goals. It includes opinions expressed by riders and non-riders, drawn from a survey of 2,500 King County residents. It also looks at how we stack up with peer transit agencies across the country.

The report tells the public how we’re doing, and shows us where we can get better. Continuous improvement is an important value at Metro. We’ll be taking action based on the report findings as well as an upcoming audit and independent peer review.

Get ready for bus service changes coming this fall

Metro will make a large set of changes to bus service on Sept. 29. These changes will include the launch of two new RapidRide Lines connecting Ballard and West Seattle to downtown, as well as changes to many existing routes–more than 90 routes in total.

Riders can start getting ready for these changes by visiting Metro’s Have a Say website, which has a summary of the changes.

New route timetables reflecting the changes will be available online and in print in mid-September. Information about the changes will also be available at that time via Metro’s online trip planner (be sure to enter a date after Sept. 29 to see the new information) and Customer Information phone line (206-553-3000).

Pay on entry

The Ride Free Area in downtown Seattle is also scheduled to end on Sept. 29. As of that day, riders will be encouraged to enter and pay at the front door and exit from the back door for all trips in King County, including those on Sound Transit Express and Community Transit buses. This will help simplify our bus system and preserve bus service. (Learn more)

Is your Metro service changing in September?

Courtesy KC Metro

Metro is making changes in September that will result in a more-efficient transit system overall. But financial resources are tight, and in order to add service where it’s most needed, we have to take it away from routes that aren’t used as much. Unfortunately, this means that some riders will have to change the way they travel—either going further to reach a bus or maybe even finding an alternative to transit.

If your bus service is going away, we encourage you to check Metro’s  travel options page for a list of resources you might want to consider. If you and some of your neighbors would like to form (or join) a carpool or vanpool for commuting, look under “RideShare” for tools that can help. Or maybe you can drive to a park-and-ride to reach bus service, or ride a bike for part of your commute and then load it on a bus for the rest of the trip.

If you have any questions about the different options, be sure to reach out to the travel options program managers—we’re here to help!

Phase I outreach for September 2012 system improvements ending Dec. 2

Courtesy Ned Ahrens, King County

Metro is wrapping up its first phase of public outreach for the September 2012 system improvements at the end of this week, so if you haven’t already, please take a few moments to:

  1. Learn about Metro’s suggested system improvement concepts
  2. Complete our online survey
  3. Email or call (206) 263-9768 with your comments, questions, or concerns.

This first phase of public outreach was kicked off in October with a series of community open houses, information tables, and presentations to neighborhood groups. Thanks to all who participated in these outreach efforts so far—more than 3000 people have taken the time to share their feedback. Stay tuned for more detailed reports of what we heard.

During December and early January, Metro will review all of the feedback received and make adjustments to its suggestions based on your input. At the end of January and throughout February, Metro will share a revised set of proposed changes online and at meetings and information tables. We will encourage you to share your feedback once again through an online or paper survey or directly with staff at a meeting or information table.

In April, the King County Executive will present a service change proposal to the King County Council. The Council will hear public comments before making a final decision in May. This will be the public’s final opportunity to weigh in on the proposed changes before they are implemented in September 2012.

Metro is always interested in hearing your input about bus service and working with the public to create a cost-effective transit system that serves you, so please visit us online to stay informed of other opportunities to “have a say.”

What’s a ‘reduced weekday’ schedule and why does Metro do it?

Photo courtesy Ned Ahrens, KCDOT

Metro schedules reduced service on several days throughout the year, including the upcoming Nov. 11 Veteran’s Day holiday. Metro reduces bus service on a single day or set of days to save money when ridership is expected to be much lower than normal, but not low enough to warrant the Sunday service levels.

When holidays like Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day fall on weekdays, Metro has typically provided Sunday service. But on other holidays and days around holidays when more people are traveling, Sunday schedules would not provide enough service. On those days, Metro operates a “reduced weekday” schedule that has fewer trips and routes than a regular weekday.

The days that Metro operates Reduced Weekday service have historically had ridership that is 80 percent or less of the ridership on an average weekday. While some riders lose service on Reduced Weekdays, operating regular schedules on those days would result in some buses serving very few riders and operating nearly empty.

Reduced Weekday schedules provide about 90 percent of the hours operated on a regular weekday, and this translates into savings of about $1 million per year for Metro. Operating Reduced Weekday service helps Metro save money, which is especially important in times like these, when we have to carefully consider the return value on every dollar we spend.

You can find the yearly schedule of Reduced Weekday service online. When bus routes or individual trips are canceled for this schedule it is marked in print and online timetables with an “H.”

How can you “have a say” about suggested transit system restructures

Photo courtesy Ned Ahrens, KCDOT

We have been reading various neighborhood blogs and noticing questions about Metro’s public involvement process and how public input will be used.

In November and early December, Metro encourages you to provide input by:

  1. Learning about Metro’s suggested service improvement concepts online or at a meeting or information table where you can speak directly with Metro staff members.
  2. Completing an online survey or requesting a hard copy survey be mailed to you.
  3. Emailing or calling (206) 263-9768 with your comments, questions, or concerns.

During December and early January, Metro will review all of the feedback received and make adjustments to its suggestions based on your input. At the end of January and throughout February, Metro will share a revised set of proposed changes online and at meetings and information tables. We will encourage you to share your feedback once again through an online or paper survey or directly with staff at a meeting or information table.

