Friday, November 30, 2012

Swift Stories -- An Ambassador's Perspective

By Will Bolzell, Swift Ambassador

It is hard to believe that Swift bus rapid transit has been running for three years. My name is Will Bolzell, and I have a truly unique perspective on this service. I am the only Community Transit employee to have driven Swift and also worked as a Swift Ambassador.

Just in case anyone is wondering what a Swift Ambassador is, let me explain. Swift is able to complete trips in much less time than a traditional bus. This is accomplished by having all riders pay their bus fare at the station before boarding, among other characteristics. Using this method, when a bus arrives at the station, passengers only need to board or deboard, allowing the bus much less time at each station.
Will Bolzell is one of three Swift Ambassadors.

Since each person isn’t paying right in front of the bus driver, there are some people who take advantage and board without paying. This is where the Swift Ambassador comes into play. It is our job to assist customers with riding the service and to verify fare payment. In cases where the passenger doesn’t have proper fare, it is the ambassador’s job to document the case and/or involve Snohomish County Sheriffs deputies for further disciplinary steps, when needed. That can include a $124 fine.

As you might imagine, I’ve seen and heard some things in my time aboard Swift. Because Swift is a quick service, sometimes people are in a rush and leave things behind. A few months ago while I was walking through the bus, I noticed that someone had left their wallet on the seat. I grabbed it and headed up to the driver’s area. I wanted everything about this situation to be on camera because the wallet was stuffed full of cash.
Not long after we arrived at the final stop, a car came tearing into the transit center and three people jumped out running straight for the bus. I knew exactly what they wanted, and the frantic look on all of their faces confirmed it. After having them identify the wallet, and checking the owner against the picture ID, I returned the wallet. The owner mentioned that this was their rent money, and they thought they had lost it. After many thanks and a few hugs, they went on their way. I’m just glad I was there to find it. The looks of joy and relief on their faces made my day.

Another time, I was aboard a Swift bus and as we arrived at the station, there was an obviously intoxicated young man standing on the edge of the curb with an arm extended out into the street, defiantly blocking the bus. The driver tried to pull up to the stop, but the guy wouldn’t move. I’ll speculate that he wasn’t expecting there to be two Sheriff’s deputies aboard the bus. The look on his face was priceless when the front door of the bus opened and a less than amused deputy grabbed him by the arm and placed him under arrest. It isn’t a good idea to be drunk in public, but it’s a worse idea to do so when you aren’t old enough to drink.

Probably the most important piece of information that I could give is: If you ride any of the public transportation systems in the area, get an ORCA card! It will save you time, money and stress! The two biggest benefits are a 2-hour transfer and it only takes a second to use, so no more missing the Swift bus while you pay your fare!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Three Years Already? That's Swift!

Three years ago this Friday, Nov. 30, 1,523 passengers boarded the Swift bus rapid transit line on its first full day of service. It was a sunny, sub-freezing day and Community Transit had volunteers at each station to help people ride the new buses. The biggest challenge was teaching people to pay before boarding.
To start a trend, Swift ridership grew 15 percent to 1,760 boardings the next day. It has been growing ever since.
Many riders use Swift for so many reasons,and to recognize that a new bus “wrap” will hit the streets in the coming weeks proclaiming “Last year, we moved over one million riders.” In 2011, Swift served 1,128,315 passengers, and we’re on target to serve even more this year.
Thanks to operating grants from the state and feds, and income from a partnership agreement with Everett Transit, Swift was launched at the height of the recession, just prior to the service cuts that were soon to come. Swift service was cut about 9 percent in 2010 with the loss of Sunday service, and cut another 19 percent in 2012 when daily frequencies went from 10 minutes to 12 minutes and late-night service was cut.
Still, Swift buses carry more people on each trip than ever, with just more than half of all passengers riding the servicein Everett. Because demand is still high and there are fewer buses (five per hour compared with six per hour pre-Feb. 2012), productivity on each bus has risen.
In September 2011, there were 28 passengers per hour on each Swift bus. That is the average of all buses operating from 5 a.m. to midnight. In September 2012 (most recent figures), there were 33.1 passengers per hour on each Swift bus,a productivity increase of 18 percent and enough people to push average weekday boardings to 4,004 passengers.
Several changes to Swift have taken place over these past three years. Four new stations opened in Everett in late 2010 and early 2011. Transit signal priority technology that gives Swift buses a longer green light was activated along the entire 17-mile corridor this past year. A queue jump transit signal now gives Swift buses a head start to get into general traffic lanes at northbound 148th Street.
And, our Transit Technologies project was launched on Swift buses in October 2012. Right now this involves automatic stop announcements and behind-the-scenes headway management, but this project will soon include next-bus signs at the stations, letting customers know how many minutes it will take for the next bus to arrive. It’s been three years since anyone danced about Swift, but there are still reasons to celebrate the state’s first and best bus rapid transit line.

Of course, a Swift anniversary is not complete without a poem from rider Margaret Elwood:

Swift service is now turning three.
Still my favorite bus to see–
It announces the stops
Next to large stores and shops.
(Please remember that fares are not free.)

One thing about Swift that I like:
It carries both me and my bike!
In sun, rain, or snow
It’s the best way to go
And it certainly saves me a hike.
Happy Anniversary, Swift!
You can see Margaret reading her Swiftfirst anniversary poem here

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New stops on 196th - finally!

Route 196 began serving two new stops on 196th Street at 48th Avenue in Lynnwood today. The stops are near the Fred Meyer complex and provide the closest connection between this route and Lynnwood Transit Center.

As previously discussed both here and in the Seattle Transit Blog, these bus stops were requested before Route 196 went into service last February. The City of Lynnwood was reluctant to allow new bus stops on 196th because of potential impacts to traffic whenever buses make stops. This street is one of the busiest in the county. The city has allowed these new stops on a temporary basis and will be monitoring their use and traffic impacts.

As part of the agreement with Lynnwood, the bus stop on westbound 196th at 50th Avenue has been removed. That was an orphan stop without an eastbound counterpart and had minimal activity. The new stops are less than a quarter-mile away and provide easier access to places riders really want to go.

It goes without saying that we are very pleased to be able to provide these stops for our customers who have waited patiently (and not-so-patiently) since last winter.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Technology Day!

New queue jump light on Highway 99 at 148th Street.
A lot is happening today for Community Transit bus service.

There is the closure of the 4th & Union bus stop in downtown Seattle, which will impact about 1,300 passengers a day - a quarter of all our downtown commuters. The new stop is just one block north, but some riders will have to make a decision whether to use that new stop at Westlake Park or one a few blocks south at 4th & Seneca. Either way, Metro's changes should ease up evening bus congestion on 4th Avenue.

Today, the remaining commuter buses out of our Kasch Park base turned on their new technology. This project started on Route 425 in mid-summer as new GPS-based equipment, as well as automatic passenger counters and announcements, went live.

