Chariot Shuts Down, But Eastgate Ride2 Will Continue

A Ride2 shuttle in Bellevue

On Thursday, shuttle bus operator Chariot announced that it would cease all operations by March. The company has a contract to operate King County Metro’s pilot “Ride2” microtransit service around the Eastgate Park and Ride, which hoped to shuttle suburban residents and visitors to and from the park-and-ride without relying on the existing, meandering bus routes.

Chariot, one of several startups that aimed to reinvent “mobility”, was acquired by Ford two years ago and had partnered with transit agencies in Austin, Los Angeles, New York, and its native San Francisco. They also operate private shuttles for large companies, including a small fleet in Seattle.

While the shutdown might not affect a huge number of people—about 100 daily riders requested rides in its first months—the idea of a more effective suburban transit option will nonetheless persist. Metro has contracted Hopelink, the operator of West Seattle’s Ride2, to assume operations on February 25. Eastgate riders will have to download the separate West Seattle app, which will handle all Ride2 shuttles once a new update is pushed to phones.

According to Metro, the Eastgate Ride2 currently has an average wait time of about 9 minutes and an average travel time of about 14 minutes. These figures are not expected to change with the new operator, which uses a similar trip-deployment system.

Swift Green Line Is 90 Days From Launch

The new Swift Green Line Station at Airport Road & Highway 99, with the Blue Line Station in the background

The Swift Green Line will launch on March 24, 2019, bringing bus rapid transit service to Mill Creek and the new Paine Field passenger terminal. Community Transit’s second bus rapid transit line will have 34 stations and run from Seaway Transit Center on Airport Road, 128th/132nd Street, and the Bothell-Everett Highway (SR 527) to Canyon Park.

The Green Line will intersect several of the county’s major routes at various points: the Blue Line at Airport Road and Highway 99 in south Everett; the Ash Way “trunk” routes at Mariner Park and Ride; and Silver Firs-bound routes in Mill Creek. While connections to a Seattle-bound bus are only possible through limited commuter routes, the Canyon Park terminus will be served by Sound Transit Routes 532/535 to Bellevue, which will eventually be upgraded into a bus rapid transit line.

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Lynnwood Link is Ready to Begin Construction Next Year

Aerial view of Mountlake Terrace Station, looking southwest (courtesy of Sound Transit)

On Thursday, Sound Transit announced that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has executed its $1.17 billion full funding grant agreement, which will cover one-third of the cost to construct Lynnwood Link and extend light rail service 8.5 miles from Northgate to Lynnwood.

The grant agreement and $300 million in other federal appropriations were sidelined by the FTA for several months until Washington’s congressional delegation lobbied for its inclusion in the federal budget. It is the largest appropriation in the Capital Investment Grant program for this fiscal year, which also includes funds for the nearly-complete Swift Green Line BRT.

The uncertainty of securing the federal grant under the new presidential administration was one factor that pushed the completion date of Lynnwood Link from 2023 to mid-2024, along with other design changes made due to cost increases.

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Metro Expands Ride2 Shuttle Service to West Seattle

A Ride2 van in West Seattle (courtesy of King County Metro)

To help West Seattle residents and commuters cope with the upcoming closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the subsequent changes to the area’s bus routes, King County Metro is expanding its “Ride2” on-demand shuttle service to serve the Alaska Junction bus hub and the West Seattle Water Taxi terminal at Seacrest Park.

Ride2, which launched nearly two months ago in Eastgate, uses a smartphone app or a phone service to summon a shared van operated by a contractor like Chariot. The Eastgate pilot, which has been completely fare-free, has seen an average of 100 rides per weekday and 1,600 app downloads—a far cry from what such a service can do for an area with distributed demand that is harder to serve with traditional buses. 

Beginning Monday, December 17, Ride2 trips can be requested during peak periods (5 am to 9 am; 2:30 to 7 pm) to and from the Alaska Junction bus hub at California Avenue and Edmunds Street, as well as the King County Water Taxi terminal at Seacrest Park. Trips are not allowed to be pre-scheduled, with expected wait times of 10 to 15 minutes. A separate Ride2 app will be required for the West Seattle service. The service area covers most of peninsula’s north and eastern halves, from Alki and the Admiral District to High Point and Delridge. The Ride2 coverage area also include stretches of West Marginal Way on the Duwamish Waterway that are completely unserved by current bus routes, as well as large swaths of West Seattle that are between parallel routes.

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Transit Report Card: Columbus

A COTA bus on High Street in Downtown Columbus

The series in which STB writers travel around to other cities and make wild generalizations about their transit and land use is back, with a slight change in venue. I visited Columbus and Detroit in mid-October for a Wikipedia conference and spent plenty of time on the buses and bikeshare in the cores of both cities, gaining a decent enough understanding of their mobility situations. That being said, both cities sprawl out a bit and I was only able to really see the urban cores and inner neighborhoods of both cities, so there may be perspectives on both systems that I’m missing out on.

