Community Transit 'Double-Tall' bus
Community Transit 'Double-Tall' bus, photo by Oran

In their  board meeting last week, Community Transit presented 2012 system change alternatives. Due to revenue cuts, Community Transit will be cutting service another 20% next year (they cut 15% last year). You can see the alternatives, read about the detailed impacts, and learn how to provide input here.

I don’t live in Snohomish County, but the alternatives are fairly interesting – if bleak – to investigate. All three alternatives shorten the service day by two hours, reduce Swift frequencies and eliminate routes, but that’s just the baseline. Alternatives I and III do not restore service on Sundays and Alternative II includes massive frequency reductions.

As an aside, we’ve already seen Pierce County’s Pierce Transit moving forward with its deeper cuts, and this is a depressing preview of what’s to come for King County’s Metro. There is a way for Metro to get some additional funding (via $20 car license fee) to stave off some of the cuts that will come down, but it will require a County Council vote and then likely a ballot measure. If you live in Bob Ferguson’s district, make sure to email him and let him know you want him to vote yes.

44 Replies to “Community Transit 2012 Service Change”

  1. is transit in the Puget Sound in danger of losing public confidence, thereby making any increases in public funding difficult, if not impossible?
    Local economic indicators don’t nearly account for the radical budget shortfalls and reductions of service taking place. Yes, we are in a recession. Some say we’re on a double dip, and poised for another round of falling sales activity. Sales tax receipts are down, but no where close to 35% reductions in service.
    Unemployment is high, but only 4% higher than normal. The ‘gloomers’ have the stock market, financial markets, housing markets, and nearly everything else ready for another body blow, and this time around the money and credit spigots are sucking from a dry hole.
    There’s a synergy created when service is added to a bus or rail system, creating better connections, and more riders than just the hours that were added.
    Is the reverse not true? Cutting service by 35% (and Metro is next, BTW), could very well cause ridership to fall at a higher pace – akin to Colony Collapse in the bee world.
    I would lobby for all transit to band together in this crisis, and take whatever steps are needed to prevent the rapid erosion of service. The only agency with cash reserves and high revenue at the moment is Sound Transit. I propose they delay planning and construction on anything beyond that which is being built to prop up their ‘feeder agencies’, for without them, a single spine mass transit system is unable to fulfill its purpose of moving the masses. There are only so many riders around the stations being built and planned, and without a vibrant bus system sits there mostly empty.
    Heresy you shout! Blasphemy!
    Maybe, but all boats rise or sink with the tide, and right now it’s receding at an alarming pace.
    OK, now you can all pile on.

    1. Saying that employment is “only 4% more than usual” is like saying the weather is “only 30 degrees colder than usual.”

      Spending large amounts of capital money to prop up operations is cannibalizing the future to pay for today — a very stupid thing to do in general. Even without further delays, all the stations in North Link that will be built in the next decade (i.e. to Northgate) have proven ridership regardless of CT, and to the extent that they need Metro feeder routes (like the 48 for Roosevelt station) those are highly productive routes that are unlikely to be cut (and were not touched in the 600k hour scenario). North of Northgate, a feeder bus network might be an issue, but that’ll be 12+ years in the future, and who knows where we will be then?

      Also, keep in mind that once link reaches Lynnwood or even the Montlake freeway station, the need for CT to run hoards of busses all the way down to Downtown Seattle will be radically reduced. That’s synergy right there.

    2. Don’t forget that costs are also going up while revenues are going down. Drivers need that 3% raise every year. Because $54k or so base salary a year for those with 5 or more years at full time isn’t enough to drive a bus I guess.

      1. maybe we could go down to home depot and get some drivers, always people looking for work there. I’m sure we would all feel safe with low paid drivers.

        We should replace all the office, bank, retail, insurance and others with the lowest bidders for jobs. The thing is, if they screw up nobody really cares, if a driver screws up it can kill someone.
        54K is not much, it is barely a living wage here.

      2. 54k a year is above the median income of Snohomish county. Are you saying that half the people don’t make a living wage? Better call Ash because this place is crawling with undead.
        Seriously, no one in the private sector makes as much as the public bus drivers around here, and few public sector bus drivers make as much as the ones at Metro/Pierce/CT.

      3. CT raised the starting wage a few years back because they could not keep drivers. Is cutting wages of the lowest paid people always the best solution? There are as many non-drivers at ct as drivers, what about them? Does an asst. manager need 90k, that is far above the median, i’m sure we can replace them with 40k people.

  2. Message to all my elected officials with responsibility for transit, Seattle, King County, Sound Transit, Washington State, and U.S. Congress alike.

    The public transit system I need to earn my living is now clearly beyond the ability of separate county governments to provide. However, I believe that King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties are part of a region capable of sustaining transit and other public functions despite political and economic paralysis at state and Federal levels.

