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King County Metro’s new pilot program paves the way for companies like Chariot to grow in Seattle. (Photo by Colin Miller)

King County Metro — which covers Seattle, Bellevue, and surrounding communities — is launching a pilot program for commuter shuttles shared by employers.

Mobility companies will be allowed to offer a micro-shuttle service for employees of two to five employers per route. Only employees of a designated consortium of employers will be allowed to use the shared shuttles. Each approved service will be permitted to operate for one year under the pilot.

Mobility companies can submit proposals to participate in the pilot through April 3. Metro plans to reach agreements with companies around mid-April.

Metro isn’t disclosing which companies have expressed interest in the pilot but Ford’s Chariot is a safe bet. The company is already operating its enterprise service in Seattle, allowing a handful of companies to ferry their employees back and forth from work in 14-seat Ford Transit Wagons. What’s novel about the King County Metro pilot is the ability for multiple employers to join together to offer commuting routes for employees. Chariot has expressed ambitious expansion plans for Seattle.

Companies like Chariot need Metro’s authorization to operate in Seattle because Washington state law defines the agency as the sole provider of public transportation in King County.

“Metro is exploring these partnerships to find new ways to connect people to transit service and provide customers with mobility options,” Metro’s General Manager Rob Gannon said in a statement. “This is the first of several steps as we build out the mobility network that our long-range plan demands.”

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