In April, the King County Executive will present a service change proposal to the King County Council. The Council will hear public comments before making a final decision in May. This will be the public’s final opportunity to weigh in on the proposed changes before they are implemented in September 2012.

Metro is always interested in hearing your input about bus service and working with the public to create a cost-effective transit system that serves you, so please visit us online to stay informed of other opportunities to “have a say.”

Congestion Reduction Charge agreement: What does right-sizing bus service mean?

Courtesy Ned Ahrens, King County

Today the County Executive and Council announced an agreement that paves the way for the Council to enact the congestion reduction charge. As mentioned in earlier posts, the agreement includes right-sizing bus service along with phasing out the Ride Free Area, and implementing a transit incentive program. So, what exactly does it mean to right-size bus service?

Metro will explore a variety of alternatives for “right-sizing” services recognizing that one type of transit service may not fit every community’s needs. These alternatives are called for in Metro’s new Strategic Plan for Public Transportation, and provide promising new tools to help maintain transit service for communities that do not have high ridership due to their rural character. Under right-sizing no community currently served by Metro would be left without transit options.

To offset service reductions or eliminations on routes that have lower ridership, Metro will identify a menu of “right-sized” transit services that can effectively replace up to 20,000 hours of traditional fixed-route bus service by June 2012. These more cost-effective services could include alternatives such as Dial-a-Ride Transit (DART) service, community access transportation, vanpoool or volunteer transportation programs, and would benefit communities in east and south King County that are adjacent to rural areas.

Over the next year, Metro will reach out to community organizations and groups to explore partnerships for creating these various lower-cost services, and invite residents to help shape these right-sizing strategies.

Congestion Reduction Charge agreement: What’s happening to the Ride Free Area?

Bus downtown

Courtesy Ned Ahrens, King County

Today the County Executive and Council announced an agreement that paves the way for the Council to enact the congestion reduction charge. The agreement includes phasing out the Ride Free Area, implementing a transit incentive program, and right-sizing bus service (details to follow in future post). So, what exactly is happening with the Ride Free Area?

The Ride Free Area was initially launched in 1973 to help spur retail development in the downtown business core. Today, about 9,000 free bus rides are taken daily in downtown Seattle between Jackson and Battery streets and in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. Continue reading

Congestion Reduction Charge agreement: What is the Transit Incentive Program?

Courtesy Ned Ahrens, King County

Today the County Executive and Council announced an agreement that paves the way for the Council to enact the congestion reduction charge.  The agreement includes a transit incentive program along with phasing out of the Ride Free Area and the right-sizing of bus service (details to follow in future posts). So, what is the transit incentive program?

Metro’s past experience with incentive programs has shown that people who try riding Metro are more inclined to ride the bus again. This incentive program is intended to reach beyond our existing bus riders to each King County resident that renews their car registration. When car owners receive their new license tabs, they’ll also get a form from Metro offering them eight free-ride tickets*, which they can redeem by mailing in the form. Alternatively, car owners will have the option to donate the value of the tickets to a program that supports low-income residents who depend on transit to access services in their communities.

Not only does this incentive program encourage more people to get on a bus, it supports the people that depend on transit most in our community.

* the bus tickets will apply only to regular Metro Transit bus service and will not be transferable to other transit modes

Sustain Metro: Top ten reasons why

Courtesy Ned Ahrens, King County

1.      Without the congestion reduction charge, about nine million rides a year will be lost–forcing an additional 15,000 car trips a day onto the county’s already congested highways and roads.

2.      Four of every five riders will be directly or indirectly impacted if the congestion reduction charge is not approved. That means people will be walking farther, waiting longer, making more transfers, and standing in the aisle or at the curb as loaded buses pass them by.

3.      Area businesses support Metro. Employers purchase bus passes for more than 175,000 employee rides per day. The Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Bellevue Downtown Association, and Microsoft are leading members of the Transit Rescue Coalition.

4.      Metro keeps its promises. Before the economy collapsed, Metro delivered 99.9 percent of the service promised in the voter-approved 2006 “Transit Now” initiative. After the collapse, Metro sustained service even though revenues dropped by twice the amount Transit Now was supposed to raise.

5.      Metro has taken numerous steps to become more efficient and has overcome $400 million in shortfalls through cuts, efficiencies, labor agreements, one-time reserves, and higher fares.

6.      Rather than cutting the entire system, Metro is becoming  more productive by shifting bus service to routes that more people will use, like the new RapidRide line on Pacific Highway South and the expanded service on the SR-520 bridge.

7.      In July, nearly 1,000 people turned out at County Council hearings and more than 15,000 commented via letters, petitions,and emails about potential Metro service cuts–the most extensive display of engagement on a county issue in recent memory. The overwhelming majority supported the congestion reduction charge.

8.      Metro ridership is beginning to return to its pre-recession high in 2008, which capped a three-year period when Metro ranked among the nation’s fastest growing transit agencies. Even today, Metro is among the nation’s top ten transit agencies for bus ridership.

9.      Daily Metro riders are already paying $400 to $500 more per year after four consecutive annual fare increases. About 95 percent of these riders own cars, so they would also be paying the $20 charge if it is approved.

10.  The Seattle area has the 10th worst traffic congestion in the nation, costing us $2.1 billion annually. This adds 44 hours of delay sitting in traffic and more than $1,000 in fuel and time. Motorists in our region save $346 million per year in fuel and time costs because public transportation reduces congestion.