This past Sunday, Ryan Dotson showed up at Tiger Mountain to volunteer on a trail crew. It was a misty morning, but "by 8:15, the parking lot was almost full." By 8:30, even overflow space was going quickly. Same story all along the I-90 corridor: At Mount Si, hikers regularly park on people's lawns once parking spots run out. (Don't do that. Obviously.)
It shouldn't be news that Seattle's growth has spilled into our wildlands. People move here for the access to the outdoors, and as Craig Romano, a writer with the Mountaineers, put it, that's causing us to "love our trails to death." Crowded parking lots, traffic jams, and rising emissions are all consequences. To address the problem, King County Metro is bringing back its Trailhead Direct shuttle program, which provides bus service straight to popular trailheads, for a second year.
Metro, in partnership with the Seattle Department of Transportation, rolled out the full Trailhead Direct program last year, after a limited-run pilot in 2017. Between spring and fall, the shuttles recorded just over 20,000 fares, or about 10,000 individual hikes. Trailhead Direct's managers don't know exactly how big a dent that is in overall traffic, but say anecdotally that neighbors are seeing less dangerous and illegal parking. And those who used the shuttle stuck around: In a post-season survey, close to 20 percent of riders said they'd used it at least four times.
This year's service includes a route starting in Tukwila, and reconfigures routes to facilitate transfers. Cathy Snow, another project manager, says that Trailhead Direct heard broad demand for shuttles to South King County that would be accessible to the area's ethnically diverse communities.
The shuttle begins service Saturday, April 20, with pickup locations in Capitol Hill, Downtown, Mount Baker, and Tukwila. Outbound buses run every half hour in the mornings (see specific routes for more details), with returns every half hour in the afternoon. Fares are the same as most Metro buses: $2.75, payable with an Orca card, transit tickets, or cash.
Broadway & Denny
Fourth & Spring
Mount Baker Transit Center
Tukwila International Boulevard Station
Renton Transit Center