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.***

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Swift celebrates 7th Anniversary with big future plans

Ribbon cutting on the first Swift line in 2009
If you’re anything like me you like things quick. Unfortunately, sometimes getting around Snohomish County is anything but quick. That all changed when the first Bus Rapid Transit system in our state came along. 

On November 30, 2009 Community Transit’s Swift line was born. Swift was built with 15 stations, in each direction, along Highway 99 plus terminals at Everett Station and Aurora Village. Improvements have been made over the years and the final stop on the line was completed last January near Edmonds Community College.

How has Swift stacked up compared to our other routes? Well I like to call it the Russell Wilson of bus systems - the leader. Swift carries about 5,500 riders each weekday and more than 1.7 million a yearWeekends average near 3,000 riders per day as well. One in six of all Community Transit riders travel on Swift. The ease of riders paying at the bus stop prior to boarding gives it the efficiency and appeal of light rail, delivered faster and at a fraction of the cost. 

Swift’s first line got a new name last August as we unveiled ‘Swift Blue Line’. And Swift is getting even better when the Swift Green Line comes online. Thanks to federal money, construction on the Swift Green Line will begin in 2017 and wrap up in late 2018. By early 2019, Swift Green Line will begin service and have 17 stations in each direction between Canyon Park in Bothell and the Boeing/Paine Field area.

To get the Swift Green line moving there are three things that need to happen:
·        - The Seaway Transit Center will be constructed as the Swift Green Line's northern terminal and will be located on Seaway Blvd. and 75th Street in Everett across from Boeing's main entrance. 
·       -  Addition of lanes near the 128th street and I-5 Bridge. Adding lanes on each side near the bridge will ease the congestion and get the bus through on time.
·        - Construction of 34 stations along the Swift Green Line route. 
Unveiling of Swift Green and Blue Line names in Aug. 2016
Snohomish County is continuing to grow, and with 65,000 jobs in the Boeing/Paine Field vicinity, and 25,000 jobs in the Canyon Park area, we need fast, frequent new bus service between the two areas and Swift Green Line gets that done.

More big plans are ahead with Swift as in 2023 Swift Orange Line will connect with Link Light Rail at Lynnwood Transit Center, covering those key east/west corridors. We know Snohomish County is a great place to live, work and play. We are glad that Swift is helping keep it that way. Happy seventh anniversary to Swift.

Some Swift riders joined in on the #mannequinchallenge earlier this month! Watch below:

***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.***

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Meet Devan Hogan: Community Transit Coach Operator

When every day is different, it certainly keeps the work day from getting boring! Rotating schedules, changing environments, and a wide range of vehicles and customer personalities have Coach Operator Devan Hogan looking forward to the unique challenges each day will bring.

Though Devan has been with Community Transit for less than two years, there have been opportunities where he has driven all of Snohomish County in the course of a week. "Going different places every day is fun. I get to see gorgeous sunrises and sunsets every day. New places and new faces makes it feel like I'm doing something new every day."

Devan stresses how important diversity training was when training to be a Coach Operator, "We learned to be sensitive to different kinds of people. One of the biggest things we deal with are different personalities every day, some of which can be difficult. We learn how to be patient and answer questions, and to respect that everyone is in a different stage in their life."

Different routes require different buses as well. "The length of a bus changes how it drives. While I've driven Swift and our articulated 60' buses, surprisingly it's the 40' buses are the most challenging to drive. They're harder to turn since the axles are further apart." Driving these challenging vehicles makes Devan feel like he can do anything, "It's a fun job. It's given me the confidence to feel that if I can drive any of those vehicles, what else can I drive? I'm thinking a motorcycle next."

Thank you, Devan, for being part of the Community Transit family and for reminding us that every day is an opportunity for embracing change and learning something new.

Do you value a work environment where every day is different? Share your comments below!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

"I'm Carlos. And I Ride It."

For 40 years we've been privileged to provide safe, reliable, and friendly service to Snohomish County. From our early years as a small bus company, we've grown to provide nearly 10 million passenger boardings each year across one of the fastest growing counties in the state. This milestone birthday is a perfect opportunity to give thanks to the people that make it possible to serve our community... our riders. People like Carlos, who rely on us each day to bring them home.

Having grown up in rural, central Washington, Carlos was new to transit when he moved to Lynnwood nearly a year ago. The daunting commute to downtown Seattle convinced him to give transit a try. "I hate to drive. Taking the bus is so much easier and convenient, and I don't have to worry about finding and paying for parking. I just walk a block to the corner to catch the 115 or 116 to the Ash Way Park & Ride where I transfer to the 415 express bus to downtown."

For Carlos, taking transit is about more than convenience. It's also a rare opportunity for a little 'me' time. "It's really pleasant to download a show and watch a little TV on the ride downtown. Even though it takes longer to get to work, I put on headphones and can just zone out for a little while. It's like meditation time and I really enjoy that."

Taking the bus also provides a change of scene, even when you take the same bus route each day, "You tend to see more around you on the bus, too. When you're driving you're paying attention just to the drivers around you. All of your focus is on being a defensive driver. But when you take the bus, you can look out the window and discover all sorts of shops and restaurants you just don't catch when you're driving."

