Community Transit is preparing for more Swift lines in the next few years

With Lynnwood Link construction underway, Community Transit has less than five years to prepare for major changes to Snohomish County’s transit landscape. The draft of their latest six-year transit development plan is out for public comment and describes some of the upcoming challenges and priorities for the agency up to the 2024 restructure.

Last year, Community Transit buses and vanpools provided 10.6 million boardings, averaging just under 37,500 on weekdays for fixed-route buses. The agency expects this figure to grow to 14.4 million passenger trips by 2024 with the implementation of more frequent service and the opening of the next Swift line. Community Transit scheduled 412,364 total service hours in 2018, and is expected to use 566,864 by 2024 after several service expansions.

Annual bus service hour additions from 2019 to 2024 (Image: Community Transit)

The draft TDP includes specific goals for the next set of restructures, which will initially focus on improving existing routes. The September 2020 restructure proposes reorganizing local routes that interact with the recently opened Swift Green Line in Mill Creek and Everett to provide better connections.

One of the other priorities for the 2020 and 2021 restructures is to look at upgrading high-ridership routes to 15-minute frequency. The current network caps out at combined 20-minute frequency for non-Swift core routes like Routes 115/116 (Edmonds to Mill Creek) and Routes 201/202 (Lynnwood to Smokey Point). Both core corridors are planned to be supplemented by Swift expansions within the coming decade and could present opportunities to grow ridership and awareness before BRT comes online. Other corridors with 30-minute service are also under consideration for upgraded frequencies based on their existing ridership and nearby commercial and housing density.

As mentioned previously, Community Transit will also be investigating whether a handful of its commuter routes can be truncated at Northgate Station when it opens for Link service in 2021. The plan also calls for new bus routes in south Snohomish County to serve markets with high transit demand but are too far from bus stops, presumably to lure away park-and-ride users.

Proposed stations and route of the Swift Orange Line, scheduled to open in 2024 (Image: Community Transit)

The longer-term expansion in 2022-24 is planed to be focused on the commuter service restructure for Lynnwood Link as well as the opening of the Swift Orange Line, which will run from Edmonds Community College to Mill Creek on a section of the current Route 115 corridor. The Orange Line project is expected to cost $85 million to construct, with all but $22 million coming from federal and state grants, and will need up to 16 new articulated coaches. A modest extension of the Swift Blue Line to Shoreline North/185th Station on the Lynnwood Link Extension is also planned to open in 2024, needing five coaches to preserve existing service frequency.

The next phase of Swift expansion, scheduled for later in the decade, will include a new line between Everett and Smokey Point and an extension of the Green Line to Downtown Bothell. In the interim, Community Transit plans to look at building up frequency and better connections in northern and eastern Snohomish County. The only example listed in the TDP is the State Route 531 corridor in Arlington, which lacks bus service but forms the north end of a regional industrial center that is planned to be developed in the coming years.

To be able to run additional trips and new routes, Community Transit forecasts that it will need 21 new Swift buses and 13 40-foot coaches. These new buses would be stored at the three existing bus bases, which will need to be renovated and expanded in stages between 2022 and 2025. The preliminary plan is to move some administrative staff away from the Merrill Creek headquarters to make room for more maintenance bays while also expanding the Kasch Park base. Community Transit also plans to replace the oldest Swift and double-decker buses before the 2024 restructure, as they will be beyond the FTA’s normal service life guideline of 12 years. The TDP also calls for the hiring of 160 new employees by 2024, of which 130 would be new bus drivers.

Beyond service improvements, the TDP also lists a dozen technology upgrades that will be needed for Community Transit. These include improvements to GTFS (the main data feeds for real-time arrival apps), which would be expanded to include information like vehicle capacity. Community Transit recently launched a new bus alert system that sends out messages and tweets based on how delayed a bus trip might be.

