Kitsap Transit drops free bus services for festivals

Kitsap Transit officials decided to suspend all free shuttle services at community festivals this year after determining they were unsustainable.

“Personally, I don’t think we should be performing these services (if) we’re having to sacrifice other services,” said Kitsap Transit’s service development director John Clauson, addressing the agency’s board at its June 16 meeting.

Clauson said community members expressed that exact position at public meetings Kitsap Transit held last year to announce service reductions and fare increases.

“Citizens stated that Kitsap Transit should not operate specials when it cannot run services that are being cut (Sundays, holidays and some regular hours),” Clauson explained, adding the Citizen Advisory Committee concurred.

According to minutes of the CAC’s April meeting, the “CAC does not feel that there will be sufficient revenue generated to pay for the operation of Special Service, and they have concerns that by operating Specials, revenue would be taken away from the primary mission of Kitsap Transit.”

As a test of whether the agency could collect revenue for special services, Clauson said staff operated special services for attendees of this year’s Viking Fest in Poulsbo.

The service was run without paying bus drivers overtime and by using part-time operators who earn lower wages than full-time employees. With not all riders being willing to pay for the rides and ridership down 50 percent, Clauson said Kitsap Transit lost “a couple hundred dollars on the day.”

Based on how much was collected that day, Clauson said officials estimated the “projected fare revenue” for future special services would be $1.18 per rider. Using that formula, staff estimated that Kitsap Transit’s free parking shuttle for this year’s county fair would operate at a loss of nearly $6,000 if operated only during regular business hours. If it was operated for extended hours, plus Sundays, in addition to regular hours, the total loss would be almost $16,000.

Board Chair Darlene Kordonowy said providing special services definitely had to be “weighed against the fact that (Kitsap Transit) was not providing Sunday and holiday service.”

Commissioner Josh Brown asked if there was a consensus amongst the staff, and Clauson said there was.

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