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Originally published Saturday, August 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Shuttle to Seahawks games to cost $25 round-trip

When the Seattle Seahawks called for bids for providing shuttle service to football games this year, just one company bid and the Seahawks rejected it. Now the Northwest Motorcoach Association says it will run the shuttles anyway.

Seattle Times staff reporter

When the Seattle Seahawks called for bids on providing shuttle service to football games this year, just one company, Starline Luxury Coaches, bid.

But the Seahawks rejected Starline, saying its offer was too expensive and Starline lacked approval to use Metro park-and-ride lots and other staging areas where it could pick up and let off passengers.

Last year, fans paid $6 round-trip to ride Metro buses to the games, but a new federal rule puts the Metro shuttle out of the running if a private company makes a bid.

Now the private Northwest Motorcoach Association, of which Starline is a member, says it will run the shuttles anyway, without the Seahawks' blessing. Buses will stay on the street, it says, rather than entering park-and-ride lots. The cost will be $12.50 each way, about four times last season's cost of riding Metro.

"We were hoping the Seahawks would work with us on this, but they said, 'Forget it,' " said Gladys Gillis, head of Starline.

Gillis said her company put in a bid for fares of $10 each way for the shuttle service. Northwest Motorcoach says its private operators will charge $12.50 each way, higher than Starline's bid, because the company now has to cover the cost of advertising and ticket sales.

The issue of shuttle service to Seahawk games was driven by a new rule announced last spring by the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA).

Under the new policy, which took effect May 1, sponsors must solicit bids from private bus-charter companies for all sports and cultural events. Metro could continue to provide the service only if no one bids.

According to Metro spokeswoman Rochelle Ogershok, last year Metro provided 29,244 fan round trips to Qwest Field football games from five park-and-ride lots.

The total cost for the service was $257,000; Metro collected $175,000 in fares, leaving the Seahawks responsible for about $81,000. But because the Seahawks promoted the service, Metro awarded a credit and the Seahawks paid only about $43,000.

This year, with no agreement, the football team will pay nothing.

The FTA this year provided Metro an exemption to operate shuttles to Seattle Mariner games. Metro doesn't make or lose money on the shuttles because event sponsors cover the costs through a fee and passenger fares, but private operators complained that these public subsidies were driving private operators out of business.

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Under the Northwest Motorcoach plan, the shuttle service will begin on the first regular-season home game Sept. 14 and continue through the postseason, if necessary.

Tickets must be purchased 48 hours in advance at www.gettoqwest.com beginning Sept. 1. The site isn't up yet but will be by Sept. 1, Gillis said.

Meanwhile, Gillis said she intends to bid on transportation for University of Washington Husky fans.

Last year the UW paid Metro $500,000 to carry 187,000 Husky fans for free to seven home games on 180 buses, the largest Metro shuttle effort.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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