Community Transit announced Friday that the agency’s board of directors has approved the purchase of at least 57 buses to be delivered beginning next year. The buses ordered were part of three contracts awarded to three different manufacturers: Alexander Dennis for 17 double-decker (“Double Tall”) buses, Gillig for 26 40-foot buses to be used on expanded local service, and New Flyer for 14 60-foot articulated buses that will replace older commuter buses.
The order for double-deckers came as part of a joint procurement with Sound Transit and Kitsap Transit, which the former approved last month. The additional double-deckers would bring the fleet to 62 vehicles, cementing CT’s place as the operator of the second-largest double-decker fleet in the United States, after Las Vegas.
These bus replacements and additions are in line with Community Transit’s 5-year plan, which lays out a need to continually replace articulated buses with new models and Double Talls through 2021. The 40-foot buses used for local service are estimated to need a large replacement order in 2019 and 2020. Community Transit will also need to hire at least 115 new coach operators for these new buses and trips, during a time where other agencies are facing shortages.
The choice of Gillig for this order of 40-foot buses comes as a surprise, as they beat out New Flyer, who has been building most of CT’s buses for the last 20 years. Community Transit does, however, operate a fleet of 30-foot Gillig buses for their rural and lower-frequency services that have been running for three years.
An additional order of 15 articulated buses for the Swift Green Line will also be considered in the next few months, as Community Transit nears the line’s 2019 launch date. Delivery of those buses, which will be inter-operable with the existing Blue Line, is expected in late 2018.
In addition to the fleet changes, the previously discussed service changes will take effect on Saturday, September 11. Two new routes, 109 and 209, will create a loop around Everett using Highway 9, serving Ash Way, Mill Creek, Snohomish, Lake Stevens and Marysville every 30 minutes during weekday peaks. To accommodate the new route 209, route 222 in Marysville will be given a new route that restores service to the city’s library and serves the Getchell High Schoool and city’s new Walmart. Additional trips on commuter routes to Downtown Seattle and UW will be used to boost schedule reliability and keep up with rising congestion on I-5. Route 417 from Mukilteo will no longer serve the Lynnwood Transit Center, shaving a few minutes off the commute through the area.
Next March, Community Transit is planning to adjust local routes with additional morning and evening trips and frequency boosts at midday. In total, the changes in September and next March will eat up about 38,000 new bus hours funded by Proposition 1 in 2015. Details of the March changes will come in the next few months.