Wednesday, September 29, 2010

CEO Joyce Eleanor Testifies in D.C.

An exciting day for Community Transit!

CEO Joyce Eleanor this morning testified before the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in Washington, D.C. She discussed how Community Transit has spent the $17.5 million it received last year in federal stimulus funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

Joyce was one of two transit agency representatives on a panel that included an electrician from bus manufacturer New Flyer of America, the director of Baltimore's public works department and a construction worker from Columbus, Indiana.

She described the four Community Transit projects funded by the ARRA federal stimulus money:
Bus replacement - 23 double decker bus purchases, $10.7 million
Operations and preventative maintenance funding, $3.3 million
Bus replacement - hybrid bus cost differential, $3 million
Mountlake Terrace Transit Center parking lot redevelopment, $425,000

Joyce was introduced by U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Larsen was a member of the Community Transit Board of Directors when he was a Snohomish County Councilmember.

Joyce was asked by Committee Chair Rep. Jim Oberstar about the flexibility for transit agencies to use some federal funding for operations, not just capital. Joyce replied that flexibility is good but agencies still need capital funding to replace aging vehicles and facilities. More funding overall is needed, especially during these tough economic times.

See Joyce's testimony here. (Joyce starts about 1 hour and 15 minutes in.)
Read Joyce's testimony here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CEO To Testify Before Congressional Committee

Community Transit CEO Joyce Eleanor has been invited to testify tomorrow morning (Sept. 29) before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in Washington, D.C.

Because Community Transit received federal stimulus funds last year, Joyce will be giving the Committee an update on our use of those funds. This is a rare opportunity for Joyce to address this important funding committee.

The hearing will be webcast live at

In 2009, Community Transit received $17.5 million in federal stimulus funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

$10.7 million was spent on the purchase of 23 replacement buses, which will be put into service near the end of 2010. The buses ordered are double decker buses that will go into commuter service to downtown Seattle.

$3.3 million was used for operations and preventative maintenance, which is allowed under the flexible funding formula. This helped prevent service cuts in 2009, rather than June of this year.

$3 million was used to pay the difference between hybrid buses and standard diesel for a 24-bus replacement order placed this year. This TIGGER grant will allow Community Transit to put 15 hybrid buses into local service in 2011.

$425,000 was used for redevelopment of the upper parking lot at the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center. This project was completed last month.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Personal Assistance Helps Curb Congestion

By Wendy Scholtz, Curb the Congestion Specialist

“How long would it take me to get to work by bus?”
“What’s a vanpool?”
“I’m thinking about biking when the weather’s good. How can I cross I-5?”

These are typical questions I receive as the Curb the Congestion Specialist at Community Transit.

The Curb the Congestion program is a partnership between Community Transit and Snohomish County to reduce traffic on certain congested roads: 164th Street (Lynnwood-Mill Creek), 128th Street (S. Everett-Silver Firs) and 20th Street (near Lake Stevens). The program offers personalized information and other tools to help participants make more trips by bus, carpool, vanpool, bicycling or walking instead of driving alone. Incentive prizes help motivate people to change their daily travel habits. The program is funded by Snohomish County through grants and development fees.

Over the years, I’ve been a daily bus rider, vanpooler, carpooler, bicycle commuter and walker. I’ve even been known to drive alone now and then. I love having transportation options and helping others learn about theirs. People often have opportunities they don’t know about, like a neighbor who wants to carpool or a convenient bus route. Or they may assume these options are difficult or time-consuming.

Providing personalized assistance is one of the best parts of my job. I don’t ask people to abandon driving alone altogether, but I can help them think about using a smarter mode on certain trips. With small changes, their trip to work or shopping just might become more enjoyable and affordable. And we all benefit from more efficient use of our county’s transportation system, cleaner air and less traffic congestion.

