Getting around the island with San Juan Transit…meet Dan!
When Dan Ward started San Juan Transit in ’94, there was no Visitor’s Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce was in its infancy, people were just beginning to cater to tourists. Nineteen years later, Dan has built a successful business and watched the town change from inside out.
When I asked Dan about his favorite part of the job, his instantaneous reply was, “The people.” He loves to interact with passengers, telling them all about the island and watching the surprised looks on their faces as they realize it’s normal for bus drivers to be this friendly. Dan transports about 20,000 passengers per year, which has been a largely consistent number for most of his years in business.
Although the general number of passengers stay the same, Dan has fun watching the hometown trends change.
This year he’s gotten many passengers from Pennsylvania in particular, a big switch from last year’s popular homestate of California. In fact, 80% of his traffic came from outside Washington state before 2001, and it switched to being 80% in state traffic for the first few years afterwards.
Dan has been listening to both local and tourist impressions of Friday Harbor via back of the bus rants for the past 19 years, and it’s amazing how their impressions have changed from somewhat negative to quite positive. As a businessman and islander, he loves hearing the unabridged reactions to what our island offers and accounts of how locals perceive the visitors. Our town has really flourished in the past few years as new businesses have made Friday Harbor a choice destination that offers “lots more than just whales.”
Just this year Dan expanded to include a route on Orcas Island with the help of a grant from Scenic Byways. Besides that limited funding, Dan does not receive any subsidies from the state, making him the only bus company in Washington to do so. He hasn’t raised rates in 12 years; something extremely difficult when you consider the price of gas nowadays compared to over a decade ago.
One thing a lot of people don’t know about San Juan Transit? They are bike and dog friendly! So next time you see a tired out biker with a dog that doesn’t have the energy to pedal back into town, tell them not to worry, San Juan Transit will happily accommodate them. For information about schedules, click here!