For now, the biggest customer-facing features of this technology are the automatic announcements, by voice and electronic display. Our planners are already getting great new data from the passenger counters, and drivers and dispatchers love the new computerized communication system. Of course, the big news will be when all buses are outfitted and the real-time bus information is available. We'll continue to monitor this project through its rollout until we can introduce the real-time information.

In the next week or two, the University District routes (800's) will go live, then the remaining commuter routes (412, 424) in early 2013. Finally, the local routes will be rolled out in the spring.

Today also is a big day for Swift buses. The new queue jump light at 148th is being tested and should go live by this evening. This is where the northbound transit lane on Highway 99 ends, so buses have to merge into regular traffic just after the signal. It's a busy intersection, especially at peak times, so that merger can really slow down our rapid transit line. The queue jump - which may be the first in Snohomish County (I'm trying to get confirmation) - gives the Swift buses a few seconds head start before the regular light turns green.

This tool, which was in the original plan when Swift was launched in 2009, combined with the new headway management system technology, should really help Swift keep its 12-minute frequency.

Monday, October 22, 2012

2013 Proposed Budget Online

Community Transit's 2013 proposed budget is now online. A public hearing on this budget proposal will take place at 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1 at the Community Transit Board Room, 7100 Hardeson Rd. in Everett.

The budget proposal calls for a 2 percent increase in spending next year, although overall revenues may decline due to an anticipated reduction in federal funding. Changes to federal rules, as well as the fact that the agency operates fewer service hours could impact how much money comes back from D.C.

On the other hand, Community Transit has always been good at attracting competitive funding. Such is the case with two federal grants that will allow the agency to operate 30 additional commuter trips to Seattle each weekday, and about 9,000 new vanpool service hours. The vanpool grant paid for 20 new vanpool vans plus the cost of a new vanpool coordinator for two years.

Partly to operate those additional commuter trips, and partly to help maintain performance on current service, the agency will hire at least five coach operators. Three full-time drivers will be hired, and 2 to 4 part-time drivers will be hired.

The Board of Directors is expected to take action on the proposed budget at its Dec. 6 meeting.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bikes Add Flexibility to the Commute

By Roland Behee, Community Transit Strategic Planning Unit Manager

The option of taking my bike along on the bus really adds flexibility to my daily commute. 

I live about seven miles from work and commute by bicycle in late spring, summer and into early fall. As the weather turns cold and wet and daylight becomes scarce I often mix it up with a bike and bus commute. 

Living one mile from Community Transit's Swift line, I can bike from home to Swift in about five minutes. The on-board bike racks make it simple to board, sit down and enjoy a relaxing ride on a warm, dry bus. At the other end, I deboard Swift with my bike and, again, have about a one mile, five-minute ride to work.

What's really great about combining the bike with bus travel is flexibility, time savings and extended range. It's flexible because it allows me to take the bus in the morning if there is rain and yet I can bike all the way home in the evening if the weather clears. I save time because I can ride to the bus stop in five minutes whereas walking can take 15 minutes or more. 

I also appreciate the bus option when I don’t feel like biking the entire distance and just want to sit down for part of the trip. Having the bike along also gives me more options for running errands on the way home with easy access to my bank, the bakery and other destinations that would take longer to visit on foot.

In our area, it's really easy to incorporate a bike into your bus commute since every bus is equipped with racks on either the outside (regular buses) or interior (Swift). They are simple to use and instructions are readily available.

If you're like me, once you've taken a bike on the bus you will probably think of all kinds of new possibilities for travel.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Seattle Ride Free Area Going Away

King County Metro Transit has decided to eliminate the downtown ride free area on Sept. 29. The decision was really made by the King County Council as a concession to approve the two-year $20 car tab fee.

Either way, there are a few impacts for Community Transit riders.

Commuters who board Community Transit buses in downtown Seattle will pay on entry, which is how they pay everywhere else. This also means that riders must board at the front doors.

Having an ORCA card will make boarding faster; so far the vast majority of Community Transit's commuter riders have ORCA cards.

Lynnwood-bound riders who board north county Routes 421, 422 or 425 will need to let the driver know they are only going to Lynnwood before paying fare. This allows the driver to change the farebox from the default north county fare. Currently, this is done at the Lynnwood Transit Center as people deboard.

The upside to this change is that when commuters get to their destination they can just hop off the bus from any door! Also, there shouldn't be a lot of "free riders" taking their seats in downtown Seattle. Community Transit does not have a local fare in King County, so anyone boarding a bus downtown will have to pay a commuter fare.

The downside could be confusion the first few days after the change. There may also be longer waits for buses downtown as people take longer to board.

For information on how people can get around downtown, visit Metro's website.

Oct. 1 Service Changes

As happens twice a year, Community Transit's schedules will change on Monday, Oct. 1.

Planners have continued tweaking schedules after the massive February service network restructuring. They have looked to close layover gaps (when buses are stopped between trips) and add running time to some routes that have had trouble keeping on schedule. Because of this, many routes will see trip times changed a couple minutes earlier or later. Check the online schedule or Bus Plus books.

There also are a couple of routing changes being made that reflect either customer preference or things that really didn't work out. A few changes are being made this fall, while others have been proposed for Feb. 2013.

Routes 105 and 115 will no longer drive into the McCollum Park Park & Ride. Low ridership for these routes at that location, coupled with the time it takes to pull into and out of that lot make this a good change to improve on-time performance. Those riders wishing to travel along Bothell-Everett Highway can still catch Route 106, or they can simply catch Routes 105 or 115 along 128th Street.

Route 240 took extra time to travel north past the Stillaguamish Senior Center to serve three low-ridership stops. Now the route will end at the senior center. Those northern stops will continue to be served by Route 220, and are within short walking distance for people who don't want to wait for a connecting bus. Again, this change will save time to help keep Route 240 on schedule.

Route 280 was rerouted in Lake Stevens when a traffic roundabout project was under construction. After it was completed, it turned out that buses couldn't make the turns. So, the reroute up Hwy 9 to Lundeen Parkway is becoming permanent.

The other change this fall, elimination of the downtown Seattle Ride Free Area, is subject of another blog post.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fare Increase Proposed for February 2013

The Community Transit Board of Directors has proposed a fare increase that would take effect on Feb. 1, 2013. The proposal would raise fares by 25 cents on local bus service, 50 cents on south county commuter bus service and 75 cents on north/east county commuter bus service (Routes 421, 422, 424, 425 and 821).

DART paratransit fares would go up 25 cents and vanpool fares would increase 10-15 percent based on the vehicle.

The fare increase is intended to keep revenues in line with inflation; in other words to pay for existing service not new service. Local and DART fares were last increased in June 2010; commuter and vanpool fares were last increased in October 2008.

