New investments in Metro Transit safety, service, and reliability

By Rob Gannon, Interim Metro Transit General Manager

Rob Gannon, Metro Transit Interim General ManagerExecutive Constantine recently gave us a challenge:  how will we meet the demands of one million more people living here in King County in the next 25 years, working 850,000 more jobs?

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.

SM Image IIIt 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.

Sincerely,

Rob Gannon
Interim Metro Transit General Manager

METRO CONNECTS, Metro’s long-range vision transmitted to King County Council

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Today Executive Dow Constantine transmitted METRO CONNECTS, Metro’s plan for bringing you more and better transit service over the next 25 years, to the King County Council for their consideration.

METRO CONNECTS presents a vision of a transportation network that can accommodate the 1 million more people and 850,000 expected in our region by 2040. Key features include much more frequent service—including 20 more RapidRide lines and all-day express service, innovative new travel options, improved passenger facilities and pathways to bus stops and stations, and customer information tools that make travel by transit easy.

This plan was a community effort, shaped by more than 1,500 people who attended our open houses, 9,700 people who responded to our online surveys, a 25-member Community Advisory Group, and a Technical Advisory Committee with representatives from King County cities and other organizations.

Metro appreciates the thousands of people who took the time to learn about the long-range plan, come to an open house or event, fill out a survey, or send us your comments.

The Council is expected to review, discuss and vote on adopting the plan in early 2017.  You can sign up here to receive updates from Metro about METRO CONNECTS. We hope you will stay engaged with Metro as we reach out to you and your communities for input about  making our vision a reality.

Explore the plan at kcmetrovision.org, and read more below about how community input shaped the final plan.

Changes based on what we heard during spring 2016 outreach

Metro received valuable feedback about our draft plan from thousands of people and from organizations, cities and transit agencies. We made many changes to the final plan based on what you told us.

Easier to read
We think you’ll be excited about the future of transit in King County. To make it easy for you to find what you’re looking for in our far-ranging vision, we simplified the plan’s structure.  It presents our big-picture vision in the first few pages. That’s followed by detailed but concise descriptions of what we’re proposing to do—like more RapidRide lines, better bus stops, and new kinds of information at your fingertips. We simplified the maps, added new graphics, and used icons and call-out boxes to highlight key themes like sustainability, equity and social justice, partnerships, and innovation.  The final section explains how we would make the METRO CONNECTS vision a reality.

Service network changes
We changed the 2025 and 2040 service networks to provide additional coverage where gaps were identified, improve routing alignments, connect with light rail, reduce duplication, and adjust service frequencies to best accommodate anticipated demand.

Other key changes
Metro clarified or added more information in many areas, including capital improvements, the customer experience, boarding and fares, partnerships with cities and others, and implementing the plan.

Capital Improvements
Metro heard that people care most about capital improvements that help buses run faster and more reliably and those that make it easier to access transit by foot, car or bicycle. Metro added more of the following types of capital improvements to the plan:

  • Road improvements to help buses move faster and more reliably
  • Additional park-and-ride spaces
  • Better facilities at major bus stops, including pedestrian and bicycle pathways

 The customer experience
Ensuring that customers have a positive experience is central to the METRO CONNECTS vision. We invite you to imagine what it could be like to use the future transit system.

Boarding and fares
We heard that people wanted to see more in the plan about making boarding and fare payment easy for everyone and keeping fares affordable. METRO CONNECTS calls for Metro to work with Sound Transit and other agencies to better coordinate fares and fare payment between different service providers. It also calls for Metro to continue promoting and expanding the ORCA Lift program. Fleet vehicles and facilities will be designed with all users in mind, including people who walk, bike, or use a wheelchair and parents with strollers.

Implementing the vision
Many stakeholders wanted to see more information about how the vision could be implemented. METRO CONNECTS gives more detail about the implementation program—a collaboration with riders, community members, cities and transportation agencies to coordinate near-term service changes, complementary capital investments, and other program and policy work needed to support the METRO CONNECTS vision.