Swift II legend
Though only for illustrative purposes, this map at the Swift II open house shows CT could be considering using colors to brand its Swift lines. (Photo by author)

Community Transit held three open houses this week for their Swift II project, which aims to build a 12.5-mile-long bus rapid transit line with 15 stations connecting northern Bothell to Mill Creek and the Paine Field industrial area in Everett. The project is estimated to cost $42-48m, with the majority of capital funds provided from the FTA (through their Small Starts program) and WSDOT (through their mobility grants). The money will primarily fund two major projects: the new Seaway Transit Center on the east side of the Boeing factory and BAT lanes on 128th Street SW as it approaches its interchange with Interstate 5.

The second of these meetings, held Wednesday night at Mariner High School near the midpoint of the Swift II corridor, was attended by five members of the public (including me) and six Community Transit employees. CT also published the slides online.

While most of the information presented was already previously public, mostly as documents on CT’s website, there was one noteworthy new item. The table map of the proposed stations used colors to label both the existing Swift line and the proposed Swift II line as the “Blue Line” and “Green Line”, respectively. Swift I and Swift II will be eventually renamed, but not until the run-up to a local election on Swift II funding. The election will occur after the passage of House Bill 1393 by the state legislature, which would allow CT to raise sales taxes by an additional 0.3% with approval from voters. The bill is still alive in the special session.

CT expects the line to open sometime between 2018 and 2020, at the earliest September 2018. It projects 3,300 daily boardings by the end of the first year of operations, dominated by commuters to the Paine Field industrial area and Canyon Park’s office parks until the corridor matures into an all-day destination. The goal for base frequency is every 10 minutes, the same headway Swift I had until it was reduced to 12 minutes in 2012. This requires 12 new coaches funded by the FTA and WSDOT grants. CT confirmed they are looking into shadow service on the Swift II corridor, similar to how Route 101 stops on the southern half of the Swift I corridor, but there are no concrete plans.

The draft plan for the proposed Seaway Transit Center was in the presentation but omitted from the online copy because of its unfinished nature. It showed a layout for the transit center that accommodated both Everett Transit as well as a possible Boeing shuttle with its own bay, similar to the Microsoft Connect shuttle at the Overlake Transit Center in Redmond.

The initial Swift line still has one remaining infill station, located southbound at 204th Street SW east of Edmonds Community College, that will be named “College Station”. This presents a possible conflict with a future Swift line on North Broadway that could serve Everett Community College.

50 Replies to “Swift II Open House Update”

  1. CT expects the line to open sometime between 2018 and 2020, at the earliest September 2018. It projects 3,300 daily boardings by the end of the first year of operations, dominated by commuters to the Paine Field industrial area and Canyon Park’s office parks until the corridor matures into an all-day destination.”

    Kudos to CT for being honest about the general futility of transit investments in inter-suburb transit. Such investments get commuters who value a little peace and quiet during the peak hour commute and little else until nodes of genuine walkability develop along them.

    And let ST beware of the Paine Field blarney Everett is flogging.

  2. BRT is great but I’m not a fan of either of the terminals. On the south side it really should connect to downtown Bothell. The simplest reason is the route Swift II is replacing (105) already goes there. But more importantly it’s a good idea. Bothell is a growing city that could provide good ridership and more importantly offers great connections, eg to the 522 and 372 and a few local routes.

    On the north side, I don’t get the new transit center. I would much have preferred to have Swift II go to the west. From the second to last station it could go west to the future of flight (a major tourist draw that has no service) and then continue up 525 to Mukilteo (eg replacing the 113). This would offer connections to Sounder so that riders to/from Boeing would be able to hop on the train in Seattle and transfer to a frequent, fast BRT line for their last mile.

    As we all know the north sounder line has pretty mediocre ridership. I suspect that much of that is because it half its walkshed is water. One way to mitigate that is to connect it to a fast frequent east-west brt route that can feed people into it. We could do the same thing in Edmonds with a future Swift III replacing the 116 or 196.

    1. Also, isn’t downtown Bothell not in Snohomish County? Maybe that’s why they’re not doing it there? (then again, neither is Aurora Village)

      1. Yeah, but the 105 and 106 already serve it. Like you said, SWIFT I already serves king county – and besides I bet they could even get king county to help out a little, eg for capital investments there since King county run busses also serve the area.

