PORT ANGELES — When Olympic National Park and Clallam Transit encouraged visitors to get out of their vehicles and take a shuttle to Hurricane Ridge, visitors took their advice.
In July, ridership averaged 382 boardings a day and from Aug. 1-7 ridership averaged 391 boardings. Many trips have been standing-room only.
Now in its second year of operation, the shuttle has become a popular way to visit one of the Olympic Peninsula’s most popular travel destinations. And, it is also the only way to get to Hurricane Ridge when the park hits its daily quota of 345 vehicles.
This summer the agency is doing its best to manage expectations and deliver the best service possible to Hurricane Ridge while navigating fallout from a fire that destroyed the day lodge at the summit on May 7.
The loss of the lodge and its restroom facilities led the park to provide temporary toilets whose capacity determined the vehicle quota that is regularly met by 11 a.m. This diverts many of those who missed the cutoff to take the shuttle.
Additionally, the agency will have to suspend all shuttle operations Aug. 15-17 when the park closes access to the area to allow crews to remove debris from the day lodge site so investigation of the cause of the fire can continue.
Demand has been so great that Clallam Transit imposed a maximum of 46 passengers allowed to board shuttles departing The Gateway transit center. This often means those waiting at the Lake Angeles or Switchback trailheads for a ride to the summit — sometimes 20 to 30 people — will not be able to board if a shuttle is full. Only that number of riders who get off at a stop will be allowed to board. For example, if six passengers get off, only six will be allowed to board.
Clallam Transit General Manager Jim Fetzer recommended visitors take the 8:15 a.m. or 9:15 a.m. shuttles from the transit center because they are the least crowded. After that, travelers probably will have to wait in line and hope they get one of the 46 spots on the next one.
Seats are on a first-come, first-served basis. There are no reservations.
When it comes to the return trip to the transit center, Fetzer said, don’t wait until the last shuttle leaving Hurricane Ridge at 3:45 p.m. if you’re in a hurry to get back to town.
Clallam Transit monitors boardings and offboardings so it knows the number of passengers it must get off the mountain at the end of the day and invariably they don’t all fit on one bus. The agency always has extra buses ready on standby, but be prepared to wait.
Adding more shuttles that would provide more frequent service and one that returned later in the day has been discussed as a possibility for next year.
At the moment, Clallam Transit does not have enough drivers. And, although its shuttles don’t count toward the daily vehicle quota, its passengers do have an impact on the limited restroom facilities.
Clallam Transit has been pleased with visitor response to the shuttle and its ability to respond to demand during a particularly challenging time for the park. It installed a shelter at the Switchback Trail and one at Lake Anderson Trailhead will be ready today.
“We’ve been pretty successful, that’s for sure,” Fetzer said.
For information and updates on the Hurricane Ridge shuttle, go to www.clallamtransit.com/HurricaneRidge.
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at email@example.com.