Community Transit has put out a set of options for its upcoming Lynnwood Pilot, with the aim of improving mobility around popular destinations in Lynnwood. The options include two microtransit routes, and a community van program. Community Transit is seeking feedback on the options with a survey, open until June 18th.

Community Transit’s vision for microtransit in Lynnwood is a short bus route with a service area. There are no schedules and (seemingly) no bus stops; instead, passengers request a pick up and drop-off within the service area in advance. There are two options for proposed service areas: Alderwood and 188th Street SW.

Alderwood route and service area (image: Community Transit)
188th St SW route and service area (image: Community Transit)

Surprisingly, Lynnwood Transit Center is not the focus of these options, despite being the future terminus for Link Light Rail in 2024, and being a transfer point to frequent, all day express service to Seattle and Everett on Sound Transit route 512. The Alderwood loop would run in a loop route around Alderwood Mall, with the service area encompassing the mall itself, along with some popular destinations around downtown Lynnwood including Lynnwood Transit Center. The 188th Street SW route connects Alderwood Mall to Edmonds College along 188th Street SW and 68th Ave W, with the service area extending a few blocks beyond this route. This route does not connect to Lynnwood Transit Center at all. It also connects to Swift Blue at the southern end of its service area, but not at the point where it crosses Highway 99 (which is about midway in between Swift stops).

A community van program is also being proposed. Community Transit describes it as “a van for local group trips (with two or more riders), parked at locations in Lynnwood such as City Hall or Edmonds College. You request a trip or join one already set.” Local fare would apply to all three of these options, and all would include wheelchair accessibility.

Route 111 expansion and all-day service as proposed by Community Transit in March 2020

The proposed route for the 188th Street SW option seems to be taken from the northern part of its proposed expansion of route 111 (which we discussed here), which would have happened in Spring 2021. It would have extended route 111 from its western terminus at Mountlake Terrace Transit Center north to Edmonds College and 188th St SW, then east to Alderwood Mall. Service would also have been expanded from peak-only to all-day weekdays and Saturday. However, when this was considered, the pandemic was just getting started, and this seems to be one of the many plans that was upended as a result.

26 Replies to “Community Transit considering microtransit in Lynnwood”

  1. I’m not sure how successful this will be if the pilot ends in 2022 and Lynnwood Link opens in 2024. It seems like it’s going to be really hard to succeed like this.

    Of course, if the pilot went to Northgate starting in October 2021, it might do much better. That’s still a bit far though.

    1. If the point is the gauge the demand for trips within Lynnwood, why would going to Northgate be useful?

      1. Well I think it’s premature. It seems odd to run this before Link gets to Snohomish County.

        I get how buses do serve the corridor today — but they won’t run every 10 minutes from 5 am to 10 pm like link will.

  2. In the case of the Alderwood route, what’s the longest trip you can possibly take on this, and is it long enough to make the combined wait+ride time non-trivially faster than just walking?

    Eyeballing the map, it seems like the answer is “no”. If it’s just one bus roaming around without a schedule, you could easily be waiting 10-15 minutes. Add 5 minutes ride time to that and, if the entire trip is just one mile, you’re not actually saving any time riding it over just walking a 20 minute mile.

    Can we please have routes that actually compete with cars, rather than feet? Walking already a green and free form of transportation; we don’t need to spend taxpayer money to replace it.

    1. It looks like the full route, from Edmonds College, up 68th to 188th, then over to Alderwood, is just over 3 miles. It seems to me like CT noticed they have a bunch of routes that get kinda close to major destinations but don’t actually connect them, so they came with a simple shuttle route that stops and picks up wherever you want it to.

      1. Oop, realized you were talking about the Alderwood Loop. That one is a 4.2 mile loop – so I guess if you really wanted a costco hot dog after getting off a bus at the Transit Center, you could catch the shuttle and get there slightly faster than walking from another bus.

