Island Transit taking comments on potential fares

Island Transit is seeking public input on the possibility of charging fares for bus and paratransit services in the future.

The transit agency will host public meetings to present information about the proposal and receive comments on it.

“There’s been no decision made by the board yet,” Island Transit Executive Director Mike Nortier said.

“So this is an opportunity for the public to comment.”

The first meeting is 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 16 at the Freeland Library. Staff will be available to answer questions and provide information on what the fare structure might look like, the organization’s budget and why it’s looking into fares, the potential impact on ridership and what kind of payment systems might be used.

Nortier said comment cards will be provided so staff can take the feedback to the Island Transit Board of Directors, who would make the final decision.

“It would take time to lay out a plan to implement fares,” Nortier said.

If voted on, the earliest they could be put in place would likely be toward the end of 2018, he said.

Nortier said the implementation of fares is just one method the organization has researched in an effort to become less financially dependent on grants and sales taxes. The transit district’s expenses outpace the revenue it collects in sales taxes, he said, and those gaps are offset by grants. However, the amount of revenue generated from these sources isn’t always predictable and Nortier said he’s seeking to stabilize finances in the long term. He said the organization also looked into using advertising to create revenue, but found there wasn’t enough of a market in the area for it to be feasible.

Island Transit is one of two fare-free transit agencies in the state; the other is located in Mason County. The organization has made significant improvements since audit findings in 2014 brought to light major financial problems. The district laid off employees, cut services and borrowed more than $2 million. The agency earned clean financial and accountability audits from the state in 2017.

The district will be holding public meetings throughout May and will accept input until the end of June.

“It’s a proposal,” Nortier said. “It’s not a decision yet. It’s an opportunity for the public to comment.”

• Comments may be submitted by calling 360-678-7771, emailing info@islandtransit.org or writing to 19758 SR 20, Coupeville, WA 98239.

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