Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Meet Jesse, Travel Training Program Graduate

Travel Training: Fostering Independence for People with Special Needs

Travel Training Graduate from Community Transit on Vimeo.

Becoming independent is an exciting time for young adults. For young adults with special needs, though, this time can also be a little bit scary.

Jesse, who is 22 years old, was worried about how to get to and from his job at Lowe's. Normally a paratransit rider, Jesse was limited to the less flexible schedule that DART buses provide. His vocational coach surprised him by suggesting he train how to take the bus. A few phone calls later and Community Transit was able to connect Jesse with Christine, one of the travel trainers.

"The first time I was really nervous going by myself. I was quite confused and worried am I taking the wrong bus and have to be late to work?" Luckily it only took two travel training sessions with Christine to feel comfortable. "The second time I knew where to go so it feels good."

Christine taught Jesse how to plan his route, how to determine his stop, and when to pull the cord to exit at the correct stop. She also taught him how to purchase and use an ORCA card which provides a reduced fare for people with disabilities. It's easy for Jesse to add more value to the card when he needs to.

Jesse's mother doesn't know how to drive, and so occasionally Jesse will accompany her on errands, like going to the dentist. But for his day-to-day life, Jesse is happy to just take the bus to work and home again, and he encourages others with disabilities to give our travel training program a try. "I recommend this to other disability people, so if they can't drive they can watch this story."

We are as proud of you, Jesse, as you are of yourself! Congratulations on taking important steps in your independence.

Do you know someone with special needs who would benefit from our Travel Training program? Visit or call (425) 348-2379.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Check Out the New Swift Buses!
Two in Service This Month, More Coming Soon

Two new Swift buses are entering service this month to support the 20 percent expansion of Blue Line weekday service, and 16 more will be added in the months leading up to the launch of Swift Green Line.

A little different: flatter front, USB ports, all-diesel engine

Long-time riders of Swift will notice a few differences between the original buses and the new Xcelsior model buses (New Flyer no longer manufacturers the original model).

The exterior of the new buses have a flatter front, making them almost two feet shorter. This means that the three passenger doors may not be perfectly centered with the welcome mats when the bus stops at a Swift station – but most people probably won’t notice the difference.

In the interior, the bike racks and wheelchair passive restraint systems are the same, but passenger seats are arranged in a slightly different configuration... and each seat has a USB port!

Individual USB ports are a feature that will be included on all new buses from now on, including Double Talls.

Finally, while the original Swift buses have hybrid diesel-electric engines, the new buses run solely on the biodiesel blend that the agency uses.

Diesel: cheaper to buy, cheaper to maintain, kind to the air

The decision to move away from the hybrid buses for Swift is a result of a years-long study conducted by Community Transit that directly compared buses with hybrid engines to buses with diesel engines.

In 2011, Community Transit purchased 24 new New Flyer buses, 15 with all-diesel engines and nine of the same model with diesel-electric hybrid engines. The 24 buses were deployed onto the same local routes, where hybrids could be expected to perform most efficiently because of the more frequent stops and starts.

The study found that diesel engines emit as few particulates into the air as hybrids do – and are much less expensive to maintain.

"Hybrids cost more to purchase and more to maintain, far outweighing their fuel savings," said Ken Bailey, manager of Community Transit’s vehicle maintenance division. "Fortunately, from an emissions standpoint, modern diesel buses are as clean as hybrid buses."

Community Transit is also looking at the future of electric buses. At this point, the current technology can't meet the agency's need for buses to travel at least 250 miles per day on one charge, but other agencies in the region are trying them out. In fact, King County Metro is the largest electric bus test market in the country, and Community Transit is paying close attention.

"When the technology advances enough to make sense for us to run electric buses," said Bailey, "we will."

New buses will be used on all Swift lines

Swift buses will be used interchangeably between lines, so after the Green Line launches both Blue Line and Green Line riders will have a chance of getting on a new bus.

Another 15 buses will be purchased around 2023 to replace the original Swift fleet, which went into service in 2009. An unspecified number more Swift buses will be purchased around the same time to support the opening of the Orange Line between Mill Creek and Lynnwood and the extension of the Blue Line to 185th Street, both planned to occur when Link light rail comes to Lynnwood in 2024.

