Grays Harbor Transit goes fare-free through December 2022

Grays Harbor Transit will be fare-free throughout Grays Harbor County for more than one year beginning Aug. 1.

Hoping to increase ridership, the transit authority’s board voted this week to pause all fares for local routes until Dec. 31, 2022. Routes outside of the county will still be $2.

Grays Harbor Transit is a taxing authority that funds the bus service mostly through retail sales tax and, to a lesser extent, other revenues, such as rider fares, state and local grant funding, advertising, and other miscellaneous revenues.

The transit authority’s six-member board is made up of all three county commissioners and a rotation of mayors — currently mayors of Aberdeen, Ocean Shores and Elma.

At their meeting this week, the board discussed the idea of dropping the fee, which is currently $1 within the county. Elma Mayor Jim Sorenson noted that some surrounding agencies are also fare-free.

General Manager Ken Mehin said Intercity Transit began a five-year, zero-fare demonstration project to determine the feasibility in January 2020. All bus service and dial-a-lift services in Olympia are zero-fare.

However, their van-pool and community vans still require a fee, as do connections to other transit systems when a fee is required from the connecting system. Mason Transit Authority also offers fare-free bus service within its county.

The Grays Harbor Transit Authority Board discussed those who have purchased tickets or passes in advance, like the Coastal Community Action Program, which just purchased a batch of bus passes for county residents. Administrators plan to approach those agencies individually.