Intercity Transit is the bus service for Olympia, Lacey, and Tumwater, WA. They started a program about a year ago to allow everyone to ride the bus for free. If memory serves me correctly, they got a grant to increase ridership, which they’re using to cover the costs of this program. They also calculated that it would be less expensive to not charge anyone than the cost to upgrade their hardware and software to take the money and keep track of it. Taking money involved both the cost of printing and selling tickets and taking money aboard the bus. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intercity_Transit
I recently had a chance to check out this program. All the literature said that I just had to board the bus and ride. It wasn’t quite that simple. Still, it was easy enough to do. First, though, I had to find the number of the bus that I wanted to take. And I had to have a good idea when that bus ran and where I was going.
First off: Getting the bus number. I went to the website and used the map and schedule to help me figure out which bus I needed to take. I had various options from the transit center. I would also need a bus to take me to the transit center. That bus only ran every hour, and I could walk to the transit center faster. So I did.
Once I arrived at the Olympia Transit Center, I found my bus. I put on my mask (required). And I boarded the bus. My particular bus had just pulled in and they hadn’t had a chance to covid clean it yet. So I was told to get back off. After it was clean, I boarded again.
Soon, the bus was pulling into the Lacey Transit Center. I thought that I had a good idea where I was headed. But now I was confused. So, I asked the driver. We somehow worked it out that I had further to ride. Soon the bus took off again, and eventually, I got to my destination.
When I was done at my destination, I headed back. I took the bus again. This time, I had to wait in an outdoor shelter for the bus to come. That was pretty cold.
The next day, I took a Lyft. I didn’t have quite so long to wait for the bus. I had just missed the one near the place I was staying and it would be another hour. I could have walked to the transit station again, but my legs were tired from the walk yesterday. Lyft only took half as long. I supposed if you counted the amount of time the bus would have taken to get to the Olympia Transit station, Lyft would have only taken 1/3 as long. On the other hand, Lyft wasn’t free.
On the way back, I was going to use Lyft again, but the service said that there was a shortage of drivers in that area and I might not get a ride. So, I used Uber and got a ride that way.
There was a 10 to 15 minute wait for both Lyft and Uber. That’s compared to up to 30 minutes or maybe one hour wait for the bus. Intercity Transit does use the One Ride Away app so that you can see how long you have to wait at your particular stop. Also, several of the stops have schedules on the the walls that you can check for buses that stop there.
Making the bus free, may have increased the ridership. On the other hand covid and/or mask mandates may have decreased it. Neither bus I rode was full, but it wasn’t rush hour. And since I’d never ridden the bus before in Olympia, it was hard to make a comparison.
Would I use the bus again? Yes, if I have the time. The service was good. And it saved me $30. It also saved me the hassle of driving a car. I would have had to rent a car and fill it up when I was done. And that would have cost me much more than $30. Also, rental cars were in high demand right then, so I may not have been able to rent one anyway.
Another nice thing about Intercity Transit is that all the buses use biodiesel. And most of the buses are hybrid-electric. I can’t say the same thing for my Lyft or Uber rides, nor for my potential rental car.