Upon request from riders who needed earlier transportation to work, the Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) is adding earlier weekday trips on Route 75, with service from Birch Bay and Blaine to Bellingham, and six other routes beginning September 20.
Route 75 will offer earlier northbound service, starting from Bellingham station at 6:25 a.m., whereas now service beings southbound from Blaine Cost Cutter at 7:55 a.m., according to the route schedule on WTA’s website. WTA will also increase service on Saturdays to match the current weekday service, which is still less than before the pandemic.
WTA reduced service by 30 percent on March 30 due to low ridership after the start of the pandemic and to address shortages of staffing and safety supplies, according to an August 31 press release from WTA. Safety supplies mostly referred to cleaning supplies – used to sanitize buses every evening – but also masks and gloves, said Maureen McCarthy, community relations and marketing manager for WTA.
Since the reduction, ridership is up.
In March and April, McCarthy said ridership was down 80-85 percent. Now, ridership is only down by 30-40 percent from its pre-pandemic level and the availability of staff and supplies has also stabilized.
Riders also requested more service in a recent survey conducted by WTA, and WTA’s new changes will meet most of those requests.
When the changes go into effect, WTA will operate Monday through Saturday at what was a Saturday-level of service before the pandemic – all 27 routes, but less frequent and with later start times than on weekdays before the pandemic. On Sundays, WTA will operate 15 routes at the same level of service it did on Sundays before the pandemic.
Riders made plenty of requests in the survey for WTA to return to full service; however, those requests cannot be met under the current conditions, McCarthy said.
Other earlier weekday trips will be added to routes 14, 190, 232, and 331 in Bellingham, Route 512 Sudden Valley and Route 72X Kendall. WTA will also add one later trip on Route 80X to Mount Vernon.
For more information on bus route changes and services, visit ridewta.com/changes.