A Community Transit bus at Seaway Transit Center (photo by author)

Not to be outdone by Metro, Community Transit is also boosting Sunday frequencies for several routes in their September 22 service change. In the first major change to Sunday service since it was reintroduced in 2015, Route 201 (Smokey Point–Lynnwood) will be added to the Sunday roster with hourly service from 7:30 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. Route 201 will supplement existing Sunday service on Route 202 to provide 30-minute frequency on their shared corridor in Marysville and Everett.

Other routs will have added trips on Sundays and major holidays, including extended service until 9 p.m. for Routes 112, 113, 116, and 280. Community Transit is also upgrading Saturday frequency on the Swift Blue Line from 20 minutes to 15 minutes between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Both Swift lines will also have extended hours of service, including weekday trips that begin at 4:15 a.m. and evening service on Sundays and holidays until 9 p.m.

Several routes that serve Edmonds Station and Seaway Transit Center will have modified trip times on weekdays to better serve regional connections. Routes 116, 130, and 196 at Edmonds Station will have buses scheduled to arrive 10 minutes before morning Sounder trips and leave 10 minutes after evening Sounder trips. Routes 227 and 247 at Seaway Transit Center will be adjusted to provide better transfers to Boeing’s shuttles and other bus routes.

In the coming months, Community Transit will also begin collecting feedback on the major route restructure planned around the opening of Lynnwood Link in 2024. CT spokesperson Martin Munguia said to the Edmonds Beacon that the agency plans to present potential concepts for certain routes to truncate at Northgate Station when it opens in 2021. The Northgate truncation is made feasible due to the longer timeline for Lynnwood Link (which was moved back from 2023 to 2024), but would have to overcome the physical constraints of the Northgate interchange and the station itself, which will have limited capacity during peak periods.

32 Replies to “Community Transit boosts Swift and Sunday services”

  1. Service until 9 PM is still not great. Looking at the schedule and working backwards, it means leaving downtown Seattle by 8:15 or so to catch the last local connector bus on the other end. If coming home from SeaTac, it means that if your flight doesn’t touch down by 7 PM or so (6:30 PM if checking bags), you’re toast.

    Look forward to the day when this gets meaningfully improved. And, also the day when the CT local routes start running more often. Hourly service between Lynnwood and Edmonds still leaves a lot to be desired.

  2. When Link opens to Northgate, there will be a significant reshuffling of the North King County base service routes, but it has mostly already happened that buses from north of the U-District but south of Northgate/Lake City don’t cross the Ship Canal.

    Some will change the point at which they transfer to Link, but the volumes will remain roughly the same. Basically, the main King County increases will come from peak-only expresses that enter I-5 at the 65th/Lake City Way ramps or north of there.

    Most are piddling things with three to five buses an hour. There are eight such routes totaling 22, 32 and 20 buses per hour at I-5 in the 6:00, 7:00 and 8:00 hours. Collectively they would fill perhaps two, three and two of the trains running in the respective hours

    Then there are the 41 and 312 plus ST 522 which together run 23, 36 and 28 buses in the same hours respectively. That’s another two, four and three trains newly filled, assuming that passengers are willing to make the transfers.

    If they aren’t, Seattle has made a colossal blunder.

    Until Bellevue Maintenance Center is connected by East Link there will be few new cars in the fleet. Currently six, ten, and ten trains trains run south from HSS in the morning, generally quite crowded to Westlake.

    Where will the people being transferred from North King buses be accommodated, much less those from truncated Snohomish commuter routes?

    Sure, the “all-day” 512 should be truncated, because it’s the primary way to UW in the middle if the day. Ideally it would also run during the span of the 510 at its base schedule, in order to provide an any-time path between North King and Lynnwood/Everett.

    But CT must be very careful not to dump too many passengers onto Link at Northgate. The agency should absolutely delay at least one shake-up after North Link opens before truncating any commuter routes.

    1. The issue of train overcrowding on Link between UW and Westlake is imminent and deserves analysis. Train overcrowding is a common challenge for urban rail systems around the world.

      There are many timing variables involved for this segment:

      1. More train cars (capacity) in 2020.
      2. Northgate Link opening (demand) in 2021.
      3. East Link opening (capacity) in 2023.
      4. Lynnwood Link (demand) in 2024.
      5. Ballard Link transferring (demand) in 2035.
      6. Everett Link (demand) in 2036.

      The period of time between 2 and 3 is important. It may in fact be overcrowded. Still, we don’t know. ST isn’t talking about it. It’s the current ST management approach: less public information and discussion. It’s part of a marked shift in extension planning attitudes with the new management staff these past few years.

