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Transit to spend $13 million

Langley’s Peter Bennett prepares to board an Island Transit bus Tuesday morning in Clinton. Although the 2003 model bus Bennett is boarding will not be replaced for several years, Island Transit does hope to buy nine new buses next year. - Stephen Mercer
Langley’s Peter Bennett prepares to board an Island Transit bus Tuesday morning in Clinton. Although the 2003 model bus Bennett is boarding will not be replaced for several years, Island Transit does hope to buy nine new buses next year.
— image credit: Stephen Mercer

If Island Transit officials meet all their goals, county residents could see more buses and vans on the road, and a new Camano Island transit center next year.

At the same time, Island Transit will spend nearly double the amount it plans to spend this year.

Island Transit has budgeted to spend more than $13 million in 2005, $6 million of which will go, in part, to buying the new buses and vans, building the transit center, and updating the transit operations center in Coupeville.

Replacement of 15 eight-seat vans for van pools, one medium-sized bus and three large buses are all slated for next year, said Sandra Kuykendall, Island Transit’s administrative and finance manager.

To meet a $13.07 million budget goal, Island Transit bumped up its projected budgeted expenditures in 2005 from the $7.96 million for 2004. Island Transit will present the 2005 budget for public review on Friday.

What Island Transit budgets for and what it receives from ‘ funding sources, however, may be two different things.

More than $5.1 million of the $6.3 million budgeted for capital expenses is expected to come from grants. Since most of those grants are dispersed by the state Department of Transportation, Island Transit must compete with other transit organizations for the money.

“This is a nice wish list,” Kuykendall said of the budget. “It’s Christmas shopping.”

Still reeling from the loss of motor vehicle excise tax funds due to Initiative 695, Island Transit is still struggling to return to the level of services provided before the initiative’s passage, Kuykendall said. She said the lost revenue forced Island Transit to cut back Saturday service and make other cost-saving changes.

Kuykendall said because Island County is rural, the buses and vans log a lot of miles picking up passengers. The mileage wears the buses out faster than comparable city buses, meaning they need to be replaced more often, Kuykendall said.

Next year just happens to be a year in which more of the aging vehicles need replacing than in previous years, she said. Included on the list for replacement are Island Transit’s three oldest buses. The 35-foot long buses were purchased in 1992 and will cost $885,000 to replace.

Adding to the budget is the $1.2 million for planning and construction of the bus facility on Camano Island, and almost $3 million in upgrades to the Coupeville transit facility. The transit facility does not have enough space for maintenance, and has only one toilet for the 70 people who work there, Kuykendall said.

Also on the expenditures list is a projected cost-of-living adjustment for Island Transit’s 75 employs. Kuykendall expects this increase to be around 2 percent.

The 17-year-old transit system will continue to provide routes up and down the lengths of Whidbey and Camano Islands, and will maintain its connective service to Skagit County’s SKAT transit system.

Kuykendall said Island Transit expects to carry about 973,000 riders on all its buses and van pools next year if no new routes and services are added. If the new services are added, she said 1,035,000 riders are expected in 2005.

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