Access users tell Metro what is and isn’t working, share ideas

Español

In July, Metro invited Access Transportation riders and their caregivers to give us feedback about Access service. More than 800 people weighed in on how we’re doing, what’s most important to them, and how we might improve Access.

A detailed summary of the feedback we received is available on Metro’s website, but here’s a quick rundown.

Who we heard from

access-heardfrom-2015-englishVia online survey –

  • People all over King County (here’s a Google map showing the zip codes of responders).
  • Access customers (46%) and customer caregivers (21%); eligible customers and caregivers who have never used the service (6%); organizations that serve customers (16%); and people who have an interest in disability issues but do not use Access (11%).

Via nine stakeholder meetings – Hundreds of Access riders, professionals interested in the Access program, caregivers, and advocacy groups.

Via phone, e-mails, and letters – Nearly 100 people, the vast majority of whom were Access riders.

What we heard

access-wordle-englishWe asked questions about satisfaction with different aspects of Access, including service quality, call center/customer service, drivers, comfort and cleanliness of vehicles, and personal safety. We also asked for people’s overall opinions of Access. What is hard to reflect back are the countless stories we heard that capture the feedback we’ve summarized here and the urgency with which people feel improvements are needed. That being said, here are some of the main themes we heard:

What does Access do well and should keep doing?

  1. Access is very much needed and is appreciated by users. One person wrote, “Continue to provide service for people with disabilities and seniors in a professional manner with courtesy, skilled drivers, and call takers.”
  2. Access gives our customers freedom. One wrote that it provides “…the ability to get to places I wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to.”
  3. Keep training and hiring compassionate drivers. Customers notice the hard job drivers have and appreciate those who are caring and respectful of them.
  4. Keep hiring courteous, kind, and professional Call Center staff members. In general, people expressed high satisfaction with the staff and with the ability to call and speak with someone directly to schedule a trip and communicate about trip needs.

What does Access not do so well and should be changed?

  1. Ride scheduling and routing: being on the vans too long; driving all over to get from point A to point B, including sometimes past one customer’s drop-off location to pick up someone else; drivers depending on poorly functioning GPS and not empowered to make sensible adjustments in real time to respond to traffic. This was the most common concern we heard.
  2. Lack of service reliability: not arriving on time; arriving too early or too late; long waits for rides to arrive.
  3. Poor or no communication about arrival time or at pickup. It’s especially stressful when there’s a problem and dispatch can’t be reached.
  4. Inflexibility for riders: cancellation policy issues; one customer wrote, “If I have to rearrange my schedule, adjust my trips or give up on waiting for Access to get to work on time, I am punished; but Access can be late as much as they want and I have to deal with the consequences.”
  5. Inconsistency of driver quality, call center: many commendations and high satisfaction with drivers, especially the experienced ones, but we have work to do with the less-experienced drivers; more training is needed; communication and cross-cultural issues were raised by riders whose drivers are English language learners.

Customer ideas for improvement

  • Use different scheduling and routing technology.
  • Offer more flexibility and adaptability to drivers to respond to real-time travel needs of passengers; improved GPS technology could help.
  • Provide the ability to make reservations using different technology and communicate more effectively in real time about trips. An online reservation system would be great, or text/app confirmations of pickup or drop-off times; tracking of each van; providing drivers with pictures of passengers they are picking up.
  • Offer more flexibility in scheduling and changing trips. High interest in same-day reservations; desire to make reservations further in advance and be able to make trip adjustments in real-time if needs change.
  • Better follow-up on complaints and questions. Have an independent team handle complaints; improve tracking so people don’t get passed around to different places and have to re-tell their stories.
  • Value staff members. Incentivize and reward excellent drivers and Call Center staff; use feedback to improve performance of those who aren’t providing good customer service.
  • Offer different forms of payment. Better integrate ORCA with Access and be able to have fare deducted from ORCA cards, pay with credit cards, or have a fee that doesn’t involve change.
  • Provide more opportunities for customer input.

access-glance-2015-englishNext steps

Watch this space for information about how we are responding to this feedback and opportunities to provide additional feedback. Our next phase of engagement will take place later this winter, when we’ll seek feedback how we did at responding to what we heard.

