What Do You Want From Transit?

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.

One thought on “What Do You Want From Transit?

  1. Having traveled in numerous countries in the world and numerous States in the USA I noticed many methods of travel used to move people, even in the “boonies”. If this was a actual public transit, then I would expect multiple methods of moving the public throughout the county. It is not named Bremerton Commuter Transit, even though that is its seeming purpose in life above all else.

    I do not expect a 42 passenger bus to make 30 minute runs to Ollala or Port Gamble, or the “boonies” as you put it. I would expect some attention to smaller efficient vans or mini bus’s. I would expect places where someone could park the SOV and take transit into town vice fighting the parking and traffic, not just during commuter hours. I would expect a transit board and CEO able to find out what the public wants, vice telling the public what they will get even after passenger only ferries were shot down twice. I expect a transit board to be fair and unbiased and think of everyone in the County, not just the commuters and not just Bremerton.

    I may be wrong, but the way I read the transit board breakdown representing the public is: Bainbridge & Poulsbo Mayors have the District 1 County Commissioner, Port Orchard’s Mayor has District 3 County Commissioner, and Bremerton’s Mayor has District 2 County Commissioner and 2 Bremerton City Council members. So a simple breakdown by County Commissioner Districts is South 2, North 3, and Central 4. I guess the only public that counts is that in the developed areas that have sales tax revenue. Those in the “boonies” can just fend for themselves. Use the SOV, taxi, or just walk. Do not even give them an option or a reason to change.

    Basically, I think the direction the Empire of Kitsap Commuter Transit has taken and is taking is wrong. I think the single minded, massively expensive concentration of funds for the “economic development” of Bremerton has been at the expense of many of the voting public and very few of that public will ever see a return on the investment. What could have been done if the same effort, same funds, and same passion could have been spent actually creating a true public transit system county wide. Instead tax money is spent on foot ferry R&D and construction. Tax money is spent on massive new buildings, office space, and repair facilities while routes are cut and fewer taxpayers can use the service. Some how, we as the tax paying public, should just roll over and let the money flow from our infinite pockets. I think not. I think it is a time for a change in how the transit is run and controlled. It is time for a change in the transit board and at the top levels of Kitsap Transit.

    So, I hope this answers a little as to the question “What do I want from Transit?”

    Roger Gay
    South Kitsap

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