Angle Lake Station Nearing Completion

Angle Lake Station under construction, June 2016

With the dust starting to settle on University Link, some have turned their attention towards to the other end of the Link light rail system–the south end–and the upcoming opening of Angle Lake Station in SeaTac. With only weeks remaining until the anticipated opening in September, construction on the station and the 1.6 miles of track leading to it from Sea-Tac Airport look just about complete and the first train tests have started. Sound Transit reports that the project is 94 percent complete, with the only substantial construction left for the station being the installation of electrical and mechanical systems, the parking garage, and street-level finishes such as bike lanes and sidewalks.

While the station is not expected to garner much more than a fraction of University Link’s ridership, it brings the system one step closer to Federal Way and points south, to be funded fully by ST3. A station at South 200th Street has been on the books since Sound Move in 1996, having been selected as the original southern terminus of the light rail system until significant revisions to the plan happened in 2001. The $383 million project was funded in the 2008 ST2 measure, with an anticipated completion date of 2020, but was accelerated using federal TIGER grants. Most of the design work wrapped up in 2012 and construction began in 2013.

Angle Lake Station escalators and stairs

Many of Angle Lake Station’s features herald a return to the architecture and design of the initial Central Link segment, sharing more in common with Mount Baker Station than the likes of UW and Capitol Hill’s new stations. Each entrance has only one escalator, which will presumably be set in the up direction, and a set of stairs up to the platform. The somewhat functional and ill-designed LCD screens introduced with University Link, is replaced with the two-line electronic signs used installed at most stations since 2009, lacking the ability to display real-time arrival information; for the time being, the signs will be sufficient, as they will only need to indicate which parked train will be the next to leave.

Continue reading “Angle Lake Station Nearing Completion”

OneBusAway Unveils Redesigned Android App

OneBusAway
(OneBusAway)

OneBusAway, one of the essential transit rider tools available to us, has unveiled its updated Android app with a major redesign to its interface. The app now adheres to Google’s “Material Design” guidelines, emphasizing the use of “cards” and responsive animation, bringing a modern look that is a far cry from the bland look of yesteryear.

In addition to the redesign, the app now features live trip status and displays real-time positions of buses on a given route. The live tracking also features fleet numbers, allowing transit nerds to select their bus type of choice and ensure that they never trip over the stairs of a high-floor bus ever again.

The app still displays real-time arrival information for participating systems (as of this writing, King County Metro, Pierce Transit, Intercity Transit, and Washington State Ferries) and scheduled arrivals for other agencies (including Community Transit, Everett Transit, Sound Transit’s Sounder commuter rail and Link light rail, the King County Water Taxi, and Seattle Streetcar). The app also has an online client, an iOS app on the App Store, and Windows Store app (for mobile and desktop).

Sound Transit Presents Paine Spur Option at Everett ST3 Meeting

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On Monday night, Sound Transit held an open house at Everett Station regarding its plans for Snohomish County in ST3, mainly focusing on the light rail extension from Lynnwood to Everett via Paine Field. Over the last month, much had been said over the disapproval of county residents and politicians over the proposed 2041 delivery date for light rail to reach Downtown Everett, with county leaders coming up with alternative proposals that sought to preserve service to Paine Field at the expense of any rail on Evergreen Way. ST presented its new solution to the Paine Field problem, building a spur and keeping the main line on Interstate 5 for a decade-faster delivery in 2031 at a lower cost and faster route. A spur, either a short rail line along the Boeing Freeway towards Boeing’s Everett factory or bus rapid transit between Everett Station and Mariner Park & Ride via Evergreen Way and Airport Road (both part of Community Transit’s Swift BRT network, the latter coming online in 2018).

The spur would cost in the range of $320 million (for 11.6 miles of BRT) to $500 million (for 2.8 miles of rail), bringing down the cost of the entire line from $4 billion to only $3.5 billion at most, which would help with the Snohomish subarea’s ability to fund the project without inter-subarea loans. Travel times between Downtown Everett and Lynnwood Transit Center would also be reduced by 7 minutes from 32 under the Paine Field option to 25; riding the rail spur would add 5 minutes of travel time and a few minutes for a transfer at the Everett Mall, adding a small amount of time for Boeing-bound riders. The distance between Lynnwood and Everett would be reduced from the proposed 15-16 miles to only 12.6, saving riders 50 cents per round-trip under the current light rail fare formula. Total ridership would increase under either of the Paine Spur options well into the 40,000 range if not higher when including the two spurs, with the slower and longer BRT option netting 7,000 to 9,000 daily riders and the light rail spur only 1,000.