      2. Routes have to go to major transfer points to make the network the most effective. CT, PT, and Metro have been going to out-of-county transfer points forever. Before Aurora Village, the 6 terminated just north of the county border. The 347 terminates at Mountlake Terrace TC, and an earlier incarnation continued up 44th to Lynnwood TC. Pretty much all CT routes I’ve looked at go from one major transfer point to another, except isolated areas like Arlington. It’s actually quite impressive and an example for Metro, and much better than the earlier routings used to be. So I have no doubt that CT wants to reach Bothell TC and considers it high priority, and so something else is preventing it from doing so (limited funding or the street bottleneck mentioned by Sounder Bruce).

      3. Much more important than the missing transfer point at Bothell is the missing transfer point at I-5 to the 512. Which means getting from anywhere on the Swift II route to almost anywhere in Seattle is still going to take 2+ hours by bus.

        Yes, I realize that Swift II connects to Swift I, which connects to the E-line, which connects to other routes. But, if you go that way, you’re talking about a 4-seat ride with surface streets and stoplights the entire way.

        I still don’t understand why Swift II can’t cross I-5 at 112th St. instead of 128th St. and connect with the 512 at South Everett P&R. Perhaps the use of 128th St. is a thinly veiled attempt to create justification for a Link extension to Everett, since Link would presumably stop at 128th, even if the 512 does not.

      4. CT considered 112th but determined that a eastbound station on the overpass would be too expensive and both stations on the overpass would have an unpleasant walk down to transfer to the 512. Running the route through the P&R would be a disaster as well, so it wasn’t chosen.

        Best option is to take the 201/202 from Mariner P&R to Ash Way P&R until Link is built.

      5. I believe there is an eastbound station on the 112th overpass. The Everett transit 29 stops there. It also stops in the South Everett Freeway Station.

        I think the Swift 2 could do likewise. That station is currently well served by ST but not so well served by connecting local transit. As a consequence parking tends to fill up pretty quickly.

      6. A short, unpleasant walk is a hell of a lot better than a 90-minute detour involving multiple additional buses, each involving equally unpleasant waits.

      7. Mark S: That’s the westbound station on the northwest side of the overpass. It has plenty of room for a Swift station (since there is a turn lane approaching the P&R), but the eastbound (south side of the overpass) does not have room.

      8. If widening the overpass is what it takes to make room, then the project budget should include money to widen the overpass (although, why the overpass was built in the first place, with no room for an eastbound local bus stop is beyond me). If we want transit to function as a network, you have to able to connect between routes – especially connections involving regional express routes.

        If you’re going to spend tens of millions of dollars on a BRT route, it’s important to do it right. And crossing a major corridor like I-5 without allowing connections to buses that operate along that corridor is not doing it right.

      9. Or you simply modify the paint so that the westbound bus stop in-lane, rather than in a pullout, thereby freeing up space to widen the sidewalk on the south side of the overpass to support a bus stop, using the overpass’s existing width.

        Without freeway ramps, I am skeptical that 112th really has so much traffic on it that having a bus stop in-line would be an undo inconvenience to car drivers. Really, Swift II should just the right-hand lane of 112th to bus-only.

    2. The CT representatives I talked to said that they were looking into extending the line south to Bothell as soon as the city widens a certain section of the Bothell-Everett Highway from 2 lanes to 4. The extension to Mukilteo’s ferry terminal was proposed as an alternative in the BRT corridor study (released last August) and I was told that the corridor had too many undesirable factors (narrow road, ferry traffic causing delays, not enough room for TOD, only one real destination at the end of the line) to consider at the moment.

      1. Yeah – I can see why Mukeltio wouldn’t be great today – but they could potentially build a bus lane in the future. What I find weird is they are building a transit center that specifically precludes ever going there. They could have placed it more along the route and have it terminate threre, and then if there was every funding for improving the Mukeltio area it could be expanded. It’s just weird because it’s basically saying that north sounder is doomed as a way to move people north/south in the region.

