Community Transit and Everett Transit fares are scheduled to return July 1. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Community Transit and Everett Transit fares are scheduled to return July 1. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Bus fare is on its way back across Snohomish County

Community Transit and Everett Transit fares, suspended since March, are set to return July 1.

Public transit commuters across Snohomish County will need to break those Lincolns into Washingtons, shake out the change jar or fill up their ORCA cards starting next month.

Community Transit and Everett Transit fares, suspended since late March, are scheduled to return in full July 1.

Sound Transit resumed reduced-fare collection earlier this month for the Link light rail and Sounder trains. The agency, which operates some commuter buses into Seattle through a contract with Community Transit, also is set for the full $3.25 fare July 1.

Transit agencies lost millions of dollars in fare revenue over the past few months as ridership disappeared and fares were suspended as a matter of public health precautions.

Community Transit initially estimated a $1.4 million dip through the first five weeks of the pandemic. As it lingered and spread, causing further stay-home guidelines, fare revenue declined 73% compared to the period between March and mid-June last year.

Now, the total lost revenue nearing $4.2 million, Community Transit spokesperson Nashika Stanbro said in an email.

Since March, the agency collected $1.5 million, compared to the more than $5 million over the same period last year.

Community Transit ridership hit a low point in mid-April with a 67.5% decline in weekly boardings, Stanbro said. At the same time, the agency reduced service 25%.

Riders remained absent so far this month. Between June 7 and 13, all fixed-route boardings were down 62.4% compared to the days before coronavirus disrupted everything, according to figures from Community Transit. The number was higher on weekdays, at a 65.6% drop for an average of about 12,500 boardings daily. Before the pandemic hit, there were about 36,500.

Sunday bus service saw only a 23.1% decline in passengers.

Riders are asked to exit the bus through the rear doors, except for those who need to use the accessibility features. They’re also asked to wear a face covering while onboard, which is required for drivers.

Everett Transit, run by the city, collected $250,000 less than projected for the year as of mid-April. Fares were supposed to account for $1.7 million of the agency’s revenue budget, but city leaders don’t expect they’ll cover that chasm in the back half of 2020.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin reinstituted fares under the same ordinance that suspended them, which the city council approved March 25. In the mayor’s order, she declared “Since Snohomish County is now in reopening Phase Two, and since other transit agencies are beginning to charge fares again, Everett Transit should begin charging fares on July 1, 2020.”

“We’re of course making every effort possible to let our riders know about this change,” she said during the city council meeting June 17.

Everett Transit drivers are separated from passengers by a “health partition,” according to a news release. Riders are asked to wear face coverings on the bus and at stops, and should exit through the rear doors to avoid boarding passengers.

Community Transit and Everett Transit hope to scrape their budgets back into some semblance of balance as both agencies resume fare collection July 1. Both agencies received federal CARES Act funds to help cover the gap and pay employees.

There’s hope.

As I imagine many who have gone back to work or are commuting again saw, traffic is decidedly back. The northbound I-5 weekday afternoon car crawl between Everett and Marysville has returned. Plus, Community Transit had a 0.9% increase in riders during the second week of June.

As more people head for their bus stops, just make sure you have bus fare.

Have a question? Email streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated when Sound Transit resumed fares. It is set to collect fares across its system July 1, and resumed fares for Link light rail and Sounder trains earlier in June.

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