Metro, Sound Transit team up to give riders more reasons to take transit across the SR 520 Bridge

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Convenient and affordable options can make swapping tolls for transit easier for thousands of commuters

With tolling on the State Route 520 Bridge set to begin Dec. 29, King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit are reminding commuters that there has never been a better time to leave the car at home and save money.

Tolls for driving round trip across SR 520 during the highest demand periods on weekdays will total more than $1,800 annually. With that additional cost on top of vehicle operating costs and parking, savings from riding transit can easily top $4,000 annually. Riding transit and owning one less car can save around $14,000 annually.

The Seattle area already ranks fourth in the nation for saving money by taking transit according to the latest monthly Transit Savings Report conducted by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Commuters can visit APTA's transit savings calculator to determine their annual savings, adding daily toll costs to the parking field.*

There have never been more alternatives to driving solo across the SR 520 Bridge. Over the past year, Metro and Sound Transit have increased daily bus service in the SR 520 corridor by 20 percent - that's a gain of about 6,500 seats and more than 130 additional bus trips serving riders on either side of the bridge.

This service has contributed to a 15 percent jump in daily ridership on the bridge so far this year. That means more people are choosing to ride instead of drive alone, making travel easier for everyone.

And peak period transit ridership is expected to grow by additional 15 percent following the start of tolling. Metro and Sound Transit buses currently carry about 18,000 riders across the SR 520 Bridge each weekday.

"These actions are all designed to help maximize the number of people using transit to relieve congestion through this vital travel corridor," Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond said. "The ridership growth we're seeing also confirms how important transit has become."

"Taking transit not only eliminates the stress of rush-hour driving, but the ‘green' way to go also puts money back in riders' pockets," Sound Transit Deputy Chief Executive Officer Celia Kupersmith said. "Commuters can skip the costs of tolls, gas, and parking by joining the growing number of people who are choosing transit to get to and from work."

Metro's new RapidRide B Line between Bellevue and Redmond is providing additional bus connections on the Eastside, including connections to routes that cross SR 520. The B Line offers 10-minute service during peak weekday travel periods, and every 15 minutes during most other times of the day.

Employers are also partnering to help boost transit usage by offering employees incentives such as subsidized transit passes, hosting transportation events so employees can find their best bus route or carpool and vanpool partners. Metro is assisting employers by offering free assistance in creating or expanding programs that allow employees to work from home.

And commuters now have an additional tool at their disposal to leave the car at home and avoid paying tolls. Metro's new online "Seat Finder" service at http://kingcounty.gov/metro/seatfinder will make it easier than ever to get matched with an existing vanpool. There are already more than100 vanpools that travel across the SR 520 Bridge to work sites each day.

Many of these transit service improvements were made possible through a partnership with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to better manage congestion on SR 520. The improvements, along with tolling, employer incentives, real-time travel information and strategically located signs that display next bus arrival times, are expected to make the SR 520 commute faster, more convenient and reliable for both transit riders and vehicles.

WSDOT estimates commuters will see an overall 20 percent reduction in congestion in the corridor during peak travel periods.

With the arrival of tolling, look for more information about expanded SR 520 commuting options over the next few weeks. In addition to information posted at selected park-and-ride lots, mailers will be widely distributed to households in the SR 520 corridor. Those flyers are scheduled to arrive in mailboxes after the holidays. Or you can check out www.kingcounty.gov/GetYouThere for current information on options and incentives.

Riders are also encouraged to check out which transit park-and-ride lots have space during the periods they plan to commute. Some lots can fill up quickly in the morning so riders should plan accordingly and have a back-up plan if tolling causes increased demand at their park-and-ride. Commuters may find that catching the bus in their neighborhood or biking, walking, vanpooling or vansharing to a park-and-ride are also good options.

You can learn more about options for traveling in the SR 520 corridor by visiting Metro Online at www.kingcounty.gov/metro or at www.soundtransit.org/

For more information about APTA's monthly Transit Savings Report, visit www.apta.com/mediacenter/pressreleases/2011/Pages/111118_transit_savings.aspx

* For example, with the approximately $1,800 annual cost of peak-hour tolls combined with the costs of driving 20 miles round trip each day each day in a car that gets 24 miles per gallon with $3.60 per gallon gas and paying $10 daily for parking, driving will cost approximately $4,200 more than riding transit.