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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

WTA changes to affect students starting in March

Western students can expect some changes to their routes on the Whatcom Transportation Authority starting in March.

Proposed WTA route changes and a service expansion were discussed at the Bellingham Public Library Tuesday, Oct. 4. WTA began work on the changes a year and half ago.

With the proposal, WTA is attempting to make routes to campus easier to understand. Some of the routes and some of the route numbers will change, but they are not reducing service to the campus overall.  

Rick Nicholson, the director of service development at WTA, discussed the route changes that will directly affect students going to campus.

“The biggest change [for Western students] is we’re trying to get more service to the fast growing number of students on Lincoln street, North by Northwest Apartments. We have modified route 190, it’s one of our main routes going through campus,” Nicholson said.

Currently, the 190 runs twice an hour and stops at Lincoln Creek. The proposal would result in the route running three times an hour, going all the way down Lincoln to Lakeway, turning around at Lakeway and coming back.

“If we weren’t doing that, they would either all have to walk to Lincoln Creek Park and Ride, which if it’s raining that probably wouldn’t work, or they would have to try and get on a little  shuttle that North by Northwest has, that only holds 15 students at a time,” Nicholson said.

The proposed changes also include new routes, as well as schedule changes.

After having to cut back during the financial crisis in 2010, this year will be the largest number of service hours in recent years, with a planned 143,127 hours of total service.

Another route that has changes being made to it is route 14.  The plan would have the route travel to the Greyhound and Amtrak station on the evenings and on Sundays. This change would allow students who go down to Seattle for the weekend and come back on Sunday night to be taken back to campus, Nicholson said.

The new plan will begin implementation in March because WTA did not want to change service to the university in the middle of winter quarter. Delaying the changes to spring will also allow for bus drivers to get used to the new routes during spring break when the campus has less students, Nicholson said.

“Students will have plenty of time to see what is coming, what the changes are and to figure out what the routes will be,” Nicholson said. “We’ll have all that information posted on our website weeks ahead of time.”

Francene Holquinn attended the meeting for her daughter, who is a Western student, to discuss how the proposed routes would affect her daughter’s trips to the campus.

“I know that students have a lot on their minds with studying and their classes, and to have to pay attention to taking different routes is just one more thing they have to worry about. I’m sure that WTA understands that and they can’t cater to every single person. I think they do a pretty good job of working things out,” Holquinn said.

Eva Cords, who works on campus, voiced her concern over the number of shuttles that go through campus, especially since she noticed the activity that was happening during summer session.

“This summer I noticed that a lot of students were getting on the bus on 32nd street so I went to a public meeting and I said that,” Cords said.

Nicholson said the WTA  notices of the amount of service Western needs, and that their coverage will remain the same.

The proposed plan, with all information about route changes and service expansion, can be found on the WTA website, ridewta.com.  

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