Federal stimulus money -- our tax dollars -- is buying three new 20-passenger buses for the Grape Line service from Walla Walla to the Tri-Cities.
It's a sound use of public dollars.
The money will help, albeit in a relatively small way, to revive the economy by improving travel in rural Washington. If it were not for the Grape Line, which transports passengers from Walla Walla to Pasco and back, people who don't have cars or access to cars would be stuck.
"Federal stimulus funding is giving Travel Washington's intercity bus service a great boost to meet growing needs and demand," said Stephen Abernathy, the intercity bus program manager for the state Department of Transportation. "The program is linking travel hubs and providing travel options that commuters in Washington's rural areas have been lacking."
Grape Line, which operates in partnership with the DOT and Greyhound, provides connections in Pasco with Greyhound, Amtrak and Ben Franklin Transit. In Walla Walla, it also partners with Valley Transit, Milton-Freewater Bus and Columbia County Public Transportation. A one-way fare from Walla Walla to Pasco is $6.50.
Greyhound pulled out of Walla Walla several years ago, which left this city without ground transportation that connected to other cities. Before the Grape Line began, Walla Walla was the largest city in Washington without intercity bus service.
The lack of bus service impacted those who needed to get to the Tri-Cities for medical appointments and other services. The absence of bus service also impacted area social-service agencies that send clients for needed appointments and services in the Tri-Cities. The Washington State Penitentiary uses the Grape Line service to transport released inmates back to their communities.
The three Grape Line buses are funded in part by a $1.9 million grant through the Travel Washington Intercity Bus Program. Some of the money will also supply a fourth bus for Travel Washington's Apple Line service between Omak and Ellensburg. And next year five other buses will be added to the Travel Washington fleet.
This is good news for Washington's economy. But it is also good for Indiana, which is where the Turtle Top Inc. buses are manufactured.
Ultimately, this would seem to be money well spent. Intercity transportation is important, particularly in rural areas where transportation options can be limited.
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