Everett Transit could merge with Community Transit under one option

Months before the economic outlook turned gloomy amid the global COVID pandemic, Everett Transit was looking at financial trouble. Last year, the city-run system revealed that it forecast a $1.6 million budget shortfall that would continue due to Everett’s declining retail sales. While the agency has great plans to improve its network in coming years, they will have to be re-evaluated to preserve current service levels.

Everett Transit has launched its “Rethink Transit” survey, which runs online until July 13, with three options for the public to consider. Everett Transit is also re-introducing regular fares on all routes and services on July 1.

Option 1 would follow the already-adopted growth plans but require a 0.3% sales tax increase after voter approval. Everett Transit currently collects a 0.6% sales tax from retail in Everett, which accounts for 80 percent of its operating revenue according to The Herald. As a city-run transit system, Everett has a maximum sales tax rate of 0.9%.

Option 2 proposes a merger with the larger, countywide Community Transit system. It would come with a doubling of the sales tax rate to 1.2%, matching the rest of the Community Transit service area, and would also need to be approved by voters. Such a deal has been talked about since the 1970s, when Everett bowed out of the district after two unsuccessful votes. A merger was pushed by the state legislature in the 1990s, but both agencies were against the arrangement.

Despite remaining separate, the two agencies have worked together to ease transfers between systems. Community Transit routes are allowed to serve parts of Everett, but are required to have express-like stop spacing to allow Everett Transit to reach its residents for shorter trips. They are both part of the ORCA system and share facilities at major transit centers. In 2007, the two agencies signed a financial agreement that split operational costs for the Swift Blue Line.

The Herald mentioned some opposition to a merger plan, namely from the president of ATU Local 883 who wished to have Everett revenue used to serve Everett residents. While the loss of local routes are a valid worry for mergers, it’s unlikely that routes cut by the post-merger agency would have survived the post-COVID cuts for a standalone agency. The increased revenues from sales taxes and fares may improve local service within Everett, at least up to Community Transit’s service standard of 30 minutes or better on weekdays.

Another benefit of a merged system would be integration into existing CT programs, such as BusFinder and Google Maps; the latter has Everett Transit’s bus stops, but not full schedule information. The current arrangement forces riders to switch over to a phone-based real-time arrivals system for Everett, which is cumbersome and not entirely accessible for the general public.

Option 3 would maintain the status quo by keeping the current 0.6% sales tax rate and explore ways of stretching that revenue to cover the system. A December presentation to the Everett City Council listed a few potential strategies, namely service reductions, cutting Sundays and holiday service, and evaluating contract-based service with a private operator.

Everett Transit will conduct technical analysis of the three options and plans to release its findings later this year. The Everett City Council is scheduled to decide on an option next year. In the meantime, Everett Transit will have to also consider its immediate service in the wake of the COVID pandemic and the slow reopening of the city’s economy.

22 Replies to “Everett Transit looks at future options, including merger”

  1. Maybe if Chevron, Exxon/Mobile, BP and Marathon merged, they could streamline and create efficiencies. They could call their new company Standard Oil.

  2. Huge supporter of a friendly merger between Everett Transit and Community Transit. I wish the Everett City Council would get on with making a decision and at the least have a survey that asks what option appeals. The current survey – https://bit.ly/ET202006 – is underwhelming.

    I’d like to see a merger so Community Transit treats their drivers and community the way Everett Transit does complete with a community advisory committee (Everett has a Transportation Advisory Committee)… and Everett Transit riders have full access to Community Transit’s ridership internet tools. A merger could allow the Everett Transit brand to remain to represent service within Everett City Limits, as it should. Finally revenue = service so it’s important to go for the revenue!

    1. Agreed. I hope the council doesn’t debate this for too long. Ultimately, I hope they pass a resolution adopting a ballot proposition asking Everett voters to approve incorporation of the city into the CT district. I really think that’s the right path forward for bus service in Everett. The local sales rates would increase by .6%, as the OP has indicated, but that would only put Everett local sales tax rates in the same range as found in many other jurisdictions within SW Snohomish County.

      I think the other two options are insufficient for the long-term survival of the agency, assuming they want to provide more than some skeletal level of service.

