CT cuts take effect: 9 routes eliminated; more than 100 lose jobs

EVERETT — Holly Magnuson on Tuesday will still be able to take the bus from Mukilteo to her classes at Edmonds Community College.

It will just take longer.

The bus she rides, Community Transit’s Route 190, is being eliminated as part of another round of cuts by Snohomish County’s largest public transportation provider.

“It’s horrible,” she said.

Magnuson, of Freeland, can still take other buses but will have to transfer and walk more than half a mile to the college. She’ll also have to wait longer for the bus from the ferry dock than for the 190 — altogether, it would make her 20 minutes late for class. If she takes an earlier boat, it would add half an hour to her trip.

Magnuson and many other bus riders will be faced with similar dilemmas. The cuts take effect Monday. Community Transit won’t run a holiday schedule on Presidents Day but rather a regular schedule with the reductions figured in. Many commuters won’t see the effect until Tuesday.

The 190 route is one of nine that Community Transit is eliminating. These cuts, along with reductions in service on all the other routes, will take away 20 percent of the agency’s service.

This comes on the heels of a large cut in June 2010 and a smaller slice last year, for a 37 percent total reduction in bus service in two years.

Sales tax revenues, the agency’s primary funding source, have dropped from $76.6 million in 2007 to $62.7 million in 2011, according to spokesman Martin Munguia. Only modest recovery is forecast for the next few years.

“All businesses, public and private, have suffered as a result of the recession and those that remain are adjusting to a new economic reality,” Community Transit Chief Executive Officer Joyce Eleanor said.

More than 100 people at the agency will lose their jobs in this round of cuts. Add this to the roughly 100 who were laid off before, and Community Transit will have lost 29 percent of its workforce since 2010 — dropping from about 700 to below 500, Munguia said.

Most of the layoffs, about 75 percent, have come from the ranks of drivers and mechanics, with about 25 percent from administration. This is proportional to the percentages of those employees in the agency’s workforce, Munguia said.

The agency has cut $30 million in administrative expenses, including layoffs, since tax revenue began declining in 2008, he said.

Once this round of cuts takes effect, the agency will save about $27 million per year on the service end, Munguia said. Some of that money needs to go back into Community Transit’s capital fund for things such as bus repair, from which the agency borrowed to fill operations shortfalls from 2008 to 2010, Munguia said.

Community Transit officials are lobbying the state for the ability to draw funds from special car-tab fees that could be raised by counties. Even if the Legislature takes action this year, however, no service could be restored until February 2013 at the earliest, Munguia said.

Community Transit lost riders following the cuts in 2010 and expects to lose some this time around.

Kris Johnson, of Everett, takes an Everett Transit bus to Everett Station, rides the Sounder commuter train to Mukilteo and catches the 190 bus to work near Harbour Pointe.

“I’ll probably just start driving,” he said.

Munguia said Community Transit has heard a lot of complaints about the cancellation of the 190 route.

“It’s a pretty good route; we had ridership on that,” he said. Because there’s other service that’s covering most of that same area, we had to make a cut somewhere.”

Low ridership and alternatives for riders were factors in deciding which routes to cut, Munguia said.

There will be fewer trips in rural areas, during middays and evenings, and on Saturdays. Also, bus service will end between 10 and 11 p.m., about two hours earlier than it does now.

The agency is focusing its service hours on major corridors and peak hour travel, officials said. They said surveys show that 75 percent of Community Transit’s customers ride the bus on six major corridors (including I-5 to Seattle) and 70 percent of customers ride during the peak morning and evening commute hours.

Other routes being cut include the 221, from Lake Stevens to Quil Ceda Village; the 118, from Lynnwood to Aurora Village in Shoreline; the 121, from UW Bothell to Canyon Park, and commuter routes from Everett, Edmonds and Lynnwood to Seattle.

Agency officials are hoping to get some help from the Legislature. Senate Bill 6522 would allow cities and counties to raise car-tab fees of up to $40, or alternatively 1 percent of a vehicle’s value, for transportation projects.

Officials with CT are lobbying for an amendment that would allow counties to split that revenue with transit agencies and cities.

Cities and counties already have the authority to raise a flat car-tab fee of up to $20 per vehicle for transportation, but Community Transit does not have such authority.

Some other funds could be available through a proposed $10 million appropriation for transit agencies statewide, but it wouldn’t generate enough for Community Transit to add back much service, if any, Munguia said.

“What we’re really looking for is more substantial long-term funding,” he said.

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

Learn more

For more information about reductions in bus service at Community Transit, call 425-353-7433 or 800-562-1375 or go to www.communitytransit.org.

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