IN THE BEGINNING
In the mid-1980’s, community leaders saw the need for a public transit system in Mason County to provide a safety net for seniors, people with disabilities, children and those without access to their own transportation. Two attempts, one in 1985 and another in 1988, to establish a Public Transportation Benefit Area (PTBA) in Mason County met with failure. Finally, on November 15, 1991, county voters approved the statute authorizing the establishment of Mason County Public Transportation Benefit Area. The proposition imposing a sales and use tax of two-tenths of one percent (0.2%) to fund public transportation was also passed. These actions created the first extensive bus service ever in the county to be operated by either a public or a private provider, and it would be provided as a prepaid fare (fares paid through sales & use taxes) service.
A commitment was made to provide bus service to the entire county beginning December 1, 1992, the first day of service. With only one incorporated city, this meant providing basic transportation service to a large geographic area with very few urban-level concentrations of population. The service began with five wheelchair accessible body-on-chassis type buses that provided service on a general public Dial-a-Ride (demand-response) system.
Mason Transit Authority (“‘MTA”) contracted with a private provider to run all day-to-day bus operations commencing the first day of service. The Mason Transit Authority business office was located in downtown Shelton. Operations, (including scheduling and dispatch), maintenance and drivers were housed in a rented facility in Sanderson Business Park on Sanderson Field in the Port of Shelton.
In May 1993, in response to the enthusiastic reception given to Mason County’s new bus service, MTA decided to move ahead to a mix of routed and Dial-A-Ride services. Today, this mix of services is still in effect, operating from 5:30 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. throughout the county. Customers are able to call to schedule rides from 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. or to meet a bus at any of the many established flag stops throughout the area.
In the aftermath of Initiative 695 and the elimination of Motor Vehicle Excise Tax that was available to transits for matching funds, the voters were asked to approve an additional four-tenths of one percent increase (0.4%) in 1999. The first attempt failed but success was had when County residents responded with an approval of the additional sales tax increase on September 18, 2001. This positive response officially raised the taxing base to six-tenths of one percent (0.6%) effective January 1, 2002. MTA then began to charge a fare, but only for routes going out-of-county.
In July 7 of 2004, the decision was announced to bring all contracted services “in-house” by January, 2005. A “Transition Team” was established to accomplish the necessary tasks and requirements associated with the move. Software was acquired for the newly established Human Resources/Payroll and Accounting functions. Mason Transit Authority’s employee base grew from seven full-time equivalent positions in administration to nearly 55 with the addition of schedulers/dispatchers, drivers and mechanics. Today, Mason Transit Authority has an employee base of 87.
MTA credits the positive and productive involvement from concerned citizens as a big factor in the success of the system. Everyone at MTA works hard to assure that the system is not only efficient, but also offers some level of service throughout the entire County. This was evident when MTA received the Rural Transit System of the Year award from Community Transit Association of America in 2015.
Additionally, MTA memorialized its 20 years of service to Mason County, with the film “Mason Transit Authority: Making History In Motion” was produced and can be viewed by clicking on the below video file.
In addition to routed service, the service design also includes:
- Deviated Fixed Route
- General Public Dial-A-Ride
- Dial-A-Ride LINK (zone) routes
- Worker/Driver Commuter Program
- Vanpool Commuter Program
- Community Van Program
- Volunteer Driver Program for Seniors
- Special Event Service
Deviated Fixed Route Service: This service includes fixed routes which are weekday and Saturday bus services going to the same locations at the same time and deviated route service. Deviated route service is for riders who experience difficulty getting to a local bus stop, as it allows limited distance deviation off the regular bus route.
Currently, ten established routes in Mason County offer local, regional and deviated route service including:
- Route 1 – Between Shelton and Belfair via Hwy 3/Grapeview Loop
- Route 2 – Between Shelton and Belfair via Hwy 106
- Route 3 – Between Belfair and Bremerton
- Route 4 – Belfair Loop – Lynch & Beards Cove, Belfair proper and NM High School
- Route 5 – Shelton South Loop – Turner, Wyandotte, Cascade and Fairmont Cove Apartments
- Route 6 – Between Shelton and Olympia
- Route 7 – Shelton North Loop – Railroad, Shelton Springs and Oak Park
- Route 8 – Shelton to Brinnon (Triton Cove State Park) for connections to Jefferson Transit
- Route 9 – Shelton Central Loop ( Capital Hill & Senior Center)
- Route 11 – Skokomish/Cushman (formally Skokomish Pilot run)
Dial-A-Ride (DAR) Service: MTA provides general public DAR for riders who experience difficulty using routed service and/or live out of routed service areas. Since there are no eligibility requirements, anyone can request DAR service. DAR is based on time and space availability. Customers use a call-in process to request rides.
