King County Metro responds to driver bathroom break shortage

The agency responds to a Crosscut article that reported on Metro bus drivers wearing adult diapers to make up for a dearth of bathroom breaks.
Crosscut archive image.

For now at least, buses are the workhorses of Seattle's public transit system.

The agency responds to a Crosscut article that reported on Metro bus drivers wearing adult diapers to make up for a dearth of bathroom breaks.

On Tuesday, Crosscut writer Laura Kaufman brought Crosscut readers a breaking news report about bathroom access for King County Metro bus drivers. She wrote,

The state Department of Labor and Industries has determined King County Metro failed to provide unrestricted bathroom access for its drivers, according to an Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 587 representative. Neal Safrin, vice president and assistant business representative of Amalgamated Transit Union, also told Crosscut that L&I also found the transit agency did not provide water, soap and paper towels at all of its rest stops — a less serious violation.

The lack of bathroom facilities has gotten so severe, according to Safrin, vehicle maintenance crews have told him they annually replace 60 urine-soaked driver seats. Metro employs about 2,600 drivers.

At the time of publication, King County Metro had not returned requests for comment. However, yesterday Metro spokesman Jeff Switzer sent the following statement:

We are committed to making sure our employees have the necessary time to use restrooms — whether they are enroute or are on break — and we take this basic need seriously. If certain routes still have insufficient bathrooms, Metro will find an accommodation, including expending additional resources if necessary. 

Operators absolutely have the right to stop their bus and use a restroom.

We have 278 restrooms in our comfort station network. More than 50 are owned and maintained by Metro, the rest are public or made available to our operators through agreements with private businesses.

We will be responding to L&I’s findings when they are finalized and work to identify gaps in our network of restrooms and fix those gaps.

We have been working with ATU since a performance audit several years ago recommended a tightening of schedules to reduce costs. Following the audit, an internal scheduling committee has worked to balance the need for break times and bus scheduling. We’ve spent about $4 million to address scheduling and break time issues since then — and we have improved labor contract language to deal with these concerns.

As Prop. 1 adds service and improves scheduled reliability, that also will help operators and the issue of break times.


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