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King County adds limited ride-sharing, for the cost of a bus fare

A map of King County with several color-coded areas: Kent, Othello, Rainier Beach / Skyway, Renton Highlands, Sammamish, Tukwila, and "Juanita," an area between South Kenmore, Bothell and North Kirkland.
King County Metro
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A map of Metro Flex service areas. "Juanita" is an area between South Kenmore, Bothell and North Kirkland that King County Metro identified after talking to residents, according to Allison Miskell, a transportation planner with Metro.

This week King County officially launched Metro Flex, a service for some parts of the county where fixed-route buses are far away or under-used.

In these places — which include parts of South Seattle, and South and East King County — you can use your phone or the web to call up a minivan, for the cost of a bus ticket.

The county was piloting these services with different vendors. Now, they’ve decided on a company called Via, and agreed to a $7 million-a-year contract for three years.

"We took what we learned from our customers and we also consolidated that into this one app," Chris O'Claire, director of mobility for King County Metro, told KNKX.

"So a lot of things that we were hearing on how many languages were necessary in order to use the system, what the color of the vehicle should be for people that don't have good eyesight and able to connect with our services. Little things like that really matter to our customers and being able to connect to our system."

Users can download the Metro Flex app on their phones, call 206-258-7739, or go to kingcounty.gov/metroflex.

The hours vary depending on what part of the county you’re in. In the stretch from South Kenmore to North Kirkland, for instance, it’s 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every week day.

"It’s very suburban, very kind of cul de sac-y," Allison Miskell, a transportation planner with King County Metro, said. "Hard to get in and out with a fixed-route bus."

Miskell and her team jumped on the Sounder train on Friday afternoon to head down to Kent celebrate the launch and culmination of years of work. They took Metro Flex to a local taproom, O'Claire said.

Scott Greenstone started off working at his community college newspaper before interning at NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered and covering homelessness for The Seattle Times. He co-produced the “Outsiders” podcast with KNKX, which was named one of TIME’s top 10 podcasts of 2020.
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