Jefferson Transit Authority board discusses bus service for homeless

Long-range plan under development

PORT TOWNSEND — Emergency bus service for people without homes, the shortage of bus drivers and plans for expansion over the next five years were all discussed during the Jefferson Transit Authority board meeting this past week.

Having proposed a homeless encampment on Cape George Road — the topic of heated conversations among local officials and the public — Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Brotherton has asked Jefferson Transit’s staff to research how buses could serve the camp.

A dial-a-ride bus is one option, mobility operations manager Miranda Nash said during Tuesday’s meeting, while another possibility is to deviate an existing fixed route to pick up campers. All of this has yet to be figured out, but Jefferson Transit general manager Tammi Rubert promised the agency would continue to help in any way possible.

It’s the transit agency’s responsibility to provide public transportation for all county residents, she said.

The board meeting also brought forward the 2021-2026 Transit Development Plan, a 28-page document outlining Jefferson Transit’s expansion priorities. The draft plan is available at jeffersontransit.com under the About JTA link.

Jefferson Transit’s mission is to provide reliable, safe, friendly, comfortable public transportation service in Jefferson County, the plan notes, adding that service should be cost-effective, reduce energy consumption and contribute to the cultural and economic betterment of the county’s people.

“Jefferson Transit remains committed to obtaining zero-emissions vehicles,” the plan continues, while noting that for much of the county, electric bus technology isn’t viable “due to the rural nature of the service area.”

The exception is the No. 11 downtown shuttle, for which the agency has proposed an electric trolley-style bus, “an idea which was met with great support.”

Jefferson Transit will keep monitoring evolving technology, the plan says.

The five-year development plan will be discussed again in a public hearing during the 1:30 p.m. July 27 board meeting. Information about connecting to the meeting will be posted later at jeffersontransit.com.

A more pressing issue: drivers. Jefferson Transit has been advertising those job openings nonstop, said finance manager Sara Crouch.

A transit operator must be 21 or older, have a clean driving record and pass a pre-employment drug and alcohol test. Just as important, said fixed-route operations manager Nicole Gauthier, is a liking for people.

“We can train you to drive,” she said, but “we really are looking for people who are excited about working with the public.”

Gauthier said she’s seeking to hire three drivers, so county Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour joked that she, Brotherton and Commissioner Kate Dean could apply.

“We might consider it with the week we’ve had,” Dean said.

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Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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