Friday, November 8, 2013

Special session: Don't forget Community Transit

Gov. Jay Inslee has called the Washington Legislature into special session to pass legislation intended to ensure that Boeing builds the 777X airplane line in the state, according to Inslee. Among the legislation under consideration this session are manufacturing tax breaks, education and workforce training, and transportation improvements.

The transportation improvements are presumed to be centered around legislation that failed to pass the state Senate earlier this year. However, it’s not exactly clear how serious an effort will be made to pass a transportation package immediately. Assuming the discussion starts with the proposed House transportation package, there are several things that could greatly benefit Community Transit riders, and Boeing.

Operational funding
For several years, Community Transit has asked the Legislature for additional money to operate bus service. The recession reduced Community Transit’s sales tax revenues, and while the economy is rebounding, there is no way to bring back near the level of service we had in 2009 based on sales tax alone. To increase service significantly, new operating funds are needed.

The House package provided a small amount of operating funds, about $13-23 million for all transit agencies in the state. At most, Community Transit might get $1.4 million a year from this fund, which is about a third of the amount needed to offer a reduced level of Sunday service. That is not much.

From an operational perspective, the most beneficial feature of this legislation is a local option. That would give the Community Transit board authority to place a ballot measure in our service area seeking additional tax revenue. It could be sales tax, it could be a car tab fee or excise tax. Such an option could generate enough revenue to fund service levels at the 2009 level, and maybe beyond. It goes without saying that there is no guarantee voters would approve this funding, but at least this option allows the agency to make its case. And it is the only option on the table that would allow Community Transit to add significant service.  

Swift II
The House package also contained a capital transit project list. This is one-time money that can be spent on building something. The list included money to help Community Transit build a second Swift bus rapid transit line.

This “Swift II” project (just a working name) is a perfect project for this session. The proposed Swift II line under study would serve Boeing-Everett at the north end, wind east across Airport Road/128th to 132nd, then turn south at the Bothell-Everett Highway. There are two options of a southern terminus: just south of Mill Creek Town Center or Canyon Park.

A feasibility study of this project has been underway for close to a year now, a prerequisite for federal funding.

If the governor and legislature want to support Boeing, and the 777X would be built in Everett, improved funding for transit service to the Boeing plant and the surrounding community is vital. Community Transit works closely with Boeing to ensure bus and vanpool service to the plant. Several Boeing trips were cut during the recession, so the loss of bus service has affected Boeing employees. Swift is a proven high-capacity service that can help the aerospace giant build planes without building new parking, and retain and attract quality employees. Funding to add Community Transit service in general, and funding to get a Swift II project serving Boeing should be high priorities for this session.

Unlike King County Metro, Community Transit does not need state money to avoid service cuts. Those cuts were already made (partly because the state did not step up earlier). Community Transit has no plans for any further service cuts. Instead, we are poised to grow. In the 2014 budget there is money from increased sales tax revenue to add 2,500 hours of new service. Not much, but it’s growth.

Any funding that comes out of the state legislature would help us to add more service and do it quicker. Don’t let legislators forget.


  1. Boeing employees are well known for their extravagant cars and trucks they drive. Very few ride a bus.
    More of us have an attitude of gratitude.

    I would love to see a "social experiment" done only with Boeing employees. It would prove a point for most of them that they are never going to start being frugal nor grateful for what they do already have....a great job.
    How many Boeing workers would dare share their space on a bus with the less fortunate?

  2. I must agree with the previous comment. Many Boeing employees do not ride the bus. Additionally, shift times at Boeing are often incompatible with transit. The terminus for Swift II should be elsewhere, perhaps at another Everett location such as the Everett Mall or the South Everett Freeway Station.

    Also, CT should look into the EDCC-Alderwood Mall-164th St corridor as a possible Swift II alternative. Though there is little room for BAT lanes, the need for more transit is there, arguably more so than the Bothell-Everett corridor.

  3. We currently have three routes that serve Boeing Everett and they are well used. In addition, a number of Boeing employees participate in vanpools. That said, Boeing has a parking issue at its plant, so encouraging more transit use is a top priority of theirs.

    As for other Swift routes, please visit our Long Range Transit Plan to see our transit emphasis corridors and hopes for future Swift routes.

  4. The Swift bus frees up a lot of space for cars on Evergreen. During rush hour each bus takes 20 to 30 cars off the road. Cheaper to pay for the bus than to add extra lanes. Swift 2, if done right, would be a full bus into the Thrashers Corner/Canyon Park area for the people who work there. I certainly would stop driving and take a Swift Bus that intersects with Swift 1. Traffic near Canyon Park is Horrible, and Swift 1 is faster on Evergreen than driving during peak driving hours. Boeing has traditionally paid a lot of money for infrastructure improvements and bus lines in Everett, and I suspect will continue to do so, plus the cost for the bus is cheaper than the cost to expand the roads near Canyon Park where traffic congestion will be helped by the bus lines.