King County Metro’s on-demand shuttle services Ride2 West Seattle (funded by City of Seattle) and Ride2 Eastgate will end service just past their one-year pilot timeframes. Via to Transit, which serves Southeast Seattle and Tukwila, will continue.
King County Metro will not renew the on-demand shuttle service Ride2 West Seattle, which was funded by the voter-approved Seattle Transportation Benefit District and served the Alaska Junction and King County Water Taxi dock at Seacrest Park.
At the same time, Metro announced that it will also cease Ride2 Eastgate, which serves Eastgate Park & Ride. Both one-year pilot programs will end on Dec. 20.
Combined, Ride2 Eastgate and Ride2 West Seattle delivered 125 trips per day on average.
Via to Transit, which serves Southeast Seattle and Tukwila, will continue. By comparison, it currently serves around 240 trips per day in the Rainier Beach service area alone, and nearly 1,000 rides per day across its five service areas.
The pilots were designed as 12-month research projects to test innovative solutions to immediate transportation needs. West Seattle’s Ride2 launched just before phase one of the “Seattle Squeeze,” in which the viaduct was coming down and City of Seattle sought to provide an alternative to driving downtown via the West Seattle Bridge. Eastgate’s immediate need stemmed from the fact that Eastgate Park & Ride—the county’s largest park-and-ride—was often full early in the morning, and is located in an area with limited local bus service and walking and biking infrastructure.
Ride2’s key performance indicators included average wait time and in-vehicle time, however the project team kept an open mind in terms of expected ridership. A total of 7,155 users downloaded the Ride2 app used in both service areas, though less than 15 percent have used the service in the last 30 days.
These Ride2 pilots provided valuable data to Metro on the need for certain on-demand services, but ultimately did not meet the milestones necessary to continue the programs given financial constraints.
The Ride2 service is operated by Hopelink, a valued long-standing operational partner with Metro. Hopelink, which began operation of Ride2 West Seattle when the service began and assumed operation of Ride2 Eastgate in February 2019, has 14 drivers assigned to Ride2. Hopelink is working with affected drivers on transition planning, and Metro is actively engaged in this effort.
Metro will fulfill the terms of its contract, continuing to fund Hopelink Ride2 operations for 30 days following Dec. 5, the date that Hopelink received official notice that the service would end.
Ride2 West Seattle
Average ridership hovers around 29 trips per day, costing $84 per trip to operate, and is funded by the voter-approved Seattle Transportation Benefit District.
West Seattle’s service area, including Alki, Fairmont Park, Genesee, High Point, North Admiral, North Delridge, and Riverview, contains an estimated 53,000 residents and 12,000 jobs.
Feedback from customers indicated that Ride2’s window of margin for pickup and drop-off was better suited to connect to very frequent service such as light rail, versus Water Taxi, which sails every 30 minutes in the spring and summer.
Ride2 Eastgate’s ridership exceeds that of Ride2 West Seattle, at around 82 trips per day, and costs $35 per trip to operate. While more expensive to operate than an average traditional bus trip (an estimated $5.17), the ridership was within expectations, but Metro was unable to secure funding to extend the service past the one-year pilot timeframe.
Eastgate’s service area, including Factoria, Lake Hills, Lakemont, and Somerset neighborhoods, is available to an estimated 44,000 residents and 32,000 jobs. The Ride2 Eastgate service changed contractors in February 2019, which necessitated migration to a new app for on-demand booking. The app experienced technical difficulties, creating frustration with customers.
“If a pilot program is working, we always explore how to make it continue past the pilot period. Ride2 didn’t meet the performance milestones necessary to continue, but we accomplished what we set out to do in that we heard from our customers on what worked and what didn’t,” said Christina O’Claire, mobility division director at Metro. “We’re thankful that the public is willing to try new things, and we’ll apply what we’ve learned with the hopes of approaching these communities in the future with something new and improved.”
On-demand shuttle services draw the most riders when deployed in areas where they significantly improve access to jobs compared to traditional bus or other fixed-route service.
On-demand shuttles work best when connecting to very frequent service like light rail and very active bus routes. The service doesn’t work as well to connect to lower frequency bus routes or the Water Taxi, which sails every 30 minutes during peak periods.
On-demand shuttles like Ride2 can be a successful model to feed our fixed route system. There is a higher than 90 percent transfer rate between Ride2s and our traditional bus system or water taxi, as was intended.
Riders really liked the convenience of Ride2, and services performed within the targeted wait time of 10 minutes or less, and the targeted in-vehicle time of 15 minutes or less.
Greater efficiencies can be gained from operating on-demand shuttle service in connected areas, like Via to Transit in southeast Seattle and Tukwila, since vehicles can cross between service areas. In contrast, Ride2 has fixed fleets that can only serve one specific service area.
Ride2 is the brainchild of Metro’s Innovative Mobility Program, a group that develops pilot programs to address immediate transportation needs while simultaneously conducting research, and testing multiple vendors and formats that can inform future transit service.
These pilots aspire to solve the “first mile, last mile” challenge. The solution stems from the theory that most people in the United States are comfortable walking or rolling less than a quarter mile to or from public transit stops. The problem arises when a potential rider is farther than a comfortable distance to the necessary stop, when they are unable to drive to a park-and-ride, or when their park-and-ride is often full.
During the last five years, Metro has launched pilot services in 21 communities across King County. Every pilot is designed to address specific needs within a community or communities, and every evaluation is based on a unique set of benchmarks. Performance elements considered include ridership, cost per boarding, rides per hour of service/trip, customer satisfaction, vehicle utilization, equity considerations for service area, rider demographics, rider origin and destination, rider frequency or time of day, and context of other service.
Customers with questions can contact Metro Customer Service through the web form at kingcounty.gov/metro/Ride2 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn about other pilots in motion, visit the Innovative Mobility Program webpage.
“If a pilot program is working, we always explore how to make it continue past the pilot period. Ride2 didn’t meet the performance milestones necessary to continue, but we accomplished what we set out to do in that we heard from our customers on what worked and what didn’t. We’re thankful that the public is willing to try new things, and we’ll apply what we’ve learned with the hopes of approaching these communities in the future with something new-and-improved.”
Christina O’Claire, Mobility Division Director, King County Metro