Improving economy helps CT restore service cuts from 2010

Community Transit is adding bus trips and lengthening some routes in its second significant add-back of service since the massive cuts of 2010.

It amounts to only a fraction of the 37 percent service slash brought on by a plunge in revenue after the recession, but it’s a move in the right direction, officials said.

“We are so excited to be putting service back, even at such a modest level,” Community Transit CEO Joyce Eleanor said. “My hope is that the economy will continue to get better so we can add even more service in the near future.”

Improved sales-tax revenue, which funds nearly 70 percent of the bus agency’s operations, and grant funding are making possible the service additions scheduled to go into effect Sept. 30.

People who make purchases in CT’s service area contribute 9 cents of sales tax for every $10 in purchases to the bus agency. Sales tax revenue for CT dropped from $76.6 million in 2007 to $62.3 million in 2009, according to the agency’s website. For 2013, it’s projected to reach $65 million.

For people who commute to Seattle, another trip is being added in the morning from the Lynnwood park-and-ride lot. The morning buses now are full, according to CT.

Earlier this year, a $2.8 million federal grant enabled the agency to add 30 commuter trips per day from Snohomish County to the University of Washington and downtown Seattle.

Now, Community Transit is adding back some service on routes where cuts had damaged ridership.

For example, all trips on Route 435 between Mill Creek and Seattle will serve the Bothell-Everett Highway all the way north to 164th Street SE, and all trips will stop at the Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station.

With the service cuts, the north end of Route 435 was lopped off so it began and ended at the Bothell park-and-ride rather than in Mill Creek, as before.

The change required many commuters to drive to Bothell or catch another bus to get there. Many bus connections were missed and drivers were frustrated that parking was hard to find, according to CT spokesman Martin Munguia.

The stop in Mountlake Terrace will open up new transfer opportunities without adding significant trip time, he said.

Additions also are being made to Route 412, between Silver Firs and Seattle, and Route 280, between Lake Stevens and Granite Falls.

New bus schedules are available online at www.commtrans.org. Also, new Bus Plus schedule books are being distributed on buses. As a cost-saving measure, Community Transit is asking riders to take only one book or to use online schedules if possible. Reduced orders of the printed schedule book have saved the agency more than $100,000 a year.

Riders can use Community Transit’s Trip Planner (www.communitytransit.org/tripplanner) to start planning on the improved routes.

Gas more than $3 a gallon for 1,000 days

The national average price of gasoline has surpassed $3 per gallon last week for 1,000 consecutive days, the first time on record, according to AAA.

The current streak began Dec. 23, 2010 and reached 1,000 days Tuesday. AAA forecasts the national average will remain above $3 per gallon for at least another thousand days barring a major economic recession.

“Paying less than $3 per gallon for gasoline may be automotive history for most Americans, like using 8-track tapes or going to a drive-in movie,” said Bob Darbelnet, national president and CEO of AAA, in a statement.

In Washington state, gas prices have been above $3 per gallon since Oct. 7, 2010 —1,077 days in a row, according to AAA. The current state average is $3.75 per gallon, down 30 cents from a year ago. The national average is $3.52 per gallon. Consumers and the media can find up-to-the-day fuel price information at AAA’s online gas price website www.fuelgaugereport.aaa.com.

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