Six-Year Plan Forecasts 20 Percent Transit Service GrowthRebounding economy fuels increase, but service growth is less than half of that cut during recession
The good news is that a rebounding local economy in Snohomish County may give Community Transit the capacity to increase transit service by 20 percent over the next six years.
The bad news is that these service increases would total less than half the service hours that were cut during the recession, and fall far behind the demand for transit in the county.
That’s the news in Community Transit’s Draft Transit Development Plan (TDP) 2014-19, an annual update to the agency’s six-year transportation plan. The TDP documents revenue, service and capital program forecasts through 2019; specific plans for annual expenditures, service levels and projects undertaken are set by the Board of Directors each year in the agency’s budget.
The Draft TDP is available for review at www.communitytransit.org/futureplans. Public comment on the plan is being taken through April 10. People can submit comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (425) 353-RIDE (7433).
A public hearing on the Draft TDP will be held at the monthly Board of Directors meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday, April 3 at Community Transit headquarters, 7100 Hardeson Road in Everett (accessible by Everett Transit Route 8).
The Draft TDP outlines an increase of 7,500 service hours in 2014, and a significant increase of 25,000 service hours in 2015. In 2016-19, the plan forecasts regular service additions of about 7,000 service hours each year. Including the 13,000 hours that service was increased in 2013, largely through grant funding, the total service increase will be about 73,000 hours.
For comparison, the agency cut 160,000 service hours to eliminate $23 million from its budget during the recession. The cuts included elimination of 19 bus routes, Sunday and holiday service, early-morning and late-night service, and a reduction of bus trips mid-days, evenings and Saturdays.
Since last summer, Community Transit has been asking customers for their input on where they would like to see service added as funding becomes available. Next month, the agency will announce a proposal for a fall 2014 service increase. Later this year, the agency will announce a proposal for the larger service increase planned for June 2015.
Community Transit is inviting further customer input through an interactive card game called the Transit Values Exercise. In this game, participants gather in small groups to create a service plan that adds bus service to the transit system on a limited budget. The challenge is to get your tablemates to agree which service to add, for example, commuter service, late-night trips, Sunday service or a new route.
The public is encouraged to submit any comments for service increases to email@example.com or by calling (425) 353-RIDE (7433).
To prepare for the service increases, Community Transit is recruiting for new bus drivers. Information about employment opportunities is available at www.communitytransit.org/drive4us.
While the plan for service increases is good news, the total service increases forecast for 2013-19 is about 45 percent of the service hours cut during the recession. That means that customers should not expect the same level of service they enjoyed before the first cuts in 2010.
According to the Puget Sound Regional Council, steady population and job growth are expected in Snohomish County over the next decade, increasing the demand for transit service. Community Transit has been asking the state for additional funding for service the past several years, but no significant funding has been approved.
State legislators have commended Community Transit for making service cuts to bring expenses down during the recession, which has put the agency in a position to add service as the economy recovers. Still, legislation to let Community Transit ask its voters for more local transit funding has not been passed.
Community Transit relies on sales tax revenue and fares to fund service. The Draft TDP calls for the agency to raise fares every other year to help keep pace with inflation. The next fare increase is scheduled for 2015.
Community Transit is responsible for providing transportation options for Snohomish County residents, including bus and paratransit service, vanpool and ridesharing options. Call Community Transit at (425) 353-RIDE or (800) 562-1375 for bus information, or (888) 814-1300 for carpool or vanpool information, or go to www.communitytransit.org. You can also read our blog at www.communitytransit.blogspot.com, visit our Facebook page or see us on YouTube. Support local businesses and Community Transit when you Buy Local for Transit; read more at www.communitytransit.org/buylocal.