Employer Shared Transit Stop Program

What is happening with Employer Shuttles now?

The Seattle City Council recently voted to approve the Employer Shared Transit Stops Program (ESTSP) as a permanent program of the Seattle Department of Transportation. The program will take effect in March 2023, and SDOT will start accepting applications from Seattle-area employers later in Spring 2023.  

Program Description

A number of Seattle-area employers operate shuttle services for their workforces. The goals of these shuttles are to facilitate inter-worksite travel, fill gaps in the public transit network that affect their employees' commutes, reduce employee dependence on drive-alone commuting, and reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions. 

The Employer Shared Transit Stops Program creates a regulatory structure for employer-provided shuttles and helps ensure that shuttles complement Seattle’s transit network. Through the program, employer shuttles can share select bus stops with King County Metro, use existing shuttle load zones and request the creation of new shuttle load zones, and apply for shuttle vehicle permits that allow vehicles to operate at shared transit stops and in shuttle load zones.

ESTSP was first developed as a pilot program in 2017 to test the feasibility of allowing employer-provided shuttles to use public transit stops while minimizing impacts to public transit operations. SDOT and King County Metro partnered with Seattle Children's Hospital and Microsoft to conduct the pilot program at 12 stops across Seattle. No major operational issues were observed at the pilot stop locations, and close communication with the private shuttle partners helped resolve any known issues quickly and thoroughly. 

The full details of the program can be found in the Director's Rule D-2022: Shuttle Vehicle Load Zone and Employer Shared Transit Stop Program. 

Why do shuttle vehicles need to use public bus stops?

Some Seattle-area employers operate shuttle services to transport their employees to and from work or between campuses. These shuttles help cut down on the number of employees driving alone, which reduces congestion, air pollution, and climate-warming emissions. By sharing approved public bus stops, shuttle vehicles can safely load and unload passengers and make efficient use of limited curbspace within the city.  

How did the pilot program go?

SDOT launched the Shared Stops Pilot in 2017. Since then, SDOT has worked closely with King County Metro and found that shared stops have had little to no impact on public transit. Two employers, Seattle Children’s Hospital and Microsoft, participated in the pilot at 12 stops across Seattle. The City conducted an evaluation of the pilot using field observations, rider comments, public comments, feedback from public transit and private shuttle operators, and records of citations or traffic incidents associated with employer-provided shuttles using public bus stops. No major operational issues were observed at the pilot stop locations, and close communication with the private shuttle partners helped resolve any known issues quickly and thoroughly.   

More details can be found in the Employer Shared Transit Stop Pilot - Evaluation Report (October 2018)

Who can board shuttle vehicles at these stops?

Who is eligible to ride private shuttles is determined by the employer or institution. 

How do shuttle vehicles affect traffic in neighborhoods? 

During the pilot period of the Shared Stops program, employees were provided an attractive alternative to driving alone. As a result, there was no negative impact on traffic in Seattle neighborhoods. Employer-provided shuttles used approved public transit stops, which were usually located on major roadways, as opposed to picking up and dropping off passengers in the limited loading zone space, or in traffic, which is unsafe. While these activities can negatively impact neighborhood traffic and safety during peak commute periods, the Shared Stops pilot program reduced such traffic impacts by permitting employer-provided shuttles to share bus stops, thereby reducing vehicle trips. Through the Shared Stops Program, SDOT will gather detailed information about shuttle routes across Seattle, which will ensure that shuttles are running on the appropriate streets for their vehicle size.  

Does this program impact Metro bus service at stops shared with shuttle vehicles?

SDOT works with King County Metro to conduct a thorough analysis of each requested shared stop and only approves stops that can accommodate shared use without negatively impacting bus service. The number of stops employers can apply for and the type of stop that is eligible for shared use is limited.  In total, SDOT only allows employers to share a maximum of 250 bus stops citywide. Some locations are not eligible for shared use, including Rapid Ride stations, bus layover terminals, high volume stops, stops along transit-only lanes, stops with adjacent non-protected bike lanes, and stops located in-lane with only a single travel lane in that direction. These restrictions ensure that Metro bus service and other vehicles along the roadway are not impacted by employer-provided shuttles. 

How does SDOT work with King County Metro on this program? 

SDOT has had a strong partnership with King County Metro since the Shared Stops Pilot launched in early 2017. SDOT has had regular discussions with Metro staff and representatives, as well as joint discussions with pilot program participants. King County Metro is part of the analysis and review of all requests for shared transit stops, and SDOT continues to work with Metro on monitoring conditions at shared stops after they go into service.  

How does the City of Seattle ensure proper use of public bus stops?

Public transit has priority at shared bus stops. All shuttle vehicles using shared stops need to be approved by SDOT and are directed to minimize the time necessary for passengers being picked up and dropped off. All employer-provided shuttles must have a shuttle vehicle permit and shared transit stop permits to access shared transit stops and are restricted to active loading and unloading of passengers at those locations. Existing parking rules and regulations otherwise apply throughout the city and  continue to be enforced by Seattle Parking Enforcement. No other types of vehicles besides buses or approved employer shuttles are allowed to stop at Seattle bus stops.  

How is the program funded? 

SDOT collects fees from participating employers to fund the program. These fees reimburse SDOT for the time it takes to review each application that comes in and to administer the program. 

How does the City of Seattle collect public feedback?

