An ongoing shortage of bus operators and maintenance staff will mean reduced bus service this fall on Capitol Hill and across the city.
Meanwhile, like nearly all corners of the economy, the public transit industry is looking at solutions to bring workers back into the fold and keep them that could take years to play out.
King County Metro’s announced fall 2022 service changes include reductions in the number of runs on nearly 60 routes while only one — Route 303 connecting Northwest Seattle to a circuit through First Hill — will see an increase in the number of added trips.
Metro operates around 160 routes, meaning around 60% won’t be reduced.
They typical cuts include around two to four daily weekday trips “deleted to address workforce shortages.”
“The adjusted schedules improve reliability while also prioritizing service where needs and demand are greatest,” Metro says of the rebalancing.
The fall update follows changes in spring that saw Metro increasing service on many routes thanks to Seattle’s Frequent Transit Network funded through the Seattle Transit Measure in which the city subsidizes added Metro services for priority areas.
Last October, Metro restored 36 routes that had been on hiatus during the pandemic.
Metro has said it is facing ongoing staffing issues familiar to businesses and organizations across the country. “Minor service reductions are temporarily in place due to ongoing workforce shortages, which Metro is working to address by hiring, training and promoting transit operators,” it said earlier this year.
Industry analysis shows that while pay and benefits are important, other factors including improved safety and working conditions are also critical — changes that will likely take long-term efforts to address.
For now, Metro says further service restorations will be revisited once its workforce levels “stabilize.”
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If anyone hasn’t read “Anger and heartbreak on Bus No. 15”, I found it to be a great case study ethnographic article around why fewer people may be interested in driving bus routes anymore in US cities.
No doubt. I watched a young couple become verbally abusive to a driver on the No. 8 in a response to his request that they better secure at bicycle. When he ordered them off the bus, they took his picture and made a huge stink about how they would report him to Metro. Given the language, I wouldn’t have wanted his job either.