What do you like best about the new buses? Have you ridden on one yet? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Meet Emma, Transit Instruction Program Graduate

Transit Instruction: Fostering Independence for People with Special Needs

Transit Instruction Program Graduate from Community Transit on Vimeo.

It takes guts to try something new and stretch past your comfort zone. We could all take a lesson from Emma, whose bravery and bright personality helped her overcome her anxiety of traveling alone, and opened new doors to independence and freedom.

23 year old Emma used to depend on her mother to drive her where she needed to go. But when her mom started a new job and wasn't available to drive her any longer, she looked into programs that would help Emma learn how to take the bus. She called our Transit Instruction Program, where our travel trainers provide personalized instruction to build knowledge and confidence.

First on the agenda? Helping Emma learn how to get to her part-time job at a co-op in Marysville where she sweeps floors, organizes, and enjoys the dogs that are allowed to come in the store while their owners shop. "It didn't take very long to learn how to ride the bus, but it did take a while to be confident and do it by myself. I don't normally like new things. I was worried I would get off at the wrong stop."

After riding with her travel trainer, Christine, several times, Emma's mom helped her decide that she had everything she needed to be successful to ride on her own. Christine followed her the first time, and since then Emma has been on her own. "It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I like being able to go places. I do have to tell my mom so she doesn't get worried. I like being able to do things by myself."

Emma now uses Route 202 to get to work, to the bank to cash her checks, to the library for books, and to the grocery store where she picks up supplies for baking (she jokes about her sweet tooth). When asked where she might like to go by bus someday, she eagerly suggested a museum. Another adventure to plan with Christine.

"I feel like it's a good program because I feel like it would help a lot of people that wouldn't otherwise be able to do what I've done."

Congratulations, Emma! We are inspired by your story and can't wait to see what adventures you discover next.

Do you know someone with special needs who would benefit from our Transit Instruction Program? Visit or call (425) 348-2379.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Community Transit Employee Spotlight

Bus Driver Ray Harnisch: Going the Extra 3,000,000 Miles

Service to Community

Ray Harnisch has been driving buses for Community Transit for 21 years, and one of his favorite parts of the job is working with children.

He’s not a school bus driver, but he’s met thousands of kids through the agency’s School Transit Education Program (STEP). His blue eyes sparkle like an excited grandpa when he talks with the kids about buses, sitting comfortably and asking them as many questions as they’re asking him.

When Ray is on the road, some of his favorite moments are when young children wave at him.

Ray Harnisch On What Makes Driving a Bus Fun from Community Transit on Vimeo.

“I wave back at them,” he said. “I want them to know, when they get older and can ride our buses, that bus drivers are friendly. We’re there to help.”

Many of those kids eventually become riders on his bus, and he remembers them.

“I’ve watched them grow up, until they’re busing to college and their jobs,” he said. “I’m part of their world, their community.”

Service to Safety

In addition to driving a regular route, driving for STEP and mentoring other drivers, Ray has served on accident review committees, the service planning input team and on Community Transit’s Safety Committee, which he often chaired.

Ray’s attention to safety recently earned him a Three Million Mile Award for safe driving – that’s 3,000,000 miles of safe driving in stop-and-go traffic, day in and day out.

For perspective, that’s the equivalent of 120 trips around the world or more than six trips to the moon and back, without a preventable accident. The average American driver would need 225 years to drive that far!

Ray credits his amazing safety record to support from his co-workers.

“I didn’t do this by myself,” he said. “There’s a big team that makes it possible.” He attributes his accomplishment to excellent bus maintenance, supportive supervisors and dispatchers, and constantly updated training.

An award ceremony for Ray was attended by dozens of his co-workers. Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath thanked him for his service to the citizens of Snohomish County and to the agency, then presented him with a jacket, plaque, certificate and pin, all personalized with a special black and gold "Three Million Mile" logo.

Three Million Mile Driver Highlights from Community Transit on Vimeo.

Ray's photo will be featured on the sides of 10 Community Transit buses for the rest of 2018 to celebrate his accomplishment.

