The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Monday, March 10, 2008

King County Metro FAQ

Metro Transit, or Metro for short, is the public transit authority of King County, Washington, a division of the King County Department of Transportation. It began operations on January 1, 1973, but can trace its roots to Seattle Transit, founded in 1939, and Overlake Transit Service, founded in 1927. As of 2004, it operated 1,363 buses on 235 routes. Its annual ridership in 2003 was 100 million, making it the ninth largest bus operator in the nation


Metro was established in 1972 as a combination of Seattle Transit and suburban authorities. The agency was independent until 1994, when a popular vote merged it with King County government. In 1968, 1970, and 1995, voters rejected heavy or light rail systems. Today, Metro operates bus service in partnership with Sound Transit, which was established by a 1996 vote to provide regional bus and rail service. Both the 1995 and 1996 measures were a result of the Regional Transit Authority, now popularly known as Sound Transit.

Metro Buses in Seattle, Washington



Metro and four other transit organizations in the Puget Sound region use the same type of monthly passes, which can be issued in various configurations.

Metro and four other transit organizations in the Puget Sound region use the same type of monthly passes, which can be issued in various configurations.

Metro combines service patterns typical of city and suburban bus networks. The city network, descended in large part from the Seattle Transit system of converted streetcar routes, is arranged in a hub-and-spoke pattern centered on downtown Seattle, with lesser amounts of crosstown service. Routes in the city network are numbered from 1 to 79, with special late-night "Owl" routes in the 80s and the waterfront streetcar and its replacement coach numbered 99. Because of the scattershot evolution of the system, there is no easily discernible pattern to the route numbers, although there are clusters in certain neighborhoods: for example, the 65, 66, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, and 79 all run through the University District.

The in-city routes with the highest ridership are the 7, traveling from downtown Seattle through the International District and Rainier Valley; the 36, traveling from downtown Seattle through the International District to Beacon Hill; the 43 and 49 (the latter of which was formerly the northern portion of route 7), traveling through Capitol Hill to the University District; the 44, a crosstown route connecting the University District and Ballard; the 48, a very long crosstown route connecting most parts of east and north Seattle to the Central District and Rainier Beach, and the 3 and 4, connecting downtown to Queen Anne, First Hill, the Central District, and Madrona. However, because of the bus-only nature of the system, there are many other heavily used routes.

The suburban system is more numerically organized. Roughly speaking, areas south of the city from Burien and Des Moines through Renton and Maple Valley are served by routes numbered from 101 to 197. Areas east of the city from Renton to Bothell are served by routes numbered from 200 to 291. Areas north of the city from Bothell to Shoreline are served by routes numbered from 301 to 373. Numbers in the 400s and, for the most part, the 800s, are reserved for Community Transit (Snohomish County) commuter routes serving Seattle; numbers in the 500s are used by Sound Transit's Regional Express system, save for Pierce Transit's routes 500 (Federal Way-Tacoma) and 501 (Federal Way-Milton-Tacoma). 600 series routes are general "express" routes that are used for special purposes (the 630, for example, is intended to service the Kingsgate Park and Ride from Bellevue until construction adjacent to the park and ride is complete)as well as the Olympia Express Lines operated by Pierce Transit and Intercity Transit, and 900 series routes are reserved for Dial-a-Ride services and for routes serving outlying areas such as Duvall and Carnation.

Special routes numbered 206-208 and 885-890 are used by Metro to serve Bellevue School District students and special coaches are dispatched around the region to serve as special shuttles for local events, including Seattle Mariners baseball games, Seattle Seahawks football games, and other special events.

Major all-day Metro routes in the suburbs include the 120, connecting Seattle and Burien; the 174 and 194, connecting Seattle, Sea-Tac Airport, and Federal Way; the 150, connecting Seattle, Southcenter and Kent (The Kent to Auburn portion was replaced by the new route 180); the 101 and 106 between Seattle and Renton; the 255, connecting Seattle and Kirkland; the 240, connecting Renton and Bellevue; the 230 and 253, connecting Bellevue, Crossroads, and Redmond; the 271, connecting Issaquah, Bellevue, and the University District; the 347 and 348, connecting Northgate and North City; and the 358, operating up Aurora Avenue N. to Shoreline.

