CT offers free vans to ease 695 woes

Senior citizens and community groups stranded by Community Transit's (CT) recent service cuts may soon have a transportation alternative.

CT is donating six wheelchair-accessible minibuses and six passenger vans to nonprofit organizations, the agency's executive director, Joyce Olson, said yesterday.

Transit vehicles last about six to seven years, after which CT typically auctions them off. But in light of this year's service cuts because of Initiative 695, transit officials decided to offer them to the community, Olson said.

"While they've come to the end of a useful life for us, they have many years of useful service," she said.

Olson said groups such as the YMCA and Red Cross already have expressed interest in the decommissioned vehicles.

Each minibus and van holds up to 15 passengers, which could be a boon for a county transportation program coordinated by the Everett chapter of the Red Cross.

"We definitely have a need," said spokeswoman Kathalene Cassels. "The requests that come in, we can barely handle them because the ridership has grown so much."

Last year, the Red Cross coordinated nearly 8,000 passenger trips for children, disabled people and community groups in Snohomish County.

CT spokeswoman Janlyn Nesbett said all vehicles have gone through regular maintenance checks. The vans have about 100,000 miles on them and the minibuses have about 180,000 miles. Maintenance records will be disclosed to the new owners.

Although these vehicles may provide a transportation alternative for some people, CT's priority is restoring the service that was cut, Olson said.

Van service for the elderly and disabled as well as all weekend and holiday bus service were among the cuts that took effect Sunday to make up for lost revenue from I-695. The voter-approved measure reduced car-tab fees to a flat $30. That resulted in a loss to CT of about $18 million, or 30 percent of its annual operating budget.

Olson voiced support for legislative bills that would help transit authorities grapple with the effects of I-695.

A bill sponsored by state Rep. Dave Schmidt, R-Bothell, would force a public vote on merging CT with Everett Transit, a move that CT officials support but Everett officials oppose.

CT also supports legislation that would grant transit authorities certain tax exemptions and permit raising the cap on the sales tax that transit agencies can collect.

None of those measures has moved to the House of Representatives for a vote.

Later this year, CT will evaluate whether further cuts are necessary.

Frank Vinluan's phone message number is 425-745-7814. His e-mail address is fvinluan@seattletimes.com


Need a bus?

Nonprofit groups interested in acquiring one of Community Transit's retired vans or minibuses can call 425-348-7114. The criteria for groups to qualify for the vehicles have not yet been set.