    Until political structure recognizing these realities can be formalized, my instructions as a citizen to my own representatives are that they begin immediately to act as much as humanly possible as if said structure actually exists.

    Fact is, we’ve all been living our lives regionally for years, and survival depends on ability to keep doing so. Individually and together, we’ll come out of present economic troubles faster if we don’t need to make the whole trip by automobile.

    Mark Dublin

  3. This is my 1st post on here and just wanted to ask a question that may have been answered, but where does CT funding come fro
    ? And why arent they able to raise their own revenues I.e. st2

    1. Community Transit currently charges 0.9% of your sales tax – that is 9 cents on a $10 purchase – which is the maximum allowed under State Law.

      Anyone want to chime in with specifics and/or corrections?

      1. Nope, that’s exactly right.

        Sound Transit accounts for another 0.9% of your sales tax. They have a couple of other minor revenue sources (car rental, MVET) but those are rather smaller.

      2. Okay, so I can understand in a State like Alabama why local taxation has to be determined at the State level, (can’t let majority Black counties get all uppity), but what is the rational in Washington? ‘Let’s fuck with Seattle’…?

        If you want some fun reading, and to feel better about WA State Government:

      3. Part of the rational for controlling local tax rates is that if it were all left up to local control “rich” districts” (all those above average) would have the temptation to push state tax to virtually zero and fund everything (like schools) completely with local taxes.

      4. Does local government have the power to reduce state taxes? Even if so, that is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the State limiting the power of local government to raise taxes on themselves.

      5. Whatever the rationale might be, in reality it boils down to rural Republican legislators trying to crap on libruls in Seattle.

      6. Part of the rational for controlling local tax rates is that if it were all left up to local control “rich” districts” (all those above average) would have the temptation to push state tax to virtually zero and fund everything (like schools) completely with local taxes.

        Funny, because that argument seems to apply equally well to subarea equity. ;)

        Really, there are two separate issues:

        – Should the state government redistribute wealth from rich areas to poor?

        – Should groups of people be able to tax themselves for projects to benefit themselves?

        The second one sounds obvious, but here’s the “dangerous” scenario:

        – A bunch of rich counties create a taxing entity, raise taxes, and use the money for their own projects.

        – Someone sponsors an initiative to repeal sales tax, leaving the state bankrupt.

        – These rich counties all vote for the repeal, since they have their own tax authority and don’t need the state anymore.

        Of course, the ironic part (as Goldy has repeatedly pointed out over on Slog) is that it’s the rich liberal counties that are voting for redistribution, and the poor conservative ones that are voting against it…

      7. Funny, because that argument seems to apply equally well to subarea equity. ;)

        Not really. With State funding for the school districts everyone votes to share the wealth. The only way a rich area like the eastside can adequately fund the schools is to go along funding all the schools on an equal basis (it doesn’t really work out “equal” but it’s closer than it would be otherwise). With subarea equity all the money collected in a district is spent in that district. But you hit it on the head describing the “dangerous” scenario. It was Seattle that was the largest supporter creating the current system. But Seattle gets a special levy increase to bolster it’s building replacement funds yet Mercer Island isn’t allowed to create a special levy to compensate teachers based on cost of living.

    1. Each county is different

      My father lives in Pierce County – which is 0.6% (6 cents on a $10 purchase)
      Note the big service reductions because the ballot measure failed :(

    2. Community Transit’s tax is just in Snohomish County. Sound Transit is just in a part of Snohomish County (in addition to being in King County and a part of Pierce)

      1. The 0.9% sales tax for CT is not county wide, each Precienct in Snohomish county has to vote to join CT, before they is taxed.

  4. Just talking out my ass here but why is CT still running commuter service between SnoCo and Seattle? Why isn’t Sound Transit, the regional transit authority? Almost all inter-county routes, and all the commuter ones, that used to be run by Metro and Pierce Transit have switched over, why not these? I realize this would require an output of money for more vehicles (or, at the very least, painting the ones CT doesn’t need anymore) and a place for all the new ST vehicles but it just seems logical.

    1. That is, Metro and PT don’t run too many local inter-county routes anymore and the commuter ones they used to have are now run by ST.

      1. That are inter-county? Unless I’m just not thinking hard enough or my county line knowledge isn’t what I thought it was.

      2. Just talking out my ass here but why is CT still running commuter service between SnoCo and Seattle?

        MT runs loads of commuter routes inter sub-areas (any bus you see in the city with a triple-digit code is an inter sub-area bus).

        Snohomish is much more of a bedroom community than is PT. CT could run entirely intra-Snohomish routes, but that would be a poor use of its tax dollars both for the residents who want LRT/Sounder and those who want to work in King County. CT is providing them with better service by bringing them into Seattle because that’s where they want to go.

