Transit examines future plans

More routes, connections considered

PORT TOWNSEND — More buses and more routes to places such as Cape George, Marrowstone Island and Kala Point are some of Jefferson Transit’s top priorities in its Transit Development Plan covering the next six years.

The plan delves into potential changes in bus service and how public transit is funded in Jefferson County, and it provides a summary of Jefferson Transit’s operations in 2020.

That was the year the bus system, which covers both east and west Jefferson County and provides connections to Sequim and Poulsbo, went fare-free. The policy will continue for the foreseeable future, Jefferson Transit general manager Tammi Rubert has said.

During the Jefferson Transit Authority Board public hearing on Tuesday, some members wanted to talk about the future of no-cost travel for transit riders.

“I would definitely support fare-free in perpetuity at this point,” said board member David Faber, a Port Townsend City Council seat holder.

“What kind of analysis have you guys done of going permanently fare-free?” asked transit board member Heidi Eisenhour, a Jefferson County Commissioner.

“I’m a little worried this is going outside the scope of the hearing,” said board member Kate Dean, also county commissioner.

An impact analysis can be conducted later this year during the budget cycle, Dean added.

In 2019, fares generated $156,763 in revenue, according to the Transit Development Plan. That revenue stream is projected to reach $163,097 next year and $166,359 in 2022.

Jefferson Transit’s primary sources of revenue come from sales tax and grant money rather than fares.

Pre-pandemic sales tax revenue hit $5,521,927 in 2019. Last year’s projected sales tax funding was $4,693,638, and a modest increase is projected for $5,632,365 this year.

Amid the revenue and service reductions of early 2020, Jefferson Transit added safety protocols to its daily operations. A sanitation company has been hired to disinfect buses; plexiglass shields have been installed around the driver’s seats, and UV light purification systems have been put into the buses.

The Transit Development Plan lists numerous other improvements to be made between now and 2026. They include adding shelters or bicycle lockers at Taylor and Washington streets, McPherson and 14th streets and San Juan and Umatilla avenues in Port Townsend, on Swansonville Road in Port Ludlow and at the Brinnon Store.

Also on the expansion list: exploration of new routes inside and outside Port Townsend, reconfiguration of the Haines Place Transit Center to make room for more buses, and improvement of the transit center shelters for better wind and rain coverage.

A commuter route to the Kingston ferry terminal is in the works as early as this fall to connect riders to Kitsap Transit’s passenger ferry and to the Washington State ferry to Edmonds north of Seattle.

Dean asked transit staff about adding a connection to the Strait Shot, the Clallam Transit bus service that transports riders between Port Angeles and Sequim and the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal. From there, passengers can catch the ferry to Seattle and then take public transit — bus or light rail — to destinations that include Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

“I continue to be a squeaky wheel” about the Strait Shot, Dean said.

“Maximizing regional connections is really important.”

Dean and the rest of the board will take another look at the development plan, possibly the last one before approval, during their meeting at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 17.

The draft document can be found at www.jeffersontransit.com under the drop-down menu titled “About JTA” and by selecting “Transit Development Plan.” Information is also available by phoning 360-385-4777 or emailing [email protected]

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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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