Everett Transit is looking to city’s future

Ken Housden

Many of us who were stuck in the traffic jams some weeks back have a new found appreciation for public transit. Thanks to Everett Transit, thousands of cars were taken off the road when gridlock nearly paralyzed us.

Anybody who ventured out onto our streets and highways will remember the foul-up for some time to come: The Steamboat Slough bridge on Highway 529 was closed for repairs. Drivers heading out of Everett to Marysville and points north suddenly found themselves stuck behind literally thousands of stranded motorists. Commutes that on a normal day might take 15 minutes dragged into hours-long marathons.

Virtually the entire downtown was clogged as people searched in vain for alternative routes. And Everett Transit was already taking action.

City council members agreed that passengers would ride free until the bridge was reopened. Routes were immediately altered so buses could avoid the worst of the traffic and reach their destinations in a more timely manner. We revised our schedules. Added buses. The result?

On key routes, ridership increased more than 50 percent compared to a year ago. Everett Transit helped remove more than 7,000 vehicles from the city’s streets at a time when reducing the number of cars and trucks was essential to getting traffic moving. Without bureaucratic fussing, paperwork and red tape, key decisions were made with the needs of people in mind, and we got the job done.

Our efforts were a success; a quick response that helped get people off the street and to their jobs, the grocery store, the senior center, their doctor or dentist. Everett Transit could act freely because it is locally controlled and accountable to its riders and its citizens.

But then that is what our system is all about. Thanks to Everett Transit’s size and scale, we’ve always been able to tailor service to better meet the immediate needs of local riders. It’s because we have clear lines of accountability: if our riders have concerns, they can turn to their elected mayor and the city council.

Hardly a transit system remains in Washington state with that kind of direct, local line of responsibility. It means that Everett Transit is working for local people and their elected officials.

We also run an efficient operation. Thanks to low operating costs and effective management of Everett Transit, Everett citizens pay a lower transit sales tax than their neighbors in Snohomish and King counties. Moreover, our fares have not been raised since 1995.

In the overall regional transportation scheme, this is very important to the taxpayers and citizens of Everett. There is also much that Everett Transit and Everett citizens can look forward to. First, we’d like to invite you to try Everett Transit — whether to commute to work, get to school, or run an errand. See what we already deliver. And in coming months, we’ll be seeking your comments on other changes.

In January, we will be part of the opening of the Everett Station, the multi-model center that will change the face of public transportation in our city.

When Everett Station opens, Everett Transit will be linking people to other regional and state transportation options, including Amtrak, Greyhound, Community Transit and, in the future, Sound Transit’s commuter rail system. In addition, Everett Transit will have direct links to another exciting asset of Everett Station — its college-level classes.

Everett Station will be home to a higher education consortium in which students will be able to take classes taught by faculty from the University of Washington, Washington State University and Western, Central and Eastern Washington universities. By taking students to and from Everett Station, Everett Transit will be able to offer a whole new service to riders.

It’s all part of our goal, to be efficient, responsive and nimble.

Much has changed since 1893, when Everett Transit ran the horse-drawn trolleys. But one thing hasn’t changed: We’re still here to serve the people of Everett. And, because we are a part of our city government, we’re accountable to you.

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