Community Transit Begins the Recovery

While Metro kept itself afloat through a combination of reserves, cutting nonessential services, and legislative authorization for a two-year, $20 vehicle license fee that expires this year, Community Transit went over the cliff in 2010 with a cumulative cut of 160,000 annual service hours, including all Sunday and Holiday service.

CT’s new draft Transit Development Plan (pdf) will use increasing tax revenue from the economic recovery to restore 73,000 annual service hours in increments through 2019, with the biggest chunk coming in 2015. CT will remain a shadow of its former self, even before considering the growth in Snohomish County in the intervening decade. 2014 is the first year that sales tax revenue will exceed 2007, in nominal dollars. Adjusted for the consumer price inflation — to say nothing of fuel and labor costs, the main drivers for a transit agency — CT is still 10% lower.

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Although Metro is presumably experiencing similar trends, they only partially offset the various temporary measures that have preserved overall service levels and expire soon. Expect a full report on Metro’s financial state this week.

Details on CT’s proposed service additions are below the jump.

The September 2014 changes are relatively minor:

• Simplification of routing around Alderwood Mall to reduce route crossing, overlap and travel time.
• More trips and seating capacity between Lynnwood Transit Center and Edmonds Community College.
• More mid-day trips on high-ridership routes and corridors.

But in June 2015 changes choose from a menu of interesting options:

• Sunday service
• Increased weekday service frequency in peak hours (requires more buses)
• Increased weekday service frequency in mid-day hours
• Increased span (hours) of operation
• Increased rural service
• Increased Saturday service
• Extension of existing routes to new areas

Public comment will be helpful in shaping the priorities from this list.

CT is also pushing ahead with planning for an (unfunded) second Swift BRT line from the Boeing plant to (as far as) Canyon Park, as well as renovation of several parking rides and a new Smokey Point Transit Center.

You can comment on CT’s Development Plan online through April 10th, or in person April 3rd.

Comments

      • says

        Ben, in all fairness, I have to propose since there won’t be a half-hour walk to museums. But on the current Swift II proposal does go by the Museum of Flight Restoration Center and is a half-hour walk from Flying Heritage Collection/FHC. Certainly already going to have an upside to members of the avgeek community unable/unwilling to drive in any event.

  1. Charles B says

    Glad to see the recovery is at foot, but this is another reminder of why we need to pass prop 1 so we can have a better bargaining position not just for King County, but for state wide transit.

    Counties not as able to mobilize to fix their own problems like King County will need our help when we go back to the state on the transportation package. We need both stabilization for transit funding for economies good and bad as well as expansion of regional transit connections. Transportation bills that only produce billions for freeway expansions and do nothing for our other transportation infrastructure need to be a thing of the past.

    • Charles B says

      Connecting Boeing with sine of its bedroom communities? Seems like a good idea to me…

    • Mike Orr says

      It’s in Community Transit’s long-range plan, so they think so. (Link to PDF in middle of page.) CT envisions five Swift lines by 2030 (page 16 by the file numbering).

      * Shoreline – Everett (exists)
      * Bothell – Paine Field (this goes beyond the Swift II proposal above)
      * Paine Field – 128th Street – Cathcart Way
      * Mill Creek – Edmonds – Lynnwood (164th & 196th)
      * Everett – Smokey Point

      Three of these recommendations are tentative: the Bothell line requires better land use and “transit priority”. The 128th line needs a local route first to verify potential ridership. The Smokey Point line should be built in stages starting with the southern part (I assume that means where ridership is more certain).

      • Mike Orr says

        I reversed Lynnwood and Edmonds above. It is the direct Edmonds – Lynnwood route we’ve been expecting, just extended northeast.

    • says

      As I understand it this proposal was thrown together to try to attract some of the state dollars being thrown around to retain Boeing. Despite CT’s difficult financial situation it has managed to start new all-day services like the 196 in response to ridership demand, but even so all-day service here wasn’t even proposed, let alone frequent local service in an area where this is practically unheard of.

