Clallam Transit Route 14 from Port Angeles to Forks Eric C. (Flickr)

On Labor Day Weekend 2010, my partner Sarah and I traveled to Nanaimo, B.C. the cheap and lengthy way: via the Bainbridge Ferry, Kitsap Transit #90 to Poulsbo, Jefferson Transit #7 to Four Corners, Jefferson Transit #8 to Sequim, Clallam Transit #30 to Port Angeles, the Black Ball Ferry, and the former VIA Rail Malahat. We returned to Seattle via the BC Ferries and Amtrak. The experience was luckily seamless, but it really was only for the insane among us. Ever since that trip, we’ve done the sane thing and driven our car anytime we’ve gone to the Olympic Peninsula.

But there may soon be a much easier car-free way to reach it. In an email late last week, Clallam Transit Operations Manager Steve Hopkins revealed that the agency intends to start twice-daily bus service from the Bainbridge Ferry Terminal to the Port Angeles Gateway Transit Center this summer.

Clallam Transit Route 123 – branded as the Strait Shot in honor of the Strait of Juan de Fuca – will turn the 5-seat ride of old into a simple 2-seat ride, a ferry and a timed bus connection. The bus will make very limited stops, including Poulsbo and Sequim (see map).

The service will run twice daily on weekdays and Saturday, with a morning and evening service in each direction, and one evening trip in each direction on Sundays. There will be timed connections from the Bainbridge Ferry to the bus, and also an onward timed connection to Forks, turning the former 6-seat ride to Lake Crescent and Forks into a 3-seat ride with timed connections.

There is already a one-seat ride between Seattle and Port Angeles, the WSDOT-subsidized Dungeness Line from SeaTac Airport to Port Angeles via Downtown Seattle, Edmonds, and Kingston. Including the respective ferry trips, The Strait Shot will be slightly faster than the Dungeness Line from Downtown Seattle, 2 hours and 50 minutes versus 3 hours.

The proposed $10 one-way fare may seem steep, but as an out-of-boundary service, Clallam Transit intends to run it at 100% fare box recovery. As a 75-mile trip in just 2 hours, the service will be very competitive with what is usually a 1 hour and 40 minute drive. The Strait Shot will also be considerably cheaper than the Dungeness Line, even though the latter includes the ferry fare within its fare.

Clallam Transit is holding a public hearing on the proposal on March 20 in Forks, and online comments may be submitted to info@clallamtransit.com by March 15. If this comes to pass, Sequim, Port Angeles, Lake Crescent, Forks, La Push, Neah Bay, and more will be far more accessible than ever before. Quick car-free weekenders will be a convenient reality.

58 Replies to “Clallam Transit to Introduce Bainbridge-Port Angeles Service”

  1. 100% farebox recovery is very ambitious. Does anyone have an idea of how many people need to be on each trip to achieve break-even?

    1. Spitballing. According to the WA Summary of Public Transportation (page 104), Clallam Transit had $5.7m in operating expenses in 2015 to provide 45,000 vehicle hours. Ergo, $127 per hour. Assume that a 2-hour revenue run needs 2.2 service hours. That puts the cost of each one-way trip at $280. So, 28 riders paying full fare is the break even point? Ish?

      1. Whenever I’ve ridden the four-bus, three-transit-agency version of this, most legs had about ten riders. So hopefully your estimation is off, my experiences are unusual, or they can triple their ridership!

        Then again also, almost all my anecdotes are from the trip westbound, which is $18 not 10. So that might help.

      2. It’s hard to believe they can guarantee a 22-person average every trip. Unless most of them are commuters from the intervening P&Rs.

      3. The equation changes with FTA grants though – but of course under the current circumstances FTA grants may not be dependable.

  2. Assuming a cost per hour of $80 (standard for contract service) you would need an average of 16 boardings with a $10 per person cost. There may be people riding intermediate stops but the price to go 75 miles seems a little low compared to other services.

  3. Oh man. I grew up in Port Angeles and my parents live there still. I’ve ridden that four-bus bainbridge-to-PA trip many times, always as a last resort. And the Dungeness line just never was convenient enough to be worth its asking price.

    If this thing comes into existence it will be amazing, exactly what I need.

