Friday, January 6, 2017

Holiday Service Levels - More Art Than Science

Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we went. The holidays are over and we have flipped the page to 2017. January is a great time for looking to the future and also time to reflect on how things went the past year.

This past holiday shopping season saw record-breaking sales for retailers, which had Community Transit buses working hard to meet the demand of riders heading to work, shopping, school, or just to grandma’s house.

Our data gurus tell us that Sundays are typically the lowest ridership day of the week and our planning gurus tell us that lower demand calls for us to have a Sunday service schedule on major holidays such as New Year’s, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Historically, those holidays have lower ridership than a typical Sunday. Did you ride on any of these holidays in 2016?

For example, on Thanksgiving 2016 we had 4,423 boardings which, is about half of a typical Sunday and much less than a typical Thursday (which is about 35,000 boardings). While this is a small ridership number compared to non-holidays, it shows that we were able to meet transportation demand for more than 4,000 people who had to find alternative solutions when we had no holiday service.

Why do people ride the bus on Thanksgiving? Families and friends like to be together on this day and share a meal or a football game, so that’s one reason. We can also assume that a lot of these riders were heading into work for the Black Friday sales that start Thanksgiving night, or to be the first shoppers to get the hot deals. Were you working or hitting the sales on Thanksgiving?

Christmas Day had only 3,687 boardings, living up to its reputation as our lowest ridership day of the year. Christmas this year also landed on a Sunday which called for a Monday, December 26, “observed holiday.” Based on historical ridership trends, we ran a Sunday service schedule with no commuter service that day. So we want to know, were you going over the river and through the woods or did you hit the salt mines on December 25 and 26?

New Year’s presented a planning quandary. The holiday was on a Sunday, but the “observed holiday” on Monday, January 2, had our planners coming together for an action plan. We originally planned only a Sunday schedule that day, which means no commuter service. But we thought some businesses or go-getter types would want to kick off 2017 right away. The action plan was put into place to add three commuter routes to meet the possible demand of people heading out of Snohomish County into Seattle. Routes 402, 413, and 421 were supplemented to the Sound Transit Route 512 service for those riders headed back to work right away. This was the first time Community Transit added extra commuter service on a major holiday. Turns out we had more than 11,000 boardings on January 2, which tells us there was definitely a demand. 

Just when we thought the holidays were over we jump right into 2017’s first holiday -- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Jan. 16. Because many businesses remain open on several "minor" holidays like this one, we run regular local service but a reduced commuter schedule. Let us know how you use Community Transit on the holidays!  Happy New Year! 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Community Transit Stuffs a Bus with Holiday Cheer for Charity

Each year during the holiday season, so many families rely on the generosity of their communities to help feed their families and give their children a little bit of the season's magic. Community Transit is thankful to be part of a community that values service to its residents, from the youngest to the oldest. It has never been more evident to us how very generous our community is than during our charity outreach last weekend for Stuff a Bus.

This holiday season, Community Transit partnered with Volunteers of America, Everett Transit, and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1576 to help stuff a bus with food and toys for families in need. On December 10th and 11th, shoppers at the Fred Meyer in Snohomish were greeted with a decked-out Community Transit bus and cheerful Community Transit employee volunteers who handed out wish list items for desperately-needed, non-perishable food, toys, and baby items. The response from our community was overwhelming! Not only was our bus stuffed to the rooftop, we also filled Oxy Gene's van!

The bus was driven to the Volunteers of America Sultan location which services north Snohomish County. It took a half-dozen Community Transit employee volunteers and 20 VOA volunteers a solid hour to unload the bus. Everyone was surprised and delighted at just how very kind and charitable our community is. Donations far surpassed what Volunteers of America had hoped for. In one weekend, we helped to collect 3,000 lbs of food and over $6,000 in toys, as well as clothing, cash, and baby items. The diapers that were collected meet the agency's need for an entire year!