      2. The City of Bothell’s 2015-2020 Transportation Improvement Program project list shows $2.625 million for Bothell-Everett Highway widening between NE 188th St and 240th St SE planned for 2018-2020. The 2013-2018 TIP had the same amount planned for 2016, and the 2012-2017 TIP had that amount planned for 2015, so it seems to be perpetually 3+ years in the future.

        An eventual Swift II Canyon Park-UWB/CCC extension via I-405 wouldn’t be a bad alternative, at least as a temporary solution. This would be a good use of the soon-to-open southbound shoulder transit lane on I-405 between Bothell-Everett Hwy and NE 195th St. Also it would save time if southbound Swift II would stay on Bothell-Everett Hwy all the way to 405 and serve the southbound freeway stop, if that left turn is possible.

      3. I highly doubt that taking Swift II west to Mukilteo, followed by North Sounder, is ever going to be time-competitive with a bus down I-5. Mukilteo is just too far out of the way, and Sounder’s limited speed and reliability doesn’t exactly help things either. Pretty much the only thing extending the route to Mukilteo would do is provide local access to Mukilteo and the ferry connection to Whidbey Island (which is a lot less useful now, with Island Transit cut to the bone on the other side).

        Simply crossing I-5 at 112th St. to connect to the 510 and 512 achieves the Seattle connection much more effectively than trying to connect with Sounder. Cheaper, faster, more reliable, and connects with a frequent route that runs all day, not just the very limited hours that Sounder runs.

      4. “they are building a transit center that specifically precludes ever going there.”

        Does it? The route could be extended or the transit center moved. Backing out of the TC à la the 14 wouldn’t be pretty but it may add only a few minutes to the trip, that would be experienced only by a lower ridership clientele. Bellevue TC has been moved at least once if not twice since it opened. I don’t know the area well enough to even suggest where the best place for the TC is. A two-seat ride to Mukilteo would be OK if it’s frequent, at least for non-everyday riders. The main problem with the 113 is it’s hourly weekends, and the secondary problem is the long local segment to a regional transfer.

      5. Also, if he really said “at the moment”, that means CT recognizes Mukilteo as a possible future goal.

      6. Island Transit may be “cut to the bone” but their 1 still provides service from 6 am to 7 pm at Clinton.

      7. Too many undesirable factors… that’s rich.

        – Narrow road. Yeah, let’s only run high-quality transit on uncrossable, noisy highways.
        – Ferry traffic causing delays. Obviously the best destinations for our marquee transit services are places nobody bothers going.
        – Not enough room for TOD, only one real destination. Better to operate transit where there are lots of wide open spaces, where there’s lots of “growth potential” in high zoning based on outdated planning notions.

        I don’t want to overstate the case for Mukilteo. Its town center is tiny, pinned to the water by really steep hills, not really on the way anywhere overland, and surrounded by a sparse, disconnected hinterland. But this is the same logic used on the other end of the line for Bothell. The whole vision seems to be around turning Bothell-Everett Highway into another Pacific Highway. That would help Swift II ridership a little, but it would add a hell of a lot more driving than transit use, because no matter how often the designation “TOD” is through around it’s a deeply auto-centric urban form. Mill Creek isn’t utterly hopeless, but the highway and creek chop it up enough that the culs-de-sac on either side are the coup-de-grâce for urban cohesion. The only streets going west from BEH in the Swift II area that connect to non-dead-end street networks: 228th, 208th (mile-and-a-quarter spacing), 164th (insanely, two-and-a-half mile spacing), 153rd just barely by a few pedestrian punch-throughs (3/4-mile spacing), North Creek Drive (just over 3/4-mile spacing).

      8. Thanks Al D. Methinks let’s revisit the Swift 2 terminus in 5-10 years after the Mukilteo Multimodal is built and assuming we don’t have another deep recession… and the Mukilteo Multimodal-Future of Flight-Seaway Transit Center run is in for a while.

    3. I think the missing Bothell segment is also due to cost: the available funding couldn’t stretch for it, but it would be added when more funding becomes available (e.g., the next Swift expansion).

