Friday, August 27, 2010

Take Transit to the Fair

Community Transit has provided special service to the Evergreen State Fair for more than a decade. While our budget challenges mean we won’t be adding extra trips at night as we have in the past (and don’t run on Sunday or Labor Day) transit is still a good option for sitting out Highway 2 fair traffic and getting to the fair without a car.

Routes 270, 271 and 275 provide service between Everett and Monroe every 30 to 60 minutes and we have a stop near the fairgrounds year-round. During the Evergreen State Fair , traffic on Highway 2 is so bad that buses are rerouted – right by the fair entrance.

The bus is a great option for 4-H kids whose moms don’t want to drive to Monroe every day, for fair employees, for seniors and for people who don’t have a car or can’t drive. In past years we’ve carried hundreds of extra people a day on our Monroe routes during the fair.

Saturdays are the worst day for parking and traffic at the fair – and a good day to take the family for a bus ride.

Community Transit’ regular bus routes get visitors to many other events as well. We’re working with the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival this year to promote Route 113 service to that event, with free ride tickets supported by Providence Physician Group Harbour Point.
Taking transit to a community event can be a great way to launch a family outing. I can guarantee you the bus fare will be cheaper than the fair food. An ORCA card will save you money if you take multiple buses, and can make paying for the bus easier all-around.

See you at the Grandstand!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Transit Tax Measures

Funding for all public agencies, including transit, is in trouble due to the economy. In Washington state, most transit agencies rely on retail sales tax for the bulk of their funding.

Community Transit has been at the state-authorized maximum sales tax rate of 0.9 percent since voters approved an increase in 2001. In 2005, sales taxes generated $61.5 million in revenue for Community Transit. Our revenue peaked in 2007 and has since taken a nosedive.

In 2010, we estimate we'll get $63 million in sales tax revenue, a 1.6 percent increase over 2005. Yet since then we’ve increased service, built park & rides and had our existing buses and facilities get older and in need of maintenance or replacement.

With no authority to increase tax revenues, we raised fares and cut service in June to balance our budget for 2010. We are just beginning the budget process for 2011, and expect continued low levels of sales tax revenue.

Other agencies in the state are going to voters for more tax authorization, including:

Intercity Transit in Olympia was on the ballot Aug. 17 asking for a 0.2 percent increase in sales tax. The measure was passing handily in early returns. Without the increase in funding, the agency says it may cut service by 23 percent in the next two years, including all Sunday service.

Pierce Transit has a measure on the February 2011 ballot to increase its sales tax by 0.3 percent. The agency has already cut some service and is proposing a second fare increase to take place this fall. It says without the sales tax increase, service will need to be cut significantly. 

C-Tran in Vancouver, Wash. expects to ask for a 0.3 percent sales tax increase in 2011 or face service cuts.

Whatcom Transportation Authority lost a ballot measure in April that would have raised its sales tax by 0.2 percent. The agency will be cutting Sunday and other service in September. A Bellingham transportation tax vote in the fall would have a portion of its proceeds dedicated to contracting with WTA for service restorations within the city.

Sales tax measures were approved in 2009 for Island Transit (0.3 percent) and Skagit Transit (0.2 percent). Sound Transit got voter support for a package of tax increases in 2008.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bikes and Buses, Part II: Bike Parking

I really don’t like bringing my bicycle to downtown Seattle on the bus. I don’t carry much of a lock on my bike, but I do have a lot of other good, easy to steal “stuff” hanging off, such as lights, bike bags and the wheels themselves. I also wouldn't want to leave my bike parked all day (in the rain or sun) in a bike rack at a park & ride. Yet the nearest commuter bus stop is 2 miles from my house – 10 minutes by bike, 40 minutes by foot, a lot of unnecessary pollution and driving by car. The solution? A box at the park & ride that fits bikes called a “bike locker.”

