By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
EVERETT — The tough economic times that led to Community Transit cutting nearly 40 percent of its bus service over the past two years now apparently have spilled over to Everett Transit.
The city’s bus system has to cut 10 percent to 15 percent of its budget — roughly $1.5 million per year — because of declining revenue, Everett Transit director Tom Hingson said.
Some routes will likely be eliminated, combined with others, tweaked, or start later in the day and end earlier in the evening.
Service also could be eliminated on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Some small changes will be made to paratransit service for seniors and people with disabilities.
No layoffs are currently planned, but many drivers will have their hours cut, Hingson said.
As a senior citizen, Pauline Anderson of south Everett currently rides Everett Transit for free. Under the plan as proposed, seniors and disabled riders would pay 25 cents, youths 75 cents and most adults $1 — a 25-cent-per-ride increase across the board.
Anderson won’t be able to get to church by 10 a.m., as she does currently, if her 9 a.m. Sunday bus on route 9 is eliminated.
“I take the 9 at 9,” she said. “I really like the buses.”
A plan for cuts is scheduled to be released May 15, with a comment period to run from then through June 5. A public hearing is scheduled for June 6. The changes will take effect Aug. 26.
“We’ve tried to delay this as long as possible, hoping the numbers get a little better,” Hingson said.
Everett Transit operates on a sales tax of six-tenths of 1 cent per dollar collected in the city, along with fare-box revenue. It is a department within the city of Everett but gets no support from the city budget, Hingson said.
The agency has made some small reductions over the past couple of years. For example, a Sunday trip from Everett to Mukilteo was eliminated.
“We’ve reduced the level of service on different routes as they’ve shown to be less productive,” Hingson said.
The main method Everett Transit employed to avoid major cuts for two years longer than Community Transit, he said, was dipping into reserves.
A preliminary plan for the newer, deeper cuts was shown at a series of meetings over the past couple of months and the agency received about 200 comments. Some of the proposed cuts could change as a result of rider feedback, Hingson said.
Some likely won’t, though.
The agency proposes to eliminate routes with low ridership, such as route 27 between Murphy’s Corner near Mill Creek and the Everett Mall.
“We occasionally find that one person who consistently rides that trip,” Hingson said. “This is a painful process for everybody, I understand that.”
One of the more controversial proposals involves combining the 7 and 9 routes, which run from Everett Community College to south Everett along Evergreen Way.
Both routes are popular but are identical from north to south until reaching Fourth Avenue W. From there, route 7 goes to Everett Mall, route 9 to Airport Road.
Everett Transit’s proposal would eliminate route 9 and extend route 8 to duplicate route 9 south of Casino Road.
People will still be able to ride the bus to Airport Road, but if they board route 7 north of Casino Road, they’ll have to transfer to route 8 or to Community Transit’s Swift bus. Route 8, however, might not operate as late as the 9 does now.
There also would be fewer total buses along route 7, though they would be more evenly spaced, Hingson said.
Nick Hoover, 23, commutes by bus to work from central Everett to Airport Road. He lamented that paper transfers for those who pay cash on Everett buses have been eliminated.
Riders wishing to transfer either on Everett Transit or Community Transit must purchase an ORCA card (One Regional Card for All). To transfer to Swift, Hoover would pay another $1.75 for a short ride to Airport Road.
“That’s just not cool at all,” he said.
The ORCA card is available in any amount. The card is electronically read on buses or Swift stops and the amount is drawn down by the fare for each ride, with transfers allowed for two hours.
“It’s really the most cost-effective way and you don’t have to worry about cash,” Hingson said. The cards are available at Everett Station.
Comments on the plans could possibly trigger alterations, but the overall level of reduction will have to be met, Hingson said. “I’m going to live within my budget, regardless,” he said.
Read the plan
A preliminary plan for Everett Transit’s service changes may be seen at http://tinyurl.com/74z2d86. The agency’s phone number is 425-257-7777.
Bill Sheets: 4525-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.