      1. Correction needed:
        “The local sales rates would increase by .6%,…” should read “sales TAX rates”.

  3. I would thought that ST3 discussions would have an impact on the options. I read through the survey and see no reference to it.

    It’s important because the service could ultimately be seen as a feeder to Link and Stride, making the interest to consolidate with CT a bit less.

    On the other hand, the likely delay of Link to Everett combined with Lynnwood Link under visible construction would seem to make tying more routes to get to Link by 2024/5 more desirable — or making the interest in a CT consolidation more.

    1. Not sure it makes that much of a difference. Snohomish and Everett will assume Everett Link will be built, it’s just a matter of when. If it’s a 5 year delay vs. 10 year delay before the Everett Link station opens, that’s only a 5 year period in which ST operations may be different, in the context of a merger decision that will impact operations for decades (at least)

  4. It wouldn’t surprise me if Metro is going to be looking at future options like contracting with private transportation companies to operate very low ridership routes, like one’s that are currently on their cut route list. However, some routes, I suspect, are never coming back, even as privately contracted routes.

    1. Fine by me if the choice is limited to worker-owned cooperatives. “Fee for Service”outbids “Fee for Profit” every time. And far more than finances, it’s a matter of priorities.

      Had Pacific Gas and Electric been managed that way, 85 residents of Paradise would still be alive. Fact that not a single executive went to jail renders the California Attorney General guilty of abetting negligent homicide before and after the fact.

      Same for President Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder’s letting Michigan’s Republican Governor skate for putting Flint’s water supply in less expensive hands.

      “The People’s Railway” by Anthony Perles. Amazon’s got it. Is that Twin Peaks tunnel on the cover? M-line, right? As an aspiration, “People’s Railway is a lot more elevated than being a “Link”. And ST’s budget definitely does not need a trade-mark suit from Jimmy Dean.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Metro already uses private transportation companies for some pre-COVID low ridership routes in the Eastside like the 628. There is a definite lower caliber of driver quality, and is not something I’d encourage more of.

  5. Imagine having to take 3 different buses to travel along Rainier Ave or 15th Ave NW. Well, people are forced to do so between Silver Lake and points further south along the Bothell-Evt Hwy because they cross Everett city limits. That’s 3 buses between 2 agencies just to travel through the same corridor.

    That fact alone is reason enough to merge the two agencies.

    1. 100% agree. Asking customers to transfer for the sake of a gridded system that avoids duplicate routes is one thing. Asking them to do it while going in a straight line simply because they cross a jurisdictional boundary is stupid.

      Imagine if car drivers had to stop and wait 20 minutes every time they cross the “Everett City Limit” sign.

    2. I agree, that is a bad design. It is not only caused by the lack of cooperation between the agencies, but also the different priorities they each have. Community Transit has a fairly standard network — a balance between coverage and high usage routes. They have plenty of routes that go through Everett. But they only run through Everett when it is a good value — they don’t have any coverage routes in Everett. The problem is that extending up 527 is not a great value — running there would be coverage in nature, and Everett already covers it.

      Everett, meanwhile, has the same sort of system, except that they view the Everett Mall as a major destination. My guess is this is because it is a major part of their (sales) tax base. Or at least it used to be. Mall sales have been slowly shrinking, and now they are getting hammered.

      If the two agencies merge, it would make sense to have a new network. But even something as simple as this brings up issues. You could send the 105 up to Everett via the northern part of the 29. The 109 could be extended to SeaWay (to backfill for the northern part of the 105). That all sounds a lot better, unless of course, you live on Silver Lake Road, or any other part of that segment of the 29. You could create some other coverage route, but that gets messy as well.

      The point being, that while I agree, the combination of the two networks have lead to some pretty big design flaws, it won’t be easy to come up with a better network without reducing coverage or cutting service — most likely in Everett.

  6. My own general outlook on agencies and mergers: the automobile’s chief attraction was the way its rubber tires erased city and county lines. They were also what finally freed coal-miners from the soul-indenturing “Company Store” in the song “Sixteen Tons.” Loggers and mill-hands too.

