WTA adds service for Nooksack tribe; WinCo bus on hold

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 18, 2014 

WTA-bus-stop-sign

Whatcom Transportation Authority bus routes run throughout Whatcom County.

THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Whatcom Transportation Authority's Board of Directors voted Thursday, May 15, to start a new route from Nooksack tribal housing to places of employment later this year.

The board also raised the price of a monthly pass for the bus to Mount Vernon, but Western Washington University students don't have to worry about that - yet.

A Van Zandt-to-Everson run will be added this fall or winter, pending approval by the Nooksack Indian Tribe. This bus would go from tribal housing to centers of employment in Deming and on Mission Road.

In another expansion of east county bus service, Route 72X will make more trips from Bellingham to Kendall, beginning Sept. 21. WTA had proposed eliminating the route's side trip to Van Zandt but decided to keep that service after hearing public comment.

The additions to the 72X and the new run for tribal residents are funded by a federal grant to the Nooksack tribe.

WTA also proposes new service to WinCo and Meridian Village, while eliminating one bus stop at Bellis Fair mall and moving another. This plan could not come together in time for a vote at Thursday's meeting. The board could consider these changes to routes 15 and 331 in June.

The board on Thursday also approved several fare changes, including smart cards that can be reloaded with cash and would be good for any 30- or 90-day period rather than a calendar month or quarter. A $50 pass - twice the cost of a standard pass - will be needed to ride Route 80X to Mount Vernon.

The $1 base fare was unchanged.

Western Washington University students, who now pay $45 a quarter for bus service, will not be affected by the price hike on the 80X. The original proposal was to have students pay $25 a month for the 80X, but WTA officials backed away from the idea after hearing criticism from students. WTA and university officials will try to negotiate new rates for the Mount Vernon bus in time for the 2015-16 school year, WTA service development director Rick Nicholson said.

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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