Link Services: This Dial-A-Ride service is limited to specific geographic areas (Shorecrest/Timberlakes, Arcadia and Lake Limerick/Mason Lake) and may be limited to time of day or specific days of the week. This service can help riders make connections to regular routed service or take riders directly to their destination.
Worker/Driver Commuter Program: MTA provides commuter services to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard employees under the Worker/Driver Program. Four coaches driven by shipyard employees (who are also MTA employees), start their routes at various sites in the county and travel to the shipyard in Bremerton.
Vanpool Program: MTA’s vanpool program started with a demonstration project in 2003 with five used vans purchased from King County Metro. The project met with success and five more used vans were added within a year. A vanpool is a group of 5-12 commuters who ride to work together in a van provided by MTA. Vanpools generally follow a set schedule and route, but unlike a bus, these are set by the riders themselves. Vanpools must begin or end in Mason County. Fares vary based on travel distance, number of riders and, in some instances, are paid for by an employer’s commuter reduction program. Fares cover all gas, maintenance, insurance and even vehicle washing.
Community Van Program: MTA leases 12-passenger vans to local community organizations for uses that are designed to enhance economic development or for social service functions. Rates for leasing a van include a mileage and per day fee. MTA reserves the right to adjust or eliminate rates based upon decision of the Authority Board.
Volunteer Driver Program: MTA administers a Volunteer Driver program that is possible through partnership with the Lewis, Mason and Thurston County Area Agency on Aging with funding from the Older Americans Act as well as the Senior Citizens Act. People who are over the age of 60 and unable to use regular transit to reach medical appointments are provided essential transportation. Destinations include but are not limited to, dialysis centers, cancer treatment centers, specialists, out-of-area doctors and hospitals in Olympia, Bremerton, Tacoma and Seattle, as well as local destinations. Volunteer drivers donate their time and vehicle and are reimbursed at a per mile rate.
Special Event Services: MTA provided community service transportation for special public events within Mason County until 2008 when the final Federal Transit Administration rule for Charter Bus Regulations took effect. The final rule now limits Mason Transit Authority the ability to directly arrange special event transit services through local event organizers for a charge.
Skokomish/Cushman Pilot Service (Now Route 11): The Skokomish Tribal Nation was awarded federal funds under the Federal Transit Authority Tribal Transit Grant Program for a pilot public transit service enhancement project. Mason Transit Authority was chosen to operate the service on behalf of the Skokomish Tribe by providing vehicles and drivers. The route runs along Highway 101 between Shelton, Hoodsport and Lake Cushman areas. At its regular Board meeting on June 21, 2016, the MTA Board approved integrating the Skokomish Pilot Route Service into MTA’s fixed route service inventory and adding the cost of the operation to the 2017 Budget and beyond for continued and uninterrupted service to users in the Skokomish Reservation and Lake Cushman service areas.
The system has 78 vehicles, consisting of 17coaches (12 fixed route, 2 medium duty and 5 worker-driver), 20 body-on-chassis buses, 28 vans and 5 vehicles used for maintenance and business.
Ridership for MTA has grown from 60,000 trips during its first full year of operation in 1993 to 519,031 trips provided in 2015.
|Mode of Service||2010||2011||2012||2013||2014||2015||Percent +/-|
*The Board of Directors of Shelton School District voted 10 2015 to terminate its contract with MTA for the After School Activities service.
MTA is a vital link in the regional transportation system and makes connections with the following neighboring systems:
- Jefferson Transit in Jefferson County (connecting at the Brinnon Store on Hwy 101)
- Squaxin Island Transit in Mason County (connecting at the Kamilche Hub on Hwy 101 for the Grays Harbor connection)
- Kitsap Transit and Washington State Ferries in Kitsap County (connecting at the Bremerton Transportation Center)
- Intercity Transit in Thurston County (connection at the Olympia Transit Center). In addition, connections can be made at the Olympia Transit Center to Grays Harbor Transit, Pierce Transit, AMTRAK and Greyhound service.