    The appeal of regional transit to me is its ability to widen and make easier my choice of where I work, live, and go to school, as well as entertainment, dining, and above all, espresso cafe’s. Also not the car’s fault, but sheer number of them, ironically, is now our chief obstacle to ever more of our freedom to move at all.

    Huge amount of whatever “Freedom” my own car still gives me owes to the number of cars whose owners are no longer forced to put them in my way when I need the road. A need that sits ever more ill with me by the day. Good to have IT back, and pray that the future trades my parking place on a Seattle trip from Tacoma Dome to my own car-port. For Sale sign and all.

    Handled right, merging Everett and Community Transit, and maybe eventually having the combination join Sound Transit or whatever it’ll be called, will put every passenger involved in a better neighborhood, without a single change of address. But something any merger really needs to take into account:

    It’s very likely that over its life-time, each individual agency has developed something that its passengers especially like, and occasionally love. Which it should be mandatory to include in writing on the merger papers.

    Mark Dublin

  7. It’s incredibly easy to be a “huge supporter” as outsider Skagit County (0.4% sales tax for SKAT) resident Joe, A 12 for Transit, is when you’re not paying the proposed 1.2% (triple Skagit County’s) on all of your taxable purchases nor living in the area that would have its sales tax for transit doubled, and let us not forget that many Everett residents are of the lowest incomes who get hit the hardest by regressive sales taxes. It’s hard to justify sending more money transit’s way when they have less demand facing them even post-COVID due to more teleworking and less confidence in safety on buses.

    Further, having a Transportation Advisory Committee does not guarantee that an agency that’s used to being unaccountable to voters (e.g., board meetings are during the day, difficult to access by transit, no staff reports provided, no past meetings available online, and until COVID, no streaming) will listen. Joe himself has written about his feelings about the larger agency’s planning decisions. They won’t get better with more money flowing in. Arguably, they haven’t since the last tax increase. See Sound Transit’s community advisory committee for an example of an exercise in futility: they recently gave up calling out the exorbitant cost of Sounder North each month. Why? It’s simple: remember who’s funding the advisory committee: the agencies. These are seen by them as token groups of people, much as those who offer public comment are considered. In many years, I have had a total of 1 of my emails to ET answered and never followed up on. That’s not responding to the community, that’s ignoring them. The city council that oversees ET is antagonistic towards transit riders, their default position being to dismiss customer concerns rather than listen to them, for most of the councilmembers live in the downtown Everett area, their view of transit being the superior ET bus service they have there.

    I find the ridership internet tools referenced underwhelming, finding One Bus Away far superior and ET’s phone location service usually accurate. Further, ET has their bus stop locations on an online map.

    A separate branded bus might be possible if ET was a subsidiary, but I doubt that this would be possible in a merger due to branding and cost efficiencies of having one livery. Transits act more like Continental Airlines/United and Alaska Airlines/Virgin America than Daimler-Benz/Chrysler.

    ET would be viable if they connected from residential points in the city to regional transit connections. Presently, it is a three-bus endeavor to get from southwest Everett to the I-405 or the I-5 corridor, a two-bus endeavor to get to downtown Everett. Forget about getting from Seaway Transit Center to Mukilteo Station: ET refuses to operate their #70 between those two points as “revenue service” in off-peak direction, preferring running empty buses in the off direction instead. ET would be better off focusing on connecting the major points of interest well vs. spreading itself too thin, the latter as they do now. If they offered a plan to do that, which I believe they could do with option 1, that might get the requisite support. Option 2 offers no guarantees: no board seats (Everett should have at least 2, the board ideally elected and not selected as it is now, with a rider or two as a board member), no increased service (Everett should have proportional service based on population, about 1/6 or 1/7), and the merged agency should have accountability added, such as online meetings/staff reports/detailed agency expense information.

    1. Does anybody else think it’s time for a posting on how the voting public can organize and train to the point that we really are running our transit system, instead of just yelling about the results, however they come out?

      Though the fact that after all these years the State of Washington still forbids a graduated income tax might imply that for matters exactly like transit, a majority of voters really think of themselves more as customers than owners.

