Via to Transit service areas (source: King County Metro)

Via to Transit, which debuted in 2019 as an on-demand Link shuttle to better connect to Link areas where bus service is limited or not available, is getting a major expansion on Tuesday, August 10th, 2021. From 2020 to now, Via to Transit only had three service areas, one for Othello, Rainier Beach, and Tukwila Intl Blvd Link stations (while pervious iterations also had service areas for Mount Baker and Columbia City stations). Passengers from within each service area could request a pickup using the Via to Transit app, and they would be assigned a street corner to wait at. By having passengers wait at areas a few blocks from where they requested a pickup, the software used by drivers could optimally route vans to pick up every waiting passenger efficiently, bringing wait times to 10-15 minutes. Service times ran from the morning to at least midnight daily, except Tukwila, where service was available weekdays only during commute hours. But Tuesday’s expansion will expand service to Renton, introduce multiple destinations in most service areas, and bring all-day, 7 days per week service to Tukwila.

This expansion is somewhat of a turning point for Via to Transit. Previously, it had been narrowly focused, with the goal to get riders to Link Light Rail from nearby neighborhoods that are too far to walk, but not dense enough for fixed-route transit service. Now it is evolving into a more general purpose mobility service.

The Tukwila service area is finally becoming useful. It is adding a desination at Tukwila Community Center, which is largely inaccessible/impractical from a transit use standpoint, being about one mile away from a useful bus route. While previously, you could access it from Tukwila by making two Via to Transit trips (one to TIBS, then another to the community center), including it as a destination means you can now take Via directly to Tukwila Community Center, no matter where inside the service area you start. But the biggest change is that service is now all day, every day, until 1am (Mon-Sat) or midnight (Sunday), in line with Via to Transit service in Seattle. Previously, it was only available during the weekday commute, with service from 6-9am and 3:30-6:30pm, making it largely unusable for non-commute passengers.

The Renton service area is entirely new in this expansion. With the recent loss of route 908, coverage in the Renton Highlands has been reduced a bit, making it more difficult to use the bus if you don’t live near route 105. Expanding Via to Transit here gives back some of that on-demand coverage. Additionally, instead of just connecting people to Renton Transit Center (which it does), it can also be used to go to the Renton Highlands library, and the QFC and Bartell’s, providing much more flexibility than route 908 ever did. The drawback, however, is that Via to Transit stops running in Renton at 6pm every “night.” Service is still available 7 days per week, however, so trips that would be too late to work on a weekday can still be made on the weekend.

Finally, the Rainier Beach service area is expanding in size. Formerly ending right around Skyway, its service area now extends farther south into downtown Renton, with new destinations available at Renton Transit Center, Skyway Library, and Kubota Garden. While transit coverage is decent for what can be done with fixed-route service (with routes 106 and 107 crisscrossing through the area), the low frequency of the 107 and hilly walks to the bus stop limits the appeal of fixed route service here. Having a new on-demand option to bring you to a bus, train, or potentially directly to your destination will help a lot here.

Service is funded through the end of 2022 start as a six-month pilot, and costs the same as taking the bus. If you are connecting to a bus, then you can transfer for free with an ORCA card. So if you live in one of these service areas, grab a mask and try it out. Metro is looking for feedback, and will use this feedback to increase the service’s safety, sustainability, and equity.

55 Replies to “Via to Transit is expanding”

  1. It’s great that alternative services are being tested in pilot projects. However, are they financially sustainable?

    Also, I’m not sure how popular some of the new non-transit-hub destinations will be. Will there be idle Via drivers?

  2. Would it be useful to offer Via only one day a week in each neighborhood — but serve five times more neighborhoods? These new destinations seem to point to the objective being more of a “lifeline service” rather than a “commute” service. If this is the case, the program should perhaps consider developing fewer hours of service and adding more neighborhoods and destinations. At what point does this become general use paratransit?

    1. 15-minute headways is decent transit if it can really achieve that. Once a week is unusable: most people’s trips wouldn’t match it. If it runs Mondays but my medical appointment or shopping trip or library due date is Thursday, it’s useless.

  3. One aspect of these areas are many steep hillsides that restrict access to fixed routes because many neighbors find going up and down steep hills to demanding. Does Metro have a composite transit access measure that takes elevation differences into account?

  4. In economist terms, a good or service is considered “rival” if there’s a fixed supply of it (or increasing the supply incurs a nontrivial cost), so one person consuming it means that somebody else doesn’t, or has to pay more to consume it also. By contrast, a nonrival good means one person’s consumption doesn’t take the item away from anybody else.

    In the world of transportation, private cars are rival, as are taxi rides, while public transit is largely nonrival (the exception being when people are left stranded at a bus stop because the bus is full).

    The distinction between rival and nonrival is very important to the taxpayer. Nonrival transit services become more efficient the more people use them. There is no need to impose a means test or other rationing because an otherwise empty seat on a bus filled by a middle class person who could afford their own car costs taxpayers nothing.