Community Transit manages 92 bike lockers at 15 park & rides around Snohomish County. Those same lots have 6,458 car parking spaces. Given that bicyclists make up less than 2 percent of our passengers overall (see Part I), that might be about right. But the most popular places to park a car are also the most popular places to park a bike: Lynnwood Transit Center and Ash Way Park & Ride have (years) long waiting lists of people hoping to get a bike locker.

The good news for Lynnwood is that Sound Transit (locker purchaser) is working with Community Transit (locker manager) to place 10 more locker spaces near the commuter bus bays. I’m not sure of the timeline, but I’m excited.

Both agencies install bike lockers at new facilities as a matter of course. But we’ve been slower to respond to demands at existing park & rides.

About 70 percent of Community Transit’s bike lockers are currently leased. Unlike a car parking spot, a bike locker is “yours” for the length of your contract. That’s why some agencies charge a small fee for lockers – something Community Transit is also considering.
The next evolution in bike-transit technology is easy to install, easy to administer “pay per use” lockers. They exist, but have not yet been tried in the Puget Sound region (see where some are in use). King County Metro Transit plans to test on-demand lockers next year. Another way to expand capacity is a simple bike cage or room, a concept in use for employees at the Snohomish County Campus.

A more sophisticated version is the Bike Port in downtown Seattle – that’s one place down there where I have left my bicycle without trepidation.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

For emergency transportation, who do you call?

The terrible fire at the Lynnview Apartments in Lynnwood was all over the news last night. Everyone who lived there lost their homes – and had to find a place to sleep after watching their belongings burn. The Red Cross arranged for a church nearby to act as a shelter. Firefighters needed help getting people there.

Who did they call? Community Transit. We sent two buses to the scene and transported 30 people to the Trinity Lutheran Church. Some families will be staying there until other accommodations can be arranged.

The Lynnview Apartments are just blocks away from the Lynnwood Transit Center, and I expect many of the residents are regular Community Transit riders. I’m glad we could help them last night. If you’d like to help as well, consider a donation to the local Red Cross.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Proposed 2011 service changes impact south county

Affected Routes include Routes 110, 112, 116, 130, 408, 413, 414, 415, 416 and 477

Community Transit is seeking public input on several proposed service changes that would take effect in 2011.

The proposed changes affect service in south Snohomish County to coincide with two new Sound Transit projects on the Edmonds waterfront and at the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center.

With Community Transit sales tax income still low, the agency does not plan to restore Sunday or major holiday bus service in 2011.

Mountlake Terrace Transit Center
In February 2011, Sound Transit is scheduled to open the Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station on I-5. This will add bi-directional Sound Transit bus service to the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center and will increase the number of bus trips at the transit center from 62 to 201.

Community Transit is proposing to move its downtown Seattle commuter service through Mountlake Terrace to the freeway station and to realign local service on city streets. With these changes, residents of Mountlake Terrace and surrounding communities will have more transit options.

A few of the proposals have multiple options and we are asking for public input to help determine which options are selected by the board of directors.

Edmonds Station
Sound Transit’s new improved Edmonds Station is scheduled to open in mid-2011 and will provide an easy location to transfer between Community Transit bus, Sounder rail and Washington State Ferries service. When Edmonds Station opens, Community Transit proposes to move most of its service in that area to new bus stops east of the railroad tracks, eliminating potential delays and facilitating transfers to Sounder trains.

Details on the various route proposals are available online and in a brochure that will be placed on buses the week of Aug. 16. Public comment on these proposals will be accepted through September 6.

A public hearing before the Community Transit Board of Directors will take place at 3 p.m. September 2 at the Community Transit Board Room, 7100 Hardeson Rd., Everett (accessed by Everett Transit Route 8).

A community meeting will take place at the Mountlake Terrace Library (23300 58th Ave. W., accessed by Routes 112 and 130) on Thursday, Aug. 19 from 5-7 p.m. In addition, staff will be at park & rides and will ride on affected routes to help get the word out and solicit feedback.

Comments also will be accepted
via email:
via regular mail: Community Transit Service Change, 7100 Hardeson Road, Everett, WA 98203
via phone: (425) 353-7433