Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath (Photo by the author.)
Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath at the Kickoff Event (Photo by the author.)

Last night at Diamond Knot Brewing in Mountlake Terrace, the Community Transit Now campaign kicked off its own Prop 1 effort to fund significant new transit service for Community Transit. For an agency that cut its service by 37% between 2010-2012, losing all Sunday and holiday service in the process, the confident mood in the room was a stunning and hopeful reversal.

Earlier this year, the big transportation package (Senate Bill 5987included specific authority for Community Transit to levy an additional .3% sales tax, making it the only agency in the state permitted to impose a 1.2% sales tax. When combined with Community Transit’s current .9% authority and the .9% collected by Sound Transit, a passed Prop 1 would give most of urban Snohomish County (excluding Everett, anything east of the Snohomish River, and other outlying areas) the highest transit taxes in the state, a combined 2.1% rate.

Every day, 120,000 Snohomish county residents commute to work in King County, the 17th largest inter county flow in the U.S., and the largest on the West Coast outside of Los Angeles. Its transit needs are thus more asymmetric and peak-oriented than peer counties that don’t have such an imbalance between residents and employment. Low-cost housing comes with costs that are externalized elsewhere, and perhaps nowhere is this more strongly felt than with roads and transit. Excessive peak pressure requires lots of peak service, the most expensive kind of transit.

The state Department of Revenue estimates that the new tax rate would cost the average resident $33 per year, or just $2.75 per month. What would voters get for the new taxes? Quite a bit!

  • SWIFT II, from Bothell to Paine Field via Mill Creek, to open between 2018-2020 with 12-minute service 7 days per week
  • A possible SWIFT III, connecting Edmonds and Mill Creek to Lynnwood Link Station in 2023.
  • A new route serving the SR 9 corridor, connecting Marysville to Mccollum Park via Lake Stevens and Snohomish
  • Systemwide upgrades to frequency and span of service, especially off-peak, nights, and weekends. These improvements would happen almost immediately, by March 2016.
  • More peak service to Downtown Seattle starting in 2017 or 2018, depending on the speed of new bus acquisition
Community Transit Benefit Area
Community Transit Benefit Area

The new authority would also nicely set the agency up for several rounds of restructures in 2021 and 2023. CT spends a ton of money on peak commuter service to Downtown Seattle, and recently allocated an additional $2m just to pay for additional congestion costs on I-5. Redeploying many of these hours by truncating routes at Northgate in 2021 or (likelier) to Lynnwood in 2023 could mean that CT would reap a huge frequency dividend that would reverberate systemwide.

If you live or work in Snohomish County and would like to volunteer or donate to this campaign, see the campaign website for more details. We’ll have more coverage of this campaign in the coming weeks.

50 Replies to “Community Transit Kicks Off Campaign for More Service”

  1. Thanks Zach. I have it on great authority from multiple sources (some of whom aren’t up to going on record) and means if we get a win here, the Future of Flight gets a 2018 bus stop. Transit desert hydrated. I shut up about it. We’re all happy.

    In other, relevant news… Community Transit really needs the money. Some of the buses are… um, dated. Folks really wish to ditch the car. Community Transit is raising fares to keep 25% farebox recovery – way higher than rural areas. Mayor Jennifer Gregerson – the anti-Eyman in many but not all good ways – is quarterbacking this one and can I just say she’s the real deal?

    Okay with that, over to my fellow commentators.

    1. I am curious to find out about 400 and 800 route ridership. I am already looking at route connections to Link and eliminating duplication even though we are 8 years from Lynnwood Link, might as well start looking at reallocation since the 800 routes will not be needed. The Lynnwood buses would be terminated given travel times by then will be higher than the present.

