July 3, 2008 · Updated 4:32 PM
Whidbey Island residents can now take advantage of the fare-free bus service that runs to Mount Vernon, connecting to Bellingham and other cities throughout the Puget Sound.
Just two days after the new County Connector transit route began last Tuesday, it was receiving rave reviews from the riders.
Oak Harbor resident Lucas Hammonds has been riding Island Transit for about six years.
I am a lot happier with this new route, especially since it doesnt cost any money. Before, I would have to pay to ride the Skagit Transit, Hammonds said.
A celebration was held on Tuesday at the Skagit Multi-Modal Station in Mount Vernon that included a public open house and dedication ceremony for the new route.
Martha Rose, Island Transit director, is very excited about the new route and the partnership between Island, Skagit and Whatcom counties.
The celebration and ribbon cutting marked the beginning of the new bus route. It was a great time and we had a large turnout of about 90 people from administrators to the public, many people are very excited about the new addition, Rose said.
Special speakers at the ceremony included state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and Gov. Christine Gregoire. In addition, Captain Syd Abernethy, commanding officer of NAS Whidbey, also attended the event.
The new route from Oak Harbor to Mount Vernon offers commuters as well as those without vehicles a way to access the mainland. In addition, it saves on gas for those who would normally drive a car to work and in turn, this cuts down on traffic that builds up on Highway 20.
Two Oak Harbor friends, Hiroko Butz and Mary Wonner, frequently take other routes together and were seen at the Harbor Station getting ready to board the bus to Mt. Vernon.
I think that this new route is a great idea and also a very relaxing and efficient way to get around, especially with gas prices getting so high, Wonner said. We are going to ride the bus to Mount Vernon and then connect to another bus to get to the mall in Burlington.
Butz said that she enjoys the convenience as well as the amount of connector routes that are offered by County Connector. Wonner and Butz also discussed taking a transit bus down to the Mulkilteo ferry to see what the area has to offer.
Even those who do not live on Whidbey Island are benefiting from the newly added route.
Mount Vernon resident Joe Murray used to have to take multiple buses to get to Whidbey Island to visit his daughter.
I think that the new County Connector route from Mount Vernon to Oak Harbor is very nice. Today I am going to visit a friend who was just placed in a nursing home in Oak Harbor.She is 93 years old and doesnt have any family in the state so I thought I would stop in for a visit to cheer her up. The new route is helping me out because I dont have to pay a fare and the ride is much shorter than before. I really enjoy it, Murray said.
The ride ends in Mount Vernon, as only Island Transit offers fare-free transportation. But buses and trains can be taken in Mount Vernon for points north and south, from Canada to Seattle.