As a service agency, Community Transit must bring in as much revenue as it spends to operate service. In recent years the agency was spending more than it brought in as sales tax revenues took a nosedive. The result was two major service reductions totaling 37 percent of bus service and 206 employee layoffs.

To help prevent the agency from landing in the same predicament, a Six-Year Transit Development Plan approved in early 2011 called for regular fare increases every two years. This first fare increase was to have been implemented this fall, but CEO Joyce Eleanor chose to push back the proposal to Feb. 2013 to provide some relief to riders who have endured so many cuts.

Still, the fare increases are an important revenue tool to keep the agency afloat. In 2011, fares paid for 18.5 percent of the cost of operating the agency's service. If the proposal is approved, that rate would rise to 21 percent in 2013. In other words, even with the fare increase about 79 percent of the cost of each bus trip (on average - some trips cost more than others) are paid for by sales taxes and other revenue.

Finally, while the agency has no near-term plans to add bus service, there will be 30 commuter trips added in Feb. 2013 thanks to a federal CMAQ (Congestion Management and Air Quality) grant. Even the 20 percent local match for that grant is paid for - by a small new pot of transit money authorized by the state legislature this year.

Here's how you can comment on the fare proposal.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Taking the Bus to the Fair

The Evergreen State Fair starts on Aug. 23 and runs through Labor Day, Sept. 3.

Taking the bus is a fun and sometimes convenient way to get there, especially if you hate dealing with the parking situation. All Monroe routes serve the west gate entrance to the fair.

Bus service to the fair has changed over the years as the agency has cut back its bus service overall. Only a few years ago, Community Transit used to put extra buses on fair routes to handle the increased demand. People who typically never ride the bus often take the bus to the fair. Lower revenues put an end to the extra service; changes in regular service have also altered bus service to the fair.

This year, service for those coming west from Gold Bar and Sultan will involve a transfer at Chain Lake Road in the mid-days and on Saturdays. These riders will benefit from using an ORCA card with its two-hour transfer value.

People who have traditionally parked at the Snohomish Park & Ride to catch the bus to the fair will have to walk about two blocks out to Avenue D. That change, taking Routes 270 and 275 out of the park & ride, took place with the June 2010 service cuts.

Then, of course, there is no bus service on Sundays and major holidays, including Labor Day, the last, and often most crowded day of the fair. That was another cut from 2010, and one that particularly surprises irregular customers.

While the service cuts over the years were made with the entire bus network in mind, the fair takes place two weeks out of the year in one of the county's smaller cities. The good news is that Highway 2 has pretty good bus service - every 30 minutes in peak hours and hourly the rest of the day and Saturdays (from Everett) - and the special stop at the fair's entrance does provide a perk that bus riders have over drivers.

Either way you get to the fair, you're going to get stuck in traffic. At least on the bus you can relax and watch others honk their horns.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Proposed February 2013 Service Changes

Community Transit is now taking comment on proposed changes that would take effect in February 2013. The changes continue to adjust the service network that was restructured in February 2012, plus there are additional commuter trips thanks to federal and state funding.

Details of the proposal are on the Community Transit website. In a nutshell, Route 112 will serve the Lynnwood Transit Center, Route 417 will move off 44th Ave W and travel on I-5 to 196th Street, and Route 885 will be eliminated, with all three of those trips converted to Route 880.

Thanks to a federal CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) grant, and a new state transit fund, Community Transit will add 30 commuter trips between south Snohomish County and downtown Seattle and UW. The trips have not yet been determined, but they will be placed where passenger demand is highest, some in the a.m., some in the p.m. While the agency had not anticipated adding service because of the slow economic recovery, there is no local money being spent for these trips. The CMAQ grant is for three years; it is hoped that in that time sales tax revenues will have rebounded enough so this service can be funded by local revenue.

Public comment on these changes is being taken through Sept. 7. The Board of Directors will hold a public hearing on the proposal at 3 p.m. Sept. 6 at 7100 Hardeson Rd in Everett.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Interest in the Double Talls

British reporter Tim Deakin visited Community Transit this week to learn more about our Double Tall double decker buses.

Deakin is writing an article about bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis Limited's efforts to crack the U.S. market with its double deckers. Currently, The RTC of Southern Nevada has 150 double deckers that serve the Las Vegas area, and Community Transit has its fleet of 23 Double Talls. Several other U.S. transit agencies have either single buses, smaller fleets or demonstration double deckers in operation.

Deakin wanted to know how our drivers, mechanics and customers liked the buses, and was particularly interested in the build process for our buses. Community Transit's bus purchase, which was funded largely through the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (stimulus bill), was the first Buy America-compliant double decker order for ADL. That meant the buses, which have historically been built in Great Britain, had to be substantially built in the U.S. with American-made parts.

"We found there were some language barriers, even though we spoke the same language," said Strategic Planning and Grants Manager June DeVoll, who oversaw the bus purchase. "We could be using the same words, but they meant completely different things to us and them."

Despite the complexities and slight time delays involved in adapting a very British product and process to the American way, and the use of a new set of subcontractors from a different continent, the buses went into operation last year and have been a hit with our drivers, mechanics and, especially, our customers.

I explained to Deakin that when we had the one leased double decker from 2007-09, we created a web page to list the routes and times that bus was in operation because we got so many inqueries from people who wanted to ride that bus. We were resolved not to do that with the new fleet but, again, we were inundated with requests. Now, communications and dispatch staff collaborate to maintain a list of routes and times you can catch any of the 23 Double Tall buses.

Deakin is a freelance journalist based in London and says the article will appear in the trade magazine Buses sometime later this year.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Curious Case of Dump the Pump 2012

June 21 is National Dump the Pump Day, a rallying cry for transit agencies and advocates to use high gas prices as a way to get non-transit riders to consider taking the bus, train, ferry, etc.

The American Public Transportation Association conceived this day seven years ago and the catchy title, supported by grassroots activities across the country has helped to garner media attention every year. It is a great hook, especially since gas prices tend to rise at the beginning of summer.

Dump the Pump 2012 has presented some interesting concerns. While gas prices spiked earlier this spring, they have really gone down over the past 6-8 weeks. Even in the Northwest, where refinery problems kept the price of gas well above the national average, the last 1-2 weeks has seen a dramatic drop.

The region's transit agencies - those that participate in ORCA plus Intercity Transit in Olympia - rewrote our joint news release several times because of those dropping gas prices. There are some regional calculations in that release, and each time we revised the "current" price of a gallon of gas, those calculations had to be redone.

For Community Transit, our biggest concern over promoting Dump the Pump Day was that our commuter routes are pretty full. Since our latest round of service cuts in February, there are not a lot of empty seats on our peak-hour buses. We didn't want to make a loud call to non-transit users to try transit for this one day only to have them stand the entire ride and not want to come back. Nor did we want to create an even more crowded commute for our loyal riders who have stood with us in these trying times. (The image above is from Dump the Pump 2009.)

