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”

Community Transit Looks Forward to Brighter 2015

The last few years have not been kind to Community Transit or riders in Snohomish County. The Great Recession forced the largest cuts in the agency’s 39-year history, every winter has cancelled Sounder North runs, and the Oso mudslide interrupted bus service to Darrington for several months. Despite these setbacks, Community Transit will be able to welcome 2015 with open arms, with several major events planned.

Sunday and Holiday service restored

Proposed Sunday service (Photo by Community Transit)
Proposed Sunday service (Photo by Community Transit)

This month, the Community Transit Board approved the addition of 27,000 hours of new service, of which 18,000 are to be used on Sundays and holidays. The June 2015 service change, five years to the month after the cuts to Sunday service, will bring hourly Sunday service on major routes and 20-minute headways on Swift.

To fund the new service, Community Transit will be raising their adult and DART fares by 25 cents effective July 1. The increased fare will bring the cost of a round-trip on commuter routes from Marysville, Stanwood and Snohomish to a staggering $11 for adults.

Continue reading “Community Transit Looks Forward to Brighter 2015”

Community Transit Proposes Restored Sunday Service

Proposed Sunday Network map, courtesy of Community Transit

Community Transit has proposed a 25-cent increase for adult and DART fares to help fund 27,000 hours of restored service, including 18,000 hours of Sunday and holiday service on 16 local bus routes beginning as early as June 7, 2015.

Swift would get 20 minute frequencies on Sunday, last seen before the June 2010 service cuts, while major routes in Southwest Snohomish County, Marysville and Arlington would get hourly service. “Rural lifeline routes” serving far-flung cities such as Stanwood and Gold Bar would see buses every two hours on Sundays. CT hopes to fully restore Sunday and holiday service that was cut in 2010, with the 2015 proposal funding 65 percent of the lost hours but covering the same area. The ultimate goal for the agency is to operate the same amount of service on Saturdays and Sundays as a single weekend schedule.

Full list of routes after the jump.

Continue reading “Community Transit Proposes Restored Sunday Service”