Trailhead Direct, a King County Metro bus that shuttles hikers to and from trails, just finished the first full year of its pilot last month. This week, Metro released ridership data from the experiment: The buses were boarded more than 20,000 times over the spring, summer, and fall of 2018, or about 10,000 round trips.
The route with the highest boardings was, no surprise, the first one to launch. Service to the Issaquah Alps launched April 21 and saw 8,526 boardings, or around 300 per weekend of operation. But a second shuttle to Mount Si and Mount Teneriffe, which was added in May, is close behind at 8,197—which adds up to a greater ridership on a per-weekend level.
While the shuttle doesn’t replace the vast majority of car trips out to the trails—Mount Si, for example, gets nearly 100,000 hikers per year, according to the Washington Trails Association—it’s enough to make a little bit of a dent. A Metro spokesperson told Curbed Seattle that the routes got more popular farther into the season as hikers grew familiar with the service.
A third route, launched in June, functioned as more of a parking-lot-to-parking-lot shuttle, transporting hikers from Twin Falls Middle School in North Bend to Mailbox Peak. That one wasn’t quite as popular, with 3,650 total trips, but it does involve getting in a car in the first place for most would-be riders—many of whom don’t own a car, according to a Metro survey of Trailhead Direct riders.
Not owning a car was the second-most-popular reason for using Trailhead Direct, right behind environmental stewardship. Not having to worry about finding parking was another top reason for using the service. And, at least for people who used the service and were willing to participate in a survey, it seems to have worked: Public transit was the most common way people got to the Trailhead Direct pickup point. 90 percent of respondents said the shuttles reduced overcrowding. 60 percent of respondents were repeat customers.
Trailhead Direct service will return for the second year of its pilot in 2019, with possible adjustments based on ridership and the rider survey.