Turnout at the Everett meeting was high enough for Sound Transit staff to use their prepared overflow room, just down the hall from the main meeting space on the fourth floor of Everett Station. A dozen or so local politicians were on hand to make speeches and have their opinions be heard, including representatives from cities outside of the Sound Transit district such as Marysville, Lake Stevens, and Stanwood. Many in attendance were wearing t-shirts distributed by the Light Rail to Everett group, funded by the Economic Alliance Snohomish County, reading “Light rail to Everett…in our lifetime”; the group’s official position is similar to that of the Snohomish County politicians on the Sound Transit Board, who want both sooner delivery of light rail as well as service to Paine Field’s employment center. The question-and-answer session was handled at a much faster pace than a previous session I observed at the similarly-contentious Ballard meeting, though it did continue well past the scheduled end point as people were happy to stay and listen for longer as a majority of those wanting questions answered were heard. ST CEO Peter Rogoff seemed eager to inject a healthy amount of his humor into his responses to various questions that would have been better left unanswered for their irrelevance. With the exception of an attempted filibustering from an anti-rail speaker, who had his microphone rescinded by staffers, questions touched on concerns ranging from the upcoming Tim Eyman initiative and its possible effects to ST’s plans, to possible annexation and extension of Sounder and Sound Transit Express to Marysville and Smokey Point (where the former would be time-competitive with existing peak express service).

At the end of the night, many in attendance seem to come away satisfied with the new proposals and their timeliness as well as their preservation of Paine Field service. While the lack of any rail options on Evergreen Way may disappoint those who push for TOD in Snohomish County, an Interstate 5 alignment (with Paine Field spurs) is ultimately the lesser of two evils and would be wholly acceptable and palatable to all parties in Snohomish County, from commuters to businesses and leaders.

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Capacity crowd at Everett Station, Monday night (photo by author)

Sound Transit Breaks Ground on East Link Construction

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On an overcast Friday afternoon at a gravel lot in downtown Bellevue, Sound Transit broke ground on the East Link light rail extension, bringing rail transit from Seattle to Overlake via Bellevue one step closer to realization.

The ceremony, attended by Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, current Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, former Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl, Mayor John Stokes of Bellevue, King County Council member and former Bellevue mayor Claudia Balducci, and other local politicians, was attended by a few dozen Sound Transit staff, contractors, and members of the public, who listened to a series of short speeches and enjoyed live music from the Mercer Island High School Jazz Band. Of note was the clever use of biodegradable chalk marking out the Sound Transit logo on the dirt that was dug up by dignitaries with their golden shovels for the actual groundbreaking.

Since it was approved as part of the Sound Transit 2 ballot in 2008, East Link has been mired in setbacks and delays ranging from routing choices and station placements in Downtown Bellevue to lawsuits launched in opposition to the project by various groups. The $3.7 billion project, funded partially by a $1.7 billion federal loan, is scheduled to open in 2023 as the Blue Line and projected to carry 50,000 riders every weekday; end-to-end travel times between the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel and Redmond Technology Center on the Microsoft campus is estimated at 29 minutes, which is as fast as existing bus service during the best of traffic conditions.

Some homes in the Surrey Downs area, near the future East Main Station at the south end of the Bellevue Tunnel, have already been demolished in preparation for the start of tunneling. Construction on the 1/3-mile tunnel through downtown Bellevue is scheduled to last well into 2020 and will be excavated conventionally by hand via the Sequential Excavation Method (SEM), a departure from tunnel-boring machines used on other Link tunnels. The Overlake and South Bellevue segments will both begin construction later this year. Other work in downtown Bellevue, including the construction of a station at Bellevue City Hall a block east of the transit center, will begin in mid-2017 at the same time as major work on the Bel-Red and Interstate 90 segments of the line, the latter of which includes retrofitting the Homer M. Hadley floating bridge and existing tunnels in Mount Baker and Mercer Island for light rail trains.

The Bellevue Tunnel segment of East Link is expected to play a large role in the proposed Sound Transit 3 expansion, with the possibility of trains from Seattle and Issaquah/Eastgate interlining through Downtown Bellevue before splitting off to serve Redmond and Kirkland. The proposed southern transfer between the lines has moved from Wilburton Station (near the Overlake Hospital east of downtown) to East Main Station, providing direct service from Issaquah to Downtown Bellevue but also inciting the wrath of nearby homeowners demanding less frequent trains. Even as East Link construction moves forward, there may be further changes afoot for the line in the near and (very) far future.

Sound Transit Opens New Sounder Platform at Mukilteo Station

Mukilteo Station South Platform opening - April 2016

After a delay of over a year, Sound Transit opened the south platform at Mukilteo’s Sounder station on Monday. The platform and accompanying pedestrian bridge wesre opened with a ribbon-cutting that afternoon attended by Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, Everett City Councilmember and Sound Transit Boardmember Paul Roberts, and Snohomish County Executive and Sound Transit Boardmember Dave Somers. The celebration was originally scheduled for Monday, March 28, but was delayed because of a mudslide earlier that day on the tracks between Mukilteo and Everett.

