PSRC assigns federal funds to Link and four BRT projects

Boarding Swift and RapidRide buses. Credit: Atomic Taco

On Thursday, the Puget Sound Regional Council’s (PSRC) Transportation Policy Board (TPB) recommended that five transit projects receive additional Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) funding in 2021-22.

The projects were part of a larger disbursement of federal transportation funds, including highway funding, which must be approved in a meeting of the PSRC’s Executive Board on July 26. Area agencies submitted proposals for a competitive bid process earlier this year.

PSRC staff selected the five projects from that group of proposals, and created an additional list of projects, including Rainier RapidRide and Colman Dock, that could receive funding should additional federal funds become available.

Three of the five projects did not get as much funding as they initially requested. Four of the five projects are for BRT, and East Link also got a boost. According to PSRC spokesperson Rick Olson, that’s because the funding competition was remarkably popular. Bidding agencies worked together to make sure that funding dollars could be used to the furthest possible extent.

“The projects that got less funding than requested this round voluntarily took cuts in order to get more projects funded,” Olson says. “We had far more funding requested than was available.”

Link in Redmond

The segment of East Link between Microsoft and downtown Redmond gets $7 million towards the Microsoft and Redmond stations and the guideway between them. According to Sound Transit’s presentation to the PSRC on the project, the Redmond funds will also be applied towards a cycle track near the downtown Redmond station, a bike and pedestrian bridge over Bear Creek, and several trail connections.

Community Transit’s Swift Orange line

Continue reading “PSRC assigns federal funds to Link and four BRT projects”

A Do-over for Whom, Tim Eyman?

Another initiative by Tim Eyman

Eighteen years ago, anti-tax activist Tim Eyman decimated funding for public transit with his first $30 car tab initiative, which eliminated the motor vehicle excise tax (MVET).

His latest initiative, I-947, once again proposes to replace the current MVET with a flat $30 car tab fee. The initiative is estimated to cost Sound Transit between $6.9 billion and $8.1 billion. By Permanent Defense’s count, this is Eyman’s sixth attempt to kill funding for transit.

Currently, car owners pay several different fees depending on where they live when renewing vehicle tabs. The Department of Licensing provides a calculator to estimate vehicle tab fees.

  • Everyone in the state pays a standard fee of $38.75 plus a weight fee which helps fund highway maintenance and construction projects, the Washington State Patrol and the Washington State Ferries.
  • Local jurisdictions have the option of charging car owners an additional fee by forming a transportation benefit district. These districts are allowed to collect up to $20 a year without voter approval, or up to $100 if approved by voters. Approximately 50 cities have established transportation benefit districts around the state. Seattle collects an $80 fee to expand bus services and distribute bus passes to middle and high school students through the Youth ORCA program.
  • Car owners living in the Sound Transit taxing district pay an additional fee. With the approval of the ST3 package, the MVET rate increased from 0.3% to 1.1% of the assessed value of the car.

If I-947 passes it would roll back the standard fee to $30 and eliminate all MVET. It would end weight fees imposed by the state government, transportation benefit districts fees and all car tab taxes helping to fund Sound Transit, according to the initiative’s website. Under the initiative, car owners would pay a $30 annual fee. Weight fees and TBDs could be restored by voter approval.

The initiative would also eliminate a 0.3% tax on retail car sales that funds the state’s multimodal account. This account provides grants for regional mobility, rural mobility, special needs, and vanpools.

Although I-947 eliminates the only MVET in the state, it also requires any future MVET to use the Kelley Blue Book value to compute the tax. As Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon explained on STB, this technique cannot be bonded against and effectively rules it out as a funding tool for major capital projects.

Continue reading “A Do-over for Whom, Tim Eyman?”

51 New Double Talls Coming to Puget Sound

Table 1: Quantity of Buses

51 new buses–with options of up to 92 more–are soon coming to the Puget Sound. Sound Transit recently released a Request for Proposals for a joint procurement of double deck transit buses. This joint procurement includes Sound Transit, who currently operates five double deck buses; Community Transit, who operates 45; and Kitsap Transit who evaluated one last year. Presumably Kitsap Transit’s testing went well, despite a driver’s inadvertent attempt to wedge it underneath the overhang at the Bremerton Ferry Terminal.

All three agencies have used the Alexander Dennis Enviro500, which is one of the few double deckers is currently able to meet the contract’s stipulation of the FTA’s “Buy America” regulations, stating that the vehicles must be assembled in the United States and be assembled with 60% domestic content.

Four of the vehicles being purchased by Sound Transit are funded with a Washington State Regional Mobility Grant, and the first 16 vehicles ordered by Sound Transit will hit the streets no later than July 1, 2017. Schedules for Community Transit and Kitsap Transit will depend on contract negotiations.

While the RFP does not specify which routes each agency plans to run them on, based on past usage they can be expected to run on commuter routes.

If you’re looking for some weekend reading, the 272 page RFP details nearly every aspect of every component of the vehicles.

North by Northwest 66: Go Try Out Community Transit’s Trip Calculator…

Figure you might want to consider calculating the cost of your commute sometime.  Might be a good idea to use the Community Transit trip calculator to do so.

Also, listen I hate rude people okay, but unless you want to buy up a tiny but sporty Toyota Yaris like a relative did for a while, maybe you should save money and Dump the Punp.

View post on imgur.com


My Toyota Yaris photo from my amateur photography days – pardon the low quality

Or you can get a Ford Focus

https://flic.kr/p/oXDNBV
Flickr photo by Ford Europe used under noncommercial license

Or you can really think long and hard about your transportation choices versus the money you’d be saving.  About 30 miles per gallon going from Mukilteo to Seattle in a small car like the above is the tipping point back in favor of the car over the bus…

Up to you.  I so prefer the view from King County Metro 124… and riding what I see below when I’m in Seattle:

Enjoying Light Rail Out the King County Metro 124
My photo

It’s your money.  Give the cost calculator a go.