    Via, on the other hand, is a rival service. Each time, someone takes a trip, they are using up a car and driver for a period of time that it cannot be used for anyone else. Via works great when you’re the only one using it, but it doesn’t take very many concurrent users before wait times start to increase, which can be fixed only by increasing the fleet size, which is expensive to the taxpayer. Eventually, the cost gets unaffordable, and the agency is forced to ration service somehow, either by making it inconvenient through long wait times, so only those with no other options will use it, or through more explicit means such as income qualifications, waiting list, lotteries, etc.

    This is a huge problem with public housing, caused largely by the fact that housing is a rival good. A few hundred or thousand dollars per person per month adds up very fast, so the service must be rationed.

  5. It’s unclear what the goals for this service are? They stopped service in Mt Baker/Columbia City because it wasn’t viable but they are adding service in other areas. Are the goals financial or service based? According to this blog post they are changing the goals, but why? It seems like it is useful to some people, but it seems to be catering the whims to whoever is running it rather than being well thought out.

    When I used it, it seemed like they had very few drivers. It had people driving from the end of one region to the opposite end of another region and the wait times were sometimes longer than the walk would be. This at the beginning of the program, so I hope things have changed.

    1. It’s clearly equity based. King County and ST took a sharp turn toward prioritizing equity last year after the pandemic surge and Floyd murder/BLM protests. Ridership in southeast Seattle and south King County didn’t fall as much as other areas, and it was recognized that many of the riders there are essential workers and have off-peak shifts. So Metro is adding service in southeast Seattle and south King County, either to address overcrowding or add coverage. It’s doing it from reserve funds, tax-revenue increases, or potentially by taking hours from the Eastside and the rest of Seattle. ST is adding additional ST Express service to Tacoma and Federal Way next year. So this Via expansion between Orcas Street and Grady Way is in the same vein.

      1. So basically it is equity theater. They are offering an expensive service to low income communities that very few will use. More people would benefit if they spent money on more cost effective fixed route bus service, but Metro doesn’t want to commit to that. Better to advertise all of this “special” service, since it will get the press. Oh, and if things change, and they don’t feel like serving those communities, killing off the service is way easier than cancelling bus routes, since (you guessed it) it was always a terrible value.

      2. So basically it is equity theater. They are offering an expensive service to low income communities that very few will use.

        Don’t know if that’s true. Prior experience tells me it’s quite likely. Bottom line is there is just a limited pot of money to spend on transit and the way our system is set up it’s more about getting politicians re-elected that providing quality transit. I’ll go back to the call to have the ST board elected. Maybe that will be worse (hard to imagine). But doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is…

  6. I love billionaires, Wall Street, capitalism and Israel. So, when I found out Via is run by two Israelis, who served in and worked for the IDF, and they are now working with Goldman Sachs on an IPO, it made me like the company. Anything that might possibly enrage a BDS’er and DSA’er is ok by me.

    1. Yep, clearly in that first red box (Upward redistribution of the benefits of public spending). Funny that it is simultaneously being sold as a beneficial to low income communities.

  7. It sounds like this service, rather than just serving a few areas with very poor bus service, will now become part of a larger mode of first/last mile access. Via may be a good first/last mile access mode for those areas like Kenmore that requested an amendment to the realignment plan to provide greater (or any) first/last mile access since their park and rides are being delayed. Extending Via to Renton suggests it will be available to the eastside subarea.

    Cost per rider mile will be interesting to see (and compare to Uber and Lyft), especially as the service moves into less dense areas like Kenmore and East King Co., when as I imagine those areas will demand Via based on the amendment in the realignment plan and the delay in their promised park and rides.

    Rather than having transit users drive to a park and ride in their own car at their own expense, now Metro will provide the car and driver (electric hopefully).

    Hopefully the cost of Via to serve all those transit riders who would use a park and ride but now use Via is less than the cost of the park and ride. For example, to replace the S. Bellevue Park and Ride Metro would need 1500 Via cars and drivers M-F to replace the park and ride (unless some Via rides could be shared).

    The advantage of Via is it can be door to door first/last mile access, which is the great advantage of the car. The disadvantage may come when when many subareas demand Via service, and those subareas are undense and spread out geographically, say like the Sammamish Plateau (or Mercer Island which would benefit from Via). Although Via in the past was focused on neighborhoods of equity, the amendment to the realignment plan promising first/last mile access for delaying park and rides should give legal rights to all areas to demand Via, especially if their park and rides were delayed (even though their subarea had the money for the park and ride).

    Viva Via. True first/last mile access to Link.

      1. “Via to Transit, which debuted in 2019 as an on-demand Link shuttle to better connect to Link areas where bus service is limited or not available, is getting a major expansion on Tuesday, August 10th, 2021.”

        That is what the article states Via is for.

        “Interim access to station[s] which have delayed parking. This could mean additional connecting bus routes to some stations (some of which are in areas without much in the way of bus connections already), or microtransit options.”

        This is the substance of Kenmore’s Mayor’s amendment to the realignment according to the article in STB.