      The tragic thing here is that solutions can be planned IF ST wants to publicly address the issue. The second line to the Eastside will be in systems testing by 2022; once the wires to the OMF East are live, non-revenue access will be available to those train cars. It may even be possible to store a few more train sets in SODO at the yards or on the tail tracks beforehand (even using East Link tracks as tail tracks) and run more train sets between ID and Northgate only for a few hours during the peak. ST could even keep Link south of SODO at 10 minutes during the peak and operate extra peak hour trains between Northgate and SODO rather than run the extra train sets on the entire line.

      If 2021 comes and train overcrowding is an issue, let’s not be politically correct and accept it as some sort of “unexpected transit success” without a solution; let’s terminate the management who should have known that this would be an issue and chose to ignore it or not to disclose it.

      1. You don’t need the wires to be live before moving the cars around. They can be moved by trackmobile, and that is how TriMet moved the low floor cars over to the east side and started service with them before the west side line even had both tracks installed.

        Delivering the new cars directly to the east side was looked at, but given up due to the costs of rebuilding some of the streets to accept such a long truck trailer, and the railroad line the original cars arrived on had become a bike path. So, delivering them by flat car to Orenco and shoving them all the way over using the trackmobile started happening very soon after the last rail on one track was finished.

    2. Four car trains running every six minutes can handle a lot of people, even when the system is peak-oriented (ask Calgary). Still, I would expect Community Transit to be conservative, while Metro truncates everything. CT would gain a lot of service time by truncating at Northgate, but lots of people would complain. A handful would be thrilled, but many more would whine. Neither Northgate nor Roosevelt are huge destinations, and they already run express buses to the UW. The gains in frequency aren’t as important if the vast majority of people on those routes are commuting during rush hour (and they are). I personally would go ahead and truncate like crazy, but I can understand why they would tread lightly.

      My guess is they truncate the buses headed to the UW once Northgate Link opens. This saves a significant amount of service time, while giving those riders a connection to Northgate. They might use the service savings to add a few similar runs (to Northgate). If those prove to be very popular — if people prefer the connection to Link over the one seat ride to downtown — I would be very surprised. But if that happens, they could then start truncating some of the downtown express buses at Northgate. My guess is they won’t do that until Lynnwood Link, though.

      1. Ross, of course “four car trains running at six minute headways” would very likely be sufficient to accommodate a good amount of truncation.

        However, the problem is that there cannot be four-car trains running at six minute headways before East Link opens unless some of the strategies mentioned by Al are adopted. Truncating all the existing North King express buses will close to double the ridership in the 7:00 to 7:59 hour. There is no place to park double the number of railcars now in service before Bellevue MF comes on line.

        Using the East Link tail tracks for storage, and maybe turnback during the peaks is a good idea.

      2. In case that wasn’t clear, I’m certain Metro will truncate the expresses between 55th and 125th. It will also have an opportunity to truncate the Shoreline routes; I’m not sure where the limit should be. Are Aurora Village and Richmond Beach close enough for a local feeder to go to Northgate without getting on the freeway, or what’s a reasonable threshold? The 301’s local stops start at 175th. It makes one extra stop at 125th, but that could be another route. 125th is so close to 145th that it seems any routes that turn express at 145th could absorb them.

        I’m less willing to truncate the Bothell Way routes because they’re so far from Northgate. Roosevelt might be a better option. But I’m pretty certain there will be an all-day express between Kenmore/Bothell and downtown, because somebody said Metro promised them that in an open house. Of course, it may be rerouted to First Hill or SLU to avoid competing with Link so much and increase service to the downtown-adjacent neighborhoods.

      3. It makes sense to truncate the SR 522 buses at Roosevelt, if for no other reason to cover the same set of stops. The stop at 80th and 20th is one of the most popular stops on the 522 ST bus, exceeding all of those outside of the city. Those numbers don’t include the growth in the area, which has been substantial. It really doesn’t take any longer to get to Roosevelt than it does to get to Northgate, so it makes sense to just send them there.

        @Tom — My point is that even if they run four car trains, it is quite possible that CT won’t want to truncate all of their buses.

    3. The good news is CT is considering truncating routes at Northgate, and that may give ST courage to do it too. We don’t know which routes CT has in mind, and I believe there’s not much available street capacity between the freeway exit and the transit center. But that’s something CT and ST can coordinate on, and I hope they truncate the 512 first, and then select some others if there’s capacity.