All northbound Sounder trains headed towards Everett now use the new platform, requiring alighting passengers to cross over the tracks on the new pedestrian bridge. The original platform, which will now only serve southbound trains, was opened in 2008 and was intended to be quickly supplemented by a second platform, with only temporary shelters installed. Instead, the project to build the second platform was delayed during negotiations with BNSF Railway over service time needed for construction, which began in the summer of 2014.

The $18.1 million project was originally scheduled to open in early 2015, but the date was pushed back—first to autumn of that year and later into 2016—because of a limited time-frame for construction imposed by BNSF and state inspectors identifying problems with the new elevators on the overpass in late October; it was declared complete in January and is not expected to exceed its budget despite the delay. The station is the last Sounder station to receive a second platform and to use a second track and is one of the last pieces of the 1996 Sound Move measure to be built and opened.

As of 2015, Mukilteo Station has an average of 142 boardings and alightings every weekday. It is located adjacent to the Mukilteo ferry terminal, which is planned to be replaced with a new terminal sited closer to the station by 2019, and is served by three Community Transit routes and two Everett Transit routes.

TBM 1 Cutterhead Removed from UW Station

Northgate Link TBM 1 (Brenda)

At around 1:20 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, the cutterhead of TBM #1 (formerly known as “Brenda”) was lifted out of a 95-foot deep retrieval shaft just north of the University of Washington Link station. The 21-foot diameter cutterhead is the first part of the machine to be removed from UW Station, a week after completion of the northbound Northgate Link tunnel.

The cutterhead will stay put at the UW Station staging area, easily seen from the pedestrian overpass, until early next week, according to Sound Transit. Over the next few weeks, contractors will continue to remove other parts of the machine and transport them to a lot near Rainier Beach Station.

During that time, Sound Transit will inspect the TBM and determine whether or not it could be used to dig the last segment of Northgate Link’s tunnels, the southbound tube from U District Station to UW Station. TBM #2 (formerly “Pamela”) is still undergoing refurbishment and repairs at U District Station after arriving on March 24 despite suffering minor damage and figuratively limping to the station. Mining of the segment is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with a hole-through at a further date.

In late 2011 and early 2012, Brenda was twice lifted out near Convention Place Station after the completing the Capitol Hill-Westlake segment of University Link.

Community Transit Adds New Trips to Existing Routes Next Week

A standing room-only run of route 415 seen in January.
A standing room-only run of route 415 seen in January.

As previously reported, Community Transit is moving ahead with a minor increase in service brought on by the successful passage of Proposition 1 last November. Beginning Sunday, March 27, 15 new trips and six extended trips will be put in place on seven local routes (including Swift) and nine commuter routes; other routes will receive schedule adjustments to reflect actual trip times or to facilitate transfers. The service change is made possible by reserve funds that Community Transit is able to use ahead of April 1, when the collection of an additional 0.3% of sales tax approved in Proposition 1 begins.

The full list of changes from Community Transit’s website includes reasoning behind some of the changes, such as ridership demand on some commuter routes.

  • Swift: Two new early morning trips are added at 4:40 a.m., one northbound and one southbound.
  • Route 112: Seven new trips are added in the middle of the day, providing 30-minute service until evening. This creates a more frequent all-day connection between Ash Way P&R and Swamp Creek P&R, and also more frequent service for Mountlake Terrace.
  • Route 113: Minor schedule adjustments.
  • Route 120: First two morning eastbound trips on Route 120 will leave 3 minutes earlier to improve connections with Route 435 at Canyon Park.
  • Route 240: One new eastbound trip is added at 8:25 p.m., providing later evening service from Stanwood.
  • Route 271: One new westbound trip is added at 8:55 p.m., providing later evening service from Gold Bar.
  • Route 280: Weekday trip adjustments of 5 or more minutes, including two afternoon trips leaving the Boeing Plant shifted 5 minutes earlier.
  • Route 410: All southbound trips will serve Ash Way, similar to how northbound trips operate. A bay change at Mariner P&R is also included in the changes.
  • Route 413: One new morning southbound trip is added at 6:25 a.m. to accommodate ridership demand.
  • Route 415: One new afternoon northbound trip is added at 3:15 p.m. to accommodate ridership demand. The first northbound trip to Lynnwood will leave 4th & Jackson 5 minutes earlier.
  • Route 421: One new morning southbound trip is added at 5:51 a.m. to accommodate ridership demand.
  • Route 424: The two morning southbound trips starting at the same time as currently scheduled, but the travel times are adjusted to better match actual travel time, providing more schedule reliability.
  • Route 435: One new afternoon northbound trip is added at 3:55 p.m. to accommodate ridership demand. The northbound trip leaving Stewart & 9th Ave at 4:05 p.m. will leave 10 minutes later at 4:15 p.m.
  • Route 810: The first two northbound trips leaving Stevens & Memorial Way will leave 15 minutes later at 6:15 and 6:45 p.m.
  • Route 860: All southbound trips will serve Ash Way, similar to how northbound trips operate.
  • Route 880: All trips will be extended to the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal.

