On back-to-back trips into downtown Seattle last week I experienced what Seattleites frequently see: Metro bus drivers turning into already-congested lanes, consequently blocking two intersections at once.
In one instance, about six light cycles passed and the bus didn’t move a foot.
I took photos of the incidents and sent them to Metro on Twitter, only to be dismissed by their social media person explaining that they inform bus drivers to follow traffic laws and that the policy hasn’t changed since I last asked about it.
If drivers are told to follow laws and they routinely don’t, it seems to me like the policy isn’t being followed. Metro officials don’t seem to care about the insane amounts of traffic these buses are causing by committing traffic violations.
So I announced on-air and on my Facebook page that I would be filing official complaints every time I witness this, triggering Metro’s internal policy to review and address the complaints. I instructed my audience to do exactly the same.
Why? I suspect that the complaints will go nowhere and nothing will be changed. I will be following up on every complaint via public disclosure requests. But maybe — just maybe — because we’re forcing Metro into so much work addressing these complaints, they’ll connect with the Seattle Department of Transportation to fix some of the issues they’re refusing to address.
Sure, it might just lead them to make more bus lanes, because that’s easier than getting drivers to obey the law. I’ll take that risk.
Metro drivers respond
Metro drivers are not happy with me. In fact, some went apoplectic, perhaps over the fear that they may get a complaint leveled against them for poor driving decisions.
When my post was shared on a Facebook page for urbanists and bus drivers, they flooded it with insults and complaints. One thing became clear: the problem is much worse than we thought. Indeed, the basic defense from these bus drivers (which list Metro Transit as their employer on their own Facebook pages): drivers violate traffic laws too, so why are you mad when we do it?
“Transit isn’t the problem it’s the selfish entitled single occupant driver unwilling to lower themselves to ride public transit jamming our streets,” whined Grand Bledsoe, a transit bus operator at King County Metro (according to his profile). “That’s the problem! Transit has to do what Transit has to do to get the job done. […] Get bent!”
You see, it’s car drivers who force bus drivers to break traffic laws. When drivers are forced into it, as I’ve written about previously, it’s their fault. When bus drivers are forced into it, it ’s also drivers’ faults. Got it.
“Calling out one transit operator who was working within the constraints created by the City of Seattle Department of Transportation seems to be a bit of bullying,” wrote George Shields, a Field Supervisor at King County Metro (according to his profile). “The bus was blocking the intersection while making a legal turn on its route because of traffic. Would you prefer the coach stay on Virginia until all traffic has cleared? Fine, that usually happens around 6:30 p.m. but keep in mind that if the coach stayed on Virginia without turning, it would cause a massive backup on Virginia.”
I’m asking drivers to be responsible while demanding some kind of accountability. Such a bullying tactic!
“We get it … you hate the bus,” said Tyler Christopher Kent, a transit operator with Metro (according to his Facebook). “So does everyone else. […] I’m just going out on a limb, and apologies if I’m wrong, is your plan to antagonize bus drivers because of a Department Of Transportation Issue? I’ve been stuck at that intersection before and there are times when you have to commit and go. By that logic, should I blame you when my radio goes fuzzy while I’m in a tunnel?”
I don’t cause the radio to go fuzzy, so no, I shouldn’t be blamed (also: download the KTTH app and you won’t have any reception problems). But a bus driver chooses to break the law here so yes, they should be blamed. I agree that sometimes you have to commit and go. But you also have to suffer the consequences when you do that and sometimes, as a consequence, you face a complaint.
“Hey jackass are you reporting every car who violates rules of the road as well??” asked Anna Burry, who found my post after an angry driver shared it. “Or is it just buses cuz they are so big?? Most times buses have to just go because If they don’t jackass like yourself who drive cars won’t let the bus in!!!”
She’s!!! So!!! Passionate!!! Yes!?!?
I’ve obviously struck a nerve and Metro drives are scared that they’ll be held to account. And they should be held to account. This behavior happens routinely. And to be fair, it’s not entirely their fault. SDOT is not able to adequately handle traffic. But the system is already in their favor and they’re given special treatment whereas drivers are not. If we have to follow the rules, so should they. I hope you’ll join me in documenting these cases and reporting them. I’ll do the follow up on your behalf. Learn more about what you can do to help by clicking here.