Other near-term initiatives include improved passenger information systems, and expanding transit signal priority with regional partners like WSDOT and city governments. There is also a small mention of a feasibility study to use full-fledged ORCA ticket-vending machines for new Swift lines rather than the repurposed parking meters used on the Blue and Green lines, which are unable to reload ORCA cards. Community Transit is contributing $9.6 million to the Next Generation ORCA program, which is planned to be deployed in stages between 2020 and 2022.

Community Transit is accepting feedback and public comments on the draft TDP until October 31. They can be sent via email, a phone call, on social media, snail mail, or in person at a public board meeting.

26 Replies to “Community Transit’s near-term plans prioritize frequency and connections”

  1. Community Transit buses and vanpools [averaged] just under 37,500 on weekdays for fixed-route buses.

    Does anyone have a breakdown of what the numbers are for each bus? I looked through the report and didn’t see anything.

  2. Disappointed to see the Orange Line end at Edmonds Community College, leaving downtown Edmonds with the same hourly service as before. Still, more service is always a good thing.

    1. The long term plan is to extend it to downtown Edmonds (via 196th). See page 53 on this document: My guess is they aren’t focused on that in the short run, but will make that change once Lynnwood Link gets built.

      They also have secondary (or actually tertiary) level service via 228th that ends at Mountlake Terrace. That would be a more direct connection to Link, that would avoid backtracking. My guess is the fastest route to Seattle would be to follow SR 104 to SR 99, and then use the same pathway as Swift, connecting to 185th. A similar approach would be to cut down 100th, then over ( There isn’t much enthusiasm for either route. By that I mean there are no plans for frequent service of that type. All the more frequent bus service will connect downtown Edmonds to Link at Mountlake Terrace or Lynnwood.

  3. A terminology question here: Should CT keep referring to transit transfer centers as “park and ride”? It seems to send a message to the public that the primary function is only for those parking their cars rather than the bus-bus transfer function that they also perform. A terminology more broad seems badly needed!

    1. The word transit center has been used in several different ways and is ambiguous. The first transit center I saw was Bellevue Transit Center, and it’s two blocks from the middle of downtown, the buses used to all wait 5 minutes at the :20 and :50 for transfers, you could walk somewhere or do errands if you’re waiting longer, and there was no parking garage pushing things away. That’s a good kind of transit center.

      The bad kind of transit center is like Issaquah’s in the middle of nowhere, or Renton’s and Burien’s with large garages, or Mt Baker’s that makes little sense except as a layover for a couple routes. In Bellevue people do transfer between the Crossroads, Seattle, Kirkland, and Newport Hills routes so it’s a real central hub. In some other cases “transit center” has degraded simply to a place with bus layovers and a large garage. That makes a mockery of going to the transit center to transfer or because it’s the center of town where the destinations are. Bellevue found a better place for a park n ride, away from the transit center at the periphery, with a separate stop for the express bus. Drivers are not going to park at the P&R to take a local route; they’re only taking the express route. So a peripheral P&R in the middle of nowhere is not the place for all the bus transfers to be.

      I’m concerned that renaming P&Rs to transit centers when they’re not in the center of the city or a pedestrian neighborhood would make the situation worse. It’s better to just keep calling them P&Rs if that’s all they are.

    2. Our region has several transit centers that aren’t anchoring currently walkable neighborhood villages. I don’t think it is confusing at all. Issaquah and Mountlake Terrace and Federal Way all come to mind; they could be called “park and ride” but they aren’t.

      What is confusing is for the CT Orange Line to go by so many “park-and-ride” locations, when most riders that will board at those locations aren’t parking a vehicle to use the bus service.

      I would observe that the terms we generally use for denser, walkable neighborhoods are usually either “downtowns” or “city centers”.

      1. What is confusing is for the CT Orange Line to go by so many “park-and-ride” locations, when most riders that will board at those locations aren’t parking a vehicle to use the bus service.

        I guess it is a judgement call. Personally, I think Lynnwood is clearly a transit center, while they happen to call it “Lynnwood City Center”. As far as the other areas listed as “Park and Rides”:

        Ash Way — Really big parking lot (over 1,000 spots) but a fair amount of connecting bus service. Buses also loop around, and otherwise go out of their way to serve it. I would call it a transit center.

