Thursday, October 19, 2017

A State-of-the-Art Shop Poised for the Future

Did you know the maintenance shop at our Merrill Creek Operations Base services a fleet of 200 buses? This bustling hub of activity is definitely where the action can be found. On average, the shop creates approximately 850 preventative maintenance and repair work orders a month. We also do our own component rebuild in-house, for both engines and transmissions. It takes exceptional equipment, tools, and training to create a state-of-the-art shop like ours, and a dynamic team of mechanics to bring it all to life.

Our larger maintenance shop at Merrill Creek (we have a smaller shop at Kasch Park where our Double Talls and Vanpool vehicles are serviced) has two large working areas. The main area has a total of 14 working bays. Four bays have 2-post lifts designed for coaches up to 40 feet, four have 3-post lifts designed for coaches up to 60 feet, and two are flat (non-lift equipped) bays. These are getting new lifts added to increase our lift capacity. Also included in the main area are four pit bays primarily designed for preventative maintenance work. The secondary area (our body shop) has three flat bays and one spray booth. The shop is bright, well-ventilated, and so clean that the agency actually hosts its annual Thanksgiving lunch on the premises each year!

Our main shop also has a dedicated component rebuild area. When our engines and transmissions are at the end of their life span, we tear them down and completely overhaul them with new and reconditioned parts. They are tested on dynamometers that allow them to run outside of the vehicle, ensuring that if there are any problems, they are caught before they ever even get in the bus. For example, a rebuilt engine is hooked up to water, fuel, electronics, and transmission, etc., to simulate being in a bus. This engine dynamometer makes sure there are no leaks, fault codes, loss of horsepower or torque. This not only allows us to control the quality of the finished product, it is also cost effective. Community Transit is unique because most shops (and even dealers) outsource this technology.

In March of this year, Community Transit updated its maintenance software system, providing our technicians with a single, easy-to-use portal to manage assigned work, making our maintenance recording system virtually paperless. This system also provides access to the company intranet, email, and web services. Additional computer terminals were added throughout the shop to meet the needs of our growing fleet of vehicles and our maintenance team.

Community Transit prides itself on being an industry leader. Our state-of-the-art shop is uniquely designed to meet the challenges of today, while being poised for the huge growth demands projected for the future.

Want to work here? We want to hear from you! "Don't let the size of our shop and equipment intimidate you! All prospective employees are given a shop tour during the interview process, and all new employees get the training, tooling and assistance they need to be successful," assures Ken W., Assistant Maintenance Manager. Apply today to be part of the team.

Did you enjoy this Talking Shop story? What other shop topics would you like to see featured? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Left Something on a Bus? We're Here to Help

There’s nothing as frustrating as when you step off a bus then realize, as it rumbles away, that you’ve left something inside. All you can think is: How am I going to get that back?

Fortunately, the answer is simple: contact the RideStore at Lynnwood Transit Center. If your item is found, it will be at the RideStore ready for pick-up after 8 a.m. the next business day. “We are in the business of trying to get your items back into your hands,” said Matt Coomes, RideStore supervisor.

Lots of bikes
Surprisingly, bicycles are one of the most common items left behind on buses, about 20-25 per month! Bikes are stored off-site because of their size, so please schedule an appointment with the RideStore for pick-up.

Bikes ready for pick-up by their owners.
Due to lack of space, bikes are held for 10 days before turning them over to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office as lost property. Other items are held for 14 days before being destroyed or donated.

More service = more found items
Community Transit is steadily expanding service and is now up to 37,000 rides every day. Consequently, there are more items going through Lost & Found than ever before. “We handle about 10,000 items per year now,” Matt said. (And some of those items are truly strange – click here to read more about the oddities left behind on our buses!)

RideStore Supervisor Matt Coomes
reviews items found on a single day.
Collecting all found items at the end of each day and sending them to a central location for pick-up is the most efficient way to handle such a high volume. “Emergency” items – such as critical medications, wallets or keys – receive special care. “We try to be proactive,” Matt said. “We want to reunite people with their stuff.”

