Earth: ‘Thank you for riding transit!’

If you ride Metro regularly, you know how easy it is to climb on and zone out with a good book, tunes, games or TV shows on your phone (and the occasional power nap).

Behind the scenes, you’ve left your car behind, and that is one of the single best things you’ve done for the environment.

By the numbers

According to the Earth (and science), transportation is a huge contributor to pollution, and riding Metro buses and vanpools is the best way to travel and reduce pollution. Our electric trolley buses, hybrid buses and the growing fleet of battery electric buses (120 by 2020, baby!) show King County means business when it comes to climate change.

We’re not done, and we need your help. As our transit network grows, and more frequent buses and light rail expands, you might not know how that new network can work even better for you.

Make a plan to give it a try, maybe even this Saturday (hint-hint, Earth Day), by using our online trip planner or Puget Sound Trip Planner app to find a way to climb aboard!

If you don’t want to pay cash, you can test drive our Transit Go Tickets on mobile, or buy an ORCA day pass at a ticket vending machine

Metro’s Anita Whitfield: Paving the way for equity in public transit

0317AnitaWhitfieldWTSaward175As Metro’s EEO/Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Anita Whitfield has been breaking down barriers and instilling a shared sense of responsibility for promoting equity and social justice.

Whitfield has worked to create a culture where employees feel safe to have difficult discussions about historical and current inequities. She’s led training for many employees (which she calls “shared learning opportunities”), and played an instrumental role in shaping a vision for making Metro and King County government more equitable for all employees and residents.

Whitfield recently was honored by the Puget Sound chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar with the Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award. The award recognizes outstanding efforts in promoting opportunities for women and minorities in the transportation industry.

“Mobility is a civil right,” said Whitfield, who currently doubles as interim general manager for employee services. “I accept this award on behalf of the managers and employees at King County Metro Transit who are stepping authentically into this work and striving together to equitably serve all King County residents — especially those who are transit dependent.”

In nominating Whitfield for the award, Metro General Manager Rob Gannon said she is at the forefront of a cultural change at Metro.

“She is leading trainings, acting as a confidant and liaison, and paving the way for change,” he said.

Gannon wrote:

 “When we had the unfortunate experience of having our Martin Luther King Jr. Logo defaced in combination with a racial slur, Anita used this experience as a teachable moment to bring together staff, talk about what happened, and address the issue head-on. In another example, when women wearing traditional attire were harassed on a bus, Anita took the initiative to use that negative and harmful experience to partner with the Council on American-Islamic Relations and host them at Metro for a Lunch and Learn.

“Anita practices what she preaches and confronts difficult situations head on with grace and humility, taking a stand against racism and hate, while providing a space for conversation, dialogue and the opportunity to move forward.

Whitfield says her goal is for everyone to see they are in this together, and to understand that the harm done to some actually hurts us all.

She credits Gannon for his leadership on this work in public transit and “who himself is traveling his own journey to understand his own privilege.” She also credits Director of Transportation Harold Taniguchi, as well as County Executive Dow Constantine for his courage in leading King County’s first Equity and Social Justice Strategic Plan.

Whitfield returned to the Department of Transportation three years ago to help shape the agency’s execution of its commitment to Equity and Social Justice.  Ultimately, she joined Metro and became part of the PACE (Partnership to Achieve Comprehensive Equity) leadership team. PACE, a partnership between employees, management and unions, was formed to address longstanding inequities in the workplace, and resulted in numerous recommendations on how to make Metro a more equitable organization for all employees.  Those recommendations and others are being implemented across Metro.

Under her guidance, Metro is moving forward to reach the PACE goal of building and sustaining an inclusive, fair and equitable workplace for everyone.

Whitfield’s first stop at Metro was 30 years ago before the merger of Metro and King County. She worked as a clerk typist at Metro’s East Base in Bellevue.  The job listing said applicants were required to have a car to commute from Seattle. She was coming from Seattle’s South End, but didn’t own a car.

So her new boss stepped in.

“He would pick me up every day and bring me to work until I could save up enough money to buy a car,” she said.

In the years in between her current and former roles at Metro, Whitfield went on to become a lawyer, open a business, and serve as Human Resources director for King County among other things.

Whitfield says she is encouraged by the Rosa Parks award, but knows there is more work to do.

“I don’t accept this award for the achievement because there is still so much farther to go to reach our goal of true equity and inclusiveness, but I accept it for the encouragement,” she said.

“It is more important now than ever that we come together and stay true to who we want to be as a community.”

Metro and Redmond propose transit, pedestrian and bike enhancements at Old Redmond Road and 148th Ave NE

Metro is working with the City of Redmond to improve the eastbound right-turn at the Old Redmond Road and 148th Avenue Northeast intersection.

The goals of this improvement are to enhance the performance of bus Route 245 and improve safety for everyone who bikes or walks through this location.