      After thirteen years’ driving myself, I’m told by sources I respect for reasons in addition to the trains they still drive, how many local 587 members consider their relationship “Fee for Service.” When I lived in Ballard, learned how many cooperatives involved fishing boat fleets in the ownership of ethnic Norwegians.

      Was a time America had many farm cooperatives. Bet the Norse language has a lot stronger word for what we’d call “Conservative.” High school Latin left me one memory in addition to the company of my young lady classmate across the aisle: “Radical” doesn’t mean “extreme,” but “dealing with problems at the root, rather than up in the shrubbery. ”

      Want to “Major-Change” the system? Form a co-op, send me a membership application, and submit a bid.

      Mark Dublin

    2. let us not forget that many Everett residents are of the lowest incomes who get hit the hardest by regressive sales taxes.

      These are also the people hardest hit by a cutback of transit service.

      It’s hard to justify sending more money transit’s way when they have less demand facing them even post-COVID due to more teleworking and less confidence in safety on buses.

      Not everyone has a job that allows teleworking. Furthermore, those that do are generally better paid than those that have to go into work.

      ET would be viable if they connected from residential points in the city to regional transit connections. Presently, it is a three-bus endeavor to get from southwest Everett to the I-405 or the I-5 corridor, a two-bus endeavor to get to downtown Everett. Forget about getting from Seaway Transit Center to Mukilteo Station: ET refuses to operate their #70 between those two points as “revenue service” in off-peak direction …

      Those are all valid improvements, but they would cost more money. Sounds to me like you are trying to justify sending more money transit’s way. I guess it wasn’t that hard after all.

    3. The tax is $1.20 on a $100 purchase. That’s not going to make much of a difference on poor peoples’ budgets. The idea that people are being taxed to death is a conservative myth. There’s not just the tax; there’s also what the tax is buying. In this case it’s buying mobility services and a climate-efficient way to travel. And those mobility services are really helpful for poor people.

    4. Sorry I’m late “transit rider” but have been incredibly busy with projects.

      I’m going to respond to you paragraph by paragraph:

      It’s incredibly easy to be a “huge supporter” as outsider Skagit County (0.4% sales tax for SKAT) resident Joe, A 12 for Transit, is when you’re not paying the proposed 1.2% (triple Skagit County’s) on all of your taxable purchases nor living in the area that would have its sales tax for transit doubled, and let us not forget that many Everett residents are of the lowest incomes who get hit the hardest by regressive sales taxes. It’s hard to justify sending more money transit’s way when they have less demand facing them even post-COVID due to more teleworking and less confidence in safety on buses.

      So you support cutting transit, which low income disportionately depend on. It seems to me you’re a choice rider who wants me to be silent, even though I ride Everett Transit and pay for purchases within the district and more. I also pay into federal & state grants.

      Further, having a Transportation Advisory Committee does not guarantee that an agency that’s used to being unaccountable to voters (e.g., board meetings are during the day, difficult to access by transit, no staff reports provided, no past meetings available online, and until COVID, no streaming) will listen. Joe himself has written about his feelings about the larger agency’s planning decisions. They won’t get better with more money flowing in. Arguably, they haven’t since the last tax increase.

      All true. I do serve on a similar committee in Skagit and I have voiced such concerns. But I come down on the side of fiscal stability to keep service. I share your desire for governance reforms and have actively pushed CT to be more responsive to riders.

      See Sound Transit’s community advisory committee for an example of an exercise in futility: they recently gave up calling out the exorbitant cost of Sounder North each month. Why? It’s simple: remember who’s funding the advisory committee: the agencies. These are seen by them as token groups of people, much as those who offer public comment are considered.

      I find most of the time community advisory committees are taken seriously. I’m sorry you feel otherwise. But I agree that Sound Transit’s needs to get on with asking tough Qs about Sounder North.

      In many years, I have had a total of 1 of my emails to ET answered and never followed up on. That’s not responding to the community, that’s ignoring them. The city council that oversees ET is antagonistic towards transit riders, their default position being to dismiss customer concerns rather than listen to them, for most of the councilmembers live in the downtown Everett area, their view of transit being the superior ET bus service they have there.

