Enjoying the great outdoors is good for you. But not everyone has access to the outdoors. According to National Parks surveys, visitors to the parks tend to be whiter and wealthier than the population as a whole. That’s in part because going hiking or camping can be expensive. You need a car, gas, sometimes special equipment.
Now, a Seattle-area program is trying to remove one of the barriers to getting outside, and out of town, by offering affordable transportation. Last year, the county metro system started running regular shuttles out to popular trails on weekends and holidays, from spring to early fall. The program will cost about $900,000 to continue this year.
It’s funded by public money and support from the outdoor recreation company REI. Last year, hikers took 10,000 round trips on the new service. In an informal survey of about 400 riders, King County found they more or less matched the city’s racial demographics and had slightly lower incomes than the Seattle area as a whole.
This year, the program has added new routes that start in several lower-income neighborhoods.