Island Transit buses will be rolling again on Saturdays, beginning Jan. 27.
Major routes are included in the 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday schedule with an emphasis on getting people up and down Whidbey’s main highway and to and from ferry service in Clinton and Coupeville.
“We’ve worked hard the past year to be able to return the service,” said Mike Nortier, Island Transit executive director. “It’s a reduced schedule like in the past.”
Ever since Saturday service stopped four years ago because of financial trouble, it’s absence has been the number one concern of the public, Nortier said.
“We heard them loud and clear,” he added.
Dave Everett, waiting to board the Route 2 bus from Coupeville to Freeland early Tuesday morning, welcomed the news. He uses the system often to catch the ferry to Port Townsend.
“It will help a lot having Saturday service back,” he said.
The new Saturday schedule is posted on the company’s website. A community meeting to discuss the service is scheduled for noon to 2 p.m. Jan. 16 at Oak Harbor Library.
“We just want to offer folks a chance to learn about Saturday service and provide them an opportunity to ask questions,” Nortier said.
After serious financial problems suddenly came to light in 2014, Island Transit leaders were forced to lay off employees, cut routes, cancel Saturday service and take out $2.3 million in bank loans.
Nortier, the former commander of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, was hired in 2016. Under his watch, some routes changed based on ridership and the company celebrated its 30-year anniversary.
Earlier this year, auditors determined the transit system’s cash position is strong; it has paid back a $2-million bond borrowed in 2014.
The bus service on Whidbey is only one of two fare-free systems remaining in Washington state; the other is in Mason County.
Fares were added on its Camano Island to Everett routes last year.
The agency is partly funded by a 0.9 percent sales tax.
Island Transit employs 114 people. It just hired and trained new drivers for the additional Saturday scheduling.
Printed Saturday schedules will be available on buses by Jan. 15.