The on-demand shuttle program Ride2 that serves West Seattle and Eastgate commuters will end this month, King County Metro says.
Ride2 Eastgate, which launched as a one-year pilot in October 2018, was designed to carry commuters within a 3-mile radius of the Eastgate Park-and-Ride in Bellevue to the transit center, easing demand on the crowded parking lot.
The app-based service began through a partnership with Ford Smart Mobility’s Chariot but switched operation to the nonprofit Hopelink after Chariot shut down early this year. Funding, which had been budgeted for 12 months, ran out, and Metro said it could not find a new partner to pay for the program.
Metro launched Ride2 in West Seattle last December, also as a pilot, in preparation for the three-week closure of Highway 99 in January. Also using an app to hail a ride, passengers were dropped at the water-taxi dock at Seacrest Park and at Alaska Junction in West Seattle.
But ridership had grown sluggish and the service struggled to compete with existing transit service while its operating costs rose.
The West Seattle service averaged 29 trips per day at a cost of $84 per trip to operate. The Eastgate service averaged about 82 trips per day and cost $35 per trip to operate.
Ride2 fares are the same as a standard Metro bus fare; riders pay one fare and can transfer to a Metro bus without any additional cost. Riders paid an additional fare to transfer to the water taxi or light rail.
Both routes were designed for commuters, operating Monday through Friday from 6-10 a.m. and 4-8 p.m. Service will cease Dec. 20.
Via to Transit, an app-based shuttle service that takes Southeast Seattle and Tukwila commuters to light-rail stations, will continue for now.
Some customers told Metro that Ride2 service connecting to the water taxi, which sails every 35-40 minutes, was inefficient compared to transit that operates more often, including the minibuses on Routes 773 and 775.
But David Ginsberg, who started using Ride2 to commute by water taxi in February, continued to use the service until he moved to Vashon Island in October.
“While it had its troubles, I still found it to be overall a more reliable commute option to and from West Seattle,” he said.
The announcement about Ride2 comes as Metro and the city have invested in efforts to test alternatives to driving.
While 7,155 people downloaded the Ride2 app for both the West Seattle and Eastgate service, fewer than 15% used the service in the last 30 days.
Via, meanwhile, provides nearly 1,000 rides per day across its five service areas. The 12-month project budget is $3.6 million and costs about $8 per ride to operate.
Part of Via’s success, Metro planner Casey Gifford said last year, is because the service reaches a larger customer territory than Ride2 did, operates under a different business model and provides interpreters to schedule rides by phone.
“People on the South End are using Via, and it has made a difference in people’s lives,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.
The program is partially funded through the Seattle Transportation Benefit District, in addition to federal grant money, Sound Transit and Metro.
But “that’s under threat with Initiative 976 passing,” said Sam Zimbabwe, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation, on Tuesday. “We are committed to continuing to partner with communities on how we do that type of investment.”
I-976 would eliminate the ability for cities to levy car-tab fees. The initiative is on hold from taking effect as it moves through legal challenges. Seattle currently imposes an $80 vehicle license fee, which, along with a sales tax, is used to fund the transportation benefit district that helps support Via.
When Ride2 Eastgate started, Chariot contributed $72,500 to fund the service and Metro picked up the rest. When Chariot shut down, Metro covered all costs while Hopelink operated the service.
Metro said it would have continued Ride2 in Eastgate if the agency could have found a funding partner to provide the $840,000 needed for an additional year, with an effort to increase ridership and decrease cost per ride.
Ride2 West Seattle, which cost $885,000 for the yearlong pilot and was funded by the Seattle Transportation Benefit District, ended due to poor performance.
“Part of embracing innovation means being OK with the fact that not all pilots will be deemed effective and efficient enough to continue on past the pilot period,” said Metro spokeswoman Torie Rynning.
Rynning said Ride2 met performance goals in terms of the 10-minute time customers waited and 15-minute spent on trips. Ultimately, she said, those factors did not outweigh ridership challenges in West Seattle and funding challenges in Eastgate.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that there is no additional cost to transfer from Ride2 to light rail. In fact, some light-rail trips cost more than $2.75 and a rider would pay the difference. Also, Metro spokeswoman Torie Rynning provided Ride2 performance goals, although a previous version said she did not.
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