Friday, December 3, 2010

The Future of Swift

By June DeVoll
Community Transit Swift Project Manager

One of the benefits of bus rapid transit is the ability to incrementally add to the service to improve it. While Swift is already performing extremely well, there are additional upgrades underway to help ensure speed and reliability.

Additional Everett Stations
In the original partnership agreement between Community Transit and Everett Transit, Everett Transit agreed to fund the construction of all stations within city limits. In 2008, four of the originally identified stations were deferred to a later date to manage the overall project cost for Everett Transit. Everett Transit was subsequently successful in obtaining a State Regional Mobility Grant to build the remaining stations.

The four stations are now underway at Madison (northbound) Pecks (southbound) and 112th Street. Two of the stations are substantially complete, but still need all electronic equipment activated and commissioned. Current projections will have all four stations opened within the first quarter of 2011.

Traffic Signal Priority
Currently, traffic signal priority (TSP) exists on the southern 10.5 miles of the 16.7 mile route. The City of Everett is continuing with their project to install TSP at all intersections within the city limits, but progress has been slow. The city controllers are over 30 years old and are incapable of prioritizing the signal. When activated in the current configuration, the Swift emitters allow signal pre-emption and hold the lights green for Swift coaches (more like the immediate priority given to emergency vehicles than the slightly extended green lights intended for transit).

The city has had many changes on this project, but the current timeline includes possible installation of new equipment by summer 2011. The additional TSP will give Swift coaches priority through the entire corridor and help reduce travel time even more.

Queue Jump at 148th Street
The Swift corridor includes 6.5 miles of "Business Access and Transit" lanes in the southern portion of the route on Highway 99, which give the coaches a priority in the curb lane. However, where the lane ends at 148th Avenue, the coaches must proceed north through the intersection and then merge into the general purpose traffic. Often, coaches get trapped waiting for a safe gap. A “queue jump” signal would give Swift a green light before the general purpose lanes, allowing buses to merge safely. A federal grant was obtained this summer and discussions are underway with the Washington State Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction on the traffic signal. It is estimated the queue jump could be in place by summer 2011.

Advanced Technology
When Community Transit's Advanced Public Transportation Systems (APTS) project comes to fruition, it will have many beneficial impacts on Swift.

With the Automatic Vehicle Locators (AVL), dispatchers will have a real time display of coaches to help manage the “headway performance,” keeping buses consistently 10 minutes apart on weekdays.

With the Automatic Passenger Counters (APC), accurate and reliable passenger counts will be available at all times. APC’s will give robust passenger data about where and when customers board Swift, usage by trip and by time of day, and deboarding locations also.

The Automatic Annunciation System will perhaps be one of the first items that passengers notice. The coaches will automatically announce all stops as they approach the station. Coach operators do this manually now, but the sound quality is not as good as we’d like because buses were design for the automated system.

The Real Time Passenger Information signs will be installed at each station and will show customers precisely when the next coach will arrive – thus reducing stress and worry about catching a bus.


  1. Thanks for the update! Once AVL is installed with CT be able to fully participate in One Bus Away?

  2. Yes, it would be great to get OBA as a platform rather than CT building out an entirely different web interface.

  3. Exciting news! Wonder if the number of buses needed might be reduced

  4. The AVL technology for this project is based on GPS. Right now, Community Transit does not have GPS on its buses. When we have that technology, not only will dispatchers have the ability to better control bus movement based on real-time information, but the agency will make that real-time information available to customers.

    One Bus Away is a simple way for customers to access that information, and will be valuable to riders who transfer between systems. Community Transit also will have a feature through its website for riders to access real-time information as buses approach a given stop.

    More details about how this technology will be available will come as we get closer to implementation, which is expected in 2012.