The buses are coming.
Starting Friday (July 1), the Methow Valley will have regular bus service between Twisp and Winthrop, as well as connecting routes to Okanogan and Pateros. TranGO (Transit for Greater Okanogan), the public transit system which has already been operating in the Okanogan Valley for a year, is extending its reach to the Methow — and thereby extending ours.
We can thank ourselves and other residents of Okanogan County who, to the surprise of many — including me — agreed in late 2014 to levy a new sales tax on themselves to create and operate a transit district. You may recall that one of the county commissioners publicly chastised the voters for getting it wrong, calling the “yes” vote a mistake.
Hardly. Residents saw a need and a means, and now the system is a reality. I saw one of the TranGO buses doing a training run on Monday in Twisp, the physical manifestation of what has long been only an implausible dream for valley residents. The 20-seat buses will soon become a familiar sight.
A dependable public transportation system will be valuable to many valley residents whose mobility is compromised in some way, either physically or by circumstances. Kelly Scalf, TranGO’s general manager, said experience in the Okanogan Valley indicates that many riders also take the bus out of choice rather than necessity. I have a feeling that many of us will take advantage of the service for one reason or another. Let’s say you drop your car off for service in Twisp, take the bus to work in Winthrop, and then bus back to pick up your car. Pretty nifty.
Look for information about the schedules on page B3 of this week’s Methow Valley News. You can also visit www.okanogantransit.com.
In the slow lane
Are you ready to slow down a bit in your vehicle to make Winthrop a safer place to drive, walk, bike, jog or exercise the dog?
The Town of Winthrop is preparing to ask the Washington State Department of Transportation to make the speed limit 25 miles per hour throughout the town. Now, a portion of state Highway 20 at the east end of Winthrop has a 35 mph speed limit.
The highway is notably and dangerously lacking adequate shoulders for any kind of non-vehicular use. Those of us who live here know that, and may compensate accordingly. Visitors are likely to be less aware, and not quite as cautious.
I don’t think it’s too much to ask that everyone just take it a little easier on Highway 20 as it meanders through Winthrop (as Riverside Avenue in the downtown area). The trip from town limit to town limit would take only about 20 seconds longer, according to the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce’s marketing director, Kristen Smith — who I am assuming actually timed it.
Speed limits don’t necessarily control speeding. Enforcement and what engineers call “traffic calmers” (speed bumps and such) can be effective, but not popular. I think a helpful strategy would be for all of us valley residents to set a good example and respect our towns by obeying the speed limits in Winthrop and Twisp (which has its own issues on Highway 20, including haphazard acknowledgment of crosswalks).
Maybe the TranGO buses will act as “calmers” to a certain extent. We may have to get used to them stopping in unexpected places when flagged down by transit riders. I’m OK with that too, as a reasonable tradeoff for a valuable service that may also keep a few vehicles off the roads.
Meanwhile, I’m going to practice going 25 mph all the way through Winthrop, as I already do in Twisp. Might as well get ready for it, even if the people behind me between East 20 Pizza and the KOA Campground haven’t quite adapted.