        What is Via if not microtransit? Both Kenmore and East King Co. are areas where bus service is limited, and whose park and rides were delayed for a debt ceiling that has nothing to do with East King. Co.

        So why not Via or microtransit in Kenmore and East King Co.? It seems like a logical if possibly expensive solution to me. People have to get to Link and transit somehow, right? If not Via, then what other microtransit was the ST Board thinking of in the amendment to the realignment it adopted?

      2. Via is probably more expensive per rider than parking due to large ongoing operations cost, and is generally less convenient for the passenger than driving and parking in a free space.

        But, it does offer some advantages over parking. Via accommodates people who don’t have cars, or whose car is in the shop. Parking doesn’t. Via can be used as a last mile solution for reverse commuters. Park and ride lots are useless for that purpose (unless you buy a second car to keep at the park and ride all night). Via also has the advantage of not consuming station-adjacent land like parking does. So, it becomes a tradeoff.

        But, however you slice and dice it, if access to the station is not supposed to be conditional on access to a private car, fixed route buses are still more efficient and scale better than para transit. More riders on the bus is something to celebrate, more riders on Via means rationing is needed to prevent the service from busting the budget.

    1. Metro has been pursuing alternative service in the lowest-density areas for a decade now. Dial-a-ride has been around for decades on some 9xx routes in Kent and Federal Way. They generally run hourly or half-hourly weekdays and maybe Saturday on a nominal route between transit/shopping centers, and allow deviations to other streets in the service area. These are run by Metro with union drivers. The Snoqualmie Valley Transportation shuttles are similar but are not run by Metro: Metro just provides the vans and scheduling support, and a nonprofit operates them. There have also been on-demand pilots (no fixed route) such as Via, Ride 2 in West Seattle and southeast Bellevue, Crossroads Connector in Bellevue, Community Ride in Kenmore, etc.

      All these on-demand services have been pilots or construction mitigation, although it looks like Crossroads Connect will be more permanent and is in preparation for East Link. But Metro is expanding Via now, and it may add Via or similar to other areas later. There’s an opportunity for Daniel to get service on Mercer Island.

      However, Jarrett Walker, a world-renowned transit expert, says on-demand services are less cost effective than fixed routes. Coverage routes usually get at least ten riders per service hour, even apparently mostly-empty ones. On-demand taxis get two riders per hour on average. Via was especially productive at four riders per hour. That’s still less than half of a coverage route like the 107 or 906. So it would be better if Metro added fixed routes or expanded their frequency/span instead of expanding Via. But on-demand transit has a vocal following and some political power, especially in equity-emphasis areas. So Metro is bowing to it. It’s sustainable because Metro is adding it to its budget and thinks it can continue it long-term. But it’s costing more than fixed-route service hours would be, so the tradeoff is less fixed-route expansion. (Unless it gets a dedicated tax source of course.) So the future may be Via, and that may be a solution for Mercer Island and Kenmore and other lowest-density areas. But it’s overall less transit and a less efficient use of taxpayer dollars than additional fixed-route service would be.

      1. Having ridden SVT and Hopelink driven service, I can tell you they are nothing we should support or emulate. The quality of the drivers is subpar at best, often blaring music or news on their PA system and talking on their cell phones while driving. Local microtransit is awful, and should be eliminated in favor of actual full transit services. This includes Via. First/last mile access is overhyped and by and large unnecessary.

        We need to refocus our efforts and money on/into Metro, ST, etc. and ditch Hopelink, SVT, Via, First Transit and the like for our wallets’ and ridership’s sake.

      2. I actually applied to Hopelink before driving for BSD. What a crap organization. They wanted to pay $16/hr and have you work a split shift. And you’d have to drive miles out of the way from where you were actually serving to get the vehicle all at your expense. Basically, Hopelink generates large salaries for it’s management taking government subsidies under the guise of a not for profit. Not for Profit is big business. And King County politicians love to hand out free candy.

        I think DART is driven by Metro employees but not sure about that. It has other issues though like not adhering to their own rules about serving areas within range of an existing stop.

      3. I should not have used the term “moron”. That was unprofessional and I regretted hitting send on that post as soon as I did. TT can use insults but I should not. Apologies to all.

        I think — or hope — the Via article, that on its face is fairly innocuous, focuses attention on the central issue: first/last mile access.

        And that first/last mile access begins and ends at your doorstep, especially if you have a car in the garage. That is critical to understand. Whether someone in Kenmore needs access to a feeder bus or light rail station is irrelevant: their transit trip begins at their doorstep.

        And let’s face it: class warfare is irrelevant in this discussion, because no matter the area most people who take transit do so because they must. Kenmore is not Beverly Hills 90210.

        Whether you walk or bike to a bus, or drive to a park and ride, or somehow get to a feeder bus to rail, your first/last mile access begins at your door step. Every other form of transit is your “second seat”.

        Some people are old or disabled. Some live in neighborhoods in which it is not safe to walk at night. Others live in undense areas and have long or steep walks even to a feeder bus.

