As more commuters leave their cars at home and take the bus or vanpool, Metro Transit is launching a new advertising campaign to convince even more people to consider the advantages of transit.

The new campaign builds on growing demand for Metro services. Metro has recently seen a stronger link between high gas prices and demand with preliminary data showing: weekday ridership jumping about 7 percent – or 20,000 daily trips – in September compared to the same period a year ago. 51 new vanpools were formed in September, a one-month record; use of RideshareOnline saw a 60 percent increase in September compared to the same period a year ago. Use of Metro’s Trip Planner jumped by a half million in September, and local park-and ride-lots have seen the most dramatic increase in use in years.

“These numbers tell us a growing number of frustrated commuters are turning to Metro – and they are finding more alternatives to driving alone than they may have ever imagined,” said King County exec Ron Sims. “Metro does an excellent job of responding to the needs of its customers and anticipating future demand by looking ahead to plan new routes and transit facilities, so that they are in place by the time we need them.”

Ride sharing reduces carbon footprintWhen taken together, Metro’s indicators that track service demand show commuters are actively seeking transit alternatives – something the agency would like to see grow even further. So beginning next week, Metro and Flexcar will launch new ad campaigns highlighting alternatives to driving alone. The month-long campaign will remind commuters there are some ways to free themselves from paying for gas and to leave their cars at home.

Additional ads sponsored by Metro, Flexcar and RideshareOnline, remind commuters that, “Gas isn’t expensive if you don’t buy any,” and suggest making “…your car more fuel efficient – don’t drive it.” These ads will appear on Metro buses and billboards throughout King County and will likely run through early 2006. The ad campaign is being launched at a time when demand for transit services and customer information is evident in virtually every Metro line of business.

Park-and-ride use

Growth in park-and-ride use continues to rise. Metro estimates an additional 1,175 vehicles per day used its park-and-ride lots during the third quarter of this year compared to the third quarter.

This is the highest third-quarter increase in use in the past 15 years, with some park-and-rides in the county’s busiest travel corridors experiencing double-digit percentage increases.

More people are using park-and-rides in response to a significant effort by Metro to increase the numbers of spaces countywide. In the past five years, Metro has increased park-and-ride capacity by 17 percent at both it’s permanent and leased lots with more than 3,000 new spaces. Metro now has more than 20,000 spaces available at 123 permanent and leased lots – and the number will increase next February when the 1,000-space Issaquah Highlands Park-and-Ride garage opens north of Interstate 90.

Metro information services

Metro also reports a significant spike in the number of people looking for information about transit services and programs. The transit agency’s online Trip Planner has been an extremely popular resource. With more than 1,300 buses traveling on 211 routes during peak commute times, Trip Planner, in conjunction with Metro Online, is helping thousands of customers find bus schedules, bus stops, route maps, door-to-door directions and virtually everything they need to know about how to ride Metro. Trip Planner can be found on Metro Online.

Also during the past six weeks, a Metro commute planning program aimed at providing downtown Seattle employees with transit service information related to the tunnel closure has been hugely successful, with more than 1,000 new and existing passengers taking advantage of the service. The “Plan Your Commute” sessions have been so popular that Metro has decided to continue them as weekly sessions offering personalized timetables and other commute planning tools through 2006. These ongoing sessions will be held every Wednesday from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at the Transportation Connection Office, Rainier Square, 4th Avenue and University Street, Seattle.

Flexcar

Metro’s long-standing partnership with Flexcar also continues to expand. There are now more than 14,000 approved members in the Seattle area signed up to use Flexcar. There are more than 150 vehicles in the Flexcar fleet with more being added all the time. The program recently expanded to include the communities of White Center, Renton, and the Rainier Valley.