Union objects to parking plan

"In light of sweeping Access service cuts, Amalgamated Transit Union members are more than a little upset that the Kitsap Transit Board of Commissioners May 1 approved valet service for van-pool users at the Bremerton Transportation Center.What we're looking at is transportation service being eroded throughout the county. Elderly and disabled have lost their services, yet Kitsap Transit would actually go forward with a $30,000-$45,000 plan for valet parking, said Mike Powell, assistant business agent of Amalgamated Transit Union. It's absurd. According to Kitsap Transit executive director Dick Hayes, there are no commuters currently using the van-pool service to get to the ferry terminal, a fact Powell said makes the valet service more absurd.They're cutting service to elderly and disbled people, while able-bodied people get curb-side valet service, Powell said. Kitsap Transit made cuts to all its services, including Access service for disabled and elderly Kitsap residents, after voters passed Initiative 695 last November. Hayes said the RideShare program - of which van-pool service is a part - was cut even more than Access service. The money going toward the parking attendent (or valet, as Kitsap Transit billed the position at the board meeting) has already been part of the reduced budget, he said.The mistake I think was in marketing it as a brand new program, Hayes said. We probably shouldn't have called it valet parking. It's not really adding back any money; it was in the reduced budget for RideShare.Because so much of elderly and disabled service was eliminated due to I-695, Powell said money should go back into restoring some before new programs are started. At a minimum, that plan should be scrapped, he said. That money could be used to extend Access service to some degree.Commissioner Chris Endresen, who stated her concern with service cuts before voting for the resolution, said the cost of valet service is minimal compared to the cost of restoring Access service.We would not be able to bring back Access service for anywhere near this price, she said. The amount we're using for valet service wouldn't be able to replace a part of Access service.According to a Kitsap Transit budget, restoring Sunday-only Access service would cost between $1.2 and $1.4 million. Endresen said she empathized with Powell. I think it's real important that we bring (Access service) back, she said. I understand.Instead of using RideShare money for a partial restoration of Access service, Hayes said voters should approve a tax increase to provide funding for several services cut by Initiative 695. Kitsap Transit will put a tax increasing ballot measure before the public in the September primary vote."

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