Doug Ramsay photo, dougramsayphoto.photoshelter.com
An Everett Transit bus leaves Everett Station. The transit agency will be releasing a plan to cut services later this month.
Service cuts coming to Everett Transit
EVERETT - On March 15, Everett Transit plans to release a list of ideas to reduce bus services and save money.
The agency is looking at several options to cut up to 15 percent including a 25-cent fare increase, paring down paratransit service, cutting back on late-night routes and cutting service times.
The agency will seek public comments beginning March 15 through April 15. It also will host eight public information meetings at different locations around Everett.
The 15-percent figure is the worst-case scenario, Everett Transit services manager George Baxter said last week.
“Right now we’re not sure we need to go that deep,” Baxter said.
The agency is primarily funded through sales taxes, and if a recent uptick in sales tax revenue continues, the cuts may not be as deep, he said.
The 25-cent fare increase would affect all riders to recoup the cost of rising gas prices, agency director Tom Hingson said last week. The increase would begin in January with the City Council’s approval. The agency has not raised fares since 2009. If fares go up, seniors would pay 25 cents, youths 75 cents and adults $1.
All other service changes would begin in August.
The agency has created three different service change options and is deciding which one to present to the public.
The agency plans to release route modifications and ideas for pruning service hours, Baxter said. Some of these changes include modifying routes to avoid the Broadway Bridge, which is set for replacement, Baxter said.
“There’s different ways of slicing the pie,” Baxter said.
The agency will have a second public process in mid-May before finalizing cuts, Baxter said.
The agency is looking at paring down paratransit service hours and eligibility. Everett Transit’s paratransit eligibility goes beyond what is required in the Americans with Disabilities Act and is the most liberal compared to comparable transit agencies of the same size.
Paratransit service is one of the most expensive services any transit agency provides and is used primarily by the disabled.
The agency could cut back on late hour service. The agency started offering late hour service to match Community Transit’s hours. Community Transit cut back its latest routes to a little before 11 p.m. as part of sweeping service changes that began last month. Community Transit’s Swift rapid bus service used to run after 12:30 a.m.
Transit officials would give few details about the ideas, but Hingson suggested last week that underperforming routes, such as Route 5 from Everett Station to the waterfront, could be vulnerable to time cuts.
Late night routes and holiday service is vulnerable because of lower-than-expected ridership numbers, Hingson said previously.
Everett Transit “is committed” to keeping a seven-day-a-week service schedule, Hingson said previously.
Everett Transit is cutting services because of drops in sales tax revenue, which is the agency’s core source of funding. At the same time Everett Transit also found it is providing services that riders aren’t using enough.
In 2008, the agency received $18 million in sales tax revenue, a record high. In 2012, it expects only $15 million.
Since the Great Recession began in 2008, Everett Transit has dipped into its reserves by millions of dollars to make up the gap. The agency can’t keep doing this, Hingson said previously.
The agency added services from 2004 onward to meet demand. From 2003 to 2010, Everett Transit had a 19 percent ridership increase despite more than doubling its service hours.
The “overservice” gap widened in 2009 when Community Transit’s Swift line began. Everett Transit enlarged its east-west route structure to connect people to the Swift line on Evergreen Way.
In 2010, the agency pruned its schedule of trips people weren’t using.
By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published March 7, 2012