    4. I came here to suggest an extension to Bothell Park & Ride, and I’m glad to hear that is may be in the works. I live about 3 miles south of Canyon Park and 3/4 of a mile from Bothell Park & Ride. I never and would never drive to Canyon Park to get on a bus. Once in a car, I’d just keep going to my destination. I generally avoid the area in any case, and I think it’s a bad place for transit connections. UWB/Cascadia isn’t a good place for me either.

      I have often walked to bus connections at the Bothell P&R or along Bothell Way. I would use SWIFT sometimes if it came to Bothell proper, with decent and obvious connections to the 522 and other Sound Transit and Metro routes. I pass as many as three CT stops for the 105 when I walk to the park and ride, but its frequency is such that walking saves time on average over waiting for the next bus. Either give me frequent local service or frequent service to a park and ride I can walk to in 10-15 minutes. The only way you’re getting me to use a bus to go to Snohomish County (in this case along the 527 corridor) is to have frequent service to downtown Bothell.

      I understand there’s a county line there, but transit should ignore it. There are enough geographical, development, and demographic obstacles to good transit here already. There’s no need to add unnecessary ones just because of an imaginary line.

    5. “On the north side, I don’t get the new transit center. I would much have preferred to have Swift II go to the west. From the second to last station it could go west to the future of flight (a major tourist draw that has no service) and then continue up 525 to Mukilteo (eg replacing the 113). This would offer connections to Sounder so that riders to/from Boeing would be able to hop on the train in Seattle and transfer to a frequent, fast BRT line for their last mile.”

      Thank you, thank you, thank you.

      I would prefer Swift II go to Bernie Webber and a high-speed connection between Mukilteo Multimodal – Future of Flight – Seaway. I’ll settle for the latter.

      As far as the last mile to Boeing from Sounder North Mukilteo – see Everett Transit’s Route 70.

  3. It seems like I remember the FTA required the buses be branded with unique colors to qualify for BRT funding when Metro applied some years ago.
    Although not BRT, Bellingham, with it’s smaller fleet, choose to brand each line with colors, and branded the shelters along the way. It’s quite effective once you learn the gold line does this, the red line than, and so on, without tying your spare ratio up in a bunch of extra buses painted weird colors.
    Is Swift BRT according to the FTA and did that rule go away Bruce, or anyone else that knows.

    1. After reading my comment, I guess what I was trying to ask was ‘How blurred is the FTA funding line becoming when calling something BRT?’
      Branded buses (unique single or multiple color), are one thing (different from regular service), but cause operational problems when dispatching the daily fleet.
      Swift I is averaging about 5,000+ daily boardings, which is great, but doesn’t touch a ‘NOT-BRT’ funded line like the 7 down Rainier Ave. Both serve long corridors, with lots of riders and both could benefit from TSP, BAT lanes, Branded shelters, et al and frequent headways.

    2. The RapidRide grant required a distinct brand, and the FTA considered its sub-BRT status as just what the FTP was looking for. Since then under Obama the FTA’s position has evolved to both higher level (real BRT) and lower level (incremental improvements to regular routes). So the #7 improvements would be the latter, as would similar improvements Metro has suggested for the 120. The FTA still considers RapidRide a great success (at least according to the report I saw last year), but it may now be in between the low level and high level of targeting rather than right in the middle.

      RapidRide gives Metro five grant-supported routes with above-average service but it also gives Metro a dilemma: adding more RapidRide routes requires putting them into this straightjacket of restrictions, some of which hinder fleet interoperability and this increase costs. In Ballard 15th Ave W has a fat dark line on the map (as required by the RapidRide grant), but route 40 shows Metro’s continuing commitment to “real Ballard” and it’s obviously one of the most successful consolidated routes Metro has ever launched. So the 40 should be upgraded, but should it be done incrementally or as RapidRide? RapidRide is the only way to get the fat dark line on the map, which tells visitors they should consider using that line. But RapidRide costs more than a regular project that could deliver the same frequency and speed, and Metro has many other priority-transit needs such as Rainier and Delridge and limited money to spend.