      Also, does anyone know why during the PM peak the 410 and 412 get off at Ash Way. There is only the 810 that runs south on Ash Way to UW but not the 410 or 412 so not sure if Ash Way needs a dedicated commuter or if the 201 and 202 can pick up the slack. My concern with 201 and 202 is due to the distance traveled on I-5 reliability becomes a concern where I would see a 410 reallocation to both park & rides and service Ash Way while 412 serves via I-5 both park & ridges and Silver Furs. Although I am not sure if the bus is full after McCollum Park & Ride.

      1. Daniel H,

        Looking at the current Community Transit Routes ( ) I think some of the 8## routes will be necessary – just have them end at a Link Station.

        I do think though that if that’s the plan, light rail is going to have to be much more frequent than 10 minutes. Like 5 minutes.

        However, Community Transit and many potential destinations should not have to wait for light rail to get new service on the road.

      2. Joe, it is planned to be every four minutes. The Bellevue-Northgate line has been stretched to Lynnwood. Now those frequent trains are going to be deadly empty in the middle of the day, but they really will make the peak-hour transit system much more efficient and reliable.

      3. Joe I do agree there with not waiting for more service.

        However, many of the 800 routes are duplicates of current 400 routes including a few deviations. Let alone many routes do have duplicates which could be turned into more frequent service. I do know Kitsap Transit for the ferry commuter hours will have specific destinations for buses. However, I am not sure that is the case for CT. If these routes are not filled during the peak going to the Park & Rides, then wouldn’t it make sense to consolidate the routes and have more frequency rather than the confusion of 2-4 different routes going to the same destination yet serving the same area?

        810 and 860 are duplicates, just 810 runs along Ash Way southbound in the AM and has later runs. Both routes run via Ash Way in PM hours. 412 also serves McCollum Park & Ride with 3-4 buses an hour from 5:30 to 8:05 am. The only thing 412 doesn’t do is serve Mariner Park & Ride but 410 does that. Why not consolidate the routes to 1 or 2? If Ash Way does not need southbound service in the am and can be handled by the 201 or 202, I would say consolidate down to a 412 that specifically serves McCollum Park & Ridge and Mariner Park & Ride with extensions to Silver Furs in the peak hour unless there is demand for an all day route.

        871 and 405 would become duplicates. It makes sense to consolidate into one route but utilize the 871 route to Mountlake Terrace and utilize the higher frequency of 871.

        I see no purpose in having a 413 and 415 route, especially if there is lagging 413 ridership, might as well extend the trips and make it all 415. Given you could have people standing for the bus connections with shorter travel times to Link, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal

        Light rail should be at 8 minutes during the midday for sure with the connection to UW.

      4. Hey Daniel, the 410 & 412 began exiting at Ash Way a few years ago because CT discovered it was faster for coaches to reach Mariner P&R via the back way instead of using I-5 and then maneuvering through multiple traffic lights on 128th St SW.

        Then, due to the high ridership demand at AshWay, CT eventually added an afternoon stop at the bottom of the HOV ramp. If the buses go through there then they might as well stop there too!

        As for the 810, it may be the same amount of travel time using Ash Way as with using I-5 heading south. Additionally, there’s been a boom in resident development along Ash Way with the newly added condos and cul-de-sacs.

    2. I assume it’s going to be served by that Mukilteo-Seaway TC route that’s hidden away in a corner of the Life in Transit maps (replacing ET 70 with all-day service).

    1. Northgate does not make as much sense given the traffic until the I-5 express lanes and then it is free flow until you are into downtown Seattle. I am not sure how the streets are to UW but I-5 does not really backup that badly between Northgate and downtown Seattle usually. The main backup is through the county line to just north of 405. For UW buses on a Monday, the hiccups begin at around 7:20 where the mainline congests just before Ship Canal and lasts until 9:30. That would not provide much benefit for truncating at North Gate except for less service hours required but it would add to travel time instantly from penalties and street traffic. Not to mention the buses do get closer to the destinations than U-District or UW Stadium stations will. I would wait until Lynnwood TC opens up for light rail before truncating routes unless there was an accident creating a traffic nightmare south of Northgate where it would be a slog all the way South.

