I’ve been an Island County resident for 28 years, and I am a transit rider.
As I understand it, the fare proposal would decrease ridership by 30-40 percent in IT’s own projections, increasing traffic, ferry line waits and pollution; cut service the most for people who can least afford it and people who are least able in their daily lives to navigate complex functions, download apps or carry exact change (they will stop riding as regularly as they do now); and increase wait times at certain stops as people navigate fare collection, decreasing reliability of the schedule, causing more to abandon the system.
All these are contrary to public interest. So there must be a compelling financial case for doing this. But here are the figures from Island Transit’s material:The projection is that, after five years, fares will net around $210,000, and the budget will be about $14 million. $210,000 is 1 and 1/2 percent of $14 million.
So after all these negative effects, contrary to public interest and, I would say, IT’s own mission, the gain is 1 amd 1/2 percent. That is not a compelling financial argument.
Regarding their social equity mitigation plan, which is to provide one-day passes to nonprofits and government to dole out to those who meet eligibility requirements, for the last 20 years I have been social services secretary for the Salvation Army in Washington State. We have a number of these arrangements with transit systems. It is a miserable plan. Instead of the dignity of riding the bus at the time and for the purpose of my choosing, if I am low income, I must apply, a humiliating process, prove I deserve it, which in some cases includes proving to a stranger that my ride is something “legitimate” like a doctor appointment or job interview, then I get a pass for one day. It’s horrible.
Someone will say, “But other transit systems do this.” We did not move to Island County because it is like other places. Fare-free transit is part of our character here.
That does not mean we don’t pay for it. We do. Through taxes, public income to serve the public interest. And we all benefit from it, not just the riders. This proposal, however, keeps all of our taxes and diminishes the product greatly. We get a less efficient, less productive system. That is not a good deal for all of us currently paying for this.
In five years, if IT implements fares, they will still have to raise 98.5 percent of their budget from other sources. I say: Make it 100 percent. Refuse to accept all these negative impacts. Tell the state lawmakers and DOT, who are there to serve the public, that in Island County, this public service will remain publicly funded, to the benefit of all.