King County Metro needs drivers, trips being canceled

Aug 4, 2016, 11:11 AM | Updated: 1:54 pm
King County budget...
King County Executive Dow Constantine revealed his two-year budget Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. In it are increases in spending for area transit. (King County Metro)
(King County Metro)

Aaron Mason catches a King County Metro bus from Alki Beach every morning to get to work at the KIRO Radio offices in Eastlake. But this week his bus didn’t come. He brushed it off, initially, but then it happened again — the very next day.

“I usually have no complaints, but for two days in a row it didn’t show up and the dozen or so people waiting had to catch the next bus at 8:26 a.m. which made all of us late,” Mason said.

“I was late to work both days,” he said, noting that fortunately on those days it didn’t set him back much. “Some people are not so fortunate.”

Why the Seattle Police Department has not difficulty hiring new officers

He may not have realized it at the time, but Mason was among others in the region who have been left scratching their heads after a bus hasn’t come. King County Metro is a bit short on drivers — by a couple hundred — and when that shortage conflicts with bus schedules, trips get canceled. Metro is trying to catch up to driver levels, but in the meantime people like Mason are on the roadside.

Mason checked the King County Metro Twitter page to see if he missed any announcements about canceled runs. He couldn’t find any, yet there were others commenting online about buses not showing up.

“Their answer was, basically, ‘We don’t have enough drivers,'” Mason said.

Others in the area have expressed their frustrations, just like a Violent Femmes song, as their precious time kept slipping past. And in fact, it’s happened to me, too, in North Seattle. I recently waited at a stop after a bus failed to show, wondering what was going on, checking various transit apps. I didn’t think too much of it at the time and just caught the next ride.

King County Metro driver shortage

According to Jeff Switzer with King County Metro, there are a variety of reasons a specific trip on a bus line will be canceled — such as having no driver available. Canceled trips are “primarily a temporary and intermittent challenge during peak commute times when we need the most drivers,” Switzer said.

The Metro bus policy is in place to avoid cancelling the first and last trips on a route and to avoid cancelling the same trip multiple days in a row. Metro recommends riders sign up for email and text message alerts. Switzer also notes the Puget Sound Trip Planner app can be helpful finding arrival times and cancellations.

But trip cancellations are merely symptoms of a larger issue — Metro needs bus drivers. The operation currently has about 2,700 drivers. But it’s short by a couple hundred needed to keep all routes fully running. The transit operation put off hiring more drivers around 2014 when funding was tight. After voters approved Proposition 1, more funding became available and Metro is now engaged in an effort to hire more drivers — to make up for those it didn’t hire before, and to cover the more than 100 drivers likely to retire over the next few years.

“A current snapshot: We are working to hire more than 50 operators to operate the current schedule levels,” Switzer said. “An estimated range of 200 additional new drivers are needed annually to also address attrition, retirements, promotions, transfers — such as drivers becoming rail operators for streetcar or Link Light rail.”

A new Metro bus driver starts as a part-time employee. Training takes about five weeks for that part-time driver. Then it takes up to three weeks of training for them to be promoted to full-time. Part-time drivers generally work commute times, and full-time drivers work all-day service routes. When a driver is out due to illness, or training, or another reason, Metro pulls from a pool of standby operators qualified to drive the buses. But that pool is sometimes dry and in turn, trips get canceled.

Metro has an online application for interested drivers.

Local News

Washington state forest...
Dalton Day

Washington state to preserve, reseed two million acres of forest by 2040

The state Department of Natural Resources makes a substantial investment in its forests, pledging to preserve or restore 2 million acres of trees by 2040.
17 hours ago
homeless encampments...
Dalton Day

King County Council rejects attempt to remove public homeless encampments

King County Council ahs rejected a motion to codify procedure for removal of homeless encampments in unincorporated King county.
17 hours ago
Charleena Lyles...
MyNorthwest Staff

Seattle agrees to settlement in Charleena Lyles wrongful death lawsuit

The City of Seattle will pay a $3.5 million settlement to the family of Charleena Lyles, a Black woman who was shot and killed by Seattle police in 2017.
17 hours ago
charity, giving...
MyNorthwest Staff

Secretary of State warns Washingtonians about giving to fake charities

While it's the season for charitable giving, it's also the season for scammers. The secretary of state's office has tips to help protect your donations.
17 hours ago
Tacoma police, South King County...
MyNorthwest Staff

South King County mayors demand action from state to end rash of violence

Multiple mayors in South King County are banding together to combat a violent trend after seven people were shot in four days. 
17 hours ago
Seattle election...
Nick Bowman

How wealthy strongholds helped deliver Seattle’s 2021 election to moderate candidates

Seattle's moderate candidates prevailed in the 2021 election on the strength of wealthy neighborhoods along its eastern and western coastlines.
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
King County Metro needs drivers, trips being canceled