Recommended changes to Sequim-area bus routes are not huge but according to a Clallam Transit System report, they could help bring in additional riders and serve a greater area without causing an increase to the budget.
Clallam Transit hired Thomas Wittmann, with Perteet, an engineering and planning firm, to help create the system's six-year comprehensive transportation plan.
Perteet, along with a handful of Clallam Transit staffers, presented the plan to Sequim residents Dec. 4 and discussed the effects of possible route revisions.
"We looked where the current system was not serving populations and looked at where populations of families with children, the elderly, assisted living homes and those with no cars or lower incomes have grown as well," said Wittmann, who explained his firm gathered demographic data, growth numbers and municipality zoning information to see where future growth might occur.
Wittmann combined the hard data with survey results the system gathered from its riders as well as those who have not been taking the bus.
"Based on all the feedback, we see where we can make some changes, possibly within the next year, to serve more people and a greater area," Wittmann said. "This is a planning document, which means we want to hear how this will affect your commutes and your ability to ride the bus."
Clallam Transit General Manager Terry Weed said each of the recommended route revisions will be publicly vetted a second time.
"This is what we will use as a guide," Weed said. "If we think it's time to put one of these changes into effect, there will continue to be a discussion with the public, staff and the board before a change is made."
While the plan puts recommendations forward systemwide, from Forks to the east end of the county, only three proposed changes have a direct impact to Sequim-area riders - Routes 40 of Sequim, 52 of Diamond Point and a new line 8 in Port Angeles.
Sequim's Route 40 shuttles people in and around the city limits. It currently runs in a one-way loop through the city along Washington Street to Blake Avenue and out to a short segment of Old Olympic Highway and back along Fifth and Sequim avenues.
Much of the route will remain the same. However, there will be additional service to Wal-Mart and Rhodefer Road, extending the transit's reach east and west.
The bus will run in both directions, rather than just one way. But, in order to cover the additional area, the bus will run every hour rather than every half hour.
Scott Schaefer, of Sequim, doesn't ride the bus much, but his daughter does.
"While the frequency isn't great, I know the additional service to the east side of town, with all the new housing and the new apartment buildings, will be a huge asset to a lot of people," he said at the meeting. "It gives my daughter a better chance of catching a ride, except for the infrequent trips."
Wittmann said there would be no way to run the shuttle every half hour on the new route unless additional revenues were found.
Weed said the Sequim route change could come as early as March 2009.
Clallam Transit may change the Diamond Point Route 52 in order to make it better meet with the Sequim to Port Angeles commuter Route 30. The bus no longer would serve West
Sequim Bay Road and John Wayne Marina. Instead, it would drive along U.S. Highway 101 from Sequim to Blyn.
"Our ridership surveys found that no one was riding on West Sequim Bay Road and we determined that by excluding that segment we would be able to better connect Diamond Point with the commuter line," said Wittmann.
The report also recommends the system create a new line in Port Angeles, which would serve Eighth Street and Peninsula College.
"We've found that many people are within a mile of the college on the commuter and have to go all the way downtown before waiting to catch a connector line back to the college," Wittmann said.
The new line allows riders to catch the proposed No. 8 bus at Ennis Street from the commuter line to campus.
While the small changes are slated for possible approval within the next year, the report also outlines big changes that could occur within the next six years.
For instance, the system will begin looking at its marketing and how it presents itself at bus stops. It may look into larger print schedules and larger signs at bus stops.
The long-term recommendations also include new routes, especially to the county's west end, and the expansion of current routes to serve a greater area with a higher frequency of trips.
"One big one for us is Sunday," Weed said. "It's one we want but definitely cannot afford right now."
Schaefer asked if the transit board would be considering an increase in the sales tax levy the transit currently has and another Sequim resident asked about bus rates.
"The board has said it will revisit the situation of declining revenue next year," Weed said.
"If revenue doesn't improve or the situation doesn't show any new signs of improvement, the board will discuss what it can do to offset the loss, be that through a proposed sales tax increase, a revision in the rate structure or an analysis of what we can cut from services to keep an even budget."
Although not immediately threatening to its survival, Weed said revenues must be considered when budgeting for the system in years to come.
Box: The Clallam Transit System plans to institute some changes in 2009 without expanding that year's budget, which is projected to have:
- $10.3 million in capital and operating expenses
- 3.6 percent less spending than in 2008, which was down from 2007
- $7.4 million in revenues
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