No item too small
Obviously, checking your seat before getting off of a bus is the best way to prevent loss, but if you think you left something behind, Matt says to call the RideStore immediately. “It doesn’t matter if the item is small or has no value; if you lost it on a bus, call us. Chances are that we have it.”

If you leave an item on a Community Transit bus (or Snohomish County Sound Transit bus), call the RideStore at (425) 348-2350, or email

Friday, August 25, 2017

What is Fare Simplification, and Why Now?

Moving toward “One Bus, One Fare”

Community Transit is proposing a fare policy change as part of an effort to simplify the regional fare structure for customers. The proposal would eliminate fare zones, resulting in each bus route having one fare.

The proposal is part of a regional agreement for the Next Generation ORCA project. ORCA is the regional fare system that allows riders to pay their fare on multiple Puget Sound transit agencies using one smartcard. The current ORCA system is reaching its end of life, so development is underway on the next generation of ORCA.

Before ORCA was launched in 2009, there were more than 300 regional fare options. ORCA streamlined those to 85. One goal with Next Generation ORCA is to further simplify the regional fare structure, as well as offer new ways to pay your fare.

For Community Transit riders, this proposal means there would be only one fare option on the bus you board. Local buses have always had only one fare option. However, riders now boarding commuter buses have two fare options.

People now boarding any commuter bus can request to pay local fare if they are only traveling within Snohomish County. Also, people now boarding a north county commuter bus in Lynnwood can request to pay a south county fare going to Seattle.

Under the proposed policy change, those options would go away. Simply put, this means “one bus, one fare.” The bus you board has only one fare.

Systemwide, about two percent of Community Transit riders now request a lower fare on commuter buses. Those riders would have the same choice of buses available, but the decision they might face is whether they want to pay a higher fare in order to catch the next bus going their direction.

Regionally, fare simplification makes it easier for new and existing riders to know exactly what fare is required on each bus. King County Metro has announced its plan to move toward a flat fare, eliminating both zone and peak/non-peak fares.

Why now?
The fare simplification policy is proposed to go into effect region-wide in mid-2018, although Next Generation ORCA will not go live for several years. This was a regional decision as agencies are hoping to simplify their fare structures sooner, rather than having large-scale changes when the ORCA system switches over.

Public comment is being accepted on Community Transit’s proposed policy change through September 11. Information about how to comment, and the actual policy is available at

What’s next?
Fare simplification is one change coming to Community Transit. Over the next few years, the Swift bus rapid transit network will be built out, offering more frequent buses and easier connections throughout the county.

Other route changes will take place to connect with Link Light Rail, which is now scheduled to start serving Snohomish County in 2024. At that time, Community Transit plans to stop serving downtown Seattle and UW as Link will offer a quicker commute.

Community Transit is updating its 20-year Long Range Transit Plan this coming year; you can review the current 20-year plan at

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Expanded Service Makes It Easier To Try Transit

Dump the Pump Day is June 15

Thursday, June 15 is the 12th annual National Dump the Pump Day. This was an event created back in 2005 when gas prices were very volatile, even approaching $5 a gallon in some parts of the country.

Community Transit has participated every year, encouraging Snohomish County residents to leave their cars behind and try using transit on this day. That was a hard sell for us after 2010 when service was cut.

For several years as our service hours dwindled, our buses were overcrowded and schedule performance was spotty following massive layoffs at our company.

This year, we take pride in inviting everyone to try transit! Thanks to county residents, our service is expanding. Last year we added two new core routes connecting Ash Way with Mill Creek and Snohomish, and Lake Stevens with Marysville and Quil Ceda.

This fall we’ll be adding a new route between Lynnwood Transit Center and Boeing, and extending Route 105 during peak hours to establish service on the future Swift Green Line corridor.

We haven’t just created new routes, we’ve been adding more trips. New Sunday trips, new late-night trips and new Seattle/UW trips are coming in September. Even more opportunities to dump the pump.

Why transit? It can save you time, headaches and money. It takes more vehicles off the road, easing traffic. It’s good for the environment and the air we all breathe.

And, it’s a whole different perspective walking our sidewalks and watching the traffic go by from a second-deck window on our Double Tall buses. Try it and let us know what you think!