NORTH BY NORTHWEST 65: FUTURE OF FLIGHT DEFEATED IN GETTING IMMEDIATE TRANSIT SERVICE

The Future of Flight W/ A Dreamlifter Nose Sticking Through...
My Aerial Photo: The Future of Flight W/ A Dreamlifter Nose Sticking Through…

Well folks, it is my displeasure and sadness to report that any short-term fix to the Future of Flight getting transit service is a nonstarter.  Last week, I learned Community Transit has vetoed changing Community Transit Route 113 to support the Future of Flight due to scheduling concerns and inconveniencing local Community Transit users for international Future of Flight visitors.  This defeat of getting public transit services to the Future of Flight however in the short term is ultimately because the better argument won inside Community Transit; and I accept full and total responsibility for the failure to succeed this time around.

I acknowledge the difficulty of asking a transit agency to change a transit schedule broadly advertised and should be reliable to the taxpayers to magically change a community’s main route to service a major tourist-powered economic engine.  A proposal that the Mayor of said community was apprehensive about in a North by Northwest Big Interview.

Some will ask, “Why not Everett Transit?”  Believe me, I have.  I went to the Everett Transit August 2015 Service Change Proposal public meeting at Thursday, April 16, 2015 where senior Everett Transit leaders and I discussed potential options for the Future of Flight.  One option thoughtfully proposed was an express shuttle linked to Everett Station.  One option frankly is insulting – and that’s the Everett Transit Planner’s demand of direct Future of Flight funding for Everett Transit service as if magically the nonprofit Future of Flight can write a check.  I also learned at this meeting from the Everett Transit Planner that hourly Everett Transit service to Boeing’s Paine Field factory and even with three Boeing employees helping get Boeing employees to choose transit first was not going so well so there’s understandable Everett Transit reluctance to further service Paine Field.  One would hope the Everett Mayor will listen rationally to Everett Transit staff before further championing light rail to Paine Field without firing Everett Transit professionals championing data-based contrarian viewpoints.

Speaking of comments, let me be clear, read carefully trolls: To lob from the dark corners of the room the hecklers’ veto and snipe at a major nonprofit doing good works is a classless disgrace and speaks volumes about how some transit advocates misperceive their role.  Make no mistake, I am confident other nonprofits who need transit service are going to keep their hands down and point to your sniping as a reason why not to ask for help. Running a mostly positive campaign clearly has less weight than that of anonymous coward internet trolls sniping because some people are unhappy with their transit service levels now means less transit for all.  Some heckler’s veto to celebrate.

That said this is all in the past. There is one good option left not just for the Future of Flight but also for giving Mukilteo a fair slice of transit service.

If we can get the City of Mukilteo City Council to please pass a resolution as a part of this Community Transit levy lift to request a bus route from 84th Street & Mukilteo Speedway to Seaway via Future of Flight so as to link Seaway Transit Center to the Mukilteo Multimodal Terminal in 2020 & the City of Mukilteo… but this route request requires Mukilteo community support, a bold investment of the City Government of Mukilteo’s political capital, and Community Transit to get its levy lift at the ballot box.

Arguably best to get the Seaway to Mukilteo connection is via commenting on the 2016 Transit Development Plan (TDP) for Community Transit.  In a recent public records request, Community Transit’s Public Records Officer wrote, “The full text of each comment received was provided to board members, initially to the board committee reviewing the plan, and then to the full board.  Comments were discussed in the context of the plan.  The final adopted plan includes the full text of each comment.”  When asked to share route planning for the Seaway Transit Center, Community Transit also replied, “There is no specific route planning for the transit center at this time. It’s too early in the process.”  Therefore a letter from the Mukilteo Mayor coupled to a Mukilteo City Council Resolution would certainly influence Community Transit’s “route planning”.

I will conclude with the genuine concern I have a Community Transit levy lift is going to require transit advocate enthusiasm to win. I know many share my fear a Sound Transit 3/ST3 package that rewards Seattle/North King insufficiently will not be pushed over the top.  So I legitimately fear a Community Transit levy lift transit package that insufficiently excites Mukilteo and Everett will ultimately fail.

Over to hopefully thoughtful comments at 777 words…


Programming Notes: Tomorrow I will post a North by Northwest View 18: What Should I Ask North by Northwest Transit Agencies about…

Also since I am no longer able to edit what’s posted to Seattle Transit Blog and writing this post is rather emotional for me, I drafted in Microsoft Word.  I encourage other Page Two writers to do the same.

North by Northwest 64: Update on Paine Field…

Here in Nikon D5300 Minature Mode is Historic Flight Foundation at 10 AM On Paine Field Aviation Day at 10 AM
My aerial photo: Here in Nikon D5300 Miniature Mode is Historic Flight Foundation at 10 AM On Paine Field Aviation Day at 10 AM^

Figure since many of you in the Seattle Transit Blog comments have some concerns about future Paine Field transit service and in particular light rail… let me give you some updates:

  • Beacon Publishing is doing a survey on transportation with emphasis on the proposed Paine Field passenger terminal.  Some would say supporting a commercial terminal at Paine Field means supporting light rail to Paine Field…
  • Today, and I’m sure this will be covered more thoroughly on Page One, Sound Transit has a new website for ST3.  One part is a survey on what projects for ST3.  If you have an agenda you want to accomplish or help accomplish*… vote and ditto at the upcoming meetings where other local transit agencies will also participate such as the 18 June meeting at Everett Station which I will attend.
  • The Everett Herald kindly posted an update on conversations the Future of Flight and Community Transit are having about weekend transit service to Future of Flight as an initial hydration to the transit desert.  As I said to the Everett Herald, “The Future of Flight deserves a fair slice of service and this is a significant step in that direction.”  I don’t think light rail is that “fair slice of service” any longer but feel the Future of Flight, the #1 tourism destination for Snohomish County with 777.8 daily visitors – many of which international who rely on mass transit back home – needs a “fair slice of service”.  Another option I am now proposing is for that “fair slice of service” being an express bus route from Seaway Transit Center at the east end of the Boeing Paine Field campus to Future of Flight and then Community Transit Route 113…

There you go.

—FOOTNOTES—

^Yes, I write long photo titles :-).  I also wanted an aerial photo that showed more than the Future of Flight.  Below Historic Flight Foundation/HFF will be a major park & ride in a few years.
*Help accomplish like light rail to Ballard, I just expect support for more, better bus service to all Paine Field tenants in return from you commentors.

