This season’s Trailhead Direct service is wrapping up on October 28th, as the weather worsens and parking demand at trailheads drops. This year’s innovation was to directly serve particularly carless neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, rather than forcing a transfer (or drive) to Issaquah.

Feel free to comment on your experiences with Trailhead Direct below, but better yet tell Metro directly by responding to their survey. Metro wants to hear from you, even if you didn’t use the service this year.

17 Replies to “Trailhead Direct Wrapping Up, Has Survey”

  1. I’ve taken the MT Si route about 10 times. Raging River and Olallie MTB trails are within easy riding distance as well as the Iron Horse trail over the pass. I hope they decide to do it next year but they need triple racks that will take today’s bigger wheel size mountain bikes. Mine is a 26″ so I’m OK. I had to show up at least 20 minutes before hand to make sure I got a spot. Ridership has dripped off lately. Does anyone know how the Issaquah route did?

    I’m trying to organize a Transit Riders Union Hike to Si for the last weekend, check our FB page.

    1. I did manage to use trailhead direct once to do a bike ride out to the Snoqualmie Tunnel and back. It is totally doable in a day. The only catch is that, since the rack space is so limited, you pretty much can’t do it unless you do it alone, or at most, with one other person. An easy solution would be for the Mt. Si route to tow a trailer filled with bicycle racks.

  2. Here are my observations from using the service.

    – Overall, ridership has beat my expectations – when I ride it, I’m almost never the only one on the bus, there is quite often 10 or more people on board.
    – The vast majority of riders get on in Seattle. Eastgate and Issaquah pick up, maybe one rider at the most, usually zero.
    – On the Issaquah Alps route, there are two big annoyances, which would be nice to fix. One is the general awfulness of Mt. Baker Transit Center. The other is the time sink in the westbound direction of existing the freeway and waiting for all those lights to go in and out of Issaquah Transit Center, while not one person gets on or off the bus. Suggestions: 1) Have the bus stop on the other side of Ranier, next to the Link Station, rather than the transit center 2) Make the westbound Issaquah TC stop drop-off only, and skip it if nobody is getting off there. (Eastgate Freeway station is a quick enough stop, that serving it has no meaningful impact on service).
    – The Issaquah Alps route should make an additional stop at one of the Cougar Mountain trailheads along SR-900, which it already passes right by.
    – The Mt. Si route needs a stop at the Little Si trailhead
    – The Mt. Si route’s afternoon routing should be changed to exit I-5 at Madison St. to avoid the routine bottleneck caused by all the cars trying to merge down to one lane. The afternoon route should also be straightened.
    – I haven’t ridden the mailbox shuttle, but given that nearly all the ridership on the other routes is coming from Seattle residents without cars, and that the mailbox shuttle doesn’t connect with any public transportation, I would have to guess the ridership to be substantially less than the other routes.

  3. I used Trailhead Direct once to go to the High School Trail intending to connect to another trail. But the trail was almost continuously uphill and when I got to the intersection of what might have been the other trail it wasn’t marked so I wasn’t sure, and that one went even more steeply up. Of course this is mountainous terrain so most trails go uphill. But are there any accessible from Trailhead Direct that are mostly flat? That would be more my cup of tea.

    FWIW, I left in the afternoon a little too late to take the shuttle from Mt Baker so I took the 554 from downtown to Issaquah TC and got the shuttle there. The schedule is such that the Mt Baker extension is easbound in the morning until around 2pm, then bidirectional, then westbound around 6pm. That was fine, you just have to keep track of the schedule in your head. The half-hourly frequency also seemed right, bad for urban transporation but good for a trail shuttle. There were two or three other people on the shuttle. That was a month or two after it started, maybe in July or August. There has been a lot of promotion for it, more so than the previous shuttle programs, so that was good.

  4. Tradition Plateau is fairly flat, once you hike up there, which is only a few hundred feet. But, if you’re coming from downtown or anywhere north of downtown, it is considerably faster to just ride the 554 and walk from Issaquah City Hall, rather than use the trailhead direct.

    IMHO, the Issaquah Alps route only really makes sense for trailheads like Margaret’s Way, and Poo Poo point, where the 554 doesn’t go.

    But, if you want a really flat option, I suggest riding the Mt. Si route to North Bend and walking the Snoqualmie Valley trail. You’ll have to walk about three blocks from the North Bend P&R stop. The trail and the walk to the trail are both completely flat.

    1. It did seem like the 554 would more convenient for some trails. But I partly wanted to see what was on those roads I’d never seen like May Valley Road. The trailheads are a lot further apart than it appears on a map, and the shuttle takes fifteen minutes between each one. I was impressed by how well marked the trailheads are, and each one has an off-road gathering place.