    2. Not everyone is capable of walking for a mile, so it’s not as bad as you’re suggesting.

      1. Yeah, seems like the market for that route is someone who cannot or doesn’t want to walk a mile.

    3. Also, it’s not like a route that serves stops and runs every x minutes. It looks like the intention is that all trips are scheduled in advance. It seems fine for non-spur-of-the-moment trips, or connecting from the bus if you schedule a pickup for a few minutes after the bus is supposed to arrive. An important question is how close to your requested time you can get.

    4. A lot of people don’t understand that about microtransit. They assume it will always come in a minute or two whenever they want it. So the people pushing for this may have unrealistic expectations. Another thing is scheduling a trip in advance. People think, “How convenient; I won’t need a bus schedule.” But the flip side is you can’t just walk up to a bus stop and know it comes at the :20 and :50; you have to do more work to schedule a trip. And microtransit is five times less efficient than fixed routes. I’d like to see Lynnwood look at what it could do to identify and fund fixed van routes in the central Lynnwood area. Or do a hybrid thing like Snoqualmie Valley Transportation, where it has a fixed schedule and stops but it also has built-in padding for custom stops during the runs.

      1. +10
        I just spent 10 min taking the survey (with all its design flaws). My bottom line to CT was this: stop this nonsense! The agency has limited resources and far more pressing needs to be addressed rather than tinkering with this microtransit experiment. I live within the district (and thus pay the 1.2% dedicated sales tax on my taxable purchases) and I don’t want CT tax revenues used for the proposed pilot program.

      2. Exactly. Microtransit is similar to building a new monorail. It sounds cool, but is only a good idea in a very limited set of circumstances.

      3. 10~15 minute delay seems reasonable, in particular when the comparison is a fixed route that runs every 30 minutes or worse. The point is to provide a service that is better and more cost effective than a half-hourly fixed route, not to provide a service that competes with a 15-minute frequency fixed route. If the corridor can support 15~20 minute fixed route service, microtransit is a distraction; if the corridor has >30 minute service, microtransit may be a more cost effective option. Further, the calculus changes dramatically with driverless shuttles, when breaking 1 bus into 4 vans doesn’t create 4x the labor cost.

        I used the microtransit pilot at Eastgate and thought it worked great. I request a route while I was inbound on a ‘regular’ bus, so I had a brief wait to board the van. On the return trip, I submitted the request when my doc visit ended and waiting indoors until a few minutes before the shuttle arrived; I probably could have returned to the freeway station in the same time if I had walked really fast, but I appreciated not needing to hustle up the hill in the middle of a summer workday.

        Now does that anecdote mean microtransit was a good fit for Eastgate? I don’t know. But I thought a ~2 minute and then a ~8 minute wait with a very short walk from the ‘stop’ to my destination was a solid improvement over a 30 minute bus.

      4. I would personally prefer a bus that runs every 30 minutes and follows a schedule so you know when it’s coming vs. a service where you just stand at the stop for up to 15 minutes, with no idea when it’s going to show up until you see it.

  3. I would like to suggest a new bus route that will run from LTC to a loop route going to 196 then poplar way hen to Brier then to QFC Mountlake terrace then to 44th then back to Lynnwood Transit Center. This will benefit mostly the growth of working and student in that area.

    1. Generally speaking, loops don’t do very well. With any good bus route, you are bound to get riders making trips from any bus stop to any bus stop. With a loop, you eliminate a lot of that.

      That being said, a “live loop” can be a cost effective way to serve an area that is at the end of the line. A bus covers an area with service both directions, but as it leaves the high density area, it spread out, and covers the low density area with a live loop. People along that loop section only have service one direction, which means that some people have to take the bus the wrong direction initially. But since the alternative is no service at all, it works.

      I don’t really see it for this situation. Of the route you mentioned, I think only Poplar Way, and part of Brier Road lacks service. I could see running a route like that, and simply ending in Brier, or making a sharp turn at 236th, and just heading straight to Mountlake Transit Center, where it would end. That looks like an area that could use some coverage, but I’m not sure if I would prioritize it over routes like the extended 111 (which looks a lot stronger) or simply running some of the other buses more often.

      1. My nearest bus is TriMet’s 10. It used to have a loop at the end, with the bus changing the start or end of the route at the end of the loop depending on if it was before noon or after noon. The idea seemed to have been coverage was needed based on rush hour travel direction.

