The Snow Goose Transit bus at one of its stops outside of the Lincoln Hill Retirement Community on Thursday in Stanwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

The Snow Goose Transit bus at one of its stops outside of the Lincoln Hill Retirement Community on Thursday in Stanwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Catch a free bus between Camano, Stanwood, Smokey Point

Snow Goose Transit runs on weekdays, offering 15 stops and — for those with mobility issues — door-to-door service.

Fare-free rides aboard Snow Goose Transit are now available weekdays between Camano Island, Stanwood and Smokey Point.

The pilot project is a venture and operated out of the Lincoln Hill Retirement Community in Stanwood. It’s funded by a $630,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation, as well as financial support from the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians and the Floyd and Delores Jones Memorial Fund.

Passengers can board at one of 15 stops near community centers, health clinics, stores and transit hubs. They are as far west as the IGA grocery store at 370 NE Camano Dr. or as far east as the Smokey Point Transit Center at 3326 Smokey Point Dr.

No need to bring change or have a transit pass. It operates without fare collection.

“We’re not looking to make a profit, we’re just looking at ways to make the community better,” Snow Goose Transit manager John Bermani said. “The whole point to providing transportation is to give people the ability to go on any income.”

Ridership has been slow to gain momentum as the service lets people know how, when and where they can board.

Work on Snow Goose Transit started almost five years ago. Lincoln Hill Retirement Community director Julie Vess met with other nonprofit leaders to identify transportation “deficiencies” in the northwest Snohomish County area.

Those conversations led to a survey in 2020 about transportation patterns and interest in a community shuttle. It got 335 completed responses that showed 62% experienced transportation barriers, such as not knowing anyone to carpool with, preferring not to drive, and bus frequency and schedule.

The North Counties Transportation Coalition, a group of community and senior centers, tribes, transit agencies and municipal governments, then issued a report about the pilot in October 2020. One goal was to serve people with mobility limitations, which includes older residents, but anyone can ride.

Currently the service has one 13-passenger shuttle bus with a wheelchair accessible lift. It can fit two passengers in wheelchairs and nine in seats.

Snow Goose Transit, a fare-free service with 15 stops between Camano Island, Stanwood and Smokey Point, launched in January 2022. (Snow Goose Transit)

Snow Goose Transit, a fare-free service with 15 stops between Camano Island, Stanwood and Smokey Point, launched in January 2022. (Snow Goose Transit)

The bus operates on a “flex route” with scheduled stops and the ability to veer off for some door-to-door service within its area. Getting picked up and dropped off requires 48 hours notice so staff can evaluate if the addresses are safe for the bus to reach, Bermani said. Passengers can call 360-629-7403 ext. 101 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays to request door-to-door trips.

Bermani hopes to have a second vehicle in operation, and not soon enough. The first vehicle was out of service Jan. 11 and 12 because of necessary repairs to a spark coil plug. It was replaced by a van from the Lincoln Hill Retirement Community.

Community Transit is donating Snow Goose a Dial-A-Ride Transit vehicle from its paratransit fleet. The agency has been part of the North Counties Transportation Coalition and supported its grant application to WSDOT and the study.

“The Snow Goose pilot aligns well with Community Transit’s mission and services and we are excited to be involved in the project,” Community Transit spokesperson Monica Spain said in an email.

Snow Goose Transit also hopes to have a third, smaller vehicle smaller in service this year, Bermani said.

“It’s hard to go all the way down to south Camano Island,” he said. “Having a smaller vehicle could help pick people up and bring them to us.”

Service changes already are in review. People hoping to catch a ride should check the website at snowgoosetransit.org/map or call the office for the latest schedule.

Have a question? Call 425-339-3037 or email streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

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