Bus cuts hurt elderly in and out of town

Florence Meyer has relied on Kitsap Transit for transportation for the past four years.

Meyer, 85, of Seabeck, lives too far from a town center to walk. Though she said she is still capable of driving, she sold her vehicles out of principle that people should no longer drive after turning 80 years old.

Due to cutbacks at the agency, which cut Sunday service in February as part of a 10-percent budget reduction, Meyer no longer has transportation from her home to church and Sunday social gatherings.

Since September, she has been organizing a petition to restore Sunday bus service. She said as of Tuesday 440 people have signed.

Kitsap Transit receives its funding primarily from sales tax, which has plummeted during the recession, resulting in service cuts.

“There are other ways to get money, they are just not trying hard enough,” she said.

On Tuesday, Meyer met with Kitsap Transit representatives to present and discuss the petition.

Kitsap Transit Executive Director Dick Hayes said there is not enough money for at least a couple of years to restore Sunday bus service.

The agency was forced to slash 10 percent of its budget in February.

“We would ask for more funding from the state but it’s at least as broke as we are,” he said. “We appreciate the petition but we don’t know what to say, it’s about the money.”

Meyer said the transit agency received federal stimulus funds for various projects that could have been directed toward improved service. Hayes countered that the agency is limited in how it can use its fund for new operations, as opposed to maintenance.

Seabeck resident Sally Jean, 62, said there has been “overwhelming feedback” in the neighborhood from Meyer’s petition, saying that even though most people have a car, they know they could one day be in Meyer’s position.

“If I didn’t have a vehicle, I don’t know how I would get into town,” she said. “I would say that if at all possible, they should find something because there is a segment of the population, the elderly, the disabled, who rely on this service.”

Nestor Bartolome, 71, lives on Wheaton Way and also relies entirely on Kitsap Transit for transportation.

He said he supports Meyer’s petition but doubts the agency can accumulate the funding. However, he is thinking about beginning a petition to advocate changing the Saturday service hours times to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. instead of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“I use to be able to go out on Saturdays, but this time is very early for people like me,” he said.

Sunday cuts aren’t the only service reductions that have affected Meyer. She said there is no longer bus service near her home on Saturday. Traveling on weekdays has also become more difficult because the bus comes only once before the early afternoon, at 7 a.m.

“It’s ridiculous, the mall, dentists, opticians and every else isn’t up yet,” she said.

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