The buses are running but ridership is way down. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

The buses are running but ridership is way down. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Even in a pandemic, buses and transit keeps rolling

Millions in federal CARES Act funding is marked for Community and Everett transit agencies.

Even in a pandemic, buses and trains keep running.

They’re an important connection for people to get around for work, groceries and health care.

But steep ridership declines cut into the revenue for public transit agencies, including Community Transit and Everett Transit.

To keep them functioning, millions of dollars from the $2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was approved. Community Transit, which serves most cities in Snohomish County, is set to receive $39.17 million. Everett Transit is getting a little more than $3 million. Similar to the CARES stimulus checks millions of people received, the money isn’t required to be repaid to the U.S. Treasury.

“Basically, we are looking to use the federal support from CARES to offset revenue losses we expect from sales tax and fares,” Community Transit spokesperson Martin Munguia said in an email.

Beyond money, the employees were not immune to COVID-19. On March 26, driver Scott Ryan died while being treated for the disease. He was 41 and is survived by his wife and three children. As of April 28, 12 Community Transit employees had tested positive for the virus and 10 had recovered.

Community Transit’s federal CARES Act funding covers a big chunk of the agency’s operating budget of $169 million this year. It’ll go toward drivers’ salaries and benefits, maintenance on the fleet’s vehicles, employees’ leave related to reductions in service or because of being quarantined, and contracted commuter bus service.

“Using the funds for operations allows Community Transit to be able to access the funds immediately,” Munguia said. “This process does not require union negotiations, but all federal grant funding approvals do include a Department of Labor review.”

Everett Transit, which had a $24 million budget this year, plans on using its federal funding mostly for operations, Everett spokesperson Julio Cortes said in an email. Some of the money will buy personal protection equipment for employees.

Sales tax accounted for 72% of Community Transit’s operating revenue last year. Fares brought in 11%. Commerce has plummeted because of coronavirus-related public health closures, and the transit agency suspended fares March 20. Fares won’t be collected at least through the end of May.

Like other industries and people that lost the ability to bring in money, Community Transit was in a bind. Munguia said fare loss is estimated at $1.4 million through the first five weeks of the pandemic, but could total $12 million by year’s end.

Service was reduced about 35% from its normal schedule. Some trips, such as the route from Stanwood to Boeing, went several days without a rider in early April.

Everett, meanwhile, collected $250,000 less than projected for 2020 as of mid-April, Cortes said.

“We do not expect to achieve our $1.7 million budget for fares,” he said.

That loss puts an added strain to a transit agency already facing budget shortfalls.

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

Correction: Community Transit’s service reduction percentage was incorrect.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Superior Court Judge Eric Lucas is retiring at end of year, after -- years on the bench. The former Mariner High School student was its first ASB president, went to Harvard Law School, and as an undergrad majored in creative writing. Photographed at Snohomish County Courthouse on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020 in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Judge Eric Lucas, who broke barriers on bench, dies at 67

Lucas was the first Black judge elected to Snohomish County Superior Court.

Work related to improvements at the intersection of Highways 9 and 204 will close a road and reduce lanes in Lake Stevens through Oct. 1. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Road disruptions starting around Highway 9 in Lake Stevens

Lane reductions and closures are part of the work to improve the intersection at Highways 9 and 204.

Police: Mill Creek man, 63, accidentally shot by son

Detectives believe the dad was mistaken as an intruder. The injuries are not life threatening.

In 2023, the Department of Transportation will widen a two-mile stretch of Highway 531 from 43rd Avenue NE to 67th Avenue NE. (WSDOT)
Smokey Point road improvements won’t be done before industrial center

Amazon, NorthPoint are coming but the state will not begin widening Highway 531 until 2023.

Mary Johnson (Davis) (FBI)
FBI offers $10,000 reward for info on missing Tulalip woman

Mary Johnson, then 39, was supposed to get a ride from Fire Trail Road to a house near Oso on Nov. 25.

Bufeng Gao, owner of Qin Xi'an Noodles, receives a check from the Edmonds Chamber Foundation's Wish Fund outside of her restaurant that was burned in a fire on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021 in Edmonds, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
After arson burns Edmonds plaza, 14 businesses need help

Plum Tree Plaza — a cultural hub for Asian Americans — burned in a three-alarm fire early Sept. 11.

Rebecca Haskins (Everett Police Department) 20210913
Missing Everett teenager located

Rebecca Haskins had last been seen the morning of Sept. 4. Police reported her found Wednesday.

Sultan police looking for tips after rash of car prowls

On Sunday, the department responded to 20 reports at Sportsman Park and trailheads near Gold Bar.

Construction continues at the site of the former Kmart for 400 apartments. and is slated for completion in 2023. Photo on September 14, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Coming soon to Everett, 430 apartments at former Kmart site

DevCo, Inc. is building six-story apartments “for the workforce” on Evergreen Way, near Boeing Freeway.

Most Read