Amazon plans to debut its own pilot commuter service Monday, joining the ranks of major tech companies that offer private shuttles as a perk to employees and a way to counteract the headaches caused by traffic congestion, GeekWire has learned.
“Amazon Ride” will run six times in the morning and six times in the evening at 20 minute intervals from the suburban communities of Bellevue, Issaquah and Redmond to Amazon’s South Lake Union campus and the new Doppler building in the Denny Triangle, according to a website for the service. The service initially will not go to other neighborhoods in the city of Seattle.
Amazon issued this statement about the program: “Our employees tell us that they love being in the heart of the city. In fact, more than 50% of our employees get to work without a car. We are continually looking for ways to build a more sustainable urban campus and this pilot is another opportunity to do so.”
All full-time and part-time employees, as well as their dogs, are eligible for Amazon Ride, according to the site. Employees will be able to reserve seats up to two weeks in advance via an app that will come online Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. For employees who need to work late or experience a sudden emergency, the service includes “Guaranteed Ride Home” coverage, up to five times per year.
The website references MV Transportation, which is based in Dallas and also operates the Microsoft Connector, meaning that company may be contracting with Amazon on the commuter bus project. Amazon currently does not have the level of robust regional commuter system that can stand up to Microsoft’s Connector. The SLU Shuttle has numerous stops around the Amazon campus, ferrying employees to and from downtown and other surrounding neighborhoods. But that service does not cross Lake Washington.
Microsoft introduced its Connector buses in 2007. Though only for full-time employees, and not contractors, the buses have become ubiquitous across Seattle and the Eastside. It is unclear if Amazon will brand its buses like Microsoft has with the Connector.
Amazon employs more than 26,000 people in Washington state, the majority of them at its Seattle headquarters. Worldwide, the company’s headcount has skyrocketed to more than 268,000 people at last count.
Amazon’s success in the city has led to frustration over traffic and housing costs from some Seattle residents, but Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has called the company’s growth “a great problem to have.” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has called Amazon’s decision to develop its campus inside the city, rather than the suburbs, an environmentally-friendly approach and “a very attractive feature for some of our employees” who want to live in the urban core.
However, not everyone wants to live in the city. A commuter service could give Amazon access to tech talent living on the Eastside the same way the Connector has helped Microsoft appeal to Seattle residents. It’s possible that Amazon is missing out on prospective employees who want to work for the online retail giant but don’t want to deal with commuting across Lake Washington and the mess of traffic that South Lake Union has become — driven largely by Amazon’s ascendance and the Seattle region’s emergence as one of the country’s top tech markets.