Metro Transit prepares routes and riders for snowy winter

November 10, 2010

By Staff

NEW — 10 a.m. Nov. 10, 2010

Forecasters expect a cold and precipitation-soaked winter, and King County Metro Transit is ready to roll out a revised snow operations and customer communications plan.

The agency has asked bus riders to make preparations for winter travel, too.

“We had most of our improved plans in place last year, but we didn’t get the opportunity to test them because the weather was so mild,” Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond said in a news release. “Based on what we’re hearing about this coming winter, it appears we’ll have to put these plans into play and we want our customers to be ready, too.”

Riders can receive up-to-date information about route changes through Metro’s popular Transit Alerts. The program has attracted more than 10,000 people to sign up, and Desmond hopes to see the number double by the end of the year. The alerts can be received as e-mail or text messages. Enroll here.

Metro has a three-pronged approach to operating bus service more reliably as snow and ice start to affect King County travel.

The process starts at preparation, advances into rerouting buses, and finally — under the worst conditions — significantly reduces service.

If Metro has to cut service, the agency rolls out the Emergency Service Network. The system substantially reduces the number of bus routes and only serves priority streets and highways where cities and other agencies have concentrated snow-clearing activities.

“Two years ago when we had a series of December and January snow storms, we probably tried to provide too much service,” Desmond said. “Our revised plans call for limited service during the worst storms. This may inconvenience some people, but it should help Metro provide safe service that is more reliable and predictable.”

Metro reviewed and revamped all snow routes based on plowing agreements with agencies in charge of roads throughout King County, because the buses do not operate well on unplowed plowed streets and highways.

In the event of snow, Metro buses transition to snow routing as necessary, based on road conditions in a broad geographic area.

Every bus route is assigned into at least one of seven geographic areas in the county. The service status of each area is color coded and displayed on a snow map:

Green indicates buses to be operating on normal routes

Yellow indicates some — but not all — routes in the area to be operating on snow routes (primarily in higher elevation areas)

Red indicates all bus routes in the designated area to be operating on snow routes

If the weather creates extremely dangerous driving conditions, Metro plans to reduce service down to the Emergency Service Network with about 70 routes operating on key corridors. The network is designed to be reliable in the worst weather or during a prolonged storm period — but customers will be advised to limit travel if possible.

“We’re all in this together, and it’s never easy,” Desmond said. “Metro has done a lot to be better prepared for winter driving conditions, and we hope our customers will do their part to be ready before bad weather hits.”

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