A much larger service expansion, funded directly by new sales tax revenue approved by Proposition 1, is planned for this September. Community Transit presented its first proposal for the service change during a board meeting this month and is taking public comment until April 8.

Community Transit is also adjusting its University District service to serve the new University of Washington Link station, by adding a stop on Stevens Way NE at Rainier Vista. 84 trips every weekday run between the U District and Snohomish County and will stop within walking distance of the station, but will otherwise remain unchanged.

Everett Transit Proposes Changes to Service in North Everett and Silver Lake

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Everett Transit has laid out plans for some major service changes to its bus routes in North Everett and Silver Lake, slated to take place this August.

Under the new proposal, the North Everett Circulator (routes 4 and 5, which run in opposite directions in a loop around the neighborhood every hour) would be split and partially merged with existing route 17 (Everett Mall to Everett Station via Beverly Boulevard and Colby Avenue) to provide bi-directional service. The western half would become an extension of route 17 to College Station, while the eastern half would be route 4; as a result of the change, route 17 service would be extended into the weekend and run at similar times to the current route 5.

The second part of the proposal is a minor adjustment to route 7, one of the busiest routes in the city, in downtown Everett. Taking advantage of the newly-rebuilt Broadway Bridge, it would eliminate a few extra turns near Everett Station and restore the original route on Broadway used before 2012.

The third and final part of the proposal is the rerouting of all route 29 trips to serve the southern portion of Silver Lake, which is served by roughly half of the route’s trips on weekdays and a third on weekends. This would increase travel times by about five minutes, according to the current schedule.

Everett Transit is taking comments on the proposals until April 1 via an online form at EverettTransit.org, e-mail, phone calls and mail. The agency is also holding four public meetings discussing the changes, to be held at Everett Station and two other venues on the next two Wednesdays and Thursdays. The final proposal will be presented on May 13 at a public meeting to be held at Everett Station.

Public meetings

Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Everett Station
3201 Smith Ave. Room 412 – Dan Snow Room (4th Floor)

Thursday, March 17, 2016, 4 – 6 p.m.
Everett Public Library Evergreen Branch
9512 Evergreen Way – Activity Room

Wednesday, March 23, 2016, 5 – 7 p.m.
Everett Station
3201 Smith Ave. Room 412 – Dan Snow Room (4th Floor)

Thursday, March 24, 2016, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
The Vintage at Everett
1001 E Marine View Dr. – Lobby

Community Transit Announces Plans for Service Expansions in September and Next March

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At its monthly board meeting held earlier this Thursday, Community Transit unveiled its proposals for its first Proposition 1-funded service expansions, scheduled for September 2016 and March 2017. The two expansions add about 38,300 hours of service, fulfilling the promise of transit service on the State Route 9 corridor (in the form of two new routes) and adding incremental improvements to existing routes throughout the system. CT states that this expansion will add 14% more service over 2015 levels and will be part of a gradual increase of 40% more service to be achieved by 2021.

September 2016: 32,000 new hours

Proposed routes 109 (left) and 209 (right)
Proposed routes 109 (left) and 209 (right)

The new routes, coming in September, form the backbone of service on State Route 9, a major north-south corridor serving the eastern parts of the county. Route 109 runs from Ash Way Park and Ride along Ash Way, 128th/132nd Street in Mill Creek, Catchcart Way, through Downtown Snohomish on Avenue D, to Lake Stevens Transit Center. Route 209 runs from Lake Stevens Transit Center north along Highway 9 to 64th Street, turning west and continuing through Downtown Marysville and under Interstate 5, and north on 27th Avenue to Quil Ceda Village, ending near the Tulalip Casino and Seattle Premium Outlets mall; route 209 roughly follows the former route 221, which was cut in June 2010. Both routes will have 30-minute frequencies during weekday peak and 60-minute frequencies midday on weekdays, and all day on weekends. Community Transit planners stated that the two routes were split to increase reliability and to prevent overworking drivers on what would be one of the longest local routes in the system.

