Community Transit Board suspends Sunday service, approves fare hikes

The Community Transit Board of Directors March 4 “reluctantly but unanimously” approved a plan to suspend Sunday and major holiday service, and to make other cuts to close a $5 million gap in the agency’s budget this year, according to an article on the CT website.

The board also approved a 25-cent fare increase for local bus and paratransit service to help increase revenue. The fare increase takes effect June 1. The service reductions will take effect June 13.

Community Transit, like transit agencies across the state, has lost a significant portion of its sales tax revenue due to the recession, the article said. Current revenues are 20 percent less than the agency received in 2007, despite having more service on the road. Community Transit cut $14 million in spending the past two years before considering service cuts.

“We did our best to avoid cutting service for two years, but we can no longer do that,” said Board Chair Dave Gossett, the chair of the Snohomish County Council. “We looked at every alternative to suspending Sunday and holiday service, but the other options were even more painful. As soon and funding is available, we will bring back these important services.”

A major part of the service reduction is suspending all Sunday and major holiday service. Starting June 13, bus and paratransit service will not operate on Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Memorial Day in addition to Sundays. Community Transit refers to these reductions as suspensions because the agency intends to restore this service as soon as financially possible. It is pursuing a variety of funding sources and options that could possibly provide revenue to restore the service.

The board did approve a $50,000 fund that could be used by community organizations to fill the gaps of missing Sunday service for those with the greatest need. Details of how that plan will work are being developed.

The service cuts include cuts to local and commuter bus service. The plan will eliminate Routes 200, 207, 404, 411, 441, 812, 851 and 870, each of which has alternative transit service. Other routes will be consolidated and duplications in service will be eliminated. Some commuter routes will be changed to start at park & ride lots, rather than starting on city streets and picking up passengers along the way to the park & ride.

To further reduce costs, some early morning and late night trips will be cut, including early morning trips to Boeing’s Everett plant.

The plan approved by the board is largely the one Community Transit took to the public in January and February. After public input and recommendations from the board of directors, further changes were made to the proposal regarding Routes 101, 105, 106, 120, 121, 227, 247,412, 414, 424 and 477, mostly restoring service.

Details of the approved plan can be found here.

The suspensions and cuts total about 80,000 hours, or about 15 percent of the service Community Transit provides. These changes will result savings of $5 million in 2010 and $11 million in 2011, which allows the agency to balance its budget.

‘In my 18 years as an elected official, this is the hardest vote I’ve ever had to take,’ said board member and Lynnwood City Council President Ted Hikel. I don’t know anyone on this board or this staff who likes this, but there are realities out there — there just isn’t any money.”

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