        When the Green Line was built, they figured out how to modify and extend the loop so “reverse peak” direction trips deliver people to the MAX station, so that it’s now a two direction route over its entire length.

        So, sometimes it’s good to just admit one way loops are a bad idea and come up with something else.

        The remaining loops are part of the one way street grid.

      2. Yeah, most of the time, loops are a bad idea. Small loops are common, especially at the end of a route, but mostly because the bus has to turn around. You force people to walk, which means that while it appears you are increasing coverage, it is the opposite ( The one exception is a live loop, where you force people to go the wrong direction. Typically this is a lollipop loop, and the loop is all about covering an area that would have nothing otherwise. Going the wrong direction (initially) is better than nothing.

        For a live loop, everything has to line up just so. You need to be able to layover at the other end. The distance has to be short enough so that a driver can do the entire thing (outbound and inbound) at one sitting, yet long enough to bother with. Then, of course, you have to have an area at the end of the line that can be covered with a loop, and makes sense to cover with a loop (rather than both directions). The 22 is a good example. I’m not sure if Metro has any more.

      3. Thanks. The difference is, their loop is not coverage related. The loop is so tight that my guess is lots of people just walk a block even though looping around would get them closer. They could get by with a layover downtown if it made sense from a practical standpoint.

        Live loops in general are rare. Live loops for coverage reasons are even more rare.

      4. The loops are to minimize the number of layover spaces downtown, a goal of the city. Mobility-challenged people ride it around to minimize walking; e.g., they’re coming into town on Pine and get off at 4th & Pike instead of 4th & Pine.

      5. Yeah, I get that. That’s my point. It is a different goal than the one mentioned earlier (coverage). It is why I mentioned that if it was practical, the bus would layover at the end (downtown) and it would make very little difference to the average rider. The live loop is only about what is practical (not coverage) — whatever rider benefit comes from that is accidental.

        On the other hand, if the 22 ended at the southern end, it would mean a lot of walking (or a lot of waiting) for riders on that loop. In effect, worse coverage.

    2. I’m not sure exactly how it would work, but my intuition is that the 188th St. route would be better served as part of an actual bus route with an actual schedule. In fact, if my vague recollections are right, it already is (or at least, something similar a few blocks away).

      In which case, the real problem is not having to walk a few blocks to get to the bus stop (and needing a microtransit bus that goes to your door as the solution) – it’s that the CT buses run only once an hour (maybe once every half hour during rush hour). Making the existing Edmonds->Lynnwood bus run more often more of the day would do far more good than overlaying it with a microtransit route.

      1. the CT buses run only once an hour

        That’s not entirely true. The 115 and 116 both run every half hour most of the day. They are timed to combine for 15 minute frequency for the parts they share (Lynnwood TC, 200th, Edmonds College, 72nd, 212th). The 196 runs every half hour, but it runs on 196th (what are the odds :)).

        There are no buses on 188th. There are north-south buses, but no east-west ones between 164th, and 196th. There is service on 68th, of course (115, 116, 120) but those buses all turn on 200th.

        I’m not sure exactly how it would work, but my intuition is that the 188th St. route would be better served as part of an actual bus route with an actual schedule.

        Yes, and that route is the extended 111, as shown. Which is not to say I’m thrilled with this being attached to the existing 111, which is a weak route. It doesn’t run that often, and never ran that often. It is the tail wagging the dog. That being said, it is also fairly short. It only takes 13 minutes. The new segment looks outstanding, as it would connect Mountlake Terrace with Swedish, the college, and 188th. It has “half hour route” written all over it. When Lynnwood Link is completed, I could see the 119 running every half hour, and then the two being combined for 15 minute service from Mountlake Terrace to Swedish and the college, even if they serve either side of them.

  4. Excellent comments. CT needs to consider the opportunity cost of scarce service subsidy. A good answer: no thanks. In SE Seattle, Via rides cost twice as much as bus rides. CT should show its local network; it must be fairly dense near the transit center. What would Jarrett Walker say? (WWJWS).

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