First up is Columbus, anchoring the largest U.S. metro area without a single passenger rail service, as Amtrak had ceased service in 1979 and the streetcars were dismantled in 1948. Several light rail proposals have come and gone, along with plans to build a proper inter-city rail system across Ohio, and have only left us with nice fantasy maps and a city that still dreams of building a greater transit system.

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Lynnwood Link Funding is Fast-Tracked By FTA

Early demolition work for Lynnwood Link, seen this summer

Lynnwood Link is inching closer and closer to a firm date for the start of construction, thanks to the submission of the project’s full-funding grant agreement (FFGA) by the FTA lat week. The agreement has been held in limbo by the FTA for several months, but lobbying by Sound Transit and the state’s congressional delegation proved to be successful in pressuring the FTA to fork over federal funds.

Before the full $1.2 billion in funding can be accepted by Sound Transit, the grant application has to be reviewed for a 30-day period by Congress before the agreement is signed and executed. If no major objections are raised, then the signing of the final agreement will release $200 million in immediate funding that Sound Transit was appropriated from the Capital Investment Grants program. The agreement also comes with $658 million in TIFIA loans that were promised two years ago.

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Kitsap Transit Launches Kingston–Seattle Fast Ferry

M/V Finest at its debut in Kingston

 

Kitsap Transit showed off its newest fast ferry, MV Finest, as part of Monday’s pre-launch celebrations for the Kingston–Seattle fast ferry route. The ferry will begin regular weekday service on November 26 and run six round-trips between Pier 52 in Downtown Seattle and Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula, taking approximately 40 minutes. This is a massive improvement compared to the 1.5 hours it takes for a Kingston resident today via the car ferry to Edmonds and a transfer to either Sounder or an express bus. The debut of the fast ferry may open up the relatively quiet hamlet of Kingston (pop. 2,099 in 2010) to further growth as a more accessible bedroom community for Seattle workers.

The Kingston fast ferry is the second of three routes connecting Seattle to various points on the Kitsap Peninsula, all funded by a sales tax increase that was approved by voters in 2016. The Bremerton fast ferry, which uses the high-tech Rich Passage 1 catamaran, debuted in July 2017 and has run into occasional fleet hiccups, necessitating the use of a backup vessel. For the Kingston route, Kitsap Transit has leased the MV Melissa Ann, formerly part of an older Bremerton fast ferry trial and the King County Water Taxi system, to serve as a backup to the Finest. The Southworth route is planed to debut before 2020 using a newly-built vessel, bypassing the slow “Southworth Triangle” car ferry and an equally-slow trip on the RapidRide C Line through West Seattle.

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Snohomish County Surveys Potential Sites For Mariner and Ash Way Stations

An apartment building adjacent to Ash Way Park and Ride

The Snohomish County government has started early scoping for the seven stations on the Everett Link Extension, which is scheduled to open in 2036. An online open house and survey is open until the end of the month to collect feedback on potential station locations near the current Ash Way and Mariner park and rides in northern Lynnwood and southern Everett. The survey will inform the county’s recommendations to Sound Transit when it begins the official scoping process in 2020.

The open house follows an earlier survey that was conducted over the summer and gathered general suggestions on an interactive map, similar to those used recently for ST3 projects in Seattle and Tacoma. Of 114 map comments collected, the top-ranking answers wished to address affordable housing, at-grade crossings, public amenities, and alternate routes over I-5 for cyclists, pedestrians, and buses to and from the stations.

A set of three concepts for each station were generated by the county based on the suggestions and criteria accounting for design constraints, future connections to the Swift Green and Orange lines, bicycle and pedestrian accessibility, and TOD opportunities. The TOD scoring assumes that mixed-use development of buildings ranging from three to ten stories would be programmed within the half-mile walkshed of each potential station site.

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Metro’s New Microtransit Service Is Quick and Easy to Use

Metro’s Ride2 microtransit service, operated by Chariot (photo by author)

During a rather uneventful rush-hour on Friday, I ventured out to Eastgate and tried out Metro’s new ride-hailing service, “Ride2”, which is operated by Ford subsidiary Chariot. Service is available during weekday rush hours, from 6 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 8 p.m., and is booked using a smartphone app.

Installing and setting up the app was straightforward, only requiring a name, e-mail address, phone number, and password. There’s also an option to add your ORCA card to improve service (though it isn’t spelled out what the card data is used for) and another screen has an option to mark yourself as a person needing mobility assistance (which would book a wheelchair-ready van). There is also a dedicated phone number for riders without access to the app, which promises full functionality that is equal to the app version.

The app works for any trip originating from or heading to Eastgate Park-and-Ride, which has a dedicated drop-off area on the northeast side of the bus bays. The map screen lets you input an address or scroll around to drop a pin within the highlighted service area, which covers Factoria, Somerset, and Lake Hills.

