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More Washington counties trying 'microtransit' for flexible routes

A southbound Sounder train waits at King Street Station in Seattle.
Simone Alicea
A southbound Sounder train waits at King Street Station in Seattle.

Clallam and Pierce counties in Western Washington are experimenting with what some call “microtransit”: on-demand trips for that last mile, from the transit hub to people’s neighborhoods.

This week, the towns of Sequim and Forks are trading in some fixed bus routes for an app, where riders can schedule a Clallam Transit van to come pick them up and take them to the transit center.

"We're finding on routes that are not as productive – where fixed route doesn't make sense, maybe in residential neighborhoods – that smaller vehicles, they can go in and pick up people and not make them walk out to a fixed route," said Jim Fetzer, Clallam Transit's operations manager.

Next month, Pierce County will try a similar pilot shuttle program around Sumner Sounder Station. Workers who have been walking or biking a mile or two to the Sumner Sounder Station, can start taking a shuttle for that first mile, then catch the train to Seattle.

It’s all part of a move toward on-demand transit, or microtransit. James Cox is CEO of The Routing Company, which developed the app and fleet management system used by Clallam, King and Kitsap counties. He said Washington is at the forefront of on-demand transit.

"Less walking, less parking, less single occupancy vehicle use — whether that's taxi, ride-sharing or your own private vehicle — (means) less congestion, less greenhouse-gas emissions," Cox said. "And so when you think about all those things, Washington is a particularly, I think, progressive state because they care about a lot of those things, right? They care about the environment."

Cox helped launch Uber's carpooling option, Uber POOL, in 2014. He started The Routing Company with academics and transit experts to try and improve public-transit options for communities. His company's app, Ride Pingo, is one of several competitors in the microtransit space.

Scott Greenstone reports on under-covered communities, and spotlights the powerful people making decisions that affect all of us throughout Western Washington. Email him with story ideas at