North by Northwest View 19: Time for Camano Island to Pivot to Community Transit?

A Quick Snap of Island Transit Route 411C
My recent photo of an Island Transit 411C Camano Bus

Full disclosure: The below letter to the editor by me ran in the Stanwood-Camano News today.

Bus service

Camano should switch to Community Transit

Dear Editor:

Island Transit is removing its county connector services from Whidbey to Skagit.

This is after the unilateral withdrawal of the Camano to Everett Island Transit connector service last June. Without state support, Island Transit cannot continue to provide those services. Representative Dave Hayes has finally proposed a fare on Island Transit in return for some state support.

But perhaps I have a thought for my Camano Island friends: Maybe with the lassitude that Island Transit board meetings are run, where charging a fare to reenlist state support in many meetings since November when the county connector crisis came to light has not happened and with the Island Transit board being so inaccessible to Camano Island.

Perhaps the time is right for Camano Island to change to Community Transit as your transit provider.

At least Community Transit’s finances are in great shape. has good public communications and is about to seek a three-tenths of 1 percent tax increase to dramatically increase service. Can you say any of those things about Island Transit?

Just something to debate – namely changing transit taxing districts to get a better provider.

Figured some of you in the transit advocate community would want to discuss this.  Island County Commissioner Rick Hannold also told the Stanwood-Camano News in part:

The board is not sure how long the routes will be cut. Hannold said they are investigating the initiation of a fare system that would help to alleviate the burden of the 411 routes’ additional expense.
“I’ve been pushing for a fare system since the get-go,” Hannold said. “Riders need to have a stake in this; it doesn’t come for free.”
A fare system, he said, would be helpful in many ways.
For one, the House and the Senate have approved funding for the Everett connector, Hannold said, though it is awaiting the governor’s signature. To benefit, though, Island Transit is required to include fare boxes in each of their buses.
Additionally, if fare boxes are installed, Island Transit can apply for Medicaid reimbursement for paratransit expenses –a special service for disabled individuals not accommodated by the regular bus service.
Paratransit costs Island Transit approximately $1.5 million per year.
In April alone, Hannold said, the cost for paratransit services was $70,000, while Island Transit spent $180,000 on all other services combined.
“It’s costing us so much, and we’re required by law to provide it,” he said. If they could alleviate some of the cost associated with that service, Hannold thinks money could be redirected toward other things, which may include reintroducing the 411 routes down the road – a service that has cost them around $500,000 over the past six months.
“We just don’t have it,” Hannold said.

Figure this will help fuel the debate that should have happened, like oh, last November.  I even had inside information on 2 July of 2014 this was a distinct possibility.  Yet no action until too late… the blame falls on both Skagit Transit & Island Transit for not being proactive with contingency planning for this day.

North by Northwest 63: Barring Rep. Dave Hayes Amendment Passing, the Tri-County Connector Will Die 31 July

Black & White of an Island Transit 411W at Oak Harbor
My photo of an Island Transit Route 411W Tri-County Connector

On 22 May 2015, the Island Transit Board made the gut-wrenching decision that due to Island Transit’s fiscal troubles, the lack of state support and the refusal of Skagit Transit to serve to Deception Pass to unless Representative Dave Hayes’ amendment passes stand down the Tri-County Connector on 31 July.  That means no Island Transit service not just to March’s Point, but also no Island Transit service to Skagit Station in Mount Vernon.  Island Transit will however serve North Whidbey in a limited way up to Deception Pass and provide services for Camano Island residents to link to Stanwood & Community Transit services flowing from Stanwood to points south.  Overall, although Island Transit Boardmembers were audibly if not visibly distraught at making this decision – and there’s video below, without the Hayes Amendment to provide some state funding connected to charging a fare, the money is just not in Island Transit coffers to provide linkage services between Whidbey Island & Camano Island.

To spare our Seattle Transit Blog e-mails as I too am on e-mail subscription, I’ve put in a Read More jump below.  Also figure some of you may not be interested…

Continue reading “North by Northwest 63: Barring Rep. Dave Hayes Amendment Passing, the Tri-County Connector Will Die 31 July”

North by Northwest Big Interview 01: Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson

http://i.imgur.com/bFe1szsl.jpg

Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson

          A while ago on a Sunday Open Thread, I aired a trial balloon of doing a podcast on transit issues.  Most of you in the STB comment threads wanted text instead so I’m going to oblige.  I’m hoping based on the responses here to make time to do this monthly or twice a month with a major newsmaker who we would not hear from otherwise that has an impact on transit services north of Lynnwood.  So here we go with the North by Northwest Big Interview!

          For my first subject, I decided to choose a friendly face and also a voice who in some of the big debates affecting the North by Northwest region who has not been heard from.  From the Future of Flight Transit Desert to the proposed Paine Field Terminal – the media has (mostly) neglected Mayor Jennifer Gregerson’ s voice.  Today is about turning that around and I sincerely appreciate her interest and participating.

          In this interview we discussed Sounder North, a substantial subject of yesterday’s main post’s comment thread.  We also discussed potential transportation options to the potential Paine Field Terminal that Propeller Airports wants to build, Community Transit, Swift 2 and finally the Future of Flight transit desert.  I’ve helpfully included appropriate pictures and hyperlinks.

          For those on e-mail subscription like I, I’ve decided to insert a jump point here so if you want to read the whole interview – just click the header.  For the over 1,200 word interview itself, read on.

Continue reading “North by Northwest Big Interview 01: Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson”

North by Northwest 51: Community Transit’s Transit Development Plan Update – Comments DUE 3 April!

Community Transit Double Tall Bus...

My snap of a Community Transit Double Tall.

Just finally became aware today of Community Transit’s draft annual Transit Development Plan update (hereafter CT Draft TDP for brevity) towards a very bold vision of, “Transit will be the first choice, not just for commuting to work but for all travel” (Page 5 of THIS PDF).  STB transit geeks this weekend might want to eke out time and write a comment letter to planupdate-AT-commtrans-DOT-org because you’ve got only until April 3rd to comment.