The intersection’s current approach includes a “pork chop” pedestrian island which separates the eastbound through-movement and a short eastbound right-turn ‘slip’ lane. Continue reading

Commute achievement unlocked! 70 percent of commuters to downtown Seattle don’t drive

The front page of the Seattle Times launched the big news for commuters today: “As downtown jobs grow, workers turn to transit.”

Driving that headline was the announcement that less than 30 percent of nearly 250,000 commuters to downtown Seattle drive alone, and 70 percent take transit, rideshare, bike, walk and telework.Pie chart displaying the mode split for downtown Seattle commuters, totaling 70 percent who don't drive alone

It’s something riders have watched evolve over time. Record downtown Seattle job growth spurred public and private transportation investment during the past decade. Voter-approved ballot measures continued to pay to expand transit service. And the downward spiral of solo drivers continued. (35 percent in 2010; 34 percent in 2012 and 31 percent in 2014.)

Downtown Seattle added 45,000 jobs from 2010 to 2016, and an impressive 95 percent of the net increase in daily commute trips have been absorbed by transit, rideshare, biking and walking.

Public transit remains the top choice for downtown commuters (47%), with ridesharing, (9%), walking (6%), bicycling (3%), and teleworking (3%) rounding out the 70 percent of commuters not driving alone.

Did you know there are 31,000 more daily peak transit commuters, 9,000 additional non-motorized commuters, and 2,300 more vanpool/carpool riders since 2010? Solo drivers increased by only 2,255 during peak hours.Job growth in downtown Seattle has grown from 200,000 jobs in 2010 to 247,000 in 2016.

The results fulfill a 10-year goal to reduce the downtown Seattle peak commute drive-alone rate to 30 percent, accomplished by Commute Seattle at the direction of the Downtown Transportation Alliance (DTA)—a public-private partnership comprised of the Downtown Seattle Association, the City of Seattle (SDOT & OPCD), King County Metro and Sound Transit.

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.

Alaska Junction bus shelter changes ahead

As part of an effort to address customer comfort and access to Metro bus service as well as to address non-transit use including illegal and uncivil behavior at the Alaska Junction, Metro is moving forward with the retention of two of the four oversized “double” shelters at one of the six transit bays in the area of California Avenue Southwest and Southwest Alaska Street as soon as Dec. 20.

The decision to remove two of the shelters was finalized after several weeks of public feedback and further analysis of rider usage. With this change, the remaining two double shelters at Bay 2 will continue to provide a weather-protected area sufficient for the riders who use these facilities. Metro also provides two RapidRide shelters at Bay 1 for transit riders. The removed shelters will be reused at other bus stops that are in need of shelters, and the artwork will be relocated to bus shelters within the Junction.

Bay 2 is served by routes 50 (Alki to Othello Station) and 128 (Admiral to White Center and Southcenter). Route 50 generally operates every 20-30 minutes and Route 128 every 30 minutes. Metro staff were sent to the location to observe how riders were using the stops at different times and days. Staff observed between zero and five customers waiting for buses at any one time under normal conditions, based on recent observations during peak and off-peak hours.

Metro solicited comments between October 28 and November 21 and received feedback from both riders and non-riders, some opposed and some supporting the change. The majority of comments opposed to the removal were based on the misconception that Metro intended to remove all shelters at this location.

The change is expected to reduce non-transportation use of Metro facilities, and to better match transit facility supply and demand.

Make Metro a safe place for everyone

By Rob Gannon, Metro Transit General Manager

In this moment of change and transition, County Executive Constantine has reaffirmed our values and principles.  King County is a place that values women, people of color, people with disabilities, people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, immigrants and refugees, and people of every religion, or of no religion.

In the delivery of our service to the public, Metro Transit does not tolerate harassment of any kind.  The vehicles we operate will remain safe places for our passengers.  Acts of harassment on our buses or at our shelters violate Metro Transit’s commitment to inclusion for all in our community and our rider Code of Conduct.  Should they occur, we ask people to report them to our employees or call 911 if law enforcement is needed immediately.

Metro Transit GM Rob Gannon portrait photo

Rob Gannon, Metro Transit General Manager

We will take enforcement actions against violators of this code.  And we are reminding operators of our procedures for addressing violations of the code of conduct aboard their coaches.

King County is a growing community rich in diversity and is one of the world’s great metropolitan areas.  Metro demonstrates our contribution by providing the best service possible, safely and with respect given to all our customers.  We ask all our riders to join in that commitment.

Ride safe, and help us keep our system safe for everyone.

Survey: Help Metro learn about transit gaps since Route 331 service was reduced

1016auroravillagetc001-2In September 2014, Metro reduced evening and night service on Route 331, which connects Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, Shoreline, and the Shoreline Community College campus. Now our Alternative Services Demonstration Program is working with the communities of Lake Forest Park and Shoreline and with Shoreline Community College to identify transit service gaps that might have been created by this reduction.

