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Residents speak against service cuts
t Kitsap Transit public meetings scheduled.
POULSBO — Poulsbo resident Helen Wilson is originally from Tennessee. In her 70s, she relies on Kitsap Transit bus route No. 43 to get to Poulsbo’s medical centers, doctors and shopping. At Wilson’s age, she said it’s difficult to walk up a steep hill on Viking Way to catch another Poulsbo bus, the No. 32, which doesn’t make near the stops or trips the No. 43 does.
Everyone has their own story as to why they ride the bus. Whether it’s a student attending courses at Olympic College Poulsbo, a 30-year-old businessman commuting daily to work in Seattle, or the 70-year-old grandmother heading to a doctor’s appointment, each rely on Kitsap Transit’s bus routes daily.
With Kitsap Transit facing a $4.5 million deficit, proposed budget cuts place all Sunday service routes on a potential chopping block. In addition, some routes are slated for discontinuation on Saturdays, including Wilson’s No. 43, which stops at Central Market, downtown Poulsbo, NK Medical Center, Olympic College Poulsbo, Wal-Mart, Viking Avenue and the Hostmark Apartments.
“They really need to keep it seven days a week,” Wilson said. With her route discontinued Saturday and Sunday, she’d have to catch a taxi for medical attention and appointments on the weekends. Although Access bus service is available, Kitsap Transit requires a 24-hour notice and in the proposed budget cuts Access service could potentially be cut Sundays as well, according to Kitsap Transit’s second copy of proposed budget cuts released at a Nov. 18 transit board meeting.
“We are talking with the (transit) board relatively constantly; there will be changes (to the proposed budget cuts) but I don’t know which changes,” said Dick Hayes, executive director of Kitsap Transit. “We have a long way to get to reach what I would call a sustainable budget.”
Hayes said he hopes to have last-minute changes made and adopt the 2009 budget during the next board meeting scheduled Dec. 16 at the Norm Dicks Government Center in Bremerton. The meeting begins at 9:45 a.m.
“There will be no special meetings, just the meeting we’ve promised,” he said in regard to a rumor that the 2009 budget was initially due Dec. 15. “I’ve asked people to look into the Dec. 15 deadline and I don’t think it exists.”
Poulsbo resident Clair Bourgeois, 44, is also concerned about the budget cuts of the No. 43 bus route. She is legally blind, has lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Her diagnosis gives her severe arthritis pains in her feet, hands and back, she said.
“I don’t have the option in my life to drive,” she said. “I need (Kitsap Transit) to remain the same until they can come up with a feasible route that will work with everyone.”
Bourgeois, a mother of two children, said she and her husband chose their current home on Viking Way because it’s on the bus line.
“In these economic times we can’t just pick up and sell every time they cut another route,” she said. “The routed bus gives me my independence. It’s really important that I have my independence and have my bus service on Sundays and seven days a week.”
According to the proposed budget plan cuts, some efforts continue to gain ground. Feasibility studies for a passenger-only ferry boat from Bremerton to Seattle is listed in the proposed budget for 2009. However, the ferry failed the past two elections.
According to the budget plan, Kitsap Transit is no longer required to pay $200,000 toward dock equipment. Toll credits, ferry boat discretionary funding and other equity covers test trials, wake research and purchase of vessels.
Darrin Smith, 43, of Poulsbo, commutes daily on the No. 90 bus to the Bainbridge Island Ferry that goes to Seattle. He works for the federal government in the Columbia Tower.
“I’m upset that no one knows how much the foot ferry costs,” Smith said. “Once the funding is gone how are they going to operate that ferry? If buses aren’t making money how is another ferry going to make money when we already have a ferry system that’s losing money?”
Hayes said no local money will be used for the ferries.
“Two-thirds to three-fourths has been granted,” Hayes said of the total $5,553,000 grant funding needed. “There is not much we can do but wait until the rest of the money comes out of the federal pipeline. I think we have a good chance of getting those funds ... if the money doesn’t come through I don’t see how we can do it.”
Poulsbo’s Dan Perez, 44, said he believes Kitsap Transit should get out of the foot ferry business all together.
“I really feel that right now when we got a crunch, it’s time for Kitsap Transit to get out of the ferry business, to hold off and take care of the Access and ridership and hold off on ferries for now.”