      Frequent, all-day service in a single corridor isn’t really the optimal solution for Boeing commuters; if you wanted to get Boeing commuters on transit you’d run time-focused and geographically-dispersed shuttles like Microsoft does. But it would be contrary to CT’s goals of building a general-purpose all-day network, and borderline inappropriate for a public transit agency because of the extremely narrow group of beneficiaries.

      I think this only remotely makes sense as a bet on Mill Creek Town Center… but for that the extension to Canyon Park is really important (if Northgate and downtown Bellevue are mixed use at auto-suburbia granularity, Canyon Park is mixed use at exurban granularity), and from there an extension to downtown Bothell and 522 (which carries useful transit routes that are popular enough to be durable) seems to make more sense than rolling down to Mukilteo (an out-of-the-way, tiny town center). But I’m not an expert in the area, I only worked in Canyon Park for a while.

      • says

        (In a sense what I’m saying is that aside from the politics of getting grants to run buses past Boeing, it would make more sense to beef up the 105 or 115 than to create Swift II; even then there are probably better parts of the county to spend the money in, but the 105 and 115 are each clearly useful routes.)

    • Reyes O says

      I spoke with CT planners at a transit workshop about Swift II. They openly said that CT prefers to have BRT between Mill Creek-Lynnwood-EDCC first. But all three cities aren’t anywhere close to having the infrastructure to pursue implementing a BRT line. Essentially, they settled for Boeing-Bothell because it’s BRT ready. CT planners also said they are very much aware of the work hours in the Airport Rd-Paine Field area and will address how to operate service in that area when Swift II becomes more of a reality.

  2. asdf says

    In my opinion, the most urgent transit item for Snohomish County is restoring Sunday service, at least on core routes. At a minimum, this should include routes like Swift, 196, 201/202, and 275.

    That said, I am mostly resigned to the fact that political pressure will be great to keep Sunday service dead forever and use the money for more peak buses whose primary effect is to provide de-facto additional capacity on ST routes 510 and 511.

    One peak-service improvement CT could consider, which I have never heard seriously proposed, is to try to get some peak-direction 522 trips extended out to Monroe. If Thurston County can pay ST to extend 592 trips to Olympia, CT should be able to do the same in their direction. An extended 522 could be a significant service improvement over the current special route 424, which operates just 2 round trips each weekday.

    • says

      Trust me, the political pressure is to have Sunday service restored.

      If anything, politicians would be happy if CT dropped all commuter service and reinvested those funds into local service within the county.

      CT Commuter service exists purely because CT’s management has dictated that it is necessary to reduce congestion.

      • says

        Iunno, in CT’s last round of cuts one of their proposals involved preserving more local span and coverage by organizing some commuter runs into P&R feeders with timed connections to somewhat fewer and fuller buses to downtown Seattle. This proposal turned out to be unpopular with riders.

        Local politicians, of course, would be happy to see a focus on local service — they have lots of ties with local business owners and many have backgrounds in local businesses. But the biggest group of today’s transit riders is heading to Seattle, and the agency gets pressure from its riders that I’d certainly call political.

        (Similar tensions exist in many suburbs — in the one I grew up in political battles erupt sometimes over city plans to build or not build parking for Chicago train commuters. Mostly the local businesses there want the city to build parking for local business access instead, which isn’t such an issue in SnoHoCo where almost all the development is post-auto-age and awash in parking.)

    • Mike Orr says

      That’s not what I heard. There’s more public pressure for peak-express routes in Snohomish County than in King County because a higher percentage of people can’t imagine taking transit any other time.

      Gig Harbor is getting out-of-district service too, so it’s not just Olympia. However, the 522 is not very expressful so it’s not really equivalent to those other routes.

      • SouthEverettSucks says

        I can’t remember where the document is now (it was on CT’s website), but I think they reported how many complaint/suggestion emails they had about CT service and the number 1 email was to bring back Sunday service. I’d imagine adding commuter route service was still high on that list, though – I’ve never seen a local CT bus get nearly as full as a commuter, except on 115/116 from EdCC to Lynnwood.

