AvgeekJoe Photo: Boarding an Island Transit Tri-County Connector 411W Bus at March’s Point, Anacortes
Folks, the future of the Tri-County Connectors is uncertain but I promised you an update. As you may know, Representative Dave Hayes has put on the table a modest proposal to, “provide $1 million to restart an important bus transit route that, until last June, operated between Camano Island and Everett.” The catch is that fares must be charged to access the money.
Recently, the Island Transit Board had a discussion about this and is tentatively supportive of Representative Hayes’ efforts:
One thing worth noting is that it’s now 21 April and no final decision has been made even to keep the County Connectors going. Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson (Republican) is really attempting to force the beginning of public hearings on the service change with more passion and vigor than Island County Commissioner Rick Hannold’s (Republican) pontificating bordering on rambling about the need for a fare.
One should note that come Friday will be 67 days before the possible end of this service. Sixty seven days. Yet it seems Island Transit Board has been timid since knowing there was a crisis in November. At least Island Transit staff have a contingency plan if there is no state support. If I may quote from my recent feature on the Tri-County Connector crisis:
…These proposed connections are highly problematic. That’s if Island Transit Board … decides to keep the Island County Connector. One option, called “Proposal 2” and page four (4) of this Scribd link shows a proposal to only serve Deception Pass. For Skagit Transit (Skagit County’s county level transit net), they’d have to make it to Cornet Bay to link up with Island Transit at all.
The other option best explained on page 8 shows a schedule that allows commuters to get off the main islands of Island County, but not necessarily get back. Commuters seeking to leave Whidbey would have to be ready to accept a 3 PM departure from Harbor Station, Oak Harbor to arrive at Skagit Station at 4 PM. The bus would then depart at 4:10, run to Camano and arrive at 4:40 PM – passing the bus going the other way. To get from Camano to Whidbey you’d have to leave Camano at 3:30 PM, arrive Skagit Station at 4:05 PM, then leave Skagit Station, Mount Vernon at 4:15 to arrive at Harbor Station, Oak Harbor at 5:15 PM. So if you work in Everett and need to get to Camano in the afternoon but miss that first northbound Skagit Transit 90X connection from Everett to Skagit Station, Mount Vernon which supposed to arrive at 4 PM but can easily be delayed… you are totally stranded.
So what is the solution? One option may be delaying these runs until starting at 5 PM or 6 PM. There already are plans for a northbound run starting at 6:35 AM and another southbound run at 6:45 AM. Or chucking the 9:35 AM northbound & 9:55 AM southbound routes and making another late afternoon or early evening run.
With this Proposal 1 in play thanks to Representative Dave Hayes, the focus should be on commuters. Doubly so with fares being required to get the $1 million state match for the biennium. Gone are the days when a $6 million biennium start-up grant could be lobbied for this route. Make sure to e-mail info-at-islandtransit.org your thoughts on this
But even with the recent fiasco around ORCA & Link Light Rail, I’m sure many of you would agree with Representative Hayes, “Riders need to have skin in the game. All other transit systems are charging a fare. Many people who were using the Island Transit Everett Connector before it closed told me they would have gladly paid the fare, especially if it would have kept the route open. They’re willing to pay, so this amendment makes that a requirement in order to release those funds.”
Ultimately, let’s hope Friday the Island Transit Board will at least commit to the route and public outreach. 67 days to go… with a state legislature giving signals of going into indefinite deadlock over budgets.
In other Island Transit news, Oak Harbor Mayor Scott “Studley” Dudley who is widely credited with removing Martha Rose from the Island Transit Executive Director position last year is not seeking reelection due to his inability to work with the Oak Harbor City Council. However, former Island Transit Boardmember Jim Campbell who graciously resigned from the Island Transit Board last year will give current Oak Harbor City Councilman Bob Severns a run for the money in the quest to be Mayor of Oak Harbor, Island County’s largest municipality. If the Whidbey News-Times newsroom are worth their salaries, they’ll ask about Island Transit.
It’s safe to say North by Northwest would have endorsed “Studley” for Mayor based on cleaning Island Transit up and forcing the discussion of new revenue streams to Island Transit. His looming presence and legacy in the Island Transit debate will be deeply missed.