Bus to WinCo, 'smart cards' among proposals at WTA public hearing


"Smart" payment cards for fares and a bus route to WinCo Foods are among the services Whatcom Transportation Authority plans to offer starting this fall.

The transit agency will hold a public hearing on its planned service and fare changes Tuesday, May 6.

WTA officials said they received "a great many requests" for bus service to WinCo Foods after the store opened in August 2013 on East Bellis Fair Parkway, across Meridian Street from Bellis Fair mall. Under the proposed change, Route 15 from downtown Bellingham to Bellis Fair and Cordata Station would turn off Meridian Street at Telegraph Road, then take Deemer Road to WinCo and continue to the mall on East Bellis Fair Parkway.

Route 331 would no longer take the Interstate 5 off-ramp directly to the mall, and the bus stop at the Target store at Bellis Fair mall would be eliminated. A stop at Macy's would be moved from the store entrance to East Bellis Fair Parkway.

In the east county, trips would be added to Route 72X between Bellingham and Kendall, with funding from a federal grant provided to the Nooksack Indian Tribe. The grant also would pay for a new route between Van Zandt and Everson, to connect tribal housing to centers of employment and social services.

WTA also plans to revamp its fare options, starting in late summer or early fall. The agency would introduce smart cards that can be "reloaded" via payments online for repeated use. Smart cards would mean the end of monthly passes. The new cards could be used as 31- or 92-day passes. Riders also could load day passes or an 11-ride pass for $10 into the cards.

The $1 base fare would not change.

Other fare changes include discontinuing the free-ride coupons, which has already gone into effect, and eliminating tokens in 2015.

The 80X route to Mount Vernon would not accept the new WTA passes but would require its own pass, to cost $50 a month.

Tuesday's hearing starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Bellingham Senior Center, 315 Halleck St. Comments also may be emailed or made by phone before 3 p.m. Tuesday, at comment@ridewta.com or 360-715-4500.

For more information, go to ridewta.com/servicechanges or ridewta.com/farechanges.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhampolitics.

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