      So should we just fossilize the five RapidRide routes as a one-off like Seattle so often does (e.g., the monorail), and hope that in a decade or two they can be folded into a more general “priority corridor” level of service with FTA approval? Once a wider network of corridors with some RapidRide-like features is established (as Seattle’s TMP and Bellevue’s TMP envisons, and Metro’s long-term plan probably will), then maybe it will be possible to ditch the RapidRide brand and give all those routes a fat dark line on the map, which would really help visitors and residents. The FTA will have to do something to let agencies get out of the straightjacket that it has been moving away from.

      1. Nice explanation of current events, Mike
        I understand what the FTA is trying to do by promoting alternatives to ‘nothing but really expensive New Starts programs’, but a lot of the strings attached funding gets to be a tangle of spaghetti after a while and counter-productive to good planning.
        Most federal funding is doled out by population (ie; number of congressional districts needing wheels greased), so maybe a better approach to FTA grants is to do formula funding of local transit, and just provide technical help when asked, and veto authority over really dumb transit investments. That would put a lot of consultants out of work trying to wordsmith every project into what the grant calls for.
        The 7 down Rainier should have had a road diet, BAT lanes, stop consolidation, shelters, TSP (better than what happened), and a whole host of BRT-type improvements. At least most of the buses would have to split the lanes and sit at light after light.

  4. So what about transfers to/from the 512? Swift is a regionally-significant service, but Swift I connects to regional transit only at the Everett end. Swift II doesn’t have any connection to regional transit unless the stops around I-5 are close enough. Could the 512 get of the freeway at 128th and back on without too much detouring and delay. I assume an in-line station like at Mountlake Terrace is unfeasable due to cost and an imminent Link extension decision which might obviate its long-term usefulness. But people in Seattle and Shoreline still need to get to Mukilteo and Boeing and Mill Creek and Canyon Park, and people in those areas need to go to King County, and it’s a great opportunity that should not be lost.

    1. The weave from South Everett Freeway Station to 128th would have to be done in an incredibly short distance, so it’s been deemed unfeasible. In the interim, one could transfer at Mariner P&R to the frequent 201/202 and hop onto an express route at Ash Way or Lynnwood TC.

    2. There is also often a long line of cars at the 128th St. exit. Given that the 512 is slow enough as it is, I wouldn’t recommend it.

  5. What is the argument for this line, which feels a bit randomly selected and lacking in major transit destinations, being worth a major investment of scarce transit resources? Is there some significant evidence for pent-up demand along this corridor for this degree of service? What am I missing here?

    1. The largest catalyst for this particular corridor is the existing HOV lanes on Airport Road, which will be used by Swift. It’s wide and already there, there’s demand to serve Boeing from local politicans, and it intersects well with Swift I.

      There’s other corridors identified for eventual Swift service, but most will require some road widening and some rezoning before it can be considered for BRT. I’m personally waiting for the North Broadway/Marysville corridor, even if it doesn’t reach my home in Smokey Point and is truncated in downtown Marysville.

    2. It’s part of a six-line network. This one was put in a Legislative bill during the negotiation for Boeing’s last round of tax breaks, which may suggest why it’s second. (I would have expected Edmonds-Mill Creek or Everett-Smokey Point.) Namely, that building a limited-stop route and transit center next to Boeing might impress the company and make it keep jobs in Everett and expand there. You might call it sucking up to a bully. Meanwhile, where’s Boeing’s responsibility to get workers to its isolated locations? Especially when it suddenly transfers them from Renton to Everett when they live in Newcastle. The Silicon Valley companies have shuttles to the nearest Caltrain station and to where concentrations of them live, as does Microsoft now but not Boeing. It graciously allowed its entrance to remain next to an F line extension, but that’s about the most it’s done to facilitate mass transit access. Of course, one also has to ask where do the bulk of Boeing employees live, and do they really live along this route? CT may know the answer but it hasn’t been publicized to my knowledge.

      1. Remember that “Boeing” is not really Boeing any longer. It’s McDonnell-Douglas, with all its Orange County union paranoia, obsession with military aircraft, and lowest common denominator construction practices. It’s super important to the local economy, but don’t expect any “public spirit”.

