Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Happy 40th Vanniversary, Washington State!

Washington State 40th Vanniversary
Governor Jay Inslee declared July 2019 to be Vanpool Month, marking the 40th year of vanpool
programs in the state.

Washington’s vanpools were actually the USA’s first; 40 years later, Community Transit’s program includes the 11th largest vanpool fleet in the country. (See below for more interesting vanpool statistics.)

Our program began operations in 1986 with all groups going to Boeing.

A van from Community Transit's original vanpool fleet, 1986.
By 1992, we had 45 vanpool groups on the road.

Vans from various agencies gathered at the Key Arena for the statewide 20th Vanniversary, 1999.

Community Transit's 100th and 300th vanpool groups, dates unknown.

This February, we officially reached 400 vanpool groups, serving 2,835 people that average 48 round-trip miles per day.

A team of five Vanpool Fleet Coordinators work with the groups, processing payments, training drivers, and coordinating scheduled -- and unscheduled -- maintenance needs. The vans’ insurance, gasoline, and maintenance are all provided by Community Transit.

A Vanpool Fleet Coordinator checks in a van brought in for routine maintenance, July 2019.
Customer feedback is an important part of the vanpool program; customer input even helps to choose which new vans to purchase!

Insight being gathered from vanpool customers now will help decide how to best serve customers of the future. Commuting in and through Snohomish County will change significantly in the next 5-10 years and our Vanpool program will be there, continuing to help people get where they want to be.

Happy Vanniversary... here's to another 40 successful years!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Body Shop Lead Celebrates 40th Work Anniversary at Community Transit

 Gerry Martin reflects on 40 years working in transit

Community Transit began operations in 1976, 42 years ago. 2019 marks a milestone; On April 16, Community Transit celebrated body shop lead Gerry Martin as the first employee to achieve 40 years of service to the agency.

Originally from Winthrop, Washington, Martin left his hometown where he worked for the Forestry Service to come to western Washington. In 1979 he was hired to perform preventative maintenance on Community Transit buses.

Body shop lead Gerry Martin
Flash forward 40 years and now Martin is the lead of the agency body shop. Some of his duties include repairing buses, providing estimates for repairs and new bus preparation, including the installation of graphics. Martin has also been instrumental in the design and overall look of the agency buses over the years.

When Martin reflects on his time spent with the agency and what’s changed, he says that technology in the industry has changed quite a bit.

“Buses are so computerized, and along with that goes the technology of the technicians working on them and their knowledge,” said Martin.

But he’s not stuck in the past, he has a strong appreciation for new technology and the new batch of younger employees entering the industry. “They’re so technical. I love it,” said Martin.

While Martin takes pride when he sees an agency bus on the road, you might be surprised to learn what kept him around for 40 years has less to do with the actual work and more to do with the people he works with.

“After 40 years it’s a family,” Martin said. The one thing that he says hasn’t changed is the comradery. “It’s always been strong, it’s always been great.”

Martin says it’s the strong relationships with his team at Community Transit that kept him returning day after day, year after year.

Can you imagine working for the same agency for 40 years? What are the factors that would be most important in your decision to stay for decades?

Thursday, April 25, 2019

What's the Value of Public Transportation?

Today is National Get on Board Day to recognize the value of transit

Ask a bus or train rider why they choose that mode of travel and you’ll get many different answers. Cost savings. Convenience. Not having to deal with traffic or parking. Less stress for their commute.

Most major cities and even many rural ones have some form of public transportation. The value of that service is sometimes expressed as a lifeline for those with no other travel option, or a choice for people who simply don’t want to drive every day. Usually, it’s both.

In 2018, Community Transit provided 10.7 million trips on its buses, vanpools and DART paratransit vehicles. That’s more than 33,000 times a day someone had to get somewhere and chose Community Transit to get them there.

Because about 70 percent of our riders are “choice riders” who have access to a car but chose transit, we like to say that without our service, there would be another 23,000 cars on Snohomish County roads every day. Mitigating even worse traffic congestion is one of the values transit provides to everyone in our community.

