Clallam Transit operations manager Steve Hopkins stands in the aisle of a bus similar to the rolling stock being considered for a twice-daily run from Port Angeles and Sequim to Bainbridge Island. Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

Clallam Transit eyes service to Bainbridge

Clallam Transit has proposed daily bus service to the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal called the “Strait Shot,” a 75-mile, transfer-free ride from downtown Port Angeles that includes stops in the Sequim area.

The Strait Shot would make brief stops at the Sequim Transit Center, Blyn, Discovery Bay, Poulsbo and Agate Pass. It would cost $10 no matter where an adult rider boards the bus and $5 for youths, Clallam Transit pass holders, Peninsula College students and anyone with a Regional Reduced Fare Permit.

If approved by the Clallam Transit board, the new service would begin June 18.

With a drive time of two hours or less, the Strait Shot would depart from The Gateway in Port Angeles at 7:25 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. weekdays, 7:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. Saturdays, and 3:15 p.m. Sundays.

The 40-seat, wheelchair-accessible bus would leave the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal at 10:20 a.m. and 8:10 p.m. weekdays, 10:20 a.m. and 7:10 p.m. Saturdays and 6:15 p.m. Sundays.

“We want 40 people on the bus,” said Steve Hopkins, Clallam Transit operations manager, “because that’s 35 cars that aren’t on the highway.

“You could charge twice as much and have half the people, but we’d rather charge this price and have a full bus so that the greatest number of people possible benefit from the service,” he said.

The schedule was designed to avoid rush hours on state Highway 305 through Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island and peak congestion from Seattle commuters unloading at the state ferry terminal.

A person in Forks could catch the No. 14 bus to Port Angeles on weekdays and make connections to the Strait Shot.

“It works for us in such an amazing way,” Clallam Transit General Manager Wendy Clark-Getzin said.

“But it also doesn’t trample on the Jefferson Transit schedule, either. It just kind of fills gaps that work for a person who wants to spend the whole day in Seattle.”

Hopkins said the Strait Shot would be a good option for someone catching a red-eye flight via Sound Transit Link light rail or returning from a Sunday afternoon Seattle Mariners game.

“Parking is atrocious in Seattle,” Clark-Getzin said.

“Why would you (drive) when you could actually get on board with a family of four for $40?”

It is free to walk onto the Seattle ferry from Bainbridge Island and $8.20 for adults — $4.10 for youths and seniors — to walk back.

Plan discussed

The Clallam Transit Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed connection to Bainbridge Island at its next meeting March 20. The meeting will begin at 1 p.m. in Forks City Hall, 500 E. Division St.

Transit officials welcome public comments on the proposal by email at info@clallamtransit.com; in person or by mail at 830 W. Lauridsen Blvd., Port Angeles, WA 98362; or by calling 452-4511.

The Strait Shot would be the first out-of-boundary service in the 38-year history of Clallam Transit, Clark-Getzin said.

“I know that the Kenmore Air service, when that went away, that was a challenge for some folks,” said Hopkins, referring to the 2014 elimination of scheduled air service from Port Angeles to Seattle.

“There’s this move now for increased regional mobility and we’re hoping that this plays an important role in it. There’s a great desire for people to be able to leave the car at home.”

To get from Port Angeles to Seattle on public transporation today, a rider must transfer to a different bus in Sequim, Port Townsend and Poulsbo before walking onto the ferry.

“Even for a transit diehard geek like myself, you start thinking, ‘I should have rented a car,’ ” Hopkins said.

Other options

Olympic Bus Lines provides twice-daily trips from The Gateway to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport via the Edmonds-Kingston ferry, stopping at Seattle hospitals and the Greyhound and Amtrak stations.

Rocket Transportation provides door-to-door shuttle service to the Seattle area.

The Dungeness Line leaves Port Angeles at 6 a.m. and 1 p.m. and departs from Sea-Tac at 12:45 p.m. and 6:40 p.m.

The four-hour trip is $49 for adults and $25 for youths, with reduced fares for round trips and destinations north of the airport.

100-percent

Clallam Transit designed the Strait Shot fare to recover 100 percent of the operating costs.

“We’re going to be gathering data about ridership for the next nine months to a year to look at what is our average and see that we’re meeting our target goal of 100 percent,” Clark-Getzin said.

For the rest of the Clallam Transit system, the recovery goal is 15 percent from fares and passes. The public transportation agency receives subsidies from sales taxes, grants and other funding sources.

“To try this out, we didn’t want to unnecessarily financially burden the agency,” Hopkins said.

In a pair of recent test runs, both drivers completed the Strait Shot drive in 1 hour, 43 minutes.

“You have to leave a little slack in the schedule,” said Hopkins, who joined Clallam Transit last October after working for the Spokane Transit Authority.

“We have to leave lots of recovery time for the driver at Bainbridge Island in case there’s a (Hood Canal) Bridge opening or a traffic accident on Highway 305 or something like that.”

The commuter buses have reclining seats, overhead storage space, reading lights, two wheelchair ties and room for three bicycles.

Clallam Transit could fill the Strait Shot by capturing a small fraction of the local travelers who drive on state Highway 104, Hopkins said.

“We believe that there’s a good latent demand for students, for families that want to leave the car at home and head over to the Sound, for job opportunities, appointments in Seattle,” Hopkins said.

Genaveve Starr, a Sequim city councilor and chairman of the Clallam Transit board, said she likes the idea of the Strait Shot because she knows a lot of people, like herself, who don’t want to drive to Seattle.

“We’ve heard a lot from, for instance, veterans groups that currently drive people to the ferry terminal. Volunteers are doing that. They could leave the car at home and just accompany someone along for the ride.”

For Seattle-area travelers, the Strait Shot would provide a convenient connection to the 2 p.m. MV Coho ferry sailing to Victoria and opportunities to explore the North Olympic Peninsula, Hopkins said.

Clark-Getzin described the proposed service to Bainbridge Island as “kind of an offset for all the clouds that might be hovering” with the upcoming reconstruction of U.S. Highway 101 at Lake Crescent and the Elwha bridge replacement project.

“We’re just trying to allow people to discover us,” she said.

For many Clallam County residents who fund Clallam Transit through sales taxes, the Strait Shot will be a first experience on the bus, Hopkins said.

“This may be the only time that they use us, but we’re hoping it’s an introduction to say, ‘Hey that was a really pleasurable experience. I could try this when I go to the West End to see my friends or when I go to work,’ ” Hopkins said.

Rob Ollikainen is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.