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Proposed changes to route 222 in Marysville

To complement the addition of route 209 through Marysville, existing route 222 (Tulalip to Marysville via Quil Ceda), will be rerouted through the eastern half of the city. Instead of turning south on 67th Avenue, buses will continue east on Ingraham Boulevard to serve Marysville Getchell High School and turn south on 83rd Avenue NE. From there, buses make another turn at the city’s Walmart store onto 64th Street, sharing stops with route 209, before turning north on 67th Avenue and west onto Grove Street, passing by the city’s library, and terminating at State Avenue (where it meets routes 201 and 202) near the Marysville Cedar & Grove Park & Ride. The change was spurred mainly by the introduction of route 209 service on the 64th Street and 4th Street corridor, allowing for that tail to be eliminated in favor of restoring service to Grove Street and the city library; as a result of these changes, a short 0.7-mile section of 67th Avenue will lose all of its transit service, but was determined by CT planners to be a low-preforming section of route 222 and well within reasonable walking distance to the new stops.

Seattle commuter routes will also see small improvements in the September service change. Route 417 (Mukilteo) will now skip the Lynnwood Transit Center, opting to stay on Interstate 5 and State Route 525 instead of taking a slow diversion through the transit center and city streets. Other routes will receive additional trips, mostly southbound in the AM peak, as well as trip time adjustments to increase reliability and schedule accuracy.

Full list of changes:

Continue reading “Community Transit Announces Plans for Service Expansions in September and Next March”

Take Transit to Sounders FC Matches This Season

King Street Station from CenturyLink Field

March is nearly here, bringing with it the arrival of spring, minor and major service changes, two new Link stations, and the return of Major League Soccer after the winter off-season. Sound Transit is continuing its annual tradition of offering special weekend Sounder round-trips to and from King Street Station in Seattle (a short walk from CenturyLink Field) for 13 total Sounders FC home games, a slight increase from the 10 trains offered in 2015. Only one weekend home game, the September 17 match against the Vancouver Whitecaps, will not be served by Sounder; instead, the BNSF crews will be busy serving the Washington State Fair in Puyallup on that day.

Sounder trains arrive at King Street Station approximately 1.5 hours before kickoff and depart 35 minutes after the end of the match. Sound Transit has published a full schedule with departure times from each station that correspond to the listed kick-off time.

Continue reading “Take Transit to Sounders FC Matches This Season”

Community Transit Opens Its Final Swift Station, at Edmonds Community College

College Station under construction in early January
College Station under construction in early January

On Wednesday morning, a small ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the intersection of Highway 99 and 204th Street SW in Lynnwood to open the newest—and final—Swift bus rapid transit station, located two blocks downhill from Edmonds Community College. Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath was joined by Edmonds Community College President Dr. Jean Hernandez and Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith at the ceremony at 11 a.m., with regular service beginning shortly thereafter. The station is unique in not having a matching northbound stop, the closest being 200th Street SW only four blocks north; the nearest southbound station is eight blocks to the north at 196th Street.

The community college, which also houses classrooms for Central Washington University, is already served by a small transit center with three routes: 115 and 116 (which form a frequent link to Lynnwood Transit Center), and 120. Community Transit estimates that about 1,500 weekday boardings occur at stops around the college, with the three routes at the transit enter accounting for 900. The two nearest Swift stations to the college, Crossroads at 196th Street and Heron at 200th Street, see 600 boardings each weekday. The college also offers a commuter “EdPass” that is tied into the ORCA system, and encourages its 11,600 students and 1,600 employees to commute via transit.

The station was part of five stations that were deferred when the line opened in 2009; the other four, located in Everett, were opened in January 2011. The 204th Street station was forced to wait for the City of Lynnwood to complete an extension of the street uphill to Edmonds Community College and the construction of a traffic signal at Highway 99. The city project was completed in August of last year and Swift station construction began in the following two months.

Community Transit is also moving along with its planned second Swift line, which has gained operational funding through a 0.3% sales tax increase passed via a ballot measure last November and is awaiting federal funding for capital construction. The line would run from the Boeing Everett plant through Mill Creek to Canyon Park via Airport Road, 128th Street SW, and the Bothell-Everett Highway, some segments of which already have business-access transit (BAT) lanes. The new line would cross the existing Swift line at Airport Road and Highway 99 in southwest Everett, creating an in-system transfer.

Snohomish County Rounds out 2015 with a Healthier Transit System

First-generation Double Tall on route 415 on a cold November night

2015 has come and flown past at the speed of a Sounder train and brought with it many great things for transit riders, especially for those of us north of the King-Snohomish county line. Community Transit has hit several milestones this year, including the successful restoration of Sunday service and victory in the November general election. Let’s take a look back at some highlights from 2015, which I had excitedly looked forward to last December.