Carlos doesn't just rely on Community Transit to get him to and from work. Being a one-car family means Carlos and his four young children regularly rely on transit to get groceries, go to the bank, run errands, and have fun. "It's not hard at all to navigate transit with kids. We go to the grocery store all the time and can manage three bags of groceries with the stroller. We also like to take the 115 or 116 to Alderwood Mall to run around. There are a couple of drivers that are really friendly and say hi to the kids and ask what we're up to that day."

Thank you, Carlos, for the responsibility you have entrusted in us to serve you, your family, and our community. We look forward to bringing you home for many more years to come.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"I'm Oxy Gene. And I Am the Defender of Truth, Justice and Really Clean Air."

The year was 1999 and Community Transit needed a hero. Not just any hero. A clean air-avenging superhero who would inspire the citizens of Snohomish County to fight pollution, one bus at a time. In flew Oxy Gene to the rescue, with a big purple cape and an even bigger smile.

Oxy Gene made his debut at the grand opening of the Ash Way Park & Ride. A bus wrapped with Oxy Gene's image on the side was covered with a tarp for a dramatic unveiling to various dignitaries. And what an impression he made! Oxy's first superhero costume didn't have the recognizable physique we've come to expect (those strapping muscles were modeled after Arnold Schwarzenegger and came a few years later), but the energy and enthusiasm behind his "Hello, good people!" greeting was there from the start. "I got the inspiration for my signature greeting from the 1975 Robert Redford movie, The Great Waldo Pepper, where Redford pulls up in an airplane, raises his goggles and says that line. It was perfectly delivered. I wanted to bring that fun, theatrical persona to my work as Oxy Gene."

Oxy Gene replaced Community Transit's "Rabbit" rapid transit mascot from the mid-1980s through the late 1990s. We realized we needed more than just a mascot to address the serious problem of pollution. We needed a superhero. "Oxy Gene is rare because I'm one of the only mascots that talks. I get to spread the word to kids of all ages on how taking transit really makes a difference in keeping our air clean. This works especially well at parades because we bring a bus with us. In the staging area, people can see the bus up close and ask questions. If the character didn't speak, the experience wouldn't be nearly as fun for them."

Did you know originally Oxy Gene was going to have an alter-ego? When we were brainstorming names for a new mascot, the name Oxy Gene was a play on the words oxygen and clean air. Originally Oxy Gene was going to have an alter-ego called Gene Green. Kind of like a mild-mannered Clark Kent type before he turns into Superman. Luckily it was decided the Oxy Gene name should stand alone. Because really, in the end it's all about that cape, those muscles, and pulverizing pollution with humor and heart.

Look for Oxy Gene spreading his mission to defend truth, justice and really clean air at parades and festivals throughout Snohomish County. And the next time you take a bus, you can feel good about being a clean air-avenger, like Oxy Gene. As he says, "There is only one thing that all of us share... it nourishes, it refreshes, please love it... IT'S AIR!"

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Community Transit Celebrates 40 Years of Service

Last week marked Community Transit's 40th anniversary, and what a week of connection, community, and celebration it was!

Customer Appreciation Day: On Tuesday, October 4th, we celebrated the agency's 40th anniversary by honoring the people that make it possible to serve our community, our riders. Over 70 employees greeted early morning commuters at 20 different locations throughout Snohomish County with commemorative candy bars as a special thank you to our riders.

Community Transit Celebrates 40 Years of Service from Community Transit on Vimeo.

Employee Appreciation Day: On Wednesday, October 5th, Community Transit executives and managers thanked employees throughout the workday and coffee carts with treats were provided for employees to gather and share their excitement for the big week. Shifts at the agency start at 4 a.m. and run through 1 a.m. "We have the hardest working employees in the business," says Community Transit's CEO, Emmett Heath. "From our drivers and mechanics to our supervisors, planners and payroll staff, they are the key to the great service we bring our customers every day."

Board Meeting with Guest of Honor, Governor Jay Inslee: On Thursday, October 6th, following a regular board of directors meeting, Governor Jay Inslee was our guest of honor at a 40th anniversary reception. Past and present board members were joined by local community leaders and Community Transit employees. The agency presented Inslee with a plaque commemorating his contributions to the agency's success as a congressman and governor. In addition, former State Senator Gary Nelson recalled the early days of the agency. Nelson wrote the legislation creating Community Transit and all state Public Transportation Benefit Areas (PTBAs), and also served as a Community Transit board member from 1995-2007. The agency’s first Executive Director, Vic Sood, was also on hand, as was 20-year CEO Joyce Eleanor.

Governor Inslee spoke of being a Community Transit advocate in his moving tribute, "It is easy to advocate for this organization that's kind of the Boeing and Microsoft of the transit world because it's as innovative in its space, its sector, as Boeing and Microsoft are in theirs. The double-decker buses, the new lines, the kind of customer satisfaction that you have achieved, it's remarkable. It's homegrown innovation. We're the most innovative state in the country and that's been shown right here with what you've been able to do with Community Transit. It has been a joy to work with you to enable that."

Governor Jay Inslee Guest of Honor at Community Transit’s 40th Anniversary from Community Transit on Vimeo.

We look forward to serving our community with dedication and innovation for forty more years. Says Emmet Heath, "This generation is building something that will benefit the next one. We are laying the foundation for those that will come in the future." Our route ahead will include a network of Swift Bus Rapid Transit lines and expanding our overall service to connect communities in new and exciting ways.