Community Transit seeking public comment on proposed 2021 budget

Photo courtesy Community Transit

Community Transit is accepting public comment on its proposed 2021 budget through Friday, Nov. 6.

The budget includes an increase of approximately 4,000 hours of new service in 2021, a more moderate expansion than in previous years, the agency said. It corresponds with the “Slow Recovery” economic projection described in the agency’s draft Transit Development Plan (TDP). It also follows a recession-related service reduction in 2020 as transit ridership and revenues fell due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposed budget will continue to prioritize the health and safety of riders, employees, and their families, the agency said in an announcement. The 2021 budget includes funding for nightly disinfecting of buses and thorough cleaning of the agency’s operating bases, as well as personal protective equipment for employees.

Providing access to Sound Transit’s Link light rail is also an agency priority so that Snohomish County communities have improved regional access to jobs, services and schools, the announcement said. In 2021, 800-series bus routes that currently serve the University District will be routed to Northgate to connect with Link light rail when the Northgate Link station opens. This change will shorten the commute times to the University District and Downtown Seattle.

Community Transit also said it recently refined its organizational Mission and Vision and Core Values to reflect the evolution of the service the agency provides.

“Our commitment to our Vision, Mission, Core Values, and Agency Priorities has not wavered and we remain focused on supporting the evolving transportation needs of our growing county,” said Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath. “We are listening to our customers, seeking collaborative solutions, and are deeply committed to adjusting and innovating to make travel easy and safe for all.” 

Community Transit’s proposed 2021 budget projects sales tax revenue may decline by up to 21.2%, roughly $32.7 million, from the adopted 2020 budget. The major factors affecting sales tax revenue are decreases in consumer and business spending in Snohomish County as a result of the pandemic. Operating expenditures will decrease 6.9% from the 2020 adopted Budget. Funding for additional expenditures will come from a combination of federal grants and reserve funds. The budget proposal assumes operating expenses of $159.2 million. Capital expense investments will total $96.2 million for new projects. The capital program will fund the modernization and expansion of base facilities to support future growth and develop solutions that will allow travelers to access Link light rail, which is scheduled to reach south Snohomish County in 2024.

Funding will go toward:

  • Equitable and safe access: The agency said it will increase focus on ensuring it is providing equitable access to Community Transit services. As part of the agency’s commitment to the communities it serves, the proposed 2021 budget funds expanded public engagement and customer research programs, including employing an on-board survey to support federal Title VI and system planning requirements, as well as implementing additional real-time “pulse” surveys to understand current barriers to transit for both riders and non-riders. The expanded public engagement program will aid in understanding impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as any other established barriers to transit access.Community Transit will continue to partner with local and national health authorities, regional transit partners, and the national transit industry to ensure the agency is meeting or exceeding public health guidance and collaborating on best practices.
  • Service and workforce: The 2021 budget funds 578,000 total hours of bus and paratransit service. The 2021 budget assumes that only a minimal number of coach operator trainees will be required, mainly to account for normal turnover. While a formal hiring freeze is not in effect, only unique positions that are necessary for operations will be filled.
  • Base expansion: The proposed budget will fund continued work on the base expansion project, including renovation of the agency’s Kasch Park Casino Road building. This expansion is necessary to address current capacity needs in the maintenance and operations facilities and to plan for future vehicle expansion when the Swift Orange Line opens in 2024. Design work will continue on other agency buildings as well as the beginning of construction on the Merrill Creek Operating Base Maintenance and Body Shops.
  • Replacement buses: The agency will purchase 21 new vehicles, all of which are replacement vehicles. Those include eight 60-foot replacement buses and 13 replacement DART (Dial-A-Ride Transportation) paratransit buses.
  • High capacity transit network: Planning and development of the Swift network continues with Orange Line design work scheduled to be completed first quarter of 2021 and construction beginning later in the year. In 2021, the agency will also begin design and engineering for Phase 1 of the Swift Blue Line expansion project, connecting the Blue Line to Link light rail at the Shoreline/185th Station in 2024.

The Community Transit Proposed 2021 Budget is available online at www.communitytransit.org/budget.

The public can submit comment through Friday, Nov. 6. Comments can be shared by calling 425- 353-7433 (RIDE) or sent to:

People can also offer their comments before the board of directors at a virtual public hearing at 3 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 5.

Visit www.communitytransit.org/meetings for details on how to participate in this virtual meeting. For more information or to inquire about special needs arrangements, call 425-353-7433. The board is scheduled to act on final budget proposal on Dec. 3.

 

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