Bringing back Saturday service for Island Transit means hiring and training new drivers. Operations manager Shawn Harris, left, and Linda Nienhuis, recently rode along with two trainees.	“That’s the No. 1 question we get. ‘When are we going to bring back Saturday service?’” Harris said. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Bringing back Saturday service for Island Transit means hiring and training new drivers. Operations manager Shawn Harris, left, and Linda Nienhuis, recently rode along with two trainees. “That’s the No. 1 question we get. ‘When are we going to bring back Saturday service?’” Harris said. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Saturday bus service to resume next year

Saturday service is returning to Island Transit early next year.

This week, the transit board adopted a budget for next year that includes Saturday bus service, which was cut during a financial crisis in 2014. Transit officials budgeted for an 8 percent increase in operating expenses, most of which is due to the resumption of the service.

Operating expenses are budgeted at $12.2 million for 2018.

Island Transit Executive Director Mike Nortier said the additional four drivers have been in training in anticipation of Saturday service returning. If everything goes well, it can begin as early as the end of January, he said.

At the same time, the agency is building reserves by setting aside money, Nortier said. That includes $400,000 for bus purchases, $98,000 for van purchases, $73,000 for support vehicles and $900,000 for facilities.

“The economy has been pretty good for us in the last couple of years,” he said.

The agency is partly funded by 0.09 sales tax. Sales tax has been strong in recent years because of large projects, such as the Oak Harbor sewage treatment plant. In budgeting, officials took into account the fact that revenues may not be as strong in the future, Nortier said.

Under a 1988 resolution, the board was obligated to discuss the fare policy during the budget process. Island Transit had been fare-free until the first fare boxes were installed on a Camano Island route last year.

Nortier had crunched the numbers using a $1 fare and concluded that it would raise between $180,000 and $200,000 a year; at the same time, the agency would lose about 30 percent of its ridership for the first three to five years.

The board told Nortier they want more information before proceeding down that path. Nortier said the agency will do a lot of outreach and input gathering before any decisions are made.

Transit employees were glad to hear the news.

“I’m happy for the riders,” said Island Transit bus driver Teresa “T” Davis. “I think a lot of people that don’t have vehicles will appreciate it.”

Island Transit Operations Manager Shawn Harris said Saturdays have been on the minds of riders ever since the service stopped in 2014.

“That’s the No. 1 question we get. ‘When are we going to bring back Saturday service?” he said.

More in News

Oil Spill training scheduled at mussel rafts

Penn Cove Shellfish employees will participate in oil spill training Friday near… Continue reading

Field carrier landing practice schedule — Sept. 23-29

Aircraft carrier-based flight training operations are scheduled to occur at Ault Field… Continue reading

Photo by Maria Matson / Whidbey News-Times
                                <em>Whidbey Island resident Dick Evans will be signing and selling copies of his book, “Fazkils,” at the Clinton Community Hall on Saturday.</em>
In a new book, Hollywood actor, author reflects on his life, career

Richard “Dick” Evans is an actor, writer and director with a long… Continue reading

Island Transit program giving nonprofits a lift

The inaugural van in Island Transit’s new RideLink program left the lot… Continue reading

Officer’s new ‘beat’ in Oak Harbor school halls

After 27 years as an Oak Harbor police officer, including eight years… Continue reading

Oak Harbor bank employee accused of theft

A former employee at an Oak Harbor bank is accused of stealing… Continue reading

Free jammin’ and campin’ at fairgrounds added to Djangofest

The Island County Fairgrounds Campground will be filled with music later this… Continue reading

Moseley Island Transit employee of half

Island Transit employee Jerome Moseley was recently named the agency’s “January –… Continue reading

Coupeville resident makes Missouri State Dean’s List

Missouri State University released its summer 2018 dean’s list. MICHELLE MCDANIEL, of… Continue reading

Most Read