By Kristin Kinnamon, Community Transit
The Community Transit Board of Directors approved the final pieces of a painful service reduction plan at its April 1 meeting. A financial report earlier in the meeting underlined the reason for the cuts. Sales tax collections for the first quarter of 2010 are 21 percent lower than they were in 2007, before the recession began.
Part of the plan to save $11 million a year involves shortening Community Transit’s operating day to reduce costs. That has a particular impact on bus service to the Everett’s Boeing plant, the county’s largest employer, no matter the state of the economy or its own boom and bust cycle. Boeing has 27,000 workers in Everett. Neither roads nor factory could accommodate all those people at once, so Boeing has three shifts with staggered start times throughout the day.
Boeing also has a strong transportation incentive program that encourages carpools, vanpool and transit use.
Community Transit buses to Boeing currently leave the bus yard at 3 a.m. to get to Gold Bar and Stanwood to bring workers in for the 5:30 a.m. shift. The board accepted the original staff recommendation to stop serving that early shift, but modified the staff proposal by having buses go out at 4 .m.l rather than 4:30 a.m. This will get riders to work for the 6 a.m. shift, the largest of the morning.
Workers on the earlier shift are encouraged to consider finding fellow bus riders to form a vanpool. Community Transit has 80 current vanpools serving the Everett’s Boeing plant. Vans also come from Island, Skagit, Kitsap, King and Whatcom counties.
Stanwood Mayor Dianne White, who joined the Community Transit board just weeks before the first vote on the service changes, said cutting Boeing service to Stanwood all together was not acceptable. “That’s 200 cars a day on I-5, five days a week,” she said.
The four roundtrips on Route 247 from Stanwood to Boeing averaged 240 boardings a day - roughly 120 people - in 2009.
Board member and Sultan Councilman Steve Slawson fought to retain Boeing service to Gold Bar on Route 277. Slawson is a Community Transit rider himself and argued that the early-morning service is extremely important to the handful of riders who take it, not just to get to Boeing but also to connections with Route 424 to Seattle.
With the operating day starting at 4 a.m. , the first Route 277 trip can get as far as Monroe to serve the 6 a.m. shift start. A second trip on Route 277 will extend to Gold Bar.
“This sends a political message to Boeing - we want you here,” White said after the revised plans were adopted unanimously.