        Like Ross I have reservations about spending $131 billion to run light rail over a 90 mile spine, which creates station spacing that necessitates first/last mile feeder service. In the downtown Seattle core we have three stations, four if you count ID. In
        Bellevue we have three stations over an enormous area.

        It will be the quality of first/last mile access that determines the success of Link, and I don’t think ST truly understands that, and Metro is a very expensive partner.

        For around 90% non-peak trips will be by car if you own a car because most parking is free, even at Bellevue Square mall. I think we will lose around 25% of our peak commuters on transit post pandemic, and that may fundamentally change the discussion over first/last mile access. Who needs expensive park and rides or micro transit if they are no longer taking transit to work. I wonder if ST’s delay of park and rides accepts this tough truth.

        I think Notthgate Link will be a good experiment because it will open in October but in person office work is unlikely until 2022 so there won’t be a crush of first/last mike access. The reopening of the 1500 stall at S. Bellevue Park and Ride will be even more telling, and whether more people use the free parking to visit downtown Bellevue vs. for the 550 to Seattle. Imagine if there was a free 1500 stall parking garage around Sodo.

        What I do know about first/last mile access is it is expensive, and requires huge subsidies. Park and rides are actually cheaper than micro transit per rider, but even worse fiscally is if park and rides and micro transit are unnecessary because the work commuter disappears.

        Although I think WFH is the best thing to happen to workers, whether full or part time, my guess is this loss of farebox recovery and loss of interest in transit levies in the suburbs is what keeps ST up at night.

      4. “Imagine if there was a free 1500 stall parking garage around Sodo”
        As someone who used to live in a City where we had a few Park and Rides that are within the city limits (Denver) and that are somewhat close to Downtown I can say that they’re a waste of money and terrible infrastructure. They’re rarely full, could be better used by a mixed used building, and are bad urban planning. Parking lots in urban areas are generally black holes in my opinion for similar reasons.

        As someone who’s lived a decent amount of time in Tacoma the light rail line is needed and makes the region more interconnected. When you rely on transit to get you places you start to see why having such a trunk line is needed. For Tacoma it’s generally about connecting to South King and the Airport. Seattle is a secondary priority for folks when it’s more or less served well by Sounder. Alongside that frequency on the current express buses is not that great like the 574 594 etc.

      5. South Main is about as close to Wilburton as IDS is to Westlake. True, there is more track between, because the alignment wanders a bit. But the area served is pretty similar. Bellevue could have had another downtown station if ir wanted one, but South Main and the TC are pretty close.

      6. @Sam Hopelink also drove the 628 before Metro killed the route. I used to live in the Snoqualmie Valley, and it was transit there that soured me to much of it. That and First Transit’s behavior in downtown Seattle.

    2. Um, er, ah, you did look at the splash illustration, which says King County Metro…, right?

      So how come your rant inevitably comes down to an attack on ST for delaying palatial parking palaces in Kenmore and East King more broadly? The record must have a scratch on it.

      1. “Interim access to station[s] which have delayed parking. This could mean additional connecting bus routes to some stations (some of which are in areas without much in the way of bus connections already), or microtransit options.”

        Again TT, this is the amendment to the realignment plan proposed by the mayor of Kenmore that the Board adopted and I quoted in my prior post. It applied to all subareas that would have park and rides in their area delayed.

        Can you tell us which forms of connecting transit the amendment was referring to? Additional connecting bus routes is one, some kind of bus connecting service to areas without much in the way of bus connections is another (although I am not sure what that would be), or microtransit, like Via in King Co. is a third.

        I don’t think I mentioned ST in my post, let alone ranted. I simply stated Via sounded like the kind of microtransit the amendment was referring to.

        Do you really think Kenmore’s park and ride is palatial? Why would ST include a palatial park and ride in Kenmore as part of ST 3? I think the park and ride in Kenmore was part of ST 3 exactly because Kenmore is “without much in the way of bus connections already”. Or do you believe Kenmore should have no first/last mile access because in your warped view of class warfare Kenmore is too “privileged”.

        If ST, and CT, PT and Metro would rather provide the first/last mile access by increasing bus service, creating new bus service routes, and microtransit, while delaying park and rides, and think adequate service will save money, that is their call. The proof will be in the pudding.

        How is that an attack on ST, except granted it is frustrating for areas like Kenmore to have their ST 3 projects delayed to complete truly palatial ST projects in Seattle because ST underestimated by billions those ST 2 and ST 3 projects, although you don’t want to believe that.

        The delay in park and rides on the eastside is because those are park and rides designed to serve the Issaquah to S. Kirkland line, that I doubt will get built, just like DSTT2 and WSBLE, so why build the park and ride when the solution is to continue express peak buses from Issaquah to downtown Seattle, which already has very large park and rides on the route.

      2. ST’s station-access plans are separate from Metro’s. If it says it’s considering interim microtransit to stations with delayed parking expansion, then it’s considering either van routes or on-demand service. ST just passed that policy a few days ago so it hasn’t had time yet to study specific stations and their service options. That always takes several months.

