News

Better economy, more jobs means more riders on the bus

King County Metro is experiencing its second highest ridership year and is closing in on a new record as demand for transit continues to strengthen along with the local economy and job market.

Preliminary data shows that Metro has delivered nearly 400,000 transit rides each weekday so far in 2013, hitting the second highest average weekday ridership ever in May at 408,000 rides — numbers not seen since 2008, before the recession and rising unemployment. Demand for bus service continues to grow despite a 5 percent drop in gas prices and elimination of the downtown Seattle Ride Free Area. These numbers suggest more people are relying on Metro as they re-enter the local job market.

While transit demand is up across the county, Eastside ridership appears particularly strong. Metro is seeing double-digit growth on Eastside routes such as the 221 between Redmond and Eastgate, 226 serving downtown Bellevue and Eastgate, 234 between Kenmore and Bellevue, and the 245 serving Bellevue, Kirkland and Factoria.

“This preliminary ridership data shows we’re poised to achieve a third straight year of ridership growth as our economy continues to strengthen,” said Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond. “Instead of gearing up to meet this growing demand as it should be, Metro is preparing to dramatically cut service if a transportation funding package is not approved by the state Legislature.”

Other emerging trends point to growing demand.

Metro’s four RapidRide routes also continue to grow. The A, B, C and D lines have seen a combined 30 percent increase in ridership compared to the bus routes they replaced. These trends are moving Metro ever closer to the record 119 million trips it delivered in 2008, prior to the recession.

Park-and-ride usage is also up and has surpassed levels not seen since the recession, with demand strongest among suburban commuters, especially on the Eastside.

This snapshot of Metro ridership comes as it begins planning for a 17 percent reduction in bus service if the state Legislature fails to authorize funding to fill the agency’s projected $75 million annual budget gap. Sixty-five routes are at risk of being canceled, and service reduced on another 86 routes without a permanent and sustainable source of revenue.

METRO ticket books are

discontinued,

riders directed to ORCA cards

Metro will discontinue the sale of ticket books and gift certificates, and will no longer provide information at 624-PASS. However, all ticket books and gift certificates sold before July 1 will be valid until used.

The ORCA card and cash will eventually become Metro’s only payment options. ORCA cards can be purchased and re-loaded with additional value at ticket vending machines on the mezzanine or plaza level of each downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel station, at Sound Transit Link and Sounder Stations, and at the Bellevue transit center.

Many neighborhood retailers also now sell ORCA cards, in addition to revaluing any ORCA card including QFC and Safeway stores. Go to www.orcacard.com or call 1-888-988-6722.

Bicycles for Humanity to collect bikes at Summer Celebration

Again this year, ‘Bicycles for Humanity Seattle’ (B4HS) will be collecting good, used bikes at Summer Celebration!

Last year, Islanders donated 55 bikes during the two-day festival by dropping the bikes off at the Bicycles for Humanity booth.

Bicycles for Humanity, Seattle (B4HS) is dedicated to shipping thousands of bicycles to South Africa every year to help poor and impoverished villagers improve their lives with transportation. Since 2010, BFHS has collected and sent over 2,500 bicycles to Kwa Zulu Natal, SA from the Puget Sound region.

Why are bikes so important in South Africa? There is very little modern transportation as we know it. Bicycles can help health care workers reach distant villages that have no medical facilities. Because the high incidence of HIV has caused the orphan population to literally explode, donated bicycles can help South African children travel miles to school where a hot lunch — possibly the only full meal of the day — and an education await. And, in an area where one out of every two people is unemployed, bikes can also help villagers get to work or start a small business.

You can help by donating a bike, money or by volunteering. Mountain bikes are best, but B4HS will take any working bicycles, even ones needing minor repairs. For more information, go to www.b4hs.org.

By the numbers

Park-and-ride usage, and transit ridership  are closely tied to economic growth.

Several Eastside lots continue to operate at or above capacity, including South Bellevue (107%), Bear Creek (110%), Redmond (100%) and South Kirkland (104%).

The 447-space Mercer Island Park-and-Ride has been at or above capacity since 2010.


 

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