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Temporary Kitsap Mall transfer center an inconvenience for some riders - Mall will allow shuttle starting April 1
Last week, the last time Tony Carpenter waited for a bus at Kitsap Transit's new Kitsap Mall stop on NW Randall Way, it rained.
But on his way home Monday after grabbing a bite to eat at the mall's food court — Carpenter doesn't own a car — he saw people waiting at the mall's now closed transfer center.
Carpenter stopped to tell them they would be waiting for a long time.
With the buses rerouted off mall property after mall management declined to renew Kitsap Transit's lease, Carpenter said he's noticed a downturn in mall customers.
"It's kind of dead now," said Carpenter, 43, of Silverdale.
The temporary bus stop was selected in February as a stopgap after Kitsap Mall declined to renew an agreement that allows the bus agency to operate a transfer center at the mall's west entrance. Mall management said after making the announcement that an unnamed retailer did not want a transfer station in front of its new store. The mall also plans to undergo $1 million in renovations to three entrances, including the west entrance.
But starting April 1, some Kitsap Transit vehicles will be allowed on mall property.
On Tuesday, Kitsap Transit and Kitsap Mall management agreed on arranging one bus stop near the shuttered transit center at the mall's west entrance so passengers can be shuttled from the Randall Way stop to the mall.
The Randall Way stop, which is about a third of a mile from the mall, will be used for up to 120 days until a transfer center can be built at Clear Creek Road near Greaves Way, which is more than twice as far from the mall as the Randall Way stop.
John Clauson, service development director at Kitsap Transit, said Tuesday that a stop will be created near the west entrance of the mall "within 30 feet of where the buses used to park." The shuttle will run four times an hour, Clauson said.
For now though, riders continue to walk to and from the mall if they wish to get there from the temporary stop on Randall Way, off to the west side of Target and across from a construction site. The stop has two benches, but no shelter and no place close to duck in and warm up.
"It makes it hard on a rainy day," said Carpenter.
Clauson acknowledged that the temporary stop is not the best facility for riders but said it was the best they could do and the agency has no plans to install a shelter to keep riders out of the elements. The exact boundaries of the right of way is not known and by the time they identified the location, received the necessary permits and constructed a shelter, it would be time to move to the Clear Creek Road transfer center, he said.
"Randall wasn't our first choice," Clauson said.
Rene Morris, senior property manager for Kitsap Mall, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Tamra Lyon of Port Orchard, who was waiting for a ride to the doctor's office, said the mall had not taken into consideration the elderly and those in wheelchairs.
"They shouldn't have to walk all the way here to catch a damn bus," said Lyon, 47.
For some, there is a sting in the new location.
"The businesses thought buses are an eyesore for the mall," said Rosie Tarver, 43, of East Bremerton, noting that the burden has been shifted to riders.
"It's inconveniencing a lot of people," she said. "Period."
Aside from the new location being inconvenient, many riders agreed that the stop needs some type of shelter or cover from the rain.
Being outside as temperatures remain in the 30s is more than an inconvenience.
"Especially for us old guys, we could catch something," said Merle Abad, 63, of East Bremerton.
Tarver put it more bluntly. "It sucks. It's very disruptive to us."
Although the walk to and from the mall tacks on more time to their commutes and errands, the buses remain on schedule.
While frequent riders experience the burden of having the new bus stop on the north end of Randall Way, new riders like Annette White also think the location is out of the way.
"I'd prefer the bus to stop at the mall but you can't have everything," White, 48, said Monday. The Bremerton resident was out shopping in Silverdale and was using the bus system for the first time because her car broke down.
Cathie Knox-Browning, spokeswoman for Kitsap Transit, said that transit ACCESS vehicles continue to pick up and drop off riders on mall property who are eligible to use the service and request it.