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Sales tax could offset I-695's transit cuts
"If passed this September, Kitsap Transit officials say a $7.5 million sales tax levy could significantly restore service to the county and cut back inflated fares in the post-Initiative 695 environment.So the public agency dispatched top-level executives over the last few weeks throughout the county to garner comments on how the money could be best spent. John Clauson, the agency's service development manager and a Port Orchard City Council member, courted several South Kitsap audiences with help from Kitsap Transit executive director Dick Hayes. Clauson told an audience recently the agency wants to prepare for the election's outcome, whatever that might be.We want to hear from you which services you want restored and which you don't want restored, Clauson said.When voters overwhelmingly passed I-695 last fall, the public agency lost $10.2 million and, as a result, cut service in January by 25 percent and doubled most of its fares to recoup dollars lost from the traditional license-tab tax structure.Among the services eliminated were Route 86 on Saturdays, which transports residents to the Southworth Ferry Dock and, on weekdays, the agency could afford to run only one bus.Sunday service on Tremont Avenue was obliterated and weekday service in downtown Port Orchard was severely curtailed. Officials also cut Access services, which are generally used by elderly and disabled riders.We didn't want to make any of these cuts, Clauson has said, vigorously empathizing with those who depended heavily on Kitsap Transit before January. They were all very painful to us, he said.Clauson and Hayes said that the sales-tax levy, if passed, could boost the agency's budget back up to 1999 levels and would probably improve.That means the agency could reduce fares further, and restore most services.Transit officials have proposed two new fare structures.Cash fares jumped from $1 to $2 in January. Now, Transit officials say those can drop to either $1.25 or $1.50 for both routed and Access buses. Reduced fares for senior citizens, disabled and children age 5 to 18 could either drop to 60 cents or $75 cents. Currently, reduced fares are at a $1, but before January, they were 50 cents.Parking fees at the Southworth Park and Ride lot jumped from $2 to $4 a day in January, could drop to $3 a day while monthly parking passes there could be cut from $65 to $50.According to Clauson, the cost of joining the worker-driver bus service could drop dramatically as well. Currently, 40-ride, one-way ride punches cost $50 and could be reduced to $40 or $35.Hayes indicated to South Kitsap audiences the agency is preparing to take on, if necessary, cross-sound passenger-only ferry routes from Southworth, but its operation could be several years out."