Dept. of Transportation
Metro Transit Division

King Street Center
201 S. Jackson St
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 553-3000

Planning Future Transit

Strategic Plan for Public Transportation 2011-2021

Metro is proud to present its Strategic Plan for Public Transportation 2011-2021. This plan describes a vision for the future of King County's public transportation system and sets objectives, goals, and strategies for getting there. It focuses on the results Metro intends to achieve: outstanding performance, financial sustainability, transparency and accountability to the public, and excellent service.

The 2011-2021 plan replaces Metro's Comprehensive Plan for Public Transportation and the 2007-2016 Strategic Plan for Public Transportation.


Plan Development

The Strategic Plan for Public Transportation 2011-2021 is the first substantial update to Metro’s Strategic Plan since the 2002-2007 Metro Six-Year Development Plan. The 2011-2021 plan builds on two major planning efforts that were completed in 2010.

King County’s Strategic Plan, 2010–2014

This plan was developed under the leadership of Executive Dow Constantine and is a key tool in his work to reform county government. It focuses on customer service, partnerships, and ways to bring down the cost of government. Metro’s strategic plan guides work on portions of the county plan that involve public transportation.

The Regional Transit Task Force

The Task Force was convened to recommend a new policy framework to guide the county’s transit system. Its members represented many different perspectives and parts of King County. Metro drew on the task force’s recommendations as it prepared its strategic plan.

Metro's Vision for Public Transportation

Metro provides safe, efficient and reliable public transportation that people find easy to use. The agency offers a cost-effective mix of products and services, tailored to specific market needs. Its fixed-route bus system meets most public transportation needs, particularly in areas of concentrated economic activity or urban development and along the corridors that link them. Metro also offers alternative public transportation options for people who cannot use the fixed-route system. No matter what community they live in or whether they have special needs because of age, disability or income, people can use public transportation throughout King County.

Expanded and improved products and services make public transportation attractive to a growing segment of the population and public transportation ridership and use increases as a result. With more and more people switching from single-occupant cars to buses, carpools and other alternative transportation options, roadways are more efficient—carrying more people and goods and moving them faster. Less land is paved for parking, and the region can reduce its reliance on highway expansion.

Public transportation is contributing to a better quality of life in the Puget Sound region. The local economy is thriving because transit has kept the region moving. Public health is improving because people are walking, biking, and using transit more. Emissions from transportation have leveled off and are starting to decline, and Metro is using new technologies to reduce its energy consumption.

The public is engaged with Metro—informed about its plans and performance and a big part of the decision-making process. Customers find the public transportation experience to be positive at every stage, from trip planning to arrival at a destination. People understand how to use Metro's products and services, and are happy with the variety of transportation options available.

Metro has quality employees who enjoy their jobs. Their satisfaction shows in their good work ethic and responsiveness to customers.

Metro is financially stable—able to sustain its products and services in both the short and long term by emphasizing productivity and efficiency and by controlling costs. Metro receives sufficient funding to fulfill the public's expectations for service and the region's vision for a robust public transportation system.

Summary of Goals, Objectives, Strategies and Performance Measures

Goal 1 Safety: Support safe communities


Keep people safe and secure.

Outcome: Metro's services and facilities are safe and secure.


  • Promote safety and security in public transportation operations and facilities.
  • Plan for and execute regional emergency response and homeland security efforts.

Performance Measures

  • Preventable accidents
  • Operator and passenger incidents and assaults
  • Customer satisfaction regarding safety and security
  • Effectiveness of emergency responses

Goal 2 Human Potential: Provide equitable opportunities for people from all areas of King County to access the public transportation system.


Provide public transportation products and services that add value throughout King County and that facilitate access to jobs, education and other destinations.

Outcome: More people throughout King County have access to public transportation products and services.


  • Design and offer a variety of public transportation products and services appropriate to different markets and mobility needs.
  • Provide travel opportunities for historically disadvantaged populations, such as low-income people, students, youth, seniors, people of color, people with disabilities, and others with limited transportation options.
  • Provide products and services that are designed to provide geographic value in all parts of King County.

Performance Measures

  • Population with 1/4-mile walk access to a transit stop or 2-mile drive to a park-and-ride
  • % low-income population within 1/4-mile walk access to transit
  • % minority population within 1/4-mile walk access to transit
  • Accessible bus stops
  • Transit mode share by market
  • Student and reduced-fare permits and usage
  • Access applicants who undertake fixed-route travel training
  • Access boardings
  • Access registrants
  • Requested Access trips compared to those provided
  • Number of trips provided by the Jobs Access and Reverse Commute and Community Access Transportation programs
  • Title VI compliance
  • % population at 15 dwelling units per acre within 1/4-mile walk access of frequent service

Goal 3 Economic Growth and Built Environment: Encourage vibrant, economically thriving and sustainable communities.


