Six-Year Plan Draws Attention to Unmet Needs

Mar 6, 2015

No shortage of transit needs or ideas, just shortage of funding

Snohomish County, Wash. – Each year, Community Transit updates its six-year Transportation Development Plan to forecast the financial picture six years out and outline services the agency can provide.

Last year, the six-year report showed rebounding sales tax revenue funding new bus service, about 45 percent of what was cut during the recession. Much of that service recovery is taking place this June as the agency plans to bring back Sunday and holiday service, as well as more bus trips during the week.

This year’s updated plan, which is now out for public comment, confirms the forecast for moderate service growth over the next six years, but also draws attention to the widening gap between transit service needs and actual service on the road.

Transit service trends

In 2009, Community Transit operated 414,000 hours of bus service. During the recession, the agency cut 160,000 hours of service. The Draft 2015 – 2020 Transit Development Plan (TDP) anticipates adding about 67,000 hours of new bus service, 27,000 of which will be added in June 2015. About 8,000 service hours will be added each year from 2016-2020, much of which will go to maintaining schedules as traffic continues to worsen.

According to the Puget Sound Regional Council, by 2040 population in Snohomish County will grow by more than 50 percent and employment will grow by more than 60 percent. Recent trends indicate that more of those people will want to travel by transit. Current regional plans forecast that Community Transit will need more than 500,000 hours of new service, or a 170 percent increase over 2014 service levels, to meet that demand.

Despite the rebounding local economy, transit growth is not keeping up with demand.

In 2014, Community Transit’s ridership grew by 7.7 percent over the previous year, one of the highest growth rates in the nation. Customers continually note the full buses on their morning, evening and even midday commutes. Last year, Community Transit carried an average of 28.8 riders per hour on each bus.

Service and infrastructure needs

With transit service being so popular, the agency has made plans for service and infrastructure improvements. Community Transit is awaiting state approval to fund the Seaway Transit Center near Paine Field, which would consolidate Community, Everett and Metro Transit buses serving Boeing and other nearby businesses. This transit center would also serve as the northern terminal for a second Swift Bus Rapid Transit line, which is in the planning stages.

State funding is also anticipated for a Mukilteo Park & Ride, which would provide 200 spaces for UW and Seattle transit commuters. This is a joint project with Snohomish County, Paine Field and the City of Mukilteo.

The agency also needs new funding in order to increase bus service. The state legislature is considering bills that would allow Community Transit to seek increased local funding through a public vote. New funding could pay for:

  • A second Swift line connecting Boeing/Paine Field and Canyon Park.
  • More trips serving Seattle and the University District.
  • Better connections for east Snohomish County and Highway 9.
  • Faster and more frequent trips to job centers in Snohomish County.
  • Late night trips to bring night shift workers home.

Meanwhile, the Draft TDP points out that Community Transit must continue to invest in existing infrastructure to maintain quality service. This includes:

  • Regular replacement of aging vehicles.
  • Expanding the fleet by 15 buses and 20 vanpools.
  • Preservation and replacement of aging facilities, vehicles and technology, including upgrades to the radio communications system and ORCA fare payment system.
  • Controlling cost growth to sustain service and jobs.
  • Continued implementation and use of Transit Technologies to improve customer information, operations and efficiency of service.

Public Comment

The Draft TDP is available for review online. Public comment on the plan is being taken through April 3. People can submit comments at planupdate@commtrans.org or by calling (425) 353-7433.

A public hearing on the Draft TDP will be held at the monthly Board of Directors meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday, April 2 at Community Transit headquarters, 7100 Hardeson Road in Everett (accessible by Everett Transit Route 8).