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Trailhead Direct returns with more routes connecting hikers to more trails

king county executive dow constantine, king county executive press releaseTrailhead Direct – the weekend and holiday transit-to-trails service co-led by King County Metro and King County Parks – will return April 20 with more routes connecting hikers to more backcountry trails.

The second full season will offer more pick-up sites – including the Tukwila International Boulevard Station – with service to more trailheads, including Little Si near North Bend and the Sky Country Trailhead in Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park. Hikers will again be able to take Trailhead Direct to some of King County’s most popular trails, including Mount Si and Mailbox Peak.

Passengers boarded Trailhead Direct for more than 10,000 hikes last season when the service expanded thanks to additional funding from the City of Seattle.

“We’re bringing back Trailhead Direct with more routes to more trails in more communities,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Our popular transit-to-trails service has succeeded in many different ways. We have made our spectacular mountain forests accessible to more people, reduced dangerous overcrowding at popular trailheads, and made it easy to hike without having to drive or park.”

“Transit can be a pathway to opportunities like school, training, jobs, and health care – and to our incredible outdoors. For thousands of our neighbors and visitors to our region, Trailhead Direct has created more equitable access to our mountains,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “We are grateful to Seattle voters for choosing to invest in transit. This innovative public-private partnership is creating new opportunities for all who call Seattle home to get outside and explore one of the most beautiful places in the world.”

Three of the four routes connect to Sound Transit Link light rail. Transfers between Trailhead Direct routes are easily made at Eastgate Freeway Station, Issaquah Transit Center, and North Bend Park-and-Ride.

Hikers will be able to board Trailhead Direct services at four Sound Transit Link light rail stations: Tukwila International Boulevard, University Street, Mount Baker, and Capitol Hill. All four routes are connected to transit hubs, including the Issaquah Transit Center, the Eastgate Freeway Station in Bellevue, and the North Bend Park-and-Ride.

Trailhead Direct started in 2017 as a single-route pilot project and expanded in 2018 with additional funding from the voter-approved Seattle Transportation Benefit District. Other sponsors included REI Co-op and Clif Bar & Company, which helped fund outreach and promotion.

The pilot project was in response to dangerous overcrowding at popular trailhead parking lots, which frequently exceed their capacity during spring and summer weekends and holidays.

The service also makes the region’s mountain forests accessible to more people who either prefer to take transit or do not have access otherwise. Starting a new route in Tukwila addresses community feedback from south King County residents and makes backcountry trails more accessible to residents who live in some of the nation’s most racially diverse communities.

Hikers who take Trailhead Direct from downtown Seattle and Tukwila will arrive at trailheads in less than an hour and do not have to park.

New and modified service based on customer feedback

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King County added and modified the service based on customer feedback after last season. New routes and stops create a better-connected transportation system that offers hikers opportunities to hike from one Trailhead Direct drop-off location to a different pick-up location.

The newest route offers service to the Sky Country Trailhead in Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park starting at Sound Transit’s Tukwila International Boulevard Station with stops at Renton Transit Center and Renton Highland. Passengers have the option to continue on to the Issaquah Transit Center where they can transfer to Trailhead Direct routes to additional hikes in the Issaquah Alps, or east to Little Si, Mount Si, Mount Teneriffe, and Mailbox Peak.

At Little Si, Washington State Department of Natural Resources worked with King County Parks and Metro to design and construct a new drop-off and pick-up location for Trailhead Direct service.

Trailhead Direct Mailbox Peak returns with a much different service design. In 2018, the route started at a satellite parking lot at Twin Falls Middle School. This season, it will start at the Issaquah Transit Center with a stop at the North Bend Park-and-Ride.

The new service design makes it possible to board any Trailhead Direct vehicle to get to any of the designated trailheads.

Trailhead Direct operates 13-, 17-,19- and 27-seat vehicles. Each vehicle has a rack for either two or three bikes. Passengers pay Metro’s standard $2.75 fare. Passengers can pay with an ORCA card, Transit Go Mobile ticket, or cash with exact change.

Dogs may ride at the discretion of the operator under Metro’s guidelines. Passengers with larger, non-service dogs may need to pay an additional fare.

A convenient, environmentally friendly option to enjoy forest trails

More than 1,000 residents completed a post-season survey last fall. Here are some of the survey results:

  • The top reason people took Trailhead Direct was because it is “more environmentally friendly than driving.” “Not owning a car” was a close second followed by “not having to worry about finding parking at the trailhead” coming in third.
  • More than 60 percent of passengers took Trailhead Direct more than once. Nearly 20 percent took it at least four times.
  • More passengers used public transit to get to Trailhead Direct vans than any other option.
  • Nearly 90 percent of respondents said it reduced overcrowding at trailhead parking lots.

Partners include City of Bellevue, City of Issaquah, City of North Bend, City of Renton, City of Seattle, City of Tukwila, Eastside Fire and Rescue, ECOSS, Issaquah Alps Trails Club, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, REI Co-op, Seattle Department of Transportation, Si View Metropolitan Park District, The Mountaineers, The Wilderness Society, TOTAGO, U.S. Forest Service, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, and Washington Trails Association.

Check out more tailhead information here


The above is a release from the office of King County Executive Dow Constantine.  The Auburn Examiner has not independently verified its contents.

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