Support a strong, diverse, sustainable economy.

Outcome: Public transportation products and services are available throughout King County and are well-utilized in centers and areas of concentrated economic activity.


  • Through investments and partnerships with regional organizations, local jurisdictions and the private sector, provide alternatives to driving alone that connect people to jobs, education and other destinations essential to King County's economic vitality.
  • Partner with employers to make public transportation products and services more affordable and convenient for employees.


Address the growing need for transportation services and facilities throughout the county.

Outcome: More people have access to and regularly use public transportation products and services in King County.


  • Expand services to accommodate the region's growing population and serve new transit markets.
    Coordinate and develop services and facilities with other providers to create an integrated and efficient regional transportation system.
  • Work with transit partners, WSDOT and others to manage park-and-ride capacity needs.


Support compact, healthy communities.
Outcome: More people regularly use public transportation products and services along corridors with compact development.


  • Encourage land uses, policies, and development that lead to communities that transit can serve efficiently and effectively.
  • Support bicycle and pedestrian access to jobs, services and the transit system.


Support economic development by using existing transportation infrastructure efficiently and effectively.

Outcome: Regional investments in major highway capacity projects and parking requirements are complemented by high transit service levels in congested corridors and centers.


  • Serve centers and other areas of concentrated activity, consistent with Transportation 2040.

Performance Measures

  • Transit rides per capita
  • Effectiveness of partnerships
  • Park-and-ride utilization
  • Peak mode share at Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) sites
  • Employer-sponsored passes and usage
  • % population at 15 dwelling units per acre within 1/4-mile walk access of frequent service
  • All public transportation ridership in King County (rail, bus, paratransit, rideshare)
  • Centers ridership
  • Bike rack use

Goal 4 Environmental Sustainability: Safeguard and enhance King County's natural resources and environment.


Help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the region.

Outcome: People drive single-occupant vehicles less.


  • Increase the proportion of travel in King County that is provided by public transportation products and services.


Minimize Metro's environmental footprint.

Outcome: Metro's environmental footprint is reduced (normalized against service growth).


  • Operate vehicles and adopt technology that has the least impact on the environment and maximizes long-term sustainability.
  • Incorporate sustainable design, construction, operating and maintenance practices.

Performance Measures

  • Per capita vehicle miles traveled (VMT)
  • Transit mode share
  • Public transportation energy use per passenger mile
  • Average miles per gallon of the Metro bus fleet
  • Energy use at Metro facilities

Goal 5 Service Excellence: Establish a culture of customer service and deliver services that are responsive to community needs


Improve satisfaction with Metro's products and services and the way they are delivered.

Outcome: People are more satisfied with Metro products and services.


  • Provide service that is easy to understand and use.
  • Emphasize customer service in transit operations and workforce training.
  • Improve transit speed and reliability.


Improve public awareness of Metro's products and services

Outcome: People understand how to use Metro's products and services and use them more often.


  • Use available tools, new technologies, and new methods to improve communication with customers.
  • Promote Metro products and services to existing and potential customers.

Performance Measures

  • Conformance with King County policy on communications accessibility and translation to other languages
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer complaints
  • On-time performance by time of day
  • Load factor
  • Utilization of Metro web tools
  • One Regional Card for All (ORCA) usage

Goal 6 Financial Stewardship: Exercise sound financial management and build Metro's long term sustainability.


Emphasize planning and delivery of productive service.

Outcome: Service productivity improves.


  • Manage the transit system through service guidelines and performance measures.


Control costs.

Outcome: Metro costs grow at or below the rate of inflation.


  • Continually explore and implement cost efficiencies.
  • Provide and maintain capital assets to support efficient and effective service delivery.
  • Develop and implement alternative public transportation services and delivery strategies.


Seek to establish a sustainable funding structure to support short- and long-term public transportation needs.

Outcome: Adequate funding to support King County's short- and long-term public transportation needs.


  • Secure long-term stable funding.
  • Establish fare structures and fare levels that are simple to understand, aligned with other service providers, and that meet revenue targets established by Metro's fund management policies.
  • Establish fund management policies that ensure stability through a variety of economic conditions.

Performance Measures

  • Boardings per platform hour
  • Passenger miles per platform mile
  • Access boardings
  • Commuter van boardings
  • Cost per boarding
  • Cost per hour
  • Service hours operated
  • Asset condition assessment
  • Base capacity level of service
  • Fare revenues
  • Farebox recovery
  • Fare parity with other providers in the region
  • Fully allocated costs
  • Operational and cost efficiency indicators
  • Service hours and service hour change per route
  • Ridership and ridership change per route

Goal 7 Public Engagement and Transparency: Promote robust public engagement that informs, involves, and empowers people and communities.


Empower people to play an active role in shaping Metro's products and services.

Outcome: The public plays a role and is engaged in the development of public transportation.


