Snohomish County, Wash. – Community Transit turns 35 on Oct. 4.
No celebrations are planned, but the date provides an opportunity to remember the origins of one of the state’s largest transit providers.
The first buses rolled into service the morning of Oct. 4, 1976, just four months after voters in Brier, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Marysville, Mountlake Terrace, Snohomish and Woodway approved funding for the Snohomish County Public Transportation Benefit Area Corporation. Service began with 18 35-foot GMC buses and three Mercedes Benz 16-passenger mini-buses leased from what then was known as Seattle Metro.
For the first three years, buses actually had “SCPTBA Public Transit” on them to identify the service. It was 1979 before the name “Community Transit” was adopted following a public contest, creating an identity that was much easier to remember.
Service in the early years was quite different than today. While there were routes, there were no stops and people were expected to flag down a bus anywhere along the route. The first buses had no radios. Drivers were told to carry two dimes so if a bus broke down they could get to a pay phone and call for assistance.
In the first full year, about 951,000 people rode the service, compared to a peak of about 11.9 million in 2008.
Community Transit has been through cycles of growth and reduction through the years. In 2000, after Initiative 695 and the elimination of the state Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, Community Transit cut nearly 30 percent of its service. Just days after Sept. 11, 2001, voter approved a sales tax increase to restore service. The recent recession has slashed Community Transit’s funding once again, forcing a service cut in June 2010 and another slated for February 2012.
“We have grown with the county, developing a transit system that connects our communities and reduces congestion,” said CEO Joyce Eleanor, who has been at the agency’s helm for more than 17 years. “The economy may have created some detours, but we clearly see the road ahead and intend to serve our community another 35 years.”
Community Transit is responsible for providing transportation options for Snohomish County residents, including bus and paratransit service, vanpool and ridesharing options. Call Community Transit at (425) 353-7433 or (800) 562-1375 for bus information, or (888) 814-1300 for carpool or vanpool information, or go to www.communitytransit.org. You can also read our blog at www.communitytransit.blogspot.com, visit our Facebook page or see us on YouTube. Support local businesses and Community Transit when you Buy Local for Transit; read more at www.communitytransit.org/buylocal.