So, Community Transit is using Dump the Pump Day to get people to think of their favorite "Summer Destinations" that they can get to on transit. We have a Destinations page on our website with information about bus service to some of the more popular places to go in Snohomish County. We also want to know where frequent or infrequent riders get to on our buses.

Chances are your favorite destination is not work, so we don't think this promotes more riders for those peak-hour trips. But even during our busiest times, not all buses are packed.

Where do you like to take the bus during the summer? What are some trips you didn't think were possible, but have found you can make on our buses?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bike Lockers to be Rented

The Community Transit Board of Directors this week approved a plan to begin charging rent for the use of bike lockers at park & ride lots and transit centers. The new policy is designed to make more efficient use of the 116 bike lockers that the agency owns and maintains at 15 facilities throughout the county.

The new policy establishes a $60 annual rental fee, or $5 a month to rent a bike locker. The agreement allows a customer exclusive use of that covered locker. A $50 refundable deposit is also required. Currently, all that is required to get a key for a locker is the $50 refundable fee.

At some of the more popular transit centers, there is a waiting list for the lockers. Some of the lockers, while reserved, go unused. It is hoped that the monthly rental fee will cause those people who have a reserved locker but don’t use it to give up the locker, allowing those who want to use the locker and are willing to pay the fee to get access. The rental fees will start on July 1.

Bicycle riders can also lock their bikes for free at bike racks located at most park & rides and transit centers. Revenues generated by the rental program will be used to maintain the lockers and possibly expand the bike locker program.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Where Do People Bike and Bus?

All Community Transit buses are equipped with two-bike bicycle racks. We tried out a version of a three-bike rack a few years ago but had issues with the safety of people loading too close to passing traffic. When revenues improve, high capacity bike racks may be one of the issues we look at again.

Bike use on buses has grown over the years, partly thanks to promotions such as Bike to Work Day and Month. Swift bus rapid transit’s three-bike interior racks were designed by our own mechanics. Those easy-to-use racks are very popular, with about 6 percent of all Swift riders bringing along a bike, according to recent data. Considering Swift has about 100,000 boardings a month, that’s a lot of bikes!

About three years ago, around the time Swift started up, Community Transit changed its policy to allow riders to bring bikes on board all buses if the racks were full, if it was safe to do so (meaning the bus was not so full a bike in the aisle would not potentially harm anyone) and if the rider maintained control of the bike at all times. The driver has final say to allow bikes on board.

April 2012 statistics show that bike use on buses is robust across our entire service area.
Routes 201 and 202 between Smokey Point and Lynnwood had about 900 bikes each that month. Although the percentage of overall passengers using bikes looks small, take into account that we have capacity for 40+ passengers on each bus, but only 2+ bikes. Perhaps a better indicator is that there is a bike on almost every trip, on average.

Routes 115 and 116 also have robust bike ridership, about 500 bikes each. Both those routes serve Edmonds Community College.

While Route 424 does well among commuter routes with 30 bikes on 84 trips, that makes some sense since it serves UW. However, Route 422 has the highest ratio of bikes-to-trips with an average of one bike on every trip. That route is also the longest in our system, traveling between Stanwood and downtown Seattle.

A number of north county routes have high bike-to-passenger ratios: Routes 201, 202, 240, 270, 275 and 280. Could be that bus riders in those more rural areas have further to travel to get to or from their bus stops and a bike helps them get there.

Remember, Friday, May 18, is National Bike to Work Day. We hope to see you out there!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bike to Work Day, May 18

Community Transit has a long history of supporting and promoting Bike to Work Day. Part of our mission is to encourage commute alternatives to driving alone, even if it doesn’t involve taking the bus. Of course, we use Bike to Work Day and Month to encourage people to combine bike and bus trips as well.

This year, our agency is helping out with these events, but not taking the lead. Changes in staffing, fewer resources and, frankly, fewer buses on the road caused us to re-evaluate our role in Bike to Work. Still, we encourage people to get on their bikes, get healthy, and bike and bus when they can.

Community Transit is partnering with the Cascade Bicycle Club for all of your Bike Month needs. Regular bike commuters have been participating in the Group Health Commute Challenge, with teams and individuals tracking their participation and vying for some exciting prizes.

Friday, May 18, is National Bike to Work Day. Stop by one of the many Commuter Stations set up around Snohomish County and the City of Bothell for a snack, have your bike checked out by a mechanic and pick up your copy of the updated Snohomish County Area Bike Map!

This week, King County Metro is allowing cyclists to ride their buses (and Metro-operated ST buses) for free. Community Transit is not participating in this promotion, partly because we have two-bike racks on our buses (not three) and many of our bike racks are already well used. We don’t want to discourage those who show up with their bikes by potentially having them wait for two or more buses before they can board.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Electric Vehicles Can Charge Up at Mountlake Terrace Transit Center

Last Saturday, May 5, Community Transit and the City of Mountlake Terrace held an event at the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center to unveil 10 new electric vehicle charging stations. The charging stations were installed by the city thanks to a federal stimulus grant to help complete a goal of creating a network of charging stations along the I-5 corridor. U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen was there to help commemorate the event.

The 10 stations can charge up to 20 electric vehicles at a time. The city charges a fee for the electricity, now 85 cents an hour. At the event, several electric cars were there to get charged up, including a red Tesla roadster electric sports car.

The event was also used to announce that the transit center has received a Green Globes “One Globes” certification by the Green Building Initiative (GBI). This is similar to LEED certification for buildings. It means the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center was built with sustainable principles that create a low impact on the environment, reduce energy consumption and reduce overall maintenance costs.

The transit center was built with concrete using recycled materials, includes a daylighted stream as part of its stormwater runoff filtration system, has 30 solar panels that feed into the regional power grid and uses low-energy lighting in the parking garage.

The transit center earned a One Globes certification out of a possible four globes. The Mountlake Terrace Transit Center is believed to be one of the first non-occupied buildings in the world to be recognized for sustainable construction.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"How Do I... ?" Watch and Learn.

by Karen Johnson, Design/Video Supervisor

Riders call us with lots of good questions.

“How do I catch a Swift bus?”
“What are my options for getting to Alderwood?”
“How do I load my bike on a bus?”

To provide another resource for our customers, Community Transit is creating Instructional Video Shorts for our website. These videos are about two minutes or less, and you'll be able to find them on our YouTube channel, in our Video Gallery and on topic-specific pages.

Video Shorts are easy to watch, with step-by-step instructions. Our first video short, “How to Use Our Trip Planner,” will show you how easy it is to plan your trip. Other topics you’ll find in the coming months include:

- How to Use Swift
- How to Buy Swift Tickets
- Riding The Double Tall
- Reading Schedules and Maps
- Bikes on Buses
- Transit Instruction Program

Our Customer Information Services division helps select the subject matter for our Instructional Video Shorts based on the questions they hear from riders. And the CIS staff is always available with personalized help for customers at (425) 353-RIDE (7433).

