Skip to main content

Will King County public transit survive COVID-19?

Published on August 27, 2020

King County Metro bus in the Westlake transit tunnel, Seattle, WA.
King County Metro bus in the Westlake transit tunnel, Seattle, WA. Image Credit: Joe Mabel (CC BY 3.0)

Despite coronavirus, hundreds of thousands of people living in King County continue to rely on buses, light rail, ferries and other modes of public transportation to get around.

“There’s still a whole lot of people who are counting on transit as a lifeline,” said Alex Hudson, executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition. “People know transit is important, and they know that their neighbors are counting on it.” Hudson said mass transit remains especially vital for communities of color who have been priced out of Seattle.

Ridership, however, is down roughly 80 percent on light rail and express buses, according to John Gallagher, a public information officer with Sound Transit. King County Metro, meanwhile, is transporting about 140,000 passengers a day, approximately 37 percent of its pre-COVID ridership, said Jeff Switzer, a spokesman for the agency. In addition to lost fare revenue because of COVID, local public transportation agencies are also struggling financially because sales and other tax collections that help fund operations have decreased.

While big tech companies such as Amazon have given employees permission to work from home until early next year, transit officials believe ridership will start rebounding this fall as more of the public returns to work, especially since public health officials have determined buses and trains aren’t superspreaders of the virus or as dangerous as once thought. According to the Washington State Department of Health, there have been 14 total COVID outbreaks related to transportation, shipping and delivery.

“It is all about mitigating risks,” said Jared Baeten, vice dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health. “Mask mandates and spaced seating are key — those both drop exposure risk substantially.”


Continue reading at Crosscut.

Originally written by Lilly Fowler for Crosscut.
Search by categories

Twitter Feed