      3. Right, but sub-areas are not what I am talking about. I am talking about county lines. Metro doesn’t run inter-county commuter routes. My question is why CT still does. Would Snohomish County be worse served if it was an ST bus running any of the 400 or 800 routes than they are now? Aren’t Tacoma and Lakewood getting much more bus service into Seattle with ST than they would have if PT still had the routes?

      4. You said: “Almost all inter-county routes, and all the commuter ones, that used to be run by Metro and Pierce Transit have switched over, why not these?”

        Later: “Metro and PT don’t run too many local inter-county routes anymore and the commuter ones they used to have are now run by ST.”

        I think that’s why people are getting hung up on Metro – you seemed to imply they had turned over their inter-county routes to ST, when I don’t remember them ever having them. (And Metro does still have a couple of technically inter-county routes.) Also, you initially said Metro had turned over ALL their “commuter” routes (separate from inter-county) to ST, and when that was shown to be false you claimed that wasn’t what you were talking about.

      5. Yeah, I corrected myself before anyone else did. We can keep parsing my sentences or we can talk about what I was asking:

        Why does CT continue to run inter-county commuter routes? Would they not be able to spend their own county money better by giving the 400 and 800 routes to ST?

      6. It’s a net zero sum game. CT isn’t going to get any more routes from ST than what the subarea budget can pay for. If they transfer the routes to ST they would then have to pay ST who would then contract with CT to operate the route. That might be a cost saving because I think all service ST contracts from CT is third party drivers. So in essence it would be a cost savings by shutting out union drivers. But I’m not at all up on CT operations so please correct any blatently false assumptions here.

      7. Bernie,
        The CT operated buses for Sound Transit are operated with union drivers.

      8. Thanks for the response. As I said I’m not up to speed on CT and Snohomish County. Are the First Transit operators union? The same union that other CT drivers are in? Honestly I don’t know and am not trying to set an “I told you so trap.” How is it that CT can provide contract service for so much less than Metro?

      9. Let’s go back at least 15 years. It’s my understanding that CT didn’t want to give up their heavy hitter commuter routes (i.e. 401/402) to ST – and ST never had the resources to pick all of them up anyway.

        My personal take on it is that without commuter routes, CT would be a much smaller agency, and rather than serve a broad socio-economic base as it does now, it would be much more transit dependent oriented – and thus much harder to garner support from the community. Just my opinon.

    2. I commented on this a few days ago in ST 1Q 2011 Ridership. These are almost all legacy routes. The 4xx routes from Snohomish have been around for decades, sometimes run by Metro, sometimes by CT. But there were no commuter routes from Pierce. Presumably that’s because Mountlake Terrace and Edmonds have been bedroom communities for Seattle since WWII, while Tacoma and Puyallup remained a separate job market until the late 80s. (Lynnwood and Kent are about equidistant from downtown Seattle.) So PT created the 5xx series just a few years before ST was formed, and it was probably glad to offload them to ST as soon as possible. Metro turned over a few routes one by one (550, 522, 54x, 57x — usually with such major changes that they were effectively new routes) but has not turned over others (255, 150), and it’s only this year retiring the 225/227/229. CT in contrast has not converted any of its 4xx routes as far as I know. I don’t know why that is, except maybe that it’s built into CT’s charter or mindset to keep those routes.

      1. I don’t know the history of CT commuter service, but I thought they cut at least some commuter service (if not entire routes) when the Mountlake Terrace freeway stop opened, in favor of feeders to ST 51x (and that this was one reason ST could increase 511 frequency). I may have this all wrong, though. Also, in the current round of service cuts, they are looking at three different options. One of them involves restructuring commuter service into feeder and trunk routes, which looks like it will require fewer downtown Seattle runs.

      2. Ancient history, but…..

        CT became an agency in 1976, I rode buses around the county and to Downtown Seattle circa 1978-1982. (And for some stupid reason, it’s all still stuck in my head!)

        All of the routes to Snohomish County, 416 to Edmonds, 477 to M Terrace & Brier, one to Everett and one to Lynnwood, were all operated by Metro Transit as express routes. Pity the occasional rider who thought they were getting on the bus to the U-District or Northgate and found out the next stop was on SW 196th.

        All of the CT routes were in-county only. There was the hub in Everett for what is now the 101 and service to Marysville to connect with the Everett Metro bus and with ET. All of the South County routes met at the Lynnwood Fred Meyer on 44th and 196th as a timed connection.

        As an aside, I had to get a 2-zone monthly with a red stripe, instead of an orange stripe, to use the Snohomish County services. It was the same price, and only available at Metro’s main office in Seattle, or from Snohomish County outlets.

        We have come a long way……

  5. I am sure i would like to see the governments do something, anything to get light rail built out faster. It seems everyone is duplicating efforts over and over. I would gladly pay extra somewhere in taxes to get rail built to everett.

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