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Island Transit officials worry about off-island connections

Island Transit officials are worried they may lose funding for a service that is seeing a growing number of riders.

The Tri-County Connector and Everett Connector provide bus transportation from Whidbey and Camano islands to Mount Vernon and Everett.

Martha Rose, executive director for Island Transit, said she is concerned that the money needed to fund the connector services won’t make it into the state budget.

Current funding for the program runs out June 30.

Island Transit participates in two connector services. The Tri-County Connector connects Oak Harbor to Mount Vernon and then Bellingham.

The Everett Connector connects Camano Island with Everett. Ridership on the connector routes have increased since they were implemented.

“Tri-County and Everett has become one piece of a nice healthy puzzle,” Rose said of the two connector routes.

Island Transit officials have been busy keeping their riders abreast of the situation. They have been sending out rider alerts encouraging people to contact their state representative.

State Rep. Dave Hayes, who is a member of the House Transportation Committee, noted that Rose is doing a great job keeping Island Transit’s riders up to date on the situation.

The Tri-County Connector and the Everett Connector are line items in the state budget. He said he is talking with legislators in districts affected by the routes along with members of the transportation committee to try to preserve the connector routes. He said a draft of the state transportation budget should be available sometime this week.

The Tri-County Connector costs approximately $3 million per biennium to operate and the Everett Connector costs approximately $2.1 million per biennium to operate.

Both connector services started in 2006 with 55,000 Island Transit riders using the Tri-County Connector and 8,100 riders using the Everett Connector.

Since its initial year, ridership on the connectors have steadily increased. In 2012, 147,000 Island Transit riders used the Tri-Connector and 45,500 riders used the Everett Connector, according to information provided by Island Transit.

The connectors provide an alternative to workers who have long commutes.

Karen Boldra uses the connectors during the week to help with her commute from the Tulalip Reservation near Marysville to her job in Oak Harbor where she is a writer.

She drives from her home to Mount Vernon and then hops on an Island Transit, which offers fare-free service, to her job on Whidbey. She said it cuts her fuel costs in half and the two-hour trip happens opposite commuter traffic.

“I’m so blessed,” Boldra said. She also complimented Island Transit’s personnel, saying it’s the most professional she’s encountered.

 

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