Everett Transit is in the midst of a major restructuring effort for the kind of network and service that the transit agency will provide in the years ahead. As a part of this, Everett Transit has proposed a fare change to increase meager farebox revenues to bridge increasing legacy, operational, and ORCA NextGen costs. The transit agency has some of the lowest bus fares in the region.
Everett Transit had originally proposed to raise bus fares over four rounds through 2020. Instead, the transit agency recommended ripping off the band-aid to raise fares over two rounds in a six-month period. The net effect, however, is largely the same: a doubling of most bus fares. The Everett City Council approved the proposal on Wednesday despite little public participation in the fare change process (only 82 people commented on the fare change proposal).
The adopted fare change will increase fares across the board for all categories of riders. In the first round of fare hikes, which take place in January, riders will see an increase between 33% and 100%, depending upon fare category. Ultimately, all fares will double from what they are today by July next year, except that a low-income reduced fare may be implemented for the first time. The low-income fare program, however, could be delayed to align with implementation by regional partners and was not formally adopted into the approved fare schedule.
The last time Everett Transit raised fares, ridership fell by 12% from a fare hike a small fraction of what is planned to go in effect. To make matters worse, the transit agency is planning to curtail and reduce many services and has a messy service restructure proposal. Increasing fares is always a hard pill to swallow, but it’s especially so in this case since it comes with next to zero new benefits to riders. So far, no solutions have been put forward to even approximate the kind of service levels that Community Transit, the countywide transit provider for Snohomish County, offers today and will in the years ahead (36% growth in just the next three years).
Raising fares isn’t the kind of cash infuision that Everett Transit really needs to improve the bottom line. Fundamentally, new tax revenues must be sought to bring some semblence of equitable, frequent, and reliable transit service.