SEATTLE - King County Metro Transit was forced to cancel 84 bus trips on Friday, due to a staff shortage--almost four times the number of cancellations from Thursday.
Officials said the temporary uptick in cancellations is part of a workforce issue. Further explaining drivers calling out of work for various reasons – including being sick or caring for an ill family member, and the office did not have enough backup drivers to fill in.
Passengers who catch a bus with Metro noticed there was something off about Friday’s schedule.
"I thought that it was just the bridge was up a lot. I noticed the time looked weird, so I actually just walked over the Ballard Bridge because it was like a 20-minute wait," said passenger David Lewis, who uses the bus system daily.
"I don’t have a car and so I use the E Line all the time. And honestly, it’s the only thing that gets me to work on time," said passenger Luke Hunter. "The bus system is extremely important to both my health and also my finances."
Metro officials said the cancellations are part of an ongoing workforce issue they’re trying to fix. This includes hiring and training up to 54 new part-time drivers. Officials said two training classes are underway and three classes will be graduating by November and soon be on the road.
"Hopefully the workforce feels supported in what they do because I know their work is really hard," said Hunter.
Even with all of the cancellations, Metro still operated 99 percent of its more than 11,400-weekday trips. Affected riders were able to board the next trip on the schedule. Metro also provided information to help people navigate their travels if their bus was canceled. Some resources include the Puget Sound Trip Planner app or website, changes are also posted on the Transit Alerts page and King County Metro Transit’s Twitter page.
Though it’s an inconvenience, passengers said they can navigate their way around the cancellations. However, they said they hope dropping several routes doesn’t become a daily habit.
"It just means I have to chunk more time out of my day to have simple tasks done and depending on what that looks like for the day," said Hunter.
There’s a question if the Oct. 18 vaccine verification deadline is impacting the driver shortage.
Officials with Metro said, "The deadline for vaccine verification has not yet passed, and employees continue to be required to perform their duties."
They mentioned, as of Oct. 15, 88% of all employees have reported their vaccination verification, and those numbers continue climbing daily.
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