      Honestly makes me wish they would open Mountlake Terrace sooner on Link since you could have the buses get off there and have people transfer to Link. (I do wonder what will happen to that station in 2023)

      1. Even if the #400 routes continue going to downtown in 2021, truncating the #800 routes to the U-district is probably still a good idea. Unlike the 400 routes, the 800 routes can’t use the express lanes (no U-district exit) so they have to sit in traffic on the regular lanes. And this is on top of the 45th St. parking lot and the slog through campus itself. Besides allowing the same fleet of buses to provide more frequent service, it would also open up new markets between Snohomish County and Northgate, Lake City, Greenwood that presently do not exist.

      2. Most of the peak that hurts that section of I-5 SB from 7-10 am. For PM peak, it is 3pm to around 6-7 pm. Question becomes how much time it takes to get the buses to Northgate for the transfer to Link? There is more benefit to the afternoon buses versus the morning especially between those hours versus the morning buses.

        I would like them to be able to reroute to Northgate in the case of a serious accident where severe congestion would occur from the Ship Canal to Northgate but it will depend on freeway reliability and who knows what will happen in 5-6 years.

      3. I agree completely, Dan. Northgate is a terrible connecting point for freeway buses. M. T. Is much better – or just wait for Lynnwood.

    2. Asdf2, there’s a slight issue with truncating the 8XX series at Northgate: multiple transfers. Being a former UW commuter myself, I can attest that the majority of 8XX riders exit/enter on campus. Turncating the 8XX series would mean riders would have to take a bus to Northgate, a train to U-District and then another bus to the campus (or walk one hell of a trek). Commuter’s one-seat ride would turn into three. Even for a transit guru such as myself, that sort of commute blows.

    3. Northgate is not feasable because Northgate Way already backs up with traffic. You’d need a separate ramp from the freeway to the transit center and back, and that’s what’s hugely expensive and would be obsolete two years after it opens. The 41 goes down to Banner Way to avoid Northgate Way peak hours, so there’s no way you’d add a hundred buses a day to that exit.

  2. What makes sense to me is for the CT District to recognize that in seven years they will reap enormous savings from Link and make the tax for only a year longer than its opening. That will give the District time to adjust its service. Let’s be honest and realistic here. Just like in Northeast Seattle, there is and always will be very little mid-day transit demand in Snohomish County other than education-related trips. There’s a need to get students to and from class, but that need can be met with hourly “U-Trans”-like service from all parts of the County. Nowhere up there, except the two Swift lines needs FS.

    If the district saves enough money by short-hauling and pushing transfers to Link, there is a very good chance that the additional .3% can sunset completely.

    Such an explicit and honest plan will mute the transit haters and demonstrate that the District is being a prudent steward of the public weal.

    1. That might make that sales tax a huge win given ST’s tax may be on the rocks. Although many voters I hear from think most taxes will become permanent. You would have to push for the provision of the sunset after Lynnwood Link opens.

      Not sure how that would work if there are 3 SWIFT lines in operation but there would be some significant capital and operational savings not running to downtown Seattle. Less need for buses to sit during layover, I do think the current routes would see a bump in ridership that go to Lynnwood transit center and Mountlake Terrace due to Link being a frequent connection but I think the real test of more ridership will come with U-Link in a few months.

      1. Daniel;

        I really think anybody in Snohomish County on the fence – especially any fellow transit advocate – should realize ST3 is going to be a hard sell. Boeing did ST3 – if ST3 goes to Paine Field – no favors this week with that Chinese finishing plant announcement.

        Furthermore, at least Community Transit Proposition One will hedge Snohomish County’s transit bets and deal with Snohomish County’s transit problems at a Snohomish County level. ST3 will still be important to Snohomish County (and arguably Skagit County), but at least with Prop 1 winning Snohomish County’s transit problems get solved.

      2. I agree, Joe. If I lived in Snohomish County, I would support these projects enthusiastically, and vote no on ST3. Don’t be surprised if that’s the way it goes down.

