Transit cutting midday service

The ‘100 series’ routes failed to generate sufficient hourly ridership.

James D. Estes has been a faithful rider of the No. 104 bus twice a day since he moved to Fort Ward just over a year ago.

The midday bus lets him meet friends for breakfast in Winslow at around 8 a.m. and then takes him home.

The morning commuter routes stop running just before 8 a.m.

“If I didn’t have this bus, I’d have to spend 10-12 hours at home every day,” Estes said.

After Feb. 13, he’ll have to make other plans. Kitsap Transit is ending service of four midday bus routes – number 102 to Rolling Bay, 103 to Miller Road, 104 to Blakely, and 105 to Lynwood Center – due to low ridership.

Introduced in June 2002, the buses have covered the area of seven regular commuter routes on the island, running from 8:35 a.m. until 2:45 p.m.

John Clauson, service development director at Kitsap Transit, said the routes were started to see if there was enough midday demand; there wasn’t, with ridership peaking at 5.9 boardings per hour.

To maintain a fixed route, Clauson said ridership needs to be at least 10 boardings per hour.

By contrast, the Bainbridge commuter route with the lowest ridership, the No. 94 Agate Point, had 13.6 boardings per hour in November 2003; highest was No. 94 Crystal Springs, at 21.7.

Kitsap Transit expected riders on the midday routes to be kids out of school, tourists, senior citizens, and people coming home from work early. Ridership was expected to peak in the summer months.

“A lot of riders come into town to go shopping at T&C and then catch the next bus back home,” said Mike Robinson, a driver for the 105. Marie Coleman, who drives the 104 route, said the ridership is low, but definitely was higher during the two summers the routes ran.

“Tourists will take the bus to go to boat parks and Fort Ward, or sometimes people getting home early from work (will take this route),” Coleman said. “In the summer, people like to hike trails and then take the bus back to get lunch.”

Being retired and on Social Security, Estes says an apartment at Fort Ward was the only one he could afford. He takes the bus to town for breakfast and dinner since he does not cook.

Faced with loss of the No. 104, Estes says he wrote to Kitsap Transit, which told him he could apply for ACCESS service, and that since he does not have a phone, it might be possible to set up a regular pickup for him so that he would only need to call in to cancel.

ACCESS service provides door-to-door service for the elderly or disabled unable to use the fixed route system. Users must apply in advance for eligibility as governed by the ADA Federal Transit Regulations.

Still, even people who do not qualify for ACCESS should not feel hamstrung. Clauson says any rider on Bainbridge can use the “Dial-a-Ride” program, “which will take riders between points on Bainbridge Island for the same $1 fare.

“Anyone can call to schedule service (on Dial-a-Ride),” he said. “It doesn’t quite give you the freedom of a fixed route, (but it works) as long as you know in advance.”

No other route changes are anticipated on Bainbridge. But despite the unsuccessful midday routes, Kitsap Transit has been seeing an increase in ridership throughout its service area.

“We’ve been very pleased with the increase we’ve been experiencing,” Clauson said.

In November, the latest month for which numbers were available, there was an 8 percent increase in ridership system-wide with a total of 4.6 million rides. Divided by services, fixed route usage increased 4 percent with 3.4 million rides, and the ACCESS program increased by 24 percent.

“We’re always watching the system and looking for opportunities to enhance service,” Clauson said.

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