      3. Wait, this is in the 2022 service plan or the realignment? The realignment passed last week. The 2022 service plan is still being drafted (and is in a public comment period until August 22nd. (Open house was today; I missed it. Public hearing is tomorrow.)

      4. Mike, this is a Metro proposal and a Metro funded service. It has nothing to do with “realignment”. This is the same thing I said to Daniel.

      5. There you have it folks. I pointed out that this is a Metro project and Metro funded and the Champion of the Nattering Nabobs of Negativity nattered on about ST AGAIN!

        It’s getting old Daniel. Are you being paid by the auto dealerships?

      6. I think everyone understood from the very beginning Via was a Metro project, and the amendment to the realignment was a ST proposal. That is not the point.

        If ST is going to delay a park in ride in Kenmore — that obviously was deemed necessary in ST 3 for first/last mile access — so it can spend the money someplace else ST has an obligation to make up that lost first/last mile access. This is not a complex concept, and is the heart of the Kenmore Mayor’s proposed amendment.

        If you build a light rail station people have to be able to get to it, although I am not sure ST or many rail advocates truly understand that. The reality is in many suburban and ex-urban areas light rail is now reaching folks who will just drive to wherever they are going if first/last mile access is inconvenient or slow, not what you want when spending $131 billion on light rail based on some fantastical future ridership estimates

        Via, or microtransit, is only one possible mode of first/last mile access to get people to the station at Kenmore. Increasing existing bus service is another, although I am not sure Kenmore has good existing feeder bus service, or creating new bus routes. All of these options are not cheap when amortized over decades.

        Although some reflexively hate cars, or think transit will displace cars, there is a logic to park and rides: in the long run they are cheaper and more convenient than other modes of first/last mile access in undense and low population areas with challenging topography, and ST has budgeted for them in ST 2 or 3 and collected the money.

        Although there is the initial cost to build a park and ride (and unfortunately ST spends around 20% to 25% more per stall than private industry), the benefit is once built the cost of the car and driver is borne by the transit rider, not ST or local transit. Buses, fuel, and bus drivers every single day cost money too, especially peak service. If Metro were asked to replace the first/last mile access for 500 park and ride users in the Issaquah region it would cost a fortune, more than the park in ride in the long term.

        ST relies on local transit for first/last mile access, whether CT, PT or Metro. So the ST amendment actually reallocates the near term cost of the park and ride — that will still get built down the road — from ST to local transit.

        Except local transit was not at the table when the ST amendment was adopted, and does not have a bunch of extra cash lying around to provide feeder bus service — or microtransit — to Kenmore, or areas on the eastside. After all, that is why the original proposal in ST 3 called for park and rides, and were budgeted for ST in ST 3, until ST ran out of money.

        Despite TT’s numerous insults he never answered the two simple questions I asked in my post:

        1. Who will provide this first/last mile access in lieu of the park and rides called for in the amendment to the realignment (unless you believe some areas like Kenmore should not have first/last mile access to a light rail station, which begs the question why build the station them)? The answer is pretty simple: who provides first/last mile access now? Metro, PT and CT, except their budgets are fixed and are tight — even in urban areas — unless ST shares some of the revenue from the delayed park and ride construction with them?

        2. Which mode will local transit use to feed these suburban and ex-urban areas, which ST and many rail advocates have never understood. For example, probably 0.1% of the eastside can walk to a light rail station, and the rest of East King Co. is the size of Rhode Island. Microtransit is the natural choice because it most closely resembles a park and ride, except now local transit has to pay for the car, fuel and driver, for hundreds of light rail riders, every day, when with a park and ride those riders would pay for the car, fuel and driver.

        The point I was trying to get at is ST in its decision to delay park and rides — whether you hate cars or not — and then its amendment calling on local transit to provide the same first/last mile access the park and ride was suppose to provide shifted huge amounts of access costs from ST to local transit.

        So in the long run, despite the mode of first/last mile access local transit has to use to serve these undense areas, local transit either has to raise more money (after ST has already levied and collected the money for these park and rides), shift service from existing routes to these new feeder routes, or demand reimbursement from ST that took the money for the park and rides in ST 3, but shifted the first/last mile access to local transit.

        Transit almost always come down to one single issue: money. ST hoovered all the transit money out of the system, misspent and miscalculated a lot of it, and now wants to shift the cost of first/last mile access from the park and rides to local transit.

        This isn’t a class issue, although for TT everything is a class issue, and at least on the eastside Kenmore is not seen as a super privileged community. What it is about is if you build a 90 mile spine that you know will go through undense areas that are best served by park and rides — but you decide to use the ST 3 revenue for the park and rides for other projects — you can’t pretend the cost of the alternative first/last mile access magically disappears because now local transit has to fund that access, because the real alternative is those folks will just drive for off-peak trips, and they will demand peak express buses to downtown Seattle after Link opens.

      7. I’m left wondering why either of these paths is attractive:

        – Drive to park and ride, catch Stride, catch Link

        – Take Via shuttle to park and ride, catch Stride, catch Link

        … And if they are going to the airport, add another Link transfer when DSTT2 opens. Or it’s get to 522 Stride, get on 522 Stride, get on 405N Stride, get on 405S Stride and get on Link at TIBS.

