About 100 people attended the public hearing portion of the Community Transit Board of Directors meeting on Feb. 4 at the Future of Flight museum in Mukilteo.
Community Transit CEO Joyce Eleanor welcomed the audience and Planning Director Joy Munkers summarized the public comment on the proposed service cuts and fare increase to date. She added that additional comments that come in by the Feb. 8 deadline would be submitted to board members next week.
Acting Board Chair Dave Gossett, who is chair of the Snohomish County Council, set the groundrules for the hearing and got the testimony started. In all, more than 50 people testified about the proposed cuts and fare increase.
Among the testimony…
An ARC of Snohomish County employee said she would not be able to work on Sundays if the suspension of Sunday bus and DART paratransit service were approved. This sentiment was shared by a half dozen other DART riders who said that their ability to get around no Sundays to work, attend church or visit family would be lost under the proposal.
A Bothell resident said that the cuts to Routes 105 and 120 through residential neighborhoods would prevent many people from using transit. She said that while she understood the effects of the recession, she felt that less frequent buses were a better solution than cutting neighborhood service.
A Boeing employee from Snohomish said the cuts to early morning Boeing service would put many tired workers on the road. He also complained about the information given to riders about the service cuts, saying the messages were not very transparent.
Other Boeing workers and representatives also spoke against the plan. Their buses are full and they have done exactly what Community Transit has wanted – getting out of their cars and onto buses – so it didn’t make sense to now cancel their service. A couple of people said they had asked Community Transit for detailed cost breakdowns of the bus service and did not get timely nor useful answers.
A Mill Creek consultant said he has clients whose workers use transit and would be impacted by the cuts. He said the recession has created a tough problem for transit agencies – more demand for service and less revenue. He said Community Transit provides better service than other agencies in the surrounding area.
The Mayor of Snohomish and a city councilman both testified in favor of keeping Route 424 running through that city. They did not think the savings from bypassing the city to start service to Seattle in Monroe penciled out, given that the route would lose riders.
A rider from Arlington spoke against the plan to cut Route 441 to the eastside of King County. She said the buses are full and alternatives add 45 minutes or more. She asked if one trip could be kept in each direction.
Several other people also spoke in favor of keeping Route 441. They said not all passengers are Microsoft employees, so the private shuttle that company runs is not a viable alternative. One person said businesses on the eastside are growing and those employees could be encouraged to live in Snohomish County, where Community Transit taxes are paid, if there was good transit service.
The president and vice president of the Amalgamated Transit Union representing Community Transit drivers and other employees spoke against the proposal. They urged the board to consider other alternatives to cutting service, especially Sunday service.
A young resident from Everett said he doesn’t drive and uses the bus for work and all his travels. He urged the board to save Sunday service and cut frequencies, saying he is okay with waiting an hour for a bus.
The presidents of two chambers of commerce thanked Community Transit for their service to the county and commitment to the public input process. The Everett Chamber president said the proposal was a sound business plan.
A church pastor made a plea to save Sunday service, saying that members of his congregation were rallying around a church member who relies on DART to get her to church services. He said he was surprised there was not a greater showing from the faith community to protect bus service on Sundays.
A man said he is not a transit supporter because service is inconsistent, yet his son relies on the bus to get to UW.
Several people said they would pay higher fares or a surcharge to keep their service. One person said adult fares should be raised to $2 each ride, but youth fares should be reduced to $1 so people wouldn’t have to always carry coins.
Several people also mentioned other revenue possibilities. A couple of people discussed a bill making its way through the State Legislature that could possibly provide temporary funding to transit agencies. A member of the Transportation Choices Coalition said his organization is working to support transit service throughout the state. He said the state law that makes transit agencies reliant on the retail sales tax is not a good solution. He urged transit riders to look into ways they could help support more state transit funding.
The public hearing lasted about two and a half hours. Gossett gave instructions to board members to send any changes to the proposal to all board members for consideration, and that the bottom line was that $5 million in savings for 2010 needed to be found. A decision on the service change plan is anticipated at the March 4 board meeting.
After the hearing, at the board meeting, new board officers were chosen. They are:
Chair – Dave Gossett, Snohomish County Council Chair
Vice Chair – Joe Marine, Mayor of Mukilteo
Secretary – Mike Todd, Mayor of Mill Creek