King County Metro has announced that weekday bus service on the 118 and 119 routes serving Vashon-Maury Island will be suspended entirely starting tomorrow, Saturday, April 18.
The 118 and 119 bus routes on Vashon were not altered as part of earlier rounds of schedule changes Metro implemented to most other routes on March 23 and April 6. The cuts are meant to help maintain sustainability amid ridership that has dropped by about 70% system-wide compared to a year ago, according to the announcement.
Meanwhile, King County Water Taxi will continue to operate both the Vashon Island-Seattle route and the West Seattle route on a reduced winter schedule for the foreseeable future.
Spokesperson Jeff Switzer told The Beachcomber that service reductions on Vashon were held off for as long as possible. In recent weeks, Metro has seen an average of 30 riders a day on the 118 and 119 routes traveling to and from their destinations.
He added that Metro is not in a position to lay off bus drivers, and is instead reassigning them to remaining routes or otherwise keeping them on the payroll.
“At some point when we’re through all this, we need to have those drivers back in the driver’s seat later on,” Switzer said.
He noted that the community van, a Metro service, can hopefully augment lost bus service on Vashon.
The vans are ready to be deployed, said coordinator Megan Lockhart, and islanders may request rides for essential on-island trips available on a first-come-first-serve basis. But the county’s rideshare program depends on the availability of volunteer drivers. On Vashon, Lockhart said, most are retired and fall under the high-risk category, so they aren’t signing up to drive.
The last community van trip Lockhart could remember was scheduled on March 23 to the Vashon Food Bank. Before that, the program made as many as 20 trips a month. Lockhart was waiting for a driver for a requested trip to Vashon’s Neighborcare Health clinic on Monday.
“It’s been hard,” she said, adding that each vehicle undergoes deep cleaning after every trip and measures are in place to protect both riders and drivers. Van trips may now occur with just one passenger and a driver — as opposed to the standard two-passenger minimum — or a group from the same household including the driver. Metro is currently not collecting fares for any community van.
Lockhart may be reached by calling 206-773-7003 for those interested in volunteering to drive for the Vashon Community Van.
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