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King County Metro reduces service as it responds to the effects of the coronavirus

A directive from Public Health — Seattle & King County that requires people to wear face coverings in most public spaces,  including the bus , begins Monday.
Parker Miles Blohm
There were no passengers on this King County Metro bus Wednesday morning, March 11, 2020.

Reduced service on King County Metro Transit begins Monday as the agency responds to the effects of the coronavirus. Some routes have been suspended entirely while others are operating less frequently or during more limited hours.

Metro also suspended fare collection beginning Saturday and will direct riders to use the back doors to get on and off buses as a social distancing measure.

The reduced service is a response to decreasing ridership as more people stay home. One day last week saw a 60 percent decline in ridership compared to a similar day in 2019.

“This reduced schedule involves juggling a whole lot of priorities,” said Bill Bryant, Metro’s managing director for service development. “One of the top priorities was to retain service in areas where we are seeing less of a decline in ridership.”

For example, Bryant says the agency is working to maintain as much service as possible around hospitals in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood to serve both health care workers and patients who depend on buses.

The shift also will help build flexibility into the system, says Metro general manager Rob Gannon. He estimated the reduced schedule will mean 25 percent fewer buses and operators needed overall.

“This is our effort to make sure the workforce remains resilient and stays healthy,” Gannon said. “As we bring back service online, we want to be sure that the workforce is ready to do that with us.”

As of Friday, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Metro staff. Gannon also emphasized that the agency was not considering layoffs in the near future. But he said Metro was starting to see a slight increase in staff calling out sick.

Metro’s reduced service is expected to remain in effect through the end of the month and likely into April.

Sound Transit also is suspending fare collection and reducing service starting Monday. That agency saw a 69 percent decline in system ridership as of last week.

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A Seattle native and former KNKX intern, Simone Alicea spent four years as a producer and reporter at KNKX. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University and covered breaking news for the Chicago Sun-Times. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.