A small adjustment to an existing bus route could mean a huge leap in service for the city of Lacey.
That’s because the Intercity Transit Authority, the board that governs the Thurston County public transportation provider, has given its OK to IT staff to explore the implementation of some short-term recommendations, including bus service to a key business district in northeast Lacey.
That happened on March 7. Those recommendations were made to the authority by a consultant hired to evaluate how IT could improve some on-time performance issues. And that produced a side benefit for northeast Lacey, IT development director Eric Phillips said.
The result would extend bus route 62A so that it would travel down Willamette Drive and through Meridian Campus, an area of light industrial warehouses. It’s also close to new warehouse developments along Hogum Bay Road.
Northeast Lacey has always had IT options, such as vanpools or its dial-a-lift service, but has never been home to a dedicated bus line, largely due to the expense of expanding service.
The goal this time is to implement the short-term recommendations at no additional cost to IT.
“We’re trying to be revenue neutral,” said Ann Freeman-Manzanares, IT’s general manager.
As the area began to develop, it ignited the transit discussion, City Manager Scott Spence said. The issue became more acute after the Great Recession when home and warehouse construction resumed.
More people continue to be employed in northeast Lacey, he said.
Medline, a distributor of medical products, employs around 200. A business called Uline, which distributes industrial supplies, is expected to occupy 800,000 square feet of a 1 million square-foot warehouse and employ 150, Spence said.
A call center in the area, long thought to serve Verizon, has employed hundreds over the years. And yet there’s been no bus service.
However, it’s not a done deal just yet, IT’s general manager and development director both emphasized.
IT will first begin with the internal pieces of the puzzle, Phillips said. For example, making sure it has the right number of vehicles and identifying where bus stop changes will occur. After that, IT will embark on a public outreach process to solicit comment about the short-term recommendations.
That’s important, Phillips said, because in order to alter route 62A and remain on time through Lacey will require its route to change along Martin Way.
For the moment, though, the reaction to near-term bus service in northeast Lacey has been positive.
Lacey City Councilwoman Carolyn Cox, who serves on the IT authority, announced the steps IT was going to take to the council at a recent meeting.
Lacey City Councilman Michael Steadman, who lives in northeast Lacey, couldn’t help but notice that Cox, new to the council and IT, is already making things happen.
“Everybody is ecstatic about that small reality,” he said about bus service.