However, before you write off your wish list to Community Transit, you might want to note the CT Draft TDP has some interesting points:

  • “Based on the current service network, 45% of all jobs in the county and 76% of all jobs in the PTBA are within ¼ mile walk distance of Community Transit bus service (Figure 22). An additional 154,000 jobs in King County and 24,000 jobs in Everett are also within ¼ mile walk distance of Community Transit bus service. In all, nearly 260,000 jobs are within ¼ mile walk distance of Community Transit bus service.”  [Please note Everett Transit has its own separate Public Transit Benefit Area for the City of Everett too].
  • “On the congested I-5 corridor between Everett and Seattle, buses are carrying 25% of all commuters on the road in less than one percent of the vehicles.”
  • In 2013, the cost per bus rider averaged out on every route after fare payment was $6.57 for about a 24% farebox recovery.  However fare increases beyond 2015’s are planned for 2017 & 2019 to hopefully maintain that 23-24% farebox recovery.
  • “Retail sales tax collected in the Public Transportation Benefit Area (PTBA) is our primary revenue source. PTBA residents have approved the maximum taxation rate – 9/10 of one cent, or 9 cents on a $10 purchase – allowed under current law. Through a partnership agreement, Everett Transit also contributes sales tax funding – ½ of one tenth of one percent, or ½ cent on a $10 purchase – toward operation of Swift service in Everett. Retail sales tax accounts for about 63 percent of the agency’s operating revenue. Rider fares provide about 16 percent of total operating revenue and cover about 24 percent of the cost to operate Community Transit branded service (excluding Sound Transit routes).”
  • “As described in the service portion of this plan, revenue forecasts have been sufficient to shore up the existing transit network and return to 7/365 operations with restoration of Sunday service. But the list of unmet needs is far larger. Community Transit’s vision for fast, convenient bus service throughout Snohomish County requires a higher level of public investment.”

Again, comments are due on the CT Draft TDP by 3 April so don’t delay, e-mail planupdate-AT-commtrans.org your thoughts this weekend or next as you’ve only got two weeks from today.  So if you want more bus service, a new bus stop or just want to atta-boy Community Transit, please make the time to submit comment.  Arguably resources are taken from service hours to prepare transit development plans so ridership can give feedback, so please by 3 April e-mail planupdate-AT-commtrans.org your thoughts on the CT Draft TDP.

North by Northwest 50: Following Up…

Going for that black & white look of an Island Transit 411W at March's Point, Anacortes, WA

My Photo, “Going for that black & white look of an Island Transit 411W at March’s Point, Anacortes, WA

Two separate transit agencies are on two very interesting paths – namely Island Transit & Community Transit.

For Island Transit, tomorrow the 9th of March, the Island Transit Board will gather to discuss on the agenda, among other things:

  • Discussion of Financial Stabilization Plan and Correspondence from the Board of Directors (“Island Transit’s Recovery Story” letter)
  • Surplus Vehicles
  • New Revenue Sources [Advertising, Fares]
  • Service Issues [such as the Tri-County Connectors & service to Ault Field – the main NAS Whidbey Island campus to the north of Oak Harbor.].
  • Status of Audit Findings and Resolutions

The special meeting is planned to run from 9:30 AM until 11:30 AM, but a majority of the board can extend the meeting time to address agenda items, which seems likely to this keen observer.  I have a photoshoot scheduled tentatively at 1 PM in Mukilteo so can’t be there.

For those STB readers who may be unaware, Island Transit has an interim CEO in Ken Graska and it’s been decided to wait to seek a permanent replacement while Island Transit seeks alternative revenue streams and conducts route restructures.   Also Coupeville City Council decided to replace the controversial rep Bob Clay with Island County Human Services Director & Town of Coupeville Councilwoman Jackie Henderson.

The Everett Station Swift Terminal in a Damp Dawn
My black & white iPod photo snap of Community Transit Swift BRT at Everett Station

For Community Transit, the story’s a bit different.  First, for those few who may not have heard, the Snohomish County Council approved a lease option contingent on an Environmental Assessment for Paine Field commercial service a week ago.   But as two dueling press releases by proponents Propeller Airports and in opposition Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson posted at MyEverettNews.com indicate, both pro & con can only agree the County Council vote is a step not a finale.  Major issues remain, such as addressing traffic & transit access & how many passengers will actually use the terminal on the east side of Paine Field – which could factor in any discussion about ST3 having light rail service Paine Field.

New CEO Emmett Heath arguably put it right when he wrote in Community Transit’s press release announcing his hiring, “We’re back in growth mode. Today, we have every driver and every bus out on the road, yet we know there are still unmet needs in our community,” said Heath.  The plan is to get state legislative authorization to seek voter approval to raise taxes three-tenths of one percent to fund Community Transit expansion.  Other items of a growth-focused tenure are in the works such as working well with other transit agencies and a few transit projects.

North by Northwest 47: Tomorrow’s A Big Game Day for Community Transit…

Photographing a Departing Community Transit SWIFT Bus
My photo of a Community Transit Swift I bus

HB 1393 – the local option – for Community Transit has a first hearing tomorrow in the House Transportation Committee for HB 1393 is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4 at the John L. O’Brien Building, House Hearing Rm B.  It’ll also be on TVW.

So if you use transit in Snohomish County or care for your Snohomish neighbors, please go here and request passage of HB 1393.   If HB 1393 passes, voters in Community Transit’s service district will get to vote up or down on a 0.3 percent sales tax hike.

So where would the money going to go?  Fair question:

  • Swift II
  • More commuter bus runs from Snohomish County to Seattle
  • Extended Community Transit run service periods
  • Increased bus service hours for all of Community Transit’s runs
  • More service for Paine Field – provided the bus stops get built…

For Community Transit, after this June’s rebound into Sunday hours and a few route adjustments – “current forecasts indicate that any new service hours added in the next few years are likely to be taken up by schedule maintenance—adding time to current trips because their actual travel time is getting longer.”  So we transit advocates can forget about Swift II, service to Paine Field – possibly in lieu of a light rail diversion, or just about anything else on a Community Transit wish list.  HB 1393 – is must pass as much as, if not more than ST3.

