Hiker Approved: King County's Transit-to-Trail Service Proves Popular
The first full season of Trailhead Direct city-to-trail shuttle service wrapped up at the end of October. What did we learn from the pilot project?
The results are in, and they're good!
The first full season Trailhead Direct—an effort co-led by King County Metro and King County Parks to connect hikers to popular trails via public transit—wrapped up at the end of October. The success of the program could prove to be a model for more transit-to-trail options for the future.
It’s pretty popular
King County reports that on weekends and holidays from April to October, hikers took 20,373 trips (more than 10,000 roundtrips) on the three routes (Mount Baker Transit Center to Issaquah Alps, Capitol Hill Link light rail station to Mount Si, and a satellite parking lot in North Bend to Mailbox Peak).
RIDERS ENJOYED THE EXPERIENCE
More than 60 percent of passengers took Trailhead Direct more than once and nearly 20 percent took it at least four times. WTA trails and communications specialist Claudia Lopez used Trailhead Direct to get to Margaret’s Way and Chybinski Loop trails from Seattle on a foggy October afternoon.
“The buses are small but clean, and all the drivers I encountered were friendly and helpful," she said. "It was a scenic and peaceful journey with the fall colors outside my window.”
more riders with Environmental impact on their mind
King County tallied 8,526 trips on the route to the Issaquah Alps (launched in April) and 8,197 trips to Mount Si/Mount Teneriffe (launched in May), but only 3,156 to Mailbox Peak. While it is definitely possible some hikers may have shied away from Mailbox Peak due to its difficult nature, this option included having to travel to a parking lot in North Bend before taking the shuttle—and “not owning a car” was the number 2 reason why hikers surveyed took Trailhead Direct.
The top reason those surveyed took Trailhead Direct? It’s “more environmentally friendly than driving.”
more car-free options in Washington
In the Columbia River Gorge, you'll find even more ways to access trails via transit.
- The West End Transit (or WET bus) connects nine trailheads and Gorge communities on summer weekends.
- The Dog Mountain Shuttle (another WET bus) takes hikers from the Skamania County Fairgrounds in Stevenson to the Dog Mountain trailhead every half hour on summer weekends. (This is also the time of year when you must acquire a permit for the hike.
- On the Oregon side of the Gorge, from May to September, the Columbia Gorge Express takes riders from Portland to Cascade Locks and Hood River in addition to Rooster Rock and Multnomah Falls.
WTA and the future of trail access
WTA was an early advocate for and continues to be a proud partner on the Trailhead Direct project.
"All of the riders point to an even greater need for more transit-to-trail projects like this in the future," said Jill Simmons, executive director of WTA. "We are excited to continue fostering the growth of projects like this to ensure that trails are accessible to everyone wanting to experience the outdoors, whether you have a car or not."
Stay tuned to Trailhead Direct’s website for updates on the 2019 season.