        From a rider perspective these are horrible trips to make! Debating which is better is a race to ridiculousness.

        And the only thing sillier than an on-demand shuttle primarily for local trips is a parking facility that would primarily serve those trips. If possible, those people are simply going to drive the extra 2-3 miles to a garage that has direct Link service — or if it’s a local trip they will drive the extra mile to their actual destination.

        I think a pretty good case can be made to only build parking structures for direct trips to Downtown Seattle or Downtown Bellevue. Even Via service should include a destination that offers direct and frequent service to Downtown Seattle or Bellevue — unless the intent is to provide a general demand responsive local service only.

        Meanwhile, it’s important to call out anyone who thinks that transit works like a Highway network — even advocacy groups, elected officials or staff planners.

      8. Those are good points Al, but you don’t state how someone who can’t walk to a bus stop starts their transit trip. Whether it is an older urban person who must navigate hills or streets for several blocks, or someone on the eastside whose driveway is several blocks long and straight uphill.

        The difference with the urban and less affluent person is they likely don’t have a car. You can serve the person on the eastside with a park and ride although I agree their use of transit is almost exclusively commuting to work, but even if you could build a park and ride in urban Seattle if someone does not have a car they still need to start their transit trip somewhere, and that means walk, bike, (both fine for the young and fit if your bike doesn’t get stolen) or microtransit, and microtransit is expensive per rider mile. Otherwise ST would have solved its first/last mile access issue with Uber/Lyft.

      9. Daniel, there is always the extensive paratransit system available for lower income, mobility challenged riders. How eligibility and service requests are managed is an important topic, but conceptually people in need have options. I bet most would choose a two hour window for front door service as opposed to hopping on and off several vehicles ending up with a multiple transfer trip that takes almost two hours to make and then having to get a few more blocks to reach a destination..

        Our regional housing policy does not seem to encourage getting this demographic to move to areas where fixed routes are viable. I cringe when I see more remote “active senior” developments that have no fixed route service or a large selection of stores and restaurants. Seniors will have deteriorating health at some point — and often it’s coming on in just several more years. It’s a huge drain on measly paratransit budgets to drive for miles to reach some of them. (Example: promoting seniors living in Tehaleh)

        Most low income areas have been around awhile and often already have decent fixed route service. As long as most affordable housing is close to decent service, I don’t see a huge problem. It’s just not financially practical to favor every low income person in a more remote area over lots of low income people living closer together who should be entitled to great service.

        Any any case, I think a pretty good case could be made to having Via over a parking garage that is unserved by a direct route to Downtown Seattle or Downtown Bellevue.

      10. Dude, your eloquent bloviation ignores one glaring reality: Kenmore is not on Link. Riders from the Palatial Parking Palace will have to transfer anyway. Ooopsie, another example of blah-blah about something without doing a little fact checking first.

        You are correct that the cost of providing shuttle service will fall on Metro, CT and PT and that their budgets are fully committed. It is certainly a problem.

        But why is that? Well, it’s because the cheapskates in the land overlaid by the Noble East King Subarea and the poor churchmice in the land overlaid by the Noble South King Subarea voted “NO!” to a countywide Transit Benefit District which might have provided the necessary funds.

        The only Subarea which did vote for the countywide levy and then voted to tax itself for local transit improvements when the countywide one failed is the Degenerate North King Subarea. And we all know that when Degenerates vote, the outcome must be corrupt!

        I believe that a good part of the funding for the shuttles to ameliorate the lack of Parking Palaces will come from elimination of the runs to downtown Seattle which chew up bus hours with truly MOTU-like abandon. Yes, there’s a good argument for a few direct peak expresses from Eastgate and Issaquah and maybe Coal Creek/Kennydale to downtown Seattle on I-90, especially because East Link has the same sort of capacity limits as the Rainier Valley.

        Look at the Metro map of Eastside service. There are frequent services to all the major activity centers. You have a warped view of that service because you live on the Island and don’t use it. Metro tried heroically to interest your neighbors in transit usage without success.

        But lots of people in other parts of the East Side do use transit and will continue to do so. Those same buses that carry people to and from Bellevue to points all over the East Side will still be running on their existing funding, and they’ll still be carrying people who transfer to the 550 today.

        You need to be more honest and advocate for the logical conclusion of your hatred for all forms of transit: complete abolition. Anything else is “negotiating with the enemy”, isn’t it? Isn’t that really why you’re here?

      11. Via or no Via, Kenmore is just 3-4 miles from three future Link parking garages with a train every 4-5 minutes (in 2024). The place for Kenmore transit garage parking should be on I-5 at a Link station (or maybe on 405 Stride).

      12. “Dude, your eloquent bloviation ignores one glaring reality: Kenmore is not on Link. Riders from the Palatial Parking Palace will have to transfer anyway. Ooopsie, another example of blah-blah about something without doing a little fact checking first.”