    Interesting that the westbound trip costs 8 dollars more than eastbound. That’s already the more expensive direction because of the ferry’s one-way toll collecting.

    1. I was including the ferry fare in the chart. That’s why westbound is more expensive. The bus fare is $10 regardless.

      1. Ah, haha, alright. That makes sense, and sounds even better! (Now wish I could edit my other reply above.)

      2. Aren’t they required to charge half price for seniors/disabled? So it might require more riders to breakeven?

    2. Part of the reason why the Dungeness line is so expensive is that the bus actually rides the ferry with the cars, rather than just dropping everyone off at the other end. This means paying for the bus’s ferry fare, plus paying the driver to sit with the bus for a minimum of 45 minutes, while the bus isn’t even moving (more, if the lines are long, and the bus has to wait for multiple ferries before it can get on board). The Dungeness line also goes straight from Edmonds to SeaTac, and most trips don’t even serve downtown. While one could theoretically ride Link south to SeaTac, and the bus back up north, you would lose over an hour in the backtracking (and pay a lot of money for the privilege).

      1. Just from what I have witnessed, it appears that the Dungeness Line bus gets to go to the front of the line in Edmonds and Kingston.

        — Bryan from Edmonds…..

      2. It stops at the Greyhound station, and with a reservation it will also stop at First Hill hospitals and the Amtrak station. Those are close enough to downtown, especially with Link and Madison RapidRide coming.

      3. … which raises the question, why is it even continuing from Stadium Station to the airport? For that matter, why not stop it at Kingston and run another express bus from the ferry to Lynnwood TC (which we should be doing anyway)?

      4. @Bryan – I think anyone can do that, as long as you have reserved a spot with WSDOT head of time.

        @William – I think the whole point is a one-seat ride, so might as well go all the way.

  4. Now if the NPS could just get some regular shuttle service running up to Hurricane Ridge, you could get pretty deep in the backcountry without a car…

    1. Beat me to it. I was thinking the same thing. That would be fantastic, really. It works for both summer and winter, too (great cross country skiing and snowshoeing up there). For me, personally, I would love to see a connecting bus coming in from the Kingston Ferry (since I live to the north). That is a fifteen minute drive (to the south end of Hood Canal Bridge) that takes forever if you are taking public transportation.

      1. The trouble with Kingston is that Edmonds is already difficult to get to by transit (except when Sounder is running during afternoon rush hour). Even someone coming from Everett might be able to get all the way to Colman dock in about the same amount of time as it would take to get to Edmonds, depending on how luck works out with the schedule timing.

        Maybe, in the future, if the Edmonds ferry has a Swift line connecting it to Link at Lynnwood, that kind of trip will become more doable.

      2. Kitsap has a bus from Kingston to Agate Pass every couple of hours every day except Sunday I believe.

    2. Imagine an intersecting line for transfers… Port Townsend-Port Angeles-Olympic Natl Park

    3. Hurricane Ridge would be cool, but I think the best opportunity for transit to one of our NP is to go to Paradise – it’s always packed over the summer and filled with day-trippers. I’d love to see something like what Vancouver does where they run buses from city center to tourist destinations to help people get around.

  5. Love this idea, I hope it happens, I will email Clallam Transit tonight. Things that could maybe make this better…

    * Add a stop on the east side of the Hood Canal bridge. There a are bus shelters and a small P&R there already.

    * Add a timed connection from Discovery Bay to Port Townsend. This would presumably need to be funded by Jefferson Transit, so I guess I can’t blame CT for this.

    I wish JT would do a $10 one seat ride to PT via Chimacum. Without wishing to dis Port Angeles, there’s way more to do in Port Townsend.

    1. Yes! I’ve never wanted to venture to PA via but have made the bus trip to PT multiple times to arrive to or depart from boating adventures.

    2. PT doesn’t have the ferry to Victoria though. I was talking to a waitress at a restaurant not too far from the ferry terminal a year or so ago, and she said that their walk up business from the ferry is significant. Adding Victoria to the equation makes a very different picture, I think.

