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Council scuttles shuttle plan
Downtown employees may not take advantage of the program, some say.
A stalled shuttle service proposal will receive a tune-up before rolling onto Winslows streets.
This (shuttle service) has to happen, said Councilman Kjell Stoknes after Wednesdays council meeting. But theres some concern that it wont be used by people working downtown.
Stoknes and other councilors expressed general support for the free shuttle service before sending the proposal back to the Public Works Committee for revision.
Under a proposed agreement with Kitsap Transit, the temporary shuttle service would run from downtown to Ordway Elementary Schools parking lot. A new park-and-ride lot would have to be found in the fall when Ordways classes are back in session.
The service, which would cost the city $135,000 over six months, was endorsed by the Winslow Tomorrow project and some business owners. They hope to encourage more downtown workers to park their vehicles outside the Winslow core, freeing downtown parking spots for shoppers and tourists.
I wish I could support this because we need to remove the problem of employee parking downtown, said Councilman Nezam Tooloee on Thursday. But what was proposed doesnt solve any problem well.
A key concern for Tooloee is the limited parking at Ordway.
Ordway has a capacity of 60 parking spots, he said. If were lucky, 60 employees will do this. But at (over) $130,000 for six months, that comes to $400 per month per stall. You know what? Thats awfully pricey rent for parking.
For comparison, Tooloee pointed to privately run parking lots downtown that rent stalls for under $50 a month.
The (citys) numbers are out of whack, he said.
Tougher parking rules for downtown workers must be combined with the free shuttle service to effectively free-up more parking downtown, Tooloee said.
We need to remove employee parking downtown, he said. The city should not just require it, but the city should take the lead.
The city could partner with churches for use of parking lots to absorb most of the citys 140 employees, Tooloee said.
Workers employed by downtown businesses should follow suit to avoid construction of new parking lots in Winslow, according to Tooloee
You look at Winslow and its area is already 50 percent parking, he said. Thats a dubious distinction we share with Los Angeles.
Stoknes also believes the shuttle services success depends on tighter downtown parking rules.
Over 100 downtown employees take advantage of permits offered by the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce which allow parking on Bjune Drive and a city-owned lot southwest of the Playhouse.
As long as these spots are offered, many employees will opt for downtown parking rather than dropping cars off at park-and-rides, Stokness said.
If its so convenient to find parking places downtown, why would anyone bother (with the shuttle)? he asked.
Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce director Kevin Dwyer agreed the permit parking system is a Band-Aid approach to a growing parking problem, but warned against stricter measures for workers or costly ventures for their employers.
A lot of businesses are having marginal success at best and dont have a lot to pay for employee parking, he said of proposals that might require employers to chip-in for higher parking costs.
Many of downtowns estimated 700 workers live off-island and may be less inclined to use the shuttle service, Dwyer said.
A lot of sales clerks and bank tellers dont live on Bainbridge, he said. Driving from off-island and then having to take the bus may not sound good to them.
Dwyer also said forming partnerships with churches for use of their expansive parking lots has been challenging in the past.
Churches have been a little less than willing (because) many hold functions, funerals or have schools other than on Sunday, he said.
Dwyer exÂpressed disappointment with the stalled shuttle proposal, but said hes hopeful that revision will work out some of its kinks.
Its too bad, he said. It would have been an interesting experiment, but we may get to look at it again and come out with a firm plan.
The need for a plan that effectively gets downtown workers out of their cars and onto the bus is a key reason Councilman Bob Scales voted for a revised proposal.
Kitsap Transit has suggested that if this pilot project is a success that theyll pickup the run and fund it on a permanent basis, Scales said. We want to have a higher likelihood that employees will use the shuttle system and have enough riders so Kitsap Transit will pickup the tab.