Ride Free Zone

To reduce delays, a portion of downtown Seattle is a ride free zone, where fares are not collected between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. The ride free area extends from the north at Battery St. to S. Jackson St. on the south, and east at 6th Avenue to the waterfront on the west. The waterfront streetcar (Metro Route 99) and Metro routes 116, 118 and 119 are not included in the Ride Free area. Between 7 PM and 6 AM, bicycles are only allowed to be loaded or unloaded at a route's first and last ride free stop. This is a safety policy to reduce the potential of too many cyclists being between buses in heavy downtown traffic.

Metro Bases

Trolley buses parked at Metro Transit's Atlantic Base on Easter Day, 2007

Trolley buses parked at Metro Transit's Atlantic Base on Easter Day, 2007

Metro operates out of seven bases spread throughout its 2,134-square-mile operating area: Atlantic, Ryerson, Central (1333 Airport Way S, Seattle), East (1975 124 Ave NE, Bellevue), Bellevue, South (12100 E. Marginal Way S, Tukwila), and North. Atlantic, Central, and Ryerson Bases are located close together near Safeco Field south of downtown Seattle. East and Bellevue bases are located in north Bellevue. South Base is in Tukwila; the innovative North Base, built mostly underground in 1989, is in Shoreline. The South and East transit facilities finished an ADA retrofit in 2001. Atlantic Base is unique in that it only serves ETBs. South Base is the largest base, with over 500 operators. South Base is located across the street from the Training Center, a facility where operator training, new equipment qualifications, and retraining take place. Bus Tunnel

A major Metro operations facility is the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, or DSTT. The DSTT, a 1.3-mile-long, five-station tunnel through the center of downtown Seattle, was completed in 1990 at a cost of $444 million. Planned from the outset to be convertible to light rail operation, the tunnel was outfitted with rails and overhead trolley wire. A fleet of 235 dual-propulsion buses were produced by Breda of Italy, powered by electric traction in the tunnel, and diesel on city streets. Mode changes occurred at the north and south portals. The tunnel suffered some significant problems in operation, as the Breda buses proved overweight and unreliable. The original plan to have up to 600 dual-powered buses using the tunnel never materialized; the 235 Breda buses were the primary buses to use the tunnel until Metro acquired its hybrid fleet in 2005. The tunnel was closed in 2005 to replace the rails, lower the track bed for modern ADA-compliant light rail cars, and complete a stub tunnel for a future LINK light rail extension to the north. The tunnel finished its retrofit and returned to service on September 24, 2007. The tunnel is served by routes 41, 71, 72, 73, 74, 101, 106, 150, 174, 194, 212, 217, 225, 229, 255, 256, 301, and 550. Several routes that formerly served the tunnel will remain on surface streets including the 177, 190, 196, 266, 306, and 312. Reasons for the changes to tunnel routes include the lower bus volumes possible in the tunnel due to light rail service and a desire to increase the number of trips serving the tunnel in the midday hours


Significant projects include a regional smart card initiative, and the exploration of Bus rapid transit or BRT in several corridors throughout the county.

Introduced in April 2006 was Metro's proposed "Transit Now" initiative which was approved by the voters of King county later that year. The initiative will increase Metro's bus service by 20 percent over the next ten years through the addition of a one-tenth percent sales tax increase. The proposal focuses on establishing improving current service, adding service to the county's growing outlying regions, service partnerships with large employers, and the establishment of 5 BRT corridors dubbed "Rapid Ride," as follows:

  1. Aurora Avenue North. This line would run from King Street Station downtown to the Aurora Transit Center in Shoreline
  2. West Seattle. The line would run from West Seattle over the West Seattle Bridge, the SODO Busway and into Downtown through the Transit Tunnel, potentially reaching the University of Washington in the future.
  3. Ballard. The line would also run from King Street Station to Ballard via 15th Ave. West and Elliot Ave. West.
  4. Bellevue to Redmond.
  5. Federal Way to Sea-Tac. This line would connect with Sound Transit Central Link light rail beginning in 2009.

All lines would use new, low-floor, branded buses to set them off from traditional routes. Stops would be combined to increase speed and reliability and create "stations" more akin to what is found on rapid transit lines. Some form of off-bus fare collection would be considered.