February: New transit center for the north end

At the very north end of the northernmost all-day frequent bus route pair in the Seattle metro area lies a loosely-connected string of big-box stores, strip malls and suburban housing developments known as “Smokey Point”. A new transit center opened there on February 16, replacing an earlier and much smaller facility, and notably excludes public parking unlike many other similar facilities in the county. Buses from across the northern parts of the county, including the cities of Arlington, Darrington and Stanwood, feed into local routes 201 and 202 (running at 20-minute frequencies) at the new transit center, enabling a smoother and covered transfer to points southwards, such as Everett and Lynnwood. Community Transit sees the facility as the northern terminus of the Swift system in the not-too-distant future, which could encourage some kind of transit-oriented development in the hinterlands of northern Snohomish County.

March: Interim CEO Emmett Heath is handed the reins

Long-time Community Transit CEO Joyce Eleanore announced her retirement in July of last year, leaving a vacancy in the job she held for the past 20 years. The search for a new CEO ended in March with the hiring of then-interim CEO Emmett Heath, who had previously served as the agency’s Administration Director for 10 years.

April and May: Real-time bus website launches and Google Maps integrated

Continue reading “Snohomish County Rounds out 2015 with a Healthier Transit System”

Community Transit Announces New Service Scheduled for March 2016

Obstructed view of route 880, which will see all trips extended to the Mukilteo ferry terminal beginning next March. (photo by author)

The official results of the November 3, 2015 election have been certified, with Community Transit victorious in their campaign to fund additional transit service with a 0.3% sales tax increase. Just over 100,000 residents in the taxing district cast their ballots, approving Proposition 1 by 51%.

Although the new sales tax will not be collected until April 2016, and not received until June, Community Transit will be using some of its reserve funds to add 3,300 hours of new service beginning March 13, 2016. The agency is planning a major service expansion in September 2016, which will require months of public input as well as time to prepare more buses and drivers.

The March 2016 change will add 15 new bus trips, extend 6 existing trips, and increase the span of service on some routes:

New trips

Route 413 (Swamp Creek-Seattle) – One weekday southbound trip will be added at 5:48 a.m.

Route 415 (Seattle-North Lynnwood) – One weekday northbound trip will be added at 3:15 p.m.

Route 421 (Marysville-Seattle) – One weekday southbound trip will be added at 5:15 a.m.

Route 435 (Seattle-Mill Creek) – One weekday northbound trip will be added at 3:55 p.m.

Extended span of service

Swift (Everett Station-Aurora Village)– Two early morning trips are being added to the Swift bus rapid transit line along Highway 99. One new trip will run in each direction starting at 4:40 a.m.

Route 240 (Stanwood-Smokey Point) – One weeknight eastbound trip will be added, leaving Stanwood at 8:25 p.m.

Route 271(Gold Bar-Everett) – One weeknight westbound trip will be added, leaving Gold Bar at 8:55 p.m.

Improved midday service

Route 112 (Mountlake Terrace-Ash Way) – Seven weekday trips will be added between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to provide 30-minute frequencies throughout the day until 7 p.m.

Extended trips

Route 880 (Mukilteo-University District) – All trips will terminate at Mukilteo Ferry Terminal, extending six truncated trips north from Lynnwood.

Sound Transit begins double-decker bus service in Snohomish County

Coach 91501 on display at Union Station yesterday afternoon. (Photo by author)

This morning at Everett Station, the first of five new double-decker buses began regular service on Sound Transit Express routes. The double-decker buses, ordered in March 2014 for approximately $5 million and first proposed in November 2013, are identical to the second generation of Alexander Dennis Enviro500s that Community Transit debuted last month and will be operated by the agency’s drivers on contract with First Transit.

Measuring 42 feet long and 13 feet, 6 inches tall, the buses can seat 82 and accommodate some standees on the lower deck. The stairwell has a monitor with four camera feeds of the upper deck, allowing riders to know if there’s room upstairs. There’s a few backwards-facing seats at the back of the bottom deck over the wheel wells. Out front is a triple bike rack manufactured by Sportsworks.

The buses will be used on crowded runs of routes 510, 511 and 512, with some possible testing on other ST Express routes able to move forward once the full fleet is in service.

The first coach, numbered 91501, features a wrap around the upper deck with the hashtag #SeeingDoubleST, which is being used to promote the new buses.

Freeway Project Eliminates CT Service at Marysville II Park & Ride

The Marysville II P&R just before the arrival of the last northbound 422 of the day (photo by author)

The Tulalip Tribes, in cooperation with WSDOT, the FHWA, Snohomish County and the City of Marysville, is currently rebuilding the 116th Street NE interchange on I-5, one of the two primary access points for the reservation’s outlet mall and casino complex. The current interchange, built in 1971 and handling traffic far beyond its capacity, also includes a pair of Community Transit bus stops adjacent to a small park-and-ride lot. Though the 57-space lot and interchange only see 4 trips per day from Stanwood to Seattle (Route 422) and Paine Field (Route 247), The Everett Herald reported in June that its spots are regularly full by 8 a.m.

