The Case for Transit-Oriented Food Pickup:
Increase Ridership to Increase Local Foods
Skagit Transit has positive reviews across the board for its quality of service, and that indicates the value its riders have for the services. This project aims to Increase local food markets as a strategy to increase Skagit Transit ridership by relying on Skagit Transit’s quality of service to facilitate the growth of local farm businesses. This projects main objectives are to:
1. Increase Skagit Transit ridership by making it easier for customers to shop for groceries
2. Expand food access points within transportation networks
3. Reduce fossil fuel emissions related to the transport of people and food
4. Celebrate agricultural pride in Skagit Valley
Large-scale farms are acquiring mid-sized farms, and small farms need to compete on a different playing field.
For public transportation:
Public transportation needs more ridership to continue to serve the needs of its customers. Access to locally-produced farm produce from smaller farms is very limited for those who cannot commute to a market or a farm.
Open an alternative “farmers market” aligned with Skagit Transit infrastructure. This will help local farmers access more customers, and it will improve Skagit Transit’s ridership experience.
Why Skagit Transit?
Skagit Transit is the public transportation authority in Skagit County. It connects to a transportation network that includes neighboring Snohomish and Whatcom Counties. Skagit Transit owns infrastructure that gathers and collects people at known places at known times. The bus schedule is important to know when and where people can be found for farmers to schedule their work to get to market on time.
The Skagit Transit’s “2018-2023 Strategic Plan” found the following:
● Shopping is the number one reason for using Skagit Transit
● 52% of surveyed people do not have a personal vehicle
● Van pools’ mileage is up >10% between 2016-2018
People are using Skagit Transit’s fixed-route service to shop because they often do not have cars to get to the store, and they are using the Vanpool service to commute farther distances for work. Both of these situations are strong indicators that Skagit Transit’s customers would benefit from bringing locally produced food closer to their transportation network. Skagit Transit customers would have more shopping options in closer proximity to each other, and vanpool customers would have food shopping markets available when they return from their commute.
Why local farmers?
Skagit County is a proud agricultural region, and its generous soils and climate offers an abundance of crops that can be produced. The USDA Census of Agriculture found that there were 1,041 farms in Skagit County. Large commodity growers and small organic farms are growing. From 2012 to 2017, the value of organic sales in Skagit County increased by 170% to $28.5 million. The Census found 441 new and beginning farmers. They often have little capital for land and equipment, and it is very difficult for new farmers. A new market to serve Skagit Transit’s customers will attract local farmers who can rapidly grow their businesses while acquiring experience and capital.
Additional Value of Orienting Local Food along Skagit Transit Routes
While the benefits for Skagit Transit customers and local farmers are expressed above, there is additional value packed into this project operation. Climate change is concerning, and local food is produced close to home, and it has low transportation requirements. Skagit Transit services move many people which reduces the amount of vehicles on the road. Both aspects reduce fossil fuel emissions that mitigates the effects of climate change. By aligning local food with transit infrastructure, this project will increase food access to fresh fruits and vegetables to the more than half of Skagit Transit’s riders who do not have a personal vehicle. This project can lower barriers for both Skagit Transit customers and local farmers. If it is done right, we will get more people on the bus to support local food. More people will use public transportation, with the added benefit of available, affordable, nutritious locally-produced food, and the smaller niche farmers will stand a crucial chance to stay in business.
To continue the conversation
Contact John Knox, co-owner of Holy Basil Farm, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (541) 243-3516. I hope that you see the value in this project and can help make this real.