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King County Metro’s ride-hailing service expands to West Seattle

By expanding its responsive shuttle service, Metro hopes to mitigate the coming State Route 99 closure

A Ride2 van that will be operating in West Seattle
Courtesy of King County

Earlier this year, King County Metro started experimenting with its own version of a ride-hailing app: Ride2, a responsive shuttle to the Eastgate Park and Ride, which can be summoned through an app (available on Android and iOS). But as Viadoom approaches, ushering in a three-week closure of State Route 99, Metro is collaborating with the City of Seattle to bring the same service to West Seattle, connecting riders with either the transit hub at the Alaska Junction or to the Water Taxi starting December 17.

While a bus still gets caught up in traffic, the Water Taxi provides a road-free way to get downtown, perhaps mitigating traffic even further. To address increased demand for the service, King County is also adding a new boat to double peak-hour service, and adding one additional midday trip.

The shuttle is operated by Hopelink—although service is supported by $1 million from Seattle’s Transportation Benefit District funds. To use the shuttle, users can download the Ride2 Transit app and request a ride. Users will be picked up and dropped off either at their door or within a block or so, sharing a ride with other passengers. Ideally, passengers will be picked up within 10 to 15 minutes of their request. The shuttle operates during rush hours only, 5 to 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 to 7 p.m., and all trips must start or end at either the Water Taxi dock or the Junction. The shuttle costs the same as a bus ride and accepts ORCA cards.

Ride2’s service area in West Seattle.
Courtesy of King County

The shuttle serves several West Seattle neighborhoods, including Alki, Genesee, North Admiral, Fairmount Park, High Point, North Delridge, and Riverview. For those already on the free Water Taxi shuttle routes 773 and 775, that service will be expanded starting January 14.

King County Metro isn’t the first transit authority to experiment with responsive shuttles. The Eno Transportation Institute report Uprouted examined case studies in municipal microtransit, including a similar year-long pilot in Kansas City called Bridj, also an app-based shuttle service that operated during rush hour (but was more designed for getting people to and from work). The report found that users were turned off by its limited service hours, although it attracted a small, loyal following. A Santa Clara Valley microtransit experiment met similar results.

One successful model was in Alameda and Contra Costa counties in the East Bay area, where the transit authority replaced a low-performing bus line with a responsive shuttle. Users in the area could take the shuttle home from a BART rail line. It ended up being successful, the report found, because of extensive outreach, including both flyers and bus ads—and, ultimately, the service was even revenue-neutral. The one major drawback: Rides have to be scheduled farther in advance outside of an app.

For what it’s worth, though: Since King County launched Ride2 on the Eastside back in October, the service has been used about 2,400 times, averaging about 100 rides each weekday.

This article originally reported that shuttles are operated by Ford, that rides can be booked 12 hours in advance, and that the app is the same as the Eastgate service. None of these are the case. We regret the errors.