      3. There are so many variables it is hard for me to handicap the ST3 vote.

        Based on past measures I think we can count on Seattle being an overwhelming ‘yes’ and both South King and Pierce voting ‘no’. I really have no idea how East King or Snohomish will vote. Both seem to have a slight pro-transit bias, but I have no idea how the exact project mix is likely to affect the final vote totals. East King in particular just doesn’t look to have any really great projects in ST3 to make voters go “I want that”.

        OTOH it is likely to be a high turnout election with the Presidential race, a Senate race, Congressional races, Governor’s race, other statewide offices, and state legislative races all on the ballot at the same time. To the extent campaigns any of these other races do GOTV that brings out pro-transit demographics it helps ST3.

        ST3 just needs 50%+1 to pass and only voters in the ST district will be voting (which cuts out a lot of the most conservative parts of King and Snohomish). That said I think it is wise politics to try to find every ‘yes’ voter we can in the ST district.

    2. As to;

      “If the district saves enough money by short-hauling and pushing transfers to Link, there is a very good chance that the additional .3% can sunset completely.”

      No objection but we need the money now. The Future of Flight and several dozen, less vocal transit deserts of significance have been cruelly told to pay into a system not working for them. Many buses need replacement. Schedules will still need adjustment. Swift 2 and any possibility of a Swift 3 are counting on the money.

      I sure like the idea of sunsetting the tax and wish this had been discussed. However I expect the counterargument of needing to accommodate growth & sprawl will eat up most of the 2020-something savings.

    3. While the passenger demand per hour between Snohomish County and Seattle is much less off-peak than peak, it’s far zero. While I don’t ride the 512 midday on weekdays, I have already experienced several weekend #512 runs with all of the seats and much of the standing room full. Fast forward 10 years and Link will gain not only the #512 riders, but also people who don’t ride the bus today because it’s too crowded, and takes forever to get from one end of downtown to the other. It will also get people headed to Capitol Hill or Northgate, rather than downtown, who don’t ride the bus today because of the transfer.

      While I don’t expect the demand out in Lynnwood to be at level to fill up 4-car trains every 4 minutes anytime in the foreseeable future, it is more than the people on this blog typically give it credit for.

      1. ST512 Saturday headway: 30 minutes. Two buses per hour = 1 Link car per hour.

        The trains will be very empty between Northgate and Lynnwood any time except the weekday peaks and on Seahawks and Huskies game days.

        Of course the demand in Lynnwood won’t fill a train every four minutes, even in the peaks. It had better not; there wouldn’t be any room for King County riders.

        Why is it so hard to accept that Snohomish County only needs Link to take people to work in downtown Seattle or at the University? No, it’s not San Antonio or Phoenix, but there are lots of broad roadways with plenty of mid-day capacity. People will drive when they want to move around the county. And not that many of them want to go to Seattle in the middle of the day.

      2. Every twenty minutes, actually, so we have one and a half Link cars per hour. Plus everyone who doesn’t like the current bus route. Plus everyone who boards at the hypothetical 130th St Station, or further south. It won’t be large, but it won’t be completely negligible.

      3. There are people who would work in the city and choose not to because getting there is such a pain. I’ve worked in the city for years and am considering changing to a local job even for less pay because the 3-4 hrs I sit on buses a day could be used for …. living.

        Let’s not forget there’s about half a million people who drive to Seattle every day. If transit didn’t suck some of those would choose a train.

      4. Anandakos, though I agree that demand isn’t going to be shooting through the roof between Lynnwood and Northgate, we must keep the following in mind: 1.) new transit creates demand. A rail line attracts people who originally wouldn’t give buses a chance. Also, it allows transit planners to redirect current service and feed it into rail. 2.). There’s nowhere else to turncate trains besides Lynnwood.

