A new Swift bus on the Blue Line, seen mid-chase in Lynnwood

Last month, the first pair of 18 new Swift bus rapid transit buses entered service on the Blue Line, as part of the line’s return to 10-minute weekday frequencies. The buses were ordered for the Green Line, which will debut next year, and have a few differences from the decade-old coaches that run on the Blue Line today. This being the transit blog, I naturally stalked these new buses for a quick look inside.

The new buses, based on the New Flyer Xcelsior series, is slightly shorter due to its flat front (shaving 2 ft. from the original’s 62 ft.). The shorter length means that the doors are slightly off from the “welcome mats” painted into the platforms at stations, but it’s within a reasonable margin of error. The Xcelsior buses have the same interior features as the first-generation fleet, including the all-important rear door bicycle racks that speed up dwell times, but its seats are arranged in a slightly different manner, with a mix of aisle-facing and forward-facing seats above the third axle.

A pair of USB outlets on a fold-up Swift seat

Almost every seat comes equipped with a USB port for charging, a popular bus feature that is rarely seen in the Seattle region. Community Transit plans to include under-seat or seat-side ports in all of its future buses, including Double Tall commuter buses and an upcoming order of 26 articulated buses.

The new fleet comes with another major change: unlike their diesel-electric hybrid predecessors, these buses are all-diesel. Community Transit explains that its own studies found that all-diesel buses emit the same amount of particulate emissions that hybrids do in normal operations. There is, however, a noticeable difference in maintenance and acquisition costs that far outweigh the fuel savings offered by hybrids.

The agency is also looking into electric battery buses, but has yet to find a model that satisfies its all-day operating requirement of 250 miles on one charge. The original Swift fleet is scheduled to be replaced by an order of 15 buses in 2023, which could be bundled into an order for additional buses to cover the Orange Line and the Blue Line’s extension to Shoreline North/185th Station.

32 Replies to “Community Transit Adds USB Ports and Chooses Diesel For Its Buses”

    1. The Bartells on 5th sells tinfoil hats if you want to be 100% secure. There’s even a model for your cat. The cat one blocks the usual alien probes and government surveillance like the human one does, but it also blocks dog’s ESP. It says so right on the box.

    2. Look at it from somebody else’s viewpoint, Sam. If a stuxnet is something digital, you could blow the Department of Stux back to to those cool vacuum tubes that made even dog-food commercials into those great sci fi radio shows with heroes named Buzz or Flash. Who we didn’t even know wore leotards ’till TV arrived.

      Hey, come to think of it, for those guys stuxnets were furry little creatures (TV again, with blizzard for reception) always bouncing off cabin walls like a squash court in the middle of a deadly warp-speed dog fight with whatever North Korean was for “Klingons”.

      But come to think of it, even though this was radio, we still knew those ships were same dies as RapidRide. Just keep your Cracker Jacks dry and you’re safe, Sam. Now for a word from Boraxo. Over and go ‘way, Sam.

      (Captain to you) Mark

    1. Only if the sander is silent so it doesn’t annoy people. Maybe you can get one with headphones so you won’t lose out on the sound. Just be careful not to drop the sander on your foot because they can be heavy.

  1. Diesel?

    Maybe they should consider changing the 250 mile requirement instead of using diesel. Shows that the “environmental concern” really isn’t that important when they see dollar signs (even though they say the emissions is the “same.” https://mjbradley.com/sites/default/files/CNG%20Diesel%20Hybrid%20Comparison%20FINAL%2005nov13.pdf ). There are alternatives to batteries, too.

    I also would like to see our agencies right-size the busses for the routes. There are alternatives to overcapacity which would put additional savings in their pockets.

    1. By right sized buses, do you mean smaller buses? Where would savings come from if operators get paid $X per hour? Not to mention the operational inefficiency (cost) when certain routes or trips can no longer be interlined because of the different sized buses.

    2. So the drivers aren’t going to stop until they complete 250 miles? I hope they “right-sized” their bladders for this trip. I call BS on the “can’t find an electric bus that meets our needs” as no bus is going to travel 250 miles in city driving without a stop and Proterra has models that will travel 250 miles on a single charge.

      1. Community Transit has some very long bus routes. They go out to Gold Bar and Darrington. It could be the bigger problem, though, are the buses that go to downtown Seattle. That is both a long distance and one that involves a lot of idling. While hybrids do really well with that, the mileage still isn’t as good as cruising along at 40 MPH.

        I could see things changing in the next few years, as CT gets rid of its express buses to Seattle. They will still have a lot of long distance buses, but those will make up a smaller segment of their system. I think at that point they could go to a mix, with the electric buses for the more common routes, and the other buses to places like Gold Bar.

      2. I also call BS on that, along with MikeG. Proterra does sell buses which go 250 miles on a charge. So does BYD (the K9). And Community Transit routes will have some fairly long breaks in their schedule in which to recharge. Idling is free in all-electric buses. Stop-and-go is almost as good as cruising in all-electric buses. The killer for range is actually high speeds (above 65 mph), which is not going to be happening with buses.

        This would be an actual issue if they were running, say, *Greyhound* buses, with 6 hours of driving with very few stops and 5-minute bathroom breaks — but not for routes as short as the Community Transit routes.

      3. It all depends on what you have the budget for.

        Sileo has a bus that can go 250 miles (400 km) on a charge and get recharged off the overhead wires.
        Since the 512 lays over at each end, and one of those ends has overhead already, you might be able to get away with just putting overhead in the Everett Station area.