We’re always interested in more ways to help our customers. What are your ideas?
Can you suggest a topic that we should consider for our next quick instructional video?

Watch the video

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Cabela's Store Could Boost Transit Revenues

The central element of Community Transit's financial woes the past five years has been the reduced level of sales tax revenue in our service district. It's not rocket science -- when the economy sours and people lose their jobs or fear for losing their jobs, they hold onto to their money and put off purchases, especially big-ticket items like homes, cars, boats, etc. The items that people do keep buying, groceries and food, are exempt from sales tax or generate little tax revenue.

So it's good news when a new major retailer opens in the district, as Cabela's will be doing with its Tulalip store on April 19. Quil Ceda Village, with its Seattle Premium Outlet mall, Tulalip Resort Casino and big boxes like Home Depot and Walmart, has been a strong economic force during the recession. The opening of a large store like Cabela's can help stimulate the economic recovery in Snohomish County.

Customers can also get to Cabela's, and other Quil Ceda destinations, on Community Transit. Route 222 goes through Quil Ceda Village and has its northernmost stop between the casino and outlet mall. Riders can connect with Route 222 in Marysville at State & 88th from Routes 201/202, which serve Smokey Point, Everett and Lynnwood, or plan their trips online.

Our Buy Local for Transit campaign encourages residents to keep their shopping dollars in the county. That, in turn, helps the bottom line for Community Transit as well as local cities and businesses.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

State Legislature Adjourns with No Transit Funding Bill

The State Legislature concluded its second special session of the year this morning after approving a supplemental budget and several other bills. Left on the floor was Senate Bill 6582, which would have given authority to counties, and possibly transit agencies, to seek voter approval of a motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) for transportation needs.

The bill existed in many forms throughout the sessions this year. In the end, it would have allowed counties to seek voter approval of an MVET up to 1 percent of a vehicle's value at registration. The county would have had to talk with local cities and transit agencies about how that money would be used. If the county did not seek the funding, the local transit agency could seek approval for up to 0.5 percent of a vehicle's value. That option could have created as much as $15 million a year in new funding for Community Transit, if approved by voters.

Last month, a letter was circulated to legislators urging passage of the bill, signed by all members of the Snohomish County Council as well as regional elected officials and business leaders. Community Transit will continue to push for additional state funding leading up to the next session which begins in January 2013.

For now, Community Transit's new funding will be coming from increased sales tax revenues as the economy recovers. Go Buy Local for Transit!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Post-Service Change Adjustments

The February 2012 service change was massive in scope not just because it reduced our bus service by 20 percent, but also because the local service network was redesigned. With such a huge change in the system, it was inevitable that some adjustments would be needed.

A couple weeks ago, the agency made adjustments to the Route 113 schedule to improve connections between buses and ferries in Mukilteo. It took several weeks to design a change that didn’t carry too many impacts down the line, then get the change out to drivers and customers.

On April 9, several other adjustments will take place.

Route 196 afternoon and evening buses between Edmonds and Alderwood will start five minutes later to help get trips on schedule. Behind-the-scenes, some driver work will change as part of this adjustment. Our hope is that these changes will help this new route stay on schedule on trips that have been notoriously behind schedule since the new route started in February.

In Bothell, Route 435 will hold at Canyon Park for up to five minutes in the morning to allow for incoming Route 105/106 and 120 buses to make that connection to downtown Seattle. This means customers already on board will have to wait a bit longer, but this is a connection that was supposed to happen and has been hit-and-miss in reality.

On Route 120, an early afternoon adjustment in how drivers switch off will help to keep more trips on schedule. This is an example of making changes in off-service work that positively affects the in-service experience.

When these changes go into effect next week, 82 weekday trips and 31 Saturday trips will have been adjusted since the Feb. 20 service change.

Our Planning and Transportation staff continue to monitor other trips and routes to see where improvements can be made to the massive February service change. It’s likely there may be more adjustments coming in June and September.

The challenge is to allow enough time for drivers and customers to adjust to the initial changes, then track schedules over a period of time long enough to tell us that late trips or missed connections are truly a systemic problem, not something that changes from day to day.

Without money for new service hours, the next step is to find ways to adjust driver work or make minor tweaks to the schedule that can improve the customer experience. And, of course, the laws of transit dictate that every action has an unintended consequence; when you start tweaking schedules you start impacting the travel of those who have found a way to make the system work for them. We want to keep those downstream impacts to a minimum.

As more adjustments are made, we’ll discuss them here, and send out announcements through rider alerts. Sign up for our electronic alerts if you haven’t already.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Route 196 Schedule Adjustments

By Tom Pearce, Public Information Specialist

Since the February service change, we’ve been listening to customers and tracking service to see where things haven’t quite worked out. With that in mind, starting Monday, April 9, there will be changes to the Route 196 schedule.

On that date, all Route 196 trips in both directions that start after 2:40 p.m. will begin five minutes later. This adjustment, combined with a change to the way drivers’ work is configured, will help keep these buses on schedule the rest of the day.

The new Route 196 schedules will be posted at each stop by Monday, April 9. Meanwhile, the new schedules have already been posted online and are loaded into our Trip Planner so trips can be planned for after April 9.

Route 196 is a new route offering all-day half-hour service between the Alderwood mall area and Edmonds waterfront. The route is averaging more than 500 riders a day, which is very good for a new route. So far, this route has suffered from late trips in the afternoon and a lack of stops around the Lynnwood Civic Center/Lynnwood Transit Center area. We continue to work with Lynnwood officials on the bus stop issue.

Friday, March 9, 2012

State Provides Some Transit Funding, Defers Bigger Decision

The State Legislature ended its regular session late last night without reaching a decision on a supplemental operating budget. Technically, they don’t have to since it’s not a budget year, but since the state is some $500 million in the red, it’s better to have a plan where to cut that spending than not. So, Gov. Gregoire is calling legislators into a special session beginning Monday, March 12.

Transit’s biggest funding bill, which would provide counties a local option for motor vehicle excise taxes (MVET) that could go to transit and transportation projects, did not pass despite making it out of a House-Senate conference committee earlier this week. However, Gregoire has indicated that this is one of the issues she would like to see revisited in the special session, so there’s still a chance.

That bill, ESSB 6582, was amended in conference committee to give counties authority to ask voter approval of up to a one percent MVET. The counties would need to work with cities and transit to come up with a plan that benefits all parties. There are many what-ifs in this scenario, but it represents the best chance for substantive funding that could be used to restore some lost transit service.

Stay tuned for more on that bill.

