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Island Transit to make Skagit connection

"Island TransitWhat: Public meeting When: 3 p.m. Monday, July 23. Where: Room 137 at Oak Harbor Library Why: The purpose of the meeting is for Island Transit to gather information from the public about what bus schedules would best fill Island County's needs.Island Transit on July 30 will restore bus transportation between Island and Skagit counties.Cool! said Jennifer Walker, an Island County Transit rider, when she heard the news Tuesday.Walker used Island-Skagit public transportation two years ago until the routes to Skagit County were cut. That forced her to learn to drive so she could continue to attend classes at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon, she said. Now, once again she is faced with the need for public transportation to Skagit County because she is looking for a job and her car is broken down.We'll be able to make six connections Monday through Friday, with weekend schedules to be determined, said Martha Rose, director of Island Transit.A $268,941 Department of Transportation rural mobility grant will cover the service for two years, Rose said. By the time the grant money is depleted, June 30, 2003, Rose said she hopes other funding options will be in place for the routes to continue.We're hoping ... the state Legislature will once again support public transportation, Rose said.The Island-Skagit route originally began on June 7, 1999, after years of planning. The link was cut just six months later because funding was lost.It certainly took some options away from people, Rose said, adding that she has heard from Island County residents who were forced to withdraw from classes at Skagit Valley College or who had lost their jobs because they could no longer get to work.The first trip of the day, Monday through Friday, is tentatively set to leave Oak Harbor at 6:15 a.m. and will go directly to Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon. The next four trips of each day will go to Marches Point where a Skagit County transit connection can be made. The last trip of the day will go to the college and back to Oak Harbor. There is no fare charged for riding on Island County transit buses. The transit department is prepaid by a six-tenths of 1 percent sales tax.The grant is very specific. The money can only be used to provide service for deficient inter-city rural corridors in critical areas, Rose said.A public meeting is scheduled for next week so that Island Transit can received input from the public.Said Rose: We don't do anything without input from the public.You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at csmith@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611 "

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