By Rob Gannon, Interim Metro Transit General Manager
Metro Transit responded by working with riders, stakeholders, and staff from all corners of our organization to put forth a thoughtful, long-range vision for the next 25 years, which the Executive has embraced.
Because the regional economy is strong, we have funds now to improve service and begin to invest in the vision of METRO CONNECTS, which over the long-term calls for:
- Doubling ridership,
- Increasing bus service by 70 percent,
- Increasing the number of buses on the street by 30 percent, and
- Making a significant capital investment in the new coaches and technology necessary to deliver this service, and the physical space to house and maintain our equipment.
It is no easy process to evolve from a system that for many years has been financially constrained to one that is prepared to expand dramatically. Before enacting our long-range vision, Metro must first have the people in place to drive the routes, maintain the buses, trains, and facilities, and manage all that goes into operating our system.
And most of all, every employee needs to feel safe and secure on the job, knowing they will make it home to their families at the end of their work day.
To get there, the Executive is proposing a biennial budget to the Council that takes the first step toward investing in all of us, and in the infrastructure of our health, safety and security. Today, he proposed a budget for Metro Transit that:
- Adds 30,000 hours to provide more time for comfort station breaks. We know our schedule cuts in 2010 and 2011 along with increased traffic have put our operators behind, and in response, we are making the single largest investment to date to add time for operator breaks and recovery periods.
- Provides additional Metro Transit police resources to establish more visible presence and responses to security issues on the buses. This was the number one recommendation to address operator assaults coming out of our Security Summits jointly sponsored with ATU Local 587.
- Ensures 100% of our coaches have onboard camera systems by the end of 2018. This too was a top priority coming out of our Security Summits, and a priority for the Executive, and will serve to enhance bus security and preserve valuable evidence when incidents occur.
- Adds other resources to implement the Safety Systems Review that many of our staff participated in, either through questionnaires or focus groups. The full report will be released throughout Metro Transit early next week.
- For the biennium, the Executive is proposing an additional 300,000 hours of new annual service to reduce crowding, increase reliability and help meet target service levels on key corridors. By focusing additional service on the most over-crowded routes first, we will improve the daily working conditions for bus operators throughout the system and also provide more service to our customers.
The Executive’s budget also calls for investments in our infrastructure to ready us for the longer-term vision of adding service:
- Our seven Metro bus bases are stretched to capacity. To expand service, we’re going to have to jump-start the planning to build an eighth bus base, most likely somewhere in South King County. We also need to expand existing facilities at Atlantic/Central and potentially South Base.
- We have been struggling to hire and train enough operators to drive our existing schedule. The Executive’s budget calls not only for hiring operators but first-line supervisors, vehicle maintenance crews, and other management and support staff to ensure no compromise to the safety and efficient operation of the overall system.
- The Executive also calls for a ten-year capital investment plan to build the foundation which will put Metro in position to implement the vision of METRO CONNECTS, and build a transit system that truly meets the needs of our riders by the year 2040.
The Executive’s budget proposal is an investment in the health of our employees and our system, to make sure we are best equipped to serve the public well. Keeping our system safe and make it even safer is a value that must guide our every action, and I am pleased that this proposed budget – which we helped build – takes a step toward making that a reality. We will keep our system safe, and make Metro a great place to work. That is the path to service excellence.
Interim Metro Transit General Manager