Ride Community Transit Sundays and holidays, pay a little more

Everett’s Donovan Keith works at Jiffy Lube in Lake Stevens. On Friday, he stood in the cold at Everett Station waiting to catch his Community Transit bus.

“I work some Sundays, and I have to get rides,” said Keith, 18.

Soon, he’ll be able to take a bus to his Sunday shifts. Keith is one of thousands of Community Transit riders glad that bus service they once had will soon be restored.

On Feb. 5, Community Transit’s board of directors approved a plan to bring back service on Sundays and six holidays. Sunday service will start June 7. It was eliminated in 2010 due to CT’s budget shortfall. The plan also adds some weekday and Saturday trips.

Along with the boost in service, the CT board gave passengers two bits of news. On July 1, adult fares will go up by 25 cents.

Those changes will start under new leadership. On Thursday, the agency’s board named Emmett Heath as chief executive officer of Community Transit. Heath was CT’s director of administration for a decade before taking over as acting CEO after last year’s retirement of Joyce Eleanor.

“We’re back in growth mode,” Heath said in a statement last week. “Today, we have every driver and every bus out on the road, yet we know there are still unmet needs in our community.”

This same week in 2010, I was out on Everett’s Evergreen Way talking with CT passengers about the loss of Sunday service. “It’s unfair to everybody. How are people going to get to work?” Everett’s Crystal Alcorn told me that day.

At the time, the agency was cutting Sunday service and changing other routes because of a big drop in sales tax revenue.

Martin Munguia, Community Transit’s spokesman, said Friday that recession-caused budget cuts since 2010 had decreased the agency’s bus service by 37 percent. “That’s pretty significant,” he said. “Sales tax was down and stayed down for five years. Now, sales tax is back. Based on that economic growth and sales tax revenue, we’re able to start adding service.”

Some service was restored more than a year ago. But Munguia said that even when Sunday trips begin again, the added service will be a fraction of what was cut. Service increases since 2014 represent about 22 percent of the 160,000 hours cut during the recession.

“Sunday service starting in June will be a little over half of the Sunday service we used to operate,” Munguia said. Still, he said, “it’s definitely good news” that buses will run again on Sundays. Riders agree.

“I’ll be able to go out on weekends,” Kristen Davenport said Friday. The 19-year-old from Lake Stevens was about to catch a bus to her job at a Bothell deli. “On Sundays, I’ll be able to go hang out with friends and do basic errands — grocery shopping.”

Everett’s Tony Winston, 58, commutes by bus to Seattle for his job with a tech company. “I like to play tennis at Green Lake. I like the arts. I probably make six to seven trips to Seattle a week,” he said. “A lot of people commute to churches. Tell them thank you,” Winston said of CT restoring Sunday service.

Greg Wennerberg, 51, lifted his bike off a CT bus Friday. He had just returned to Everett, where he lives, from a morning trip to Marysville. “I got rid of my car 10 years ago,” he said. “In order for transit to work, it’s got to work 365 days a year.”

Wennerberg’s wish list is more than Sunday service. He hopes for more late-night buses, more service to the Monroe fairgrounds, and better routes to the Future of Flight Aviation Center &Boeing Tour in Mukilteo and other popular destinations.

Community Transit has a wish list too. It includes legislation being debated in Olympia.

The bus agency is pushing for House Bill 1393. It would allow CT to seek voter approval of a higher sales tax to support transit service. Community Transit is now at nine-tenths of one percent sales taxing authority, a state maximum. Nine cents of a $10 purchase goes to CT, Munguia said Friday. The bill would allow for an additional three cents on a $10 purchase, to 12 cents — up to a three-tenths of one percent sales tax increase. The provision is also in the Senate’s transportation package, Munguia said.

“There’s great demand for service. With our service to King County and Seattle, every bus gets filled. People are standing from Lynnwood to Seattle every day,” he said.

More money could bring a second Swift bus line between Bothell and the Boeing-Paine Field area, more service to the University of Washington, more frequent trips countywide, and longer hours.

“It would require a public vote,” Munguia said. Depending on the Legislature and CT’s board, the tax increase could be on the ballot as soon as this November. “It’s not a done deal,” he said.

In the meantime, passengers can start planning Sunday outings.

“I’m a total bus rider, that’s how I get around,” said Debbie Girard, 58, of Everett. Her daughter lives in Gold Bar. Girard can’t wait for Sunday visits. “There’s going to be a big party when that happens,” she said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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