      • William C. says

        47hasbegun: The problem is that the 424 only runs in one direction, twice a day. If it were truncated, either at the Woodinville Flyer Stop or at UW Bothell, it could run more often.

        Or maybe it could even continue down to Microsoft?

      • Bernie says

        I lived in Woodinville for years decades and didn’t know there was a Woodinville Flyer Stop. Who uses it? There’s nothing there.

  3. biliruben says

    I couldn’t believe the density I saw today going up around Ash Way. JMF. A whole forest of 6 story apartment complexes. I wish even half that was zoned and promoted for 130th or 145th. Zuke the Golf course.

    • Mike Orr says

      I felt the same way. I go to Mukilteo a couple times a year and Ash Way has gotten a lot of development since 2011. I’m glad they’re getting serious about suburban density near the P&R. It’s not very walkable but at least it clusters things within a mile’s drive. And it should improve all-day ridership on the buses and eventually Link. Not for going to Lynnwood perhaps, but for longer trips like Seattle and Bellevue and SeaTac.

    • Eric says

      I live in one of those new developments on 164th St. up in Lynnwood, about a mile from Ash Way. Near Fred Meyer is another new place looking nearly finished, and then the ones directly next to the P&R are now open. I foresee a ton of new riders within the next six months for sure.

    • says

      It isn’t just the ones at Ash Way (which are monstrous) but up the hill near Fred Meyer on 164th is another massive complex going in and the other way near Walmart on 164th another complex. I don’t know how many units are going in there (somewhere around 1000) but it’s pretty tempting if you work in the city. The number of different commuter choices is quite large and in 35 minutes you can be in Seattle.

      http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20130127/NEWS01/701279936

  4. SouthEverettSucks says

    If only there were off-/reverse-peak connections to 512 on Swift II. Or any 512 connections in South Everett for that matter. Only the hourly ET 29 connects at the freeway station, even with two decent transit centers (Mariner and the mall) and two smaller P&Rs (McCollum and Eastmont) 10-20 blocks away. That makes it worse than 145th’s freeway station. Hopefully CT (or even ET) will eventually try closing the gap between their service areas here, because since the freeway station’s lot fills up often, using any off-peak transit here is a joke.

    • asdf says

      Swift II, if it ever happens, could be a potential solution here if it crosses I-5 at 112th St. instead of 128th St. Besides connecting with an all-day Seattle express route, crossing at 112th would put the bus out of the path of the long line of SOV’s trying to get on and off the freeway (112th St. is an HOV-entrance only), so the route would hopefully be more reliable.

      I would also argue that to avoid slowing Swift down to a crawl, it should stop on the 112th St. bridge itself to connect with the 512, rather than doing a time-sucking loop through the bus bays. To reduce the walking distance for the connection, the bus bays could easily be moved from the center of the P&R to the south end. This would come a the price of making people who park at the north end of the lot walk a few more feet to/from their car, but I say oh, well.

      In addition, while we think about bus connections to South Everett P&R, it is important not to forget about what can be done to improve walking connections. A bridge from the center of the P&R to the Interurban trail to the west would shave off about a half-mile, reducing the total walk to/from Everett Mall to around 8/10 mile – not great, but still short enough to make walking much faster than waiting for a half-hourly, circuitous, connecting bus. A pedestrian bridge to the east would suddenly add a bunch of apartment to the freeway station’s walkshed.

      • SouthEverettSucks says

        Totally agree with moving it to 112th (128th traffic is standstill at peak), and I wish they’d do something like that with 105, maybe terminating at the mall for ET transfers. Unfortunately, I think CT’s pretty cautious about how much service they provide within Everett city limits, hence the gap between Mariner and the mall, only spanned by a 45-min. ET 2. And the gap between McCollum/Mariner and 112th is worse, even though it’s just 20 blocks geographically.

