Dept. of Transportation
Metro Transit Division

King Street Center
201 S Jackson St
Seattle, WA 98104
Metro Online Home

A Tradition of Performance
2003 in Review

King County Metro Transit provides a variety of public transportation services to the 1.7 million residents of King County, and to the thousands of commuters and visitors who travel through the region on a daily basis. Metro�s mission is to provide the best possible public transportation services, while improving regional mobility and our quality of life in King County.

 Photo: Metro hybrid bus

Metro operates a fleet of about 1,300 buses, including diesel coaches, electric trolleys, dual-powered buses, hybrid diesel-electric coaches and transit vans. It also operates historic streetcars, and has provided demonstration water taxi service on Elliott Bay between West Seattle and the city�s downtown. In 2003, the fleet carried an annual ridership of more than 95 million within a 2,134-square-mile service area on more than 230 regular bus routes. Metro supplements this fully accessible bus service with its paratransit vans, providing more than 1 million passenger trips a year for people with disabilities who are unable to use regular buses.

Photo: Metro Vanpool The agency also operates the largest publicly owned vanpool program in the country � with more than 660 vans delivering almost 1.3 million passenger trips a year, removing approximately 4,500 vehicles from area roads during peak commute times each day. Commuters can use Metro�s regional Ridematch system to form and sustain new carpools and vanpools.

The agency operates an extensive network of transportation facilities, including:

  • 122 park-and-ride lots with almost 20,000 parking stalls.
  • 10 transit centers.
  • 9,500 bus stops with 1,500 bus shelters.
  • A 1.3-mile bus tunnel in downtown Seattle.
  • A 1.6 mile waterfront streetcar line.
  • 68 miles of overhead wire for electric trolleys, supported by 31 power-supply substations.
  • Seven transit operating bases.

In 2003, Metro Transit had 3,692 full and part-time employees, including approximately 2,700 bus drivers. The division had an annual operating budget of $387 million, received $78 million in operating revenue, and had capital expenditures of $113 million.

Recent Accomplishments

King County Metro celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2003 and is recognized as an industry leader in public transportation. Services, programs and facilities are designed to improve ease of use, access, and increase customer satisfaction. Over the past three decades, Metro has pioneered or refined dozens of ideas that have since been adopted by transit agencies nationwide.

In recent years, the transit division has been faced with changing operating and economic conditions. Metro staff have worked to carefully match its service changes in revenue, ridership and land use trends.

Photo: Buses Metro increased service by 145,162 hours between 1998 and 2003. During this time, much of the service investment was made to restructure the system to better connect key employment centers throughout the county. During this same time period, Sound Transit contracted with Metro for the operation of nine Sound Transit Regional Express routes in King County, adding more than 239,000 annual service hours to Metro�s operational responsibilities. By the beginning of the 21st Century, Metro Transit consistently ranked among the top 10 largest bus systems in the nation based on ridership.

Special event service has also grown in popularity. The division has provided transportation to events such as Seattle Mariners, University of Washington Husky football games, Seafair, and various fairs, festivals and concerts. Over the past five years, the agency has provided more than 3.4 million special event trips � which often turn one-time bus passengers into long-term Metro customers.

As service has increased and diversified, Metro has sought to make it more accessible for all customers. The number of park-and-ride spaces for commuters has increased every year through either leases or construction of new lots. Many of these lots have been designed to serve as transit centers to provide transfer points for passengers traveling to nearby destinations from other parts of the county. Several routes have been redesigned to travel through under-served areas, relieve overcrowding, and improve the frequency of service. Public-private partnerships have also formed to develop housing and retail space at Metro facilities to encourage transit use.

Metro was struck with a significant loss of revenues when Washington voters approved Initiative 695 in 1999. The action to cut the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) eliminated $106 million in annual revenue for Metro Transit, or about one-third of its total revenue.

This loss would have resulted in a reduction of service provided by the agency; however, King County voters responded by approving a .2 percent sales tax increase the following year that restored much of the lost MVET revenues. Staff reductions and a fare increase in 2001 also helped cover losses resulting from I-695.

Photo: Bus in intersection To improve speed and reliability of the system countywide, Metro has partnered with numerous cities on projects to synchronize traffic signals on transit corridors. Since 2001, King County has awarded $1.47 million to cities across the county to re-time approximately 300 traffic signals. Funding for the synchronization grants was made possible through the sales tax increase approved in November 2000.

Ridership has also increased through targeted efforts to promote the use of transit passes as a way to make travel as easy and seamless as possible. In 1991, Metro teamed up with the University of Washington to create the U-PASS program, part of the first university transportation management program in the nation. As the program celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2001, almost 75 percent of UW students, staff and faculty were taking the bus, biking, and carpooling or walking to the campus.

