Clallam Transit considers service to Hoh Rain Forest

Operation would be in collaboration with Jefferson Transit

PORT ANGELES — Clallam Transit’s Hurricane Ridge Shuttle that has been transporting visitors to one of Olympic National Park’s most popular destinations has been so successful that it has spurred ideas about not simply expanding service on that route but perhaps establishing one to the park’s top West End attraction, the Hoh Rain Forest.

Last month, the shuttle recorded 11,865 rides to the summit, General Manager Jim Fetzer told the board at its Wednesday meeting.

“We need to look hard at next summer, because bus service to the Ridge is definitely going to stay,” Fetzer said. “We averaged 382 boardings a day in July, which is very good.”

The numbers are a reflection of the shuttle’s convenience, as well as it being the only means to reach Hurricane Ridge when the daily quota of 345 personal vehicles is reached — often before 11 a.m. The limit was determined by the capacity of the portable toilets installed after the Hurricane Ridge Day Lodge was destroyed by fire in May.

Fetzer said a shuttle that leaves later than the last-bus 3:45 p.m. departure is definitely needed.

“That’s a real problem,” Fetzer said. “People want to ride the bus up there, they stay the entire day because it’s so beautiful and everybody ends up taking the last shuttle down.”

Clallam County commissioner and board member Mark Ozias asked Fetzer if Clallam Transit had the ability to support access to Hurricane Ridge this winter. The park has said keeping the road open will significantly depend on its ability to provide public restrooms that can withstand the brutal winds and freezing temperatures at 5,242 feet.

“I think we do, but I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Fetzer said. “I don’t think the park even knows what’s going to happen. But we’re going to continue talks with the park to see what role we can play.”

Board chair and Forks City Council member Juanita Weissenfels wanted to consider the possibility of adding shuttle service to the Hoh Rain Forest in the summer.

“I’ve had more people come up to me and say it’s just impossible to get there,” Weissenfels said. “The line is four miles long and the wait time is two hours. If we had a bus, it would alleviate a lot of that.”

Because the Hoh Rain Forest is in Jefferson County, Fetzer said Clallam Transit would need to discuss with Jefferson Transit Authority the possibility of serving that area.

“But we’ll definitely have some conversations with the park because the demand is there,” Fetzer said.

Ozias said knowing more about visitors to the Hoh Rain Forest would help in terms of determining potential routes and service.

“I would guess that not an insubstantial number people drive from Port Angeles or around here to get out there, they’re not necessarily starting from Forks,” Ozias said. “We might want to consider a service like a national park route or something like that. I can imagine that being marketable, being fundable and being a real valuable service.”

Like the demand for more frequent service to Hurricane Ridge, there is also demand for more buses on the Strait Shot route from Gateway Transit Center to the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal. Clallam Transit added a fourth trip in 2021, but two individuals who spoke via Zoom during the meeting’s public comment period said a fourth was needed.

One of the greatest barriers to expanding routes and services has been a lack of personnel and low post-COVID recruitment numbers. However, that is changing, said administrative services coordinator Barb Cox.

“We’re having more applicants coming in and they’re very quality applicants,” Cox said. “It’s very encouraging.”

In other news, Jason McNickle is Clallam Transit’s new operations manager. The 14-year employee was promoted from operations supervisor after former operations manager Jim Fetzer was elevated to general manager in July.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at paula.hunt@soundpublishing.com.

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