To learn more, visit metro.kingcounty.gov/programs-projects/access-transportation or contact DeAnna Martin, community relations planner, at 206-477-3835 or deanna.martin@kingcounty.gov.

Carpooling to park-and-rides? You can get a free permit for reserved parking

kirkland-pr

Park-and-rides are a great way to access transit from the suburbs and areas that lack frequent transit service. As demand for transit grows, many of Metro’s park-and-rides are already full or nearly full by early morning. At some park-and-rides, you might not find a space if you don’t arrive by 6:30 a.m.

Metro wants to make it easier for those who regularly use park-and-rides and who also are interested in carpooling. Starting February 1, some parking spaces at Metro park-and-rides will be reserved until 8:30 a.m. each morning for groups of two or more who regularly ride the bus, or use park-and-rides to meet a vanpool or other carpool.

All they have to do is obtain a free Carpool Parking Permit. Those permits are now available through Republic Parking Northwest, and customers are encouraged to obtain them early. More information can be found at Metro’s Permit Parking website.

“Metro is committed to developing innovative solutions that better serve our customers,” Metro General Manager Rob Gannon said. “This pilot program offers regular transit users more convenience as demand increases at park-and-rides.”

pr-permit-sign

Starting Feb. 1, six Metro park-and-rides will have reserved spaces until 8:30 a.m. for groups of two or more who carpool to catch the bus and display a free permit. Metro’s Daniel Rowe shows an example of new parking signs that will identify those spaces.

When park-and-rides fill up so early, many commuters — such as shift workers and working parents who have to drop off kids at daycare — are unfairly disadvantaged.

“Commuters who carpool to these busy park-and-rides now can have certainty they can find a parking space,” said Transportation Planner Daniel Rowe, who is managing the program. “That makes transit more accessible, and it does so without having to build more parking spaces at additional expense to taxpayers.”

Most park-and-ride spaces still will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The number of reserved parking spaces will be based on the number of permits issued per location.

The program will be tested at six of the busiest park-and-rides in King County, including Redmond, Issaquah Highlands, South Kirkland, South Renton, Northgate and Eastgate. Metro’s program was designed to be integrated with Sound Transit’s new carpool permit program, which also offers permits at nine additional area park-and-rides.

Frequently asked questions

How do I obtain a permit?

Applicants must provide basic contact information, ORCA card numbers, vanpool ID, or RideshareOnline.com email for each member of the carpool. Permits are free.

Regular transit use is not initially required to obtain a permit, but at least two carpool permit-holders must average three days a transit ridership per week (12 days per month) to stay qualified. Permits can be obtained through Republic Parking Northwest, and must be renewed monthly.

Metro also is aware that customers are increasingly having to deal with those who don’t follow park-and-ride rules. In February, Metro will step up enforcement for violations, with a focus on trouble spots at the Redmond, Northgate and Eastgate park-and-rides.

Drivers who park in reserved spaces without a permit will be subject to three warnings – subsequent violations will result in having the vehicle towed.

If you have questions about permit eligibility, applications and payments call Republic Parking Northwest at 206-783-4144, extension 0. More information can be found at Metro’s Permit Parking website.

Why is Metro offering carpool permits?

Of the 54 permanent park-and-rides Metro operates, half are at 80 percent capacity or higher, and some fill up completely before the morning commute ends. In addition to being inconvenient, the “first-come-first-served” system now in place is unfair for people with later work, school or appointment schedules.

In response to increased demand, Metro is currently exploring a range of options to both manage and expand parking supply. One way to do this is to encourage people to carpool to the park-and-ride. In February 2017, we are launching a pilot program at six of our busiest park and rides that will offer free carpool parking permits to regular transit riders.

