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County, city OK shuttle service

King County and the City of Auburn have signed an agreement to provide a community transit shuttle service in Auburn by September of 2011.

Much like the Kent Shopper's Shuttle, the route will shorten the existing Metro Transit Route 919 to southeast Auburn and create a new community shuttle route (910) traveling from 40th Street Northeast/I Street Northeast to the SuperMall area via the Auburn Transit Center Station. It also will provide access to downtown medical offices.

The idea is to provide a direct, fixed-route transit service link for north-end residents to downtown and other destinations via the transit station.

Right now, people living north of 15th Street Northeast on I Street Northeast must use either Route 180, which stays on Auburn Way North and doesn't access senior housing, or Dial-a-Ride Transit, which requires advance reservations and is not as reliable.

Planners expect the community shuttle route to provide front-door service to the YMCA and the SuperMall, eliminating the need for a long walk from 15th Street Southeast through the mall parking lot to the mall doors.

"We have a lot of people in this community that don't have a vehicle," explained former Auburn City Councilman Roger Thordarson, who pushed for the route change as a member of the King County Transit Committee and is today a member of the King County Transit Advisory Committee. "Some of the seniors no longer can drive, and there a lot of low-income people in this community who either don't have a vehicle or have one vehicle, so whoever is at home doesn't have a vehicle and they have to have some way of getting around. It's that simple."

The hours of service on the new Community Shuttle Route 910 and the revised Route 919 would be roughly 8 a.m to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. It would operate hourly.

The cost split in the agreement is 45 percent Auburn, 55 percent Metro. The estimated annual operating cost for Auburn is $100,000 and roughly $118,000 for Metro.

The agreement is valid for five years. If after that the service meets the performance criteria in the agreement, it can be continue for an additional five years without the approvals of the King County Council or the Pierce Transit Board of Commissioners. The signers of the agreement are committed to funding the service for at least the first five years.

Funding for the community shuttle service comes from the Transit Now Initiative, which King County voters passed in 2006 to expand transit service using funds from a 0.1-percent sales-tax increase.

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