Meanwhile, two other measures did pass that will benefit Community Transit. A “fees” bill that raises several fees like vehicle license plates, driver record abstracts, etc. was approved. Proceeds will primarily benefit the Washington State Ferries, but some money has been set aside for transit agencies. Based on the funding plan, Community Transit would expect to receive about $580,000 this year, and slightly more each of the next two years, pending legislative approval in 2013. Compare that with the $12 million in service we cut last month and you can see it is not a lot in service terms, but we are grateful for any funding we get at this point.

Community Transit also received a $100,000 transportation budget line item (thanks to Rep. Marko Liias) to help fund an alternatives analysis on where a second Swift line should go. This project will help us gather information as a requirement for federal funding for that Swift line. The bigger question there is whether we will be able to get those federal funds to start that project, given the debate over transit funding in Congress.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

State Legislature Considering Transit Funding

The State House is expected to consider ESSB 6582 (click view by bills) this week, a bill that could grant transit agencies authority for a portion of motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) funding.

The bill is written to give counties new authority to ask voters for this funding option for transportation purposes, but recent amendments have bolstered the chances for struggling transit agencies to receive a share.

ESSB 6582, as written, says that before preparing the ballot measure for up to a one-percent MVET, the county legislative authority (in our case the Snohomish County Council) shall talk to the transit system/s in its area and establish a collaborative process.

This means that an agreement could be reached whereby the transit agency would receive some portion of the requested MVET funding. Why would a county do this? Perhaps to improve the measure's chances at the ballot by presenting it as a legitimate "roads and transit" effort.

The bill also says that if a county does not impose a local MVET of up to one-percent by December 31, 2013, the transit systems within that county may impose up to one-half of the county's one-percent, and that a county may waive the December 31, 2013, deadline.

Meaning that if the county waits for a vote or simply decides not to go for a vote of MVET funds by Dec. 13, 2013, the transit agency in that county can seek such a measure for up to 0.5 percent.

None of these options guarantee funding for transit agencies. They require a public vote and some measure of cooperation with the county. But for an agency like Community Transit, there is no other option for substantial additional revenue.

ESSB 6582 is in the House Rules Committee now awaiting a floor vote. The 2012 legislative session is due to end on March 8.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Think Transportation

The editors at Seattle Magazine have published some big ideas from citizens and transportation industry leaders on what they would do to solve the region's transportation problems.

Sometimes thinking big is to think small, think local. Inspired by these examples, what would you propose to do for the region's transportation woes, or just Snohomish County's, if money were no object?

Dedicated bus lanes and more funding for transit are on my list.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Service Change - Bus Stop Locations

The service change that took place yesterday was in the works for nearly a year. That's the time it took to get guidance from our Board (once we knew how much money we needed to save), develop three alternative scenarios, present them to the public and gather feedback, go through the Board decision process, then fully schedule the final service plan, train drivers, produce signage and information materials and start the new service.

It is near the tail end of that process, after we have fully scheduled the service plan, that we reach out to cities and the county to talk about where we want to locate new bus stops. Each jurisdiction has a separate bureaucracy for dealing with such requests, with their own criteria and timelines.

What we submit are requests based on what we feel is the best place for riders to catch a particular bus. This year, our route shuffling was designed to eliminate loops and deviations - in other words, make the routes as direct as possible to save time and money. Most requests are granted, but not always; sometimes we are given alternatives to consider, and sometimes flatly denied.

Sometimes the process goes beyond the time frame in which we need to produce Bus Plus, maps and other public information.

Just last week, we were granted permission to put two new temporary stops on Marine Drive outside the Warm Beach Senior Community near Stanwood. The timing on that decision was close! We are still awaiting decisions from the City of Lynnwood on stop requests for Routes 112 and 196 near the Lynnwood Transit Center. Obviously, the new service has already started, so the omission of those stops is glaring. We are forwarding comments from our customers to the city, but it is their decision to make. The service still works without those stops, but it may not be as convenient for some customers.

We can add stops at any time during the year, not just at a service change. With the vast number of changes that took place this week, there are bound to be some tweaks here or there. Most tweaking will happen when we publish new schedules on Oct. 1, but if stop requests are granted before then, we could make some changes sooner.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Service Changes on Monday, Feb. 20

Next Monday, Community Transit bus service will change significantly.

For local riders in Snohomish County, there are major changes to the route network, as well as schedules. Several routes have been eliminated and others serve different destinations. Peak hour schedules (5:30-8:30 a.m. and 3:30-6 p.m.) will be largely the same, but off-peak schedules will have fewer trips, especially away from the urban areas. On Saturdays, buses will run less frequently than they have throughout the county.

Also, the latest any buses will operate is between 10-11 p.m.

For commute riders to downtown Seattle, several routes have been eliminated but most other routes remain the same, with fewer trips. Expect more riders on the remaining buses. Based on current ridership numbers, there should be seats for every rider if people store their belongings on their laps or beneath seats. Some trips may experience standing loads, especially in the afternoon when more people try to take the same bus back to Snohomish County.

Routes to UW are largely unchanged, except for some trip times.

If you have not planned your trip for next week (and maybe considered a Plan B), pick up a copy of the Bus Plus schedule book on buses or use the online Trip Planner. All new route schedules are available online, along with stop lists to tell you where the bus stops along each route.

While Monday is Presidents Day, there will not be a holiday schedule. All buses will run according to the new regular schedule. The Customer Information line (425 353-7433) will be open that day from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Community Transit employees will be at various locations to help people with their trips on Feb. 20 and 21.

Community Transit is reducing service because of low revenues due to the economy. The agency is pursuing new funding options during the State Legislative session.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Transit Leaders Decry Federal Funding Bill

Leaders of six Puget Sound region transit agencies today spoke out against a U.S. House bill that would eliminate the Mass Transit Account portion of federal highway funds, instead putting the transit money into a general fund account. The bill automatically reduces the size of the transit funds and lumps it in with other "alternative transportation" funding modes. Plus, the funding would not be guaranteed, as it has been for the past 30 years.

"We have been pushing our state and federal leaders for increased funding to preserve and restore service. H.R. 7 goes in the opposite direction, reducing transit funding and, very importantly, putting the only federal money we could rely upon in jeopardy," said Community Transit's Acting CEO Todd Morrow.

Community Transit received about $10 million, or about nine percent of its operating budget in 2011 from the federal Mass Transit Account. Nearly half of that helps support operations. If that support were to go away, or even be made uncertain, Community Transit would need to fill that funding hole with its local sales tax revenue, which could mean more service cuts, possibly as much as 9 percent of the service left after Feb. 20.

On that day, the latest service cuts due to economic shortfalls will be implemented. All together, Community Transit will be operating 37 percent less bus service than it did two years ago. Further cuts in federal funding, as proposed under H.R. 7, could add more cuts to service and jobs.