      1. Agreed, this is now the cheap easy way to Victoria from Seattle particularly for locals in both cities traveling as AP pedestrian. I expect the MV Coho to greatly benefit from this, and I’m not sure it will be at the expense of the Clipper, that is a premium tourist service that people take very infrequently.

      2. I have taken the Clipper a few times, but that was during winter when they were running specials for $40 or so. I’ve not seen the prices that cheap since I last did that in 2010 or so.

      3. It’s a pity there’s some schedule breakage on the connection to the Black Ball ferry. It works eastbound and westbound *on weekdays and Saturdays* on all days except Jan 17 – Feb 16, but westbound on Sundays only works June 16 – September 6th.

        It’ll be interesting to see how much of the bus traffic is from the MV Coho.

    3. There is already direct service from the Dabob Bay intersection up to Port Townsend.

    4. The two seat ride currently works quite well. Timed transfers from the ferry to the express Kitsap #90 to Jefferson #7 four times a day (2X Saturday), easy-peasy. Total fare $4.50 to PT, $3.50 back. (Not counting ferry.)

  6. I grew up in the rural Midwest. Our form of transit was, “Get on your bike and ride.” Yeah, I did some long bike rides in my day to get to work, to see friends, and to go car shopping. Seriously, though, I fail to understand the wisdom of running transit lines to the middle of nowhere “just because,” especially when we have extremely populated areas like South King and Pierce that are terribly underserved. I’ll get excited once the neighborhood teenagers can get across town to the community college without getting in an SOV or spending three hours on buses to go 10 miles. If you don’t have a car and want to get out to the Olympics for a day, pay the $$$ and get a car rental for the weekend. This service will not break even, and I don’t see why a transit agency backed by low-income rural taxpayers should subsidize high-income urbanites who want to have a weekend vacation. The park service doesn’t owe anybody a shuttle. They are cash strapped the way it is, and protecting the critical wildlife habitat should be a far higher priority than serving vacationers.

    1. “The park service doesn’t owe anybody a shuttle. They are cash strapped the way it is, and protecting the critical wildlife habitat should be a far higher priority than serving vacationers.”

      And what better way to protect it by limiting the number of cars driving on their roads.

      1. A shuttle makes sense once parking is an issue. If the destination can be served with a small parking lot, a shuttle likely isn’t necessary. But when the NPS has the build & maintain giant parking lots (and there are still parking shortages), then a shuttle becomes a compelling idea.

      2. A shuttle has been trialled in Los Angeles area National Forest for that reason.

        Yosemite NP has an internal transit system and transit between the park and the nearest Amtrak station.

      3. In a similar vein, Muir Woods has a shuttle operated by Golden Gate Transit on behalf of the NPS. Muni run a hourly bus through the Marin Headlands hourly on weekends and holidays. The Presidio of San Francisco has its own transit system, too, supplanting frequent Muni service on the 43 and 28 lines.

      4. Mt. Ranier has a shuttle from Ashford to Paradise (although, sadly, you still need a car to get to a shuttle stop). And, Glacier National Park runs shuttle buses up the mountain. You can connect to it from Amtrak with about a 2-mile walk (which is on trails, instead of roads).

    2. Well, South King is a different transit district than Clallam.

      Port Angeles isn’t exactly the middle of nowhere. Some years back the north side of the Olympic Peninsula was declared the latest hot spot for retirees in some retirement magazine or another, and there is a fair amount of suburban sprawl all along the highways.

      Furthermore, a fair number of people up there need to go into Seattle for medical appointments and various other things where there are no local resources.

    3. For those urbanites, fewer $$$ spent on getting there means they are more likely to spend $$$ at Olympic Peninsula businesses. So even if the bus service itself does not break even, it can still be a net positive to the local economy.

      1. Especially now that there are people with $$ and no car. 20 year ago, the idea of someone with $$ to burn on nice weekend getaways but no car to get around would have been very rare.

        If you already own a car, this isn’t a big deal. But if you don’t, this is a compelling option verses, say, renting a zipcar for the weekend.

      2. And Zipcar is the least painful of car rental services. Even if I could afford it, I find renting a car from the traditional companies a pain in the ass and an unpleasant experience overall. Being able to hop on a regularly scheduled service with a fixed price is good for my sanity.

