Transit dignitaries break ground for BRT terminal
The obligatory VIPs shoveling dirt photo

On Monday, there was a groundbreaking ceremony at Everett Station for the northern terminal of Community Transit’s Swift BRT line. Everett Transit Director Tom Hingson, Community Transit CEO Joyce Eleanor, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, and Stan Suchan from WSDOT’s Office of Transit Mobility spoke at the ceremony.

Hingson spoke of the partnership between Everett Transit and Community Transit to streamline and reduce duplication of service on the SR 99 corridor. The increased service will provide traffic relief for everyone, including freight truck drivers, Hingson said. He also acknowledged engineering consultants, Perteet and IBI Group, among others, for their continual collaboration with the agencies during the design of Swift.

Eleanor was proud to say that Swift, to be Washington’s first BRT line, took only 4 years to get from concept to reality. Swift will begin service on November 30, 2009. She noted that the brand design (name, logo, etc.) was done in-house by Community Transit’s marketing department. She also announced that the project is coming in under budget at $29.5 million, down from the estimated $32 million, thanks to lower construction costs. The Everett terminal is located just south of the current bus loop, next to the pedestrian bridge to the east parking lot across the tracks, on city property that was designated for parking.

More after the jump, with some tidbits I learned.

Aurora Village Swift Terminal
Aurora Village Swift Terminal

Representatives from Community Transit, Everett Transit, and Sound Transit had information tables with goodies like Everett Transit matchbox buses and Paul Silvi Sound Transit/Everett Aquasox bobbleheads, Swift pens and reusable bags. Unfortunately, CT didn’t bring a Swift bus to display at the event. They said it was out for driver training. Over the weekend, they had the Swift bus on public display at the Taste of Edmonds. A CT rep said that thousands of visitors (9,000?) got to see the bus and were really excited about Swift. To paraphrase, they saw the buses and it just clicked with the stations they’ve been seeing on the street. “They’ve been asking about the service and when will it begin”, she said. The next opportunity to check out a Swift bus in person will be at the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe, August 29 and 30.

What I learned about Swift

Community Transit’s Swift page explains the basics. There are several things I learned from the event that was not described in detail on the website.

The 12 stations on the 17-mile line were consolidated from 50 existing local bus stops. It is not clear whether all service on SR 99 will be replaced by Swift. Otherwise, that would leave huge gaps between stations without transit service. Fares, same as regular CT service, will be collected off the bus with 2 ticket vending machines (a Parkeon Strada pay station) and 2 ORCA card readers at each station. Swift will use 15 New Flyer hybrid articulated buses (DE60LF-BRT) with three doors. Up to 3 bicycles can be brought onboard in the rear section of the buses (photo). A new rear-facing, passive restraint system (example from Vancouver and Swift’s) allows wheelchair users to quickly board and deboard the bus with little operator assistance. However, the ramp is still needed. There is no level boarding. I was told that the average dwell time per stop would be 12 seconds but they are currently working that out during driver training.

With those improvements, the agency expects a 20% travel time savings. After the event I took CT route 100 down to Aurora Village Transit Center. My travel time was an hour. If it were Swift, it would’ve taken 48 minutes, saving me 12 minutes. Then I took the 358 “Express”, which I nominate for worst Metro route ever, and arrived at 3rd & Pike 45 minutes later. The average speed for both trips was 16 mph (26 km/h). My quick visual progress check revealed that some stations are mostly completed and many are still concrete slabs. Only three months to go!

32 Replies to “Swift BRT Update”

  1. Although the fancy branding is nice, the fact is that most bus routes could benefit by these ‘BRT’ improvements – not just a few special corridors. Off-board payment, nextbus info, frequent service, less redundant and rarely used stops, etc. This is how every bus line should be.

    1. As a regular train rider (in Brooklyn/Manhattan), a recent trip required me to take a bus and it reminded me just how inferior bus service is compared to trains. So much time on the short trip was spent loading and unloading people, it was ridiculous. This would seem to be especially beneficial to a system almost completely depended upon buses.

  2. I agree with the previous poster; not necessarily true BRT, but will be a nice improvement for the folks in that area.

