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Everett Transit fares set to double

EVERETT — Everett Transit’s planned fare increases mean riding the city bus will cost $2 by July next year for the average rider, pending City Council approval.
Right now it’s a buck to ride.
If fares go up, seniors would pay 50 cents, youths would pay $1 and adults would pay $1.50 to ride Everett Transit come January, and in July there will be another 50-cent increase to the adult and senior fares.
In addition, Everett Transit also will reduce service this spring by clipping some lesser-used routes in trade for shortening wait times on other routes.
The City Council is scheduled to vote on the fare increases at its Wednesday, Sept. 26 meeting with a public hearing before the vote. The meeting will be at 12:30 p.m. as the council meets during the daytime on the fourth week of the month.
The agency says it’s forced to raise fares as one way to fight a funding crunch.
Everett Transit consistently has the region’s lowest fares, but the fares are comparable to other agencies its size. Community Transit is raising its adult fare by 25 cents to $2.50 beginning Oct. 1. Everett Transit last raised its fares in 2013 by a quarter, and the agency said that caused a 12 percent ridership decrease.
The agency this year is looking at a $2 million deficit in its operations budget that includes a $2.5 million transfer to its capital reserve fund, according to its 2018-2023 development plan. (Last year, the agency ran a $1 million net gain in operations but made no similar transfer.)
Everett Transit director Tom Hingson told the City Council last week the agency will be using fare increases to make up the difference to feed its capital costs — such as replacement buses and station amenities. For 2019 it’s planning a $2.3 million transfer intoits capital account and operations will run a nearly $900,000 deficit.
Meanwhile, it is planning to expand its park and ride lot and also needs to put $1.6 million down in incremental chunks toward the next-generation ORCA card system that could go live in 2020. The agency’s entry
into electric buses is supercharged by federal grants that bought the buses.
Everett Transit’s union says the agency can avoid trimming local service if the city backs out of a contract that brings Community Transit’s Swift buses into Everett.
Everett Transit pays a set portion of its sales tax revenue for the service, which this year amounted to $1.62 million. The Swift contract runs through 2022.
The payment is a sliver of the estimated $19.5 million that the six-tenths of one percent tax is anticipated to collect for 2018. Fares account for $1.3 million in revenue annually.
Everett Transit pays for Swift because the city is not in Community Transit’s taxing authority and service area. If it was, Community Transit would levy its own 1.2 percent sales tax.
The city has not approached Community Transit with the idea, but exiting from the Swift contract means the rapid transit buses that run on Highway 99 would terminate at the city limits at Airport Road. Any change wouldn’t alter Community Transit’s upcoming
second Swift line to Paine Field with stops along Airport Way, Community Transit spokesman Martin Munguia said.
Dropping the Swift contract was also one of the union’s suggestions in 2012 to preserve local service that ultimately was cut.
The recent revised schedule of fare changes is shorter than an earlier plan to add 25 cents to the fare price every six months, which would have led to a $2 fare in July 2020. The slower rollout with multiple increases was criticized as complex, Hingson said.
Last week, council members agreed with the fare increases. The agency said that about 80 percent of the riders it surveyed agreed with a $2 regular fare as well.



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