In November 1995, four GTA buses began to roll along the streets and highways of Grant County. This was the beginning of a successful demonstration project for a public transportation system in Grant County. During the first month of service, buses traveled 16,337 miles, operated a total of 868 hours, and transported a total of 871 riders.
One year later, in November 1996, Grant County voters narrowly approved the establishment of an official Public Transportation Benefit Area (PTBA). A 2/10 of one percent sales tax was levied, which the state matches dollar for dollar with funds collected through motor vehicle excise taxes. That month of November, eight buses were operating, traveling a total of 22,589 miles per month, providing 1508 hours of service. Ridership was at 1,964. Soon after, new routes were added covering areas previously not served, and some existing routes were expanded from two or three days per week to five or six. Many additional drivers and dispatchers were hired to cover the additional hours of service. During July, buses operated for a total of 2,422 hours and covered 69,940 miles, while serving a record high 6,884 riders. Major schedule changes were implemented in September. During the month of October, 3,575 hours of service were provided, buses traveled 84,755 miles, and 5,951 riders were served.
The GTA Citizen’s Advisory Board provided the grass roots information necessary to operate buses when and where they were needed the most. This committee worked very hard to funnel information to GTA so that the transit system was able to maximize its benefit to residents and visitors of Grant County. As a result of their persistence 6,412 riders were transported in December 1997, for a total of 57,904 in 1997.
1998 proved to have an even stronger impact on the citizens of Grant County as Grant Transit Authority had over 132,000 riders The PTBA consisted of all of Grant County with the exception of Quincy, who decided to opt out of the vote in 1995. In November of 1998 GTA was put on the ballot in Quincy and the adjacent voting precincts and passed with ease. On January 4th, 1999 service began in Quincy. Grant Transit Authority started with the three routes that had, until January, gone around Quincy and rerouted them through Quincy. In March two additional routes began. These routes provide an opportunity for the citizens of Quincy to be able to travel within Grant County. Grant Transit Authority provides safe and economical transportation taking people to school and to work, to medical trips, recreation, and casual trips. The total ridership for 1999 came to 164,254.
In November of 1999, the citizens of Washington State voted in Initiative 695, which eliminated motor vehicle excise tax. Due to the elimination of taxes, Grant Transit Authority, along with all other Public Transportation Benefit Areas in Washington State, lost half of its income. Therefore, the number of hours had to be reduced dramatically. These reductions took place January 1, 2000. Along with the hour reduction in January 2000, routes were re-visited and transfers and connections made possible. Although Grant Transit Authority was forced to reduce service hours by 51%, ridership remained over 109,000 in the year 2000. Also, in 2000 GTA purchased 7 new Blue Bird coaches with the assistance of grants that had been received from WSDOT and FTA.
Operations for 2001 ran along the same lines as they did in 2000. Grant Transit Authority worked hard to provide service for people to get to school, work and medical trips as well as opportunities to shop.
Since 2001, GTA has experienced steady growth in ridership. In 2005, we transported 117,926 passengers a total of 691,487 miles, In 2010 we reached almost 200,000 riders with 195,508 people boarding GTA buses. In 2012, GTA requested a peer review, from WSDOT. A group of transit professionals came out to review our system and recommended that we proceed with plans to operate independently of People for People. In October 2013 GTA took over all fixed route transit and vanpool with People for People still contracting paratransit. We operated out of our hub in Moses Lake on Westover Blvd with an in house bus garage, maintenance, dispatch and customer service staff.
In August 2017, GTA opened the Multimodal Transit Center in downtown Moses Lake. This has been a great addition not only to our riders, but also for our drivers and staff. The Transit Center offers a place for passengers to wait out of the elements for the bus to arrive, with free wifi and restrooms. Customer Service Representatives are available for assistance, providing route information and pass sales.
Along with the Multimodal Transit Center opening, GTA implemented several route changes, expanding service to better serve the citizens of Grant County, and beyond. We were very fortunate to receive grant funding to enable us to begin service to Wenatchee and Ellensburg 5 days a week. This service is primarily focused to allow students to access higher education at Wenatchee Valley Community College and Central Washington University.