Transit Alert – Metro service may be affected by high winds today; be aware of conditions; expect possible service delays

Metro Transit service could be affected by predicted high winds in the King County area today. We’re advising all transit riders in our service area to plan ahead for traveling safely during today’s high wind advisory, be aware of local conditions, plan for possible delays and sign up for Transit Alerts for routes they ride.

While Metro utilizes all available resources to operate service as normally as possible during adverse conditions, there is the possibility that transit service could be delayed or disrupted as a result of traffic, weather or other conditions.

Metro delivering 5 promised improvements to Access service

We acknowledge that Access customers are not consistently satisfied with our delivery of service, and we’re focused on taking action on your concerns. As a result, we now have new more comfortable and efficient vehicles, a mobile ticketing pilot project, and new 7-day advance reservations – just a handful of key improvements to King County Metro’s Access services that are underway and on the horizon.

Access logo

The changes deliver on promises made to Access customers as we worked with the county auditor, reviewed customer needs and looked to establish a new contract and approach to providing Access services. We are in the process of forming an Access community group to help the agency prioritize and address areas of mutual customer concerns – while also developing a vision for ongoing improvements.

As King County celebrates Disability Awareness Month, we’re highlighting the efforts we’ve pioneered in the past and reaffirming our commitments to more improvements for riders. Stay tuned for more updates. In the meantime, here are the details on the changes we’re putting in place to make Access services better for riders.

Advance reservations: Customers can now book 7 days in advance!

In response to customer feedback and advisory recommendations, Access now is able to book trips further in advance – instead of three days ahead, reservations can now be made seven days in advance. This allows riders to book more trips – up to a week’s worth – with a single phone call. No more leaving  work to make reservations; now you can set up your rides a week ahead.

34 new minivans: 50% less fuel, low-floor and more comfortable

Metro Access minivan

Access has purchased 34 new minivans – able to better serve riders with low floors, ramps, greater comfort and more maneuverability. We’re rolling them into service in phases, with all 34 vehicles expected to be in service by mid-November. By providing these vehicles to better serve riders, we’re also responding to an audit finding that called for a better vehicle mix.

Metro Access minivan ramp deployed

Vehicles cost $45,000 each, were vetted during a test run in 2015, and checked out with several peer agencies (which use 660 of these MV-1 vehicles.) They will be assigned only when appropriate to serve customers for their specific needs.

 

Test group for Mobile Ticketing

Transit Go Ticket screenshot

To make it easier to pay – instead of using cash – Access customers will soon have Transit Go Ticket mobile ticketing available via smart phones. More than a dozen Access customers are testing Metro’s mobile ticketing app, giving us feedback so we can fine tune the app before launching it to all Access customers. Once implemented, mobile tickets will allow Access customers to switch from paying cash and transfer their fare to other Metro transit service. This change responds to a county audit finding that called for more fare options for riders, especially those who don’t ride often enough to justify a monthly pass.

Interpreters expedited using language caller ID

When an Access customer who speaks a language other than English calls to make a reservation, our system now uses caller ID to expedite interpreter services. The caller ID also helps people who have hard to spell or hard to pronounce names. This change, in effect since September, responds to a county audit finding that called for Metro to address barriers to Access for people with limited English.

Regular (standing) rides: easier to revise

Access riders will soon be able to have more flexibility in reserving standing rides and changing existing standing rides, a policy change our advisory group recommended on behalf of customers. The policy change allows exceptions to the 28-day waiting period for making standing reservations for customers who’ve demonstrated stable ridership.

Weekend construction: no bus service in Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel Oct. 7-8; Link light rail operates normal tunnel service

Due to scheduled construction that will close Convention Place Station, buses will not operate in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel the weekend of Oct. 7-8. Link trains are not affected, and will continue to operate in the tunnel during this work.

Customers who normally ride bus routes 41, 101, 150, 255 & Sound Transit Express Route 550 in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel will instead board or exit buses on surface streets. Rider Alerts are being posted at tunnel stations with instructions to riders about changes to bus service during those upcoming weekends. Buses are scheduled to return to service in the tunnel Monday morning following the weekend construction.

