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Bus services may increase next year

Clallam Transit System is eyeing expansion in 2009.

On March 17, the Clallam Transit System board of directors approved a staff written six-year development plan for the organization, which included expectations for revenue, expenditures and growth.

“The only really new or unusual topic this plan brings up is that we expect to expand our services by 10 percent in 2009,” said Terry Weed, transit system general manager. “We don’t know if we can afford it and we don’t have scientific data saying the expansion is needed but given recent growth on the east end we feel we need to plan for increased demand.”

Weed plans to bring in an outside consultant to examine the need for services and the feasibility of expansion. The consultant will deliver an updated comprehensive planning document for the board.

The transit system has experienced continually increased ridership. From 2006 to 2007, the number of boardings increased nearly 4 percent, from 855,324 to 888,777.

“The public will be heavily involved in the (comprehensive) plan’s formation, which will ultimately guide which direction we take,” Weed said. “The six-year plan approved by the board this week does include the expansion, because we need to plan for it, but it also covers all of the routine operations and purchases of the system.”

Weed said he wasn’t sure what type of service increases could be expected, as the details will come from the consultant’s research and public comment.

“Expansion could mean anything from new routes to new areas, like the Dungeness area or more service to Blyn, or expansion of current routes, like the 30 bus between Sequim and Port Angeles,” Weed said. “A big one we’ve heard about and the one that would affect us the most financially would be setting up service on Sundays.”

The transit system has been operating six days a week for 25 years. Weed said the current staff is maximized and adding routes or trips might be done with existing staff but Sunday service would require huge investments.

“That’s not to say it’s not on the menu,” Weed said. “We will just need to hear back from people on what expansions of service would help them the most.”

Weed said it would take some time to find the right consultant and get the planning process organized, but he expects to make the process public.

“Finances will ultimately determine how much expansion we can do,” Weed said. “Right now we’re testing the waters to see what type of expansion we should do if revenue warrants it.”

The six-year plan has revenue projections and expected purchases though the year 2013. Included are annual purchases of buses, vans and bus stop shelters.

“The vehicle purchases are routine, there’s nothing new there,” Weed said. “It’s what we have to do to keep the fleet up to par.”

For example in 2007, the transit system purchased one transit coach, two service vehicles and four new bus stop shelters.

Another long-range plan of the transit system is to convert the unleaded fueled fleet to hybrid vehicles to help curb greenhouse gases, much as it did when converting the bus fleet to cleaner-burning biodiesel. The system uses 40,000 fewer gallons of diesel fuel each year as a result.

The transit system was approved by county voters in 1979 and became operational in 1980. At the end of 2007, the system employed more than 67 full-time employees and contracted with about 20 more.

To find out about bus schedules, Paratransit services, park and ride locations and Dial-a-Ride, visit www.clallamtransit.com, pick up a bus schedule or call 452-1315.



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