Community Transit Board sends sales tax measure to Nov. 3 ballot

community-transit-logoCommunity Transit will be asking voters this November to approve new funding to increase bus service throughout Snohomish County.

Just one day after Gov. Jay Inslee signed a statewide transportation funding bill, Community Transit’s Board of Directors voted to place a measure on the Nov. 3 ballot that would increase the agency’s sales tax by three-tenths of one percent (0.3%).

“Ridership on our buses grew 8 percent last year as traffic continued to get even worse,” said Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath. “At this time, we have all our buses in service and people still keep asking for more. If new funding is approved in November, we can have more service on the road as early as March 2016.”

Community Transit has not asked voters for a tax increase since 2001, and that was to offset the loss of motor vehicle excise tax funding following Initiative 695. The agency’s last tax increase for more service was in 1990.

If new funding is approved, Community Transit would provide:

  • More local bus trips throughout the day, as well as expanded service hours every day of the week.
  • A second Swift bus rapid transit line between the state’s largest manufacturing job center at Boeing/Paine Field and Canyon Park/Bothell, Snohomish County’s high-tech job center.
  • More commuter bus trips to downtown Seattle and the University of Washington.
  • Increased east-west connections within the county.
  • More service to job, housing and educational centers throughout the county, including communities such as Arlington, Monroe and Stanwood.
  • New routes, such as Marysville-to-McCollum Park via Lake Stevens, Snohomish and Silver Firs via Highway 9.
  • Reconfigured local bus service to connect with Sound Transit Link light rail when it reaches Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and, eventually, Everett.
  • More vanpools and expanded DART paratransit service.

The Puget Sound Regional Council has forecast Snohomish County’s population to grow by 240,000 people and employment by 130,000 jobs between now and 2040.

“One of the major challenges for our county and our region will be balancing the infrastructure demands of all this growth with maintaining a livable community,” said Heath. “Investing in transit helps our economy grow while protecting the quality of life we enjoy today.”

“Transit options get people to work on-time and attract businesses to our community while relieving traffic congestion, which in turn helps businesses move freight more efficiently,” said John Monroe, chief operations officer of Economic Alliance Snohomish County. “Expansion of Community Transit services will help Economic Alliance’s work to keep Snohomish County’s economy moving in the right direction.”

“Roads in our county are increasingly gridlocked, and not just at rush hour. We need better alternatives for getting people around without clogging our roads,” said Mike Todd, Mill Creek City Councilmember and Community Transit Board Chair. “It’s time for our community to come together to invest in our future.”

“People in need rely on transit to get to their jobs and appointments. More Community Transit service will connect more people with more social services, which helps everyone,” said Dennis Smith, President and CEO, United Way of Snohomish County.

According to the state Department of Revenue, the 0.3 percent sales tax increase would cost an average Snohomish County adult about $33 a year, or an extra 3 cents on every $10 taxable purchase. Community Transit’s current sales tax rate is 0.9 percent in all jurisdictions within its service area, which is most of Snohomish County excluding Everett.

The 0.3 percent sales tax increase would generate about $25 million a year for transit improvements.

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