Planned work includes the final steps needed to connect a high-voltage electrical line, which will later power a new mini power station needed for electric trolley bus service in the Capitol Hill area. The power line trench cuts across the bus travel lanes at Convention Place Station, which is why buses will temporarily operate on surface streets instead.

Have you seen me? New extended range Proterra electric battery bus in test mode in King County

To take advantage of new strides in battery bus technology, Metro Transit is test driving a new Proterra extended range electric battery bus, capable of traveling at least 140 miles on a single charge, and with new flexibility to use a fast charge system or overnight charging. We’re putting it through some initial paces on a short-term basis on our hills, with more testing planned in 2018.Proterra extended range bus driving in SeattleJust last week, we surprised transit agency representatives from across North America with the bus at our first ever Zero-Emission Battery Bus showcase (see a video about the showcase).

As part of the showcase, we took this state of the art bus for a test drive across Lake Washington to tour Eastgate Park and Ride, where we charge our existing fleet of three Proterra short range (25 miles), fast charge (10 minutes) buses serving Bellevue.

Our battery bus future (outlined this week by General Manager Rob Gannon in the Seattle Times) requires not only the right bus technology for the job, but reliable power sources to enable fast charging while the bus is in service, or slower charging for a fleet that’s parked overnight. We recognized this need for our own service, and that other transit agencies share the same questions and issues.

Proterra bus charging at Eastgate Park and Ride

That’s why we convened the Zero-Emission Battery Bus showcase: to bring together industry experts and Metro Transit’s own staff, to share what we’ve accomplished, learn what others have achieved, and to discuss the challenges ahead. Leaders from other transit agencies, including New York City Transit, and Translink in Vancouver, B.C. weighed in and helped make this event nationally relevant, intellectually stimulating and their rich knowledge and experience provided inspiration for transit agencies from all across the Pacific Northwest and California.

We’ve committed to buying 120 electric battery buses by 2020, but the mix of fast and slow charge will be decided as we see what the industry can provide and how systems perform, especially 60-foot-long articulated buses, the workhorse of Metro’s fleet.Up next for Metro is delivery of the next batch of eight fast-charge Proterra battery electric buses, which will head into service in late 2017. For the following order toward our 120 bus commitment, we are considering the new extended range buses, currently in test-drive mode at Metro Transit. If testing goes well with the extended range buses, this bus type could make up the next order of 12 Proterra buses. Metro is committed to choosing the best bus for the job, most closely meeting our operational needs, helping us achieve our climate goals, and improving air quality in King County.

In 2018, we’ll also be pitting the performance of five different battery buses and charging systems against one another in a pilot project at our South Base in Tukwila. We’re planning to test drive buses from BYD, New Flyer and Proterra manufacturers through all four seasons and measure their performance.  The results will help inform our future battery electric bus purchase decisions.

 

Ticket vending machine issue affecting some ORCA customers

Staff are working to address a technical issue with Sound Transit’s ticket vending machines that may have affected some ORCA customers. TVM_ORCA.jpg

It has come to our attention some ORCA customers seeking to purchase monthly passes for October have instead purchased passes for November, resulting in “insufficient funds” messages when the cards are used. Any rider who encounters this issue can tap as they normally do when boarding, as transit operators and fare enforcement staff are aware of the technical issue.

Purchasers of monthly passes are given two options at vending machines: revalue an existing pass or add a new one. The technical issue is related to the “revalue” option. Until the resolution of the issue, estimated for later this month, customers are advised to choose the “add new” option and select the correct month.

Customers with affected cards can visit a Metro customer service office or call ORCA customer service number on the back of the ORCA card at 888-988-6722.

