The Amazon Spheres in downtown Seattle, with construction cranes in the Space.
(GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Amazon is paying $1.5 million to finance increased public bus service around its Seattle headquarters in South Lake Union. The investment will include 22 weekday excursions for a couple of years across a few of King County Metro’s busy routes that serve surrounding areas such as West Seattle, Shoreline, Ballard, and Capitol Hill. It will offer an extra 1,700 weekday boardings. “Adding 12,000 hours of further bus service throughout the country and city’s busiest routes will reap all King County and Seattle inhabitants,” John Schoettler, vice president of international real estate and facilities at Amazon, said in an announcement. “Over half our employees get to operate in ways other than a single occupant vehicle — including more than 20 percent that require the bus. We are excited to see the greater capacity, and will keep working together with Metro and the City of Seattle to find innovative solutions that offer long-term transit alternatives for the area.” Amazon has expanded its footprint in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood over the past several years and today employs 45,000 people in the city across 35 buildings. The business said last year that it occupied over 8 million square feet of office space in Seattle and may eventually expand to as much as 13.5 million square feet across 44 buildings. Amazon has paid King County Metro more than $60 million since 2014 to provide employees with ORCA bus passes. Amazon and its own CEO Jeff Bezos have become the face of a technology industry that has rapidly remade the appearance and texture of Seattle. The company has historically been criticized because of its limited engagement in neighborhood problems and philanthropy but in the last few years it’s declared housing for homeless households, contributed substantial sums to the UW’s computer science program, and affirmed an mass transit agency. Amazon’s expansion was at the middle of the debate over Seattle’s recently defeated head tax, which could have financed affordable housing and homeless services from taxing huge businesses like Amazon, which is still determining where to place its next headquarters. Amazon posted $51 billion in annual earnings for the latest fiscal quarter.