      The Issaquah trails map shows the High School Trail going east through Park Pointe forest, with a sharp switchback at the east end up to the Park Pointe trails. That may have been where I turned around because the trail wasn’t marked so I didn’t know whether it was the right one. Further east it meets the Adventure Trail, which was the one I was trying to get to. After that it enters the Tradition Plateau NRCA forest with the Bonneville Power Trail and the Gas Line Trail. I was thinking of trying the Bonneville trail after the Adventure trail, but I got discouraged by the whole thing and never did. There’s no “Tradition Plateau trail” on the map. Did you mean the Bonneville trail, or either it or the Gas Line Trail? And are those trail intersections marked?

      1. By “tradition plateau”, I was referring to the whole area, not a specific trail. The adventure trail, gas line trail, bus trail, around-the-lake trail, etc.

        There are two ways to get up there from the 554. You can walk east to the East Sunset Way trailhead, or, you can take the the trail-to-the-trail (aka Ranier Trail) to the High School trailhead.

        Trailhead Direct serves both these locations directly, but if you’re coming from anywhere north of downtown, going from to Mt. Baker Transit Center, then riding all the way around the loop through Margarat’s Way and Poo Poo point isn’t worth it – it’s faster to just ride the 554 and have a little bit of extra walking. One added bonus of doing it this way is that the 554 bus stop has some open stores nearby, where you can buy food or water bottles, or use the restroom. The trailheads, themselves, have either port-a-potties or nothing, depending on the location.

  5. They should have a conversation with IKEA about running IKEA funded shuttles to their store. :)

    Other than custom road trip itineraries, after hiking trails and the ski slopes, IKEA is about the one other place car-free people like myself would want to go.

    1. You can almost get to the one in Portland from the nearest MAX station without getting killed trying to cross the one road you need to cross.

    2. It is somewhat doable without a car: Wearing a large backpack, I go there every other month or so to stock up on meatballs and such and have larger items delivered when needed. Two options: taking Metro 101 to Renton and transferring to the half-hourly 153; taking Metro 150 to Southcenter and transferring to an hourly DART 906, killing waiting time at the mall. Or on a nice day taking 150 all the way to Sperry Road and walking for about 20 minutes to the store.
      Benches at the bus stops outside IKEA would be very much welcome for the return trip. I have contacted the store about this but have never received a response.
      Love the convenience of taking MAX to the Portland store. Having the Metro F-line go closer could help quite a bit here.

    3. The 153 is weekdays only, and the 906 is weekdays and Saturdays. I’ve tried three ways: 150+160, 150+walking, and F+walking. All of them are in the “skeletal transit” level that only the poor or extremely dedicated non-driver would consider. It reminds me of growing up in Bellevue in the 80s when almost all buses were hourly and many locations were a mile or two walk from a bus stop. The fault also lies with Ikea, whose all-reusable cafeteria dishware is impressive but whose location choice belies its forward-thinking Swedish persona. Great, there’s a model 315 sq ft apartment inside, but how having a store location where people who live in 315 sq ft apartments can get to the store?

      1. I remember well how hard it was to get to the Issaquah mountains from Kirkland way back in the early ’90s: We had to take a bus to Seattle to connect with a two-houly bus to Issaquah. Harvey Manning’s guidebooks introduced us to this great hiking area.

      2. “I remember well how hard it was to get to the Issaquah mountains from Kirkland way back in the early ’90s”

        It’s still hard to do, today. The 245->554 combination may be *slightly* quicker than detouring to downtown Seattle on the 255. But, only slightly – the 245 is quite meandering, and connecting in downtown Seattle has much better options for buying food along the way.

      3. When you can stock an entire kitchen at Uwajimaya one block from Intl Dist Station and get a hot lunch to boot, there’s no contest.

  6. Is there any plan to run a similar service in the winter to the ski areas or sno park snowshoe thrail heads?

    1. Such service actually does exist (to at least Stevens, maybe other destinations), but it’s quite expensive, which is part of why I’ve never ridden it. Besides the cost, you must also plan the schedules very carefully, as it runs just one round trip per day, arriving at the ski area around 10 AM, and leaving around 4 PM. The fares only remotely make any sense for people that are traveling alone – even for groups of two, by the time you pay the bus fare, you may as well just just rent a Zipcar.

      One big reason why the service is so expensive is labor. You have to pay for the bus driver to drive empty from base to Seattle pick-up point, drive to the ski area, sit with the bus for 6 hours while the passengers go skiing, drive back to Seattle, then drive the empty bus back to the base again. Adding everything up, a single round trip easily requires a good 11 hours of paid labor – which doesn’t even include the cost to actually run the bus (fuel/maintenance/etc.).

      If we want a ski bus to be affordable, the only options are either very large subsidies, or going driverless. Technologically, snow conditions are more difficult to automate than normal city/highway driving, so don’t expect robot-driven ski buses for quite some time.

    2. Another of those things that works in Switzerland but can’t seem to work here…

      Why doesn’t Sam go to Switzerland this winter and do some skiing, and report on the transit access.

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