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Public transportation discussions surface at Grandview Council meeting

GRANDVIEW - With gas prices rising steadily, well over the $4 a gallon mark presently, Grandview City Council members are willing to discuss public transportation ideas.

The Grandview City Council heard a presentation concerning that topic at last night's meeting.

Yakima Valley Conference of Governments Executive Director J. Page Scott and Washington State Department of Transportation Intercity Bus and Transportation Specialist Tom Hanson were on hand to explain how the city of Grandview might work with other cities to provide public transportation to city residents.

Scott said a public transportation benefit area was established in the Yakima County region in the early 1990's with the goal of establishing county wide public transportation. A three-tenths of a percent increase in the sales tax would have funded the transportation system but the public defeated this tax hike in 1994.

The public transportation benefit area board last met in 1999, Scott said, adding there has been no activity in nine years.

What's changed?

Scott said there is a need for new or expanded transportation services.

In 2007 Yakama Tribal Transit services began. Scott said the service is very limited but the demand for it has been growing. In 2006 Selah voters approved a sales tax increase to fund transit service. Scott also mentioned the high cost of fuel as a reason to improve public transportation.

Hanson told the council he has heard a lot of informal discussion in communities and encouraged the Grandview council to formalize the discussion. He said there are four counties in Eastern Washington where public transportation discussions are going on.

The stage where Grandview is at now is just in the discussion area. Hanson suggested getting together with another community to form a public transportation improvement conference (PTIC) to research the extent to which interest in public transportation would be.

He added Grandview wouldn't have to start out with a bus system, but could start with something as small as a van pool or subsidized car pools.

"The good thing about PTICs is you can identify what is needed and what is wanted," Hanson said.

Grandview City Councilman Jesse Palacios said he saw on the news where Seattle's public transportation usage has jumped 27 percent. Hanson agreed, adding Chelan County's public transportation usage has increased 23 percent.

Councilwoman Joan Souders agreed there is a need for public transportation in Yakima County and Grandview. She said People for People, a public transportation agency in the Lower Valley, is only for low-income people or those on Medicaid.

Grandview Mayor Norm Childress said the timing of this is both good and bad.

"I'm a proponent of public transportation," he said.

He went on to say cities are experiencing tough times and people are tired of taxes, noting the city's recently proposed utility tax was soundly defeated.

But, both the mayor and council agreed that discussing the idea with other cities would not cost a dime and Childress said he would bring the topic up at the monthly Yakima Valley mayors meeting in Toppenish.

 

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