Commentary: Everett council must take control of transit

A recent decrease in local service, while serving outlying areas, raises concerns over planning.

By JT Dray

For The Herald

At the end of this month Everett Transit will rollout a new schedule.

Despite the glitzy promotional materials, this schedule represents a 7 percent decrease in service hours. The number of buses at peak times will decrease by 5 percent to 6 percent.

Fares will increase 100 percent — which is overdue — and together with the service cuts, we are told, impending insolvency will be averted.

Everett City Council member Scott Murphy was first to sound the alarm by questioning whether a transit system as small as Everett Transit could really afford to be a part of the second generation of the ORCA payment card system when the price of entry was set at $1.2 million.

As a long time ET rider, I at first assumed that the absence of such things as schedules and seats at bus stops was a matter of limited resources, but how then to explain routes that travelled outside the city’s boundaries to exotic destinations like Marysville, Mill Creek and Murphy’s Corners, and the Mukilteo Ferry? An exceptionally idiosyncratic system, I concluded, and not very rider friendly to boot!

The Everett City Council seemed to give up any pretense of setting policy for Everett Transit when it threw over the old Transportation sub-committee in favor of the committee of the whole. A 2016 charter review recommendation suggesting the council give consideration to the establishment of some sort of city committee to review the affairs of Everett Transit was never given a substantive hearing. A peer review report by the.American Public Transportation Association raised issues about the direction of the enterprise. This evoked no interest from the city council.

Presently, what began as as a wide-ranging 20-year plan (the first ever, with a $250,000 price tag) has devolved into an exercise in downsizing an already limited system.

In ten years we are told, ET will reach sustainability.

A modicum of oversight by the city’s elected officials needs to be introduced to this city run enterprise in order that ET avoids coming this close to the precipice again.

My fellow riders and I have our fingers crossed in hopes that a great local sytem will be in place to meet Sound Transit Link light rail when it arrives at Everett Station in 20 years. This is an exciting prospect for transit consumers, that will require the active engagement of city leaders if it is to come to fruition.

JT Dray lives in Mill Creek and is with Everett Transit Stakeholders.

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