The success of U-PASS was the model for Metro�s Flexpass program, which is targeted at employers who subsidize their workers� commute costs. By the end of 2003, the Flexpass program was being used by 165 employers and 138,000 commuters. It was the first employer-based program of its kind in the nation.

In 1999, Metro, Sound Transit, Community Transit, Everett Transit and Pierce Transit started the �Puget Pass� program. For the first time, a customer could purchase one �regional� pass good for travel on several transportation systems and make inter-system transfers. The idea is now being expanded into a �smart card� system that will connect even more of the region�s transportation agencies with one fare medium.

Most of Metro�s transit fleet has been updated since 1996. Metro�s goal is to have vehicles that are efficient to operate and maintain, improve air quality and provide a comfortable ride for customers. Metro has retrofitted 100 of its 40-foot electric trolleys with updated drive systems and new coach bodies, converted its entire diesel fleet to Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel, and purchased its first easy boarding, low-floor buses.

Photo: Customer service counter Over the past decade, Metro Transit has increased its level of customer service several ways. The division expanded its pass sales distribution network to more than 120 retail outlets � plus initiated online sales � to improve convenience and access for customers. The agency has taken advantage of Internet capability to deliver information and service via the Metro Online website. The online Trip Planner provides customized, geographically based, door-to-door bus trip planning, bus schedules, routes and stops. Since its inception in 2001, it has grown to be the most visited location on the King County web site.

Metro has also been beefing up security. Driver security training and passenger information about security is ongoing and new security measures at facilities have been put in place in the wake of 9/11. It has also added officers to its Transit Police Unit, and installed cameras on dozens of coaches to promote driver and passenger safety.

2003 In Review

Significant accomplishments in 2003 included:

  • 30th Anniversary � Metro kicked off its 30th anniversary in January with a special day at the Museum of History and Industry. Customers were invited to share �Metro Memories� throughout the year.

    Photo: Access van

  • Access Revisions � The agency completed a massive three-year restructuring of its paratransit service to recertify all participants under new federal guidelines. Staff also worked hard to meet the stringent requirements of a new �zero denials� policy that resulted in delivering more than one million rides during 2003. Work was also started on the installation of mobile data terminals in all ACCESS vans.
  • Hybrid Buses � After extensive testing, Metro placed an order for 235 state-of-the-art hybrid diesel-electric buses to replace the aging fleet of dual powered buses operating in the downtown transit tunnel.
  • North End Route Restructuring � The bus network in North King County was redesigned to make it easier to get around in Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, and North Seattle. It included nine new routes with better east-west connections, improved local service, and more trips on high-ridership routes.
  • Park-and-Ride Construction � Work began on Metro�s first park-and-ride garage, a five-story facility in Eastgate. Construction also began for a new park-and-ride lot on Pacific Highway South, and planning was underway on expansion of several other lots.
  • Pass Sales Outlets � The number of retail outlets selling Metro passes almost doubled, as the QFC grocery store chain became the agency�s newest partner.
  • Substation Modernization � Metro�s Design and Construction and Power Distribution units put the finishing touches on a new electrical substation for the downtown routes that brought the trolleys� power transmission system into the 21st Century.

    Photo: Metro Online

  • Trip Planner � The Online Trip Planner became the most visited county website with 1.7 million visits in 2003. A new feature was added that allowed customers to create a customized schedule that can be downloaded to a laptop or PDA.

Looking Ahead

Since the loss of the MVET, Metro has become increasingly dependent on local sales tax, which has proven to be a less stable revenue source. As a result of the recent economic downturn and increasing costs � such as medical insurance and retirement benefits � Metro has had to scale back expansion plans. New service has been added by consolidating or eliminating non-productive routes. Vanpool services will still grow, although at a slower rate. Legally mandated paratransit service will also continue to grow.

The division will continue to improve environmental quality through programs supporting clean air, clean water, land use plans, and regional mobility. A second park-and-ride garage will be built at Issaquah Highlands. In the next three years, the division will also focus on upgrading and retrofitting the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to accommodate both buses and light rail.

Photo: Parked buses Metro plans to maintain, replace and upgrade facilities, equipment and systems based on anticipated use and available revenues. The transit division�s most pressing challenge will be to continue meeting increased demands for service with available resources.

2003 Division Summary
2003 Capital (CIP) total expended (includes debt service):  $113,437,973
2003 Operating total expended:  $387,944,535
Year-end Total Employees:  3692.26
Division Director:  Kevin Desmond

How Transit Is Funded
Sales Tax:  61%
Fares:  14%
Capital Grants:  12%
Sound Transit:  5%
Interest Income:  2%
Other Operations Revenue:  2%
Miscellaneous:  4%

Where Transit Money Goes
Bus Service:  63%
Public Transportation Fund CIP:  25%
Paratransit Service:  7%
Contracted Services:  4%
Vanpool Service:  1%

Updated: Dec. 2003