    4. ‘Eh, I bet most of the users are locals — surely as many people travel to Seattle from Clallam County as the opposite? The STB article is simply written to reflect Seattleites’ interest in the service. If residents of that county disapprove of how their transit agency works for them they can express this through local politics, right?

      1. Looking at the schedule, it is definitely designed for locals first, visitors second. If you live in Clellem County, you can ride the bus to Seattle and have 10 AM-7 PM to visit Seattle, which is enough time to actually get a lot done before it’s time to turn around and go back. Going the other direction, you have only 5-6 hours in Port Angeles if you do it as a daytrip, which isn’t really enough time to travel to Olympic National Park, do enough hiking to make the long bus ride worth it, and get back. That’s not to say the bus isn’t worth riding, just that, if you live in Seattle, and want to use it to hike Olympic National Park, you should probably plan on spending the night. At least Sunday service exists, so it’s possible to make that overnight a Saturday night, and not need to miss work.

    5. In Europe or Canada there would be no question: every town and suburb must be accessible by bus, if not hourly then at least every few hours. That’s the minimum transit baseline. It allows low-income people to travel, disincentivizes car use, and maximizes the region’s economic potential (tourism, jobs, medical appointments, etc). Writing off vast parts of the country as not deserving of all-day regional transit is like not offering universal healthcare.

      In a US context where universal transit is not officially acknowledged or supported at the federal or state level, there are still other reasons for this line. Washington has mostly county-based transit agencies. Presumably Clallum Transit is doing this primarily for its own residents rather than visitors, and its residents have asked for this and indicated it a priority. I can’t see an agency doing such a large out-of-district project otherwise. Just as Island Transit #1’s cross-Whidbey service is full of residents, this may be useful to Clallum County residents who don’t want to pay the Dungeness Line’s fares, want more schedule flexibility than the Dungeness Line offers, or are gong to the West Sound destinations this line stops at. Maybe they’re fed up with waiting for the state to offer such an inter-county connector.

      Finally, beware of simplistic assumptions about how poor Clallum residents are, how rich visitors are, what they will use the line for, how much they need it, and what other alternatives they have. A county has a variety of incomes, different people use transit for different purposes, they have different levels of urgency, and different availability of alternatives if this line didn’t exist. If you assume everyone is one income level and will use it for one purpose, then a lot of people fall through the cracks.

      1. Mike,

        [ot]

        They have outdone themselves; this is the “Elect the Sound Transit Board and we promise to give you better transit” bait-and-switch writ VERY large!

      2. I seriously doubt most of central Canada is accessible by bus.

        Depends on where. Some of it is done by passenger train instead of bus. Churchhill? Pukatawagan? Moosonee? The whole bus system operated by Ontario Northland.

  7. What kind of vehicle are they proposing? I may be missing this in the article. If a person is going to ride almost two hours on a bus, a normal urban coach is going to be very uncomfortable.

    1. Our 40′ Gillig suburban coaches have reclining seats, overhead storage bins, individual reading lights, and three-position bike racks. I find them quite comfortable, and I’m 6’4″.

  8. This is excellent news. I had heard about the 4-bus transit adventure from Seattle to Port Angeles before, but I’ve always been chicken to ride it because, if anything goes wrong you’re stuck at a lonely transit center for hours, if not overnight, until the next bus arrives. This new bus should be much better. And, considering the large distance involved, $10 fares is a steal, and even a twice-daily schedule looks attractive.

    I will definitely make a point to try and make use of this. I just hope that CT advertises the service well. If done right, there should be large signs both on board the Bainbridge Ferry, and at the SeaTac airport arrival/departure lounge. Airport travelers, both locals who live in Port Angeles and want to fly somewhere, and out-of-towners represent market potential. And, of course, getting the service visible to the Google Maps trip planner should be a no-brainer.

    As to vehicles, my expectation is mostly a normal urban bus. Which is good enough, as long as there’s decent seat cushions. I just hope there is somewhere on board to store luggage. At a minimum, any suitcase that is small enough to fly carry-on should be small enough to be stowed comfortably on board the bus.