      Oh that is not my experience w/ ET staff. They get back to me within a business day. I can’t speak too much to the Everett City Council, but Everett’s addiction to consultation is driving me nutzoid.

      I find the ridership internet tools referenced underwhelming, finding One Bus Away far superior and ET’s phone location service usually accurate. Further, ET has their bus stop locations on an online map.

      A separate branded bus might be possible if ET was a subsidiary, but I doubt that this would be possible in a merger due to branding and cost efficiencies of having one livery. Transits act more like Continental Airlines/United and Alaska Airlines/Virgin America than Daimler-Benz/Chrysler.

      Frankly I like CT’s new Bus Finder and don’t think they need to spend the over $200K on a mobile website as cuts are being made to service. As to the merger issues, your cynicism is showing and unappreciated.

      ET would be viable if they connected from residential points in the city to regional transit connections. Presently, it is a three-bus endeavor to get from southwest Everett to the I-405 or the I-5 corridor, a two-bus endeavor to get to downtown Everett. Forget about getting from Seaway Transit Center to Mukilteo Station: ET refuses to operate their #70 between those two points as “revenue service” in off-peak direction, preferring running empty buses in the off direction instead. ET would be better off focusing on connecting the major points of interest well vs. spreading itself too thin, the latter as they do now. If they offered a plan to do that, which I believe they could do with option 1, that might get the requisite support. Option 2 offers no guarantees: no board seats (Everett should have at least 2, the board ideally elected and not selected as it is now, with a rider or two as a board member), no increased service (Everett should have proportional service based on population, about 1/6 or 1/7), and the merged agency should have accountability added, such as online meetings/staff reports/detailed agency expense information.

      I absolutely agree with the above. I also wish ET Route 70 ran midday. To me, it’s sad it doesn’t and should be transferred to Community Transit. Preferably with a state grant since the route connects the state ferry terminal & a major transit center.

      I would prefer an elected board either a Mayor’s Council of all the mayors or the Council Council or directly elected. The current board structure deflects accountability and I can assure you, the pressure is on from me to get more data out of CT. Someone has to win a community addicted to consultation over. I’m that someone as a fellow addict.

      Believe me, I’d love to fumigate all night about CT. But that won’t win and retain allies.

  8. Not all Everett buses run early enough in the morning. My route Everett 29 doesn’t run early enough for me in the morning. I have to drive almost 2 miles to get to the Everett transit station just to catch my first bus heading to Seattle to make it to work by 6 am. More people would commute by bus if the buses ran when they needed them. I would hope if a merger would happen that local buses start times would be adjusted.

  9. Community transportation has never cared about Everett nor will it ever care about Everett. Simply pay more,get less and there is some hidden agendas also in some back room deals between some higher ups that community transport has promised those on the Everett side. I truly understand that actual facts need to surface to support these statements and in a very short time it will have no choice but to show the true colors of community transportation. The city of Everett and it’s proud citizens has never relied on anyone else to accomplish what this truly great city has. Community transportation and it’s insiders have no respect and no concerns of the future for the citizens and the city of Everett. Merging with community transportation is one of worst decisions the city of Everett will regret for many years to come. Everett Transportation has never been second to no one and community transportation has no desire to even try to be half of what Everett transportation is. This is our CITY!!!.

    1. Everett Transit is a city owned and operated service.
      Community Transit is not.
      It seems that a 0.6 increase for better locally owned service that is accountable to the city is a better choice … rather than double the tax for a 1.2 increase for less service that is not locally owned is a no brainer.
      Community Transit doesn’t just want double a SALES tax of another 1.2% INCREASE, but is also pursuing an additional PROPERTY TAX added as well.
      Service:
      Everett Transit serves our local neighborhoods – Community Transit does not. CT would reduce neighborhood routes and negatively affect service to all of us.
      Safety:
      Everett Transit has no Covid cases reported in the news, but Community Transit has admitted over a dozen cases with one death. Evidently, Everett Transit takes cleanliness and public health much more seriously!
      There has been a partnership between ET and CT for 12 years.
      Why charge us double the taxes to merge them when we can maintain the integrity and superior service provided by Everett Transit for 1/2 the price by maintaining the partnership we have had for 12 years?

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