By Nina Milligan, Communication Manager, Highlands Council
Have you tried the new Community Shuttle, Route 628? Surely you have seen the cute little green shuttle bus darting around on Park Drive recently. I have and was curious about how to get on board one of those cute green shuttle busses. What if I were a commuter who rides a bus from the Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride to Seattle? Wouldn’t it be nice to just Ride & Ride instead?
Where would I begin? I referred to our blog post of February 12th for how-to details and stop locations. At 2:47pm yesterday I called DART (Dial-a-Ride Transit) at Hope-Link. The automated answer, “Metro Community Shuttle,” reassured me that I had reached the right place. I did not want a DART shuttle intended for the disabled. I just wanted a ride down the hill in the cute green bus, one of Metro’s new Community Shuttles.
The friendly auto-answer was quickly followed by a customer service representative named Zach, who was great. He was caring and solicitous. I requested to schedule a pick up at Trailhead Vista on Park Drive Issaquah with the Route 628.
“Now, where do you want to get picked up?” Zach seemed stumped. We needed an address so I quickly identified on a Google map the address of Trailhead Vista with a drop pin. It’s 2300 NE Park Drive. Both Zach and I were relieved.
Even though this service is not designed for disabled riders, Zach still asked several questions to identify my needs. Wheelchair? Walker? “Nope, I just want a ride down the hill to the Park & Ride.” It’s nice to know that they are ready to accommodate you if you have special needs.
“Can I get picked up at 7am?” The closest to 7am Zach could make the reservation was 6:55am. And he cautioned that I should be there five minutes before pick up. “Fine by me!”
Because I was a little chatty, this call took about five minutes. Yours would likely be shorter.
I was ready at the stop this chilly morning at 6:50am. My bus arrived few minutes after 7am. Reportedly dispatch did not inform my driver until just moments before. Had my driver been informed early on (reservations are required at least two hours in advance) I am confident I would have been picked up on time. This is not just a new shuttle route, it is a novel system and Metro has had only days to perfect. While they work the bugs out, I suggest you add a little cushion to your timing.
I climbed aboard and took the last unclaimed bench seat. Riders from Snoqualmie and North Bend occupied the others. Not at all like a ‘bus’ these riders were friendly and seemed to know each other. Some were even talkative. The quiet ones chuckled at the abundant humor served up.
All were headed to work. If their clothing was any indication I was sharing this ride with a couple labor guys heading to outdoor work, a couple of techies and a couple other office people. “This bus is great! We love it, don’t we?!” exclaimed the welcoming laborer from his back-corner seat. “Absolutely!” was the chorus from Jamie, the only woman on this ride.
The small cabin of this “community shuttle” made for a very hospitable ride. It was more like riding an airport shuttle.
It was a quick ride down the hill. We were still chatting about the virtues of the 628 as we all disembarked at the P & R. Jamie professed, “It’s not an exaggeration to say this bus is a lifesaver!”
Jamie’s commute suffered greatly from service cuts last fall. Her transit commute grew to over three hours each way. As a single mom with two school-aged kids and an ailing mom, this arrangement was unsustainable. She cut her work hours to part time to accommodate her family’s needs.
Then along came the 628. “It’s a huge relief to my entire family.” Jamie is now back to full time with only a little over an hour commute each way taking the 628 from Snoqualmie and the 556 from Issaquah Highlands.
For us it’s a ride down the hill, or maybe more importantly, UP the hill. But it could be the difference that allows you to go car-free, or for car-free people to live in Issaquah Highlands.
For the $2.50 fare on the 628 Community Shuttle you can get a transfer to pick up another Metro bus to destinations in Seattle or Bellevue. (Transfers do not work on Sound Transit, such as the 556 or 554.) Or you can stay on the shuttle for destinations in Snoqualmie and North Bend. I parted ways with the bus commuters and walked over to Grand Ridge Plaza to warm up with a Latte. The transfer would still be good for many hours…
Stay tuned for future adventures on the 628. We will be interviewing key decision makers in Issaquah and at Metro about this and other bus routes serving Issaquah. We will blog about them on www.IssaquahHighlands.com.