Metro Flex, an on-demand service through a van-based mode of transportation, has expanded the locations it will serve local residents.
As of Oct. 16, the City of Issaquah has agreed to begin a 2-year pilot program that will expand from Sammamish, where Metro Flex has already been running, into Issaquah.
This shareable-ride service works similarly to car services like Uber, where you can use an app, see the live locations of the vehicles and request a pick-up and drop-off location within the Sammamish and Issaquah limits.
The service is available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for people age 13 and above.
Riders can create their travel plans from the app, online or over the phone.
The app provides the rider with the most efficient form of transportation based on the pinned locations — this could be the Metro Flex ride, a trip on the bus or another transit service, according to the Metro Flex website.
“On average, this service is going to fill in a lot of gaps that fixed routes just can’t provide, especially under current models that transit is using, especially King County’s models. They can only send so many buses to so many locations, especially in a community that’s further out in the metro area,” said John Larson-Friend.
In 2022, data showed 58% of all Issaquah housing units were within a quarter mile of transit services, Larson-Friend said. With Metro Flex implemented, this percentage is expected to be much higher.
Metro Flex aligns with the same discounts and prices as the King County Metro Transit system. Tickets are $2.75 and cover the transfer to buses if needed.
Metro Flex accepts senior fares, free youth rides, disabilities or Medicare fares, subsidized annual passes and ORCA cards.
“The van comes to the rider, and we’ll pick them up within 300 feet of their location — the walking distance is more like 70 [feet],” Larson-Friend said.
The rider can clarify a mobility barrier within their profile, which is in the settings option, and the van can come directly to the rider.
The vans also have wheelchair and bike-accessible options.
As of Oct. 16, another van was added to the initial two vans currently serving Sammamish, totaling three vans for the Sammamish and Issaquah locations.
Larson-Friend said the city is subsidizing the new third vehicle added.
Via Transit, the third-party operator working with Issaquah and King County Metro Transit on the Metro Flex program, will increase and decrease the number of vans based on demand.
Any vans added after the initial three, within the pilot period, will come out of Metro’s budget, not Issaquah.
While Larson-Friend can’t project the number of people this service will help in Issaquah and Sammamish, he said according to Metro, the other six locations help 1,000 people per day.
On Oct. 23, the Issaquah City Council chambers will host a Metro Flex launch event at City Hall South at 6 p.m. Lindsey Walsh, city council president; Sarah Perry, King County Councilmember; and Larson-Friend will be attending to answer any questions and showcase the Metro Flex van.