On The Ballot – Okanogan County Transit Authority

With today being the last day for voters in Washington State to send in their ballots, I thought it would be important to highlight a key transit proposal in the north-central part of the state.

In Okanogan County, voters are being asked to vote on Proposition 1, or the “Okanogan County Transportation District, Sales and Use Tax Levy.” This is is the summary on Proposition 1 that appeared in voter pamphlets for the county:

This proposition would fund the operation, maintenance equipment and facilities for a public transportation system within the boundaries of the Transit Authority. Shall the Okanogan County Transit Authority be authorized to impose a sales/use tax of up to four-tenths of one percent (4 cents on a $10 taxable purchase), as authorized by law, to be collected for the purpose of operating, maintaining and providing equipment and facilities for a public transportation system?
The Okanogan County Transit Authority (OCTA) includes Okanogan County except the southeastern precincts and the Town of Nespelem. The precinct numbers 0016, 0027, 0049, 0058, 0066, 0068, 0101, 0102, 0103, 0104, 0132, 0133 are not included in the Okanogan County Transit Authority’s boundary.

If passed, Okanogan County Transit Authority (OCTA) would provide daily weekday service on 5 routes, along with ADA service through the same areas. Below is a list of the proposed routes that would be operated initially, along with the number of trips to be run each day.

  • Omak-Riverside/Tonasket/Oroville: 3 round-trips daily
  • Omak-Brewster/Pateros: 3 round-trips daily
  • Omak-Twisp/Winthrop: 3 round-trips daily
  • Omak/Okanogan Urban Loop: 10 loop-trips daily
  • Winthrop-Twisp/Pateros: 2 round-trips daily

It is important that some of the proposed routes in the OCTA system are already serviced by a local non-profit, Okanogan County Tranportation and Nutrition. However, OCTN is funded solely by grants and donations, so available services can change on a yearly basis based upon the funding available. With a dedicated 4/10th’s transit tax to fund OCTA, service would be more reliable and as noted in the final draft of the OCTA 2013 Transit Service Plan, service could be further expanded to other outlying areas and even to make connections with neighboring transit agencies (Link Transit in Chelan/Douglas Counties and Grant Transit Authority in Grant County). Note also that as indicated in the language from the ballot summary, the Town of Nespelem and surrounding precincts in the southeastern part of the county are excluded from this vote. That part of the county is part of the Colville Indian Reservation, which runs their own shuttle service. In partnership with OCTN, there is also a route that runs between Omak and Coulee City via Nespelem on a daily basis, and that will likely continue if OCTA does begin operations.

Even though I’ve never been to Okanogan County, I find it quite exciting that residents in the area may vote to institute a brand new transit agency. It does go to show that public transportation is not just a urban issue, but a rural issue as well.

For more information, check out “Get On The Bus Okanogan


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