On 22 May 2015, the Island Transit Board made the gut-wrenching decision that due to Island Transit’s fiscal troubles, the lack of state support and the refusal of Skagit Transit to serve to Deception Pass to unless Representative Dave Hayes’ amendment passes stand down the Tri-County Connector on 31 July. That means no Island Transit service not just to March’s Point, but also no Island Transit service to Skagit Station in Mount Vernon. Island Transit will however serve North Whidbey in a limited way up to Deception Pass and provide services for Camano Island residents to link to Stanwood & Community Transit services flowing from Stanwood to points south. Overall, although Island Transit Boardmembers were audibly if not visibly distraught at making this decision – and there’s video below, without the Hayes Amendment to provide some state funding connected to charging a fare, the money is just not in Island Transit coffers to provide linkage services between Whidbey Island & Camano Island.
To spare our Seattle Transit Blog e-mails as I too am on e-mail subscription, I’ve put in a Read More jump below. Also figure some of you may not be interested…
As an example of Island Transit’s slow speed in making decisions, although Island Transit knew there was a crisis in November, Island Transit took until almost the end of May to make a decision. The same Island Transit Board that is only now putting out for tender advertising revenue when such revenue could have allowed for some Whidbey-Skagit connectivity. Island Transit also is still having problems with building up reserves and very slowly creeping towards a debate on charging a fare.
That said, the fact Skagit Transit is refusing to connect to Deception Pass State Park due to an aversion to having to provide concurrent para-transit is… many adjectives, none of which positive. Versus an Island Transit that refuses to abandon at least some service for its own residents.
Then there’s the situation of Camano Island where Island Transit and Community Transit are able to easily link up, so Community Transit can provide service to Smokey Point and many points south from there such as Everett Station, limited service to the Boeing factories at Paine Field, and about a limited 90 minute trip to downtown Seattle. Skagit Transit on the other hand demands Island Transit go to March’s Point 6.5 miles from Deception Pass for a Skagit Transit 40X to reach Mt. Vernon to reach Burlington & Bellingham to the north and Mt. Vernon destinations plus Everett to the south. Commissioner Jill “Beast Mode” Johnson (Republican) sure has a good point that Skagit Transit could be quite more helpful… and responsible.
At least Island County Commissioner Richard “Rich” M. Hannold (Republican) lit into Island Transit Board & Management for dragging their feet on charging a fare and answers on why five (5) dispatcher positions. It seems Island Transit is beginning to realize a fare is inevitable and yes, Island Transit does need 5 dispatchers as dispatchers manage the system, there needs to be a spare dispatcher and dispatchers have AM & PM shifts. Furthermore, Commissioner Hannold made clear he wants to open the door to very limited Saturday service inside Island County.
Island Transit Board Chairman Rick Almberg made very clear the need to ration the “water” called fiscal support knowing no major rescue package is inbound or will be inbound. The Chairman did direct Island Transit staff to have public outreach, start making the transition to a transit fare to “improve our known cash position” and the beginning of a PR campaign of letters to various legislators & transit agencies such as Skagit County. As that PR campaign spins up, expect some sorties here on Page Two.
Of course, if Senate Transportation Chair Curtis King wants to keep the State Senate Republican and give a joyful whack to progressives agitating to continue fare free, Senator King just might want to help his junior State Senator Barbara Bailey by passing the Hayes Amendment to provide limited county connector services contingent on a fare. Senator Bailey’s office is very clear Island Transit’s county connectors are her top transportation priority. A big prompt to get Island Transit to charge fares, the Hayes Amendment would create. It’s now vital to the North by Northwest transit area the Hayes Amendment passes the final state transportation budget.
Ultimately, no one should be suddenly shocked at this decision, a decision even yours truly supports. Without state support or a lesser amount attached to a fare as per the Hayes Amendment, Island Transit just cannot continue to provide inter-county connectivity. Skagit Transit and Community Transit have made very clear they’re not going to stretch their transit nets into Island Transit due to Skagit Transit’s fear of induced demand for para-transit the last 6.5 miles to Deception Pass and Community Transit’s long list of unmet needs.
Below is the video I’ve created of the Island Transit Board deliberations for your perusal. Special thanks to Gayle Zachau-Kirk, US Navy Veteran for taking and posting the original videos for us.