        Above is TT’s post.

        “Via or no Via, Kenmore is just 3-4 miles from three future Link parking garages with a train every 4-5 minutes (in 2024). The place for Kenmore transit garage parking should be on I-5 at a Link station (or maybe on 405 Stride).”

        Above is is Al’s post.

        TT, you sound like a moron.

  8. Could you ride from Renton Highlands to RTC and then RTC to Rainier Beach Station for a single fare?

  9. Does Metro publish data on how effective these type of transit projects are. Up in Lake Forest Park, we had a couple of local services like this – community ride and community shuttle or something like that. I considered using them a couple of times but found their restrictions made them unusable to me. Stuff like service area, day/time, minimum number of passengers, needing to schedule days in advance, etc. The services were never well advertised and quietly went away with pandemic service changes. But I’m interested to know how effective they were.

  10. The Alex lead seems off. In 2019, Via was applied to SE Seattle Link stations. The area is served by routes 7, 14, 36, 50, 60, 106, and 107. That year, routes 7 and 36 had 10-minute headways; routes 14, 60, 106, and 107 had 15-minute headways, and Route 50 had a 20-minute headway; so, bus service was not limited or unavailable.

    Via in Renton will compete with Route 105. See page 27 of the System Evaluation; Route 105 is in the top quartile of suburban routes; perhaps it should get shorter headway. What is the opportunity cost of Via?

    1. I can’t believe how many commenters aren’t getting what Via, at least how it’s used in our county, is all about.

  11. Sam: your earlier comments implied you think Via is for the billionaires or for the woke, correct?

    1. I don’t think you understand how important the low-income bipoc component is when they decide which neighborhoods will get Via service, regardless of how many bus routes are around.

  12. Of course Via is for low income people, mostly urban, who generally must use transit but can’t walk to a bus stop that is close enough. Otherwise they would just drive, rather than deal with the hassle of Via followed by a bus or train. The problem is Via is very expensive per rider when you factor in the cost of the vehicle, fuel and driver. So Via’s scope is limited, due to cost, which as noted in other posts makes it very inconvenient for someone who can afford to just drive.

    Now shift Via to say Kenmore, or an area on the eastside that had its park and ride delayed, but according to the ST amendment will get equal alternate feeder service, either an increase in current bus feeder routes (which don’t exist on much of the eastside due to the sheer size and topography), new bus routes (same problem as increasing existing routes), or Via/microtransit, which most resembles a park and ride, except Metro or the other transit agencies pay for the cost of the vehicle, fuel and driver.

    Then expand that microtransit to serve 500 peak hour users in non-urban areas to replace the park and rides ST delayed for other projects when ST is not offering local transit any of the money it collected for those park and rides that are still scheduled to get built for this new bus or microtransit service.

    It is important to understand there is a reason these park and rides were made part of ST 3 in order to sell ST 3. The local cities and neighborhoods didn’t demand park and rides because they don’t like transit, they demanded park and rides because they could not envision any other first/last mile access that works in these large, undense areas, or is affordable, because with a park and ride after it is built the rider pays for the car, fuel and driver. Whereas Metro is 80% subsidized, someone driving to a park and ride, especially one that serves a light rail station, is 0% subsidized.

    From the very beginning ST refused to include first/last mile access in its budgeting (except when local cities demanded park and rides and ST was desperate to sell levies to these areas), and from the beginning Urban and rail advocates never understood these undense suburban and ex-urban areas, which ironically probably never should have gotten rail.

    If Metro provides half assed alternate access to these areas — which I think is the best it can do just based on geography and topography — the folks whose park and rides were delayed for projects in other areas will have a legitimate complaint. If the service is even half assed the cost to Metro or CT or PT will be enormous.

  13. It is important to consider where we are on this flowchart:

    I’m guessing that we are on the left hand side. I don’t think we are improving customer service, although there is clearly an element of it being nicer for some, but worse for many. I think this is all about lower labor costs. Pay workers less money, and you can do more. Not a lot, mind you, just a bit more. You have increased economic inequity as a result. Of course, it may be a mix. This may be both a terrible value AND a way to increase economic inequity.

    Or has Seattle — that special little place that is unlike every other burg in the world — somehow managed to be the exception, just as it was with bike share, and freeway train stations in the middle of nowhere. Yeah, right. Sorry for the cynicism, but this is just a way to screw over the workers — the bus drivers who have literally been risking their lives to get people to where they need to go — by implementing failed experiments, but wrapping it all in techno wizardry.

  14. Speaking of techno wizardry.

    The Skybus and gadgetbahns. The Skybus was a kind of driverless elevated bus on rails (please don’t call it a train, they say) in Pittsburgh frim 1967 to 1980. It goes on to talk about how all kinds of bespoke gadgetbahns from novel monorails to hyperloops end up trying to reinvent light rail, at higher cost and lower capacity.

  15. Hi all, this is my first post on here. Sorry if this rambles. I just wanted to offer a perspective from someone who lives in the area. I grew up in Skyway and now live in Tukwila.

