Transit looking hard at ending weekend bus service

In all likelihood, Grays Harbor Transit will be eliminating weekend bus services, citing budget issues.

The change will leave little option, aside from some private taxi services, for public transportation on the Harbor on weekends.

“Our grants that we applied for did not come in like we thought they would,” General Manager Mark Carlin told The Daily World.

Grays Harbor Transit applies for competitive federal and state grants every two years to help pay for operations. It was awarded only $1.3 million of the $3.1 million it had requested to help it “continue to run at the same level,” said Carlin.

“We realize it is going to be a hardship on people who have jobs, who work on the weekends,” he said. “But we have to reduce somewhere.”

The transit board has not made a formal decision, Carlin said.

The board has worked around stricter budgets in the past few years, including a service reduction in 2009 of about 16 percent, said Carlin.

“We went through the seven-day schedule and thinned out some runs to reduce hours,” he said, adding the board has decided it would be too hard to make more such changes to the weekly schedule at this point.

“It creates many gaps,” he said. “We don’t feel it would be useful if they (bus riders) had to wait long periods of time to get a bus. It seems more beneficial if we eliminate weekend service and keep Monday through Friday viable so people can get to work, school and doctors.”

Currently, average Monday through Friday bus ridership is at 32,000, whereas just over 1,000 individuals ride the bus on an average weekend.

“It makes more sense to serve the (larger number of) passengers Monday through Friday,” said Carlin.

The board is still in the process of figuring out the amount of money it needs to save, and estimates it is around $800,000 that needs to be trimmed from the budget, he said, adding most of the transit authority’s revenue is from sales tax, and lowered sales tax revenues over the past year have also put the system in a precarious position.

The consideration of raising the bus fare — as happened in 2010 from 50 cents to $1 per ride — is not off the table, said Carlin, who has doubts that any reasonable fare hike would help with the budget problems.

“If we were to raise fares again it would be another quarter or something,” he said, adding general fare around the state is usually between a $1 and $1.25. He said if one were to try to measure what a fare to cover their budget problems would look like, it would probably be around an infeasible “10 or 12 bucks to ride the bus.” “Raising it a quarter just wouldn’t bring in that much more to fill in the gap, but it’s not something they’ve (the board) said no to.”

The board will be holding public meetings prior to making the change and is open to more discussion, said Carlin.

“We would always welcome any ideas the public has,” he said. “It’s just that we, after going through and looking at what it would do to the schedule, to us it just seems to make the most sense.”