A King County pilot project that shuttled hikers to popular trailheads was well-reviewed and cost less than it was budgeted. It could use a few more riders, though.
King County’s trailhead shuttle, which ran to popular hiking destinations this summer and fall, came in under budget and received rave reviews in user surveys assessing the service.
Now, it could use a few more riders. About 40 people, on average, used the Trailhead Direct service each weekend day it operated from early August to mid-October. King County Metro ran 23 shuttles each day, according to Cathy Snow, a program manager for King County Metro. Each shuttle had capacity for 19 passengers.
In total, the service, which cost about $44,000 to operate, transported a little more than 900 people this season. Hikers pay regular off-peak Metro fares to ride the shuttle ($2.50 for adults), and Metro collected about $2,200 in revenue.
The trailhead shuttle, which was designed to reduce congestion, parking shortages and safety concerns at popular hiking destinations, connected Metro riders to the Margaret’s Way, Poo Poo Point and East Sunset Way trailheads. Stops included the Issaquah Transit Center and the Issaquah Highlands Park and Ride. The service ran every half-hour beginning just after 7 a.m. and ending just before 7 p.m.
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“It was very smooth in terms of our operations,” Snow said. “We were really pleased with the experience and pleased with the reception.”
King County’s metro and parks departments collaborated on the Trailhead Direct project, and viewed its debut for half of the summer hiking season as a test.
“Our goal was to launch the product — to get our feet wet,” said Ryan Dotson, a program manager for King County Parks.
“The purpose of the trial was not to make money, but to address trailhead congestion, safety and access to the trails, as well as to engage the demands out there and interest in running the service,” said Scott Gutierrez, a spokesman for King County Metro.
The departments plan to tweak the service and operate again next year, after reviewing ridership data and the results of two surveys.
All 22 respondents to an onboard survey said they’d take the service again next season and expressed satisfaction with nearly every aspect of their experience.
But, results of an online survey of more than 270 people suggest many hikers found out about the shuttle too late to give it a shot. Just 29 of the respondents to the online survey had used the shuttle.
“I just now found out about it! Had I known about it I would have used it often!” wrote one respondent.
Hikers yearned for service to more trailheads. When asked what would make Trailhead Direct more appealing, nearly 60 percent of online respondents asked for service to new trailheads, with Mount Si and Mailbox Peak leading the list.
Snow and Dotson said they’re considering stops at other trailheads. Early-morning service could be reduced.
“Once our schedulers look at the data, we’ll see a change in the coverage during the day,” Snow said. “Folks aren’t using the service early in the morning.”