Kitsap Transit pushing sales tax again

"Kitsap Transit officials say they could expand several overflowing South Kitsap park and ride lots, reduce fares and better serve Southworth ferry commuters and Access riders alike if voters approve a three-tenths of a percent sales tax increase. Kitsap Transit mailed out ballots April 25 asking for the increase to restore bus service and keep up with capital projects. On April 23, Kitsap Transit Executive Director Richard Hayes presented information to the Port Orchard City Council explaining how much money the transit agency is requesting and what led the agency to pursue a three-tenths of a percent increase.City Councilman John Clauson said anyone driving around South Kitsap could see how full the park and ride lots are. We need to continue to expand the number of park and ride spaces we have available, he said. Clauson is also Kitsap Transit's service development director.In addition to moving forward with expansions at the park and ride lot on Mile Hill Drive near the National Guard Armory, Kitsap Transit could expand the park and ride lot at Mullenix and State Route 16. Without Proposition 1, we wouldn't be able to do that, at least in a timely manner, Clauson said.There's also a demand for a park and ride lot either in the Jackson Avenue and Sedgwick Road area or in the Colchester Drive and Alaska Avenue area that could be addressed with Proposition 1 funds.In addition to park and ride lot expansions, Kitsap Transit officials said they would be able to reduce fares and boost service, in terms of routes, hours and numbers of runs, if voters approve the increase. Proposition 1 would allow Kitsap Transit to shift South Kitsap's current time-transfer routed system to a more efficient trunk and feeder system, which would increase the frequency with which buses run on major roads, or trunks, and in areas farther away. Smaller buses would shuttle to the trunks from more distant areas, feeding outlying riders to larger trunk routes.Access service, predominantly used by elderly and disabled riders, would be restored to pre-695 levels. Kitsap Transit officials maintain anything less than a three-tenths of 1 percent tax increase wouldn't be enough to restore transit service to a point to boost ridership and pull Kitsap Transit out of its financial slump. Hayes told the council Kitsap Transit lost 43 percent of its budget after Initiative 695 passed in 1999. To account for a $10.2 million loss, Kitsap Transit raised rates, cut Access and routed service and put off capital projects. Consequently, ridership dropped by about 30 percent. If there were more buses, there would be more riders, Clauson said.A one-tenth of 1 percent increase would prevent Kitsap Transit from having to make further cuts to service, essentially preserving the status quo, Hayes said. Two-tenths would restore half of the routed service, but Access service would still flounder.A two-tenths of a percent increase would not address growth needs, Hayes said. We could not begin to keep up with commuter traffic at the ferry terminal, he said.Currently, Kitsap Transit runs three or four buses of commuters to Southworth to catch the ferry. If Southworth gets a passenger-only ferry run to Seattle, transit service will have to provide greater service from the terminal. For those reasons, the board chose three-tenths, Hayes said. "

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