        McCollum — Good size parking lot (over 400) but not a big spot as far as transit is concerned. Swift Green and Orange happen to overlap. You’ve got the 115 as well and a couple commuter runs. I would call that a park and ride.

        Swamp Creek — Similar to McCollum. About the same size parking lot (over 400 spots). Not a lot of other bus service. You have the 112, and a few commuter runs.

        Given the relative size of the park and ride lots, and the ridership of many of the buses, it wouldn’t surprise me if all three fail that test. In other words, most riders of those buses really are parking and riding. The only one I would call a transit center is Ash Way, because even though it has a huge parking lot, it just feels like a transit center.

      2. I’d put Ash Way on par with Federal Way (877 spaces) as a transit center. Your arguments for the others is reasonable, but Ash Way should obviously be called a Transit Center. It would actually be unrealistic for someone to drive to Ash Way only to reach an Orange Line destination since the route ends are both within 3-4 miles of this stop.

    3. You need a word for a bus station in a city center.

      It doesn’t bother me that Swift has several P&R stops. They happen to be on the way. They aren’t “Swift park n rides”; they’re “Swift stops at park n rides”. Are they the best locations for Swift stations? I don’t know that they aren’t. Snohomish has such bad land use that there may be no larger pedestrian concentrations than the P&Rs in those areas.

      And one of the goals of Swift Green was that people would take it to Boeing Everett. Some people will have to drive to a P&R to do that because there’s no bus route near them, or it goes once an hour, or it doesn’t go to a Swift station.

      1. >You need a word for a bus station in a city center.

        How about “Bus Station”?

        Y’know, just throwing it out there.

  4. Hooray for 15-minute service in Snohomish. That will make it much easier to get around the county without a car, and to be a car-lite household.

    I’m not so sure about this sprawl industrial center in Arlington. But I’m glad the county is thinking about transit at the beginning of it. I don’t know much about the area. (I’ve only been to Arlington and Smokey Point a few times.) But Smokey Point Swift will be a good resource, and then you need an all-day frequent route to Arlington so people can get to Smokey Point. Maybe not necessarily to the front door of these industrial companies that have only peak-hour ridership — a peak-only route could do that — but somewhere where it would allow the residents of the area to do more of their errands and activities on transit.

  5. 1) IT would be nice when these plans are put out for public comment that

    a) Board committees didn’t vote to approve them until after the public comment period has concluded

    b) The public hearing wasn’t a few dozens of minutes from a vote to approve the Transit Development Plan.

    Oh well…

    2) Just as Ballard has a “Missing Link” for cyclists that Heidi Wills wants to build an elevated version of; Mukilteo has a missing link. It’s called a bus line from the WSF Ferry Terminal to Seaway Transit Center via the Future of Flight. Every candidate for Snohomish County Council, Mukilteo City Council and Everett City Council should demand it. After all, Everett & Mukilteo need good connections to one another – and our state ferries + Sound Transit should connect well to the Green Line AND the Paine Field passenger terminal.

  6. “Hooray for 15-minute service in Snohomish. ”

    Assuming the frequent service is weekday daytime hours only, the upgrade will be meaningless to anyone visiting from King County who has a standard 9-5 job. Frequent service is nice, but not worth taking a day off work to take advantage of.

    That’s not to say it’s not worth doing. Remember, the Seattle dwellers in this blog are not their primary focus. It’s the people who actually live up there that is.

    1. Yes, but there are 800,000 people who live in Snohomish County and many of them are going to destinations within the county. Snohomish County has lower housing costs than King County, but for it to be a viable option for those without a car it needs frequent local transit, and if it can only afford it daytime then it’s a start. The Swift lines are and will be at least 20 minutes evenings, so that’s something. If it were King County I’d hold it to a higher standard, but it converted from a rural/semi-rural area later and it takes time. Lynnwood is in some ways like Bellevue was in the 70s.

