Central Transit looks to improve their free service


The Central Transit buses have been offering a free service to CWU students for the last nine years. The service became free to all Ellensburg residents in 2016. The transit system has been steadily growing in popularity ever since.

Nick Jahnke, Senior News Reporter

City of Ellensburg’s Central Transit is taking steps to get the word out about the free transport service and improve it to better serve the community. Central Transit offers free rides throughout Ellensburg as well as stops that connect with other transit services like Greyhound buses.

Communications and Government Relations Manager Margaret Reich said that those who work on Central Transit have already been making efforts to push their message on Central Transit’s Facebook page and the city’s Facebook and twitter accounts, in addition to tabling at CWU and speaking to freshmen at orientation. She also said that they have met with the Provost’s office to talk about getting CWU faculty to educate students about Central Transit.

“There’s been some confusion because of the name, that it’s just a student based service, and it’s not. It’s intended to be fare-free for all people,” Reich said.

Assistant City Engineer Josh Mattson said that Central Transit is gathering feedback that they will use to improve Central Transit’s routes. Mattson said Central Transit currently operates on four routes, and that they have devised two scenarios for potential route changes.

“We are doing a route analysis right now to look at what we have, how it serves the community and what we can do to improve the service,” Mattson said.

Mattson said the first scenario would keep the same four routes, but the frequency with which busses make their routes would increase from once an hour to twice (but only on two of the most taken routes). This scenario would also include bus rides to and from Fred Meyer (from CWU) every 15 minutes.

The second scenario Mattson described would redesign the routes. The buses would operate on six routes instead of four and the frequency of bus rides would increase to once every 30 minutes on many of those routes. According to Mattson, these changes would also shorten the time it takes to get downtown from campus from 23 minutes to 11 minutes.

Mattson said that these scenarios are not set in stone. He said Central Transit staff will use data collected from an online survey to see what people like and dislike about them. This survey is available now on Central Transit’s webpage on the City of Ellensburg’s website, ci.ellensburg.wa.us.

According to Central Transit’s webpage, the City of Ellensburg, ASCWU, HopeSource and the Washington State Department of Transportation worked together to plan, fund and operate a public transit service in Ellensburg in 2011.

According to Reich, the service was originally exclusive to students, intended to provide safe transit to and from downtown at late hours. She said this changed in 2016 when an initiative was passed to use sales tax revenue to fund the service. Reich said at that point they were able to expand and improve the program, making it free and available to everyone.

According to data provided by Mattson, the Central Transit’s rider base has steadily increased over the past five years. In 2014 it had an average of 4,500 riders each month. In 2018 this number has increased to 7,150 riders per month.