Community Transit employees were so moved by the outpouring of support from the community for the Stuff a Bus program. From single bags of rice to entire shopping carts filled with food and necessities, it was a privilege to witness the holiday spirit as those that could give, gave what they could. Volunteers of America is using these donations to stock its food banks to fill holiday food baskets distributed by the agency to those families in Snohomish County who are in desperate need. Toys will be distributed through the agency's holiday program, where families are invited to choose a gift for their children so that every child has something to open during the holidays.






Thursday, December 15, 2016

Giving Tree: Serving a Homeless Community in Need

Holiday dreams came true this week for 70 homeless high school students from the Everett School District. With over 3,000 homeless school-aged children in Snohomish County, homeless teens are often overlooked during the giving season. These 70 teenagers aren't just homeless, they are unaccompanied; they do not have a legal guardian. Due to devastating circumstances, it is often safer for these teens to sleep on a friend's couch, or in a car, or on the street than it is to be with their parents or guardians.

Somehow, though, these inspiring teens manage to make it to school each day to receive an education. Community Transit was moved by their stories and chose to support them through its annual employee-sponsored Giving Tree program. We partnered with Volunteers of America and Washington Kids in Transition (KIT) to ensure that these 70 teenagers were not forgotten this holiday season. Giving Trees were set up at four different locations throughout Community Transit's Everett operating bases, decorated with tags that listed a gift as well as hygiene items needed for each of the 40 male and 30 female students. Generous employee gifts ranged from warm jackets and outerwear to art sets and makeup kits.

Backpacks were stuffed to the brim with a wrapped gift, $25 gift cards to stores like Fred Meyer and Target, and hygiene kits. These backpacks were then delivered to counselors at Jackson High School, Cascade High School, Everett High School and Sequoia High School who distributed them with care and consideration to those in need. Many counselors were overwhelmed by the gifts, saying these were the only gifts many of these homeless teens would see this year.

Many thanks to Community Transit business partners Otak, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and Perteet for donating brand new backpacks for the teens. Thank you, also, to Everett Costco, Fred Meyer, Target and Walmart for assisting with donations for the hygiene kits. Because of their help we were able to provide full hygiene items which make such a difference to providing these teens the dignity they deserve. Lastly, thank you to all of the Community Transit employees who participated in the Giving Tree program. Your generosity gives hope and cheer to children who, against all odds, are attending school each day to better themselves. Thank you for making a difference.







 



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Meet Jon Elmgren: Community Transit's 2015 Transportation Employee of the Year

The lure of the open road and making a difference in one's community are motivators for many of our Coach Operators to choose driving for us as a second career. We are lucky to have drivers from all walks of life, with prior careers that are interesting and varied. From former pastors to French chefs, you may be surprised by the story of how your bus driver ended up behind the wheel.

Jon Elmgren started his career as a Data Analyst for Boeing before transitioning to the insurance industry where he worked for 25 years. The desire to be of public service led Jon to investigate a second career that he could be passionate about. He found his way to us in May 2008 (he was in the same training class as Dispatcher Jessica Greene). A former rider who knew the area well (he and his wife built their home in NE Monroe in 1980), Jon just knew driving for us would be a career he would really enjoy. "I like the variety of driving different routes in different areas. I get to drive for awhile and use my breaks to take a walk, get some exercise, and stay active."

When our Coach Operators go above and beyond in their service, sometimes our riders are kind enough to give a commendation so we can recognize them. When Jon was driving the Boeing to Gold Bar route, a serious traffic situation encouraged Jon to call Dispatch to problem solve how to reroute so our customers wouldn't be further delayed. One Boeing employee was so impressed with Jon's commitment to customer service, he called to say thank you for getting him home on time. This commendation earned Jon the honor of Transportation Employee of the Month, which translated to Transportation Employee of the Quarter to Transportation Employee of the Year.

