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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.