By Rob Gannon, General Manager
King County Metro Transit
When you board a Metro bus, you’re doing more than getting a ride—you’re exercising a right.
That’s what we believe at Metro: Transportation is a human right—your right to go where you want to go and have access to the opportunities we all need to thrive. Metro works hard to make that right a reality for everyone in King County.
As we strive to do so, the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King—whose image graces every one of our buses—is a constant and powerful guide.
Although his physical voice was silenced 50 years ago, Dr. King’s legacy continues, and we embrace his quest for equity and social justice as we deliver transportation services. We strive to offer everyone in King County affordable and accessible opportunities to get where you want and need to go, whether it be work, school, a medical appointment, or connections with family, friends or communities.
We know that equitable service for all doesn’t just happen. As Dr. King said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable.” Our services must purposefully, intentionally and deliberately include everyone, or we run the risk of carelessly excluding some.
That’s why Metro is striving to incorporate equity and social justice into every element of our service.
We started ORCA LIFT, a $1.50 fare for people with low incomes. Last summer we conducted a pilot program that offered a 50-cent fare to youth—and the number of young riders soared as we made transit more affordable for them.
We placed signs on our buses telling riders “All Are Welcome Here,” regardless of race, color, religion, gender, age, veteran status, sexual orientation, disability or national origin. We want to be clear: harassment will not be tolerated on Metro buses.
We were one of the first transit agencies in the country to incorporate the needs of minorities and people with low or no income into our planning so that—no matter what our budget—we prioritize service to those who have been historically disadvantaged. Yet we have work to do. We are dedicated to evolving our planning practices so equity and social justice are at the core.
We’re also working to confront inequities inside our organization—seeking to utilize a labor-management partnership to confront institutionalized and structural racism inside of Metro.
Just a few months ago, Metro helped form a local chapter of COMTO (Conference of Minority Transportation Officials). I have great hope that this organization can be a catalyst of progressive change in our transportation system—the type of “creative dissenters” that Dr. King said would “bring our beloved nation to a higher destiny.”
While Dr. King’s vision guides us every day, this year we’re planning to intentionally reflect on his legacy, his life, and his assassination—which occurred 50 years ago on April 4. On the afternoon of his birthday, Monday, Jan. 15, at 4:04 p.m., Metro will briefly pull our buses to the curb and pause for a moment of reflection. We invite you to join us.