An Everett Transit bus drives along Hewitt Avenue in downtown Everett on Friday. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

An Everett Transit bus drives along Hewitt Avenue in downtown Everett on Friday. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

‘Bleeding red ink,’ Everett Transit headed for $1.6M deficit

Sales tax provides about 80 percent of the service’s revenue. And Everett’s retail sector has struggled.

EVERETT — The leaders of Everett Transit want to be prepared for a growing population and an increasingly urban downtown.

At the same time, the city’s bus service faces challenges in paying the bills in the next few years — something that’s come up during budget talks.

“Transit is bleeding red ink,” City Councilman Scott Murphy said at a recent public meeting.

The city’s long-term spending is outpacing revenue, creating a structural deficit in the general fund. That’s been a hot topic lately. Everett Transit isn’t part of the general fund, but it’s still seeing scrutiny.

When Mayor Cassie Franklin issued a directive last month, outlining her plans to tackle the budget, she said every city department would be asked to submit ideas for saving money, including trimming services.

The directive includes exploring “alternative funding or service delivery models” for several large departments, including Everett Transit, city spokesman Meghan Pembroke said Tuesday.

Everett Transit’s operating budget for this year is $24.5 million. If no changes are made, it could be running in the red by $1.6 million in 2020. The agency has used reserves to avoid shortfalls after the Great Recession, and it made cuts to save money in 2012, said Sabina Popa, who oversees service planning.

A route 7 Everett Transit bus drives up Hewitt Avenue in downtown Everett on Friday. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

A route 7 Everett Transit bus drives up Hewitt Avenue in downtown Everett on Friday. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

“We’re not looking very good in the next few years,” she said. “What we need to do is not just cut service hours but restructure the routes to be more efficient.”

The bus system is designed to be a public service, not to rake in cash, but it is supposed to be sustainable.

“We can only offer the services we can afford,” she said.

The agency has 156 employees. It runs 42 buses on 11 routes, in addition to paratransit for seniors and those with disabilities. The most popular route runs from Everett Community College to Everett Station, along Hewitt Avenue and then along Evergreen Way to Everett Mall. It sees 76,790 boardings a month.

Sales tax provides about 80 percent of Everett Transit’s revenues. That income is subject to economic fluctuation, and Everett’s retail sector has been struggling. At a City Council retreat in February, city treasurer Susy Haugen cited the vacancies at the Everett Mall, including the old Macy’s, as well as the unrealized commercial space for the Riverfront development.

Meanwhile, Everett Transit has drafted a 20-year plan, looking at short-term and long-term goals. The draft included two rounds of public feedback last year, and more than 1,000 people participated each time. Two more presentations are scheduled at meetings this month, and the City Council will be tasked with approving a final version of the plan in the spring. Any changes are unlikely to occur until 2019.

That includes potential fare increases for the first time since 2013. Fares bring in only about 7 percent of the agency’s revenue, though. Most of that money over the next five years would be absorbed by technology upgrades, said Lyle Ryan, the mayor’s chief of staff. That has to do with an overhaul of the regional ORCA network for bus passes.

Another option would be cutting bus hours, including Sundays and holidays. However, Everett Transit has recommended first considering its short-term recommendations for a more sustainable network, Popa said. Paratransit service also currently exceeds what’s required by law.

So far, the feedback from residents is they want an intensely local service, Popa said. They most value frequency: At the moment, some stops only get passed once an hour. That can make it hard to time a commute.

Everett Transit’s service routes might be changing in the years ahead. Today it has 11 routes. (Everett Transit)                                Everett Transit’s service routes may be changing in the years ahead. Today it has 11 routes. (Everett Transit)

Everett Transit’s service routes might be changing in the years ahead. Today it has 11 routes. (Everett Transit) Everett Transit’s service routes may be changing in the years ahead. Today it has 11 routes. (Everett Transit)

“In a network that connects more often, you don’t have to think about that schedule,” she said.

That request was followed closely by additional coverage areas, meaning wider-ranging buses and shorter walks to stops.

“They want high frequency and high coverage,” Popa said. “They want a lot of buses in all the neighborhoods that run frequently … There is a trade-off between frequency and coverage that transit always has to deal with.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; Twitter: @rikkiking.


Another period of public comment for Everett Transit’s long-range plan runs through March 30. A survey is available online, as well as a draft of the plan.

Presentations are set for public meetings at 9 a.m. Thursday at the public works building, 3200 Cedar St., and 4:30 p.m. March 26 before the Council of Neighborhoods, which meets on the eighth floor of City Hall.

More info: www.Everett, 425-257-8805.

Everett Transit by the numbers

For buses with fixed routes:

4 miles: average trip.

17 minutes: average wait during commute hours, 23 minutes otherwise.

33 buses: running during peak hours.

80 percent of rides: direct trips, without transfers.

6,500 trips taken by riders every week day.

1.9 million boardings in 2017.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Will Steffener
Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

News logo for use with stories about Mill Creek in Snohomish County, WA.
Police: Mill Creek man fatally stabbed wife amid financial woes

After quitting his job at Amazon, the man amassed about $50,000 in debt, triggering a discussion about finances, he told police.

Outside of the current Evergreen Recovery Centers' housing to treat opioid-dependent moms with their kids on Thursday, May 25, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$8M in behavioral health grants to benefit children, youth, families

Snohomish County awarded one-time federal funding to five projects that will reach at least 440 new people each year.

A PUD vehicle drives along Lovers Road under newly-erected power poles that will eventually connect Stanwood and Camano Island on Tuesday, May 30, 2023, in Stanwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
To keep Camano lights on, PUD builds a new power line

The new line establishes a second electrical connection to Camano Island, which will help maintain power in windstorms.

Highway 9 is set to be closed in both directions for a week as construction crews build a roundabout at the intersection with Vernon Road. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Weeklong closure coming to Highway 9 section in Lake Stevens

Travelers should expect delays or find another way from Friday to Thursday between Highway 204 and Lundeen Parkway.

Most Read