Snohomish County is growing like crazy. More than 10,000 people a year are forecast to move here over the next 20 years. That’s the equivalent of a new city the size of Snohomish added each year!

This is the perfect time to add more transit as we want every one of those new residents to consider not adding another car to the day’s commute.

Thanks to voter approval of Proposition 1 in 2015, we are increasing transit service in the county. By 2022, Community Transit will have expanded its bus service by 40 percent over 2016 levels. This summer, we will be engaging the public on a how to redesign our bus service to integrate with Link light rail when it gets to Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood in 2024.

One key to that transit expansion is adding to our Swift bus rapid transit network. When the Swift Green Line launched a month ago, it quickly became the second most popular route in our system, behind the Swift Blue Line. Combined, those two routes carry more than 7,000 people a day.

There are downsides to this expansion – impacts from the construction of some projects, being stopped behind a bus as it boards passengers. If you’re stopped behind a bus for 20 seconds thinking about blowing your horn, consider this: 23,000 more cars on our roads every day, 10,000 more cars on I-5 every day, and 10,000 more cars added each year without transit. Even if you don't use the service, you are benefiting.

What do you value most about transit?

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Swift Green Line – At Your Service!

Swift Green Line launched Sunday, March 24. The Grand Opening and community celebration was a blast! It was an honor to meet community members that expressed excitement about Swift Green Line and to see riders boarding on the inaugural bus ride. This week, our goal is to maintain that community spirit by creating connections with riders and providing information about the new line.

Service Ambassadors
Service Ambassadors, from left: M.Rojas, N. Ludington, C. Peyton
Service Ambassadors are Community Transit crew-members that offer customer service, face-to-face while riding on buses and at Swift stations, in addition to checking fares. Often they can be seen assisting riders using ticket vending machines or ORCA readers and answering questions about bus connections. Additional ambassadors were hired to provide service across both Swift Blue and Green lines, increasing the crew from four ambassadors to eight. 

During this first week of service, ambassadors are actively looking for riders who are new to Swift and bus rapid transit systems in their goal to help minimize barriers and confusion that might go along with learning a new bus system.

Some of the ways Swift can differ from a regular bus line are:
  • Riders pay their fare prior to boarding the bus.
  • Riders can board at any of the Swift’s three doors.
  • Buses come more frequently: every 10 minutes on weekdays, and every 20 minutes during early mornings, nights and weekends.
      To learn more about how to ride Swift go to www.communitytransit.org/AboutSwift.

New signage at Swift Green Line station
Service Ambassadors aren’t the only agency employees greeting riders this week. There are also Swift Street Teams assisting customers along Swift Green Line route. Team members answer questions and provide information to riders while riding on the bus and visiting Swift stations. In addition, team members gather feedback from riders at key locations, such as where Swift Blue and Green Lines meet at Airport Road and Highway 99.

Blue & Green Connection
Newly installed Swift Blue and Green Line signage is visible on Swift station columns at the intersection of Airport Road and Highway 99, where the two lines connect. The signage clearly identifies each station as “Blue Line” or “Green Line” to eliminate any confusion that might be caused by having two Swift lines operating in the same area. 

Have you have noticed the new signage and if so, do you think it’s helpful? We want your feedback, please leave us a comment below.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Swift Green Line is matching early Blue Line ridership stats

It’s been said that the Swift Green Line will transform public transportation in Snohomish County. Well, it’s been three days… has it yet?

Very preliminary ridership numbers are in for the first three days of Swift Green Line service. After a surprisingly high half-day’s ridership on Sunday, boardings took a big leap forward to start the week. After that, they dipped slightly.

Swift Corner, where the Blue Line and Green Line connect
"Swift Corner," where Swift Blue and Green lines connect.
Bus counters show that the first three days of Swift Green Line service saw 1,218, 1,818 and 1,718 riders from Sunday through Tuesday (what’s with the 18s?). 