The completed interchange will be the third single-point urban interchange (abbreviated as SPUI), in the Puget Sound region, with the other two at I-705/SR509 in Tacoma and at I-5/41st Street in Everett. SPUIs require a single signalized intersection with three light cycles, but due to the lack of thru lanes they do not facilitate quick reentry to the interstate and are thus incompatible with transit flyer stops.

A Double Tall on route 422 and the two cranes tasked with the erection of a new NE 116th Street overpass (photo by author)

In an email, a representative from Community Transit explained that the park and ride would instead be used by carpool and vanpool users after the stops are permanently closed. An email to the project team at the Tulalip Tribes was not returned.

Continue reading “Freeway Project Eliminates CT Service at Marysville II Park & Ride”

CT Sales Tax Increase on the November Ballot

An out-of-service Swift bus headed towards Everett Station
Funding for Swift II operations is on the line with the November ballot measure

The signing of the statewide transportation package yesterday by Governor Jay Inslee granted permission to Community Transit to exceed the maximum 0.9% sales tax rate set for public transportation benefit areas (as allowed for in Section 312 of Senate Bill 5987, specifically for counties with a population of at least 700,000 that contains a city of at least 75,000 with its own transit system). The CT Board voted unanimously today to place a measure on the November 3, 2015 ballot that would increase sales taxes by 0.3% (3 cents on $10 taxable purchases) and generate an estimated $25 million in additional annual revenue for the agency.

In their press release, Community Transit outlined where the new revenue would be spent, beginning as early as March 2016:

  • Swift II, whose capital costs are already covered by state and federal grants, will use $7 to 8 million per year in op. It is scheduled to open as early as 2018. (See my open house report from last month for more details)
  • Improved frequency on local routes with more trips added throughout the day and expanded service spans.
  • Additional commuter runs to downtown Seattle and the University of Washington.
  • Increased east-west connections within the county.
  • More service to job, housing and educational centers throughout the county, including communities such as Arlington, Monroe and Stanwood.
  • New routes, including service on State Route 9 from Marysville to McCollum Park via Lake Stevens, Snohomish and Silver Firs, last proposed during the failed annexation of Cathcart, Clearview and Maltby in 2008.
  • Reconfigured local bus service to connect with Sound Transit Link Light Rail when it reaches Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood in 2023, and eventually to Everett.
  • More vanpools and expanded DART paratransit service.

Swift II Open House Update

Swift II legend
Though only for illustrative purposes, this map at the Swift II open house shows CT could be considering using colors to brand its Swift lines. (Photo by author)

Community Transit held three open houses this week for their Swift II project, which aims to build a 12.5-mile-long bus rapid transit line with 15 stations connecting northern Bothell to Mill Creek and the Paine Field industrial area in Everett. The project is estimated to cost $42-48m, with the majority of capital funds provided from the FTA (through their Small Starts program) and WSDOT (through their mobility grants). The money will primarily fund two major projects: the new Seaway Transit Center on the east side of the Boeing factory and BAT lanes on 128th Street SW as it approaches its interchange with Interstate 5.

The second of these meetings, held Wednesday night at Mariner High School near the midpoint of the Swift II corridor, was attended by five members of the public (including me) and six Community Transit employees. CT also published the slides online.

While most of the information presented was already previously public, mostly as documents on CT’s website, there was one noteworthy new item. The table map of the proposed stations used colors to label both the existing Swift line and the proposed Swift II line as the “Blue Line” and “Green Line”, respectively. Swift I and Swift II will be eventually renamed, but not until the run-up to a local election on Swift II funding. The election will occur after the passage of House Bill 1393 by the state legislature, which would allow CT to raise sales taxes by an additional 0.3% with approval from voters. The bill is still alive in the special session.

CT expects the line to open sometime between 2018 and 2020, at the earliest September 2018. It projects 3,300 daily boardings by the end of the first year of operations, dominated by commuters to the Paine Field industrial area and Canyon Park’s office parks until the corridor matures into an all-day destination. The goal for base frequency is every 10 minutes, the same headway Swift I had until it was reduced to 12 minutes in 2012. This requires 12 new coaches funded by the FTA and WSDOT grants. CT confirmed they are looking into shadow service on the Swift II corridor, similar to how Route 101 stops on the southern half of the Swift I corridor, but there are no concrete plans.

The draft plan for the proposed Seaway Transit Center was in the presentation but omitted from the online copy because of its unfinished nature. It showed a layout for the transit center that accommodated both Everett Transit as well as a possible Boeing shuttle with its own bay, similar to the Microsoft Connect shuttle at the Overlake Transit Center in Redmond.

