The Mediocrity of Metro Buses

Last month, it seemed that the return of the Metro bus system involved the good, the bad, and the ugly. However, following twelve calls to write a follow-up article, it seems that Lakesiders find themselves in a new position. My original article depicted buses as a useful service which, despite their occasional crowding and tardiness, were viewed mostly favorably by students. However, since then, other issues – some the fault of Metro Transit and some the fault of Lakeside – have arisen.

The 987 route was altered the most; incidentally, its riders comprise the majority of those who expressed that another article on buses was necessary. Starting on October 4th, the 987’s morning schedule was shifted 15 minutes earlier, a change instituted by Lakeside to “allow [riders] to arrive on time for their classes.” However, the following week, the bus arrived at 8:50, as late as it did before the schedule adjustment. In addition, the bus has never arrived less than 15 minutes before class, which would have been necessary to justify the changing of its timing. Instead, it regularly arrives around 7:55, 35 minutes before the start of class in the high school, and 20 minutes before the start of class in the middle school. Therefore, even if the previous schedule was kept, the bus would still arrive on time for everyone. While the bus services three schools, UPrep and Evergreen start at 8:25 and 8:30 respectively, thus there is no clear reason as to why the 987 was shifted earlier, forcing students to wake up earlier and cutting into already dwindling sleep schedules.

Students have also noted that the 987 route has unnecessary bus stops which cause delays for most bus riders, to the benefit of few. For example, in the afternoon, the 988 has a stop at Roosevelt Way NE & Roosevelt Station Bay 1, while the 987 has a stop at Roosevelt Station Bay 4. These stops are only 100 meters from each other, and Roosevelt Station Bay 4 is the 987’s only stop before S Dearborn St and Corwin Pl S (near the I-5 I-90 interchange), and so it causes about 10 minutes of delay for everyone on the bus without a good reason to do so, as anyone who wants to get off at Roosevelt Station can just take the 988 instead. 

Finally, many students who live along the 989 and 994 bus routes have expressed that their buses come at an unreasonably early time, and the official bus schedule agrees. The 989 arrives at Lakeside at 8:00, and 994 at 7:53, almost 40 minutes before the start of class. Clearly, there is no reason for these buses to arrive so early, as UPrep and Evergreen also have start times similar to Lakeside. 

While these discrepancies could be explained by claiming that Lakeside Middle School starts earlier than the high school (it starts at 8:15), buses reach the middle school five minutes before they reach the high school, meaning that the early schedule of the 987, 989, and 994 cannot be justified in this manner. Even so, the high school and middle school should start at the same time to avoid occasional issues where buses will arrive late for one division but one for another (not to mention that parents may wish to drop off their kids at the same time). 

Unlike other issues (like inexperienced Metro Drivers or increased ridership), the issues outlined above can easily be solved by Lakeside, UPrep, and Evergreen. First, better coordination is needed between the Lakeside Upper and Middle School schedules as this would make the bus scheduling simpler and easier for all. Second, the three specific issues with the three specific buses outlined above should be addressed. Namely, the 987 schedule should be shifted later by around 10 minutes (5 minutes earlier than its original schedule) to accommodate for traffic, the 987’s stop at Roosevelt Station should be axed (which would save 60 people 10 minutes every day), and finally, the 989 and 994 should arrive at school closer to the beginning of our classes.

Our Metro Bus System is a privilege, one which we here at Lakeside are lucky to have. It allows so many people to commute to Lakeside from around Seattle who may not be here otherwise. But, like everything, there are improvements which should be made. The bus system needs to balance the demands of everyone and when change is so clearly needed as now, it must come.