Transit changes start Sept. 2

After months of negotiations, public meetings and planning, Grays Harbor Transit will institute its long-awaited schedule changes Sept. 2 in an effort to balance the agency’s ballot.

Under the new schedule, most weekday routes will be left intact, said Manager Mark Carlin. However, all weekend service will be eliminated and the Centralia route, which currently runs Mondays and Fridays, will also be cut. Beginning Labor Day, Grays Harbor Transit will also no longer offer holiday service.

“Because the ridership on that has always been anemic, we decided that’s an expense we don’t need,” Carlin said.

Van service for disabled riders will run Monday through Friday.

Grays Harbor Transit is currently overspending revenues by about $800,000 per year after a series of state budget cuts and a decline in sales tax revenues. Transit board members hope that the service cuts will keep the agency running until sales tax increases are implemented and the state restores funding.

Carlin said he hopes funding will be restored in January of 2015 if Grays Harbor County residents approve a 0.1 percent sales tax increase, which will appear on the November ballot. The increase is expected to bring Grays Harbor Transit an additional $855,000 per year — but the agency wouldn’t begin to see the money until June of 2014, Carlin said.

But until the schedule is restored, riders who need weekend transportation can use Grays Harbor Transit’s vanpool service, Carlin said. Anyone with a drivers license and a good driving record can go through the process of starting a vanpool, so long as they can round up between 7 and 15 riders.

“That would be good for the people who go out to Ocean Shores to work in the motels, things like that,” he said. “We do have vans available that they can use on weekends when we’re not running, or they can have it five days a week.”

He estimated that using the vanpool would likely be more expensive than riding a bus, but it’s better than nothing. Those who are interested in learning more about the vanpool service can reach Vanpool Coordinator Patti Carlin at 360-532-2770 ext. 104.

In another money-saving effort, the transit board voted to eliminate transfers. Currently, transit riders can ask for a fare-waiving transfer ticket when they exit one bus to board another. But beginning in September, that policy will change.

The agency is also making a series of small changes to passes. Riders will see a $3 increase, from $25 to $28, in cost for the general-purpose monthly pass, and the youth pass price will increase $2, from $18 to $20. But all Grays Harbor College students will be able to buy youth passes if they present their student identification card. The prices for senior and disabled passes will remain the same.

“The transit board had initially decided not to offer a college pass, but (Grays Harbor College President) Ed Brewster came to our last meeting and appealed to us to provide that,” Carlin said.