Voices for Public Transit across the nation are working to help Congress—and the public at large—recognize the need to improve and expand American public transportation. Our nation cannot continue to grow and thrive if our transportation strategy remains centered on single-occupant private cars.
Public transportation benefits all of us. Even if we don’t ride, public transit reduces air pollution and traffic congestion, creates and supports local jobs, and increases local property values. But many of us do ride—or want better public transportation options—even if we live in small towns or suburbs. Public transportation does not belong only to big cities. A case in point: Kitsap Transit.
County Transit in the Shadow of a Big City
Kitsap County, Washington, with a population of about 250,000, lies to the west of Seattle, with the Puget Sound running along its eastern shore. Kitsap Transit operates a traditional routed bus system, which serves several towns across the county, as well as on-call van transportation for the elderly and people with disabilities. Kitsap Transit also supports vanpools and operates a small local ferry. All told, Kitsap Transit provides about 4 million rides each year.
While Kitsap Transit officially began in 1983, it manages a unique transit system that dates back to World War II. The U.S. Navy is the largest employer in the county, with a naval base, shipyard, and other facilities built along the Puget Sound. With thousands of military and civilian employees, as well as contractors, traffic on and near the facilities can be quite congested. The unique Kitsap Transit Worker/Driver bus system helps reduce traffic and gets people to work.
Shipyard and Base Employees Double as Bus Drivers
Worker/Driver buses—full-sized standard buses—are driven by shipyard or base employees who are also part-time drivers for Kitsap County. The buses run fixed routes, primarily picking up employees who are headed to the bus’s final destination at a Navy facility. At the end of the day, passengers re-board their bus and are dropped off on the return route. The Worker/Driver bus system currently operates 30 routes.
The general public can also ride Worker/Driver buses, disembarking outside the shipyard or base. People headed to Seattle can ride a bus to the shipyard gate and then walk to the nearby Washington State Ferry terminal to ride across the Puget Sound to Seattle. Many of the Worker/Driver buses also have bike racks to provide riders with another option for continuing their trip.
The Worker/Driver bus system is partially paid for by the Navy’s Transportation Incentive Program (TIP). This program helps Navy employees around the country save money on commuting. In the case of the Kitsap Transit Worker/Driver buses, the whole community benefits as well.
Could your community benefit from a similar worker/driver bus system? Are there local employers—such as government organizations or private companies—that could partner with your area’s transit system? Share your thoughts by posting on our Facebook page or on our website.