Oh and one last thing… 1800 Hours tonight, House Republican Chairman Dan Kristainsen who represents a nice swath of Snohomish County (and my Skagit) will hold his tele town hall w/ his 39th LD seatmate Rep. Scott.  Make sure to call into (360) 350-6256 at 6 PM tonight the 3rd and ask to please support HB 1393.  Or you could please also go here please and request passage of HB 1393 via e-mail please.

North by Northwest 41: Congressman Rick Larsen Visits Community Transit

Congressman Rick Larsen dropped into Community Transit today.  According to a Community Transit press release:

Cong. Rick Larsen Tours Swift II Route

January 16, 2015

Snohomish County, Wash. – U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen took a tour of Community Transit’s proposed Swift II Bus Rapid Transit line today, and took a Blue Friday photo with employees to support the Seahawks.

Community Transit last month received Federal Transit Administration approval to move forward with project development of the second Swift line, which would run between Canyon Park in Bothell and Paine Field/Boeing in Everett. Project development includes further route design and environmental review and must be completed before the agency applies for federal Small Starts funding to build the project. If all goes according to plan, Swift II could be operational in 2018.

“You can’t have a big league economy with a little league infrastructure,” Larsen said of the need for improved federal funding for transportation projects like Swift. “It’s the difference between being Super Bowl champions and being the Washington D.C. football team.”

As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Larsen said he is involved in writing a new Surface Transportation Authorization bill that would fund programs like Small Starts, which transit agencies rely on to fund small-to-midsized capital projects.

After addressing employees at Community Transit’s Merrill Creek base in Everett, Larsen joined them for a Blue Friday photo in front of a Swift bus before taking his tour of the route.

It’s important to remember however that although Congressman Rick Larsen is supremely awesome, Swift II needs all of the following:

  • Complete federal requirements for capital funding (stations and buses), including an environmental impact analysis
  • Develop plans for a northern terminal near Boeing
  • Work with the state to develop traffic efficiency improvements across I-5 at 128th Street
  • Continue to work with partner cities on infrastructure improvements along route
  • Get new funding to pay for Swift II operation

So let’s work together, make new allies and get this done.  BOO-YEAH!

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”

North by Northwest 36 – After-Action Report on Community Transit Public Meeting at Everett Station

2014-12-10 Community Transit Meeting @ Everett Station

Slideshow of my photos taken

On 10 December 2014, Community Transit kindly made available fare managers, transit planners and spokespeople to address community concerns regarding their 2015 service & fare increase proposals.  I arrived habitually early so as you’ll see in the pictures there wasn’t much of a crowd.

All of the Community Transit staff were kind and helpful in answering questions and taking input.  The meeting was staffed by communications staff & transit planners, and attended in the first hour mostly by disabled persons & disability advocates.

I took our questions to the staff and asked questions like:

  • Why is Community Transit so resistant (not just to me but others…) to providing the Future of Flight & Boeing Tour Center – Snohomish County’s #1 tourist facility with 270,000 annual visitors – with a bus stop?
  • What can be done about Flying Heritage Collection/FHC – a major tourist attraction at Paine Field – being in something approximating a transit desert?
  • What will Community Transit do to improve service around Paine Field beyond this service package?

All of these Paine Field transit issues are going to require sidewalks and a “bus pad” to get Community Transit to provide service.  This will require Paine Field management – remember, Paine Field is under Snohomish County Government management – to pay for, get permits and build.  I did make direct contact with the new Paine Field Airport Director and Paine Field tenant leaders at the Paine Field Open House that evening.

However the Community Transit planner for the region Eric has taken the hike to Future of Flight as I put on YouTube and wants to provide the service.  The problem is getting the bus stops built and Community Transit doesn’t normally build bus stops.

Ultimately, if the infrastructure is built, Paine Field between 2016 and 2019 can see some serious growth & restructure in Community Transit service hours.  Some of this is because of the Mukilteo Multimodal Terminal currently coming out of the permitting process.

We’ll see what can happen… don’t expect smooth sailing and Blue Angels dancing overheadDon’t.

  • How do Swift supporters help Swift II come about?

Community Transit has a state legislative request for a local tax authority raise via state legislative authority and an affirmative public vote to get Swift II going by 2018.   It’s important to ask your legislator to authorize the public vote – and regardless of your feelings about voting on taxes (I hear you) it’s the only way to get more transit hours except with relatively small growth spurts for 4-5 years.

  • Are there plans for a Swift III?

Sorry, I forgot to ask that one.

  • Any update on a permanent Bernie Webber Park & Ride next to Historic Flight Foundation & the Paine Field Windsock?

Studies to finish up planning and get a lease from Paine Field management are underway for a 2015 target completion date.  This Park & Ride will fascinate changes in how Community Transit serves Mukilteo – possibly route restructures.

This will have to wait until the Community Transit Board approves the service changes, then and only after the Board makes any tweaks can sample schedules come out.

  • Given the severe crisis of Island Transit with no end in sight and genuine concern for Camano Island, any future plans to create an Express Route from Everett Station to/from Stanwood and possibly Camano Island itself?

Requests have been placed for such a service, but Community Transit is in such a deep hole that its unable to provide an express service.  Use the 240 then the 201 or 202 for now… especially since 76 percent of Community Transit is paid for by Snohomish County tax revenue.

  • Given the significant number of Microsoft contractors/vendors who can’t ride the Microsoft Connector, are there any plans to reintroduce commuter service to Microsoft?

No as there really aren’t much requests for a return of Community Transit service to the Microsoft campus.

  • Since the 201/202’s section between Everett Station and Lynnwood TC is largely duplicating the 512 off-peak would it be possible to trim that back and send the service hours to underserved areas (e.g. Paine Field, Stanwood/Camano)?

This is a potential reform in future Community Transit service changes such as September 2015, to spread the transit net.  Especially once Sound Transit Central Link makes it to Lynnwood, which is already approved – but according to Sound Transit’s project website “relies on competing for and receiving significant federal funding”.  Community Transit can then repurpose commuter routes’ service hours back into Snohomish County by simply depositing commuters at the Lynnwood Transit Center.