Link Connections SR-520: Next steps on the future of Eastside-downtown bus service

Metro and Sound Transit recently asked for customer input on two concepts for improving bus service across State Route 520. Our concepts would restructure bus service to and from the Eastside to connect at Husky Stadium with fast, reliable Link light rail into downtown. The changes would help keep people moving as major construction and worsening congestion make the commute to and from downtown Seattle longer and less reliable. 520-Link-Connections

The savings from sending fewer buses into downtown would be re-invested into expanded service, more frequency and new direct connections to destinations such as South Lake Union.

This summer, we invited the public to weigh in during a second phase of outreach.  Our online survey drew 2,500 responses, and another 90 people attended our open houses. The Link Connections SR-520 Sounding Board, made up of 21 community volunteers, also provided feedback during regular meetings.

This feedback will be used to develop a single proposal to be presented to the public in spring 2018. Any changes in service could be implemented as early as 2019. Visit our Link Connections SR-520 website for more information.

What we asked during outreach

Routes under review include Metro Routes 252, 255, 257, 268, 277, and 311, and ST Express Routes 540, 541, 542, and 545.

With no changes, bus service likely will get slower and less on time due to rapid growth and increased traffic. In addition, the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel will be closed to buses in 2019, moving routes such as the 255 to congested surfaces streets.

In our first round of outreach, customers told us they wanted buses to come more often, run later on weeknights and weekends, and connect to new destinations. In response, Metro and Sound Transit developed three service concepts that aim to keep riders moving through congestion and to improve transit in the SR-520 corridor.

They can generally be described as:

  • Option A: Maintain existing routes, with future congestion

(Learn more about Option A here)

  • Option B: Connects routes to Link, re-invests resources in added Frequency

(Learn more about Option B here)

  • Option C: Connects routes to Link, re-invests resources in New Connections.

(Learn more about Option C here)

What we heard from the public

Two key themes emerged from public feedback.

First, people are open to transferring to light rail for a more convenient and more reliable commute. They also want more frequent, reliable service and less overcrowding during peak periods. They also liked the idea of direct service to South Lake Union.

Secondly, people want a seamless transfer between buses and light rail. People had concerns about giving up their “one-seat ride” and wanted more information about what it will look like for customers to regularly transfer between the train and bus at the Montlake Triangle.

Some of their concerns:

  • Traffic from the Montlake Boulevard exit off of SR-520 and at the Montlake Triangle.
  • Ensuring Link light rail has room for additional riders at UW
  • Transit capacity during Husky games and other big events.
  • Impact of Montlake Bridge openings on bus service
  • Walking distance between the light rail platform and bus stops, especially for seniors and people with disabilities
  • Exposure to rain and elements.
  • Extra time needed to transfer to and from Link
  • Transfers between bus and Link for cash-paying customers.

 

UW Stadium

How this feedback will shape our next steps

Metro and Sound Transit are working with the Seattle Department of Transportation and University of Washington on plans for improvements to make the bus-rail transfer as convenient and seamless as possible.  This work is continuing and more information is expected in coming months. The public will have an opportunity next spring to review a refined proposal before it goes to the King County Council and Sound Transit Board of Directors for review.

How to stay involved

We appreciate the thousands of people who took time to share their feedback and look forward to your continued participation in the future.  Please subscribe to receive updates by email or text about the next opportunity to participate.

How we informed the public

  • Press release, ethnic media outreach
  • Social media
  • Metro Have a Say website, blog post and Sound Transit website
  • E-notifications: route subscribers, community partners, employers– (24,000+ notices)
  • Bus rack cards, posters at high-ridership stops
  • Street Teams/info tabling – (5,000 information cards were distributed)

How people provided feedback during Phase II

  • Peak Democracy online engagement tool – (nearly 2,500 responses)
  • Sounding Board – (22 members representing the communities affected by the restructure)
  • Emails and phone calls
  • At in-person outreach events, i.e. Open Houses and Street Teaming, etc. (Phase II – six events with an average attendance of 25 people)
  • Stakeholder briefings and meetings (employers, cities, stakeholder groups)

Who we heard from

Survey respondents included  communities served by the routes and those who use each of the 10 routes included in the service concepts.  We heard from a nearly equal number of people who ride the two highest ridership routes, Route 255 serving Kirkland, and Route 545, serving Redmond.