Main Base: The MTA administrative office, base of operations and maintenance operations are located at 790 E. Johns Prairie Road in Shelton, Washington. A satellite operations base is located at 23780 NE State Hwy 3 in Belfair, Washington. MTA leases space in Belfair to park 2 coaches and 5 cutaway vans for a total of 7 vehicles used to provide services in the northern part of Mason County.
The first modification project for the Johns Prairie facility was completed in February, 2005. A paving project and installation of fencing and automated gates followed; additional site and facility improvement phases have included a fueling station. Modifications to the Administration facility to address ADA requirements brought all the Administration offices to the first floor in 2012.
Transit-Community Center: The Transit-Community Center (T-CC) vision began in 2006 with the surplus purchase of the old Armory in Shelton from the National Guard. In 2008, the State provided a $235,000 Community Project Appropriation for engineering/design study that determined the structure to be an excellent candidate for preservation and renovation. In the fall of 2011, Mason Transit Authority was awarded a $3.28 million Federal Transit Administration grant to complete the project; the grant required a 20% local match contribution. The State contributed an additional $800,000 to the project in 2013. A Ladders of Opportunity grant for $1.48 with a 20% match was awarded in 2014 to complete the project.
This is a mixed-use transit-oriented development project whose centralized location permits safe access to regional transit and community services. Renovation of the existing facility incorporated green building materials, numerous energy efficient features such as improved natural lighting, solar cell technology to offset energy use, improved building insulation and HVAC systems. The T-CC will also provide citizens with information about the advantages of using transit to reduce pollution and enhance the environment. Tenant lease revenue from public human service agencies, private sector participants, and event rentals at the facility are used to cover operating and maintenance expenses. The T-CC was awarded with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Award, for its resource efficiency, using less water and energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Once the PTBA was voted into existence, the Mason Transit Authority Board of Directors was formed. As decreed by the Revised Code of Washington, the Board was comprised of six elected officials: three County Commissioners, two City of Shelton Commissioners and the Mayor of Shelton. Regular meetings were conducted on the second Tuesday of each month.
On February 5, 2008 the composition of the board was changed through a Public Transportation Improvement Conference (“PTIC”) held by four elected officials, three representing Mason County and one representing the City of Shelton. The Board composition was changed to include:
- Three County Commissioners
- One City Commissioner
- One elected member each from the North Mason School District and Hood Canal School District and alternation representation from Mary M. Knight School District (serving in even years) and Southside School District (serving in odd years)
- One elected member of the Mason County Public Health District No. 2
- One elected member from Mason County Fire Protection District No. 3, 5 or 11 (starting with District No. 3 serving in 2008 then District No. 5 in 2009, followed by District No. 11 and continuing on a yearly rotation).
On November 13, 2013 the composition of the Board was changed through the PTIC. The Board composition was changed to include:
- Three (3) elected members representing Mason County Commissioners,
- One (1) elected member representing the City of Shelton Commissioners,
- One (1) elected member representing the Hood Canal School District,
- One (1) elected member representing the Shelton School District,
- One (1) elected member representing the Mary M. Knight School District or Southside School District serving alternating two year terms, starting with Mary M. Knight School District in 2014-2015,
- One (1) elected member representing the Grapeview School District or Pioneer School District serving alternating two-year terms, starting with Pioneer School District in 2014-2015,
- One (1) elected member representing the North Mason School District.
On September 20, 2016 the composition of the Board was modified pursuant to the PTBA Bylaws to include the following additional non-voting member of the Board:
One (1) ex officio non-voting labor union representative recommended by the labor organization representing the public transportation employees.
Regular monthly meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month.
One of the first actions conducted by the original Board of Directors was to form the Mason County Transit Advisory Board (MCTAB), a volunteer committee. MCTAB promotes and facilitates public involvement in the planning process by reviewing and making recommendations on Mason Transit Authority issues and projects. During 2015 and 2016 there has been little activity by MCTAB. However, the Board approved Resolution No. 2016-28, adopted an Advisory Board Principles Policy. Recruitment to rebuild the MCTAB board is anticipated to begin in 2017.