Saturday bus service to resume next year

Saturday service is returning to Island Transit early next year.

This week, the transit board adopted a budget for next year that includes Saturday bus service, which was cut during a financial crisis in 2014. Transit officials budgeted for an 8 percent increase in operating expenses, most of which is due to the resumption of the service.

Operating expenses are budgeted at $12.2 million for 2018.

Island Transit Executive Director Mike Nortier said the additional four drivers — also called operators — have been in training in anticipation of Saturday service returning. If everything goes well, it can begin as early as the end of January, he said.

At the same time, the agency is building reserves by setting aside money, Nortier said. That includes $400,000 for bus purchases, $98,000 for van purchases, $73,000 for support vehicles and $900,000 for facilities.

“The economy has been pretty good for us in the last couple of years,” he said.

The agency is partly funded by 0.09 sales tax. Sales tax has been strong in recent years because of large projects, such as the Oak Harbor sewage treatment plant. In budgeting, officials took into account the fact that revenues may not be as strong in the future, Nortier said.

Under a 1988 resolution, the board was obligated to discuss the fare policy during the budget process. Island Transit had been fare-free until the first fare boxes were installed on a Camano Island route last year.

Nortier had crunched the numbers using a $1 fare and concluded that it would raise between $180,000 and $200,000 a year; at the same time, the agency would lose about 30 percent of its ridership for the first three to five years.

The board told Nortier they want more information before proceeding down that path. Nortier said the agency will do a lot of outreach and input gathering before any decisions are made.

Transit employees were happy to hear the news about Saturday service.

“I’m happy for the riders,” said Island Transit bus driver Teresa “T” Davis. “I think a lot of people that don’t have vehicles will appreciate it.”

Island Transit Operations Manager Shawn Harris said Saturdays have been on the minds of riders ever since the service stopped in 2014.

“That’s the No.1 question we get. ‘When are we going to bring back Saturday service?’ ” he said.

More in News

Police investigating report that Oak Harbor student was accosted

Oak Harbor police are investigating a report that a student was accosted… Continue reading

South Whidbey organizations combine forces to provide toys, food for those in need

Through donations, two community organizations are going the extra mile to brighten… Continue reading

Committee tasked with overseeing Whidbey Island fairgrounds transfer

As ownership of the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds changed hands to the Port… Continue reading

Citizens group to pitch carbon tax to council

A citizens group is calling for the Langley City Council to endorse… Continue reading

Langley Library showcases the art of gift wrapping

’Tis the season of giving, and the Langley Library is getting into… Continue reading

Whidbey woman accused of child molestation

A 26-year-old woman is facing charges for allegedly molesting a teenage girl… Continue reading

Island County Housing Authority Board seeks applicants

The Island County Housing Authority Board has two vacant seats, leaving county… Continue reading

Senior center class combats Parkinson’s through song

When members of Island Senior Resources’ Parkinson’s Support Group first learned about… Continue reading

Whidbey feels regional Christmas tree crunch

Tree farms decrease, prices increase

Most Read