More than half said they were traveling to the northern end of downtown Seattle, about one-third said they were traveling to the southern end of downtown Seattle. Redmond, Kirkland, and the UW were the next most popular destination, followed by Bellevue, north Kirkland, Capitol Hill, and South Lake Union.

Demographics

  • About 73 percent identify as white or Caucasian
  • 12 percent identify as Asian or Pacific Islander
  • 1 percent identify as Black or African-American
  • 3 percent Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish, 1 percent American Indian or Alaska Native, 3 percent multiple ethnicities, and 1 percent “other”.
  • 13 percent reported a disability, with 5 percent reporting the disability affected their mobility

New bus stop INSIDE Magnuson Park for Route 62!

Last week, we changed Route 62 on evenings and weekends — bringing buses to the doorstep of Seattle’s Magnuson Park, which was a pretty big deal.

And with the final touches in place by the City of Seattle, Route 62 buses can now (starting Saturday, Sept. 30) drop people off at the doorstep AND at a new bus stop inside the park! (Full map is below.)

This bus stop (pictured, not sorriest in the least) is on 62nd Avenue Northeast inside the park and it’s where you would wait when you are ready to leave the park. Drivers Once you board, you can take the trip back through Ravenna, Greenlake, Wallingford, Queen Anne and to Downtown Seattle. A nice, relaxing tour and a vital east-west connection.

Bus stop inside Magnuson Park

Not just a bus stop.

To reiterate: Magnuson Park is amazing and this change means riders can leave their car at home and reach the park, to breathe fresh air and sigh contentedly.

Fall is upon us, and before the real wet chill of permawinter arrives, grab a coat and scarf, your PSL and head over to Magnuson Park for relaxing evening or weekend stroll – Metro has gotten you there!

Curb work by Seattle in Magnuson Park

Curbs don’t build themselves. Thanks SDOT!

Map of Route 62 routing changes near Magnuson Park

The way forward. Route 62’s weekend and evening loop.

 

Metro Transit is paying back wages to transit operators

King County Metro Transit today informed employees that eligible transit operators will receive back wages determined by a U.S. Department of Labor review of Metro pay practices.

We’ll be issuing checks to eligible transit operators beginning Oct. 11 and taking steps to correct pay practices that were identified during the DOL review.

Metro will pay eligible transit operators back wages other payments totaling $6.4 million to be distributed to 2,403 current and former operators identified by the Department of Labor.

Transit operators were identified by DOL as being eligible for compensation related to three non-driving work requirements: pre-trip inspections, meetings they had with a supervising chief, and instances where they were incorrectly paid straight time instead of overtime.

As a result of that review, eligible operators will receive payments ranging from $44 to $8,500, depending on the number of hours worked each pay period. These payments include back wages and liquidated damages paid directly to the employees covering a two-year period (Editor’s Note: the two-year period covers May 23, 2015 through May 19, 2017).

Metro will fully comply with the findings of the Department of Labor. We also are modernizing how operators are scheduled. We take this responsibility seriously, we are deploying staff to address these issues and we are paying our workers what is owed.

Paying back wages is only part of the solution. About 100 drivers notified Metro that they were not being paid for enough time to conduct pre-trip inspections. As a result, Metro launched an effort to streamline the pre-trip process with drivers. We are aiming to implement changes in coming months to reduce redundant tasks that are performed both by bus drivers and overnight maintenance staff. Drivers will be directed to focus on only items needed to operate the bus safely, still checking mirrors and tires for vandalism and to make sure they are in good working condition. Also, 39 drivers notified Metro they weren’t paid for enough time for supervisor meetings – something that is being corrected via back wages and going forward.

