Community Transit CEO Joyce Eleanor made this video to explain directly to riders what the service cuts and fare increases are going to be. She focuses specifically on the reasoning behind “suspending” all Sunday and holiday service rather than spreading it over all days.  Unsurprisingly, Sunday is the weakest ridership day, and by eliminating almost all overhead on Sunday the system loses significantly fewer aggregate service hours than the alternatives.

The annual shortfall is about $11m.  $500,000 will be made up by the 25 cent DART and local service fare increase.   CT spokesman Tom Pearce says a rise to the commuter fare (already $3.50-$4.50 for adults) was not seriously considered because

Our commuter fares [are] among the highest in the region. Many riders choose to use Sound Transit service instead of ours because it is cheaper*. We decided that raising commuter fares again could price us out of the market and reduce ridership further.

The remainder of the shortfall is equivalent to 100,000 service hours out of CT’s total of 610,000 (including vanpools and paratransit).  This would amount to a cut in bus service of well over 17%.  However, the equivalent of 20,000 hours will be saved by shutting down all support operations on Sunday.  Therfore, 80,000 hours of actual bus service is going away, of which 28,000 hours are Sunday and Holiday “suspensions.”  Those suspensions will be restored as soon as the revenue situation allows, although Pearce declined to speculate on when that might occur. The other 52,000 hours are deep weekday and Saturday cuts that are unlikely to be restored for the forseeable future.

Community Transit essentially has no additional revenue options, although they continue to scrounge for grants.  They levy the maximum 0.9% sales tax, and the property tax authority that King County recently exploited derives from a statute that specifically applies only to King County.

It’s worth pointing out that CT’s actual cuts are proportional to the 20% armageddon that threatened King County last year before Kurt Triplett cobbled together a plan to minimize them.

Part 1 of this video, which sets up the general revenue situation and will be familiar to readers of this blog, is below the jump.

H/T: “Community Transit Operator”

*All Sound Transit bus trips leaving Snohomish County cost $2.50 for adults.

36 Replies to “Joyce Eleanor on CT Cuts, Fare Increases”

  1. This really sucks. If you have NO CAR & you have to be at work at 6 am and no way to get to a park & ride or a transit center AND the feeder buses does not run that early to go to a park & ride/transit center. They should not cut the first bus out.

    1. There is one recourse for you — pressure your State legislator (and governor) to provide more taxing authority for transit.

      1. HB 2855, just introduced in the state House, looks like a good stop-gap measure to provide some relief for local transit. It allows local governments to levy a vehicle license fee of up to $20 for transit. This won’t solve the whole problem long-term, but it should help prevent or buy-back some service cuts.

  2. It is classically Community Transit to make a huge leap forward (Swift) and then take a huge step backwards that messes up the leap (no Sunday service at all). There’s a very long history of this, and they’ll still have ST buses that they operate on the road, so a total Sunday killshot on all routes to “save money” neglects that the base will still be in operation because you know darn well CT-operated ST buses go back there.

    Most of us low-income peons who depend on transit are of social classes frequently forced to work on Sundays. Keep this in mind, and thank (insert deity or lack thereof here) that I’m no longer CT-dependent. I feel for those who are who this is really going to hurt.

    1. Actually, ST & CT contract with First Transit (a private company) to provide ST service in Snohomish County.

  3. I’m not well informed about CT’s routes, but wouldn’t it actually be better for ST to pick up the slack a bit? These commuter routes are expensive, so why run redundant service? Esp when CT already charges such high fares? I don’t get it.

    If it’s a case of people in North or East SnoCo needing rides to Seattle, shuttle them to EVR Station instead. But oh wait, they need their precious one seat ride and they’re willing to pay nicely for it. Sort of like that Gig Harbor ST route… heaven forbid anyone transfer in Tacoma.

    1. What are the farebox recovery ratios on those commuter routes? I would think they are high due to the high fares and high utilization. Higher than operating local service.

    2. They’re really not that redundant though, are they? Snohomish, Stanwood, Silver Firs, etc etc…CT runs many commuter routes not duplicated by anyone else.