    My main issue, which is the main issue I see with public transit in this region, is that the effort seems completely disjointed with the future RapidRide line along Hwy 99. This would have been a good opportunity to provide a single-seat ride between downtown Seattle and Everett along 99, whereas it appears that you’ll now have two isolated ‘BRT’ lines ending at Aurora Village where a connection is required. With all the money being spent by CT and Metro to develop these lines in terms of marketing, planning, construction, bus purchases, signalling improvements, arrival signage, etc., could we not have saved a nice chunk of change by simply integrating this with Metro’s planning effort?

      1. It’s not true BRT because it’s not rapid. Real BRT has completely dedicated right of way. There’s only a few real examples of this including Curtiba, Bogota, and our own bus tunnel downtown, but all of these are being replaced by subways, mostly because of lack of capacity.

      2. Well Swift has BAT lanes which are better than nothing.

        Another example of “true BRT” would be the Orange line in LA. This also suffers from capacity problems. LACMTA is trying to get 80′ double-articulated buses approved by Caltrans to handle the load. Sadly there are no current plans to convert to rail though a state grant used to build the line will have to be paid back in 2012 if a rail conversion isn’t done.

    1. RapidRide is likely to be of substantially lower quality. Off-board payment and bus arrival information will be only at special “enhanced” stops. The rest will have people clambering on board and paying cash, same as before.

      Plus, Aurora BRT won’t happen till 2013.

    2. Providing a single seat ride along Aurora would make for a bus route that would be too long. Plus, most people wanting to travel from southeast Snohomish County to points south will probably opt for LINK, the 510 or the 511.

      1. Snohomish County folks who want to travel south won’t be opting for LINK anytime in the near future, that being a 15-year project. And they will only opt for LINK when they are headed down the I-5 corridor or to the U District.

        If they are going down Aurora Ave., they will want a Swift or Rapid Ride.

        You may have a point about a Seattle-to-Everett route via Hwy 99 being too long. With close headways (15 minutes or better) it could be tough to keep on an even schedule.

  3. Zed, true BRT would consist of a separate busway for the buses instead of using shoulder lanes on current arterials. These busways would have priority signaling just like light rail along MLK.

    1. In all likelihood “true BRT” would also probably include level boarding, although it is not always required.

      Swift is more like an improvement to standard express bus service, mainly because of fewer stops and off-bus fare payment. This does represent an improvement over standard express bus service, but it falls short of being “true BRT”.

      And I agree with the comment about the station signage looking like a European gas station. I knew those stations reminded me of something!

    2. Swift has signal priority and transit-only lanes.

      According to APTA:

      “Bus rapid transit (BRT) is a type of limited-stop service developed in the 1990s that relies on technology to help speed up the service. It can operate on exclusive transitways, high-occupancy-vehicle lanes, expressways, or ordinary streets. A BRT line combines intelligent transportation systems technology, priority for transit, rapid and convenient fare collection, and integration with land use policy in order to substantially upgrade bus system performance.”

      If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.

      1. What really matters is whether the buses get stuck in traffic. So if the sections that don’t have exclusive lanes don’t slow down service, for all intents and purposes, it’s BRT.

      2. That’s the problem with how agencies and organizations use the term “BRT”. It can be so broad that it’s almost meaningless, that is one aspect of the “flexibility” of BRT. It dilutes the the distinction between what good bus service should be and what more it could be if given its own right-of-way.

        Many of the features Swift and RapidRide BRT are touting, transit priority, better stop spacing, real time info displays, frequent service, streamlined payment etc., already exist in Europe as standard features of regular bus service. Even Vancouver is doing it. It’s not BRT, it’s just quality bus service.

        What comes to mind when I hear the term BRT are the systems in Curitiba, Bogota, Ottawa, and Brisbane where they have dedicated exclusive busways. Now that’s high capacity, rapid transit.

  4. This region has the challenge of where to put additional lanes…be it freeways or bus lanes. I understand that there will still be “standard” bus service as we know it today along 99, and that Swift is the “express” version of that service. Fewer stops along the same route, basically.

    I see it as the equivalent of I-5 and I-5 express lanes in that if you want to travel north/south without getting a lot of interrupts (think on/off ramps) you take Swift, if you need to stop somewhere specific, you take the regular service.

    As an older citizen who understands perfection is rarely achieved in any endeavor, I applaud this next step in transportation in our area. Now if only we can tackle the mess that is the Alaskan Way Viaduct….

