Metro will no longer operate shuttle service from several park-and-rides to Seahawks games at CenturyLink Field.
The news came in an email from the Seahawks to season ticket holders:
The Federal Transit Administration has ruled that Metro Transit is no longer permitted to operate its game day bus service from the Eastgate, South Kirkland and Northgate park-and-ride lots. Seahawks fans that normally use this bus service will need to find alternate means of getting to CenturyLink Field for Seahawks games.
There are a number of great alternatives already in place, including regular Metro service, Sound Transit ST Express buses, Sounder Trains, and Light Rail service.
To find the best mode of transportation to CenturyLink Field on gamedays, visit Metro’s Trip Planner. Enter your address and find schedule information for transit options throughout the Puget Sound.
Long-time readers and Seahawks fans will recall that FTA rules restricting shuttle operations to sports events are not new. In 2008, the FTA declared that public transit operators could not operate shuttles to sports events if a private charter operator was willing to do so. After a charter operator entered the market, Metro was unable to offer game-day shuttles. Metro shuttles were restored in 2010, thanks to an appropriations bill amendment inserted by Senator Patty Murray. The amendment granted Metro an exemption from the FTA rule. The charter operators who had briefly taken Metro’s place were more expensive, less convenient to access, and did not accommodate handicapped fans. A subsequent lawsuit by charter operators against the Murray amendment was unsuccessful.
Metro’s exemption expired in 2016. During the 2016 season and early 2017 season, as Metro spokesperson Jeff Switzer explained to us, the Seahawks contracted for game-day operations and that partner subcontracted to Metro. The Seahawks now appear to have ended the arrangement with their contractor.
On September 14, it was announced that Metro would no longer operate the shuttle from Northgate, where a private shuttle would operate instead. At that time, Metro said their buses would continue to operate as usual from South Kirkland and Eastgate. On September 28, news came that Metro shuttle service to the Colts game on Sunday October 1 was cancelled after the Seahawks declined to contract for shuttle service to that game. On Wednesday afternoon, Seahawks season ticket holders received the email that no Metro shuttle would operate in future. That information was also posted on the Seahawks website (though not prominently, scroll to ‘Metro bus services’ and see if you notice).
While they operated, Metro shuttles served South Kirkland, Eastgate, and Northgate, with direct service to CenturyLink Field. Service generally began two hours before the scheduled kickoff, and the last bus from the stadium would leave 45 minutes after the end of the game. Customers could buy a $8 round-trip voucher to ride the buses. The Seahawks were responsible for covering any difference between the cost of the service and the fares paid.
The Huskies continue to employ Metro shuttles from several locations, but have contracted with private operators for shuttles from Shoreline and Northgate for the 2017 season.
The Seahawks have made no further announcements about alternatives to the Metro shuttles other than pointing their fans to regular transit service. That will almost surely be too sparse to handle demand for Sunday events in particular.
[Update: At the Seattle Times, David Gutman reports this afternoon that Metro reiterates they could have continued to operate as a subcontractor, just as they did in 2016 and earlier this year. The Seahawks insist that the federal regulation has changed, though they’re hazy on when it happened].