      Metro clearly wants one restructure rather than two, so it front-loaded the local routes in the U-Link restructure. The peak expresses between 55th and 125th were left as is because nobody knew how well the transfer at UW station would be accepted, and it turned out to be barely tolerable. It was never intended to be a long-term transfer for the Stevens Way routes, just a temporary stopgap because U-District Station couldn’t fit in U-Link’s budget. With Norgate Link, Metro will do the peak truncations that have long been anticipated. That leaves only the far-north Seattle and Shoreline peak expresses. Northgate will be more attractive for them than UW was for the near-north routes, and some of them won’t have to come from I-5 but can come from the east or button-hook around the college and 92nd and avoid the I-5/Northgate Way interchange. Northgate Station is in King County so Metro should have first choice on feedesrs. I assume CT and ST will coordinate with Metro on the routes, and they should probably give Metro first preference, although I hope they reserve space for the 512 as extra-important.

      ST shot itself in the foot by not including open gangways and no interior cabs in the train spec. That would give some 10% more capacity for free. Portland’s trains have twelve seats in the interior ends if I recall.

      I wouldn’t recommend firing anyone when I’m not in that organization and don’t know the whole story. But the board should provide oversight and be knowledgeable about these issues. We give them the information for free, such information as everyone knows who has experience riding other cities’ networks and compared them.

      1. I think Metro will simply truncate all of them, or at most send a few buses to SLU or First Hill. The only controversial buses would be the 301 and 304. Once you get on the freeway, it is tough to get off of it before downtown. But in both cases it would spend very little time on the freeway, and the savings would be huge. With the 304, it is the first exit, which tends to be relatively fast. With only four runs a day, it also isn’t that important. The 301 is complicated. One version has looping, one-way service. Added service from truncation could make for a simpler, faster, easier to understand set of bus routes. Or it could result in better service throughout the day. Still, if there is a Metro bus that remains an express, I think it will be the 301. With about 20 runs a day this wouldn’t be a huge loss.

        I think ST will truncate everything at Northgate. I think CT will be more cautious and only truncate the buses headed to the UW. That’s my theory, anyway. It will be interesting to see what happens.

      2. I should add that the 301 serves in part as an E express. Both are very frequent. If they truncate the 301, it is quite possible a lot of those riders would just switch to the E. That would lead to lots of crowding downstream. I think, for that reason, that Metro will just add a few “express” buses to Northgate, but keep plenty of express buses to downtown. Eventually a lot of those riders would switch to the main Swift bus, which would quickly get them to 185th.

      3. The 301, I think, should truncate at Northgate. Separately from the 301, there should probably be an express version of the E-line that follows the same route as the E we have today, but with fewer stops. I imagine the stop list of the E express to be something like this: Aurora Village, 185th, 175th, 155th, 145th, 130th, Northgate Way, 85th, 45th, 7th/Denny, 3rd/Virginia, 3rd/Pike, 3rd/Seneca, 3rd/Columbia. Getting of of all those stops where the bus has to wait an extra light cycle to allow one person to get on makes a huge difference.

      4. Roll the 301 into the 303 and add shoulder peak service.

        Combine the Richmond Beach 301 into the 304 and still have it serve Northgate.

        But what’s the ridership of the 304?? Every time I see it, I always think they gotta nix it.

      5. The afternoon schedule of the 304 shows 1/3 of the total trip time to be spent crawling the streets of downtown Seattle. And that doesn’t even include traffic delays on I-5, itself.

      6. Separately from the 301, there should probably be an express version of the E-line that follows the same route as the E we have today, but with fewer stops.

        I like that idea. For sake of discussion, I’ll call that the “EE”.

        The Firdale version of the 301 (renamed to a different route) would be sent to Northgate. The 303 already goes to Northgate. That would be 15 trips a day to Northgate from Aurora Village, not counting the savings (which could double that). Riders would have plenty of opportunity to get to Link.

        The only problem is that the EE would be more expensive than the existing 301. So that means fewer EE runs than existing 301 runs. The hope would be that a significant number of riders switch to the Northgate express buses and that the EE (which has fewer runs than the old 301) is enough to take up the slack.

        But I also think it is quite possible that Metro leaves the main 301 alone. The main value of the 301 is that it reduces pressure on the E. I’m not convinced that frequent express buses to Northgate would do that. More to the point, I’m not convinced that Metro believes that will happen. I’m guessing that they keep the 301, just like they kept the 74 and 76 going downtown (for now). Eventually those will be truncated, but not yet.

      7. Combine the Richmond Beach 301 into the 304 and still have it serve Northgate.

        The Richmond Beach version of the 301 is significantly different than the 304. It provides unique service on 8th NW. It is the only service to downtown on 3rd NW. It would be difficult for the 304 to serve those areas. I do think the Richmond Beach version of the 301 (which I’ve been calling the “Firdale” version) should be sent to Northgate though.