 

Are Metro carpool parking permits free?

Yes. This pilot carpool parking program we plan to launch in February is strictly voluntary, and the permits for carpool users are free. Our partner agency Sound Transit also offers carpool permits and reserved parking for $5 per month.

What’s the perk for permit holders?

In return for signing up, carpool permit holders will have reserved parking until 8:30 a.m., after which time the stalls will be available for all transit riders.

How long will the pilot program operate?

The pilot program will last for one year. At that point, permit holders and riders will be able to share their feedback about what worked well, and what could be improved.

Is Sound Transit also offering carpool permits? How is Metro’s program different? 

Sound Transit kicked off a carpool parking program last fall at nine area park-and-rides after completing its own public outreach campaign and pilot program. Metro’s program was designed to be integrated with Sound Transit’s new carpool permit program, but Metro’s carpool parking permits will be free of charge. Sound Transit’s permits cost $5 per month.

If people can’t find parking, shouldn’t they just get to the park-and-ride earlier?

Flexible work schedules aren’t an option for everyone, and many Metro customers work in a variety of occupations with schedules that don’t conform to a typical 8-to-5 business day. Those who don’t work outside the home still depend on transit to get to classes, job interviews or appointments. Making sure all riders have access to consistent service level, including parking availability, is a priority.

 What if people obtain permits and don’t carpool?

At least two carpool permit-holders must average three days a transit ridership per week (12 days per month) to stay qualified. Permits can be obtained through Republic Parking Northwest, and must be renewed monthly. Metro staff will review information to make sure permit holders meet the eligibility requirements, and revoke permits for those who no longer qualify.

Will Metro start charging for carpool permits? Or require paid parking for all riders?

Metro has no plans at this time for a paid parking system. Any changes in these plans would involve discussion with a number of local governments and other stakeholders, and we would also give transit customers an opportunity to be part of this process.

Ride Metro to Seahawks Saturday game

The Seahawks play the Arizona Cardinals Dec. 24 for a rare Saturday game, and Metro has options for fans headed to CenturyLink Field who want to avoid driving in holiday traffic. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:25 p.m.

0914transitnflstar033Visit Metro Online or Metro’s online Trip Planner to find your options for riding transit to and from the game . When planning your trip, check Metro’s Service Advisories page to find out about any known revisions to your routes.

Nearly all regularly scheduled transit service – including Sound Transit Link light rail and the First Hill Streetcar – that serves downtown Seattle also travels to or near CenturyLink Field and is a great way to get to Seahawks games and other stadium events.

Seahawks Shuttle

Metro also operates Seahawks shuttles, which serve the Eastgate park-and-ride, Northgate Transit Center, and South Kirkland park-and-ride and travel nonstop to CenturyLink Field. Metro’s park-and-ride shuttles leave parking areas two hours prior to kick off time and as they fill, with the last bus leaving about 30 minutes before kickoff. Fans who miss the shuttles can ride regularly scheduled service from the same locations to get to the game.

A cash-only, exact fare of $4 one way or $8 round trip per person is required on the shuttles. No ORCA cards, passes or transfers are accepted.  A valid regular fare is required on all other regularly scheduled Metro service. All pre-game shuttles arrive near CenturyLink Field on Fifth Avenue South at South Weller Street.

After the game, shuttle buses returning non-stop to Eastgate and South Kirkland leave from southbound on Fifth Avenue South at South Weller Street, and the Northgate shuttle leaves northbound on Fifth Avenue South from just north of South Weller Street. The last bus leaves 45 minutes after the end of the game.

For information about regular transit service to games, or to plan other trips, visit Metro Online or Metro’s online Trip Planner. When planning your trip, check Metro’s Service Advisories page to find out about any known revisions to your routes.

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.

