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Hopping the bus in Whatcom County will soon get easier — and more productive

Decked-out WTA buses surprise riders with holiday spirit

Bus driver Cathy Holland has decorated WTA's two holiday buses for more than ten years. Originally inspired by driver Shirley Petty, everyone from bus mechanics, safety personnel, drivers and their families pitch in to continue the tradition.
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Bus driver Cathy Holland has decorated WTA's two holiday buses for more than ten years. Originally inspired by driver Shirley Petty, everyone from bus mechanics, safety personnel, drivers and their families pitch in to continue the tradition.

If you’ve hopped a bus in Bellingham or Whatcom County recently, you may have noticed something new.

Free wifi.

“We’ve been piloting wifi for a while now, to make sure it worked well before offering it system-wide,” Maureen McCarthy, community relations and marketing manager for Whatcom Transportation Authority, told The Bellingham Herald.

That means there will be free wifi soon on all of WTA’s 61 fixed-route buses, McCarthy said.

“We started with five buses, then went up to 15. By Friday, it will be available on every fixed route bus,” she said.

Free wifi isn’t WTA’s first venture into smartphone technology.

Starting this summer, an account-based fare system called TouchPass will let riders pay by tapping a smart card or using a mobile app, according to a statement from WTA.

Also coming soon is SmartBus, which will let passengers track the location of their bus and let those who are waiting at a stop know when their bus will arrive.

SmartBus also will give on-board alerts about upcoming stops, making it easier for riders to know which stop they want.

That feature is due by early 2020, McCarthy said.

Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.
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