Everett’s city-run bus service is heading to a crossroads.
Everett Transit’s financial challenges over the past few years are no secret. In just a handful of years spending could exceed revenue, and that becomes increasingly likely in a decade.
That’s because money for transit from sales tax, even as the percentage overall has increased on purchases in Everett, has been flat or declined. Part of the reason is that a funding mechanism built from a small portion of sales tax receipts is subject to market changes. Everett’s economy has been rocked by the loss of brick-and-mortar businesses and customer spending online. The city transit system relies on sales tax for about 80% of its revenue, which is needed to pay for its $30 million budget.
Everett launched its Rethink Transit outreach and planning process to see what people are willing to part with: more money to keep Everett Transit in city hands or through a merger with Community Transit, or transit service.
The three options presented by Rethink Zoning are:
Growth through a voter-approved sales tax lift from 0.6% to 0.9%. That’d be an increase from $0.06 to $0.09 on a $10 purchase
Growth through a merger with Community Transit. That’d be a bump from 0.6% to 1.2%, or up to $0.12 on a $10 purchase
Keep things as they are now, with no new revenue.
A short online survey about your transit use, support of transit and more ends July 13. It’s available at the Rethink Transit website https://rethinket.participate.online/.
City leaders are pondering a merger of Everett Transit with Community Transit. The public transport option for the rest of Snohomish County reaches remote cities such as Darrington and Sultan and drops people off as far south as downtown Seattle through a contract with Sound Transit.
People who consider themselves fiscally minded may see Everett Transit’s future as a simple choice: reduce bus service and keep their money. After all, what’s it mean to a person who hasn’t ridden in a public bus in years?
But doing so has consequences down the road and around the bend.
The obvious impact is that using a personal vehicle contributes to environmental degradation. Anyone want to volunteer to breathe in vehicle exhaust?
The Federal Transit Administration lists a host of environmental benefits of transit, including air quality improvements, greenhouse gas emission reduction and saving energy.
Beyond exacerbating climate change in our personal vehicles, losing transit means cutting off access for people who can’t afford a car or operate one.
Boosting transit doesn’t mean giving up your car. But it would mean giving up some money so others don’t need a sedan to get groceries, attend health appointments and see their friends.
Are we willing to ignore their needs?
Then there’s the issue of traffic. Roads increasingly are crowded around Puget Sound, and they’re projected to have more congestion in the decades ahead. In Everett alone, the city’s population of 111,000 is expected to rise by as much as another 66,000 over the next 20 years.
Granted, light rail is scheduled to reach Everett in that same span. Some of those people surely will take the train, but with options like buses, it can help reduce the number of cars jamming up your daily commute.
Alana Samuels wrote in The Atlantic about the pros and cons of privatizing transportation. Pros: convenience, efficiency. Cons: inequity, lost oversight.
Transit is often less convenient for people. It doesn’t conform to your exact schedule, it doesn’t drop you off at your doorstep, or maybe even your street, you share it with strangers (however, if your commute is regular enough and you feel like thawing the Seattle Freeze, you can chat them up and turn strangers into acquaintances), and now there’s increased worry about public health. That critique is reasonable.
But if the American social contract is the sacrifice of some comforts and conveniences for a greater good (environmental stewardship, accessibility, tranquility or at least less road rage), then giving up some more pennies for improved transit across the board makes sense.
Correction: The name of the program was incorrect. It was Rethink Transit.
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