Once SDOT has conditionally approved a shared stop, employers are required to provide public notice at the requested bus stop. SDOT also includes on-line resources showing which stops are requested and have been approved for sharing with shuttles. Additionally, public feedback can be submitted by calling (206) 684-4209 or emailing employershuttles@seattle.gov. Participating employers will also collect and share feedback they receive from their employees, shuttle operators, and other sources.

What is a shared transit stop?

A shared transit stop is a public bus stop that can be used by employer-provided shuttles to pick up and drop off employees once approved by SDOT. Employers can request to use specific bus stops, which SDOT then reviews. Some bus stops are not eligible for shared use, including Rapid Ride stations, bus layover terminals, high volume stops, stops along transit-only lanes, stops with adjacent non-protected bike lanes, and stops located in-lane with only a single travel lane in that direction. Also note that:  

  • Any one employer may only apply for a maximum of 20 shared stops per calendar year,
  • Any one employer may only share a maximum of 50 shared stops citywide at all times,
  • All employers combined may only share a maximum of 250 shared stops citywide at all times. 

What is a shuttle vehicle load zone?

A shuttle vehicle load zone is a designated curbspace where only permitted shuttle vehicles can load and unload passengers during the hours indicated. It is marked by white curb paint and a sign noting “SHUTTLE ONLY.” Employers can request that SDOT establish new shuttle load zones if existing curbspace designations are insufficient or unreliable (see below). All shuttle vehicles – and any vehicle – are allowed to pick up and drop off passengers at any existing 3-minute passenger load zone and load/unload zones throughout the city (can be 5- 15- and 30-minutes), though these zones are often sized for a regular automobile.

What are the differences between stopping at a shuttle load zone versus stopping at a bus stop?

All shuttle vehicles with valid Shuttle Vehicle Permits are allowed to pick up and drop off passengers at designated shuttle loading zones, as well as at any 3-minute passenger load zone and load/unload zone (5-, 15- and 30-minute) throughout the city. If these curbspace designations are inadequate or unreliable, employers using shuttles may wish to establish new shuttle load zones or request to share a bus stop.

Stopping at a shuttle load zone means that shuttles can load and unload passengers when and where such shuttle load zones are available, and this space of curb is reserved for shuttles only. 

Stopping at a bus stop means that shuttles can load and unload passengers at approved stops along their route. These are best for quick shuttle stops, connecting to other transit services at or near that stop, or providing access in areas where a transit stop already exists without other types of curb uses such as passenger or shuttle load zones. Shuttles need to make sure they dwell as little as possible while loading or unloading passengers, and make sure that they proceed from the stop as quickly as possible if any bus is approaching. 

The same staff review both new Shuttle Vehicle Load Zone and Shared Transit Stop Permit requests. SDOT may suggest the other type of use instead, or other nearby types of curbspace such as passenger loading zones.  

Do employers need to share shuttle data with SDOT?

As part of permit conditions, employers agree to share relevant data on a regular basis about the shuttle route serving the shuttle vehicle load zone or shared transit stop, including but not limited to routing pathways, service levels, delay and crash incidents, and passenger utilization. Such data can help SDOT determine if shuttle vehicle load zones are being appropriately designated and ensure that use of shared transit stops is not negatively impacting transit or arterial operations. SDOT encourages employers to remain in regular communication about these data needs, their cadence, and the quantitative and qualitative information that is available to assess performance of employer shuttle operations.  

How long is the application review period?

SDOT reviews and responds to applications 6-8 weeks after submission. The Shared Stops Program Coordinator will follow up with the employer to confirm or deny stops and/or zones or ask for any needed follow-up information. The Coordinator will also send an invoice to the employer for staff review hours and outline next steps once the permits are approved.  

How much do the permits and application process cost?

The program will be funded through fees that applicants pay to SDOT. Employers will pay:

  • An annual fee of $600 per vehicle, increased from the previous $300, for each shuttle vehicle operating within the City of Seattle that uses shared bus stops or designated shuttle loading zones,
  • An annual fee per stop of $5,000 per location, to operate shuttle vehicles at approved public bus stops,
    • Some specific institutions that have a need for shuttles as part of their official transportation management plan are eligible for a reduced use fee of $2,500,
  • An hourly application review fee of $332 per hour for any City staff time reviewing shuttle vehicle zone and/or shared stop requests,
  • Reimbursement for any one-time costs (for signage, paint, etc.) to create a new shuttle load zone along the curb, estimated at approximately $200-500.  

Permit fees are fixed to inflation and will increase annually starting in 2024.

Fee amounts must be paid in full in order for SDOT to issue approved permits to applicants and for applicants to begin using new load zones or shared stops. Unpaid fees for Shuttle Vehicle Permits, Shared Transit Stop Permits, or hourly staff review may also impair the approval of other requested locations by the same applicant and may also be considered as a factor during permit renewal. 

These fees reimburse SDOT for the time it takes to review each application and to administer the program. Therefore, employers benefit from thoroughly completing the application to reduce the number of staff hours needed to process their application.

Templates for Employers


Greg Spotts, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 3800, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34996, Seattle, WA, 98124-4996
Phone: (206) 684-7623

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The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is on a mission to deliver a transportation system that provides safe and affordable access to places and opportunities for everyone as we work to achieve our vision of Seattle as a thriving, equitable community powered by dependable transportation.