City to launch pilot rideshare program on April 23rd

April 2, 2018 | by Julia Hess

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On March 20th, the Mercer Island City Council voted unanimously to launch a pilot ridesharing program for Island commuters in partnership with established providers Lyft and Uber. The six-month program, to begin on April 23 in celebration of Earth Day, is intended to help weekday commuters access transit options at the Mercer Island Park & Ride without the need to drive a personal vehicle.

As parking pressure mounts, all 447 stalls now fill by 7 am on most weekdays, forcing many Islanders wishing to use bus transit to reluctantly choose Single Occupant Vehicle (SOV) travel instead.

“We know how frustrating it is to find the Park & Ride filling ever earlier, so we’re very pleased to be able to offer this option to the commuting public. It is good to see something innovative coming out of the Sound Transit Settlement Agreement, and we’re embracing the opportunity to investigate the future of transportation with this pilot project,” said Mercer Island Mayor Debbie Bertlin.

During the pilot, the City will sponsor discounted rides on Mercer Island only, for both shared and solo-passenger options, according to the following rate schedule. The service will be available Monday – Friday, 24 hours/day, and all rides must originate or terminate at the Park & Ride, located at 8000 North Mercer Way.

  • Cost to each rider (months 1 – 3):  Flat fee of $2 per ride
  • Cost to each rider (months 4 – 6):  Flat fee of $2 per shared ride, $5 per solo ride

Each rideshare provider will contribute $10,000 to the City to match funding derived from an October 2017 settlement agreement with Sound Transit that offsets the impacts of light rail construction and operation, and also partially compensates for permanent impacts to local traffic patterns, including the loss of access to Westbound I-90 from the Island’s only 4-lane arterial (Island Crest Way).

Up to $226,900 of the $10.1 million settlement may be applied toward identifying and implementing first-last mile solutions, such as ridesharing services. The City also continues to actively explore other pilot mobility programs, such as bikeshare and carpooling services, each of which would provide access to transit options and reduce SOV dependency.

“Since day one, Lyft has been committed to reducing individual car ownership and making it easier for people to get around their cities,” said Todd Kelsay, Lyft’s Pacific Northwest General Manager. “Part of that commitment is being a valuable part of the transportation ecosystem in communities like Mercer Island. We’re thrilled to be part of the Mercer Island Park & Ride pilot and applaud the City for its creative and thoughtful approach to rethinking suburban mobility.”

“We are committed to helping cities move people in an environmentally friendly way through fewer, fuller vehicle trips,” said Alejandro Chouza, Uber General Manager for the Pacific Northwest. “The City of Mercer Island’s pilot program will leverage Uber’s technology to better connect riders to regional mass transit. We are grateful to the City of Mercer Island for their partnership and can’t wait to get started.”

In making its decision, Council cited the strong interest shown by the community, the ability to experiment with cutting-edge alternatives, and the opportunity to gather performance data that will inform future innovative solutions. The rideshare providers are committed to reaching out to many segments of the community to make sure that seniors, those without smartphones, and inexperienced rideshare users — along with rideshare veterans — are able to participate.

Mayor Bertlin noted the enthusiastic comments received during a recent 10-day online survey that generated 270 respondents, 45 percent of whom were willing to try the pilot program, with another 29 percent wanting additional information to make their decision.

To learn more about other commuter options, and alternatives to SOV use, please visit their website >>

For more information, you can also contact Ross Freeman, City of Mercer Island Sustainability Manager, Hannah Gwazdauskas, Lyft Spokesperson, or Nathan Hambley, Uber Spokesperson.

[City of Mercer Island News Release]