        Of course, my high school/UW friends and I east of 35th Ave. [would] have to walk 30-45 mins. to the nearest off-peak bus stop, so we’re either driving or moving out anyway. I picked the latter.

      • Dave says

        Did the political issues around ET and CT ever get figured out? When I was a teenager, I remember CT and ET had some major issues working well together, to the point of basically avoiding each other’s “territories” as much as possible (aside from the old “bus depot” (parking structure) at Hoyt & Hewitt. I moved to King County shortly after that, so I have no idea if those problems ever got resolved.

      • SouthEverettSucks says

        I don’t know if there’s any real tension left, but in South Everett, all CT routes turn and terminate pretty much right at Everett city limits. The only ET route leaving the city at the southern border is route 2. But up north, Swift serves Everett (which ET had to partially pay for) and 201/202 have express stops on Broadway. And CT’s east county routes terminate at Everett Station. So while there’s not enough tension to keep them from working together, neither agency seems interested in connecting their services in S. Everett.

  5. Lor Scara says

    So this question is a bit far out for implementation, but

    Would it be possible to truncate all CT Commuter routes in the I-5 corridor at Lynwood and Mountlake Terrace link stations in 2023 (assuming that link-Lynwood is completed at that time)
    How would that effect CT’s budget?
    Would this allow CT to reduce fleet size and keep (or increase) service hours?

      • says

        This raises two practical questions:

        1) Will there be enough Link trains to support the resulting demand?

        2) Will Link be fast enough to satisfy bus riders shifted to light rail or will those passengers shift to other bus runs and/or G*d forbid congest I-5?

        Sorry but somebody has to inquire. That somebody falls to me.

      • SouthEverettSucks says

        With both Link lines terminating at Lynnwood during peak, if both run 4-car trains, assuming 200 people per car, that’s an hourly capacity of 9600. I’m not sure what the exact ridership is on peak commuters now, but taking a quick look at last year’s CT 400s/ST SnoCo boardings, it looks like no more than 6,000,000, which is about 16,000 per day. That’s conservatively between 1000 and 2000 per peak hour, which fits, but may grow. That’s assuming all commuter routes get truncated, but not factoring in boardings at other stations, so they might get full before UW. I haven’t looked at projected trip times lately, but I don’t think they were much longer than bus times. They were at least shorter than Sounder trip times…

      • Mike Orr says

        1) That’s what some ST staff have been concerned about. Not so much on day 1 but within the long-term planning horizon.

        2) Lynnwood – Westlake is estimated at 28 minutes. The 512 is 33 minutes at noon. The 511 is 40 minutes at 7:19am. Northbound 39 minutes at 5:30pm. The buses are often late.
        (However, the last time I checked this last summer or fall, the buses were around five minutes faster than Link. So either I misread something or the schedules have been revised.)

        If the north end does fill up, that would the the perfect reason for a second parallel line on Aurora. However, that would have a 10-20 year building window and would probably not get started soon enough, so there would be a several-year bottleneck like we’re going through now. Hopefully we’d have a second DSTT by them so it wouldn’t have to be included in that project.

      • William C. says

        The more serious problem, it seems to me, is whether there’ll be enough room at Lynnwood to truncate everything. I haven’t seen the great numbers of bus bays that’d require on any planning diagrams.

  6. Bernie says

    014 is the first year that sales tax revenue will exceed 2007, in nominal dollars. Adjusted for the consumer price inflation — to say nothing of fuel and labor costs, the main drivers for a transit agency — CT is still 10% lower.

    The sales tax started a steep decline in 2007 but as you note CT stuck it’s head in the sand for three years hoping that the doomsday scenario would get people pay more taxes when they had personally been belt tightening. According to CT the 2014 revenues will still not match those of 2007. That’s not the case in much more affluent King County where Metro is comparatively back to rolling in the dough. As for the price of fuel, it’s volatile but really a small part of operating expenses (<10%?). And as for labor costs, have CT drivers really been getting raises to match the CPI? And have CT fares kept pace or exceeded the CPI?

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