C-Tran expects 2022 budget increase

C-Tran budgeted a $ 38.2 million increase in net income for 2022 over 2021. What caused such a drastic increase in net income for an agency that budgeted $ 2.6 million? dollars in net income last year? The answer is multiple.

The agency received nearly $ 32.6 million in operating grants from the state and federal governments. The majority of that was federal stimulus money to offset operating costs.

This, however, was not the only change in funding that C-Tran saw. The agency receives 0.7 percent of the 8.5 percent local sales tax.

“This is actually our biggest funding stream,” said Julie Syring, CFO at C-Tran. Over the past year, the agency has experienced record growth in sales tax collection.

This gives the agency the ability to give back to clients. Hence the agency’s recent announcement that most rates will be lowered over the next 12 months.

“We have maintained strong finances because of this, so this is our opportunity to give back,” said Syring.

Like all transit agencies across the country, C-Tran’s ridership plummeted during the pandemic. The agency recorded nearly 6 million passenger boardings in 2019; in 2020, they were just under 3.7 million.

“We experienced – and this is kind of a silver lining in a dark cloud – the smallest drop in ridership of any transit agency in Washington state,” said Christine Selk, director communication and customer experience at C-Tran. “Comparatively, this is good news. But every transit agency in North America has experienced a drop in ridership during the pandemic. “

On some routes, however, ridership has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels.

“We’re one of the lucky ones because we’re really starting to see a rebound, especially among our local roads,” said Selk.

Express buses to Portland remain difficult to fill. Many commuters to the city are now working from home or commuting less.

“It’s a different situation, for sure. It’s a new reality for us. And we’re working hard to adapt to that and continue to keep people safe and remind people it’s safe to get back on buses, ”said Selk.

So far, the agency has cut very, very few services, Selk said.

“We really want to keep that momentum going and we want to be able to use it as a tool in our toolkit to help foster an increase in ridership,” said Selk.

The agency’s operating and investment budgets are also increasing this year. Due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, C-Tran had a meager operating budget last year. The agency budgeted $ 69.7 million in net operating expenses in 2020. In 2021, they have fallen to $ 65.7 million. The 2022 operating budget is $ 72.9 million in 2022.

Comparing the 2020 budget to the 2022 budget, there is an increase of over 4-5%, Syring said.

C-Tran had to factor in higher expenses due to rising fuel costs and contractual changes like salary and benefit increases. There was also a 3% increase in the budget to cover service improvement, climate research and other things. The agency will study alternative fuels.

“There are many different options and technologies on the market. The study will help us find out what works best with our service, ”said Syring. “We are fortunate that the sales tax is as strong as it has been. It really allows the agency to look for innovative ways to give back to the community and to help create services and support the existing service that exists.

The increase in C-Tran’s capital budget is mainly attributable to the projects. There was some deferred maintenance last year, but the main reason for the increased capital budget in 2022 is when projects begin. Plans for 2022 include improvements to the campus on 65th Avenue Northeast, as well as construction of the Mill Plain High Speed ​​Rail Project.

“C-Tran operates debt-free and always has. It’s one of our guiding principles and our foundation when it comes to anything financial, ”said Selk.