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Winslow may see return of free shuttle

The city is poised to spend $135K on temporary bus service downtown.

Parking may be more plentiful and downtown errands easier with a free shuttle bus circulating through Winslow this summer.

“This is aimed at getting employees to park out of the downtown area and for shoppers who don’t want to hunt for a parking space,” said city Public Works Director Randy Witt, who drafted a recommendation to the council for the new weekday service.

Under a proposed agreement with Kitsap Transit, the shuttle service would run from downtown to a summer-long park and ride lot at Ordway Elementary School, with frequent stops along Madison Avenue, Winslow Way and Ericksen Avenue.

The morning shuttle would begin service at 7 a.m. with stops at Ordway every 10 to 15 minutes until 8:45 a.m. The existing Route 100 bus would take over, continuing its regular service until 3:15 p.m. The free shuttle would restart after 3 p.m. and continue until 8 p.m.

A new park-and-ride location would have to be found in the fall when Ordway’s classes are in session, Witt said.

The service would likely begin in early July and run until January, at a cost of $135,000 to the city. The City Council will consider the funding reequest at tonight’s meeting.

If the shuttle attracts a stable ridership of approximately 20 passengers an hour, Kitsap Transit may consider funding the route on a permanent basis.

“Our first challenge is getting people to switch out of their cars and use the service,” said Kitsap Transit Director Dick Hayes.

Kitsap Transit recently offered a similar shuttle service as “Route 101” geared for ferry commuters. The route ended last year due to poor ridership.

“It was discontinued just because it wasn’t used much,” said Witt. “(Kitsap Transit) tied it to the ferry terminal and not so much for downtown.

“The difference with the new service is that this one will be convenient for people working downtown and shoppers.”

Numerous residents and downtown business owners have asked for the service, according to Winslow Tomorrow project manager Sandy Fischer.

Business owners hope to stow employees’ vehicles at an offsite locations, freeing on-street parking and other downtown car stalls for shoppers and tourists.

The shuttle may also alleviate downtown traffic congestion during the busy winter shopping season, according to the shuttle’s advocates.

“There’s been a lot of demand look at more transit,” said Fischer. “But there’s been a mix of ideas about whether (residents) will use the transit.”

In other words, the Bainbridge community has talked the talk. Now the question is whether they’ll ride the bus.

About $11,000 of the temporary shuttle’s budget has been been earmarked to help keep the service on the minds of islanders and visitors.

The funds will be used for promotional posters, flyers, bus wraps and other options in partnership with the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce and Bainbridge Island Downtown Association.

Convenience and consistent service are also keys to the shuttle’s success, according to Councilwoman Debbie Vancil, who chairs the Public Works Committee and helped craft recommendations for the proposed service.

“If we switch things too much in the next six months, I worry about people not using it,” Vancil said. “It has to be convenient enough for people to want to use it.”

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Bus fare

The City Council will discuss approval of an agreement with Kitsap Transit establishing a temporary downtown shuttle service at tonight’s council meeting at City Hall. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. with discussion of the shuttle service slated for 9:05 p.m.

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