  • Engage the public in the planning process and improve customer outreach.


Increase customer and public access to understandable, accurate and transparent information.

Outcome: Metro provides information that people use to access and comment on the planning process and reports.


  • Communicate service change concepts, the decision-making process, and public transportation information in language that is accessible and easy to understand.
  • Explore innovative ways to report to and inform the public.

Performance Measures

  • Public participation rates
  • Customer satisfaction regarding their role in Metro's planning process
  • Customer satisfaction regarding Metro's communications and reporting

Goal 8 Quality Workforce: Develop and empower Metro's most valuable asset, its employees.


Attract and recruit quality employees.

Outcome: Metro is satisfied with the quality of its workforce.


  • Market Metro as an employer of choice and cultivate a diverse and highly skilled applicant pool.
  • Promote equity, social justice and transparency in hiring and recruiting activities.


Empower and retain efficient, effective, and productive employees.

Outcome: Metro's employees are satisfied with their jobs and feel their work contributes to an improved quality of life in King County.


  • Build leadership and promote professional skills.
  • Recognize employees for outstanding performance, excellent customer service, innovation and strategic thinking.
  • Provide training opportunities that enable employees to reach their full potential.

Performance Measures

  • Demographics of Metro employees
  • Employee job satisfaction
  • Promotion rate
  • Probationary pass rate
  • Training opportunities provided
  • Trainings completed
  • Employee performance

View & Download the Plan

Strategic Plan for Public Transportation 2011-2021

The strategic plan and service guidelines were updated in 2013.

Download a PDF version

Individual sections:


For more information, contact the supervisor of Strategic Planning and Analysis: Christina O’Claire, 206-477-5801

Service Guidelines

The Service Guidelines are an important part of Metro's strategic plan. Metro revises bus service three times each year, and we use the guidelines as we develop proposals to reduce, add, or change service. The County's Regional Transit Task Force recommended that Metro develop the service guidelines to make our planning objective, transparent to the public, and aligned with our region's goals for public transportation.

The guidelines help us make the best use of Metro's resources, providing service where it's needed most. They help us make bus service reliable and not too crowded. And they help us make sure that we serve areas with many low-income and minority residents who may depend on transit, and that we meet public transportation needs throughout the county.

Here is a summary of the service guidelines and how we use them:

Setting target service levels for the transit system

Each year, we evaluate all corridors where Metro provides transit service to determine what type and frequency of service they should have. We do this in three steps:

First, we ask:

  • Are there many jobs and households nearby?
  • Does this area have relatively high percentages of low-income or minority residents?
  • Does this transit corridor get people to centers of employment or other activity?

We assign each corridor a preliminary level of service based on the answers in this first step.

Second, we look at the actual number of transit users in each corridor and increase the service level if necessary to meet the actual demand.

Third, we evaluate any peak-period service Metro provides on the corridors. Peak service is provided for three to four hours each morning and afternoon, and is less efficient than all-day service because it carries riders in only one direction. The guidelines say we should provide peak service on the corridor if it travels at least 20 percent faster than the local alternative and is well-used compared to the alternative local service.

Based on this three-step process we set target service levels for all corridors in Metro's system. The possible service levels are very frequent, frequent, local (a moderate level), and hourly, as well as peak service. These levels of service are assigned for three periods of the day — peak, off-peak and night — for weekdays and weekends. We are not always able to provide the ideal levels of service, but we work toward the targets.

Managing performance of individual bus routes

We also assess each Metro bus route's performance, using two performance measures:

  1. Rides per service hour: the total rides per hour that a bus provides from the time it leaves its base until it returns
  2. Passenger miles per bus mile: the sum of miles traveled by all passengers per mile the bus operates from its base until it returns

We also use objective guidelines to identify routes that are often crowded or late.

We consider reducing service on routes performing in the bottom 25 percent and reinvesting this service in other routes where it is needed to reduce crowding or improve on-time performance. In addition to reinvesting service hours, we consider solutions such as assigning bigger buses to reduce crowding.

Restructuring service

The guidelines define when Metro should consider restructuring multiple routes in an area. These circumstances are:

  • Metro or Sound Transit starts a major new service such as a RapidRide line.
  • Transit service doesn't reflect changed travel patterns or transit demand.
  • Transit services overlap.
  • Service doesn't match ridership.
  • A major transportation change takes place, such as the start of SR-520 bridge tolling.
  • A major development or land-use change takes place.

Designing service

The following are guidelines we use when we design or revise service:

  • Make transfers easy.
  • Serve multiple destinations and travel needs.
  • Provide simple and useful service.
  • Reduce duplication, coordinate schedules, and space routes well.
  • Create direct routes.
  • Space stops to balance access to the route with the delay that a stop creates for all riders.
  • Design routes to be long enough to provide useful connections, but not so long that reliability is poor.
  • Provide service with right-sized vehicle for the streets and number of riders.
  • Route buses primarily on arterials.
  • End routes at places that fit needs for parking the bus and giving drivers access to a restroom.
  • Provide service mainly through fixed routes, but offer demand-responsive service in some circumstances.
  • Put bus shelters where most riders gather, or where it makes sense because of special considerations.


