Central Transit overhauled

Nick Tucker, News Editor

The Central Transit bus system has received a complete overhaul to its routes and schedules. 

Looking at the new route map, commuters can immediately see that the old loops have been exchanged for a more linear system. According to Margaret Reich, communications and government relations officer at the City of Ellensburg, this was due to a combination of rider feedback and preexisting expansion plans which city officials hope will make the bus system more convenient and less confusing.

“We hope that riders will find that it is easier to get on a bus at a stop that’s closer to where they live, and get off the bus where they work or play or shop,” Reich said. “We hope that people will see that riding the bus is easy. Seventy percent of CWU students come from the west side. They know transit. We want to make it a seamless experience for them.”

A total of 34 bus stops have been added, 10 of which were in response to conversations city officials had with ASCWU President Jasmin Washington and VP of Legislative Affairs Zack Turner. According to Reich, Washington and Turner helped to identify stops that they thought were specifically important to students, like the ones at The Verge apartment complex and the CWU aviation building. 

Reich and other city planners also used survey information which was gathered in March. At least 45% of the responses came from CWU students which, according to Reich, led to many of the changes catering specifically to students. One of the biggest changes is the new schedule, which Reich said has been redesigned to correlate better with class and work schedules.

The only major point that Reich said hasn’t yet been addressed is the span of service. The buses currently run from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., which the survey indicated that riders would like extended. Once the new routes and schedules have been tested over the coming months, these hours may expand.

Central Transit has added one new bus to the existing fleet, and has hired new drivers as well. This was paid for by a 0.002% sales tax increase that voters approved of during the last election. This increase provides dedicated funding for Central Transit and is why the system can remain fare free. Central Transit is also paid for by a $3 university fee that CWU students pay, but this will not increase.

Ellensburg is growing fast, with one of the top 10 fastest-growing populations for a micro-region nationwide.

“We’re seeing not only an influx of people that are a part of the silver tsunami, people over 60 that want to retire here, but also an influx of people that have had it with the Puget Sound and the cost of living there,” Reich said. “We anticipate that the system is going to evolve over time.”

That evolution is happening quickly to meet the rising need. Reich said that greyhound-sized articulating buses are a long way off, but roughly every three years Central Transit is evaluated for changes and expansions. Until then, city officials like Reich hope that the recent changes will make the system more useful for students and residents alike, and that riders give feedback on things they would like to see happen differently.

Central Transit has a Facebook page where riders can find more information or be notified of route changes, holidays and service announcements.