H.R. 7 passed out of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee last week and is still under consideration by the full House.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Trip Planner Has Feb. 20 Info

Community Transit's online Trip Planner has been updated with the 2012 service change information, making it possible to plan a bus trip for Feb. 20 or later.

This is the latest in our series of information milestones surrounding the Feb. 20 service change.

Bus Plus books have arrived and will be placed on buses beginning this afternoon. They will likely be a hot commodity. If you find your bus has run out, let the driver know.

We are asking riders to take only one book to help save on printing costs. Reduced print runs, promoted through the "Reduce, Re-use, Re-read" tag on the books, has saved more than $100,000 over the past two years.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Reality Check - Changes Coming!

Community Transit staff have been out at park & rides and on board buses reminding riders that a major service change will take place on Feb. 20. Many people are aware of this, and many have gone online or read the Guide to Service Change to see how their travel will be impacted. But there are still quite a few people out there who think these changes are negotiable and may not realize they are going to happen, soon!

To date, we have spoken to more than 1,700 riders about the upcoming service change. We get that number by adding the number of conversations we've had to the number of people on buses that we hop on and make an announcement. In some cases, we may have a five- or 10-minute conversation with someone waiting for their bus; in others there is a 25-second announcement that the changes are coming Feb. 20 and all the details are in the Guide to Service Change and on our website.

Given that we have about 40,000 boardings a day on our buses, that comes down to just south of 20,000 actual daily riders. We hope to speak to maybe 3-4,000 in person before the service change, and those people may talk to others. Through this blog, our electronic alerts (13,000+ subscribers), our website and our Facebook page, we hope the word is getting out to more. And, of course, everyone who rides the bus has a chance to see the materials on board.

But again, not everyone pays attention or realizes the urgency. Even on these pages we see commentors suggesting alternatives to the changes. It's always great to get feedback, but the public comment period for these changes took place last summer; these changes are final.

Maybe that fact will sink in when the printed Bus Plus schedule books arrive on buses later this week.

The changes are not perfect. Service cuts never make people happy. But nearly everyone should be able to still use our service with some adjustments. And we'll be making adjustments later this year. If a connection just is not working out, or trip times need to change, we can do that. For now, we are trying to make people aware that changes are coming, soon.

We'll be out by the Albertson's in Mukilteo, at the Ash Way Park & Ride and the Lynnwood Transit Center this week, and at Mariner Park & Ride, Boeing and Everett Station next week. What question will you be asking?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Earling Rejoins Community Transit Board

By Tom Pearce, Public Information Specialist

A longtime friend of Community Transit is rejoining the agency’s Board of Directors. Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling, who spent 12 years on the board during the 1990s and early 2000s, was chosen as one of the large city representatives in the biennial board selection process on Jan. 26.

He is the lone “new” face on the nine-member board. Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring, Mill Creek Mayor Mike Todd, Mountlake Terrace Mayor Jerry Smith, Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine, Stanwood Mayor Dianne White and Sultan Council Member Steven Slawson were re-elected to their positions at the meeting.

Earlier this month, the Snohomish County Council reappointed Council members Dave Gossett and Dave Somers as its representatives. Lance Norton serves as the board’s labor representative, chosen by the agency's union leadership.

Gossett is the only current board member who served with Earling during his previous stint on the board. During Earling’s first tenure on the Community Transit Board, he served a term as board chair. He also was on the Sound Transit Board of Directors for several years, chairing that body as well.

Every two years, elected officials from the cities that make up Community Transit meet to elect board members from among their ranks. Based on the current composition scheme, the delegates divide up by city size and choose from among their peers. Edmonds, Lynnwood and Marysville are the large cities, with more than 30,000 residents. Arlington, Bothell, Lake Stevens, Mill Creek, Monroe, Mountlake Terrace and Mukilteo are the medium cities, with between 10,000 and 30,000 residents. Brier, Darrington, Gold Bar, Granite Falls, Index, Snohomish, Stanwood, Sultan and Woodway are the small cities, with fewer than 10,000 residents.

Large cities choose two board members, medium cities three and small cities two. The two County Council members and labor representative round out the board.

While Earling is the only new board member selected, three new board alternates were chosen. Arlington Council member Debora Nelson, Lake Stevens Council member Kim Daughtry and Lynnwood Council member Sid Roberts will serve as alternates, along with Snohomish Council member Tom Hamilton. County Council member Stephanie Wright is back as that body’s alternate.

Former Lynnwood Council member Ted Hikel left the Community Transit Board after a narrow defeat in November. He had served on the board from 2006-2008 and from 2010 until December, and was an alternate in between those terms. Alternates who left their roles include Chris Raezer from Arlington, Steve Bernheim from Edmonds and John Stima from Monroe.

Prior to the board selection, the delegates from the member cities discussed the composition of the board, which is reviewed every four years. If a majority approves, they could decide to apportion board members by geography, a different population scheme or alphabetic order. The group decided to keep the board make-up the same for the next four years, based on the 2011 city populations.

The new board will elect officers at its first meeting, on Thursday, Feb. 2.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Where's My Bus?

Icy, Snowy Conditions Make It Difficult to Keep to Schedule

Day Three of the 2012 snow storm is nearly complete, and buses are still on the road. Demand has been down this week, but many, many people are relying on Community Transit buses to get to work or wherever they need to go.

Today, our local buses deviated from our regular schedule because many roads were in bad condition due to accumulated snow and ice, and because predictions for today were worse than what actually materialized.

A combination of factors led to this schedule: we can't use articulated buses on icy roads (unless we chain them but those chains then break or severely slow down the buses on clear roads); like any business, we don't get everyone to show up on bad weather days; and our buses are interlined so that one bus may serve, say Route 120 for a trip, then it turns into Route 118. With fewer buses running and trips taking longer, the trips we can actually provide is like a patchwork among our routes.

This is hard to message to riders. What we said this morning is that we'd serve the first and last trips on each route, and there would likely be some buses in between. Not too helpful. We encouraged people to call customer information to learn if a bus was running on their route.

The good news is that buses were running all day on all routes, just not on regular schedule. That also may not be very helpful if you're trying to figure out when to travel, but we were able to provide a lot of service today. We also got more than 1,800 phone calls as riders asked where their bus was. Again, we couldn't tell them where it was but at least could say there was one out there, on the way.

On Seattle commuter routes, the Double Talls have proven their value. Not only can they fit more people than a regular bus, but they operate just fine in these conditions. By replacing old articulated buses with these double deckers, we have greatly increased the capacity we have for commuter service on snow days.

We have, and will continue to send alerts on any reroutes or major changes to service. Those are also posted on our website as soon as we get the information. Like our drivers and maintenance crews, our customer service and communications staff are working long days to provide you service.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Weather Can Be Unpredictable

Last night, after a day of reroutes and bus delays from the snow that had fallen in parts of Snohomish County, we expected major revisions to today's (Tuesday's) bus service. Forecasters were calling for lots of snow overnight and into this morning.