  5. Rear-facing wheelchair area?

    Uh, no! I’d like to be able to see where I’m going, thank-you (which is one of the reasons I hardly ride Sounder, the wheelchair area is usually (but not always) where there’s no window)

  6. Riders in wheelchairs can also face forward if that’s what they choose. It’s just that the rear-facing position means no tie-downs are necessary, so many customers would not require any driver assistance. There are still tie-downs available in each wheelchair seating area for both the forward- and rear-facing directions, so that riders have a choice.

    Also, regarding the question about all the other stops along Highway 99: Community Transit will continue to operate route 101 so that riders can access the intermediate stops (as well as Mariner Park & Ride) but at longer headways, maybe 20 or 30 minutes.

    1. So how does this work? It a Swift bus is heading down 99 in the BAT lane and a CT but has stopped in that lane at one of the regular bus stops, the Swift has to merge into the general purpose (and slow moving at rush hour) lanes to get around it?

  7. By all accounts, including the original post, Bus Rapid Transit seems to be missing the “RAPID.”

    All that seems to make it “rapid” are fewer stops and occasional bus lanes. They’re routes that are generally already well-used – the same people just get a 5-or-10-minute shorter ride. And for people who can’t get to those stops (i.e., people in not-as-nice areas), they get fewer buses, making their ride much less, um, rapid.

    To be truly rapid, it would require a dedicated path of travel, without traffic lights. And if you’re going to put in a dedicated path of travel, why not put a train on it instead? Then maybe think about running more frequent buses from the neighborhoods TO it. Like good transit systems do.

    Ohhhh…I guess THAT’S why we’re getting Bus Rapid Transit: so it LOOKS like we’ve made it easier to get around the city.

    How much is this costing again??

    1. BRT = “Just like rail but cheaper”


      BRT = “juust cheaper”


      BRT = “still a bus”

      If you build a mostly separated right of way, it is cheaper to operate as rail and provides a higher quality ride for all passengers.

      When I read that they may still have local service on this corridor, it is worth remembering that total trip time is wait time plus travel time. If the frequency of each service is reduced because there is a need to have both rapid and local service, then the wait time is increased for every rider. Everyone’s travel may be improved by greater frequency of a single service which makes the necessary stops to cover the corridor

    2. ‘By all accounts, including the original post, Bus Rapid Transit seems to be missing the “RAPID.”’

      It’s the same sleight of hand by which cities call their regular bus service “X Area Rapid Transit”.

      It doesn’t bother me that BRT has multiple meanings. I was quite impressed with the Granville Street bus in Vancouver that preceded the Skytrain. Frequent service, fast, with large stations widely spaced. It wouldn’t fit the purist definition of BRT with a dedicated ROW, but it was as close to a train as any bus I’ve seen. I hope Swift/RapidRide will be as good. I also hope Metro will keep local routes on the same streets for people who can’t walk to a BRT station.

    3. In any case, there’s no chance of a purist BRT system being built in this region. It would cost as much as rail, have higher ongoing costs for fuel and resurfacing the roadway, and (although people differ on this) have less capacity.

  8. Its my understanding the model of coach is actually xx60A, D if they are straight diesel, or DE if they are hybrids. I had the oppertunity to ride the line in eugene this past weekend, which uses level boarding, and drivers side doors. I will say the uniqueness of the line would seem to pose some operational challenges (i.e. not being able to subsitute conventional equipment) which meant the 6 or so buses they have were starting to look a bit ratty afer going between eugene and springfield all day, nearly every day for the past 3 years. Also it was intresting to see their mix of curbside and island type stops in some areas, apparantly traffic must not be that much of a concearn, but other than that the system was clean and fairly nice, they areimplementing pay stations and fares on the line plus constructing a new line and in the planning stages for a third. The ride was quick i will say that, and had some appeal of rail to it however, a bus is and always will be a bus. One thing that the system did lack was next bus information at the stations.

  9. I thought this would have been mentioned …

    but today (yesterday the 18th) was the 1 month anniversary of the start of Central Link service

  10. I’m sort of confused by this. Right now, I take a bus to Everett Station and take another bus to downtown Seattle. So now, I will take a bus from right outside my house (I live next to a Swift stop) and go to Aurora Village and take another bus to downtown Seattle? Seems about the same time/effort to me. If I didn’t live by a Swift stop, it would now be three buses.

    1. You could take Swift to Everett Station and then take an express to downtown Seattle. Would that be faster than your current bus? Are they cutting the bus that you normally take when Swift starts running?

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