PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson Transit Authority is seeking a balance between the frequency of bus stops at high-traffic areas and the service coverage in rural areas.
The agency had a public open house Wednesday at the Cotton Building in downtown Port Townsend. About 25 people attended a noon presentation.
Poster boards and other displays detailed how the bus system connects to Clallam and Kitsap counties, and consultants who are working on the 20-year long-range plan answered questions throughout the day.
“Our rural community is changing,” General Manager Tammi Rubert said. “How long is your commute? How long is it compared to just 10 years ago?”
Jefferson Transit Authority (JTA) is gauging public feedback through comment forms, a survey and a second open house scheduled for June.
Comments and a 14-question survey also are available online at www.jeffersontransitplan.com. The survey will be available through Feb. 12.
Project Manager Aaron Gooze of consultant Fehr and Peers said JTA is using the Jefferson County Comprehensive Plan that projects population growth in rural areas to grow by 30 percent with an additional 2,445 people by 2038.
“We’re looking to identify and plan for population growth and employment, and future opportunities and constants,” he said.
At the same time, the agency is integrating relatively new transportation data from software such as StreetLight and Remix that can pinpoint travelers’ origins and destinations based on cellphone connections.
The data is generalized and not identifiable to any one person, Gooze said.
Through that research, which has been available for less than five years, the agency has learned that 72 percent of all trips within the county are within Port Townsend city limits, often for services or jobs, Gooze said.
The data can be used for certain months of the year or travel times, such as peak commute hours, he said.
Separately, JTA can overlay potential new routes — or add to existing ones — through Remix, which can instantly calculate the number of hours and total cost of implementation, Gooze said.
However, one example he provided showed if JTA adds more frequent stops within the city, then its coverage in the rural areas could suffer.
“That’s ultimately what this plan is trying to do, provide some numbers for those alternatives,” Gooze said.
Rubert said the plan will help guide future decisions about services, equipment and infrastructure investments, including the possibility of electric vehicle charging, a separate study the agency is conducting this year.
She also said JTA, which is part of the county’s Climate Action Committee and is involved with the emergency operations center, is in discussions with a larger group on how climate change may have a future impact.
“We are looking at our future and the future of our children,” she said.
Gordon Nielson of Port Townsend spoke about the need for new routes from Discovery Bay, Cape George Road and Kala Point.
“The people there are getting older and they’re not going to be able to drive,” he said.
Among other points he raised, Nielson suggested adding chargers for cellphones and laptop computers inside each bus and to advertise it to increase ridership.
Piper Corbett, co-owner of Propolis Brewing in Port Townsend, said she’s interested in ridesharing services.
She asked if JTA would consider partnering with Uber, Lyft or a similar transportation service if they were able to operate within city limits.
“Ninety-five percent of my customers come from out of town,” she said. “It’s an income opportunity for safe rides around town.”
Future tax revenues also will impact the agency, Rubert said.
In addition to consultants SCJ Alliance, JTA is working with ECONorthwest on financial modeling with sales tax projections and how that might change in the next 20 years.
“This is really about identifying how or if Jefferson Transit should grow,” Gooze said.
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].