Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mason Transit Authority honored as 2015’s best rural transportation system in America

By Jef Lucero

It’s been a banner year for Mason Transit Authority – and the year’s not even half-over yet.

Less than two months after Gov. Inslee and a host of national and state legislators helped MTA celebrate the grand opening (pdf 825 kb) of the nation’s first rural transit-community center, the agency was named the 2015 Rural Community Transportation System of the Year by the Community Transportation Association of America. It’s the first time CTAA has honored a transit agency in Washington state with one of its national system-of-the-year awards. Gov. Inslee was quick to offer his congratulations.

MTA staff pose with their national award for
Rural Community Transportation System of the Year.
The opening of the transit-community center is a noteworthy milestone not just for the communities of the county it serves, but for Washington’s entire network of public transportation providers. Originally a National Guard armory in downtown Shelton, the building was redesigned in a responsible, cost-effective manner by leveraging local and state commitments into much broader federal support and funding. And by repurposing the armory into the transit-community center, MTA created a new landmark that honors both Shelton’s civic history and its commitment to environmental sustainability.

Gov. Inslee chats with some youthful friends at the
grand opening of MTA’s transit-community center in April.
Not only can Mason County residents catch the bus at their new transit-community center, they can take a class, attend a meeting, or receive help through the county’s social-and-human-service programs, some of which are now housed in the former armory. Folks can even shoot some hoops or play some pickleball in the gym if they’re so inclined.

The innovative facility played a part in helping secure the award, to be sure, but it’s far from the lone reason MTA brought home the hardware. Before handing the award over to MTA General Manager Brad Patterson, CTAA executives lauded the agency for its after-school activities bus service, volunteer driver program for seniors, partnerships with local tribal governments and its vanpool service, which transports more than 150 workers daily to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyards in Bremerton.

The award is a special source of pride, both for MTA and the communities the agency serves, said Patterson. He’s also quick to point to MTA’s partnership with us,  saying the award has as much to do with the relationships they’ve built with their partners over the years as it does with anything else. According to Patterson, the people in our Public Transportation Division aren’t just helpful; they’re truly dedicated to MTA’s success.

An MTA bus makes a flag stop for two riders on its route along the Puget Sound.
While MTA’s award marks the first time one of our state’s transit agencies has been honored by CTAA, national awards aren’t unprecedented in Washington. Pierce Transit was named one the nation’s three most outstanding transit agencies by the American Public Transportation Association in 1984. Before the agency was rechristened King County Metro, Seattle Metro was honored with APTA’s Innovation Award in 1985, then claimed APTA’s Outstanding Public Transportation System award in 1991. Most recently, Intercity Transit won the same award (pdf 327 kb) in 2009.

We have been happy to partner with MTA on a number of projects over the past several years, and helps administer grant programs that sustain many of the services MTA provides to communities across Mason County.

Indeed, the first six months of 2015 have been good for the Mason Transit Authority. Here’s to six more!