PORT ORCHARD — Riders on Rodney Rector’s Kitsap Transit No. 9 South Park route climbed aboard, then departed at stops in Port Orchard’s commercial retail district.
Nearing the lunch hour, transit riders first hopped on the bus at its main hub, the Port Orchard waterfront’s foot ferry dock. Winding along Bay Street, up Olney and onto Mile Hill Drive, Rector steered his vehicle past an empty stop at the Retsil Veterans Home and on to the Albertsons shopping center.
Climbing aboard at the foot ferry stop was Bryan (who asked us not to use his last name), a daily Kitsap Transit commuter from his job in Silverdale. A man of few words, Bryan concisely answered a question about why he enlisted the transit system to get to and from his workplace: “It’s convenient.”
Another commuter, sitting near the front, was in a chattier mood. Chuck Wilke, a Port Orchard resident of 20 years, said he takes the No. 9 route home from work three times a week when his wife, with whom he carpools most days, is unable to ride home at the same time.
Chuck is headed home early this day — he usually leaves his contract job as a “fire watch” at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at 3:30 p.m. Like fellow rider Bryan, Kitsap Transit is all about convenience for him.
“Yeah, the bus service is kind of nice,” Wilke said. “It’s convenient, right at the foot ferry from Bremerton.”
And, he reckons, it’s a more economical option at $1 for a senior trip than it is to drive. Retired from the shipyard, Wilke said he needed something to do during the day (“It drives me crazy sitting around the house all day,” he chuckled).
Chuck’s stop is also convenient — his home is two blocks from the Jackson and Lund bus stop.
After a quick wave, Wilke stepped off and headed for home. Quickly getting on board the No. 9 route was a handful of folks, en route to various endeavors.
The new riders added numbers sufficient for Sanjay Bhatt, Kitsap Transit’s public information officer, to announce an onboard promotion: envelopes containing gift cards of varying values would be handed out to each passenger.
The gift cards worth from $5 to $500 were provided and paid for by corporate sponsors Amazon, Microsoft, Costco and Starbucks, he said.
Lindsay Kuiphoff and Jeremiah Holcomb, Bhatt’s public information associates, gave riders the envelopes, with Bhatt asking them to wait until the bus reached its end destination at the foot ferry bus stop before opening.
The gift card campaign, Bhatt said earlier, “is a way of thanking our riders for supporting us.
“If you don’t regularly ride Kitsap Transit, give us a try.”
The campaign is part of a region-wide effort by Kitsap Transit and other transit agencies — King County Metro and Sound Transit, among others — to raise public transportation’s visibility in this traffic-clogged region and offer it as a viable commuter option.
Bedecked in “Ride Transit” t-shirts, Bhatt and his two associates said commuters can visit a website, ridetransitmonth.org, which invites readers to sign up for information and prizes.
Another organization, Commute Seattle (commuteseattle.com), is an alliance of downtown Seattle businesses and city government officials whose goal is to encourage a “transit-supportive business culture” in Seattle that it asserts is beneficial to employees and employers.
The winner is …
As the No. 9 bus rolled up to the transit-parking-only lane at the foot ferry dock entrance, Bhatt gave the signal for the transit riders to open their envelopes. For most of them, their reward was a gift certificate card with enough cash to buy a venti Starbucks drink.
But on this day, when rider Stephani Brazell of Port Orchard opened her envelope, she won the top prize — a $100 Amazon gift card. Perhaps it was a fitting reward since Brazell uses Kitsap Transit four or five times a week to run errands.