Link Transit Still Trying To Fulfill Promises From 2019 Tax Vote
Link Transit is still making improvements to its operations that are called for in a sales and use tax increase passed by voters in 2019.
The single biggest noticeable change with the increase in funding has been the addition of Sunday service.
Link Transit General Manager Richard DeRock says they're also trying to expand nighttime service.
"We've committed to some form of access until one o'clock in the morning to cover third shifts for employers," said DeRock "We run as late as 10 right now, so we've gone from at 7:30 shutdown to at up to 10 right now, but we really need to get something out there."
The transit is also focused on working with cities to fill-in gaps in sidewalks in order to make walking to bus stops easier.
DeRock made his comments while making a presentation on transit operations to the East Wenatchee City Council this week.
He said they’ve had four phases of service expansion since 2019, including the addition Sunday service, the expansion of Saturday service, a significant increase LinkPlus paratransit service and the addition of service on three holidays that see a high number of employees going to work.
Among the commitments from the tax increase that haven’t yet been fulfilled are commuter express service from Leavenworth and Chelan to Wenatchee, construction of Park and Rides in Peshastin and Chelan and making improvements to existing bus stops.
DeRock said one of their biggest promises to the public was to increase the frequency of buses.
"If you have your buses frequent enough that you don't have to look at a schedule, or if you know that you can walk out and get on a bus fairly frequently, it has a dramatic effect on ridership," said DeRock.
He pointed to research showing only 30 percent of the population can even read a bus schedule. The transit is already using the mySTOP app, which lets people track their bus in real time so they know when it will arrive at a given stop.
The transit is currently trying to increase the frequency of buses on routes in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee.
The 2019 tax package increased the sales tax by 1/10 of 1% in 2020, and by another 1/10 of 1% in 2022.
The additional sales tax increased revenue for Link by about $3 million a year after the first tax hike, and by $6 million when the full 2/10’s of 1% was implemented.
The measure passed in Chelan County and narrowly failed in Douglas County, but only needed a simple majority to receive approval.
The tax was calculated to cost the average household $24 a year.
Sales tax is the primary funding source for transit systems in Washington State, and accounts for 75% of Link’s annual budget.
Overall, Link serves Chelan and Douglas counties from Malaga to Leavenworth, and from Rock Island to Waterville, Ardenvoir and Manson