It’s hard to go hiking if you don’t have a car, says Ben Hughey, with the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust.
And that means “the people we see out on the trails aren’t the people that we see in the city,” he adds. “This isn’t a representative sample. Not everyone who lives in the city is getting outdoors.”
Starting in August it will be easier for Seattle-area hikers to get to the woods on public transportation. King County Metro is working with King County Parks to ease traffic and competition for parking at trailheads — and to help people who don’t have cars get outside.
They’re launching a shuttle that will run on weekends and holidays, delivering hikers from the Issaquah Transit Center to trailheads in what are known as the “Issaquah Alps.”
The idea is to connect trails to the regional bus system.
A similar shuttle will launch in North Bend in the spring of 2018. And, if these pilots are successful, the plan is to add more buses to trails along I-90 and Highway 2.
A bus route from Portland to popular spots along the Columbia River Gorge saw more than 30,000 riders in its pilot year, 2016.
Hughey says his hope is that, down the road, public lands agencies will start designing trails so it’s easier to connect them to public transit—and that, then, “if we have reliable transportation to a broad enough range of locations in the outdoors, we can reduce the need for car ownership” for those who keep cars just so they can go hiking.
“Anecdotes suggest there are a lot of people in Seattle who don’t need a car except to go play outside,” he adds.
The King County shuttle launches Aug. 5, and the first weekend is free.