Further review of the Sound Transit Lynnwood Link Project Website notes that 43 minutes is the current time from Lynnwood Transit Center to Downtown Seattle.  With the Link extension… 27-29 minutes.  Oh and without any congestion in the way of a Double Tall.

  • Can we keep the good Community Transit connections with the ferries out of Mukilteo?  Excited for the new terminal!

Yes.

  • Okay, serious question: From the word GO until a new Double-Tall is on the road – how long does that take? [In other words, buses or more road lanes for congestion relief?]

At several points we discussed the need for congestion relief.  One Community Transit planner said the new lane(s) only last for 5-10 years, and agreed with me that would come after years of environmental impact study and subsequent mitigation.  New Double Talls only take 10 months to 2 years to get on the road and can pack almost 80 passengers as per a recent Community Transit press release.

###

North by Northwest View 05 – Last Call for Questions to Community Transit…

Everett Station in the Sunset...
My snap of Everett Station

10 hours to go… then I print out a final list to pack, which I will put into the comment section.  But here’s the current list:

  1. Are you guys at Community Transit willing to commit to make genuine changes based on public input given during your public comment process?
  2. Why is Community Transit so resistant (not just to me but others…) to providing the Future of Flight & Boeing Tour Center – Snohomish County’s #1 tourist facility with 270,000 annual visitors – with a bus stop?
  3. What can be done about Flying Heritage Collection/FHC – a major tourist attraction at Paine Field – being in something approximating a transit desert?
  4. What will Community Transit do to improve service around Paine Field beyond this service package?
  5. How do Swift supporters help Swift II come about?
  6. Are there plans for a Swift III?
  7. Any update on a permanent Bernie Webber Park & Ride next to Historic Flight Foundation & the Paine Field Windsock?
  8. How are the service improvements you mention going to play out as I didn’t see sample schedules on your Service Proposal webpage?  Also could some of route 113 be repurposed to serve the Future of Flight & Historic Flight Foundation at Paine Field?
  9. Given the severe crisis of Island Transit with no end in sight and genuine concern for Camano Island, any future plans to create an Express Route from Everett Station to/from Stanwood and possibly Camano Island itself?
  10. Given the significant number of Microsoft contractors/vendors who can’t ride the Microsoft Connector, are there any plans to reintroduce commuter service to Microsoft?
  11. Since the 201/202’s section between Everett Station and Lynnwood TC is largely duplicating the 512 off-peak would it be possible to trim that back and send the service hours to underserved areas (e.g. Paine Field, Stanwood/Camano)?
  12. Can we keep the good Community Transit connections with the ferries out of Mukilteo?  Excited for the new terminal!
  13. Okay, serious question: From the word GO until a new Double-Tall is on the road – how long does that take?

Don’t know if we’ll get all of these answered but will do my best.  Expect a report by Friday evening.


One question I would ask is about extending Sounder North service, however when I do my feature on Sounder North (tentatively last week of December) I will repeat this information from a Sound Transit Community Outreach Corridor Lead Roger Iwata:

…Saw your inquiry and question about how hard would it be to extend Sounder to Mount Vernon.  At this time I would say near, if not impossible due to the fact that the Sound Transit taxing district does not extend north beyond Everett so there is no mechanism to approve or raise funding through Sound Transit in Skagit County.   So that unfortunately puts the brakes on this before we get to questions about approval/authorization/payments to the railway for the use of the existing tracks, cost for stations and upgrades to the tracks, then ridership and political support for an extension of Sounder North that currently has challenges building ridership in contrast to robust ridership on Sounder South.

 That being said, I can appreciate the need for more transit options given the worsening commute in the north corridor including the segment between Seattle and Marysville.  Also, there is growing support for an ST3 ballot measure (2016?) and a plan that will likely include a light rail extension to Everett as we currently plan for the light rail extension from Northgate to Lynnwood.

Thought you’d like to know…

North by Northwest 28: Looping from Skagit to Whidbey to Snohomish to Skagit

North by Northwest 28


Photos from my trip

Part 1 – The Ride to Island Transit HQ

Having been inspired by Glenn in Portland and fueled in part by a genuine fear of losing Island Transit’s 411W due to Island Transit cutbacks; I decided with the very genuine need to park a video camera at the Washington State Auditor’s Office (hereafter SAO) Exit Conference with Island Transit on 24 October for STB purposes to make a loop trip.  I started from Skagit County around to Island Transit HQ south of Coupeville to the Mukilteo-Clinton ferry to the Future of Flight and then back to Skagit.  I’ve also decided to instead of imbedding every photo to hyperlink most to the Imgur album.

I decided due to the very real threat the State Auditor’s Office (SAO) Exit Conference being moved up before 10 AM to where I could not arrive and video the entire conference to take A Better Cab [(360) 755-9262] (which I recommend for your Skagit taxi needs since 2007) to the Chuckanut Park & Ride.   Yes, the same Park & Ride I’ve written about before where I’ve seen folks relieve themselves around the station or against a lightpost due to lack of basic amenties.

I then boarded the Skagit Transit 208 south to Skagit Station.  A nice half hour ride and happy to pay the $2 for an all-day in-county pass to Skagit Transit, which is saving me a buck for the day.

Especially as thanks to Island Transit pinching pennies Island Transit no longer has 411W stop at Skagit Station but now March’s Point Park & Ride.  This now means a $1 fare or using your $2 all-day in-county Skagit Transit pass from Skagit Station on a small bus with hard seats to March’s Point.  A short wait later, Island Transit’s 411W arrived.  On board, surprisingly & shockingly for a fare-free transit agency in fiscal dire straights was this ad:

Washington State Ridesharing Organization Ad for Trip to Alaska

Yes, Island Transit is deferring its insurance payments but has these ads all over their buses.  Profligate spending if ever… especially as dues to Washington State Ridesharing Organization are somehow a higher priority than the state’s transit insurance pool.  Paging Mayor Studley… paging Mayor Studley…

At least I had a pleasant ride with another avgeek who was my driver over to Oak Harbor in a comfortable seat.  Once in Oak Harbor I had about 20 minutes to cross the street, use the public restroom and then cross back to board the Route 1 bus.  After politely informing the driver I was writing for STB about Island Transit, I had a driver helpfully pull me off at the closest bus stop for Island Transit.  Through no fault of the driver, the bus stop was a gravel lot with no sidewalk a 10 minute, 0.5 mile walk from The Transit’s HQ.  Not exactly conducive to having riders hold Island Transit to account… in fact I was the only transit rider to attend the SAO Exit Conference.

