On Sunday, May 9, the Algona-Pacific Community Van will begin recruiting for volunteer drivers and accepting trip ideas from residents. Community Van does not operate on a fixed route or schedule like bus service, but instead, riders request trips from anywhere within the cities of Algona or Pacific to their desired destination. Destinations must be two hours away or less, and requests are prioritized first for trips within city limits that help fulfill essential travel such as grocery, food bank, and pharmacy runs. The service relies on community volunteers to drive the van and is managed by a local Community Transportation Coordinator (CTC). The coordinator’s first initiative will be to recruit as many volunteer drivers as possible to support speedy service ramp up.
This two-year pilot project is a part of the Renton, Kent and Auburn Area Mobility Project and is aimed at providing one-time and recurring transportation services to community destinations and activities not easily accessed by bus. The vehicles – Nissan Leaf five-seat cars – are provided by Metro and the charging infrastructure and station maintenance are provided by Puget Sound Energy. Community Van will also provide a larger ramp-assisted and wheelchair accessible van when needed.
“Having this Community Van partnership with King County Metro is a significant step forward for both Algona and Pacific,” said Algona Mayor David Hill. “It will allow access to a much-needed service to both cities.”
“We are excited to partner with King County Metro and the cities of Algona and Pacific on this innovative and impactful model for community transportation,” said Will Einstein, PSE Director of Product Development and Growth. “This pilot project is part of our work with multiple service providers across Washington state to improve access to electric mobility for underserved customers and better distribute the environmental, social, and economic benefits of electric transportation.”
Community Vans are equipped with safety partitions between riders and volunteer drivers, and the local coordinator wipes down vehicle surfaces after trips. Eventually, trips will require a volunteer driver, and two to four passengers. But, but for physical distancing, Metro is currently allowing for one rider or household per trip.
“Sharing rides is a greener option for community travel and having zero-emission, all-electric vehicles makes that travel choice even greener,” said Christina O’Claire, King County Metro’s mobility division director. “Serving an area that has been disproportionately affected by pollution, this new Community Van service meets practical, immediate needs while also furthering Metro’s values of safety, equity, and sustainability.”
When the Renton, Kent and Auburn Area Mobility Project was being developed, a local stakeholder working group and community surveys discovered a need for travel options during nights and weekends, and to access neighborhood destinations. In September 2020, Metro increased local bus service in Algona and Pacific (DART Route 917) to operate more frequently on weekdays and to begin operating on Sundays for the first time. Metro also added bus stops at requested destinations including Auburn Station, Outlet Collection, Wal-Mart, and YMCA in southwest Auburn. Metro focused on resident-suggested destinations not served by DART Route 917 such as Lakeland Hills, Auburn Senior and Recreation Centers, the warehouse area in south Pacific, and the YWCA.
The Community Van is designed to fill the gaps in service hours, including evenings and Saturdays, and provide access to destinations not served by local bus service. Additionally, the service area is situated in an equity priority area, given its higher percentage of residents with low income, people of color, and people with disabilities. In other areas Metro operates Community Van, the service has been reserved by residents to provide weekly trips to local food banks, connecting residents with nutrition and other necessities, and Metro anticipates some trips in Algona and Pacific will fulfil that same need.
“The Algona-Pacific Community Van partnership is an innovative solution to meet the mobility needs of south King County residents,” said King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “Available for reservations 24/7 and operated by volunteers, this program will provide a needed service within our community.”
The Algona-Pacific Community Transportation Coordinator is Dona Linton, a City of Algona employee. Metro reimburses the City for up to half of Linton’s salary for her Community Van and other Metro-based transportation services efforts. Volunteers interested in driving for Community Van should contact Dona Linton and must fill out an application and pass a two-part screening process. The screening is completed by Metro and the process takes approximately two weeks.
“Our Community Van volunteer drivers will be the heart of our program,” said Dona Linton. “We need volunteer drivers to make and take trips in their communities—we’d appreciate if residents would apply to make recurring or one-time trips around Algona and Pacific for their friends and neighbors.”
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 residents, Dona Linton will match trips requests with available drivers. Vehicles will be kept at charging stations at Algona City Hall and Pacific City Hall. These charging stations will also be available for residents to plug-in their vehicles when available.
This person-to-person booking approach has been successfully implemented by Metro in partnership with other communities such as Bothell-Woodinville, Vashon, and Duvall, Shoreline-Lake Forest Park, Sammamish, and Kenmore-Kirkland.
Drivers ride for free, while passengers pay a Metro single bus 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.
How to use Community Van
- Schedule a Community Van trip by contacting Algona-Pacific’s Community Transportation Coordinator Dona Linton – email: firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone: 253-833-2742 ext. 303. Make a new trip request at least two business days in advance of your desired trip. Note that trip requests do not guarantee approval and are subject to driver availability and program policies.
- Community Van is eligible for use 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Community Van may accommodate 2-4 riders, depending on available vehicle. An ADA-equipped van is available upon request. Upon service launch, rides are available for solo riders or multiple riders if from the same household with essential trips currently prioritized.
- All monthly and annual ORCA passes are accepted along with mobile tickets via the Transit GO Drivers are unable to accept cash payment.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Al Sanders, Metro Transit, 206-348-7829