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Everett Transit’s Sunday bus services not being restored


Michael Whitney photo

Everett Transit buses at the "bus barn" parking lot seen Nov. 2. The electric buses were charging for their midday charging needs.



EVERETT — The city’s bus system doesn’t plan to bring back Sunday service anytime soon. Bus service on holidays is also being cut.
Sunday service stopped in May in a slew of multiple COVID-19 service cutbacks. Transit’s director Tom Hingson said Sundays won’t be restored when it adjusts the routes this March.
It isn’t cutting further, though. The route changes in March would “strategically return some service” in the city, Hingson said Oct. 28.
Having less service is how the agency can keep a sustainable budget, its leadership said.
A public hearing on future service changes is scheduled for the Dec. 9 City Council meeting. The agency estimated pre-COVID that half of its riders fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.
The agency wants opinions on transit service changes. A shortlink is: www.tinyurl.com/TransitSurvey2020
In 2020, the city bus system lost practically half of its ridership because of COVID, but it also got suckerpunched by the economy. Fares don’t keep Everett Transit afloat — two-thirds of its finances come from a city sales tax for transit that collects 6 cents per $10 spent locally on purchases.
Transit’s budget for 2021 is $2.5 million less than 2020, or down by 8 percent.
It shrunk in part because this year, in addition to reducing service levels, Everett Transit eliminated 13 bus driver positions and 11 paratransit positions. Hingson said Oct. 28 that these were largely through attrition, retirements and removing vacant driver positions.
Everett Transit has fought to be sustainable. In late 2019, a long-range projections forecast said the bus agency would end up financially upside-down in a deficit as soon as 2025 if it kept up its 2019 service levels, and cutting Sunday and holiday service was predicted as a needed sacrifice to help fix the budget.
Hingson said during an Oct. 21 presentation that “if we maintain a reduced level of service, we can meet our future capital obligations with some reserves should the economy not recover as soon as predicted. We are taking a very conservative approach to our plan for long-term sustainability.”
Fare increases were not mentioned in a long-range plan presentation Oct. 21. Fares last increased by $1 in 2019 to make it $2 for adults.
Everett Transit pays Community Transit $1.7 million to have Swift rapid transit bus service in Everett. Swift travels on major corridors with less stops than local bus services. No other city pays Community Transit for the privilege because all other cities are already taxed by Community Transit while Everett residents are not.
Its recent electric bus purchases are being covered with federal and state grant dollars. The agency aims to have half its fleet all-electric by 2026.
Could it merge?
The city is studying the viability of Everett Transit, and these study results are scheduled to be presented to the City Council in the coming weeks, Hingson said.
One option is merging into Community Transit’s countywide system. If it wanted to merge, voters would need to approve it. It would save Everett $2 million a year to do so, in large part by ceasing Everett’s payment for Swift service.
A second option is to ask voters to increase the city’s sales tax for transit to 9 cents for every $10 spent locally. It would give Everett Transit an approximately $4 to 6 million boost in revenue.
Community Transit’s sales tax, for comparison, is higher, at 12 cents of every $10 taxable purchase.

 

  

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