What Do You Want From Transit?February 1st, 2010 by ed friedrich
Kitsap Transit is playing to a tough crowd.
I wrote a story for Saturday’s paper that told about transit executives and board members committing to plan the agency’s long-range future so as not to spend money on things they don’t need. It seemed like a wise move, but readers who commented on the story showed no mercy. Seventeen of 18 messages were negative.
Just the words “Kitsap Transit” bring out hostility in people. One of the agency’s first goals needs to be to somehow turn around its image, otherwise it’ll be hard to get anything done.
But what can it do? What do people want from Kitsap Transit?
I get the fast ferry complaint. Twice you voted down sales tax increases for ferries. Still the agency wants to put them on the water. You think you’re not being listened to and don’t want to pay for somebody else’s commute. But if you’re a commuter, fast ferries are the best thing going. Not much middle ground there. Did you ever ride the Chinook or Snohomish before they were forced to slow down? They were too cool, outside of scouring beaches down to hardpan. Plus, the state was paying for them.
Several commenters chided Kitsap Transit for being “Kitsap Commuter Transit.” It serves commuters to the ferries and the shipyard well, but not those who want to get from Suquamish to the mall during the day. Well, buses need to go where the people are. They’re for “mass” transit, not taxi service. If you think they’re highly subsidized now, imagine how much it would cost to run to the boonies all the time to fetch a couple people.
A commenter said, “ … try and get a bus from Hansville to Port Orchard to Olalla to Belfair.” Has anybody every wanted to do that?
We all benefit to some degree, though it doesn’t seem like it when we’re sitting on Navy Yard Highway when the shipyard lets out or stuck in Highway 305 ferry traffic. Just think of how much worse it would be if those thousands of people riding in buses were driving cars.
Fares, by the way, cover 19 percent of Kitsap Transit’s operating costs. Seventy-seven percent comes from local sales taxes. Everybody in the county pays it, so I guess you could argue that everybody should get the same service. Maybe in New York or Chicago, but not here. Did people move to Seabeck or Olalla expecting to ride the bus? I don’t think so. How did they get around before there was a Kitsap Transit?
Commenters also complained that Kitsap Transit and its board are Bremerton-centered. It’s hard to argue otherwise, considering it helped to build the Bremerton Transportation Center, has a floor for its headquarters above the Kitsap Conference Center, and the routed and Access main bases are in the city. My question would be, where would be better.
Three board members are from Bremerton, two each from North Kitsap and South Kitsap, and one each from Bainbridge and Central Kitsap. They’re mayors, county commissioners and city council people.
Kitsap Transit says its first task will be to restore Sunday and other service that have been cut the past couple years because of budget shortfalls. That would be a good place to start in restoring some goodwill.