Business

Free Whidbey shuttle the next four Sundays

Coupeville resident Mike Glenn boards a Whidbey SeaTac Shuttle the day before Thanksgiving. Starting tomorrow, the shuttle company will offer free service between Oak Harbor and Clinton on Sundays. The seasonal run, which will operate until Dec. 19, aims to boost local business during the holidays.  - Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times
Coupeville resident Mike Glenn boards a Whidbey SeaTac Shuttle the day before Thanksgiving. Starting tomorrow, the shuttle company will offer free service between Oak Harbor and Clinton on Sundays. The seasonal run, which will operate until Dec. 19, aims to boost local business during the holidays.
— image credit: Justin Burnett/Whidbey News-Times

Getting from one end of Whidbey Island to the other on Sundays should be a bit easier and much less expensive this holiday shopping season.

In an effort to fill a transportation gap, improve commerce and pave the way for a future business venture, Whidbey SeaTac Shuttle will be offering a free shuttle service between Oak Harbor and Clinton for the next four weeks.

The special Sunday holiday run, which will make stops in Oak Harbor, Coupeville, Greenbank, Freeland, Langley, and Clinton, is set to begin tomorrow, Nov. 28, and will run until Dec. 19. There will be four northbound and four southbound trips each day.

According to owner John Solin, the idea behind the service is threefold.

“It’s always been a problem getting around on the weekends, but especially on Sundays and from Clinton,” he said.

Island Transit, Island County’s public transportation system, does not operate on Sundays. The holidays are one of the most important times of the year for local merchants and Solin and his business partner, Mike Lauver, knew they were in a unique position to help the economy.

Offering four round trips a day, it’s hoped that the service will encourage commerce by Whidbey Island shoppers as well as entice people from Mukilteo and Everett. While this is the first time the free holiday route has been offered and no one can know just how successful it will be, shop owners are excited about any possible boost in business.

“Whidbey Shuttle has always been good to people in Coupeville,” said Cindy Olson, owner of Aqua Gifts on Front Street. “To do something like this for free is pretty amazing.”

The feeling is mutual in Oak Harbor. Helen Pantoleon of Zorba’s Greek and Italian Restaurant on Highway 20 said the freezing weather has slowed business and if it keeps up, the edge the shuttle may provide would be welcome.

“I hope it works,” Pantoleon said. “It would be great to get people from South Whidbey up here.”

Solin said he and Lauver do hope to get something out of the experiment. If all goes well and the Sunday service is a success, he said he hopes a similar run could be offered during the summer months. It would have to be funded from Whidbey Island chambers of commerce, however.

“Obviously we can’t run free transportation forever,” Solin said.

The Sunday service is expected to cost the shuttle company a “few thousand” dollars. And while it may pay off in the long run, that’s not what the holiday service is about, he said. After seven years of successful business, he and Lauver were really just looking for a way to say thanks.

“You always have to try and give back to the community,” Solin said.

Along with the free Sunday service, shuttle drivers will be setting out a charity jar. At the end of the month, all the donations collected will be split among the island’s three food banks.

Over the next four Sundays, the first free southbound shuttle will leave Oak Harbor’s Key Bank parking lot at 9 a.m. and reach Clinton at 10:15 a.m., stopping in Coupeville, Greenbank, Freeland and Langley along the way. The last southbound shuttle leaves Oak Harbor at 2 p.m.

The north bound free shuttle will leave the Clinton ferry at 10:30 a.m. and reach Oak Harbor at 11:45 a.m., stopping at Langley, Freeland, Greenbank and Coupeville. The last northbound shuttle leaves the Clinton ferry at 3:30 p.m., reaching Oak Harbor at 4:45 p.m.

A complete schedule of shuttle times and pickup locations is available at www.seatacshuttle.com. Call 679-4003.

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