Transit Merger Likely To Resurface -- Key Legislator May Introduce New Bill
This session's legislative drive to merge Everett Transit with Snohomish County Community Transit is dead, but watch for a revival next year.
Rep. Jim Johanson, D-Mill Creek, blamed his bill's fate in part on a successful lobbying effort by Everett, which didn't want to merge its 52-vehicle fleet with CT's fleet of 310 buses and van pools.
"It's a turf war," he said.
A 1991 state study of public-transit systems recommended the merger of systems such as CT and Everett Transit, which would meet goals of the state Growth Management Act.
In 1992, Sen. Larry Vognild, D-Everett, blocked a similar merger bill to give the two agencies time to work voluntarily toward regionalizing their services.
However, little progress has been made since then.
This year's bill unanimously passed the House Transportation Committee, then died in the House Rules Committee.
"What a bummer. I was pretty upset when that happened," Johanson said. "Everyone I talked to, as far as constituents, was in favor."
But the city of Everett wasn't.
The city doesn't see any need for merging its efficient system with CT's more expensive operation. Residents of areas served by CT pay 0.6 cent of a sales tax for transit, twice Everett's sales tax for transit.
In addition, CT is in the middle of a federal grand-jury investigation into an alleged kickback scheme involving bus-transmission repairs.
Transportation Committee chairwoman Rep. Ruth Fisher, D-Tacoma, criticized Johanson for not adequately informing Everett and CT about the bill before it was introduced.
"He really hadn't done his homework, and that meant to talk to Everett and talk to CT," Fisher said.
Although Johanson wrote the bill, Fisher was its prime sponsor. Rep. Paull Shin, D-Edmonds, was a third co-sponsor.
Fisher said she will talk to Everett Mayor Ed Hansen and County Executive Bob Drewel about the bus situation.
"Some day there has to be one transit system up there, and it has to be agreeable to all," she said.
Johanson said he, too, plans to continue pressing for regional efficiencies, "so there isn't this iron curtain around the city of Everett as far as transportation goes."
Both transit services are subsidized with taxpayers' money, he said.
"I'm going to work with Ed Hansen through the interim . . . and see if we can come up with a solution that will serve all the other cities of Snohomish County and not just the city of Everett, so we can have a more regional transportation system," Johanson said.
"If we don't get anywhere, then certainly an option I will have is to introduce another merger bill."
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