    I commute to downtown for work (at least before the pandemic). I used to go to the Park & Ride on Interurban and take the 150 to work. I would have taken light rail on TIB, but the park and ride was often full. I switched to light rail after Via started in the area. I might switch in the future to taking the extended A Line to the future BAR station.

    I certainly do lament past decisions to push the station away from 144th and towards the 518 highway. A lot more of us could have just walked instead of trying to figure out these access issues.

    The addition of the Tukwila Community Center is nice. There’s always been talks of a circulator or something to get people from the hill to there. The TCC was always referenced whenever seniors and teens asked for a place to have programs and activities. But getting there was always iffy from the hill. Hoping they’ll add sidewalks on 42nd or a bike lane someday. Then we could hit Riverton Park, TCC, and the Interurban trail without having to drive.

    I’m not saying Via is the best option. But compared to what we had before (nothing), I’ll take it. Also, I appreciate everyone on this blog discussing the different alternatives. I wouldn’t know otherwise.

  16. Summing up the tradeoffs of Via vs. parking, I think it looks like this:

    Advantages of parking:
    – Generally cheaper cost per rider served
    – Avoids large ongoing operations cost, which makes continued operation much less dependent on political winds.
    – Available 24×7 without prohibitive labor costs
    – More convenient (no wait time or random detours to pick up other passengers)
    – Less traffic congestion around the station compared to Via, which has a lot of deadheading after dropping passengers off.
    – Makes some people feel safer by not having to share a car with a stranger driver.
    – No service area limits. Even people who live in rural areas, well outside the ST district, can still use it, as long as they are willing to drive the distance to get there; Via, on the other hand, has to have a strict service area boundary to keep labor costs remotely reasonable, and is useless to anyone living beyond that boundary.

    Advantages of Via:
    – Serves people who do not have cars, while parking provides no service at all if you do not have a car or are unable to drive it.
    – Usable for one-way trips, such as picking up a car from a repair shop.
    – Usable for last-mile trips to offices and shopping centers, compared to parking which connects stations only to homes (and only for local residents, not visitors).
    – Serves airport trips without needing to leave a car parked at the station for days or weeks.
    – Consumes only a minimal amount of station-adjacent land for pick up and drop off, rather than a huge land area for a parking lot.
    – Much easier to target to low-income populations, since a personal car is not required to use it.
    – Saves money for the customer, since they don’t have to pay for gas and the Via fare is just a free Orca transfer.
    – Capacities can be increased or decreased much more quickly in response to changes in demand, compared to parking lots which take months or years to build.
    – Provides the transit agency with data on people’s trips, which can be used to design new bus routes if demand is high enough. With parking, you have no idea (except by conducting surveys) where people who park there are coming from, so you don’t know when a where a feeder bus needs to serve them.

    However, both Via and parking are still much less efficient in riders served per dollar spent than regular old bus service (albeit providing better geographic coverage as compensation).

    1. the asdf2 chart could have three columns: parking, Via, and fixed route. They all need a trunk service. Via operators are in the gig economy; it has small vehicles; it has deviation; so, it cannot scale well. Parking uses land; if the trunk service is good, the parking fills up early on weekdays (if not priced) and provides no benefit later. the land could be used for housing next to the frequent trunk service. Fixed route service is costly, but so are the others. Which one provides the best mobility for our limited dollars?

      1. Via, as it’s used in KC, is not a transportation service, it’s an equity gesture. You can’t use transportation arguments against it.

      2. “Fixed route service is costly, but so are the others [microtransit and park and rides]. Which one provides the best mobility for our limited dollars?”

        I agree with this statement from eddiew. Two key factors however to determine this cost are population density/geographic area to cover, and that each area has equal first/last mile access despite the mode.

        Providing equal first/last mile access via microtransit or fixed route bus service in East King Co. is very, very expensive because of the area, size, and topography, especially when most transit riders in these areas are commuters and so need peak hour service in the am and pm, little on the weekends, and little during the day.

        What works in a dense neighborhood in Seattle won’t necessarily work — or be affordable — in a different area. Mircrotransit is the most expensive of all three modes, and really a specialty based on equity (those who cannot afford a car), and to some degree mobility (elderly, disabled). After that it is whether fixed route bus service can provide the same first/last mile access in the suburbs as in Seattle, and is more affordable — if equal — than a park and ride.

        I don’t think fixed route bus service in East King Co, provides the same kind of access as in a denser area, folks who pay ST and Metro taxes are not required to adjust their zoning to receive equal first/last mile access, microtransit would be incredibly expensive (basically Uber/Lyft for free), and park and rides are the lowest cost alternative.

        What I see too often is urbanists or anti-car folks arguing for less than equal first/last mile access in the suburbs to support the mode they prefer. As long as the first/last mile access is equal despite the mode and area then go for the cheapest, but don’t choose mode based on ideology and ignore whether that mode does not provide equal first/last mile access depending on the area.

        Park and rides exist in ST 2 and 3 because in the long run they are cheaper if first/last mile access is equal in these areas.

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