The success of the program has led King County Metro to expand the pilot and begin looking to add more on-demand services throughout its service area.   -  Photo: King County Metro

The success of the program has led King County Metro to expand the pilot and begin looking to add more on-demand services throughout its service area. 

Photo: King County Metro

While reliability remains a cornerstone of public transit, what would you say if there was an on-demand transit product that guaranteed riders would make their connecting bus or train on time?

Well, the team of King County Metro, Hopelink, and the Routing Company (TRC) have done just that. 

The innovation is the first global test funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (US DOE) of an on-demand transit product guaranteeing riders will make their connection to a bus or train on-time at Kent Station in Seattle

“The Ride Pingo to Transit Service came to be from a 2018 planning effort with stakeholder and community members from the City of Kent,” explains Jeff Switzer, public information officer, strategic communications & engagement, for the GM’s office at King County Metro. “The community needed a service that would improve all-day/all-week mobility, including increasing access to transit for residents of Kent East Hill and workers in the Kent Industrial Valley.” 

Kent is the eighth most ethnically diverse city in the nation that includes a population consisting of 30% refugees and is home to a large and growing warehouse district, known as Kent Industrial Valley, which includes sizeable facilities from Boeing, Amazon, Blue Origin, and Whirlpool, explains Daniel Walker GM for Hopelink, an area nonprofit organization that acts as the service provider through a contract with King County Metro.

The Ride Pingo to Transit service was launched in September 2021. It was funded by the US DOE because it included a feature called “Transit Connect,” which guarantees a rider will make their connection to a selected bus or train at Kent Station, and sometimes makes one rider wait a little bit more so a second rider can also make their connection, as long as both riders make the connection. The feature uses live data from the GTFSRE feeds to know where buses and trains are in a live manner and integrates the information into the TRC’s Ride Pingo to Transit app algorithm to make the guarantees. 

Since launch, 40% of transit riders in Kent have used this feature when they book an on-demand transit trip in Kent, proving people have really appreciated the feature, according to the team. 

“The service has grown ridership almost every week since launch and is a lifeline for Kent residents to get to and from Kent station conveniently and cost effectively,” says James Cox, TRC’s CEO. “According to data, 99.5% of riders that have used transit connect have made their fixed-route connection and 21% of riders in Kent take greater than 10 trips a month on Ride Pingo to Transit.” 

In addition, more riders in Kent who have reduced mobility or are low income are taking Ride Pingo to Transit than the Orca card averages, according to King County Metro data.

The success of the program has led King County Metro to expand the pilot and begin looking to add more on-demand services throughout its service area. 

“We are very excited about winning this award,” says Switzer. “The Ride Pingo service was a long time coming, we were happy to be able to launch service and provide some much-needed transit connections to this community.”

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