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Yakima Transit’s route nine bus drives away from the northbound Washington Avenue and South 40th Avenue stop Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, in Yakima, Wash. 

Yakima residents — regardless of whether they’re from the city’s east or west end — can get to the city’s new YMCA Aquatics Center for about $2 roundtrip.

The same can’t be said for arriving at the Sozo Sports Complex, where the nearest bus stop is about 2 miles away.

Yakima Transit Manager Alvie Maxey shared these tidbits with the Yakima City Council on Tuesday in response to a council request for more information about the city’s transit routes.

The city’s current transit fares one-way range from $0.50 for seniors and those with disabilities to $1.00 for adults. Children under the age of 6 ride for free. The city’s single-use bus transfer feature allows riders to transfer buses on the way to their destinations.

That adds up to a $2 round-trip bus ride for east-side residents who want to visit the aquatics center, Maxey said.

No routes go to the Sozo Sports Center, but city staff are looking into affordable options that could get visitors there for as little as $2 one-way, Maxey said.

Several council members asked city staff if they could look into a voucher system to cut costs even further for the city’s low-income families and their children at Tuesday’s meeting.

To the Aquatics Center

After seven years of planning and more than a year of construction, the $22 million YMCA and Yakima Rotary Aquatics Center opened in November.

The center is located near River Road and 40th Avenue.

Narrow roads at intersections prevent city buses from driving directly up to the center. But that will change with construction slated for 2020, with a roundabout planned for the intersection of North 34th Avenue and River Road that will allow direct access, Maxey said.

He added that several existing routes allow swimmers to be dropped off within walking distance. During peak service hours, six buses per hour — or 66 buses per day — drop off visitors near the intersection of North 40th Avenue and River Road.

East-side residents can catch two existing routes to the transit center, then take one of five routes to get to the aquatics center.

Bus rides from the Transit Center to the aquatics center take about 10 minutes. Rides from the aquatics center to the Transit Center take about 15 minutes, Maxey said.

Councilwoman Dulce Gutierrez asked about whether a voucher system could be used to lower costs for the city’s low-income families and their children. Maxey said staff had not yet looked into that possibility. The council unanimously voted to direct staff to report back with more information.

Gutierrez also asked staff whether a more direct route to the aquatics center could be developed that would not require young children to navigate a bus transfer on their way to swim. Maxey said the city had to stay within charter guidelines, which require that people be picked up at existing stops.

Gutierrez, Councilwoman Carmen Mendez and Mayor Kathy Coffey have finished their council terms, but said they hope future councils will continue the conversation.

To Sozo

The vision of the founders of the multi-million dollar Sozo Sports Complex, a nonprofit that opened in Yakima in 2016, was to become a community hub and part of a “No Child Left Inside” movement, according to the agency’s website.

No existing transit routes serve the facility.

Maxey said only the first phase of a road project along Spring Creek Road from West Washington Avenue to the complex is complete. The second phase will begin in spring and is scheduled to be completed in November, he said.

Yakima Transit is evaluating the possibility of “on-demand” transit, but that option would require a feasibility study and approval from the Federal Transit Administration and the Washington State Department of Transportation, Maxey said.

“We are working with both of those agencies to see if it’s possible,” he said.

Should an on-demand service be approved, Maxey said the route would likely start at the Transit Center and then go directly to the YMCA aquatics center or the sports complex, with a return trip to the transit center. Any on-demand transit likely would require reservations made at least a day in advance.

Maxey estimated that the service could be kept to a cost of about $2 per trip.

Reach Lex Talamo at ltalamo@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @LexTalamo.