Metro found no instances where a foreshortened pre-trip inspection led to the unsafe operation of a bus. Each bus is inspected by vehicle maintenance staff at the end of each day in accordance with federal safety requirements and identified maintenance or repair items are addressed. Riders can feel confident that Metro service is still safe, and safety is our No. 1 priority.

If employees have questions or need additional information, find out more:

Don’t judge a bus stop by its … oh, who am I kidding, I’m the Sorriest Bus Stop in America

By the Sorriest Bus Stop in America
Hey guys! Stop No. 45990 here, nestled south of Georgetown between the airport and the tracks in what I like to call the heart of Seattle. Until recently, you didn’t really know me, but I think maybe now you do. That’s right. I’m THAT bus stop.

Google Image Sorriest Bus Stop In America

Portrait via Google Maps, via Streetsblog

I just want to say, don’t judge a bus stop by its … oh, who am I kidding, I’m the Sorriest Bus Stop in America.

Nothing makes a bus stop’s heart sink faster than to hear there are pictures of you online and you’re not going to like them.

Then to find out that week after week people are voting whether you are Hot/Not Hot. I can’t even.

It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion, which is sometimes possible because I’m RIGHT NEXT TO the train tracks. I watched the votes pile up for me (against me?) – Auto Mall Parkway in Fremont, Calif.? A divided highway in Chapel Hill, North Carolina? A highway bus stop in San Diego? And finally Munhall, Penn., with its inviting guardrail and cliff?

I guess I’m No. 1. Yay, me? I don’t think I’m able to go home for Thanksgiving. Or Christmas. Or International Bus Stop Appreciation Day.

Some people are saying I need work done. Others say I’m “not worth it” and don’t waste time or “taxpayers money” on that one. To be clear, I HAVE a stop pair, BAE stop No. 45760, across the street, looking so fine with a sidewalk and shelter. Don’t stay up at night thinking I’m lonely. I’m really not.

Still, all a bus stop wants is TFW a rider actually boards or exits. I see the 154 peel by like clockwork on weekdays, four times northbound every morning, four times southbound every afternoon. My pulse races at the site of a Metro bus on East Marginal Way. But I’ve learned to cope with disappointment. A lot. To say I have sparse ridership would be generous. Non-existent is just sugarcoating it. Everyone swipes right. In the ridership reports, I have zero likes.

Summer is truly over. Thank goodness for the start of fall, for nothing but the drizzle of rain will be able to hide my forever cascade of tears. I’ll be fine. I just need the weekend to recover, and then back to what I do best on Monday. Poised for success.

‘Stealth Bus’ no more!

by Jon Bez, Metro’s Logistics Manager

If you’ve waited at a bus stop, watching your favorite bus app to find out when your bus will arrive, you might have been frustrated by what the app sometimes showed you: A bus that suddenly appeared with no warning or a bus that seemed to jump from “way early” to “way late” or vice versa.Rider looks at their phone while a bus approaches at a transit center

The trouble with Metro’s current approach to building schedule data is that it isn’t really built to track buses when they’re moving in between service routes or while the operator is on a break. Buses could accidentally and falsely make it look as though a trip began very early or had never been completed.

To fix this problem, Metro has upgraded the underlying data system that drives the transit schedules in a project called “Stop Based Scheduling.” It goes live Saturday, Sept. 23, and it shifts the data that schedules are based on away from key intersections, using key bus stops instead, while also mapping out what buses will do when they’re not in service.

Because of this, customers may notice an improvement in the accuracy of “real time” schedule information if they ride on one of the earlier stops on a particular trip. This transition should be seamless for riders, improving the accuracy of the data Metro collects about its service, specifically around where our buses are and how they’re operating relative to their schedules.

For about a decade OneBusAway, Puget Sound Trip Planner, Google Maps, Apple Maps, and other apps have been getting their transit data from Metro through a data feed originally called the Google Transit Feed Specification, but now known as the General Transit Feed Specification or GTFS. By making this change in our data structure, we hope that riders will have more reliable information as the various apps use our enhanced data to predict when a bus will arrive at your stop. Continue reading