Snohomish County, Wash. – Bus service will continue to grow at some level over the next six years, according to Community Transit's 2020-2025 Proposed Transit Development Plan (TDP). However, due to financial uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency is planning for more than one economic scenario.
Community Transit relies largely on sales tax and fares for its revenue. When COVID-19 shut down most activities earlier this year, sales in the county slowed and bus ridership dropped, reducing transit revenues. The agency responded by cutting bus service and reducing its workforce.
Because ongoing changes in the economy remain hard to predict, the draft six-year plan outlines two contrasting revenue scenarios – “slow recovery” and “rapid recovery.” The scenarios forecast sales tax revenues, new service hours and adjustments to reserve balances between now and 2025.
The slow recovery scenario forecasts a deep recession with extended recovery, similar to the Great Recession. The rapid recovery scenario forecasts a smaller recession that is shorter in duration. There is a $135 million sales tax revenue gap between the two scenarios, which affects the level of service growth over the next six years.
Under the slow recovery scenario, Community Transit would add about 15,000 hours of new service. Under the rapid recovery scenario, the agency would add about 110,000 hours of service. As reality plays out, it is likely that revenues and service growth will fall somewhere between those estimates.
In each scenario, the agency is committed to using new revenues and operating reserves to build out expansion of its Swift bus rapid transit network. The current SwiftBlue Line and Swift Green Line provide frequent bus service through dense population and commercial centers, attracting high ridership. In July 2020, 42% of all Community Transit ridership was on these two routes.
Two ongoing projects will connect Swift service to Sound Transit’s Link light rail when it reaches Snohomish County in 2024:
“We’ve committed to building out Swift and connecting to Link light rail in 2024,” said Roland Behee, Community Transit’s director of planning and development. “Details on other bus routes to support the full transit network are still in development, and will be different under the two revenue scenarios.”
With service expanding, the agency is continuing work to modernize and expand base facilities required for a larger fleet and workforce that will operate and support the service.
The Draft 2020-2025 Transit Development Plan is available for public comment through Oct. 1. The plan is online at www.communitytransit.org/TDP.
Comments can be sent several ways:
Comments can be made directly to the Board of Directors at a public hearing at 3 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 1. Please see www.communitytransit.org/publiccomment
for details on how to participate in this virtual meeting. For more information or to inquire about special needs arrangements, call (425) 353-7433.
Community Transit continues to provide essential transportation service during the pandemic. For information about Community Transit’s service and commitment to safety during the pandemic, please visit www.communitytransit.org/coronavirus.