The service guidelines set priorities for adding or reducing service. The following is a summary of the priorities:

Add service in this order –

  1. To reduce overcrowding
  2. To improve on-time performance
  3. To approach target service levels
  4. To improve service on routes with high performance (based on rides per service hour and on passenger-miles per bus mile)

Reduce service in this order, while always considering social equity –

  1. Reduce service on routes with performance in the bottom 25 percent of comparable routes.
  2. Restructure service to improve efficiency.
  3. Reduce service on routes with performance between 25 and 50 percent among comparable routes.
  4. Reduce service on routes with low performance that are on corridors below their target service levels.

When reducing services based on performance, Metro seeks to reduce all-day routes that duplicate or overlap with other routes, to reduce peak routes failing one or both performance criteria, or to reduce routes that operate on corridors above their target service level. Where this is not possible, Metro will reduce services on routes that operate on corridors at their target service levels.

The public's role

When Metro develops new service or restructures existing service, we conduct extensive public outreach. We share our initial suggestions with the community and gather ideas through public meetings, questionnaires and other opportunities to comment. We consider this input, develop a proposal, and again ask the community for feedback about the revised proposals. We then send our final recommendations to the King County Executive, who may modify them before sending them to the County Council for action. The County Council holds public hearings where members hear public testimony before making a final decision.

Performance management proposals, which reduce poorly performing service and reinvest the service hours to reduce crowding or improve on-time performance on other routes, are heavily based on objective data and performance thresholds in the guidelines. We make sure the public is informed about these proposed changes and about opportunities to comment on them at County Council hearings.

2014 Service Guidelines Report

Metro used the service guidelines to analyze the transit system using spring 2014 data. The analysis identified where investments are needed to meet target service levels and improve service quality, and where routes might be changed or reduced if services do not meet performance standards. This report has the results.

Full report and individual sections:

Past Reports

Concepts for Linking Transit and Development

In 2013, the Service Guidelines will be updated to specifically address how Metro responds to land use, growth and development in the region. The update will be developed through a collaborative process that incorporates input from local jurisdictions, as directed in King County Ordinance 17143, which adopted Metro's 2011-2021 Strategic Plan for Public Transportation and Service Guidelines.

Input from local jurisdictions is an important part of the process. This input will be used to develop a preliminary report due to the King County Council in October 2012. This report will inform the proposed update of the Strategic Plan and Service Guidelines that is due to the County Council in April 2013.

This process begins with a meeting on June 7, 2012. Meeting agendas and materials will be posted on this page.

Meetings and materials

Thursday, June 7

Friday, June 29 - Working Group meeting

Wednesday, July 11 - Working Group meeting

Wednesday, August 8 - Working Group meeting

Tuesday, Sept. 11

Linking Transit and Development Preliminary Concept Report

Input from the Local Jurisdiction Working Group Process

Can't see the flip book? Download the PDF.


Past Plans

King County Comprehensive Plan for Public Transportation

The Comprehensive Plan for Public Transportation sets the policy basis for Metro. It identifies goals, objectives, and high-level policies to guide the management and development of public transportation services. Originally developed in 1993 as the Long Range Planning Framework, it was updated and renamed the Comprehensive Plan for Public Transportation in 2007. The update involved the addition of new policies to address locally developed transit services and transit-oriented development and to incorporate the Transit Now program.

Download or view the plan:

King County Metro Strategic Plan for Public Transportation, 2007 – 2016

Metro's Strategic Plan for Public Transportation provides the framework for transit service and capital investments. Adopted in November 2007 and updated in 2009, the Strategic Plan replaced and updated the 2002-2007 Six Year Transit Development Plan. The Strategic Plan sets forth strategies for transit, paratransit, and rideshare services and supporting capital facilities in King County, and guides annual operating and capital program decisions that define Metro services. It also incorporates the voter-approved Transit Now program and includes new strategies to address transit-oriented development and locally developed transit.

Download or view the updated 2007-2016 plan:

Six-Year Transit Development Plan for 2002-2007

Looking to the Future: Six-Year Transit Development Plan for 2002 to 2007

King County Metro Transit's Six-Year Transit Development Plan provides the framework for transit service and capital investments. Metro's first six-year plan, spanning the years 1996-2001, was the catalyst for a major redesign of the county's Metro Transit system. The most recent six-year plan covers the years 2002-2007, and was last updated in the Fall of 2004.

Main body

Individual sections:


In one file: All appendices [.PDF; 87KB)

Individual appendices:

Updated: November 14, 2014