    2. For many people, 15 vs. 30 minutes would make the difference between taking a local bus to Link, Stride, or ST Express, vs. driving to the park and ride in the wee hours to get a spot or just driving all the way. 30 minute service doesn’t work very well when there are transfers involved, especially on the way back home in the evening.

      FWIW, Swift maintains 15-20 minute frequency late into the evening and on weekends. The first two routes are not very useful for people visiting from Seattle or Bellevue, but the Edmonds – Lynnwood via 196th route might be more useful. The combined half hourly evening/weekend service on that corridor is at least usable, though the walkability at many stops is bad. Gotta push for better walkability along with the Swift lines, as there are quite a few apartment complexes and employers within a 10 minute walk of the current stops, but that walk would be treacherous for the likes of Highway 99 and the Bothell-Everett Highway. Walking conditions are holding ridership back at least as much as station placement.

  7. I wonder why the Green Line is not serving downtown Bothell, that would be so natural?
    Now, you have to rely on 105, which is basically a copy of Swift Green, extended to Bothell DT, but with low frequency. There are tons of people that would want to get to Canyon Park and Ride from Downtown.

    1. From what I have heard, CT is waiting on the expansion of the main highway (Bothell Way) to four lanes. There is also the issue of negotiating with King County Metro to provide service within their “territory”, but this seems like a smaller hurdle to overcome considering the agreements in place for Route 105.

      There is a Green Line extension planned for sometime in the future, though it would have been nice to have in 2024 to connect the two Stride lines.

      1. Yeah, the long range plans are to extend into downtown Bothell. It is on the map, and specifically called out in the “Swift Service Corridors” in the “Corridor Assessment” section. On page 14, they wrote:

        SR 527 – Downtown Bothell to Paine Field

        Bothell to Paine Field via SR 527. From Downtown Bothell (Main St.,
        operate on Bothell Way (SR 527) continuing on SR 526, ending at Airport

        Findings and Recommendations – The SR 527 Corridor has the
        potential to support Swift service within the next ten years if transit
        supportive land uses and transit priority treatments are implemented.

        • Carefully design and implement services that will feed future Swift
        • Work with Bothell and Mill Creek to ensure that development and pedestrian connections focus on the SR 527 corridor.
        • Work with Bothell to resolve routing/infrastructure issues along SR 527 between Canyon Park and downtown Bothell.
        • Providing safe and convenient transfer connections at the intersections of Evergreen Way and SR 526 and SR 527 and I-405.
        • Providing ‘last mile’ transportation services in the Paine Field area,
        allowing people to get from corridor to employment sites.

  8. Three things:
    1) The “Red Line” should either wait until Link comes to Everett or extend to Lynnwood. There’s definitely a demand for Seattle connections at Everett Station. Terminating the line at Everett before Link’s arrival would mean current riders would have to take a 3rd mode to reach Seattle (bus to Everett>bus to Link>Link to Seattle). Additionally, there’s also demand for connecting services at Mariner & Ash Way that don’t serve Everett.

    2) I really hope CT invests in connecting Edmonds with 185th St via Hwy 104. There’s strong demand for reaching places along Hwy 104, Aurora Village and Shoreline. By focusing on more Hwy 104 service, it kills multiple birds with one bus.

    3) Can’t wait to see if ST will truncate routes 510-513 at Northgate.

    1. 1) Which line is the Red Line? I can’t find that anywhere.

      2) In the long range plan, they call for service along that corridor at the lowest level. There is BRT over to Lynnwood, and a lower level run out to Montlake Terrace. But nothing on a corridor that I too would consider very strong. I think it is the biggest weakness of the long range plan.

      3) My guess is they truncate all of them. It would be crazy not to. ST doesn’t have a lot of cash, and the savings would be significant. Community Transit is the big mystery. They could truncate all of their commuter buses, or none of them. My guess is they split the difference, and truncate the ones headed to the UW. That still saves a lot of money, and that would give a lot of riders the choice between the existing one seat ride to downtown, or a bus headed to Northgate.

