Monday, April 29, 2013

Legislative Update: Waiting for Special Session

The 2013 State Legislature ended its regular session yesterday after passing a transportation budget, but still has to complete work on a biennial operating budget. So, Gov. Jay Inslee has called for a special session to begin on May 13.

It is expected that a new transportation funding package, which includes funding for transit and road projects as well as local options for transit agencies, will be discussed as part of the special session. The most significant part of that package for Community Transit is a provision that would allow the agency to take a ballot measure to local voters seeking new funding. Of course, there is no guarantee that any new transportation legislation will be adopted.

Passage of the regular transportation budget still is good news for Community Transit. A modest amount of direct transit funding that was established in 2012 was funded again. This will bring Community Transit about $800,000 in the next fiscal year.

Also, Community Transit secured two Regional Mobility Grants, one to match federal funding for the purchase of 17 new Double Tall buses and another to begin study and design for efforts to get a park & ride built in Mukilteo.

While the direct funding is welcome, the funding need is much greater. Community Transit cut $23 million of service in 2010-2012 dollars, so it would take at least that much every year to restore the same level of service.

Before the special session starts, Community Transit will continue to ask legislators to support transit funding. This extends to the new House Republican leader Dan Kristiansen, who becomes Snohomish County's highest ranking legislator.

In his remarks calling for a special session, Inslee mentioned transit funding as one of the items he would like the legislature to resolve. Let's hope this next session is truly "special" for transit.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Smart Commuters Walk the "Green" Carpet

By Caryn Walline, TDM & Outreach Specialist

At Community Transit, we work hard to operate by the motto “Earth Day, Every Day.”

Recently, the agency celebrated Snohomish County and Bothell businesses and commuters that walk the talk (sometimes literally!) at our 2012 Smart Commuter Awards Luncheon. The ceremony honored individuals and companies that reduced greenhouse gas emissions and congestion by using greener alternatives to driving alone such as riding transit, vanpooling, carpooling, biking and walking.

This year’s honorees prove that choosing sustainable transportation options not only helps individuals save money and stress, but also makes our community a better place to live and work for everyone.

Employer of the Year – Crane Aerospace & Electronics 
By promoting the Curb the Congestion program, Crane Aerospace was able to encourage their employees to remove 2,117 trips on 164th Street in 2012.

Employee Transportation Coordinator of the Year – David Kemp, Brooks Sports 
In 2012, David Kemp launched the Commute Happy campaign at Brooks Sports in Bothell to motivate his employees to try greener travel options. During the Commute Happy campaign, Brooks’ employees reduced more than 35,000 lbs. of CO-2 and logged more than 3,800 trips using green commute options.

Smart Commuter of the Year – Astrella Norell, Brooks Sports 
Astrella commutes to her job as an Apparel & Product Developer at Brooks Sports by bus most days. She also decided four years ago to live without a car and uses the money she saves on gas, insurance and car loans to travel.

Caryn accepted the Employer of the Year
award from Bob Drewel at the
2011 Smart Commuter Awards when she was
an ETC. Now Caryn facilitates ETC activity
for Community Transit.

The 2012 award recipients were all from businesses throughout Snohomish County and Bothell who support Washington State’s Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) goals. Community Transit receives funding from the state to help these employers reduce single-occupant vehicle trips to their worksites by providing services such as the Smart Commuter Awards, advanced training for Employee Transportation Coordinators (ETCs), a Guaranteed Ride Home program, transportation fairs, and resources on commute alternatives to approximately 24,000 employees at 74 worksites.

As a former ETC at Puget Sound Energy – Bothell, the winner of the 2011 Employer of the Year Smart Commuter Award, I have personally seen the positive affects that the Commute Trip Reduction program has on businesses and employees.

The benefits to the company were being able to provide a desirable benefit to our employees that helped with recruiting and retention, while also meeting Puget Sound Energy’s mission to protect the environment. Employees participating in the Puget Sound Energy CTR program were able to save money on gas, were less stressed and enjoyed living healthier, greener lives.

Commute Trip Reduction can also have major impacts on air quality and congestion throughout our communities. Across the state of Washington, participants in the CTR program reduce more than 71,500 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year and save commuters more than $22 million in fuel.

Here in Snohomish County, businesses in six out of nine jurisdictions that receive Community Transit’s CTR services reduced drive-alone trips since 2007, resulting in a savings of almost 28 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per employee each day.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Oxy Gene: Earth Day is Every Day for Me!

Greetings Good Citizens of Snohomish County!

Let me take a moment to introduce myself. I am Oxy Gene — Defender of Truth, Justice and Really Clean Air! Every day, I patrol the beautiful skies of Snohomish County (rain or shine) and educate good citizens like you about alternative ways to commute and to help keep the air we breathe, well, really clean!

I am taking a break from my regularly scheduled superhero duties to talk to you about a day that is near and dear to my superhero heart (deep breath) —Earth Day. The first Earth Day started out 43 years ago as a nationwide demonstration for a healthier, sustainable, environment by 20 million Americans (I was just a wee lad in superhero absorbent diapers then, but it made me the man I am today. I know, too much info).