  9. Another tidbit about the schedule, which cannot be understated is that it actually allows someone who lives in Port Angeles to visit Seattle as a daytrip. The schedule allows about 9 hours in Seattle – long enough to get enough done to be worth the travel time. But, still doable, without the expense of a hotel.

    Going the reverse direction, you have about 5-6 hours in Port Angeles before the return trip leaves, which is not really long enough to do much hiking in the Olympic Paninsula (at least not if the goal is to spend more time on the trail than on the bus) – so you probably need to spend at least one night on the Olympic Peninsula in order to get your money’s worth. Of course, if you’re into backpacking in the wilderness, this need not be an expensive night.

    Transportation from Port Angeles into the actual park is an issue, but not an insurmountable one. Worst case, you can always rent a car in Port Angeles and save on gas+ferry fares compared to renting in Seattle. The rental itself, would hopefully be cheaper too, outside the Seattle market (and the round trip drive from Seattle to Hurricane Ridge is long enough that if you do it in a Zipcar or Car2Go, you’ll be paying for excess mileage). But, non-car options do exist. The Port Angeles->Forks bus has a stop at the Lake Crescent trailhead. And, Uber exists there, and can be used to reach some closer-in trailheads. There is also the bike option, which will become more viable once the Olympic Discovery Trail becomes more complete. Once a year, you can even pedal your up all the way to Hurricane Ridge, with hundreds of other hard-core cyclists, while the road is closed to cars (http://www.portangeles.org/pages/RideTheHurricane).

  10. We’re thrilled about this upcoming possibility! Our Board is prepared to vote on the 20th, so any support from the Seattle end of the line in the form of an email to info@clallamtransit.com would be greatly appreciated. We figured our 100% fare recovery ratio based upon an average ridership of about 15-16 (25% higher than our average PAForks run). Estimating ridership potential is hard for a line like this, but I essentially looked at the current vehicle counts on SR104 just east of US101 (~7000/day) — a road segment used almost exclusively to connect Clallam County with Puget Sound, factored out commercial vehicles, factored in 1.2 people per car, and then hoped to capture about 1% of the total. It might not be 100% statistically accurate, but I think it’s at least somewhat logical!

    I’m a bit nervous that one return trip on Sunday might not be enough capacity, especially in the summer, but we currently offer no service at all on Sunday so we are a bit cautious. We’d be bringing in an operator and a dispatcher just for this one run. Any suggestions for schedule adjustments would be welcome.

    Our coaches for this run would be 40′ Gilligs with reclining seats, overhead storage, 3-position bike racks, and reading lights. They’re quite comfortable, even for a 6’4″ guy like me.

    1. Looks like it times well with the Coho from Seattle-Port Angeles in peak season 12:15 Port Angeles arrival, 12:45 Coho departure to Victoria. Doesn’t seem like it times very well in the return direction though or maybe I’m reading the timetables wrong?

      1. No, you’re right. We definitely favored the PA>Bainbridge direction when developing the schedules. If we left PA earlier in the morning, we’d get stuck in traffic on SR 305 approaching the ferry, plus none of our local routes would be able to feed passengers to the Strait Shot. The evening issue with scheduling was largely bus capacity at the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal. Kitsap Transit really jams up the transit loop there during every arrival until 7pm. It wasn’t until 8pm that there would be enough room for us to have a layover without having our operator have to drive somewhere else to recover.

        The Coho schedule shifts several times throughout the year, so attempting to match that schedule was proving to really mess up the Bainbridge connections. Perhaps if a third trip on Fridays and a second trip on Sunday gets added, the SeattleVictoria timing could get improved.

      2. At least the MV Coho connection is viable (with layovers of various numbers of hours) 6 days a week except during Jan-Feb (when there are either zero or one sailings per day anyway). As long as nobody wants to go west on a Sunday, visitors can reach Victoria Island or come back in one day.

        The fact that the connection is completely non-viable on Sundays westbound is a little bit more problematic. I know there are good reasons for prioritizing the late evening Sunday schedule over the earlier one, but hopefully the second Sunday run can be added soon, at least westbound during the sailing season.

  11. I just wish Zipcar would put cars at the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal already!!!

    It’s terrible and wasteful bringing a car over on the ferry on summer weekends.

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