“If you decrease service and increase fares, people are just going to give up on the bus,” one rider told officials at a recent open house sponsored by Everett Transit. (Ian Terry / Herald file)

“If you decrease service and increase fares, people are just going to give up on the bus,” one rider told officials at a recent open house sponsored by Everett Transit. (Ian Terry / Herald file)

Strapped Everett Transit wants to double fares, cut routes

The agency says the changes would best serve the areas in the city where growth is occurring.

EVERETT — Facing a budget deficit, Everett Transit has proposed cutting bus service and doubling fares to balance the books.

“If we sustain the service we have now, we may incur more costs than revenue in the next three years,” said Sabina Popa, Everett Transit’s program manager.

At a recent open house hosted by the agency, she said Everett Transit weighed both service and sustainability in the proposed service cuts.

By 2020, costs could exceed revenue by $1.6 million if no changes are made, according to city spokeswoman Kari Goepfert. With the proposed recommendations, Everett Transit expects to take in $500,000 more than it spends by 2020.

The recommendation to cut bus service by 7 percent and increase fares didn’t sit well with riders who attended the open house.

“If you decrease service and increase fares, people are just going to give up on the bus,” Lynne Tracy said.

Tracy, 73, and her husband live in Everett and rely on public transportation.

If the fare increase is approved by the City Council, by July 2020 adult and paratransit fares would be $2. Youth riders would pay $1. And fares for seniors and people with disabilities would rise to 50 cents. The agency would increase fares by 25 cents every six months starting early next year until the new price is reached. A public hearing on the matter is set for the fall.

Over the next five years, the fare increase will pay for the $1.1 million update to the ORCA card network, Popa said.

Everett Transit’s current fares are some of the lowest in the region: The last fare hike was in 2013. Beginning in 2020, the agency plans to start offering a $1.50 low-income fare to those who qualify.

Sales tax accounts for nearly 80 percent of the agency’s revenues. Fares cover about 7 percent of operating costs, Popa said.

The agency also is suggesting changes to all 11 of its routes. The routes were revamped to remove segments with low ridership and to reduce total trip times.

Popa said the proposed network is meant to reduce costs, be more efficient and serve the areas in the city where growth is occurring.

“We try to cover areas where we see high density,” she said.

The agency recommends the elimination of one bus line — Route 17 — the only bus that directly serves Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

The number of riders on each route was a factor the agency considered when reorganizing the routes, Popa said. With about 260 passengers each day, Route 17 has some of the lowest ridership.

Tracy, the Everett resident, acknowledged the buses on that route are empty much of the time. When she took that bus to the open house at Everett Station, Tracy said she was one of three riders. Still, she said the route is vital.

“A city transit system that doesn’t go to the hospital doesn’t say very much for that city,” she said.

If the 17 is eliminated, the closest bus stop would be near Broadway and 14th Street, about a third of a mile from the hospital’s main entrance.

Everett Transit has been taking comments on the proposal. The comment period ends Monday.

Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; egiordano@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @lizzgior.

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