Old buses on the road again

Mike Cotton, assistant chief for Island County Fire District 3 parks the district
Mike Cotton, assistant chief for Island County Fire District 3 parks the district's latest acquisition, an Island Transit 15-passenger van, into position at the Bayview fire station.
— image credit: Gayle Saran

Before you get on a bus, stop to make sure it's an Island Transit vehicle.

On June 6, 26 retired buses and vans were driven off the transit service's Coupeville parking lot and given away to non-profit organizations in Island County. Some of those buses will be repainted, while others will simply place their logo where the Island Transit logo used to be.

Martha Rose, executive director of Island Transit, said over 80 non-profit organizations requested information on obtaining a bus, and 34 of those groups returned an application.

"It was a really tough process," Rose said. "It was so heartwarming to see the number of organizations that are committed to helping others."

Each group was asked to prioritize the different vehicles to determine who should get which bus or van, according to what the group's plans to use it for.

According to the rules and requirements of the agreement, the new owners of the vehicle must place a clear indication of their ownership on all four sides of the vehicle. They must also be able to maintain and operate the busses.

John C. Martin, commander of the American Legion Post 141, said his organization was granted a 29-passenger bus, the largest vehicle offered from Island Transit at 30 feet in length. The post will use the bus to take veterans to Veterans Affairs hospitals and transport the Legion's baseball team to their away games.

Martin said Legion members want to work with Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7482, which received a smaller commuter van, to most efficiently get people to where they need to go.

"We want to provide the best service possible," said Martin.

South Whidbey Fire District 3, also won a bus from Island Transit. The 15-passenger bus will soon be repainted red, but it won't get any lights or sirens.

The new paint job won't come soon enough for FD3 Captain Mike Cotton, who took delivery of the vehicle last week.

As he was driving it to the garage to be checked out by the district's mechanic, he passed a very surprised Island Transit customer.

"He stepped out from the bus shelter as I approached, then watched in amazement as I kept going," Cotton said.

The 15-passenger vehicle will be used to haul personnel and equipment to training exercises. Two other fire districts, Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue and Island County Fire District 2 also received buses.

FD3's van is big enough to carry 15 volunteers and most of their equipment to training exercises. Currently, most volunteers travel in their own vehicles, or in the district's nine-passenger van to attend training.

A wheelchair lift in the rear of the vehicle will be removed and compartments added for firefighting equipment and apparatus.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland was one of at least 10 church organizations in Island County to receive a vehicle. The Rev. Jim Lindus, pastor of Trinity Lutheran, said the bus will be used primarily to transport the church's children. The bus will transport the children to camp and mission events.

"We'll put it to good use," Lindus said. "We've got a lot of kids to cart around."

The Langley Christian School was also a winner in the section process, picking up an eight-passenger van.

Karen Norton, principal of the school, said the new van will be used in conjunction with the church's larger van to transport children to field trips, youth groups, community service and possibly start a bus program to get children to and from the school.

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