King County Metro: Prepare for big changes ahead

SEATTLE -- Big changes are coming to King County Metro at the end of the month, and that's not good news for many riders who count on the bus.

The changes, which begin September 29, will mean new and better services for many, but hardship for others.

Nearly 400,000 riders currently rely on Metro transportation, but transit officials are under pressure to attract even more riders and make service more efficient.

In perhaps the most drastic change, Metro is doing away with its downtown ride-free zone. To streamline the boarding process, riders on all routes will soon be required to pay when they get on the bus, rather than when they leave. That might seem like a minor detail, but some riders say it's a big change.

"It's been a habit every day to get on this bus and get off and pay when I get off," said Renee Ivry. "So this habit is going to need to get broken and it's going to be very hard for me."

Metro is also eliminating roughly 10 routes and making changes to a dozen more, which means there will be new stops on different streets.

New signs will help riders go with the new flow. They'll see one on the front door showing people where to pay when they get on, and signs on the back door will tell people not to enter.

"We're trying to make the system more productive and give more value back to the taxpayer dollar," said Metro Transit general manager Kevin Desmond.

Desmond is urging riders to start educating themselves on the new changes now, so they're not shocked come September 29. He also said he's confident that the changes will help more people than they hurt.

"It does mean a larger number of potential users get better service, so it's a trade-off," he said.