PORT TOWNSEND — Commuters, and anyone looking to catch a ride toward Seattle, are invited to comment on Jefferson Transit’s latest proposal.
That’s the twice-daily express route to the Kingston ferry terminal, a 72-minute ride from Port Townsend in the morning and evening.
Jefferson Transit conducted a survey last winter to see whether local residents were interested in the trip, and 95 percent of the 657 respondents said yes.
The service would deliver people to the dock 34 miles away in Kingston, where they can board the Kitsap Transit fast ferry. The walk-on boat delivers passengers to downtown Seattle in 40 minutes.
A short video detailing the Port Townsend-Kingston bus service can be found at Jeffersontransit.com; a link is provided below the video for those who want to give feedback on the plan.
Jefferson Transit’s customer service office also can be reached at 360-385-4777 or by email at [email protected]
Comments about the potential Kingston service will be accepted through July 31. The Jefferson Transit board is expected to approve the new route during its Aug. 17 meeting, said Miranda Nash, mobility operations manager.
The anticipated date for launching the Kingston bus route is Oct. 25.
“We’re going to be collecting feedback on all of the proposed stops,” Nash said Wednesday afternoon after screening the video in a special Jefferson Transit meeting.
The route would start at the Haines Place park-and-ride lot in Port Townsend and include stops at the Four Corners park-and-ride lot, the Olympic Peninsula Gateway Visitor Center at 93 Beaver Valley Road in Port Ludlow, and finally the Kingston ferry terminal.
The bus would have an 18-minute layover there before returning to Jefferson County.
During Wednesday’s online meeting, Viviann Kuehl of Quilcene suggested adding the Port Hadlock QFC parking lot to the list of stops. The store is a major hub for south county and Tri-Area residents, she said.
Nash replied that the stops aren’t firmly decided yet and thanked Kuehl for her input.
Jefferson Transit already has acquired a bus for the route: a 2013 Ford F-550 that used to be a Dungeness Line bus that made runs between Port Angeles and Seattle; it can accommodate 17 to 23 passengers in its bucket and bench seats.
The bus has a ramp for disabled riders, UV air filtration and luggage racks, and Nash added it will be fitted with a two- or three-position bicycle rack.
Passengers will be able to pay their fares in cash or buy tickets via tokentransit.com, a mobile app.
Jefferson Transit’s proposed amounts are $6 for a reduced fare to $8 for the full fare.
That’s less than half the cost of driving one’s personal vehicle, according to the agency’s research.
Choosing the transit bus also saves considerable amounts of carbon, according to a detailed report by the sustainability organization Local 20/20.
The Kingston service could replace 13,590 car trips annually and save up to 141 metric tons of greenhouse gases, Local 20/20’s Transportation Lab stated.
Jefferson Transit has a long way to go before persuading many commuters to leave their cars at home. Seventy percent of Port Townsend workers drive alone to their jobs; 68 percent of Port Ludlow workers do so, and 82 percent of Port Hadlock workers go solo, according to Jefferson Transit’s presentation.
A mere 1 to 2 percent choose public transit.
At the same time, the transit agency’s fixed-route service across Port Townsend and Jefferson County has been fare-free since the start of the pandemic.
“At this time, we’re not looking at reinstituting our fares,” Jefferson Transit General Manager Tammi Rubert told the Peninsula Daily News. The agency’s board wants to keep the regular routes — aside from the premium Kingston route — free for all passengers.
Ridership has tumbled since spring 2020, when COVID-19 arrived on the North Olympic Peninsula. But fixed-route operations manager Nicole Gauthier is seeing a slow increase in people boarding the buses.
“We’re optimistic that some of our longtime riders are coming back. Maybe they’ve gotten vaccinated,” she said, adding that air filtration equipment, daily cleaning, social distancing and the face-mask requirement for drivers and passengers are ongoing.
As for the Kingston service, it can’t launch until Jefferson Transit has the right number of operators ready to drive, Rubert said.
“We are actively recruiting,” she said, adding the agency covers the training and other costs of new hires’ commercial drivers’ licenses.
Information about applying for a transit operator position can be found at the top of Jeffersontransit.com.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]