Everett council asks for transit merger steering committee

Survey results show strong support for growth options, which prompted the City Council to act.

Everett is poised to inch closer toward a merger of its bus system with Community Transit.

After a final report about the city’s Rethink Transit outreach and survey on the future of Everett’s bus and paratransit service June 9, the Everett City Council asked staff to form a steering committee that will evaluate what consolidation could look like.

“I think we need to get that going yesterday,” Council President Brenda Stonecipher said.

Eventually, voters could decide on Everett Transit’s future, either through a sales tax increase to keep it in city hands or a merger with another agency, which would dissolve the city department.

Everett Transit Director Tom Hingson updated council members on survey results that showed “growth is desired and growth is needed.” The questionnaire, conducted online between March 8 and April 5, explained three options for the city’s transit network: stay as is and likely continue cutting service over time, grow through a sales tax increase to 0.9%, or grow through a merger (likely a larger sales tax increase to 1.2%).

“The survey results indicate support for improved transit in Everett,” Hingson said. “The results do not, however, show there is a clear sense of how people want to see that occur.”

Initially, Hingson proposed a timeline with the council seeking voter approval for one of two growth options in 2024. He recommended waiting until early next year after the City Council is installed because at least three members will be new, before forming a steering committee or making other decisions.

But Stonecipher said the majority of the current council has spent years hearing about and discussing Everett Transit’s future, which put it in the best position to act quickly.

For years, Everett Transit has operated with expenses outpacing revenue growth, which resulted in service and staff cuts, including 25% of employees last year during the pandemic.

That happened at the same time population steadily grew in Everett and across Snohomish County. The city is bracing for an estimated 60,000 new residents in the coming two decades, during which light rail is expected to arrive in Everett. Those changes are converging on urgent decision-making about housing and transportation, Councilmember Paul Roberts said.

An infusion of $8.8 million in recent federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act dollars, with more expected, gives city leaders time at a critical point to decide what to ask voters.

“We’ve been, you know, kind of humming along and wringing our hands hoping that something will change, and it’s not changing,” Stonecipher said. “Nothing is going to change between now and January when we seat a new council.”

Survey results showed a “dissatisfaction with the current state” of transit in Everett, Hingson said. They also conveyed some opposition to raising taxes and a preference to raise fares and concerns about the city losing control through a merger.

Everett Transit staff also noticed misconceptions about Community Transit, which is a public agency, and that neighborhood service would decrease if a merger happened.

“The sooner we make this decision, the better choices we can make regarding future capital projects such as base expansion, vehicle replacement and replacement of our service facilities to support an all-electric fleet,” Hingson said.

Community Transit has not invested in electric buses and instead uses diesel or hybrid vehicles. Everett Transit, however, has been replacing its old gas buses with new battery-electric coaches, including a nearly $9.3 million contract in March to buy nine more — doubling its electric fleet.

Everett Transit is anticipating a “modest” service increase this fall, and possibly another bump in March next year.

Have a question? Call 425-339-3037 or email streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

Talk to us

More in Local News

An emergency responder uses a line to navigate the steep slope along a Forest Service road where seven people were injured Saturday when a vehicle went off the road near the Boulder River trailhead west of Darrington. (Darrington Fire District)
7 hurt in crash off cliff west of Darrington; 1 airlfited

A vehicle crashed on a forest service road near Boulder River, leading to a major rescue operation.

The aftermath of a fire that damaged a unit at the Villas at Lakewood apartment complex in Marysville on Saturday. (Marysville Fire District)
2 families displaced by Marysville apartment fire

Nobody was injured when the fire broke out Saturday morning on 27th Avenue NE.

Mukilteo asks for input on housing density, and it’s complicated

Here’s a guide to what voters should know about the advisory ballot measure. What does it actually do?

Kevin Gallagher (from the Snohomish County Official Local Voters’ Pamphlet November 2, 2021 General Election)
Kevin Gallagher, a Marysville City Council candidate, dies

Kevin Gallagher, 52, died at home of natural causes. He was challenging incumbent Councilmember Tom King.

Clouds hover over the waters off Everett's western edge Monday morning. (Sue Misao / The Herald)
Get ready for La Niña and a soggy winter in Snohomish County

After a hot, dry summer, Washington feels like Washington again. Damp. Gray. Normal.

Downtown Coupeville on Whidbey Island, March 2021. (Harry Anderson)
Whidbey Island real estate prices continue to climb

Despite a slight lull in August and September, it continues to be a seller’s market on Whidbey.

Gold Bar man airlifted after trying to start fire with gas

The man suffered severe burns after he used gasoline to start a fire in his yard.

Another housing unit at Monroe prison targeted for closure

A corrections leader says 502 workers could lose their jobs if they aren’t vaccinated against COVID by Monday.

Mill Creek Police at the scene of a fatal car accident on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. (Mill Creek Police)
Police investigating Mill Creek collision where man died

A stretch of 35th Ave SE was expected to be closed for a few hours Friday night.

Most Read