The initial Swift line still has one remaining infill station, located southbound at 204th Street SW east of Edmonds Community College, that will be named “College Station”. This presents a possible conflict with a future Swift line on North Broadway that could serve Everett Community College.

Sunday service returns to Community Transit on June 7

The newly-opened Smokey Point Transit Center on a recent Sunday, without a single bus or rider in sight. (Photo by author)

Snohomish County residents looking to ditch their car for Sundays and holidays can breathe a sigh of relief for the first time in five years. June 7 marks the restoration of Sunday service for Community Transit after its massive service cuts in June 2010, thanks to sales tax revenue returning to 2008 levels as well as a 25-cent fare increase to take place in July. Sunday and holiday service will be limited to hourly headways on most local routes, with the exception of Swift bus rapid transit (20 minute headways) and rural lifeline routes to outlying communities (2 hour headways). The June changes page on their website has specific, route-by-route details, which includes minor improvements to existing local service and additional trips on commuter routes 413 and 860.

In addition to the service restoration, Community Transit has modified its local service to eastern Snohomish County with the replacement of Route 275 with Route 271 on the Highway 2 corridor and extensions of certain Route 280 trips to serve the Boeing Everett plant.

Full list of changes below the jump.

Continue reading “Sunday service returns to Community Transit on June 7”

The Awfulness of Merrill Creek Station

The lone shelter at Merrill Creek, as seen by the author in February 2015.

Merrill Creek, where the first ever bus rapid transit station in the state was unveiled six years ago next month, is a darkhorse candidate for the northern terminus of Swift II, Community Transit’s second bus rapid transit line. While extending the line from the planned, but not yet built, Seaway Transit Center adjacent to the Boeing Everett plant would eat up a non-negligible amount of bus hours, the lure of an already-built and sparingly-used station might be enough to entice CT to terminate their frequent, mid-quality BRT service in the middle of nowhere

But just what is with this BRT station you’ve never heard of? I visited the platform two months ago and I’ve only now got around to writing this analysis.

Transfers? Forget about ’em.

The final northbound Swift bus on Airport Road will most likely stop at Merrill Creek around 10 p.m., just as Swift I does at its termini. Unfortunately, this means that you’re thirty minutes late for the final run of the only connecting bus in the area, Everett Transit Route 8. Even if you’re not a night owl, the bus only runs half-hourly at best, making connections to a frequent route like Swift II more difficult than it should be.

At least ET 8 has Sunday service.

A new type of TOD: Warehouses & Asphalt

Merrill Creek is surrounded by zones designated for manufacturing and industrial use, unlike its counterparts on Evergreen Way that allow for mixed-use commercial and residential. While it is good to have a large amount of jobs within reasonable distance of the station, the lack of pedestrian amenities (consisting of a single sidewalk on one side of nearby Hardeson Road) cancels it out.

The station is completely surrounded by a sea of concrete parking lots belonging to a place called “CommTrans”, probably some kind of communications firm, further limiting any kind of TOD potential.

Is There Hope?

Sadly, no. None at all.

In case you haven’t noticed already, this is a work of satire, poking fun at how transit advocates will thoroughly analyze everything they can, such as the poorly-planned Mount Baker Station. Happy April Fool’s Day, STB.

Smokey Point Transit Center dedicated, to open on February 16

Community Transit Board Chair Mike Todd and artist Julie Berger cut the ribbon to dedicate Smokey Point Transit Center Saturday morning

Braving Saturday morning’s cold conditions, onlookers watched Community Transit Board Chair Mike Todd and artist Julie Berger dedicate Smokey Point’s new transit center with a traditional ribbon-cutting, complete with oversized scissors. The transit center features five bus bays (four at the center island and one on Smokey Point Boulevard), improved lighting and shelters, and the notable exclusion of a park-and-ride. The $4.4 million project began with the demolition of the previous, smaller transit center that closed in 2005 after reconstruction of the nearby I-5 interchange limited access for buses. The Smokey Point Transit Center was originally proposed as a 200-stall park-and-ride at 169th Place NE, but the plans were scrapped in 2008 in favor of the cheaper option of renovating the old transit center and an adjacent vacant lot.

The transit center’s most visible aesthetic features are the shelter’s white, pointed fabric roofs and the use of light green paint on the benches and information boards. The centerpiece of the complex is Julie Berger’s “Honoring” Tenses of Time, a large “story pole” beacon adorned with metal shapes representing the past, present and future of the area, in the form of a phoenix, forestry and an airplane, respectively.

Continue reading “Smokey Point Transit Center dedicated, to open on February 16”