Editorial: Island Transit forges ahead

Island Transit might be called the little bus system that could if someone wrote a children’s book about it. Through the years it has overcome every obstacle and continued to flourish, through good times and bad.

The most recent advance came last week with news that Island County’s fare-free bus system has received grants totaling around $7 million to expand service connections to Whatcom and Skagit counties, develop park and ride lots, purchase additional vehicles, and improve its paratransit program.

The money comes from state and federal sources and is one way Island County residents get back some of the taxes they pay. Without Island Transit, those transportation tax dollars would go to neighboring communities.

Island Transit had a slow birth in the early ‘80s, finally winning a Whidbey vote to create a transportation district. It soon purchased five buses and started providing “spine service” up and down the island. The district later expanded to include the northern portion of Whidbey and then Camano Island. Years later when its primary funding source dried up with the $30 license fee initiative, islanders gladly voted to raise their local sales tax to keep the bus system afloat.

Due to years of continual improvement and expansion and dedication to friendly service, Island Transit has become one of the island’s best loved and most respected institutions. It appears that Island Transit will be one of Whidbey’s gems for years to come.

In future years, we’d like to see Island Transit expand its island service to major county roads it doesn’t presently cover, like Crescent Harbor and Taylor on North Whidbey and East Harbor and Saratoga on South Whidbey. Even occasional runs down those roads would better serve the community.

To learn about expanded service to Camano, Mount Vernon and Bellingham, attend Island Transit public meetings Thursday, June 16, at 4 p.m. in the Oak Harbor Library Room 137, or Tuesday, June 21, at 4 p.m. at Coupeville Recreation Hall.

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