PORT TOWNSEND — In its last meeting of the year, the Jefferson Transit Authority staff and board looked into the near future — and out to the 20-year horizon.
First the board adopted the 2021 budget: $5,929,042 in operating expenses and $2,413,581 in capital projects.
Those include expanding Jefferson Transit’s administration and maintenance center at 63 Four Corners Road and redesigning the place where county residents catch their buses.
“We’re at capacity; we need another maintenance bay,” Finance Manager Sara Crouch said of the Four Corners facility.
The Haines Place Transit Center also is crowded and in need of reconfiguring, she said, so buses can flow more freely.
Jefferson Transit has engaged the Tacoma engineering consulting firm Fehr & Peers to conduct a long-term study of how the agency should grow its service now through 2040.
In a presentation at the Dec. 15 budget approval meeting, consultants Daniel Dye and Aaron Gooze said an online open house will be held in late January to ask residents what they want to see.
The spectrum of possibilities includes expanding the area buses serve, to Cape George and Kala Point, for example. Another option: running more buses more often within the city of Port Townsend.
“It will be a survey kind of format, open for about two weeks,” Crouch said.
The survey will be at jeffersontransit.com.
The Jefferson Transit board, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, also moved forward on a mutual aid agreement with Jefferson County’s Department of Emergency Management.
If the county Board of Commissioners approves it, the agreement would provide a Jefferson Transit van to provide transport to COVID-19 testing sites.
The service would be for people who don’t have their own transportation to and from the test, Crouch said.
A small van equipped with a wheelchair ramp would be furnished, she said, if the county commissioners green-light it in early 2021.
Meantime, Jefferson Transit’s regular buses are back to full service across the county and beyond, fare-free as they have been since last spring.
The agency-wide face mask requirement continues, with drivers providing masks for passengers who come on board without them.
“The public has been great about it,” fixed-route operations manager Nicole Gauthier said of the rule.
At the same time, ridership has dipped considerably this year, from an average of 756 daily passengers in November 2019 to 325 this past November.
In light of the decrease, Jefferson Transit General Manager Tammi Rubert has encouraged county residents to provide her with feedback about what would make them feel safer riding the bus.
While the Haines Place customer service building is closed to the public due to the pandemic, the agency can be reached via 360-385-4777 and [email protected].
Rubert said buses are disinfected daily; safety protocols include boarding at the back of the bus and masking and social distancing on board and at bus shelters.
More information is available at jeffersontransit.com along with a reminder that fixed-route and dial-a-ride service will take a holiday for Christmas this Friday and New Year’s Day next Friday, Jan. 1.
Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected].