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Alternative transit? Metro proposes to ‘right-size’ bus service in Valley, rural areas
Recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach to bus service may not meet every community’s needs, Metro Transit is proposing to find cost-effective and innovative transit options for rural King County.
The proposed five-year plan sent to the King County Council, provides a framework for alternatives to fixed-route bus service in less populated areas. It is supported by Metro’s new strategic planning policies, and recommends three areas—Snoqualmie Valley, Southeast King County and Vashon Island—for initial demonstration projects.
The goal is to provide transportation services of the right size, scale, and type that better reflect the needs of each community Metro serves. For instance, Dial-a-Ride bus service or all-day community shuttles may offer better travel options than traditional bus service that is less productive and more expensive.
“This alternative services plan will allow Metro to work directly with communities to come up with out-of-the-box approaches that are both affordable and tailor-made to meet the transit needs of more residents,” said Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond.
“Providing a menu of transit options besides fixed-route service will allow communities to utilize the most cost-effective ways to meet local transportation needs, which can be very different in urban and rural areas,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who represents northeast King County. “I look forward to reviewing the details of this proposal for more ways to improve the efficiency of our transportation system.”
In rural communities, services such as carpools and vanpools, community-access transportation, employer-sponsored transportation programs, flexible transit services, or shared taxis might offer improved mobility choices.
Where bus routes have been identified for possible replacement with alternative service, Metro will work with communities to identify existing transportation providers, service gaps, and local travel needs. Communities and stakeholders served by those routes will then help develop options. Once alternatives have been identified, the service adjustments will be proposed as part of Metro’s standard service change process.
In the short term, given Metro’s limited revenues, alternative services will play a key role in addressing transit needs in areas where fixed-route bus routes would otherwise be candidates for reduction or elimination. Alternative transit could also help ensure that transit options will continue to exist even if regular bus service is eliminated. Longer term, alternative transit services could be used to complement existing bus service if additional revenues became available.
Following council action on the alternative services plan, Metro will begin reaching out to community organizations and the public to explore service partnerships.
Updates about the alternative transit services plan will be posted on Metro’s Have a Say website.