Kenmore, Kirkland and Metro launch new community van program

The service offers a customizable alternative to public transportation.

A new Kenmore-North Kirkland Community Van will give residents a 24/7 reservation-based, group trip transportation option. The service, which kicked off on Feb. 28, is provided through a partnership among King County Metro and the cities of Kirkland and Kenmore.

This two-year pilot project began taking reservation requests on Feb. 22 and is aimed at providing one-time and recurring transportation services to residents of Kenmore and the portion of Kirkland north of Northeast 116th Street and west of Interstate 405, whose needs can’t be met by regular bus service.

The vehicles available for Community Van are provided by Metro and can accommodate a driver and either five or 11 passengers, depending on the size of the group. The smaller vehicle is ADA-accessible. Community Van trips require a minimum of two passengers and must originate in the city of Kenmore or north Kirkland.

Community Van relies on volunteers to drive the van and is managed by a local Community Transportation Coordinator (CTC). The Kenmore-North Kirkland CTC is Armaghan Baghoori – a city of Kirkland employee. King County Metro reimburses the city for up to half of Baghoori’s salary for her work as the CTC.

“Community Van is a fun and innovative new way to share rides, and we are currently looking for more volunteer drivers to help build a robust and sustainable program that meets the needs of our community,” Baghoori stated in a press release about the new service.

Volunteers interested in driving for Community Van should contact Baghoori, and then must pass a two-part screening process. The screening is completed by King County Metro and the process takes about two weeks.

The project partners hope to build a network of volunteer drivers with varying levels of availability, to provide comprehensive, seven-day-a-week trip coverage. As trip requests funnel in from both Kenmore and north Kirkland residents, Baghoori will match trips requests with available drivers. Each scheduled trip will be published on the Kenmore-North Kirkland Community Van page and open for other riders to join.

This person-to-person booking approach has been successfully implemented by Metro in partnership with other communities such as Bothell-Woodinville, Vashon, Duvall and most recently, Shoreline-Lake Forest Park, according to the release.

Drivers ride for free, while passengers pay a Metro one-zone fare per round trip. Existing transit customers may use their ORCA cards to pay the fare, provided that the card is loaded with a monthly or annual pass. Riders without ORCA cards may pay the fare by downloading the Transit GO Ticket app, a mobile application which allows customers to purchase tickets using their smart phones.

“We are interested in hearing from our Kenmore and North Kirkland community members to learn more about how the van can accommodate their needs,” Baghoori stated.

In 2014, two bus routes in Finn Hill and Kenmore ceased operation — routes 935 and 260. In 2016, Metro’s Community Connections program partnered with the cities of Kenmore and Kirkland to understand the impact of these route deletions and develop solutions to mitigate the impact.

A stakeholder working group and community surveys unveiled the following needs: access to neighborhood destinations and transit, especially to and from park-and-rides; solutions that are available when fixed-route transit is not, and solutions to improve congestion in the area, especially around schools.

The community van is the third and final transit service to launch in response to community needs identified through Metro’s Community Connections program, behind TripPool and SchoolPool, both two-year pilots that began in 2017.

TripPool uses a real-time ridesharing app (iCarpool) to connect riders with approved volunteer drivers to take them from their home to Kingsgate and South Kirkland park-and-rides. There are currently two TripPools serving Kingsgate Park and Ride – one of these will switch to South Kirkland Park and Ride in the near future.

SchoolPool is a free and secure ride-match program that connects parents of children attending the same school who want to carpool, bike or walk together. It currently serves Arrowhead Elementary School in Kenmore, along with Finn Hill Middle School and Henry David Thoreau and Juanita elementary schools in Kirkland.

The van can also be used for special community events and functions. For example, if a community member is interested in attending a performance at the Kirkland Arts Center with a group of friends, they can complete the driver screening process and use the van on a one-time basis.

See www.kirklandwa.gov/depart/Public_Works/Transportation_and_Traffic/NKirkCommunityVan.htm for more.

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