Sunday’s numbers were high for a half-day of service as many people attending the grand opening celebration boarded at the Dumas stations near McCollum Park to test out the new Green Line.

With about 1,800 boardings each of the first two weekdays, Swift Green Line ridership is matching the pace of Blue Line’s first week of service in late 2009. Blue Line ridership doubled in its first year as people learned how quick and easy it was to commute on a Swift bus.

At “Swift Corner” on Airport Road & Highway 99, where the Swift Blue and Green lines meet, many people are seen making that connection from one BRT route to the other. This morning, one woman got off a northbound Blue Line bus to connect to the northbound Green Line. She said she works at Paine Field and was ecstatic that this new connection saves her at least 10 minutes each way on her work commute.

Swift Green Line mapEarly statistics corroborate her journey.

The most popular destination points for the northbound Swift Green Line are Seaway Transit Center, Highway 99 and 100th Street (by Paine Field).

The most popular southbound destination points are Canyon Park PR, 4th Avenue (by Mariner PR) and Highway 99.

Word is just getting out about the Swift Green Line. So far, the numbers look good and the reviews are positive. Have you tried the Swift Green Line yet? What’s your experience?

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Green Line, Green Spaces

Now that Swift Green Line is operational, you may have noticed a "green" area behind the northbound station on 128th St. SE at 3rd Ave. SE.

A Swift Green Line bus pulls into the northbound station on 128th St. SE at 3rd Ave. SE, just in front of a Native Growth Protection Area and wetlands.
At first glance, it appears to be just a bunch of wild brush, but every leaf, stone, log, and blade of grass was actually placed there for a specific purpose. It's a Native Growth Protection Area (NGPA) that is intended to filter and clean water runoff from 128th St. before it joins the nearby wetlands to the east, and, eventually, North Creek.

Runoff from 128th St. comes into the area via street-level storm drains, filters through the vegetation and soil, and eventually seeps through holes in a pipe buried a few feet underground. It should be a slow process that often leaves the area damp and wetland-ish, but three years ago, the NGPA -- and the wetlands it drains into -- was drying up and dying.

Snohomish County, which is responsible for these areas, granted Community Transit special permission to rebuild the NGPA at its own expense in order to expedite the process and have the work complete in time for the opening of Swift Green Line.

The Native Growth Protection Area under construction in January 2018, before the Swift station was built.
After months of heavy construction to replace the underground stormwater drainpipe it was time to re-plant the area with native flora.

That's where Curtis LaPierre comes in. He's a senior landscape architect with Otak, the engineering firm contracted by Community Transit to rebuild the NGPA.

"We started from scratch to create a constructed biofiltration rain garden," Curtis said.

Landscape architect Curtis LaPierre reviewing design plans for the site.
Curtis and his team designed the area to slope like a natural swale (shallow ditch) then added layers of gravel, mulch and bioretention soil specially formulated to help clean the water before it enters the underground pipe.

Flood plants -- sedges, grasses and bulrushes -- were planted on the bottom of the swale. These native plants will thrive in the wet, marshy ground.

Sedges, grasses and bulrushes thrive in wet soil.
At strategic locations about midway up the swale wall, Curtis placed several logs, what landscape architects call "large woody debris."

"They function like natural shorelines," Curtis explained. "They will only occasionally be underwater -- perfect for amphibians and insects and the like."

Several strategically placed logs will become homes for frogs, insects and other damp-loving fauna.
The top of the slopes feature flowering shrubs like salmonberry and snowberry, and native trees like vine maple, hemlock and Douglas fir. They provide stability to the slope and, eventually, a visual screen to the residents of the condominiums on the other side.

The next time you're at the northbound Swift Green Line station on 128th St. SE at 3rd Ave. SE, take a peek at the rain garden. It's beautiful and functional, helping to clean stormwater runoff and protect nearby wetlands and streams -- all part of what makes Swift Green Line green.