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Study to look at Valley transportation needs
NORTH BEND Recent cuts to county-funded buses and vans
have created a challenge for those needing public transportation to move
about the Valley. But a proposal in the works could provide shuttle service to
residents who need it, making it easier for them to get to work or the local
Ruth Tolmasoff believes the need is there. The director of the Mount
Si Senior Center in North Bend has witnessed ridership increase on
the center's bus, and more and more people are calling to take
advantage of her facility's driver program, where volunteers transport seniors to
doctor's appointments, and then take them back home.
Those increases came after King County officials reduced the
number of Metro buses running in the Valley. The county's ACCESS
program, which provides rides to seniors and disabled residents, has been
scaled back, as well. Tolmasoff said those cuts were based on the relatively
low number of riders using public transportation here when compared to
other cities in the county, and continuing service is limited because portions of
the Upper Valley are designated as rural under the county's urban
"Transportation has always been an issue for the seniors in this
community," she said.
But it's not just seniors who have felt the effects of a shrinking
access to public transportation in the Upper Valley, she said. Low-income
families are dependent on the system, as are disabled residents who can't drive
on their own. Children are now more dependent on parents to chauffeur
them to social activities, athletic-team practice or to simply visit a friend.
Tolmasoff is working with officials from Hopelink and United Way
of King County to fund a transportation study to determine whether
Upper Valley residents would support a small shuttle service that would be
available to people of all ages. The three organizations created the Upper
Valley Transportation Project and are now looking for about 25 volunteers
to serve on a steering committee that would provide input on the study
and discuss its findings.
The steering committee would include members of citizens
groups, non-profit human-service providers, city employees, elected officials
and representatives from business and education. A meeting will be held
from 3-5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, for those wishing to join the steering
committee or learn more about the project.
Doug Whalen, East County community affairs manager for the
United Way of King County, said funding for the study would likely come in
the form of a Venture Funding Grant from the United Way's East
Whalen said through the venture funding grant, the East
Community Council tries to help communities solve problems locally through
what it calls "community building."
"If transportation is a barrier, we want to help that local community
access that barrier," he said.
He expects the council to vote on the funding in the coming
weeks, which would pave the way for starting the study.
"Once the award is ready, then Hopelink will begin the work to
coordinate the study," he said, adding it would take about two months to
Officials are pushing to finish the study by February or March of
2001, which would allow them to use the data to apply for a Washington
State Rural Mobility Grant. If approved by the state, the grant would fund
the shuttle service that would be run by Hopelink. The non-profit
organization, formerly known as Multi-Service Center of North and East King
County, helps hungry and homeless families, as well as seniors and disabled
residents. It created a similar shuttle service in Skykomish.
Tolmasoff said the steering committee would help decide "what
kind of hours [the shuttle service] would work, where it would need to run."
A second will be held in February or March to go over the study's findings.
Hopelink would then draft a grant proposal and submit it to the
state, which would determine whether to fund the proposal by next summer.
If approved, shuttle service would begin the following year. It would
primarily focus on North Bend and Snoqualmie, but it could extend to Fall City
and Preston if the need is evident.
"This could really provide us with better transportation at least
another option for transportation that we didn't have before," Tolmasoff said.
To attend the meeting on Dec. 19, or to receive more
information, call Ruth Tolmasoff at 888-3434.