News Roundup 6/16/14

Ben Franklin Transit

Dayton Street TC Temporarily Closed For The Summer
Beginning tomorrow, June 17th, the transit center on Dayton Street will be temporarily closed through the end of August as the City of Kennewick works on replacing the bridge over the canal. The temporary transfer point will be located on the west side of Auburn Street next to the Kennewick Senior Center, just northwest of the Kennewick Post Office. All routes serving Dayton TC (41, 42, 47, 48, 160, and 810) will be detoured to serve the temporary transfer point. The detours and related temporary stop closures will be explained in further detail in a post to be uploaded later today. (Link will be active at 1:00PM PST.)

Spokane Transit Authority

Jefferson Lot Temporarily Closed This Week
The parking lot under I-90 will be closed for the week between June 16th and June 21st as STA is going to be repainting the parking spaces, though there will be limited parking available on the west end of the lot. Later in the week, they’ll also be holding the annual Bus and Van Roadeo (operator skills competition) in the lot. Route 62, 66, and 165 will all be detoured when heading outbound from The Plaza. On 2nd Ave, buses will go past the normal turn at Jefferson Street and continue to Cedar Street, turning left and then continuing down to make a right onto 4th Ave, and then heading towards Maple Street and resuming the regular route onto I-90. A temporary bus stop will be set up at 4th and Cedar. Inbound buses will follow the regular route.

(Editor’s Note: There was a high-profile incident last week that occurred at The Plaza in Downtown Spokane, but the view of this website is that it was not a transit-related story. Therefore, there will be no coverage on the story here.) 

Yakima Transit

New Schedule And Fares For Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter
Starting today, a new schedule and an fare increase for one-way tickets and monthly passes go into effect. As part of the deal to preserve the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter,  the schedule has eliminated one round-trip on school days and two round-trips on non-school days. The fares also go up from $4 to $5 for a one-way and from $125 to $150 for a monthly pass. Today is also the first day that new operator Central Washington Airporter will be running the route, taking over for Hopesource who dropped out of the contract after a dispute arose during discussions on the future of the service. CWA will be using buses they own to run the route, so the buses may be labelled with that name and/or “Bellair Charters.”

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News Roundup 6/2/2014

Pullman Transit

Transit Supervisor Rod Thornton Retiring
After 30 years at the helm, Rob Thornton is finally retiring from Pullman Transit. Thornton started working for the agency 35 years ago, when Pullman Transit was first established, as a bus operator but quickly moved up the ranks into management. In talking with the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Thornton was humble and refused to take credit for any of the agency’s successes, though other staff were more than happy to give him his due credit. Though a small agency with just 19 buses operating on a $3.8 million budget, the agency has the highest farebox recovery in all of Washington (largely due to WSU students who ride) and is among the most efficient in the country. Replacing Thornton will be Michael Wagner, who has previously spent 8 years working at Pullman Transit. More recently, he was the operations supervisor at RiverCities Transit (Longview/Kelso WA), and also spent two years as a supervisor at Grant Transit Authority in Moses Lake.

Spokane Transit Authority

A conceptual plan for the 1st Floor of The Plaza. Photo Credit: Spokane Transit Authority

A conceptual plan for the 1st Floor of The Plaza.
Photo Credit: Spokane Transit Authority

The Plaza To Be Renovated For $4.7 Million
A project that has been in the planning for a few years now is finally happening. The Board of Directors has approved the expenditure of $4.7 million to renovate The Plaza, which will bring significant changes to the building inside and out. Included in the plans are 4 new retail outlets located on the west end of the 1st floor, along with the relocation of the Customer Service office and public restrooms to the 1st floor. A fifth retail outlet would be placed in the rotunda at the NE corner of the 1st floor, with the option for exterior cafe-style seating. The waterfall between the escalators, perhaps among the best known features of The Plaza, would be removed (though the cougars would be retained and placed in a new location). A new passenger waiting area would be placed just west of the Sprague Ave doors to give riders the option to watch for their bus while remaining inside, something that has never been possible with the lack of windows on that side of The Plaza (largely due to the parking ramp). Security and other STA offices would be moved up to the 2nd floor, along with a designated meeting space taking over the spaces where the current retail outlets are. The rotunda on the 2nd floor would become an exhibit space, though a potential tenant has not been found yet (though STA has been in talks with the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture).

Yakima Transit

Transit Manager Ken Mehin Resigns
After spending twelve years in the position, transit manager Ken Mehin has resigned from his job to become the new General Manager for Grays Harbor Transit. In the meantime, Yakima Public Works Director Scott Schafer has appointed City Irrigation Supervisor Alvie Maxey, who has no transit experience in 25 years with the city, as acting transit manager. Schafer has indicated that the next few months will be used to determine if Maxey will take the position permanently, or if they will seek new applicants. Some reports indicate that Mehin’s resignation was a bit of a surprise to the Public Works department, though others suggest that Mehin informed his superiors of his intentions as early as last year.


News Roundup 3/17/14

Ben Franklin Transit

BYD E-Bus Will Be Tested in the Tri-Cities
Currently undergoing testing in Spokane with Spokane Transit Authority, it has been confirmed that the BYD E-Bus is coming to the Tri-Cities next month. At this time, officials with BFT are still working on plans for where and when this bus will be running, but a press release should be put out towards the end of the month with that information. It has also been hinted that the ZEPS Bus, BFT’s current electric bus project, will be running at the same times as the BYD E-Bus, creating the opportunity to compare these two different technologies side by side.

