WA: Ben Franklin Transit Users Want More Areas to be Served

Aug. 29--The 20 Tri-City area residents who attended a Thursday meeting about developing a better transit plan said they want bus service to more areas and improved shelters.

They placed red stickers next to items on a list of services they want to see addressed or improved. Several who attended the meeting were disabled or senior citizens.

Bringing bus service to the Badger Canyon area will be needed, said Rita Eide. She said a cab ride to town and back from the growing area costs more than $40.

"There's a 12-mile gap with no service at all," she said.

The Benton-Franklin Council of Governments, the area's regional transportation group, is working with Ben Franklin Transit and the state Department of Transportation to develop a coordinated public transit plan.

Connell Mayor Blacky Blackwell placed all the stickers he had next to bringing bus service to north Franklin County. He said many of the city's residents need to get to the Tri-Cities, but are older or don't have access to a car.

"We're not asking for hourly service. We're asking for at least once a day where you can go down and come back," he said.

Ben Franklin Transit General Manager Dennis Solensky plans to meet with Blackwell on Aug. 29, McMullen said.

Adding new service areas could be complicated, said Kathy McMullen, Ben Franklin Transit's service development manager. It could require a vote of the residents, who would have to pay sales taxes or provide other cash matches from city or county governments to support the bus routes.

"It's hard for us to take money out of the Tri-Cities and provide it to another area," she said.

Others wanted to see Ben Franklin Transit offer more frequent Dial-A-Ride trips.

Brenda Bradley of Richland said she would like to have trips every 30 minutes. She now has to wait an hour.

"I go to the bank, I hand the teller money, she gives me a deposit slip," Bradley said. "You look out the window and Dial-A-Ride is just pulling out of the parking lot and I have to wait an hour."

Some wanted more protection from the sun at bus stops, but Nadene Badgett of Richland, a 91-year-old retired elementary school teacher, wants to see better lighting in areas where people wait for buses.

"I'm content with what they have," she said. "What gripes me is the way people treat the shelters and throw trash. Did I fall short on teaching people to pick up after themselves?"

Projects within Ben Franklin Transit's existing service area aren't eligible for the state money because the program is for rural service, but the ideas can still be brought to the agency's board and general manager for future consideration, McMullen said.

The residents' eligible requests next will have to go through a consolidated grant process through an agency like People for People, McMullen said.

The requests are made through the state Department of Transportation, said Len Pavelka, a transportation planner with the council of governments. The state prioritizes the projects and awards money based on need. No estimates of the costs of the different projects have been completed.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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