Thank you, Ray, for going the extra 3,000,000 miles!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Bringing You Home with Bikes and Buses: Real People. Real Stories.

Kelvin shares his story on the benefits of combining bikes and buses on his commute.

Bringing You Home with Bikes and Buses from Community Transit on Vimeo.

Do you want to commute by bus, but think that getting to and from the bus is just too much trouble? We get it. That first or last mile of the commute is always the hardest part of the trip to figure out. Instead of being dependent on your car, and being stuck in traffic, think beyond four wheels.

Remember how much fun it was to ride a bike as a kid? It's still fun! Adding a bike to your trip can make all the difference to having a commute you enjoy, without having to sacrifice your independence or flexibility. Meet Kelvin, who has found that combining bikes and buses shortens his commute and keeps his body healthy.

Kelvin used to commute exclusively by bike for many years from his home in Edmonds to his job at Edmonds Community College. A move to Stanwood several years ago transformed his commute into one that is truly multimodal. Each morning Kelvin drives his car to Stanwood Park & Ride and takes Route 422 to Lynnwood Park & Ride where he keeps his bike in a secure bike locker. From there he bikes to the college. Kelvin says by combining bikes and buses, he saves a significant amount of time, "In the morning it's about a 45 minute commute, a little longer heading home. If I was driving it would be an hour in the morning, and probably closer to two hours at night."

Wondering how Kelvin gets around if he needs to attend a meeting or run an errand? Why by bike and bus, of course! Only this time, he uses Swift Bus Rapid Transit. "If I have a meeting in Mukilteo, I can take the Swift bus up to Lincoln Station and from Lincoln Station hop on my bike and ride pretty quickly down Mukilteo Speedway. It's a very effective and efficient ride." Kelvin loves the innovative bike racks on the Swift, too, "You just roll the front wheel up this ramp and there's a shock absorber holder that comes down on the top of the wheel and it automatically locks it in place as you roll your front tire up the rack. They are quick and easy to use."

Using a bike locker means you won't have to worry about the bike racks being full. Kelvin says, "Community Transit has these beautiful, stainless steel lockers, they're very secure, it puts your bike out of the weather, it gives you a place to store your wet rain gear, your helmet and stuff that you need daily. Lockers are $60 a year which is very reasonable and it guarantees you a place to safely store your bike on a daily basis and that's given me flexibility."

Combining bikes and buses gives Kelvin 20 minutes of a great workout each day, without having to hit the gym, "I got into biking because I felt motivated to get healthier and wanted a little more exercise and biking is great exercise from the standpoint of cardio and just building energy, strength, and endurance. Incorporating it into the commute is a way of getting that daily without extending a day. I love having that as part of my commute."

Let us help make your commute happier and healthier by bringing you home with bikes and buses. For resources on how to use our bike racks, how to secure a bike locker, and trail maps of the area, visit

What part of your commute is holding you back? Are you excited to see if a bike may be the ticket to fun and flexibility?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Transit Instruction: Fostering Independence for People with Special Needs

Meet Kevin: Program Graduate

Transit Instruction Program Graduate from Community Transit on Vimeo.

Kevin turned 16 and decided to get in his father's car and drive. Trouble was, he didn't have a driver's license. He may never have one. Kevin is autistic. He is also fiercely independent. He just needed the tools to manifest this independence. Thankfully, his family found just the thing - Community Transit's Transit Instruction Program, which provided one-on-one training individualized for Kevin's needs.

After the driving attempt scare, Kevin's family realized that their son was determined to go out into the community on his own. Kevin's mother, Wendy, said, "He's not going to take no for an answer. He wants to go places on his own and do things on his own. We needed him to be successful in knowing how to do that and being safe while doing it."

Thankfully, Wendy had heard about our Transit Instruction Program and realized that now was the time to find out more. She shared how Kevin's teacher at Lynnwood High School encouraged her to give us a call, "I found a random number for Community Transit and said, 'My son's teacher said someone can teach special needs kids how to ride the bus; how do I find out about that?'" Wendy and her husband were so surprised this program existed, and that it would be free. We put her in touch with our program director and soon Kevin was on the road.