      5. William, you’re right. The 510 runs every fifteen minutes from 10:30 to 4:30 on Saturdays so add that and there are six buses per hour from Snohomish County to King County (other than Swift which doesn’t really serve the I-5 route that Link will) or three Link cars.

        I seriously doubt that there will be a huge rush of mid-day and normal weekend drivers who will decide that Link is so attractive that they’ll switch from their cars. On game days? Sure, Link will give direct service to both stadiums from Lynnwood. What a great way to get to the game; I hope ST realizes that it will be very popular and runs enough trains the first few times to give people confidence in the system.

        But not on an ordinary Saturday or in mid-day.

        Which is not to say that building it is not a good idea. Because of the enormous peak hour usage it will be of tremendous value to everyone in the region who uses I-5 north of the Ship Canal. But there will be absolutely no reason for any Community Transit bus to come south of 200th Street (AVTC) — well maybe Swift might extend to the 185th Street Station — once Link reaches Lynnwood.

        And the cost of all those bus hours sunk into Seattle express service can be re-deployed as needed to Snohomish County local service. And you know what? There will be more than enough to allow the District to return that extra 3/10 of a percent to the voters. They need to state clearly and explicitly that Proposition 1 will sunset one year after Link reaches Lynnwood. It’s the politically astute thing to do and the right thing to do.

      6. There’s also a new transit market: Snohomish County to north Seattle. There’s no express bus to Northgate at all, which makes it infeasable to take transit to the mall area, Meridian area, or to transfer to the 75, 40, or 48 for more outlying jobs. You’d have to take the 348 or E and CT local buses, which adds up to over an hour each way. Link’s U-District transfer point is more pleasant than the I-5 exits to transfer to the 44 to Ballard or Wallingford, and it runs consistently all day and more frequently rather than changing stops depending on the time of day and direction.

    4. Anandakos: “Nowhere up there, except the two Swift lines needs FS.” I’m not sure if you meant frequent service within the County or between Snohomish County and Seattle. Just in case you meant the former, I would have to disagree. There are other corridors besides Hwy 99 that need frequent service.

      1. Please list them. There is a small FS network now and Swift II will extend it to the southeast toward, and eventually to, Bothell. But where other than the existing network is there enough genuine demand that you won’t be running scads of empty buses.

        Southwest Snohomish County is about the same shade of gray as is Shoreline in King County, with the exception of the considerably more urban cluster diagonaling through Lynnwood to Alderwood Mall. Outside that cluster most of the people living there have (at least) two cars per family if there are multiple adult or near-adult members. The place is crawling with cul-de-sac developments which simply can’t be served by transit, except by using Park’N’Rides. Except for dedicated environmentalists, the vast majority of people will drive for local trips, especially for trips toward Everett or the Martha Lake/Mill Creek areas.

        If you can talk people into an extension of the CT tax and voting for ST3, more power to you. But I don’t think it will fly without being explicit that the extension is only to get to the time when Link will make truncation of the Seattle-bound buses possible. You’ll get one or the other to pass, but not both.

      2. I couldn’t agree with you more the vast majority of people in Snohomish county will chose their cars over the bus for local trips. In fact, I’m skeptical of Swift II and it’s forecast of ridership. However, there are a few corridors that need frequent service because current buses are often fully.

        EDCC-Ash Way via the Lynnwood Transit Ctr & Alderwood Mall: This corridor already has 15 min service, yet buses are often standing room only between EDCC and the LTC, and crowded between the Mall and Ash Way.

        Marysville to Ash Way via Everett: Marysville is no longer a small rural town out in the middle of nowhere. It’s become congested with it’s own traffic issues and more people are travelling in and out of there. There’s a reason why CT maintains 15 minute service between Marysville and Lynnwood.

        Everett’s Broadway (though, it’s outside of CT’s taxing district) It’s a shame that Everett is not a part of CT’s service area. The city is much like Tacoma. It has its own city center, multiple retail areas, college and distinct neighborhoods. Yet, it is drastically underserved; especially in the Northern section where the popular EVCC is located.

