Some routes, runs spared as Kitsap Transit cuts pass

After softening the blow slightly by saving some bus routes and trips, the Kitsap Transit Board of Commissioners Thursday approved another round of bus service cuts that will begin in December.

Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade and South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido were the only dissenting votes on a plan that will still reshape Port Orchard bus routes and reduce Saturday service, but revives some ferry take home runs and a full route that were on the chopping block.

Kitsap Transit Executive Director Dick Hayes said now only the 8 p.m. Ferry Take Home bus from the Port Orchard Ferry Terminal will be cut, with the 7 p.m. from Port Orchard and both buses leaving the Bremerton Ferry Terminal at 8:55 p.m. still operating.

Another significant change in the package approved Oct. 8 is that Route 23 in Central Kitsap will no longer be eliminated, Hayes said.

However, bus routes in the Port Orchard area will still be reshaped into a “trunk-and-feeder” system that reduces five routes — 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 — down to three. Several residents told the board they were still unclear about where and when they would be able to catch a bus when these changes were implemented.

“I am very concerned about but service — where it’s going to go and where it’s going to stop,” Linda Peterson said. “A lot of us depend on bus service every day of our lives to go grocery shopping and get to work.”

Port Orchard resident Patricia Ingersoll said she wanted to see a map that clearly outlined the route changes, and Andrea Smith was equally frustrated with the information she had received.

“The demonstration of the bus routes in Port Orchard was a joke,” Smith said. “My mom asked if I could take the bus to get to her house and I said, ‘I don’t have a clue.’”

Garrido made a motion to defer voting on the set of policies that outlined the cuts until she was provided more information such as a comprehensive map of affected routes, but the board voted it down.

Cuts to ACCESS service in “outlying areas” were still approved, most significantly in the Hansville and Indianola areas, which will be dropped to two trips a day instead of three. Riders in Olalla and Burley will not be affected, as their buses carry at least two people per hour, but residents in Seabeck, Lofall, Keyport and the outlying areas of Poulsbo will only be offered two trips a day.

Seabeck resident Florence Meyer said that meant she would have to catch the bus at 7 a.m. and be gone all day, and that the poor treatment of some residents amounted to discrimination.

“Outlying areas is a stupid term — we still live in Kitsap County, and we still pay all the same taxes as everybody else,” Meyer said. “Gov. Christine Gregoire said there is no discrimination in Washington State, but I don’t think she’s been to Kitsap County.”

Hayes said his agency simply could not serve all areas equally.

“We’ve given people the idea that we can cover the whole county, and that really is not possible,” he said. “The fact that people rely on transit is not lost on us at all.”

Quade announced she would be voting against the cuts and expressed disappointment that the decision was being made while Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola was absent. However, other commissioners said delaying the cuts would just be delaying the inevitable.

“It breaks my heart that we have to make cuts, but I don’t know that it’s very wise to put things off very long,” said Carol Arends, a member of the Bremerton City Council, and Hayes agreed.

“We really need to make the cuts soon,” he said, explaining that the agency’s financial situation would be “much more serious” if they weren’t enacted. “Making these cuts gives us a relatively stable and sustainable budget for the next two to three years, (but putting them off) takes away an opportunity to really get moving on the future.”

Hayes said cuts just approved will save his agency $702,000, nearly $200,000 less than the previous set.

“Our other reductions were much more successful than we thought,” he said, explaining that there were voluntary reductions of staff and no raises expect for union represented employees.

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