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Kitsap Transit riders want more bus runs, Sunday service

If a random sample of riders is any indication, people who ride Kitsap Transit want Sunday service to come back.

And they want their weekday buses to come to their stops more frequently.

Those are some of the results of a ridership survey that was conducted in October 2013. The results were released to the Kitsap Transit board last week.

According to the more than 1,470 riders who were surveyed, 39 percent of riders said Sunday service was the most important improvement that Kitsap Transit could make. Another 22 percent said additional runs on Saturday were needed. And another 20 percent said that expanded weekday service was their top priority.

Improving the number and location of stops was listed as the most important additional service by 19 percent of those who answered the survey.

The survey also asked non-riders similar question by telephone.

Non-riders said more convenient routes were their highest priority at 21 percent, higher service frequency was listed by 11 percent and adding Sunday service was the answer given by 7.3 percent of those asked. These were the things that they mentioned would get them to use the bus.

Kitsap Transit Executive Director John Clauson said in most cases, a bus needed to come by any given stop every 15 minutes for consumers to consider the service as convenient. Clauson told the board that it was now up to them to determine if Kitsap Transit should take steps to improve service based on the survey results.

Clauson said the survey was done as a part of a “origin of destination” survey that is done every 10 years by the Washington State Ferries. Kitsap Transit’s portion of the survey cost $68,000 and was completed by Moore and Associates, Bellevue.

“There are a number of issues that this survey provides information for us,” Clauson said. “We use the information in a variety of ways.”

Among other things that the survey showed is that riders would like to see a fast foot ferry to Seattle from Bremerton. Of transit riders who were surveyed, 88 percent said they supported it, and of non-riders, 55 percent gave it a positive reaction.

Of riders, the average amount that each would pay one way would be $5.28, and for non-riders, 39 percent said they’d pay less than $5, and 56 percent said they’d pay between $5 to $10. Currently, the state car ferry costs $7.85 for a walk-on passenger per round trip, but is considered to be slow by most foot passengers.

As for paying for improvements, transit riders said they would support a fare increase. More than 54 percent of riders indicated that some level of fare increased would be supported up to 50 cents per ride.

Non-riders said a fare increase of 25 cents to 50 cents was what they would support. Full fare now is $2, but about half off the ridership gets a seat at half-price because they are students, seniors or disabled.

If improvements were to be paid for through higher taxes, half the non-riders questioned said they would support that move but 33 percent said they would not. The agency now receives eight-tenths of 1 percent of local sales taxes. That is one-tenth of 1 percent below the maximum allowed. Voters would have to approve any increase.

But some on the board, like Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson, said if services were improved as riders indicated they wanted, including Sunday service, buses would be used more frequently and there would be no need for higher fares or higher taxes.

Of those surveyed who ride the bus, 303 were from Bremerton, and 276 were from Silverdale. Of non-riders questioned, 296 were from Bremerton and 99 were from Silverdale and Seabeck. Other areas included in the survey were Bainbridge, Kingston, Poulsbo, Port Orchard and Olalla.

Of riders questioned, 62 percent said they take the bus because, while most had driver’s licenses, they didn’t have a car.

If Kitsap Transit didn’t exist, 27 percent said they’d be walking, and 21 percent said they’d have to catch a ride with a friend or family.

Other answers included “wouldn’t take the trip” at 13 percent, “drive my own vehicle” at 23 percent, “ride a bike” at 9 percent and “take a taxi” at 7 percent.

A majority of the riders questioned gave Kitsap Transit high ratings on safety at bus stops, safety onboard the buses, and reliability. More than half said they get their bus schedules and information online.

Clauson said as Kitsap Transit moves forward, the survey results will help determine where any increase in funds could be spent.

“Historically, we always thought Sunday services was what was wanted,” he said. “And it is for some, but we also see that if we want to attract new riders, we need to have more convenient and more frequent service.”

He said the information also will help Kitsap Transit make determinations about how to reach its audience.

“We know now where our riders get their information about us and where the non-riders do, too,” he said. “We can try to communicate better with those who use the system and those who do not.”

Above all, he said he was very pleased with the high marks that Kitsap Transit received in the areas of safety.

Central Kitsap County Commissioner Linda Streissguth, who is on the transit board, said she found the survey to be very telling.

“There is a high level of satisfaction among riders,” she said. “And we know that our service is being used often for those who are getting to a job and are going out shopping, particularly the youth. And it’s not surprising that it is the lower income level who are our base ridership. It’s all really valuable information as we look at appropriate service routes and or expanding.”

Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent said she was pleased with the results of the survey, noting that passengers liked the cleanliness of the busses and friendliness of the drivers and schedulers.

“I personally would like better and more frequent service in all areas we serve before bringing back Sunday service,” Lent said.

She’s also a supporter of the fast foot ferry to Seattle.

“We are still developing the argument for passenger only/fast ferry service to Seattle and have just received written confirmation to allow the balance of our federal grant to be spent on a 20 year business plan for cost, revenue choices, service and scheduling and identify an operator,” Lent said.

“The Transit Board is hoping to have this plan completed in four to six months to continue with a sustainable program.”

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