Community Transits Sunday bus cuts will strand some

  • Fri Jun 11th, 2010 11:25pm
  • News

By Bill Sheets Herald Writer

EVERETT — Some people who regularly ride the bus on Sundays will find other ways of getting around when Community Transit eliminates its service on that day beginning Sunday.

Others might not.

Some alternatives are available, such as vanpools and rides provided by churches and social service agencies, but they won’t work for everyone.

Community Transit is discontinuing its service on Sundays and holidays, along with cutting some early-morning and late-night trips, reducing commuter service and eliminating some neighborhood loops. Dial-A-Ride Transportation, or DART, for the elderly and disabled and Swift bus rapid transit service also are being eliminated on Sundays.

The transportation agency is making the moves to save $16 million in lost tax revenue over two years. The sales tax, lagging because of the recession, supplies the bulk of Community Transit’s funding.

It’s not known when the service might return. The Sunday and holiday service is being suspended because ridership is lower then than on weekdays and would be the first to be reinstated when funding becomes available, officials say.

“The Sunday and holiday service suspension helps us keep much of our core bus service intact the remaining six days of the week, when ridership is much higher,” said Joyce Eleanor, Community Transit’s chief executive officer.

In 2009, about 8,000 people regularly rode Community Transit buses on Sundays and 325 rode DART, compared to a total of 38,000 on weekdays and 12,300 on Saturdays, according to the agency.

Community Transit staff have been out on Sundays since early May letting riders know about the changes. They’ve spoken to about 6,000 people at 30 events at park-and-ride lots, officials said.

At first, nearly half the riders didn’t know about the service cuts, spokesman Martin Munguia said. As of last week, nearly all of them knew, he said.

Some options for Sunday riders are provided by churches, nonprofit groups and even private individuals. Many of the vans used by non-profit groups, however, aren’t equipped for wheelchairs or scooters.

Diane Cunningham of Lynnwood has spina bifida and uses a motorized wheelchair. For five years, she’s worked as an elevator operator for sporting events at Safeco Field and Qwest Field in Seattle.

She won’t lose her job, but she won’t be able to work on Sundays, she said.

“I’ve checked all my resources, and we’ve pretty much come up with nothing,” she said. “I like working Sundays, it gives me something to do.”

Danette Dixon, who lives near Mill Creek and attends Westgate Chapel in Edmonds, has been riding DART to church on Sundays. She is blind.

“I had reliable transportation. They were late at times, but they never did forget me,” she said.

She found a friend who will give her a ride by going a long ways out of the way.

“I feel sorry for those who are in a wheelchair,” Dixon said.

Some riders might find help by calling 211 to reach Volunteers of America, who will try to match them up with rides. The nationwide service group maintains an office in Everett and access to a network of groups that provide transportation.

Rides must be for work, church or medical appointments.

“This is not going to include shopping, recreation or anything of that sort,” said Bill Brackin, program director for Volunteers of America at the Everett office, which serves a five-county area. “The (number of) people that this will provide assistance to is actually quite limited.”

Brackin said he expects to get a lot of calls, but the office is small, with only seven employees for the entire five county area.

Volunteers of America receives information through a program called SnoTrac, operated by Senior Services of Snohomish County. The program aims to coordinate transportation provided by social service groups, schools, churches and Indian tribes as much as possible.

One program administered under SnoTrac is called Pay Your Pal, in which disabled people in rural areas can get rides from friends who in turn are reimbursed.

Community Transit is ponying up $50,000 for such trips for disabled people who live along corridors served by DART and who can’t find other rides. Trips must be to work, church or medical appointments.

“We’re looking at options to help those displaced riders and this is one of them,” said Darren Brugmann, transportation director for Senior Services of Snohomish County.

Early-morning weekday bus riders trying to get to work will be affected by Community Transit’s service cuts as well. Community Transit has encouraged them to form carpools and vanpools, though some say that won’t work for them.

“The people who start at 5 o’clock, they can’t ride the bus anymore. The people who start at 5:30, they can’t ride the bus anymore,” said David Clay of Snohomish, who works at the Boeing plant in Everett.

The two remaining early morning routes from east Snohomish County arrive at the Everett plant at 5:32 a.m. and 6:02 a.m., requiring riders who start at 6 or 6:30 a.m. to be nearly a half-hour early for work if they don’t want to be late, Clay said.

Munguia said each of those two buses makes 10 stops at the plant, with the latest one 10 minutes before the beginning of the shift.

Community Transit is looking for new state and federal funding to try to restore service, Munguia said. In the meantime, there are too many variables to say for sure when service could return, he said.

“We really don’t know,” Munguia said.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

Changes to Community Transit service

To make up $16 million over the next year-and-a-half, Community Transit raised fares 25 cents on all local routes beginning June 1 and is planning significant cuts in service effective Sunday.

Service is being eliminated on Sundays and holidays and reduced or eliminated on many routes during the week.

Bus riders are being advised to make their own transportation plans for Sundays, or call the Volunteers of American social services hotline at 211 for assistance. Everett Transit, King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit will continue to operate on Sundays.

Complete schedules for service after June 13 are available at www.communitytransit.org and in the new Bus Plus schedule book available on buses.