      1. Additionally, the ST routes as they run now couldn’t take up all the slack due to relatively limited capacity on their routes compared to all the CT commuter routes, even to places such as Lynnwood. There’s standing room only on the 401/402 during peak hours.

        CT is omitting commuter service to Snohomish, by the way.

  4. would it make sense (financially speaking and service wise) if Community Transit was merged into Sound Transit?

    1. Depends what you’re trying to do. If you’re willing to raid the rail budget to get more local bus service, then sure.

  5. Does anyone know how SWIFT ridership is doing compared to projections? I know it’s early, but maybe it should be increased or decreased in response to the servie cut mix. Tweaks, it think they’re called.

  6. Perhaps a shift in CT’s positioning in the community may be in order. The Commuter runs are expensive to operate, plus with fares behing higher than ST in certain markets not as many riders choose them. Mabye it would have been more effective for them to start cutting commuter service back, and working with ST, whom is probally the only system in the region to really have money to help backfill. Of coruse they could operate the lines that ST dosent already serve, but start wholesale ax’ing the rest. Than they could focus on the local community more than express to seattle. Also in regards to swift, i find it flawed that you have swift running every ten minutes parallel to the 101 running every 20, and ET service every fifteen. It’s telling me that swift’s stations are either not well placed, or that there is not enough of them to meet demand. If you have a BRT service like that, you should only have the BRT line running frequently along the corridor, with local service scaled back to every 30 or 60 minutes depending.

    With the way i assume SWIFT is built though, adding stops is a very expensive propsition which negates the flexibility of a bus while maintaing some of the atractiveness of rail. I think most bus riders want a bus running frequently, and would give up the level boarding in favor of some amount of flexibility and frequent service.

    1. Most of the drivers feel like they should put the focus on local (including boeing) service, and let ST take most of the commuter routes. They will still lose some jobs, but public transit needs to be running 7 days a week.

      SWIFT passenger loads are very light, 101 still busy. I wish they would have just made the 100 more of an express and run it all day, then you do have flexibility and a lot less $ spent.

      1. Ultimately Swift needs to be given time to see how the 101 riders switch and how many new riders it attracts.

        Speaking for myself, I’m a new bus rider and it’s because of Swift (I noticed the new stations and was intrigued). My total home-to-work time is just over an hour via Swift (I ride the full route), which is quick enough to justify over driving (30 minutes), but any longer would be a challenge. But if it wasn’t for Swift, I’d still be driving and I sure as heck wouldn’t be looking for other bus routes to try.

  7. It’s the same dilemma that has ruined SamTrans and San Jose VTA in the California bay area – put all this money into fancy operations (BART Airport extension, light rail) that do not carry many people; you lose money and cut local bus service. Z wants CT to destroy local bus service and make people walk a long way to the nearest “Swift” bus stop, much like the “Rapids” in LA make service worse for the majority of people who would like to board at their local bus stop.

    But it’s the elimination of Sunday service that is really asinine. Transit’s first order of business should be to serve the transit dependent. Not only are there many transit dependent who work on Sunday, but do we doom the rest of them to spend the whole day trapped in their home? Their commuter buses are incredibly expensive to operate, primarily because their is no passenger turnover, and compete with both Sound Transit buses and commuter rail. Either raise commuter fares enough to cover the cost, or can them and focus on providing service that Sound Transit won’t – local service in Snohomish County.

    1. The commuter routes that CT operates are not “competing” with Sound Transit buses. They are separate routes with different destinations. Some areas with CT operated commuter buses are not even in the Sound Transit district and the nearest ST bus is miles away. Also, since these buses mainly operate during rush-hour and serve more as a point A to point B with few stops along the way, passenger turnover is probably higher than the local routes; they are routinly packed.

      1. In general, that’s true, but the 402 fully overlaps with the 511. You could also argue the 416 overlaps with Sounder.

  8. Question: Is CT’s goal to use the 101 as “more-local” feeder system for Swift (i.e. board 101 at closer stop and transfer to Swift for moving along the corridor) or as a end-to-end route itself?