        But what’s the ridership of the 304?? Every time I see it, I always think they gotta nix it.

        Good question. There are nine trips a day, with 400 riders, or about 44 riders per bus. Even for an express, that isn’t great. But it isn’t terrible. Here are some other buses, in ridership per hour of service during rush hour:

        301 — 34.2
        303 — 28.4
        304 — 25.6
        113 — 20.2

        There are worse express buses (much worse). But it is the worst express in the area. It does provide some unique coverage (along 145th). Service along Dayton is shared only with the 331 (which doesn’t go downtown). I think sending it to Northgate is the thing to do. Running to Northgate would add a few more runs, and still provide coverage. I think the numbers would go up a lot. It would be faster to Northgate than both the 345 and 348 (buses it overlaps). Simply killing it would not do much — it just doesn’t run that often.

      8. “Separately from the 301, there should probably be an express version of the E-line that follows the same route as the E we have today, but with fewer stops.”

        That sounds like a limited-stop route like the 9 or 373, that stops at major destinations and transfer points but doesn’t have a long nonstop segment. There was such a route called the 359, which ran daytime alongside the 6 local and 360 peak express. All three routes were combined into one, the 358, which became the E. There were calls at the time to keep a limited-stop route, but they were rejected in order to make the combined route as frequent as possible. That makes waiting shorter but makes long trips slow, such as 85th to Swift or Costco (200th) or 46th to Sky Nursery or the ice-skating rink (185th). It would be interesting to see if the concept comes back because I have always supported limited-stop routes. Sound Transit’s long-range plan has “bus rapid transit” and “regional express bus service” on Aurora between downtown and Everett, so that may be what eventually happens.

      9. For the E, a limited stop run makes sense during rush hour. There is already enough frequency, such that adding more buses doesn’t really help. It is similar to the point where streetcars actually make sense (because big streetcars — unlike ours — can carry a lot more people than our buses). Where you draw that line is a judgement call. For streetcars, Jarrett Walker draws it at 2 minutes. For an express bus — which actually adds value over the main bus line — I think around four minutes is where I would start running them. Running more buses after that is nice, but not as nice as additional express buses (which also add frequency for the bulk of riders, and cost less to operate).

        Of course, things get complicated as there is only one BAT lane (each direction) on Aurora. With bad traffic, an express bus might try to pass a regular bus, only to see the regular bus take off just as the express got into the regular lane. I would still run some express buses — if nothing else they would avoid the ridiculous Linden detour.

      10. I started thinking BAT lane contention a few days ago. If local buses always move into the GP lane when a limited bus is behind them, then the limited bus would never have to move into the GP lane. Swift and the 101 must have the same issue; I haven’t been on them enough to see how they handle it.

    4. My understanding is that CT isn’t planning any service revisions for Northgate, saving it all for the big 2024 changes. Has that plan changed?

    5. Ross, it’s certain CT can’t truncate “all their buses”. Without the three-minute headways available once East Link opens, I am skeptical they can truncate. any of them except the 800’s and 512’s they might run to establish a consistent all-day route.

      I hope they understand that.

      I agree with both you and Mike that it makes much more sense to truncate Lake City Way service of both Metro and ST at Roosevelt. Northgate TC will have the northwest KC buses to accommodate.

      1. Ross, it’s certain CT can’t truncate “all their buses”

        No it’s not. There is no certainty. That is what Al is complaining about. We don’t know when we will have four car trains to Northgate. We don’t even know how many riders the CT express buses carry, or whether that is likely to cause a problem. Neither Metro nor CT provide maximum load numbers (although ST does). So even if you want to do the math, you are making very rough estimates (I know the 41 buses are full during rush hour, but I have no idea about 412). That is the problem. There is no certainty with regards to capacity and the role that CT buses would play in it.

        But as I said, it is likely a moot point. It is quite likely that CT has no interest in truncating all of there express buses, but will instead truncate those headed to the UW. Metro will certainly truncate the bulk of their buses, with only minor players (like the 301) kept as expresses. This will happen regardless of whether the trains are crowded or not. If that causes daily crowding (to the point where people can’t get on the train every day) then yeah, someone at ST definitely screwed up, since the numbers are probably available with a call between agencies.

      2. Ross, no we don’t know the exact total passenger count for each CT express route. But we can make a pretty good guess that they won’t run a half-full-or-less bus more than a couple of shakeups.

        I don’t have the schedules for the past three schedule adjustments so I can’t claim anywhere near perfect figures, but I would wager at least 80% of the expresses that they run are at least 80% full on a non-holiday, non-August day. Otherwise the schedules would be adjusted to eliminate at least one run and the remainder redistributed. CT runs are so long and the passage through downtown Seattle so punishing that I can’t imagine that more than 1/4 are multiple trips.

