Since November 2011, KP School Bus Connects has been at the forefront of rural transportation innovation. Using school buses after they complete their regular routes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, residents have been catching rides from designated locations to get to Key Center and Purdy Park and Ride and home again.
The program has been a great success and the numbers of riders has grown, according to organizers. Now, thanks to a grant approved by the Washington Department of Transportation, the program will not only be maintained, it will also expand to Mondays.
“I am delighted with the way the program has expanded and the way we have been able to bring in new partners to provide transportation on the Key Peninsula,” said Marcia Harris, who coordinates the program for the KP Community Council.
The grant is for two years, with funding starting this July. For the first time, the school bus program was awarded federal dollars in addition to receiving money from state sources.
“The Washington State Department of Transportation loves this program,” said Jacque Mann from the Puget Sound Educational District. “It is rural, hugely beneficial and inexpensive. I think they’d like to see it expand to other communities.”
The grant, a collaboration with the Puget Sound Educational District, the KP Community Council and the Peninsula School District, was not a slam-dunk. With many programs competing for limited funds, it was a very competitive process. A total of about $2 million was available for grants, some from federal sources and some from the state.
The Puget Sound Regional Council (Snohomish, King, Pierce, and Kitsap counties) oversees the development of the budget for transportation and made its recommendations in April. King County had a top-rated proposal that would have taken the entire $2 million budget, and there were several smaller proposals, including the Key Peninsula grant. After deliberation, the Puget Sound Regional Council recommended full funding for four smaller projects and partial funding for the King County program.
Annie Bell, director of Transportation for the Peninsula School District, said she is excited about the grant renewal and expansion.
“We look forward to this project taking off so we can keep serving the people on the Key Peninsula,” she said.
During the school year, the buses operate according to schedule as long as school is open. There are no buses during the winter or spring breaks or on school holidays. The summer schedule is now available. The community council is working to expand the program with other partners.
For more information
A previous article in the KP News described the KP School Bus Connects program and its history. Read it here.