Route 200 bus remains free as extension stalls

February 15, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

City delays planned service to Issaquah Highlands, Talus

The long-established plan to expand free bus service to the Issaquah Highlands is on hold, after a financial backer pulled out of the public-private partnership behind Route 200 service.

In the meantime, the city and King County Metro Transit delayed a plan to charge for Route 200 bus service until the route expands in the future.

Route 200 had been scheduled to extend to the highlands and Talus in September 2011. The city and Metro Transit had planned to start collecting fares on Route 200 in the months ahead.

Instead, the line could be extended to the highlands and Talus in February 2013. Under the current arrangement, Route 200 buses circulate through downtown Issaquah and the business district.

“The tradeoff is you don’t get the expanded service,” Councilman Joshua Schaer said. “You’re not paying, but on the other hands, you’re not getting the routes that we said we’d give.”

Council Transportation Committee members discussed Route 200 service Feb. 11. The committee sent the measure to the full council for discussion on March 7.

The city, highlands developer Port Blakely Communities, the Talus Residential Association and the Timber Ridge at Talus retirement community joined in 2008 to fund the Route 200 service.

Port Blakely Communities President René Ancinas announced the decision to pull out of the agreement in a Jan. 28 letter to Mayor Ava Frisinger.

“Our major concerns with the revised transit strategy include the nature and scope of the proposed service, the cost of that service, the commencement timing of that service and the sustainability of the service once commenced,” the letter states.

The decision to pull out of the partnership left a funding gap for the city and the other parties.

“The economic recession, changed conditions, and diminished public and private revenues clearly drive the proposed changes,” the letter from Port Blakely states.

Schaer said city leaders understand the impact of the economic downturn on Port Blakely and other developers.

“It’s an unfortunate position that the city is being put in, but at the same time we understand where Port Blakely is coming from,” he said.

The extension to the highlands could also serve as a link for businesses in the neighborhood — if construction starts on long-planned retail offerings in the neighborhood in the meantime.

“And while we ultimately seek transit service for the highlands, we are not convinced that either the timing or the services offered by the revised transit proposal are in our mutual best interests,” the letter from Port Blakely continues.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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