KT can help BI employers retain workers

Everyone knows Bainbridge Island employers have a recruitment and retention problem because employees can’t afford to live here.

Who commutes to Bainbridge Island? 90% of Safeway employees, 70% of city employees and 28% of BI School District employees.

With some workers driving up to 40 miles to work, Kitsap Transit held a commuter workshop June 22 at the BI Museum of Art for employers to spread the word about low-cost and free transit services for employees.

Sanjay Bhatt, KT marketing and public information director, said, “The majority of our essential workers are coming from off island,” including the workforce at pharmacies, healthcare facilities and child care centers.

BI Chamber of Commerce president Stefan Goldby said learning about the KT options “has been a revelation for us over the last few weeks. So many of these things we’re asking for kind of exist in one way or another.”

KT has services ranging from fixed-route bus routes, vanpools, the on-demand BI Ride service, and Access service for older adults and those with disabilities.

Vanpools could be a big help to Christine Cochrane, general manager of The Marshall Suites. She said 100% of her employees live off-island, and her company picks them up on Sundays and brings them to and from the workplace because no public transportation is available.

Bhatt encourages businesses like that to use vanpool services. “Employers who are trying to recruit and maintain a stable workforce should be looking at our vanpool program to help their employees lower their costs. “

KT has 49 vanpools, seven on BI. Washington State Ferries employees use five, some from as far away as Belfair and Port Orchard, to reach their jobs at the BI ferry terminal. The two other vanpools are operated by Sage Manufacturing, which makes fly-fishing equipment on Day Road. A vanpool service is also available for those who want to form one but may work for different companies.

BI residents who want to reduce congestion may use any of the eight fixed-route bus routes that fan out around the island, Monday through Friday. If you are far from the designated bus stop on the map, no problem. Just wave at the next bus and hop on.

“If you’re on Baker Hill, and there’s no bus stop, you are the stop,” Bhatt said. “You flag down the bus, and then you ride it. It’s going to go all the way back to the ferry terminal and Winslow Way.”

KT also offers an on-demand curb-to-curb service similar to Uber. BI Ride is an on-demand shared-ride service people can use with the Ride Pingo App or by calling 1-844-424-7433. It’s fast, and most pickups occur within 11 minutes. Riders can book one-way trips up to seven days in advance.

Access is a door-to-door service for older adults and disabled riders who can’t use fixed-route buses. Riders must apply and get approval before scheduling rides.

To make all that happen, KT continues to hire bus drivers and offers on-the-job training. For details go to kitsaptransit.com.