King County Metro suspending 20 bus routes due to lack of drivers and mechanics

KING COUNTY, Wash. — King County Metro announced on Thursday it is suspending 20 low-ridership bus routes because it doesn’t have enough drivers and mechanics.

Because of that shortage, the agency sometimes cancels bus runs at the last minute.

To reduce those canceled trips and make service on key routes more reliable, the 20 suspensions will begin on September 2.

It comes on top of 18 routes put on hold in the pandemic that still haven’t returned.

“Today’s conversation is a challenging one for us because it’s not what we want to do. We want to be in a growth pattern,” King County Metro General Manager Michelle Allison said.

The agency hopes to bring back suspended service when possible but has not offered a timeline.

Ken Price, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587, says only two mechanics have been hired in the last year, and that some workers are leaving King County for higher pay in Snohomish County.

“If our hiring is slow that means our recovery is going to be years down the road, two or three years in recovery,” Price said.

The agency also has a shortage of buses.

In addition to suspending the 20 routes in September, it will reduce service on 12 more.

King County Metro says it tried to protect service in places where there are few other options and to lessen the impact on low-income riders and communities of color.

Details of the route reduction can be found here.