Anyway, this year, more than one billion of your fellow planet dwellers are celebrating Earth Day in events held in communities, college campuses and neighborhoods worldwide. For those good citizens on smart phones and social media, I would suggest you check out the Earth Day Network for a complete history of Earth Day and to learn more about this year’s theme, “The Face of Climate Change.” In fact, they are asking folks to contribute to a global mosaic by uploading pictures of how climate change is personally affecting you.

As a defender of truth, justice and really clean air, Earth Day is every day for me. It’s also “every day” for Community Transit. In addition to providing 36,000 transit ride each weekday, Community Transit has established processes and programs to ensure that their buses, vans, and operations make as little impact on the environment as possible.

Good citizens of Snohomish County, you can be defenders of clean air, too—no cape required! Here are some Community Transit services that can help you reduce your carbon footprint.
• Take a Community Transit bus!
• Ride in a vanpool!
• Participate in the Curb the Congestion program, log your travel online and earn monthly rewards! (Eligibility required)

Thank you for taking the time to learn about Earth Day and considering how you can help make our world a cleaner, healthier place to live. I must take to the skies and resume my patrol, now. I wish you a very Happy Earth Day! And remember, there’s only one thing all of us share. It nourishes, refreshes, please love it . . . . IT’S AIR!

When he’s not flying the friendly skies of Snohomish County, Oxy Gene, can be found at various Community Transit and county events, parades, and festivals to spread the word about the importance of defending clean air. Visit Oxy Gene’s webpage for a listing of upcoming events and to download activity books and coloring pages for future clean air defenders.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Earth Day: Environmental Management Part of Our Business

By Colleen Murphy, Environmental Analyst 

“Treat the Earth well. It was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” 

This proverb has been attributed to Native American tribes, Kenyan natives and even Ralph Waldo Emerson. Regardless of the source, it’s an honorable view about each generation leaving the Earth better than we found it.

Community Transit has nine Core Values that characterize the way we conduct business. Our commitment to the environment is demonstrated in our Core Value of Environmental Stewardship: “We embrace ways of doing business that are environmentally friendly, and seek to be a role model for other organizations in reducing environmental impacts.”

To implement this Core Value, Community Transit operates an active Environmental Management System (EMS). An EMS is a process of continually improving our environmental performance by using the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle. Our EMS began in 2004 and is compliant with ISO 14001-2004. Our EMS is a tool we use to go above and beyond environmental regulations.

A multi-departmental team evaluates all of our activities to identify opportunities to reduce waste, reduce natural resources used and switch to “greener” options. We then create an action plan to implement the identified improvements and train affected employees. Using this process we have improved air quality by reducing vehicle emissions, reduced fuel waste, reduced electricity usage, increased recycling of office and work products, installed solar panels at the Mountlake Terrace Parking Garage, increased emergency response preparedness and made many more improvements to our everyday operations.

These efforts make a positive impact on our local environment every day and help to lower our operating costs, which preserves bus service. On Earth Day 2013, Community Transit is doing its part daily to utilize natural resources wisely, improve the local waterways for our children to play in, and help keep the air cleaner in our part of the world. After all, we live here too!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Legislative Funding Update & Drewel Support

We're just under two weeks from the end of the 2013 legislative session and the good news is that transit funding is still alive!

Thanks to late, but vocal support from Gov. Jay Inslee and continued pressure from a variety of interests from business coalitions to transit agencies to sustainable living groups, the notion of a statewide transportation (roads and transit) funding package remains in play.

The latest House package dedicates some money for transit and contains a local option for additional sales taxes that would require voter approval. Legislators have volleyed back-and-forth about local option funding for transit, from vehicle registration fees to motor vehicle excise taxes (MVET) to sales taxes.

I was asked by a reporter today why Community Transit would support a sales tax option. The fact is we went to legislators this year asking for new funding, period. After the cuts our customers have sustained during the recession, we want to provide better transit service for Snohomish County.

We specifically asked for MVET as a funding source because it is more stable than sales tax in an economic downturn, and together both sales tax and MVET would provide a more diversified funding base for Community Transit. However, it is legislators who will decide which funding options we get.

Two years ago, a temporary congestion relief car-tab fee bill was written for Community Transit, but by the end of the session we were removed from that bill. Only King County Metro benefited from that legislation, and that kept that agency from major cuts these past two years.

At this time, we are past the cuts; we're ready to grow, and the demand for transit in Snohomish County is real. What we hope to get from this Legislature is the ability to go to our community and make the case that transit is important for a growing economy. Economic Alliance Snohomish County, the Boeing Machinists Union, United Way and other local organizations have supported Community Transit in Olympia this session to ask for more transit funding because they also believe it is vital to our community.

The funding source will be what it will be, we have no control of that. All types of taxes have been considered: property tax, household tax, business and occupation tax. Right now, legislators are gravitating toward sales tax. No tax is popular, but our voters can decide if better transit service is worthy of their support, and Community Transit would rather have that option than not have it.

Today, speaking at the Smart Commuter Awards luncheon in Lynnwood, Puget Sound Regional Council Executive Director (and former Snohomish County Executive) Bob Drewel praised the work of businesses that work to reduce drive-alone trips to their workplaces and also called on them to support increased funding for transit. He mentioned the legislation still alive in Olympia and said that as a community we should all support these partnerships and the service they provide.