        So the simple fact that over 80 buses pass the Sno/King county line in the 6:30-7:30 hour (folks arriving in downtown Seattle right around 8:00 AM) means that there are roughly 3200 (80 * (0.8 * 50) — they run a LOT of Double Talls) riders. Since a Link car holds about 200 people with fairly packed standees — something people boarding at Roosevelt headed for downtown could probably put up with — That’s sixteen cars or four four-car trains out of what would be ten with six minute headways, but can’t be until East Link is at least wired even if not formally operating.

        As of summer 2017, the latest article I can find in STB mentioning train length, “about 2/3” of the peak hour trains are said to be three-car and 1/3 two-car. Link at this time runs at six minute headways in the peaks, so that’s ten trains, 2/3 or which have three cars and 1/3 two cars. So, three times two is six plus seven times three which is twenty-one, or twenty-seven cars per hour.

        Right now, with twenty-seven cars per hour, Snohomish County would itself gobble up sixteen of them, leaving eleven for King County. But King County southeast of Northgate already fills those twenty-seven cars very fully during the rush hour.

        So even if ST finds enough storage room to make all the trains three-car, that would add only three cars per hour. North King will certainly consume that.

        So pretty simple math says that between the time that North Link reaches Northgate and East Link is fully tracked and wired to allow non-revenue movements, essentially no Snohomish County buses can be truncated if King County riders transferring at Roosevelt and U-District are to have a decent shot at a seat. Where else are they going to store trains?

        The East Link switches will be in place some time next year so, sure, a couple of trains can probably be stored overnight on the trackway, but no more than two. The union is not going to allow its members to be forced to squeeze between parked trains and the Jersey barriers.

        It’s certainly possible to envision truncating the 800’s; they don’t run very often and they’re not Double Talls. Plus, most of their riders will be getting off at U-District or Husky Stadium freeing room for King County transfers.

        But any other CT or ST routes originating in Snohomish County that go to downtown Seattle, except possibly the 512 so that “reverse commuting” via Link becomes quickly viable, should not be welcome at Northgate Station.

        It will be an interesting test to “split” the service in this way: a bus which uses the express lanes and surface streets to downtown Seattle versus a bus plus a transfer to a train in a tunnel in downtown Seattle. On most days the expresses will outperform the train to the northeast end of downtown because of the express lanes, but anyone going to “Symphony” or Pioneer Square might certainly prefer the transfer route.

      3. OK, we’ll just gave to see. Ido think your dislike of the suburbs and The Spine is warping your opinion, though.

      4. OK, we’ll just gave to see. I do think your dislike of the suburbs and The Spine is warping your opinion, though.

        Bullshit. I never said I disliked the suburbs. I’ve lived in the suburbs. I’ve written numerous posts about the suburbs. I’ve even had a guy, who lives in the suburbs, saying basically, “you get it, man”.

        Your arguments are always based on wild speculation (“Des Moines will soon have Toronto style towers”) followed by veiled attacks when people question your ridiculous assumptions. You have absolutely no qualifications that justify your ridiculous claims. My guess is you used to have another moniker, but are too embarrassed to keep using it. I’ve made my share of mistakes and stupid comments. I can live with that, as I continue to learn and offer up new ideas. You still hold on to ridiculous ideas, like the one where a station at 14th NW is just as good as 15th, let alone 20th. I have no idea whether you like cities or not, but your understanding of them, and how transit works in them, is ridiculously ignorant and worse yet, shows no sign of improvement.

        Oh, but I do dislike the spine. Anyone who knows anything about transit realizes that a subway line from Tacoma to Everett is ridiculous. That doesn’t change the fact that there are *not* huge numbers of people streaming in from Snohomish to King County all day from a system that in its entirety (including Swift) carries only 36,000 a day.

    6. Glenn, ST can’t haul across the bridge with a trackmobile daily between storage and service.

      1. They don’t have enough capacity at the existing shop complex for any expansion at all? Even for a couple of years?

      2. Supposedly they can maintain a few more cars than they now have in service, but the parking is full between 2:00 AM and 5:00. If they reduced their “ready reserve” they might add a train or two but it takes two hours to run one way so adding two trains only adds one per hour at any given station.

        Thus far they have resisted reducing the ready reserve.

        Maybe truncated and new North King ridership will force their hand, but they supposedly are adamant on that.

      3. AL, I do not believe so. Thar’s been my point in this discussion.

        You have offered some very good “work-arounds”. I hope ST reads your comment.

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