Photo Credit: Link Transit

Photo Credit: Link Transit

Link Transit

New Bus Stop Signs Coming This Summer

Pending the approval of the Board of Directors tomorrow, bus riders in Chelan and Douglas Counties will be seeing some new bus stop signs installed. Over the years, the old bus stop signs have become faded with age, and a large number of them have the route numbers listed in a haphazard fashion with little organization and inconsistent fonts. The new bus stop signs, an example of them seen at right, work immensely to address this issue, as well as gain added visibility and an overall better look. Approximately 620 of them will be installed, covering every city and bus route in the Link Transit system. The costs for these new signs is $26,511.71 (including WA sales tax), which covers the signs and all the installation hardware.

Yakima Transit

Vote to cut the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter and Sunday Service Tabled
As reported last week, Yakima Transit was looking in to the possibility of discontinuing the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter and Sunday fixed-route service. Both services are largely funded with grants from WSDOT, and those funds are running out very soon, largely in part to higher than predicted maintenance costs in the case of the former. At the request of City Manager Tony O’Rourke, the vote was tabled as talks for new funding sources had picked up in the days since this was first announced. A meeting with officials from the involved parties and cities is tentatively scheduled for the end of the month, and this issue will likely come up again in the City Council meeting next month. In coverage from the Yakima Herald-Republic, it was mentioned that Yakima Transit and Hopesource had submitted a grant request to help purchase two new buses to run the route, so there may be hope yet.

Old News

Wenatchee Valley Shuttle Adds Stop at Columbia Station
Back in December, Wenatchee Valley Shuttle moved their Wenatchee stop from Olds Station (Easy Street) to Columbia Station in Downtown. With Link Transit, Amtrak, Northwestern Trailways, and the Apple Line all serving the station as well, it’ll make it much easier to connect to the shuttle.


News Roundup 3/3/14

(This is the first post in the new News Roundup series, which will feature several blurbs about news/updates from transit agencies in Eastern Washington. New posts will be scheduled on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month, though there will not be a post on the 3rd Monday if there is no news/updates to report on.)

Ben Franklin Transit

Customer Service Now Open on Saturdays
Responding to rider demand, Customer Service will now be open on Saturdays once again (last being so before BFT started cutting services due to the recession). The Rider Information line will be open for phone calls from 8AM-5PM, which is also the same hours that the customer service building at Three Rivers Transit Center will be open. Along with the opportunity to get information in person, riders will also have access to the restrooms and waiting area during those hours.

Link Transit

No Marijuana Ads on Buses
After being contacted by their advertising contractor about whether marijuana/marijuana-related advertisements were going to be permitted on transit vehicles, Link Transit has approved an amended advertising policy that prohibits them, citing the fact that the annual FTA certification process of a drug and alcohol free work place is consistent with this amended policy. With this change, the existing policy remains mostly unchanged except for Line H, where the advertising policy prohibits advertising that “promotes the sale of tobacco or tobacco-related products, and marijuana or marijuana-related products.”

Surplus Trolleys Going to Pierce Transit
While the Ebus program continues to experience issues with the batteries, Link Transit has continued to hold on to their old diesel trolleys as backup vehicles. However, with the recent delivery of 5 new CNG-fueled Arboc Spirit of Mobility cutaways, they’re finally able to surplus the old diesel trolleys. Among the 5 being surplused, 3 of them (501, 503, and 506) will be sold to Pierce Transit, who will be using them on their seasonal “Get Around Gig Harbor” trolley service, which began as a demonstration service last summer. Each trolley will be sold to Pierce Transit for $13,724 each ($41,172 total). The other 2 surplus trolleys (504 and 507) will be sold to a brokerage service that deals in used trolley buses. All the funds from this bus sale will be used by Link Transit for future bus purchases, as the vehicles were originally purchased by their first owner, Milwaukee County Transit System, using FTA funds.

Used STA Buses Coming to Wenatchee
Needing to replace the 3 1991 Orion I’s being used on the SkiLink service and a 2004 Optima Opus which is obsolete (meaning parts are not available), Link Transit will be buying 5 used 29-ft Gillig Low Floors from Spokane Transit Authority for $11,000 each. Historically, Link Transit has purchased buses with one door only. However, as ridership has risen on the urban routes, the need for buses with multiple doors has become an issue. With the purchase of the 5 buses from STA, the Orion I’s and Optima Opus will be retired, and the older 29-ft Gillig Low Floors with one door currently in Link Transit’s fleet will be moved from regular fixed-route service to the SkiLink service.

Yakima Transit

Route 10 Extended To Connect with Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter
After the plan to route the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter through Selah fell through due to large opposition from current riders, Yakima Transit officials have found a compromise. Beginning March 24, Route 10 will be extended north to the park-and-ride at Exit 26, next to the Yakima Firing Center. With the funds already being spent to improve a parking lot at Selah Christian Church for use as a park-and-ride on the original proposal, riders will instead be able to catch Route 10 there or anywhere else along the current route, and ride up to the firing center park-and-ride where they can transfer to the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter. Regular fixed-route fares will remain the same, and the fare policy for the Yakima-Ellensburg Commuter will still apply to all riders regardless if they transfer from Route 10 or not.