Ride transit to Sounders victory celebration – but plan for downtown street closures

Congratulations to the Seattle Sounders FC on their 2016 MLS Cup championship! Now it’s time for all of Seattle to celebrate during a victory march Tuesday (Dec. 13)  through downtown, followed by a rally at Seattle Center.

Thousands of people are expected to attend. The march is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. at Westlake Center from Fourth Avenue and Pine Street and travel north before turning right on Cedar Street, and then north on Fifth Avenue before stopping at Seattle Center.

A rally is expected to follow from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

sounders_frie

Sounders FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei is greeted as the team arrived Sunday at King County International Airport/Boeing Field. 

Fans can ride transit to and from the parade, either by Metro, Link light rail or Sounder train. But plan ahead, and make sure to leave early, as several streets, including Fourth Avenue, will be closed during the march. Metro will reroute buses from Fourth Avenue once the street is closed to traffic. Specific route information is posted on Metro’s Service Advisories page.

Metro urges all transit riders Tuesday morning to plan ahead and prepare for possible delays. Riders also can sign up for Transit Alerts to get the most current information before you travel. to get the most current information before you travel. Information is available via text, email, tweets  @kcmetrobus, RSS via desktop or the mobile RSS reader.

Any transit service that travels to or through downtown Seattle will get fans close to the event. Returning downtown from Seattle Center, transit riders can ride the Seattle Center Monorail, or any bus southbound on Queen Anne, Fifth, Dexter, or Westlake Avenues. Again, expect crowds and likely delays.

For those traveling by light rail, Sound Transit will operate extra 3-car trains to accommodate crowds. Fans from South King County can return home via midday Sounder train service to Lakewood, which departs King Street Station at 2:32 p.m. Tuesday’s train will have four cars instead of the usual 2-car train.

 

Metro and Seattle DOT team up to ease Route 8 traffic choke points

Route 8 riders can look forward to more-reliable service starting in 2017.

That’s when Metro and the Seattle Department of Transportation are scheduled to begin work on a number of traffic and parking revisions from Lower Queen Anne to Capitol Hill that will help keep Route 8 on schedule.

Plans include more green time for traffic signals at Denny Way and Fifth and Sixth avenues, and left-turn restrictions at several intersections to avoid traffic tie-ups that slow everyone down.

The most significant change will convert the center westbound lane of Denny Way between Stewart Street and Fairview Avenue into an eastbound bus-only lane. This measure alone will cut Route 8 travel time by about 60 seconds, with minimal impact on traffic according to our traffic studies.route8_map_blog

On Capitol Hill, on-street parking will be restricted on short sections of Denny Way, Olive Way, East John Street, and East Thomas Street. Also in the works are two expanded bus stops on Olive Way and East John Street so buses don’t have to leave and re-enter heavy traffic, and to provide more space and amenities for waiting passengers.

Many of these improvements will help traffic flow a little more smoothly for everyone, a win-win for both transit riders and motorists.

Metro received grants from the Federal Transit Administration to fund the improvements. The funds will cover SDOT’s costs to design and make the improvements, and also Metro’s costs to add new shelters, benches, and better lighting at bus stops from Denny Way and Second Avenue to 15th Avenue East on Capitol Hill.

To reduce construction impacts, Metro and Seattle are working to coordinate improvements with nearby projects such as the Denny Way Substation Project at Fairview Avenue.

Route 8 serves an estimated 10,000 riders a day, connecting people in Lower Queen Anne, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, Madison Valley, Judkins Park, and Mount Baker to the Capitol Hill and in Mount Baker Link light rail stations as well as major employment hubs like South Lake Union.

Though reliability increased when Route 8 was divided into two separate routes in March 2016, late buses are still a problem, especially during rush hour and major events at the Seattle Center.

The project improvements will be made in phases during 2017 and 2018.

RapidRide D Line gets extra bus trip to cover growing student ridership

Metro is always monitoring bus routes for reliability and frequency. Starting Dec. 1, Metro added an extra afternoon bus trip to the Rapidrapidride_d_scheduleRide D Line through Ballard to alleviate overcrowding as increasing numbers of students from Ballard High School ride the bus home.

