Commuters within 2 or 3 miles of Eastgate can use an app to hail a ride, and be met by a Chariot van that drops them at the station, located between Interstate 90 and Bellevue College.

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King County Metro Transit will hire a private shuttle service to carry commuters to the Eastgate park-and-ride in Bellevue — as the county strives to squeeze more capacity from its packed station there.

Chariot, which is part of Ford Smart Mobility, will operate the blue “Ride2” vans that begin service on Tuesday. Commuters within 2 or 3 miles of Eastgate can use an app to hail a ride, and be met by a Chariot van that drops them at the station, located between Interstate 90 and Bellevue College.  Ride2 will also serve people returning home from the station.

“We are embracing mobile technology to provide our customers with convenient first- and last-mile service to reliable transit,” County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement.

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Ride2 will save commuters the hassle of looking for parking, he said. Eastgate has 1,600 stalls that usually fill each morning. To build another garage might require $100,000 per space.

The Amalgamated Transit Union opposes Chariot, saying its drivers will likely be nonunion and low-paid.

Instead, the county should increase its own minibuses, like Metro’s new Route 635 loop from Des Moines to Angle Lake Station, or Access shuttles by Solid Ground Transportation that pay union wages from $17.08 to $22.12 an hour, said Patrick Brady, Local 587’s financial secretary.

Members planned to bring signs to a Metro kickoff event Friday that say Keep Transit Public, said Ken Price, president of ATU Local 587 in Seattle.  “We’re going to organize and we’re going to be there,” he said.

But the county canceled Constantine’s Friday event and decided to arrange interviews with individual reporters “as a better way to inform them about a new service that will increase ridership on Metro fixed-route buses operated by ATU members,” Metro spokesman Jeff Switzer said by e-mail Friday afternoon.

Metro is a new type of client for Chariot, which entered the Seattle market in mid-2017 with plans to create employer-sponsored and crowdsourced routes.

Metro itself operates 1,600 van pools and shuttle vans, the nation’s largest fleet. The agency is paying $72,500 toward the one-year Ride2 project, with other costs absorbed by Ford, said Switzer.

He said ATU member wages “will not be influenced by how much van drivers earn.” Chariot is required to comply with the county’s Living Wage Ordinance, he said. The ordinance calls for compensation of at least $15 per hour in 2019.

Chariot is offering a wage of $19 per hour, in its help-wanted ad for Seattle-area drivers. Health-care benefits are available for full-time employees, it says.

Ride2 trips will be free at the outset. In two or three months users will be charged Metro’s $2.75 basic adult fare, said Metro spokesman Jeff Switzer. Travelers may use ORCA fare cards and gain free transfers to I-90 freeway buses. Chariot is wheelchair-accessible, Metro says.

Chariot shuttle-service territory around the Eastgate Park & Ride in Bellevue.
Chariot shuttle-service territory around the Eastgate Park & Ride in Bellevue.

 

The service will operate Monday through Friday from 6-10 a.m. and 4-8 p.m.

Metro will soon offer Ride2 service at Northgate and South Renton transit centers, and others yet to be announced, Casey Gifford, a Metro planner, said Monday to the Washington State Ridesharing Organization.

These experiments are part of Metro’s wider Innovative Mobility Program that has created reserved-parking permits at transit stations, and stalls for ReachNow and Car2Go rental cars. The agency needs to take risks and collect data to learn what works in a fast-changing transportation environment, Gifford said.

Mercer Island is testing discounted Uber and Lyft rides for residents to reach the city’s park-and-ride station, using about $227,000 in Sound Transit money, part of a $10.1 million out-of-court settlement when light-rail construction took over the I-90 express lanes last year.