Community Transit seeks broader service

A Community Transit proposal to bring its bus service to Cathcart, Clearview and Maltby is headed for the November ballot.

Community Transit wants to annex about 32 square miles east of Mill Creek along Highway 9. About 30,000 people live in the area that includes much of Cathcart, Clearview and Maltby.

The measure will need a majority to pass in the Nov. 4 election.

The area has enough people to support bus service and continues to grow, said Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall, chairman for the Community Transit Board of Directors. The board unanimously approved the ballot measure Thursday.

“We need to do this,” Kendall said. “We need to get this done.”

The board of directors also decided to increase bus fares starting on Oct. 1 to deal with rising fuel costs and lower sales tax revenue due to the slow economy.

Community Transit has conducted surveys that indicated support for bus service among residents, said Martin Munguia, a spokesman for the agency. If approved, people in the area are expected to see a sales tax hike of 0.9 percentage points, or 9 cents on a $10 taxable purchase.

Barry Bettinger, who owns Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream in Maltby, said he is eager to see bus service around his business.

“It helps employees to get to their businesses, and it helps with traffic congestion,” said Bettinger, of Edmonds.

If the annexation passes, Community Transit plans to develop specific bus service plans with residents, Munguia said. The agency may not be able to add new buses and routes until mid-2010 in the Maltby, Cathcart and Clearview area, but it could extend existing bus service and start van-pool service sooner.

“We do want to work with the community,” Munguia said.

Parts of the annexation area overlaps the Sound Transit district. The regional transit agency is sending a $17.9 billion package of mass transit projects to the November ballot. The package aims to improve bus, train and light rail services over the next 15 years in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties. If approved, the measure is expected to result in a new half-cent sales-tax hike per dollar spent, or 5 cents on a $10 purchase.

The last time Community Transit expanded was when several communities joined its service area in 1997. Voters in the Cathcart, Clearview and Maltby area rejected the vote back then.

The area has added more people, Community Transit officials said. And sky-high gas prices are piquing public interest in transit services.

“Our passenger count has increased, and it continues to increase,” Kendall said.

Maltby resident Greg Lund said he hasn’t heard about the agency’s annexation plan.

“I don’t see the need, but that’s just me,” Lund said.

Nonetheless, the proposed tax hike is small, and he is likely to support annexation, Lund said.

“I don’t think I will have a problem with that,” he said.

Meanwhile, riders on Community Transit buses are set to start paying more fares on Oct. 1.

Adult local fares will be $1.50 (up 25 cents). Adult commuter fares will be $3.50 (up 50 cents) for trips to and from south Snohomish County. Trips to and from north and east Snohomish County will cost an adult $4.50 (up 75 cents).

The fare hikes are needed to deal with soaring gas prices and low sales tax revenue, according to Community Transit.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or ynohara@heraldnet.com.

Correction, Aug. 13, 2008: The map accompanying this story originally showed incorrect boundaries of a proposed Community Transit annexation. The map has been corrected.

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