Mercer Island City Council mulls Island Crest Way shuttle idea

An idea floated by City Council man Bruce Bassett during a city mini-planning meeting held early this summer got its wings at the August City Council meeting in a 6-to-1 vote.

The decision gave Development Services Director Tim Stewart license to explore the possibility of a shuttle demonstration project in conjunction with King County Metro.

City officials hope the demonstration model - once it's up and running - will take flight and soar.

City Administrator Rich Conrad said Metro has agreed to supply a van and assist the city with the task of searching for a securing parking. So far, the city has agreed to provide volunteer drivers.

There are still many pieces of the project that need to be accomplished including the location and cost of parking areas for the Island Crest Way demo shuttle riders, terms and conditions for Metro van use, availability of volunteer drivers, coordination with existing transit schedules, length and duration of the demonstration, and other program costs, Stewart said.

The need for a north-south shuttle stemmed from lack of parking at the two-story Park and Ride, which was expanded more than two years ago in an effort to add more parking. Parking spots increased from 250 in 2006 to 447 in 2008 after a two-year, $19.1 million expansion project.

But the need for parking has outgrown the recent expansion project.

Parking is already a premium at the park and ride, said Council man Mike Grady.

"The reality is our park and ride does fill up," he said.

The advent of lightrail in 2020 "will be a game changer," said Mayor Jim Pearman, who cautioned the council on preparing for the new transit option prematurely.

"I'd hate to bring it early and not live up to expectations," he said.

Grady countered, "If we don't try, I'm convinced we'll go nowhere."

Council man Mike Cero, who cast the sole dissenting vote, felt the need for a shuttle will come much later.

"We need to keep an eye on expenditures," he said. "We're not in the most probable window of success, which will be in 2020."

The vote included one amendment, which directed Stewart to draft a "scoping document" and send the poroposal to the sustainability committee before its Council debut.

"The probability of success is hopeful at best," Stewart said.

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