Employee shuttles are a common sight in many prospering cities. There are things to like as an independent observer: they often cover underserved source-destination pairs at no cost to the public. Conversely, they might make some public routes unviable, stranding non-employees who might have used the route. There are also sometimes conflicts with public transit for curb space.
Smaller employers don’t have the resources to set up these schemes at all. If the service replaces a widespread ORCA passport schemes, it takes resources from transit. Among the most farcical outcomes is the spectacle of empty Microsoft shuttles passing empty Amazon shuttles on SR520 where a public route could fill both legs.
Enter Metro’s “shared employee shuttles” program. This is part of the agency’s charter to promote alternate transportation solutions. Metro serves as a matchmaking service and “supervises” operations, but the funding and operations are private. The routes are meant to “complement” public transit routes rather than compete with them.
For employers, it’s a mixed proposition to be under Metro auspices. Metro says that state law makes them “the sole provider of public transportation services in King County,” so a rogue operation would be against the law. (The law a has an exception for single-employer shuttles.) Metro will facilitate right-of-way and curb space negotiations with cities. On the other hand, employers will pay a nominal fee for processing applications, and will have to share their performance and rider survey data with Metro.
The first “cycle” will accept proposals from groups of 2-5 employers through April 3, and the pilot program will run for about a year.