    1. I think the answer is yes and no. Between Everett and Aurora Village, one can use the 101 as a feeder. However, because the two routes have two ends at the north, it is also a route that people will use to go end-to-end.

      Based on my experience of SWIFT (only twice now)it might be worth boarding SWIFT in case you pass a 101 enroute.

  9. If it is true: CT froze hiring to help this issue in 2008; Why then did the last class of driver’s graduate in October or November of 2009 and at the time of offer of employment the company told them to expect to be laid off in June of 2010. Why were employee in classes prior never told they would be laid off in 2010? If it were true CT were trying to save money and not have to borrrow from asset accounts; Why then do us drivers still repeatedly drive buses to locations where another bus is going out of service? I have been told this is because CT only gets paid TAX DOLLARS for miles put on buses not vans. Why is then we are continuing to pay for posters and propoganda throughout the company halls which must be a minimum of $5.00 a poster if not banners minimum of $100. Where a new one pops up weekly like the two (I saw) to welcome Jay Inslee.

    Why has CT repeated abused the TAX PAYERS dollar and now is crying for help?

    Employee wages are posted publically however, the CEO is not posted publically! WHY?

    Would not Tim Eyman not have a feild day with this information (GO TIM) and much more that could possibly leak Hmmm. I love my job, greatful for it, but ashamed of the money wasted.

    1. Full color posters by the way. And the rider alert posters in the bus do not mention eliminating sunday service, just fare increase and service cuts, the riders are shocked when you tell them about no sundays.

    2. I don’t doubt that CT has done some unwise spending. Show me any company that hasn’t. And while I’m a huge supporter of “every penny counts” I cannot believe that you would even suggest that they could simply eliminate posters to come up with $15 million.

      No one, NO ONE will argue that revenue is down and money is tight. For CT, ET, ST, Metro, my family, your family, car dealers, stores, etc.

      So instead of pointing fingers and nitpicking every little thing, how about offering a suggestive alternative to CT or even on this board?

      Know what my wife and I did when our family finances got tight? We sure as hell didn’t bitch at each other about prior purchases. We reigned in spending. We carpool now. We make sure to be more aware of leaving lights on in the house, we lowered the thermostat, and we make way, way more home cooked meals.

      I will always agree that CT’s cuts suck, and they hurt. I will not, however, simply “wish” the troubles away and yell at them for a recession they didn’t create, nor expect. None of us did.

    3. “Why then do us drivers still repeatedly drive buses to locations where another bus is going out of service?”

      Because you aren’t going into service at the same time they are going out of service. They’re paying you the same time whether you go by car or by bus during the off peak. Driver wages are the biggest operating cost of CT, it makes more sense to not to pay a driver to wait thirty minutes before starting their first trip. Increasing mid day bus pull outs also reduces the peak usage of relief vehicles, so they don’t have to buy more vehicles. Long story short: the tactic saves the agency money.

      To other posters: Commuter service is far from being across the board more expensive than local service (esp if you consider Boeing service local). Due in no small part because much of the service is contracted out at a fraction of the in house cost. They also have very high per hour ridership. People use commuter service and they vote for it. Look at the political ads they run, they aren’t “vote for us so shut ins can go to church”, they are “vote for us to improve our travel network and cut congestion”.

      Be careful trying to frame transit as primarily an agency for the poor. Programs for the poor perform poorly in the realm of public opinion.

  10. Oh wow. Are Mountlake Terrace’s city council and mayor looking into this at all? I would think they should be jumping on this rather than our grand invisible town center. This kind of change may make us move our family out of our house here rather than have to buy a car just so I can work. I would expect the impact on MLT should be pretty major with those who moved here for the convenience of a straight bus to downtown heading out and those who might have moved here will decide not to. And as another affect commuter said, the 414 helps off-peak commuter stay off the roads; there really is absolutely no parking in Lynnwood while our glorious new MLT Transit Ctr has it’s parking garage. But that’s not CT’s problem, is it?

    City leaders, looking to you to lead on this. Are you listening?

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