Do you live, work, or go to school in Shoreline or Lake Forest Park? Tell us about how you use or would like to use public transportation to get around.

Leading Metro into a new era

Metro Transit GM Rob Gannon portrait photoBy Rob Gannon, Metro Transit General Manager

I was deeply honored last week to be named the Metro Transit general manager by King County Executive Dow Constantine and Department of Transportation Director Harold Taniguchi, and look forward to confirmation by the King County Council.

This is an exciting time to lead Metro. We’re poised to begin implementing Metro Connects, our long-range plan for providing more and better transit service over the next 25 years. Not only does Metro Connects call for a 70 percent expansion of our transit system, it also envisions frequent service all day across the county, numerous safety and customer service enhancements, corridor investments to keep buses moving, and many more innovations and improvements.

We collaborated with community members, cities, and other transit agencies as we crafted this bold plan. As we move forward, strong relationships with communities and agencies will be critical to making our shared vision a reality.

Those partnerships will be one of my top priorities, along with customer and employee safety and strengthening Metro as a great place to work—the best way to ensure outstanding customer service.

While new to the general manager position, I’ve been at Metro for several years, serving as the interim general manager since March and as a deputy general manager from 2013-2016. In my time here I have interacted with employees throughout our agency—bus drivers and mechanics, customer service and facilities maintenance employees, planners and managers. They all share a devotion to providing the best possible service to the public, and I’m thrilled to be leading this great team.

I’ll keep you informed as we strive to deliver outstanding service every day while working toward our vision of a world-class transit system for King County.

 

Metro pausing removal of two Alaska Junction bus shelters

The King County Metro transit facility at Alaska Junction is incredibly important to our customers and to the functioning of the transit network in West Seattle.

Due to the attention possible changes have received over the weekend, Metro is willing to push “pause” on the shelter removal and actively solicit feedback before finalizing the shelter removal plan.

New information will be posted at the shelters within the next couple days and will provide the appropriate contact information.  We also read the West Seattle Blog and other forums and will compile comments along with all other feedback we receive.

But Metro would also like to take a moment to clarify the proposal to reduce the number of shelters on SW Alaska Street at the Junction.  The Alaska Junction transit facility consists of six individual bus stops or “Bays”.  Bays 1 through 4 are located on SW Alaska between California and 44th avenues Southwest.  Bay 2, on the south side of Alaska between 44th and the alley, is the subject of this discussion.  Bay 2 has about 200 Metro boardings per average weekday.  For comparison, Bay 1, between California and the alley, has about 1,300 boardings, while Bays 3 and 4 on the north side of Alaska each see about 400 boardings.  Bays 5 and 6 are on 44th north of Alaska, on the east side of the street and they remain unchanged by this proposal.

Bus shelter in West Seattle, with red box identifying two shelters to be removed.West Seattle businesses, residents, and others have been seeking to identify improvements to reduce illegal and uncivil behavior in the area.  The shelters closest to the City of Seattle provided porta-potty (visible in foreground in the photo) have been identified as facilitating this type of behavior and creating an unwelcoming if not unsafe environment for transit riders and others.

Two factors – ridership that does not justify the number of shelters, and numerous complaints of illegal and uncivil behavior – combined to prompt Metro to plan for removal of the two shelters closest to the Porta Potty, (highlighted in red in the photo).  The remaining two shelters would continue to provide very generous waiting space for Metro riders, as would the two Rapid Ride shelters in Bay 1 next to Key Bank.  Bay 4 (immediately across Alaska Street) currently has two large shelters and twice as many Metro boardings as Bay 2, and we have observed the Bay 4 shelters provide adequate space for riders.

Metro regularly evaluates issues with Metro bus shelters and makes decisions on the installation and removal of bus shelters, as ridership and circumstances change at bus stops. The plan to remove these two Metro shelters arose out of concerns raised by the West Seattle Junction Association (WSJA), and subsequent meetings between WSJA, Metro Transit Police, the Seattle Police Department, and others regarding security issues in the junction, including loitering, public inebriation, fights, illegal dumping, public urination, and harassment of Metro bus riders and others.  The removal of these shelters is one of several efforts in the Junction area that is attempting to address quality of life issues.

Removal of the two shelters at Bay 2 is one of several actions that WSJA and Metro are taking to improve security and maintenance at the Junction. Other efforts include:

  • Metro Transit Police have started a “Problem Solving Project” in partnership with the Seattle Police Department SW Precinct to deal with code of conduct and quality of life issues to improve safety and security for business and citizens using the junction
  • Possible additional lighting in the adjacent parking lots by WSJA
  • Tree and bush trimming by WSJA in the adjacent parking lots to improve visibility into the lots
  • Metro will increase custodial maintenance at the Junction bus stops from three times per week to five times per week.

Metro is looking forward to hearing further public comment and adjusting the proposal in ways that can both serve riders and improve public safety.