  3. If I were a snoco voter, I’d struggle over weather to vote for this. There’s a lot of good stuff here but Swift II seems completely insane, and they doesn’t seem to be much of an effort to explain why and how this corridor is going to produce the ridership to justify this kind of resource investment.

    1. djw,

      Swift 2 is going to help get a lot of cars off of the road to/from Boeing. Plus the more BRT, the better.

      Of course, down the line, if ridership doesn’t pan out the Swift 2 route – which is only 1/3rd of the funding package – could be redrawn.

      The important thing is this: There are just too many transit needs the other 2/3rds are needed to fill.

      1. As anyone who’s attempted to drive down 128th street during the day knows that corridor is ripe for decent transit. Currently using transit on one side of I-5 works fairly well but crossing it is a pain.

  4. I thought it was getting .6%, I didn’t know it was already getting .9%. I guess that’s what’s paying for all those expensive 4xx and 8xx buses to Seattle.

    What’s interesting is that on their twitter page, they seem to be going after potential riders in the outer suburbs (e.g., “57% of Gold Bar residents live near a bus stop.”). This is pretty gutsy, since it’s precisely these people that vote “no” in the largest margins, if you take a look at Metro and Pierce Transit’s recent ballot measures.

    Where the difference may be made however is that (in no small part to their .9% tax collection) their coverage of these places tends to be very good, especially in comparison to Metro and Pierce. Taking the Gold Bar example, there are 3 routes, but 2 main ones, 270 and 271. Although some of these terminate in Monroe on weekdays, there is still hourly service to Gold Bar (with some half-hourlies just to Monroe), with the last one leaving Everett at almost 9. Saturdays to Gold Bar from Everett every hour until 8:15 pm. Sundays every 2 hours until 7:15.

    Metro’s equivalent of this would be North Bend, which has the 208 and 628. The 208 runs every 2-2.5 hours until 8:36 on weekdays (only from Issaquah, though). The 628 runs to NB every 0.5-1 hours (again, from ISS) until 8:25. Saturday is 208 only every 2-2.5 hours until 8:06. Sunday service doesn’t exist.

    Pierce Transit’s equivalent would be Buckley or maybe Bonney Lake. Buckley has zero transit service, unless walking to Enumclaw counts. Bonney Lake only gets a Sounder connector, (596), and that isn’t even Pierce Transit.

    Here’s to hoping a good outcome for prop 1.

    1. Thanks AlexKven. I have my critiques of the communications strategy but frankly as a transit advocate Republican who is a friend of the Chairwoman of this campaign I’m just going to shut my mouth about it in a public forum. Thank G*d for Gmail.

    2. One thing CT could do that would make a huge difference in the quality of transit for Monroe/Sultan/Gold Bar area would be to pay ST to extend select route 522 trips at least as far as Monroe. Currently, Monroe->Seattle takes nearly 2 hours on a bus (when the two daily route 424 trips aren’t available) and Monroe->Bellevue or Kirkland takes even longer.

      Instead, their proposal does nothing to connect either Snohomish or Monroe to the eastside, continuing the forced gigantic loop through Everett, Lynnwood, and downtown Seattle.

      Another way to put it – Snohomish to Woodinville is currently 15 minutes in a car or 90 minutes on a bike (it’s extremely hilly). But, even the 90 minutes on a bike is still way faster than trying to make that trip on a bus.

      1. Asdf, I totally agree. However, for the sake of nitpicking, I’ll point out that ST 535 provides all-day service between Lynnwood and the Eastside. So at least once you get from Snohomish/Monroe to Lynnwood, you don’t also have to loop through downtown Seattle.

    3. The 208 is inadequate service due to limited funding. It should be hourly every day. It’s not a model of ideal service, something to point to as “Other places shouldn’t have more service because the 208 doesn’t.”

      1. I’m pretty sure that AlexKven was trying to say that North Bend should be like Gold Bar, not that Gold Bar should be like North Bend.

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