Part 2 – Island Transit HQ to the Clinton Ferry Dock

Island Transit HQ Sign

As a transit user who genuinely wants Island Transit to succeed and be accountable; I was not too happy with the fact Island Transit spent money on artsy fartsy benches, a rarely used exercise room & conference room, unused golf carts and refrigerators, gazebos and snow removal equipment, a time-out room and BBQ equipment.  Nor am I happy at all the CPA for Island Transit couldn’t take a few basic questions for an upcoming post on Island Transit right now sitting on my editor’s desk…

Even worse was sitting through the Island Transit Board’s mini-meeting I took a black & white still of and also put on video – where the Island Transit Board could not make basic decisions on allowing public comment and recruiting for a permanent replacement for an Executive Director.  Having stood though that as the only transit user I agree with Oak Harbor Mayor Dudley the Island Transit Board need to start multitasking or needs replacement.

I’ve written up all about the SAO Exit Conference so will spare you another 1,500+ word commentary.  Enjoy this picture though.

After standing and video’ing all that accountability, I had a ride from a new friend to the nearest Island Transit southbound bus stop lacking a bench or shelter.  I boarded Island Transit’s Route 1 again from that stop and Route 1 was running behind schedule.  At least the seats were comfy… and I did get to my final destination.  Namely here:

Island Transit Route 1 at the Clinton Ferry Terminal

Part 3 – MV Tokitae to Future of Flight

MV Tokitae

As Island Transit Route 1 was running late, I did not get to ride the MV Kitsap but instead as you can see the MV Tokitae.  Brand new ferry, desperately needed part of renewing the state ferry system fleet.  I was hoping for a chance to get some external photos of this beaut before taking interior pictures, but oh well.

The MV Tokitae is kept very clean, has a closed sun deck due to US Coast Guard crew requirements versus budgetary constraints but open small decks over the car deck, has dignified advertising, a dining area, a nice cafe, the personnel were professional.  I then got to go outside and enjoy seeing the Mukilteo lighthouse.  Once landing on Mukilteo, I had an about 3 minute walk to a Community Transit bus stop.

At this point, I began to truly appreciate urban transit.  So far this day I’ve had to deal with rural transit where runs are every hour.  At Community Transit, service with Community Transit Route 113 is every half hour.  So instead of standing in the middle of nowhere waiting for a bus, the wait’s only a few minutes to get onto Route 113.  Although this bus’s interior is dated, I was in no position to complain for a short ride.

With a GoPro taking stop motion on my head, the time soon arrived to accomplish the second big video sortie of the day.  Namely a stop-motion of the hike up to Future of Flight.  I’ve made this YouTube to provoke some discussion so here you go:

I think now you know why I’m so pushy on getting a bus stop at Future of Flight.  It seems after talking to the City of Everett this will require Community Transit re-prioritization.  So will be covering the new Community Transit service.

Part 4 – The Ride Home

No pictures as I was frankly tired and shook up by tragic events a short distance away.  I had a friend drop me off at the SWIFT, then barely missed Skagit Transit 90X.  The jerk driver wouldn’t stop as he pulled out, I ran and yelled “WAIT, WAIT” so I got stranded for an hour at Everett Station.  Called the supervisor to complain, torqued off the driver couldn’t wait a damn 30 seconds.  Then I got on the next Skagit Transit 90X, then a 45 minute wait due to a route detour & Stilliguamish River bridge repair, then the Skagit Transit 300 and got home.  Again, I had important video to compile and upload.  Hard to have good transit connections when transit can’t stay on schedule – and the Stilliguamish River bridge work + a special detour is totally messing up connections.

Overall, this day trip loop is worth making if you have the time.  Due to Island Transit cutbacks a loop trip on Whidbey Island can only be done Monday-Friday which seems indefinite until Saturday service returns.  Also need to make sure you can miss a mass transit connection or two.

Continue reading “North by Northwest 28: Looping from Skagit to Whidbey to Snohomish to Skagit”

North by Northwest 07: Community Transit & Rebounding Into Paine Field…

Paine Field Transit Map – Version 0.1


Primitive STB Paine Field Transit Map – V 0.1

Readers, sorry if you’re getting North by Northwested a bit much but… we’ve had an Island Transit fiscal crisis about to explode again, a need to remember there’s more to Northwest Washington Transit issues than my aviation tourism advocacy, and the news is flowing thick & fast.  That said, as promised in my intro post on Paine Transit service that I’d make a special post, I finally was able to make contact with Sam Brodland, Community Transit, Supervisor of Service Planning & Scheduling in the middle of his plans for a September Service Change to start climbing out of the Great Recession – which I appreciate.  In fact, Mr. Brodland said I was “timely” several times in our conversation.

As other Seattle Transit Blog reports have mentioned (our editor Martin H. Duke’s report, Brent White’s warning about Community Transit’s hole , and a 2010 report of Community Transit service cuts)  Community Transit got hit hard by the Great Recession.  Sunday service and holiday services were wiped out.  Also according to a Community Transit press release, “In 2010 and 2012, Community Transit cut 37 percent of its bus service and laid off 200 employees as a response to the recession’s impacts on sales tax revenue, the agency’s primary source of funding.”

As such, it’s realized Community Transit is undeserving Paine Field.  We discussed two of the locations most under served – namely The Future of Flight which is part-museum, part-store, part-HQ for Boeing Tours, part-observatory, and part-events center.   According to a PDF factsheet, Future of Flight “draws approximately 200,000 visitors per year and generates an additional $3.5 million annually of tourism spending in Snohomish County.”  There is the possibility at some point of a route adjustment to bring current Mukilteo Community Transit routes out to the Future of Flight.

