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Transportation

Dec. 23, 2011

For whom does the bridge toll? Not bus riders!

Vanpoolers & telecommuters will also save money when tolling starts on SR 520

Tolling begins on the State Route 520 Bridge next Thursday, Dec. 29, but many commuters will be saving money and avoiding the tolls by riding the bus, vanpooling, or telecommuting – all of which are exempt from the new tolls.

King County Metro Transit and its partners have an array of transportation services to help people cross the bridge toll-free. In fact, there are so many options that a website had to be created just for the 520 travelers.

If you go to www.kingcounty.gov/getyouthere and click on the “520 tolling” image, you will find:

  • A list of Metro and Sound Transit bus routes that carry riders to destinations on both sides of the lake;
  • A map of Eastside park-and-ride locations near SR 520 with information about how many spaces they have and when they usually fill up. Parking at these lots is free;
  • How to find a seat on an existing vanpool or form a new one. All registered 520 vanpools are exempt from the tolls, too;
  • And, how to get help with telecommuting, which can cut down on your transportation costs even more.

Traffic and transit volumes are expected to be lighter than normal when tolling starts on Dec. 29, because it is a holiday period and the University of Washington is not in session. As we move into January, drivers trying to avoid the tolls may divert to Interstate 90 or State Route 522 which could cause more traffic on those corridors. That’s why riding the bus or sharing the ride can not only benefit you, but also help everyone travel more smoothly.

As tolling rolls out on 520, Metro is expecting to see many first-time bus riders. Here are some things they should know:

  • Plan your trip ahead of time and check for the best service between your home and destination. Use Metro’s Online Trip Planner, or call us at (206) 553-3000 for help.
  • Check the bus schedules before you go. Some routes have frequent service, others don’t. So make sure you have options if you miss your preferred bus trip. There are a lot of combinations of routes, park-and-rides, and ridesharing that might work for you.
  • Know that Metro will be on a reduced schedule the week that tolling starts through Monday, Jan. 2. If you are riding the bus between now and Jan. 2, you need to know which routes or individual trips have been canceled.
  • Some of our most popular 520 park-and-rides, like the South Kirkland Park-and-Ride and the Overlake Transit Center, fill up early in the morning and some bus trips across 520 can be crowded. During peak commute times, a Metro or Sound Transit bus crosses the bridge every two minutes, so there is plenty of service if you can adjust your travel times even by just a few minutes. Or, try a less-crowded park-and-ride with similar service. You can also walk, bike or carpool to the park-and-ride or bus stop.
  • You definitely want to sign up for Transit Alerts, even if you only plan on riding the bus a few days a week. It’s the best way to find out about transit disruptions and changes that could affect your bus travel.
  • Bus fare for crossing the lake during peak commute times is $3 one way. The easiest way to pay is by using an ORCA card that you can just tap as you get on or off the bus. Check to see if your employer offers a subsidized pass or other transportation benefits – many do.

New riders can find a lot of tips and information online, and don’t hesitate to ask bus-riding friends and co-workers for advice.

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 520 corridor by 20 percent – that’s a gain of about 6,500 seats and more than 130 additional daily bus trips serving riders on either side of the bridge.

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