In 1992, the City of Bellevue, King County Metro and Bellevue School District sponsored a study to evaluate using Metro transit service – instead of traditional yellow school buses – for high school student transportation. The innovative plan involved use of existing Metro transit routes wherever feasible and creating entirely new Metro school service bus routes where needed to fill gaps in regular transit service. The three organizations hoped to reduce transportation costs for the school district, make transit for students more convenient and improve mobility for students through increased transit literacy.
The project was a success on all of the key objectives. Student ridership increased at the same time that schools' transportation costs decreased. Soon, every high school in Bellevue had increased mobility through access to transit. Bellevue students have now been using public transit as a primary school transportation mode for more than twenty years, and school districts across King County have used the program as a model.
Today, eligible Bellevue high schoolers can receive an ORCA card through the school district, and special bus routes for students continue to serve neighborhoods that would otherwise have limited access to Metro services.
Trips to School
From 2005 to 2007, the City of Bellevue conducted a pilot program to encourage elementary school students to walk, bike, carpool or ride the bus to school.
The city worked with schools to create a toolkit of program elements, including informational campaigns, walking school buses, incentives, carpool coordination, assemblies and grants. Individual schools created customized strategies by adopting elements from the established toolkit. The program was well received by schools and students – five schools participated in the first year, nine in the second.
In the first year of the program, as many as 3% of students at participating schools reduced their drive-alone trips. The program also increased traffic safety messaging and helped some schools obtain grants to fund new safety equipment for crossing guards.
Although city staff had hoped to continue the program for an additional year to help schools develop a self-sustaining toolkit, Trips to School was discontinued after the 2006-2007 school year due to funding and staffing constraints