Sunday, March 7, 2010

Community Transit cuts service, raises fares

So, if we wanted to take the bus to see, say my sister and her family on a sunny summer Sunday this year, we'd be out of luck.

Community Transit, the transit system that serves Snohomish County, is implementing service changes that will cut routes and services beginning in June.  Some key points of the plan:

  • Increase fares 25 cents across the board
  • Suspend Sunday and holiday service on all routes
  • Reduce frequency of many routes, including reducing some routes to two round-trips daily!
  • Start and end many routes at park & ride lots, rather than on city streets
  • Cut routes, including many that have alternative transit options, or duplicate existing service
  • Provide $50,000 to local agencies to provide transportation assistance to those in need.
 According to the information that Community Transit has provided (linked above), this is in response to a budgetary shortfall, a pretty common problem across all transit systems these days.  They also state that they have been trying to avoid service cuts such as these for over two years.

To me, the cuts will not help the overall health of the transit system.  It will impact many who can least afford the impact.  There are people out there who use the bus to get to work on the weekends.  In fact, many in service jobs (which are traditionally are not very high paying jobs) work on weekends.  Not all of these people have a car or can afford one. 

They are also forcing more cars onto the roads at a time when our roadways are becoming more and more choked with traffic.  An early morning run to Boeing is being cut.  What are the workers who ride that bus going to do?  They'll have to either form vanpools (not always an easy thing to coordinate) or drive themselves.

A quote from another news item about these changes:
“In my 18 years as an elected official, this is the hardest vote I’ve ever had to take,” said board member and Lynnwood City Council President Ted Hikel. “I don’t know anyone on this board or this staff who likes this, but there are realities out there – there just isn’t any money.”
As much as I dislike this news, and think it will only serve to hurt lower-income users of the system, as well as force more people back into their cars, the Frequently Asked Questions make it clear that the board looked hard at alternatives before settling on this as a means to reduce their operating losses.  With much of the funding for transit coming out of taxes, the options available are limited without legislative action, and in the current economic climate, anything to eek out more funding through taxes and fees is a hard sell.

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