"It feels good to be acknowledged. Community Transit drivers are a notch above in terms of how friendly they are and the service they provide. To be chosen for this honor was a real surprise." Funny enough, Jon says he saw the customer who complemented him not that long ago. "I was getting ready to start my route, but I saw him standing in line for a different bus. I jumped out of my bus to tell him the news. He was really excited."

Small acts of kindness can make a huge difference in someone's day, month, or even year. Congratulations, Jon, on being chosen as Community Transit's 2015 Transportation Employee of the Year. We are so pleased your dedication to service was recognized by your customer, your peers, and our agency. Thank you for being part of the Community Transit family.

Has a Coach Operator made a difference in your day? Don't wait for Bus Driver Appreciation Day to tell them; let us know in the comments below!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Snow Fall and Snow Routes and Snowflakes at Bus Stops... a Few of Our Favorite Things

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but your commute can be delightful (okay, maybe less stressful) with a little preparation and relevant information.

Because snow or icy conditions can impact our bus service (traffic, accidents and delays) we've created snow routes for all of the routes we serve. We also have this snowflake symbol at some of our bus stops:
Snowflake Symbol as seen at Community Transit stops
If you see this snowflake at your bus stop,
it means that your bus will not stop there if there is measurable snow and/or ice on the ground.
We like snow-- just not at our stops! 
If you see this snowflake symbol at a bus stop, it means a bus will not stop at that location if there is measurable snow or ice on the ground.

What is measurable snow? Check out this picture below, taken in January 2012.

Route 201 in January 2012 on 134th St SW in Lynnwood.
It’s one of our Route 201 buses on westbound 134th St SW near Ash Way in Lynnwood. The stop is on a stretch of road with a 3-degree pitch. This slope, covered in snow and ice, makes this stop a perfect candidate for a snow route.

Our 48 snow routes help keep transit moving during wintry conditions. Maps of our snow routes are available here.


Snow Route for Route 201

Pictured to the right is the snow route for Route 201 which avoids side streets and remains on Smokey Point Blvd/State Ave in the north end, serving Smokey Point Transit Center, Everett Station, Mariner Park & Ride, Ash Way Park & Ride and Lynnwood Transit Center.

The lesson here is to find out if your route has a snow route—and get familiar with it before it snows!

What to Expect When It Snows
  • When it snows, not all buses will be on snow route. Depending on the road conditions, one route may be on snow route, another may not be.
  •  If your bus stop has a snowflake symbol and there is snow and ice on the ground, please wait at another stop along that route.
  • When it snows, regular bus schedules don’t apply—buses may come less frequently. Plus, it will take longer to get to each destination. Rider alerts will tell you how often a bus may arrive.

Be Prepared
  • Dress for the elements—wear sturdy shoes and dress for warmth. You may need to wait longer or walk more in poor conditions.
  • Get to a park & ride or other major hub for the best service options.
  • Make sure you are visible to the bus driver. Carry a flashlight, a cellphone or something bright or reflective to flag the bus. Also, wear light-colored or bright outerwear to be easily seen.
  • Have a charger at the ready to keep your mobile device up and running so you can use BusFinder, receive Rider Alerts and visit our website for updates.
  • Speaking of Rider Alerts, sign up for them here. You can select specific routes and can choose to receive them by email or text.
  • When weather conditions are bad, BusFinder may not be as accurate as usual. The real-time system behind BusFinder estimates departures based on the time it typically takes to get to a bus stop, so if traffic is moving slower, the countdown may appear to be stuck. BusFinder will let you know if there is a bus coming.

Where to Get Community Transit Service Information

Some Useful Links:

Whatever Mother Nature brings, be prepared, be safe and we'll do our best to get you home.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Community Transit "Moves" Me, Big Time

Did you hear the news? Swift Blue Line just turned seven! The first of its kind in Washington state, Swift Bus Rapid Transit connects communities along a 17-mile stretch of Highway 99 between Everett and Lynnwood. The Swift Blue Line route serves Snohomish County's busiest transit corridor, with over 1.7 million commuters using it each year to get to work and school.

