Clallam Transit’s on-demand van service Interlink has seen its ridership grow in Sequim and remain relatively steady in Forks since it launched late last year.
Compared by staff to ridesharing services Uber or Lyft, the program uses the Pingo phone app for riders mostly within city limits.
“We thought it’d be popular, but not this popular so quickly,” said Delaney Ronish, Clallam Transit’s mobility coordinator, said May 17.
Transit staff report that, in Sequim, one van was used 284 times in December, 459 times in January, 507 times in February, 598 times in March and on 606 occasions in April.
In Forks, a van was used 293 times in December, down to 253 in February, back up to 309 in March and at 300 in April.
Clallam Transit staff report that it’s become so popular in Sequim that a second van went into service May 3 from 10:30 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. to keep up with demand.
For its first three full months, General Manager Kevin Gallacci said an average rider took two to three trips a week with van arrival times taking about seven minutes in Forks and about 11-13 minutes in Sequim after being requested. Gallacci attributes Sequim’s higher wait time to demand.
Interlink vans replaced two fixed route shuttle buses in the cities last year.
The in-town shuttles saw little to no ridership, and in Sequim “buses were doing loops every 30 minutes with no one on them,” Ronish said.
Interlink vans can hold three passengers on foot and one wheelchair passenger, or two wheelchair passengers and one person on foot, staff report.
Reviews of the program were positive in March, Gallacci said, with an average ranking out of 5.0; Forks riders gave it a 4.97 for each ride, Sequim riders gave it 4.95.
In Sequim, vans run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and in Forks, vans run intermittently from 6:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8:25 a.m. to 4:35 p.m. Saturday.
“People have to plan accordingly because they could be ride sharing with up to three other people,” Ronish said.
To start, a rider needs to download the free “Ride Pingo” app on their phone or device. Personal information can be entered, but a credit to debit card is not required as riders can pay the driver or through the “Token Transit” app.
Rides cost $1 for an adult (with a low-income discount available), or $3 for a day pass. Youths younger than 19 and Peninsula College students with ID can ride for free.
Riders can also call 360-452-4511, ext. 6, to schedule a ride or ask questions.
Earlier this year, Gallacci and other Clallam Transit staff met with members of the Clallam County chapter of the National Federation of the Blind to address their questions and concerns.
With Interlink, Gallacci told the group: “We’re going to people’s doors that didn’t have access before.”
Operations manager Jim Fetze said since COVID-19’s supply chain issues arose, paratransit vehicles’ costs have gone up, but microtransit vehicles, such as the Interlink vans, have been better for costs and availability.
“With microtransit, we’ll get it better,” he said.
As Clallam Transit’s first mobility coordinator, Ronish said she’s “building it from the ground up.”
She’s available to help individuals and groups with cognitive development, hearing loss, vision loss, mobility impairment, and/or senior citizens who need help navigating public transportation.
“We want to make sure community members know what’s available to them,” she said.
She’s led travel training, done ride-alongs with riders, helped residents plan bus trips locally and between counties, and tailor programs to help riders feel more comfortable.
One growing transit ridership group is people phasing out of driving themselves and using services, such as Paratransit, Ronish said.
“We’ll do an assessment and see what services they can use and make sure they’re going in the right direction,” she said.
Gary Mackenstadt, president of the Clallam County chapter National Federation of the Blind, said in an interview that with “such a high number of seniors in this area, public transportation is essential.”
“Meeting with us is a step in the right direction,” he said.
“There are a lot of challenges. It’s gonna require some creativity and community cooperation. It can be done, but it’s not gonna be the blind just to do it.”
Applications for various transit services can be found online or mailed out by calling 360-452-4511 or 800-858-3747.
Ronish said she’s “certainly learning what people are looking for and helping (her) figure out a plan for them.”
Gallacci said they accept comments, suggestions, questions and concerns by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or going to clallamtransit.com/publiccomment.
Ronish can be contacted at email@example.com or by calling 360-452 4511, ext. 7319.
The Clallam County chapter National Federation of the Blind meets at 12:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at the Big Elk Restaurant, 707 E. Washington St. For more information, call Gary Mackenstadt at 360-683-1263.