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Talking Mergers and History With Everett Transit Director Tom Hingson

Everett Transit Director Tom Hingson

I recently sat down with Everett Transit director Tom Hingson to talk about the agency’s place in the regional transit system and whether it should merge with its larger neighbor Community Transit, the latter of which is a topic that frequently comes up in comment threads on our articles about Everett.

Everett Transit proudly traces its roots back to 1893, with the establishment of the first private horse-drawn streetcar within the newly-incorporated city. The streetcars and their electric successors were replaced in the 1920s with privately-operated buses that were rescued by city voters in 1969 to form Everett Transit. Community Transit was formed in 1976 by several cities in the county, with the notable exception of Everett, after two attempts at passing a countywide sales tax for buses were turned down by Everett voters.

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Community Transit Adds USB Ports and Chooses Diesel For Its Buses

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.

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Intercity Transit Pins Its Hopes and Dreams on Prop. 1

An Intercity Transit bus at Olympia Transit Center

Voters in the Intercity Transit district, which roughly covers the cities of Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater, and Yelm, will soon decide on Proposition 1, a ballot measure that would increase sales taxes by 0.4 percent in order to fund transit services. Intercity Transit currently levies a 0.8 percent sales tax, which makes up 79 percent of annual revenue.

The sales tax increase would raise about $16-$20 million annually and would be used to patch operational costs that were originally paid for using ever-shrinking federal grants (which makes up 8 percent of the agency’s annual budget). It would also be used to launch new services, including routes to underserved areas, improved frequencies, expanded evening and weekend service, and perhaps lead to a bus rapid transit system.

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Everett Transit Debuts Its First Electric Battery Bus

Everett’s new Proterra electric battery bus

Everett Transit, on the verge of a major network restructure, brought its first electric battery bus into service earlier this week. The bus, a 42-foot Proterra Catalyst E2, is identical to the newer generation of electric battery buses operated by Metro in Bellevue and has been one of the most popular electric models for the past several years. The bus can carry 31 seated passengers and about 18 standees, can handle grades of 10% at 40 miles per hour, and can run for 250 miles on a single charge (which takes 2.5 hours to complete). Similar Proterra buses have been making trial runs in Bellingham for the Whatcom Transportation Authority and a pair were recently delivered to Kitsap Transit and Pierce Transit.

The new bus is the first of four that will enter service by the end of the year and will primarily run on Route 7, the system’s flagship route that runs along Broadway and Evergreen Way—Everett’s two busiest transit corridors. It was funded by a $3.4 million Low or No Emission Vehicle grant awarded by the Federal Transit Administration in 2016 and matched by funds from the agency.

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Hopes of Federal Funding For Lynnwood Link Not Dead Yet

The now-demolished McDonalds furniture store at Lynnwood Transit Center

The Federal Transit Administration approved $2.6 billion in Capital Investment Grants funding this week, including $100 million for the Lynnwood Link Extension. The installment in the second granted to Sound Transit for the project, but can’t be used until the signing of a full funding grant agreement (FFGA) between the FTA and Sound Transit, which has slipped past its scheduled summer 2018 date.

The project’s $2.77 billion baseline budget relies on a heavy federal contribution of $1.17 billion, which would be released in installments by the FTA. Sound Transit reports that it is working with the FTA and the state’s congressional delegation to complete the FFGA by the end of the year, which would allow for a trouble-free January 2019 groundbreaking as set in the baseline schedule.

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Everett Transit’s Growing Pains Will Include Service Restructure and Fare Hike

Under this plan, Route 17 could be eliminated

Everett Transit, like the rest of the region, is going through growing pains. For years, the city-run department had operated about a dozen routes on a small budget with a small fare to match, and it even withstood the recession with only minor cuts to service.

But times have changed and Everett’s good fortune has run out. The agency is facing a $1.6 million budget shortfall within the next two years, which comes just as a new long-range plan had been approved and celebrated by the city. With the shortfall and a need to simplify some of its unwieldy routes in mind, Everett has proposed a “Sustainable Service” change to take effect in March 2019.

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Long-Awaited Bellevue Tunnel is Fully Excavated

The final pieces of rubble are cleared at the north portal

After 15 months of relatively easy digging, Sound Transit celebrated the completion of East Link tunnel excavation in Downtown Bellevue. The tunnel will carry East Link trains from East Main Station (at 112th Avenue and Main Street) to Bellevue Downtown Station (at Bellevue Transit Center and the city hall), traveling for 1,984 feet under 110th Avenue, at a depth of about 12 to 30 feet below street level.

Unlike the neat and tidy bores left by the tunnel boring machines on University Link and Northgate Link, the Bellevue tunnel was dug using the sequential excavation method (SEM; also called the New Austrian tunnelling method), which involves removing soil with heavy machinery and spraying pressurized concrete to support the void. Additional waterproofing and steel lattice girders (479 in total) were then added to support the new tunnel, which moved at a rate of a few feet per day.

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