Over the last few months, we heard from riders and operators about an increase in high school students boarding the D Line buses after the school bell rings. Metro has been using a standby bus on some days, which are placed along the route to fill gaps in service, typically when traffic is bad or buses are getting crowded.

Metro has now assigned the standby bus permanently. It enters service at 3:16 p.m., heading southbound from 15th Avenue Northwest and Northwest 85th Street to help cover the overflow near the high school and continue service to downtown.

The D Line is the second busiest of Metro’s six RapidRide routes and continues growing strong since it was extended to Pioneer Square. In October, the D Line hauled an average of more than 15,000 passengers every day. That’s a 22 percent increase over its ridership in October 2015.

The extra trip is an example of little changes Metro makes when possible to respond to concerns and emerging challenges. Twice a year, Metro also unveils big system-wide service changes — in March and September — to improve the frequency, reliability and access of our bus routes.

Veterans ride free to 6th annual ‘Seattle Stand Down’

King County Metro Transit is offering free rides to veterans attending the 6th Annual Seattle Stand Down on December 1-2 at South Seattle College’s Georgetown campusseattle_standdown_pass

The Seattle Stand Down event connects homeless and at-risk veterans with local resources and services. Representatives from businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions, and all levels of government are brought together at one location to provide housing assistance, case management referrals, employment opportunities, legal aid, medical screenings, eye exams, dental services, haircuts, personal hygiene items, and meals.

Representatives from ORCA LIFT, the reduced-fare transit card, and ORCA to Go, which provides information and sales of regular-fare ORCA cards, will be on-site both days.

Veterans traveling to or from the two-day event can ride free by showing one of the following forms of ID:

  • Veteran Health Identification Card
  • Uniformed Identification Card
  • DD-214

Veterans also can obtain a special two-sided free bus pass (pictured above) by contacting Hopelink at llink@hopelink.org or visiting one of the following service providers:

Metro bus routes that travel to or near the campus include routes 60, 124, 131 and 154.
Route 154 is peak-only service.   For additional information about transit
service, visit Metro Online or Metro’s Puget Sound Trip Planner, or call Metro’s Customer
Information line at 206-553-3000.

The Seattle Stand Down will open for registration at 7 a.m .on Thursday, December 1. Services will be available from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. On Friday, December 2, registration will begin at 7 a.m. with services available from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

More information is available at www.theseattlestanddown.org.

 

 

Northgate Transit Center Park & Ride Changes

As early as December 5, 2016, crews will begin building a new driveway for the Northgate Park & Ride (west) on NE 103rd Street, adjacent to First Ave NE. Driveway construction is expected to take two days to complete, weather permitting. This driveway is needed to accommodate the next phase of Sound Transit’s construction changes coming to the Northgate Transit Center Park & Ride.

In this new configuration, drivers will enter the Northgate Park & Ride (west) from the driveway on NE 103rd Street and exit from the driveway on NE 100th Street.

Upcoming construction of the Northgate light rail station will occupy additional space in the Northgate Park & Ride (west) as indicated on the map. Fencing will go up as early as December 7 around the middle section of the west lot. To replace the loss of those stalls a new replacement park-and-ride will open on the west side of First Ave NE between NE 100th and 103rd Streets. This new, North Seattle Park & Ride, has 102 new stalls and is expected to open as early as December 5, 2016.

Northgate Park & Ride Changes Mapphase-2-change-map

For more information:

Visit http://www.soundtransit.org/northgatestation/northgate-transit-center-park-and-ride

Contact Andrea Burnett, Sound Transit Community Outreach at 206-398-5300 or andrea.burnett@soundtransit.org

For issues that need immediate attention after normal business hours, call Sound Transit’s 24-hour construction hotline at 888-298-2395

multilingual-text