Kitsap Transit delays expansion of Sunday bus service

Feb. 28, 2024
In light of the state’s 2021 Climate Commitment Act being challenged in the November 2024 ballot, Kitsap Transit is developing a contingency plan to present to its Board of Commissioners in the event the funding is voted away.
Kitsap Transit will be putting the start of its Sunday bus service in Port Orchard, Silverdale and Poulsbo, Wash., on pause. The pause in the start of the service will give the agency the time it needs to evaluate the potential financial impact of an incoming November ballot initiative that would repeal the state of Washington’s 2021 Climate Commitment Act (CCA), which the Legislature estimated would provide $5.4 billion over 16 years to transit and other transportation programs.Kitsap Transit received $5.276 million on an annual basis in CCA funds for transit operations and additional funds to support its paratransit ACCESS services. In addition, Kitsap Transit has used CCA funds to develop inductive charging capability at its transit bases and accelerate work on an all-electric ferry to operate its local foot ferry routes in Sinclair Inlet.  
At the agency's recent board meeting on Feb. 20, Kitsap Transit Executive Director John Clauson told the Kitsap Transit Board of Commissioners he would examine the possible impacts of Initiative 2117 (I-2117) on the agency’s budget and prepare a contingency plan.  
“We need to pause this Sunday service expansion until we’ve had the opportunity to evaluate all the  impacts we could face from I-2117 and give our board the time to consider changes to our roadmap should we lose Climate Commitment funding,” Clauson said.  
In September 2023, Kitsap Transit launched Sunday bus service in Bremerton, Wash., the first of three phases for rolling it out across Kitsap County. Kitsap Transit planned to start Sunday bus service in Poulsbo, Silverdale and Port Orchard in late 2023 and Bainbridge Island in early 2024 but was forced to delay implementation due to a bus operator shortage. The latest delay is not due to a shortage of bus operators and will not affect the existing Sunday bus service in Bremerton.  
At the board meeting, Kitsap Transit staff shared plans to restore bus services that were cut in 2020 after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The near-term roadmap includes restoring trips on North Kitsap bus routes -- such as half-hour service on Routes 344 and 390 and all-day service on Route 91 -- and later evening service on certain bus routes across the county. A further expansion of bus service, as envisioned in Kitsap Transit’s Long-Range Transit Plan, will require more revenue to pay for it.  
“If we want to do a whole lot more, we’re going to have to have the discussion of how we are going to pay for it because we’re right now doing the extent that we can,” Clauson said. “With the potential of the Climate Commitment Act being repealed by the initiative, we’re going to have to have a discussion about what do we change, what do we do.”  
At the meeting, commissioners said they were wary of Kitsap Transit expanding services with I-2117 on the ballot and potential loss of state funding if voters approve it in November.  
“If it gutted $5 million a year out of our operation and we’re faced with service cuts, that’s a different conversation,” said Port Orchard Mayor Rob Putaansuu. “I think we should be considering talking to our voters about what they want out of our transit agency.” Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson added that if I-2117 passes, the agency will need to take a hard look at capital projects, which require local dollars as a match. 
We’re going to have to see that balancing between service delivery and capital expansion,”  Erickson said. “In other words, I’d rather have the service than the new shiny things.”  

Kitsap Transit will develop a contingency plan and bring it to the board in the coming months.