Trailhead Direct will connect Metro riders to the Margaret’s Way, Poo Poo Point and East Sunset Way trailheads.
To prevent trailheads from spilling over with vehicles, King County’s Parks and Metro departments will offer a shuttle-bus service to weekend and holiday hikers through late fall.
The shuttle service, called Trailhead Direct, will connect Metro riders to the Margaret’s Way, Poo Poo Point and East Sunset Way trailheads, which together offer 150 miles of hiking trails in the Issaquah area. Service begins Saturday.
Shuttle service will start at 7:05 a.m. and run every half-hour. Stops include the Issaquah Transit Center and the Issaquah Highlands Park and Ride. The last shuttle returns to the transit center at 6:52 p.m.
“We’re just seeing a significant increase in demand for folks who want to get outdoors and utilize our trailheads, which is great,” said Ryan Dotson, a program manager for King County Parks. But “we can only build the parking lots so large and there are only so many parking spaces … if trailheads are full, people will park along busy two-lane highways near the trailhead and walk along the shoulder, which is dangerous.”
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Dotson said he hopes the program will reduce trailhead congestion and provide access to the outdoors for people who don’t have a car.
The shuttles have 19 seats available and are used for weekday commuting programs in Snoqualmie and Mercer Island, said Cathy Snow, a program manager for King County Metro.
“We have vehicles and facilities sitting idle on the weekends,” she said. “Why not press those resources into play?”
Snow said King County Metro has budgeted $56,000 to run the program into late October, though service could end earlier if demand slows because of cold and wet weather.
Trailhead Direct operations will begin again next spring.
“That’s weather dependent,” Snow said. “From a service-delivery perspective, we’d be ready to roll out in March.”
Dotson said King County is looking at expanding the shuttle program to hiking trails near North Bend.
Construction crews recently finished paving the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road. “They’re already seeing an incredible amount of interest and vehicle traffic already. Mailbox Peak is one trailhead, in particular, that we’re looking at,” he said.
Snow said Metro would likely lease parking lots that are not used on weekends (at a school, for example) and operate shuttles from there.