Then there’s the difficult location of Flying Heritage Collection stranded at 3407 109th Street SW Everett.  That one’s going to require some serious public desire.  Currently, to reach Flying Heritage Collection requires significant hiking through industrial areas at the moment to reach from current transit services (e.g. 1.5 mile hike from the nearest Swift Stop) – not what I’d consider safe for somebody packing $500 or more in camera gear like me.  Plus such a hike would leave one a bit winded arriving at Flying Heritage Collection to walk around the exhibits.

So how do we voice that public desire folks?  Mr. Broadland recommended if we who support transit for Paine Field museums wanted to have our voices heard make sure to send an e-mail to riders-AT-commtrans-DOT-org and testify at upcoming Community Transit Board Meetings.  Those are at 09/04/14 3pm and 10/02/14 3pm at 7100 Hardeson Road.

Ultimately, to be successful: My efforts are going to need to become our efforts.  Stay tuned!

North by Northwest 04: Transit at Paine Field

2014-07-09 Paine Field Panorama
2014-07-09 Paine Field Panorama by Joe “AvgeekJoe” Konzlar

[Note: Unlike most Page 2 posts, this is slightly edited for clarity.]

Fellow commenters on Seattle Transit Blog know my passion for more mass transit services to and from Paine Field.  I’ve even written a letter to the Everett Herald editor sharing my aspirations for a route serving – counterclockwise from the northwest corner – the Future of Flight, Historic Flight Foundation, Flying Heritage Collection and the Museum of Flight Restoration Center.

Now what and where are these marquee facilities?  See a Paine Field map also showing a few others not open to the public. The Future of Flight is part-museum, part-HQ for Boeing Tours, part-observatory and part-events center.   According to a PDF factsheet, it “draws approximately 200,000 visitors per year and generates an additional $3.5 million annually of tourism spending in Snohomish County.” Historic Flight Foundation is a flying museum at the end of Bernie Webber Drive that preserves aviation history from 1927 to 1957 with many historic aircraft. The Flying Heritage Collection is Paul G. Allen’s (mostly) flying collection of historic warbirds that range from WWI to a modern Mig-29.  There are also other artifacts like several ground vehicles, cutaway engines and disarmed rockets. Finally, the Museum of Flight Restoration Center restores aircraft for static display and is open to self-guided tours much of the year.

Everett Transit Route 12 serves the Future of Flight museum.*  It required a nice 0.8 mile hike – partially through a Boeing parking lot and partially on a nice trail.  The problem is that in inclement weather very few wish to hike almost a mile to visit the Future of Flight.  Please see pictures below from my trip on the 12:

Looking at the Museum of Flight Restoration Center...
Museum of Flight Restoration Center through the Everett Transit Route 12 window(1)

Everett Transit Route 12 Pulls Away...
Getting off Everett Transit Route 12 in a big Boeing parking lot.

A View of Paine Field from my hike to Future of Flight
A view from my 0.8 mile hike from the nearest Everett Transit Route 12 bus stop to the Future of Flight

I asked local transit agencies what they could do about this situation. Community Transit couldn’t respond by press time except to refer me to Everett Transit. An Everett Transit spokesperson told me Everett Transit will take comment in late winter or early spring on route planning.  I’m going to start a petition for extending Everett Transit Route 12 that last 0.8 mile to get a bus stop at the Future of Flight Monday through Saturday on a trial basis with performance benchmarks.

There is is a much appreciated Community Transit bus stop at the foot of Bernie Webber Drive, the road that goes up to Historic Flight Foundation that serves several routes that link up with Swift (Bus Rapid Transit) to the south and both Sounder North and Washington State Ferries to the north. The Everett Herald reported a Community Transit Park & Ride is in the works for that location, which is sensible considering Historic Flight Foundation uses the proposed grassy area for special event parking anyway.

Now if only Flying Heritage Collection would get some transit service…  Recently Flying Heritage Collection had a special event called Skyfair on July 26th and provided a bus shuttle to and from a nearby park & ride which is nice for those whom needed parking.  Problem is there was no adjoining service from either Everett Transit or Community Transit to supplement and amplify those services – requiring me to hail a cab from Everett to attend.  With Flying Heritage Collection having Fly Days on many June, July, August and September Saturdays with hundreds of attendees; it’s illogical to deny Flying Heritage Collection direct Saturday transit services.  Heck, I’d pay a few bucks for a shuttle to/from a Swift (Bus Rapid Transit) stop.

Ultimately, I argue that the international aviation geek community deserves some love and mutual cooperation from both Everett Transit & Community Transit.  In a perfect world where Paine Field did not fall between the Community Transit & Everett Transit service areas, having a Paine Field circular that would link to Swift (Bus Rapid Transit) would make economic sense because according to Paine Field’s official website, “Paine Field and its tenants have a $19.8 billion economic impact on the region and the state. Additionally, the Airport and the businesses utilizing the airfield provide $79 million in tax revenue to the local and state governments”.  I argue that from $79 million in tax revenue we could get some decent transit services to all of Paine Field’s tenants.

* You can also get out to the Museum of Flight Restoration Center by using Everett Transit Route 12 and disembarking at the 100TH ST SW & AIRPORT RD stop for a 0.23 mile walk.  To walk from the Museum of Flight Restoration Center to Flying Heritage Collection is a 1.5 mile, 30 minute hike through an industrial area.  Not exactly tourist friendly by almost any stretch of the imagination…

Community Transit To Cut Holiday and all Sunday Service eff. June 13th

Community Transit

Beginning Saturday, Community Transit implements a broad package of service cuts including frequency reductions and the complete cessation of Sunday and Holiday service in order to help save $16 million over the next two years.

Between 2008-2013, Community Transit estimates it will have lost as much as $180 million in anticipated sales tax revenues due to the recession. Aside from the service cuts, the agency raised local bus fares on June 1 to help bring in additional revenue.

According to Community Transit, they plan on restoring the suspended Sunday and holiday service as soon as funding is available. The agency is exploring new state and federal funding to allow for service restoration before the economy recovers.  From the press release:

Bus riders are being advised to make their own transportation plans for Sundays, or call the North Sound 2-1-1 social services hotline for assistance. Everett Transit, King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit will continue to operate on Sundays.

Service cuts are as follows:
Continue reading “Community Transit To Cut Holiday and all Sunday Service eff. June 13th”