Regional Commuter Pass

If you read my last post, you may recall me mentioning a monthly pass for the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter. The pass itself costs $100 per month, and allows the holder unlimited rides on the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter, as well as all other Yakima Transit routes and the Central Transit route in Ellensburg.

What’s interesting about the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter pass it that it is the first multi-agency transit pass anywhere in Eastern Washington. And that got me thinking… Why aren’t there any others?

Here in the Tri-Cities, Ben Franklin Transit covers a pretty large area of land with their bus routes, stretching all across Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland, as well as Benton City, Finley, and Prosser. In Pasco is where bus riders can connect to a bus route known as the “Grapeline” (which I mentioned in this post), which goes to and from Walla Walla 3 times a day. Once in Walla Walla, riders have all sorts of buses to choose from, with the Valley Transit system (serving Walla Walla and College Place), as well as Milton-Freewater Transit (connecting Walla Walla to Milton-Freewater, OR) and Columbia County Public Transportation (connecting Walla Walla to Dayton and Waitsburg). Meanwhile, over in Prosser (via Route 170), riders can connect to People For People’s “Community Connector,” which serves the communities of the lower Yakima Valley all the way to the city of Yakima.

With all these transit options in South-Central/Southeast Washington, why not link together with a pass? More specifically, a “Regional Commuter Pass.” A large portion of the intercity bus routes, particularly the link between BFT’s Route 170 and PFP’s Community Connector, are set up to encourage people to utilize these options. Now, I may not have access to ridership numbers for these operations, but I do know from lots of firsthand experience that people do use these connections to travel between cities. A multi-agency pass could be just the thing to help boost ridership even higher. With more ridership, we could even see an expansion of service levels/hours for these intercity routes.

So, how would it work? Nothing major would need to be done. Most of the work needed would simply be getting the potential agencies to come aboard the “Regional Commuter Pass” program, and then driver training on how to handle and accept this new type of pass. In this scenario, I envision BFT handling the printing of this pass, mainly for the fact that BFT’s passes have the best/most security features in the area (although I have not seen a Yakima Transit pass for a few years). Any pass outlet currently used by each agency would also be able to sell the “Regional Commuter Pass” as well. For the launch of the pass, it could start out small with just BFT, Valley Transit, and the Grapeline. Ultimately, agencies accepting the pass could include the three previously listed, as well as Columbia County Public Transportation, Milton-Freewater Transit, and Union Gap. Yakima Transit, Central Transit, and the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter could also “join forces” with the new “Regional Commuter Pass” at a later date. (I didn’t mention PFP’s Community Connecter or the “Pahto Passage” system on the Yakama Reservation, since these are both fare-free. However, if they were to start charging fares, then adding them to the “Regional Commuter Pass” would certainly be a no-brainer.) Perhaps the trickiest thing would be determining the cost of the pass. As I mentioned at the start of the post, the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter pass is $100 each month. While it does seem a little high, I think that’s probably about the best possible price. There could also be a reduced fare option, pricing the pass somewhere between $55-75. (There wouldn’t be a youth/senior discount however.)

So, that’s that. A “Regional Commuter Pass.” Do you think it would work? Leave me a comment below, or contact me via my Twitter account @ziggzagzac.

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