We had a chance to meet with Mina, a student at Edmonds Community College, who relies on us to get an education. "Public transportation is an affordable way to get to my classes. Without public transportation, school just wouldn't happen for me." We realize that our riders need more than affordable and reliable transportation. They need transit to be fast and frequent as well. Swift Blue Line operates every 12 minutes weekdays from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and every 20 minutes weekdays from 5-6 a.m., weeknights and on weekends. This makes life easier for commuters like Mina. "You don't even need a schedule with Swift Bus Rapid Transit because the bus comes every 12 minutes or so."

Community Transit has big plans to "move" you big time, now and in the future. Construction on the Swift Green Line begins in 2017, with service offered to customers in early 2019. Swift Green Line will connect the Boeing/Paine Field aerospace manufacturing area in Everett with the Canyon Park technology center in Bothell. And we are only getting bigger! Other Swift Bus Rapid Transit lines are in the works, providing the efficiency and appeal of light rail, delivered faster and at a fraction of the cost.

Snohomish County is the fastest growing county in the state. We are proud to provide innovative transportation to "move" you to work, school, and life.

Transit moves me, big time! from Community Transit on Vimeo.

New Routes 109 and 209 showing strong ridership numbers

Route 109 at the Lake Stevens Transit Center
It has been three months since Community Transit launched Routes 109 and 209 to help serve the rapidly growing area of east Snohomish County – with both routes connecting at the Lake Stevens Transit Center.

A resident of Lake Stevens, I know firsthand just how congested and backed up traffic gets along Highway 9 and the trestle. It can be a nightmare. And I know I’m not the only one feeling the frustration – the evidence is in our rider numbers for these new routes.

On an average weekday, more than 250 riders take Route 109 between Lake Stevens and the Ash Way Park & Ride in Lynnwood with a big spike of people heading to Mariner Park and Ride.

Our data shows people from Lake Stevens and Snohomish are finding it easier to get into Mill Creek and Lynnwood, with more and easier connections to places such as University of Washington – Bothell. Continued growth in the east and southeast parts of the county will increase demand for this route, especially as new stops are added.

Route 109 is one of our longer local workhorse routes that covers a lot of distance with large stretches of rural area and no stops. The route was set up to help build a stronger grid of service in the east county and will continue to get stronger with more stops under development. We are working with Snohomish County and the Snohomish School District to add a pair of new stops near Glacier Peak High School, likely in mid-2017. More stops are being considered where they can be safely added.

While Route 109 moves people between Lynnwood and Lake Stevens, Route 209 serves riders further north. On an average weekday, more than 180 people are using Route 209 between Lake Stevens and the Tulalip Resort Casino near Marysville. People are traveling from the Monroe area into Marysville without going to Everett by taking Routes 109 and 209.
Route 209 outside the Tulalip Resort Casino

The real story on Route 209 is that ridership stays strong on the weekends. With hourly service on the weekends we are seeing just a small drop-off from 180 riders on weekdays to an average of 165 riders on Saturdays and around 115 riders on Sundays. Those numbers show that people are using the route for more than the Monday through Friday work commute. They’re also taking advantage of its entertainment and shopping destinations like the Tulalip Resort Casino, Seattle Premium Outlets and Cabela’s.

Route 222 was restructured in Marysville to complement the new Route 209. Route 222 now offers service to Marysville Getchell High School and the Marysville Library as well as its longstanding service to the Tulalip Hibulb Center.


Community Transit continually reviews and evaluates the needs of the riders – and that’s exactly what you see with Routes 109 and 209. If you haven’t taken a ride, I encourage you to hop onboard and see just how easy it is to get where you need to go without ‘driving’ yourself mad. 

More on our new routes here.


***Sean Christensen is a Public Information Specialist for Community Transit. He joined the company in October 2016. Sean comes from a background in media, athletics, communications, and production.***