      2. The public spirit was lacking even before that. If Boeing had been pro transit from the beginning, it would have significantly reshaped the region and influenced political leaders and the public. It was a “Boeing town” when those isolated plants and large parking lots were built. Some aspects of Boeing’s physical layout and the support businesses are intrinsically unwalkable due to the nature of airplanes, but others are just gratuitously so. If people can’t live next to the factories because of airplane noise, then consolidate transit at a transit center near the entrance like SeaTac airport does, and have at least one frequent all-day route to the nearest city. The ancillary businesses could either be walkable from the TC or have shuttles to it. That’s what Europe would do; in fact it would probably require it as part of the plant plan.

      3. Due construction at the Everett factory, a lot of parking near the plant has been lost. As a result, many employees now park at outlying lots and take company provided shuttles. Once this SWIFT line is up and running, it would not take much to route one of those shuttles through the new TC then have it loop around the factory, picking up and dropping people off.

    3. Ah, Boeing, of course. Still. As a payoff to Boeing, this seems remarkably inefficient. I’d suspect we’d do more good giving half the money to them directly as a tax break/bribe and using the other half to improve service where we have evidence of demand.

  6. Personally, I think this brings up a regional issue of lack of a consistent route numbering/naming pattern. We have Swift and Rapid Ride as BRT routes, using colors or Letters, We have a light rail system that will eventually use colors, Sounder uses Names, but also has train numbers, and the agencies have a mish-mash of routes with duplicate numbers. There is room for improvement here, and I also think the agencies should adopt a more standard approach to timetables (similar maps, symbols, and time point identification) along with a more unified bus stop sign flag (with easily identifiable and searchable stop numbers in OBA). Aside from that, I also wouldn’t mind the agencies being under a regional umbrella group, and funds dispersed through the group. Such a group would be in charge of regional planning, focusing on 10,000 ft. goals including better planning, utilization, and optimization of the region’s P&R space and other transit facilities (including Downtown Seattle), better integration of service in-between all the agencies (making sure schedules align for transfers), better transit service in “border” areas, apportionment of funds for routes operated cross border. Also taking full charge of ORCA, OBA, and other region-wide agency independent projects.

      1. Instead the exact opposite has happened. Sound Transit comes into a city, builds their own facilities, routes their routes to them, the odd local bus may also stop there as well, and at the end of the day really does not connect well with existing systems for a number of reasons. (the local agency does not/can not re-route services to serve, they already have a significant investment in their facilities they don’t want to walk away from, the regional agency does not / can not serve the local facility and the investments at that point don’t get properly utilized.

  7. Swift II doesn’t necessarily have to connect with the existing ST 512 route. In one direction, a connection with 512 would get you to Everett, which is already provided by the connection to Swift I. In the other direction, it would get you to Seattle, which is already provided by CT 410 or 412. 410 and 412 are peak only now, of course, but that is not written in stone – the frequency could be increased. Or the ST 511 could be extended to Mariner Park and Ride.

    In any case, connecting at the South Everett Park and Ride doesn’t seem to make much sense. There’s virtually no local service that already connects there, so there probably isn’t much existing demand. A better option would be Ash Way Park and Ride.

    1. It is really a waste of resource to extend a peak-only route when there’s an existing perfectly serviceable all-day route.

    2. As someone that used to commute from Seattle to Canyon Park…

      1. Transit demand between Seattle and Snohomish County is very directional. CT isn’t going to spend any more time on Seattle surface streets or looping through transit centers than it has to. It’s certainly not going to make extra midday runs on behalf of out-of-county residents.

      2. The 511 is peak-only now, so extending it doesn’t get you much.

      3. South Everett P&R is mostly served by Everett Transit’s local routes. The ET-CT split is one of the weirder agency splits around here because Everett Transit is nothing like Community Transit. Specifically, it makes no attempt to operate a frequent network on the highways of exurban Snohomish County, so comparing CT’s service levels near Mariner and McCollum P&Rs to ET’s at South Everett doesn’t necessarily indicate a real difference in potential transit demand. Anyway demand for transfers occurs where the transfer is available and convenient. See Denver Airport, Lynnwood TC, etc.

      4. I can’t tell if you’re suggesting Swift II run to Ash Way P&R or not. This would cause the route to miss Mill Creek, which is one of the least hopeless points along the line for walkable development.

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