      1. The Red Line is the Everett-Marysville route. I remember seeing it in some document, but I can’t remember which.

      2. Thanks Pat. OK, yeah, it is listed in the long range plan. I’ll copy it:

        Broadway / SR 529 / State Ave/ Smokey Pt Blvd – Everett to Smokey Point

        From Everett Station to Smokey Point, on Pacific, Broadway, SR 529,
        State Avenue and Smokey Point Blvd.

        Findings and Recommendations – This is a complex corridor that combines areas with no transit potential (Snohomish River floodplain) with compact transit oriented developments. It has the potential to support Swift service by 2030 but operations should be carefully evaluated.

        • Initiate high capacity transit in stages, initially focusing on the corridor’s southern end.
        • Encourage transit-oriented developments around the intersection of Smokey Point Blvd. at 152nd Street and at the Lakewood Triangle.
        • Encourage implementation of Marysville’s Downtown Redevelopment Plan and the increased density, pedestrian and transit-oriented development it calls for.
        • Continue to support increased density and market growth in
        Everett’s Broadway Mixed Use zone.

        So basically, they aren’t too excited about it. But if they build it, I disagree with Jordan. It doesn’t need to extend to Lynnwood. Right now, someone trying to get to Marysville would be able to transfer in Everett using and ST bus (that runs all day). In the future, this might mean a three seat ride, but that is no big deal. For a trip that far (from Everett to Seattle) you kind of expect that. Besides, there will likely be an express bus line that runs from the Everett Station to Lynnwood (via the freeway). It will likely stop at South Everett, and that’s it. This would be faster than transferring to the train in Everett most of the time. You could combine the two buses (which is basically the 201/202) but that would likely create a big ridership mismatch. My guess is the southern part of that route (from north Everett to Lynnwood) will have lots of demand. The part that goes up to Marysville, not so much. An overlap that includes north Everett makes sense, as that is likely to be the highest demand area. The 201/202 could then be truncated at Everett. That would mean a two seat ride for most of the Snohomish County trips along that corridor (e. g. Smokey Point to Ash Way).

    2. The Red Line is definitely a no-brainer even before Everett Link arrives. The corridor is growing and will have a significant concentration of jobs in addition to being the catchment for a lot of North County riders.

      I don’t see Routes 510/511/513 being truncated at Northgate, mostly because the express lanes are usually pretty quick. Route 512 is fair game since it already has to leave the HOV lanes for shoulder exits and is frequently slowed down in the reverse-peak direction. The 800-series buses to UW also seem more likely, for similar reasons (not being able to use the express lanes).

  9. I’ve ridden the 106 a few times, it’s in the category of “Feeder” routes but I don’t understand the schedule. It’s run like a commuter bus with a big mid-day gap, and by big I mean the last morning bus heading south leaves at 7:34 and the first afternoon bus heading north leaves at 4:19. It’d be nice if they ran like a commuter bus with an eight hour overlap between the morning and afternoon routes. When I’ve ridden I got a ride home because I wasn’t going to work an extra-long day. There’s a ton of new home construction along the 39th/York/35th corridor in the townhouse/dense single family residences and it’s mostly missed by the route since it turns on 168th, heads through a neighborhood and then follows the Swift Green line down to the Park and Ride.

  10. Joe, A 12 for Transit, should be lobbying Everett Transit to provide more and two-way service on their #70 for Boeing workers that goes from the Mukilteo ferry to Boeing/Seaway Transit Center in the morning and the opposite in the afternoon, running empty going back to collect the next group of mostly Boeing workers. If those buses carried passengers in both directions, all Joe would need to do is get the Seaway Transit Center from a myriad of options from Everett Station such as the 90X. Two-way service would also benefit those of us living in the taxpaying district who lack any viable transit service from southwest Everett to the Sounder, Amtrak, and ferry in Mukilteo just 4 miles away (similarly, there’s nothing going the other direction to the South Everett P&R, so it’s also 4 buses to get to the eastside). Local transit service should connect to regional transit connections and to places where low-income folks need to get to, such as medical facilities, government offices, etc., and a $25 per tourist attraction is, at best, a secondary consideration.

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