        Unfortunately, this is yet another one of those cases where really interesting transit equipment isn’t available in the USA.

      4. Yeah, I wrote that note and wished I could retract it. You are right — stop and go is just fine for an electric (and a hybrid). I think the bigger issue is the long distance routes. First of all, I wonder about claims such as “250 miles”. Is that on flat ground, or what? It seems to me that a company is more likely to inflate those numbers (e. g. “up to 250 miles”) while the reality is a lot less. CT has some very long haul routes (both express and coverage routes) and for whatever reason, doesn’t want to mix their buses. The 421, for example, goes from Marysville to downtown. Then it turns around, and drives back (at freeway speed). On the other hand, something like the 130 is fairly short, and stops a lot. My guess is they just to use the same buses throughout their whole system, instead of a different one for the 130 and the 421.

        It is also possible that they really aren’t sure what the bus system will look like in a few years. It stands to reason that the express buses to Seattle (which make up a good chunk of their service) will be truncated at Northgate. ST may do the same. What ST does with the savings could effect the nature of those bus routes, although CT will still be running long distance buses to places like Gold Bar.

  2. Real happy with the new buses. Just hope the welcome mats are stretched out a bit… very helpful in forming queues to board the buses and keep them on schedule.

    Also I’d rather see the $$$ on USB ports instead spent on putting a livestream of CT Board & Board Committee Meetings. Don’t need USB ports on buses I’ll ride for a max of 40 minutes, then transfer.

    1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmcMmYdF6lA

      Have used these motors before, Joe-hitting every stop between Federal Way and the Airport misleading-, but had to road test them on battery before we wired Washington Pass.

      We’re keeping it quiet so the membership of your elected Board doesn’t stampede when we turn
      on the wind turbines above Ross Dam. We’ve also put up black-painted clothes lines over those antique passenger cars parked at Concrete just to freak the Busesarejustasgoodastrains people.

      Though just wait ’til we groove-rail Amtrak from Seattle to Vancouver! Anyhow, everybody relax about the seat mounted USB’s. Tomorrow BestBuy goes public with the ones that fit into people’s heads. ‘Til they can market Intracranial BlueTooth.

      Watch out for those guys in Smokey the Bear hats at Marblemount, though. Park Rangers now authorized to issue tickets, and also lean on your car smoking cigars and talking about Breakdowns In Communications. Well, Breakerbreaker Eastbound and Down!


  3. The USB ports are a nice touch! My only concern is that the current assortment of habitual fare evaders who ride Swift today will only be encouraged to continue to loiter as they do now.

    1. Easy one, Jordan. Just have the system locked to Roger Miller doing, appropriately for certain drivers (in their own minds) “King of the Road!”


    2. …current assortment of habitual fare evaders who ride Swift today…

      Got any stats to back up that sensationalist claim or is that just based on clearly biased, anecdotal observations (or lack thereof)?

  4. Technical explanations available for the advantage of all diesel versus diesel/hybrid??

    1. Hybrid provide a benefit when buses are braking or accelerating, but are dead weight when a bus is crusing. For a bus that stops frequently and spends most of its time accelerating and deccelerating , hybrids tend to be better. For a long-haul, highway oriented route, hybrids provide little benefit. Hybrids are more expensive, both to purchase and to maintain. That cost may or may not be offset by better fuel mileage.

      1. Just by looking at the map, it seems like CT is more of a long haul system. There are plenty of buses around Lynnwood that make plenty of stops, but there are also a lot of buses that spend a lot of time going quite a ways between stops. Ironically, the large stop spacing of the Swift line (and the traffic lights on SR 99) mean that a hybrid probably wouldn’t save much energy there.

      2. I disagree. Even one bus stop per mile, plus one red light per mile is still enough for a hybrid to get some benefit. And, many parts of 99, the stoplights are every half mile or so.

        Even the commuter buses to Seattle don’t spend nearly as much time cruising as one may think. They spend a lot of time crawling from one end of downtown Seattle to the other end, plus additional time crawling on I-5, when traffic is bad, plus more crawling in Lynnwood before they even get to the freeway. This is especially true given the vast majority of freeway express buses are running only during rush hour, when traffic is at its worst.

        Even the 594, which runs a longer freeway express segment than most CT routes, spends less than half its runtime actually cruising on the freeway. The remainder of the time is spent crawling through downtown Seattle and downtown Tacoma.

    2. Fewer components so they are cheaper to buy.

      The only other advantage is they don’t have as much stuff on the roof, so they are slightly less tall, so if you have a very low clearance bridge someplace not having the extra bulb on top might be a good thing.

  5. What we keep getting back to, though, for operations at least, is that whether it’s powered by hybrid, catenary or coal, main things we need for express service are our own uninterruptible lanes, with traffic lights 100% set to let the bus get through.

    Every time on the ‘Ride from Federal way to the Airport, and have to stop because turning car traffic has priority in the bus zone always stopping the bus across the intersection from the zone….I think our lanes should run center, and be diagonal-ed across lanes to the right-hand curb.

    Saving us center platforms at all, which make passengers cross lanes to get to platforms. Do that, and type of buses is a more leisurely decision.


  6. One time I walked along Airport Road to Pane Field to check out developments there, then continued walking on Hardesen Road. There I noticed a Swift stop behind a fence on some property. Wha? Oh, it’s the Community Transit headquarters, and they use it for training. Contrast this with Rapid Ride, where I’m almost always dropped off on a planting strip. One time the back door opened on a bush and couldn’t close again, so the driver had to walk back and manually close it. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, man, practice.

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