Information technology

Collaborating with several local jurisdictions, Metro was also an early experimenter with transit signal priority (TSP), a system to extend green lights to allow buses to get through. The system can boost average speeds as much as 10%, and is in use on several of the city's busiest corridors, including Aurora Avenue N., Rainier Avenue S., and Lake City Way N.E. Metro lacks a smart card fare collection and automated stop announcements.In 1998 the fleet was updated with a Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system that utilizes battery-powered beacons located at some stops. Metro is currently in the process of replacing the system as part of a system-wide radio update.Metro does use Traffic Signal Priority along some major arterials, utilizing a specialized radio system.The extent of Metro's intelligent transportation systems (ITS) available for customers has been limited to two projects: an early project by the University of Washington utilized the tracking data to provide real-time bus information. This is now hosted by Metro under the name Tracker. Google Maps now provides more extensive trip planning using schedule data as part of their Google Transit service.A pilot project provided bus information displays along a city arterial. Metro discontinued the project in 2005, citing the cost of maintenance and technical problems.


Metro operates one of the largest bus-only fleets in the country (discounting its short waterfront streetcar, which is temporarily out of service). Bus-only operation results in some interesting operating characteristics of the Metro fleet, most notably a high concentration of articulated buses—over a third of the total and the largest articulated fleet in North America. Metro's use of articulated coaches dates back to 1978, when it was the first large agency in the country to adopt the technology. The other two-thirds are made up of mostly Gillig Phantom coaches: 395 40-foot (3200-3594), 15 35-foot (3185-3199; the latter two, 3198 and 3199, are used for special/disabled services), and 95 30-foot (1100-1194) buses. The 100 low-floor 40 foots (3600-3699) were built by New Flyer and are used mostly on routes within the Seattle city limits.

A Gillig Phantom trolley in Seattle.

A Gillig Phantom trolley in Seattle.

Metro also maintains a large fleet of electric trolley buses (ETBs). The ETBs prove useful both as zero-emission vehicles, and as vehicles well adapted to Seattle's hilly terrain. Until 2005, this was the largest ETB fleet in the country, including 236 dual-mode Breda "tunnel buses." In 2002, Metro replaced its 100 AMG trolleys with new Gillig Phantom shells. The drive train of the AMG coaches was retained with new electronics, saving approximately $200,000 per coach. Metro is now rebuilding 59 of the now retired Breda dual-mode coaches, converting them to electric-only operation and refurbishing them to replace aging MAN articulated ETBs. The rebuild includes new Kiepe current collection equipment, new interior upholstery, a completely new driver's compartment, and new ADA-compliant signage.

The agency pioneered technologies in widespread use today. In 1979, the AMG trolleys were ordered with some of the first wheelchair lifts in the nation, promising a completely new level of independence for disabled residents. Early lifts were severely flawed, but by the mid 1980s the lifts were generally reliable and were ordered on all new buses. With the retirement of the 1400-series buses in 1999, the entire fleet became wheelchair-accessible—again, the first fleet its size to do so. Strangely, the agency was reluctant to adopt low-floor buses, not buying any until 2003.

Metro operates the largest fleet of articulated hybrid buses in the country, the fleet of 214 New Flyer DE60LFs it purchased to replace the Bredas. (Sound Transit bought an additional 21 similar buses.) Metro's hybrids were purchased to run in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, where they will operate together with light rail vehicles beginning in 2009. In the tunnel, the hybrid buses use electric traction to 15 mph; after 15 mph, traction is a combination of electric and diesel, operating in a quieter, low-emission mode. On May 16, 2007, Metro awarded its biggest contract ever to New Flyer for the purchase of 715 more 60-foot hybrid buses.[4]

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducted a one-year comparative study between conventional diesel and GM hybrid-powered buses operating on a typical King County drive cycle. Results showed that the GM-hybrid powered buses lowered fuel consumption by 23%; NOxby 18%; carbon monoxide (CO) by 60%; and total hydrocarbon (THC) by 56% when compared to conventional diesel buses.

In addition, like Golden Gate Transit and SamTrans in the Bay Area of California (and unlike most transit agencies), almost all of Metro's fleet has highback non-reclining seating as opposed to lowback seating that is used by most other transit agencies on local routes. These buses operate on both local and express routes.

Source Wiki

The articles are posted solely for educational purposes to raise awareness of transportation issues. I claim no authorship, nor do I profit from this website. Where known, all original authors and/or source publisher have been noted in the post. As this is a knowledge base, rather than a blog, I have reproduced the articles in full to allow for complete reader understanding and allow for comprehensive text searching...see custom google search engine at the top of the page. If you have concerns about the inclusion of a specific article, please email for a speedy resolution.