Kevin's family was excited, but also nervous. They realized that Kevin needed to learn more than just the logistics of riding the bus, he also needed to learn how to be safe. Wendy explained that her son if very trusting, has limited communication skills, and is quick to answer people in the affirmative. She was worried people would take advantage of this, "I knew he would be fine knowing where he was, but knowing how to interact with the community while he was by himself made me nervous. It was a really big obstacle for me, and she (Kevin's instructor, Christine) did a really good job of addressing that and holding on to him until she felt that he could deal with it and she gave him a lot of role playing type situations."

Like many nervous moms would do, Wendy followed the bus the first time Kevin went out on his own. He did great! "It hit me, he's okay. He had become capable with it and didn't need my help." Not only is she proud, Kevin is proud, too. The first time he went on the bus alone he went to the church where his father is an assistant pastor. As soon as he saw his dad, he exclaimed, "I did it MYSELF. I can now have my independence." Since then Kevin enjoys going to restaurants (Panda Express is his favorite), Half Priced Books, and the Lynnwood Pool. He has memorized the Bus Plus book, and knows all the stops for Routes 120 and 112.

Wendy knows as he matures, this independence will serve him well, and Community Transit will be part of his life as an adult, "As he becomes employed later to get to work, to get to and from by himself, and just the independence, the self-sufficiency to be able to do what he wants to do." His older sister, who also has special needs, has seen the independence Kevin has gained and how he can go places on his own without having to ask a parent. A little sibling rivalry was all it took for her to find the motivation to gain her own independence. She has just started the Transit Instruction Program herself!

Do you know someone with special needs who would benefit from our Transit Instruction Program? Visit or call (425) 348-2379.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Bringing You Home With Vanpool: Real People, Real Stories.

Shawn shares his story on the benefits of being a Vanpool rider

Bringing You Home with Vanpool from Community Transit on Vimeo.

You've seen them, the Community Transit vanpool vans, whizzing by you in the carpool lane. If you dread your commute each day, riding in a vanpool may be just the ticket for transforming your commute into one you actually enjoy. Meet Shawn, who joined his first vanpool ten years ago, relying on the service through graduate school and his professional life.

A vanpool is a group of 5-15 riders who commute to the same work place. Each vanpool van sets its own schedule and route. Fares are based on the size of the van and the daily mileage, and cover all gas, maintenance and insurance. Shawn's van seats 12 riders, though 15 riders take advantage of the service and rotate seats. By riding a van, not only are commuters saving money, they're saving space on the highway, which means saving the environment. Shawn says, "There are the obvious cost benefits, and avoiding the wear and tear on your own vehicle. And then there's the other benefit of doing something good for the environment, knowing that there's not 12 cars on the road and instead you're all combining into one."

Each day Shawn's round trip to and from work is about 50 miles and takes about 40 minutes. That's 40 minutes to carve out a little time in a busy life. How does Shawn spend his time? Reading, working, and, yes, napping. "Sometimes you get to take a nap. That's always a great thing, especially if you didn't get a good night's sleep. I have a little child and sometimes my sleep's not the best and you can catch up."

When you're not getting a little shut eye or catching up on work emails, you might be surprised at how commuting with coworkers helps you feel more connected to your community. "You get to meet a lot of people, people that you wouldn't normally have a conversation with. When I was going to school I found a lot of people that joined the van I then ran into in class. It helps make things feel a little bit smaller being in a big city like Seattle."

Shawn also enjoys the benefits of transit outside of work hours. "Occasionally I'll take the bus downtown. The price of parking has gotten pretty high. If there's a Mariners game it's anywhere from $30 - $40, and if you can take the bus you don't have to worry about that." Shawn and his wife also take their young child on bus outings, "When you don't have to worry about driving, you can all just be present with each other."

Let us make it easy for you to get to work and bring you home with Vanpool. Our Community Transit Vanpool Program coordinators provide support for group formation, driver orientation, vehicle maintenance and rider recruitment. In other words, when you're ready to take advantage of our vanpool program, they'll work hard to make it happen.

If you could get out from behind the wheel on your commute, what would you do with your free time?