James McGavin’s story is a great example of how the program works. A physical therapist, James rides Community Transit Route 412 to a First Hill clinic in Seattle. In April, he learned that he would begin working two days a week at a Northgate clinic. James registered for Curb the Congestion and asked for help planning his commute to Northgate.

First, we examined his bus options. Since there wasn’t a direct bus, I put him in touch with vanpool groups traveling to Northgate. I also helped him use to find a carpool partner. The carpool works great. “We save at least half an hour each way using the HOV lanes,” he says.

James logs all his smarter trips on his online Curb the Congestion calendar. In July, he won the $1,000 quarterly incentive prize.

If you travel 164th Street, 128th Street or 20th Street, learn more and sign up at

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

OneBus Away Posts Community Transit Data

Kudos to the folks at OneBusAway for doing both the leg-work and head-work to procure and convert Community Transit schedule data for use in their online transit applications. While the same schedule data is available on our own website, OneBusAway has many mobile-friendly apps.

Their web-based schedule-finder makes it easy to find stops and their schedules using a Google map. Zoom in close to see all the stops in an area and select for schedule info. Here's what a co-worker had to say bout the Android app: " I have just been scrolling around the beautiful map, touching different stops and looking at available routes, 'starring' my favorite stops and routes, etc. looks great! i am even more psyched we are on there now, and i see why everyone loves it."

I did have some trouble accessing stop-based schedules using my phone or text message. Each transit agency has its own set of stop ID numbers. OneBusAway has a zip code feature to help sort out which area you are traveling in and thus which agency’s stop information you want. Apparently, I had improperly or never set my "default location," and the system thought I was in California. When I reset my location and entered a Community Transit stop # (find yours by route on Community Transit's website or posted on the bus stop itself), I heard just how many minutes until each bus route was scheduled to arrive at that stop.

Snohomish County residents and travelers also can access Sound Transit and King County Metro Transit data at OneBusAway. In the case of data from King County, it is "real-time" based on GPS input from the buses as they travel their routes. Community Transit doesn't yet have that technology, so our data on OneBusAway is identical to what you see printed online and on paper, based on schedules, not actual arrivals.

While I'm talking about cool things other people have done to make transit information more accessible, see this map of all ORCA card retail and customer service locations. It's as up-to-date as the regional ORCA website (which is to say a little behind). For a current list of outlets in Snohomish County - without maps - see our web page.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Transit is Popular at Seattle Premium Outlets

Even though I live just across I-5 from the Seattle Premium Outlets, I’m not much of a shopper so I don’t go there very much. However, we did make a foray across the freeway on Labor Day afternoon.

Wow! The parking lot was so full, cars were parked in the aisles and it felt like Christmas-time, driving slowly to follow people with bags who might be pulling out of a real parking spot soon.

I started to understand why the Seattle Premium Outlets website does such a good job promoting public transportation, and why their link to the Community Transit site is so popular - we got 521 hits from them last month - the most of any non-transit website. I’m sure most of the web traffic is from out of town visitors trying to get around without a car. But I see now that smart locals might also leave their cars at home.

In June I met a woman from Hong Kong heading to the outlets from Seattle. Although it takes three buses to get to Tulalip from Seattle, she was happy enough with the service. She just wished she’d bought an ORCA card before she started her trip (the free transfers would have saved her $7 on the roundtrip, which more than covers the $5 fee to buy the card).

I wish every business and destination did as good a job promoting transit options as Seattle Premium Outlets. Let the places you go know that their online “directions” should do more than tell people how to drive and park there.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Community Transit CAN Support Food Banks

Staff from Volunteers of America and the Everett Food Bank stopped by the Community Transit board meeting last week to thank Community Transit employees for their commitment to helping others in hard times.

Every year Community Transit has an internal food drive in the summer time, when county food bank shelves are running low. This year’s drive raised the equivalent of 29,764.42 pounds of food – double what Volunteers of America had hoped for and more than last year’s drive at Community Transit.

Learn more about the Everett Food Bank and Volunteers of America services here.