Recently I met the people who run Island Transit in Whidbey Island, Wash., and rode their fare-free bus system. It’s a serious operation with 56 buses and 101 vans. Ridership tops a million a year. Its operating budget is $8,392,677 – none of it from fares, all from a 0.6 percent sales tax collected in Island County.
Despite the pressure to conform, the pressure to make users pay and the pressure from conservative politicians at all levels, Island Transit has been fare-free from day one and is proudly so 20 years later. Not one Island Transit bus, shelter or van has advertising on it. All of Island Transit’s buses are bike rack equipped and wheelchair accessible. For folks with disabilities, Island Transit also offers a paratransit service with door-to-door service.