On our website we put up an alert (as we do every night before bad weather) saying that service would be very limited, commuter buses would be first and last trip only, etc., etc. This morning, that all changed.

Buses were on regular routes and regular schedules today. But many people relied on last night's alert, and we were slow to change that. Our mistake. On top of all that, there was a glitch with our electronic alert vendor so the revised alert we sent out at 5 a.m. took up to an hour to reach some customers.

My point is, forecasts change. We are committed to keeping our website updated with the latest information so you can check just before you leave your house and know whether your bus is running, your route is diverted or you should expect delays. And, if you sign up for electronic alerts by route or park & ride, you should get that information sent to your email address or a text to your phone.

Despite having fewer communications staff available (one gone, one soon leaving due to the layoffs), we are dropping everything else on snow days to provide the most up-to-date information. Please keep riding!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Van GO - Filling the Niches of Transportation Demand

By Tom Pearce, Public Information Specialist

As a community service, the Van GO program is like a reward to local non-profits that serve Snohomish County residents – the chance at a cost-free vehicle. As a transportation service, Van GO helps to fulfill community travel needs that could not be replicated by regular transit service.

At a time when regular transit service is being cut, Van GO may mean even more. That’s how the program was born in 2000, when the state cut MVET funding to transit agencies and Community Transit cut its bus service by 30 percent, including all weekend service. The agency sought board permission to grant a portion of its surplus vehicles rather than sell them all at auction. Vehicles bought with only local funding are awarded; those purchased with state or federal money are auctioned.

A surplus vanpool van generally nets about $2,300 at auction. For a transit agency, that money might translate into one bus on one route for one day. To a non-profit organization, the chance of getting such a vehicle without charge is worth much more. In exchange, organizations must promise to use the vehicle for specific community needs and must estimate the number of rides they will provide in a competitive application. Those organizations that show they can meet a great need are selected to receive the vans.

This year, 10 local non-profits received eight-passenger vans with about 150,000 miles on them.

They are: Cocoon House East (Monroe), Everett Gospel Mission, Kid’s Place Early Learning Center (pictured above - Darrington), Lake Stevens Senior Center, Northwest Baptist Church (Marysville), Holly House (Edmonds), Snohomish Community Food Bank, Work Opportunities (Lynnwood), Village Community Services (Arlington) and Youth Dynamics (Arlington).

Once a vehicle is granted to a group, they are responsible for it, including all maintenance and insurance. Grantees provide reports to Community Transit about the usage and rides provided for the first year, although the vans generally remain in service for many years. The 106 vehicles granted over the program’s 12 years have provided tens of thousands of rides that our buses typically wouldn’t serve.

This year’s program reminds us of the origins of Van GO. We’re preparing for a major service cut in February. These vehicles help to make up for some of the service reductions. It’s just another way we’re working to meet Snohomish County’s transportation needs.

Monday, January 9, 2012

New Schedules Online

The new bus schedules effective Feb. 20 are now online at the Community Transit website.

This is the piece of information many riders have been waiting for since the Board of Directions made a service change decision last September. With the schedules, riders will be able to see what times their bus will run, and how their transit connections might work once service has changed on Feb. 20.

Meanwhile, integrating the new schedule information with our online Trip Planner is a more complicated project, so you cannot yet plan a trip for Feb. 20 using that tool. That update will be complete in early February. That trip planning tool is the same one our customer information staff use, so until early February they will not be able to plan complex trips for after the service change.

In early February, Bus Plus schedule books will also be available on buses. Those books contain the print version of the schedules that you can now get online.

Last week, more detailed service change route information was made available online and on buses, and now schedules are available. Later this week, staff will begin an outreach effort to make sure riders are aware of the upcoming changes and answer questions. Community Transit staff will be at the Canyon Park Park & Ride this Thursday during the afternoon commute hours, then they will be at Edmonds Community College on Jan. 18 and Everett Station the morning of Jan. 19, weather permitting.

Riders with web access can get information easily through the Community Transit website. Discussions about the service change are going on here on the blog and on our Facebook page. Specific questions can always be sent to riders @ or asked via phone at (425) 353-7433 (RIDE).

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

February 2012 Route Information is Online

We are now several days into the new year and more details are available about the upcoming Feb. 20 service change. This is one of the largest service changes in our agency’s history—every route will be affected, although the commuter service to the University District will see only minor schedule changes.

In all, nine routes are being eliminated, 20 routes have changes to their routing and 29 routes will have fewer trips scheduled. There also will be two new routes, one in south county along 196th between Edmonds and Alderwood, and one in north county taking over the eastern portion of Route 240 between Smokey Point and Arlington.

The information now online is the same information that is in the Guide to Service Change that is going on buses this week. That booklet provides comprehensive information about the routing changes, trip reductions or frequency reductions, and tips for connections for each route. There are also maps for each route that has routing changes, and area maps to show how the service will connect in various geographic areas.

What the Guide to Service Change does not have are the specific schedules or bus stop lists for each route. Those will be available online soon, and the Bus Plus schedule books will be on buses at the beginning of February.

Here is an example of what information is in the Guide and online now:

Route 113: Mukilteo–Ash Way Park & Ride
Routing Changes - Map (shown above):
• Revised route ends at Ash Way Park & Ride instead of Lynnwood Transit Center.
• No service south of 164th Street.
Weekday Schedule: Daytime frequency reduced from every 20 minutes to every 30 minutes.
Saturday Service: Frequency reduced from every 30 minutes to every hour.
Connecting Routes: Swift, Routes 101, 112, 115, 116, 119, 201, 202, 413, 415, 417, 810, 860, 880, 885, 511, 532, Everett Transit, Sounder, Washington State Ferries.
Route 113 Rider Tips:
• Routes 112 and 113 will connect at Ash Way Park & Ride instead of Lynnwood.
• For service to Alderwood mall or Lynnwood Transit Center, passengers can transfer at 164th Street & 35th Ave. or Ash Way Park & Ride to Routes 115, 116, 201 or 202, all of which have frequent service.

The map shows the new routing, along with what section has been deleted. The rider tips explain that riders wanting to get to Alderwood, Lynnwood Transit Center or the Lynnwood Civic Center can transfer to specific buses to get there.

What riders will discover as they begin to use the newly designed service is that Route 113 now connects to the Ash Way Park & Ride, which has connections all over the county and to Seattle so there are new opportunities. It will take some getting used to, but our planners, faced with the financial reality of cutting 20 percent of our service, redesigned many routes to shorten trips, connect to other service and open up new opportunities.

Because some riders will need to transfer when they didn’t need to before, it is even more important for people to get an ORCA card if they don’t have one. With ORCA, your fare is transferred to any other trip you take in the next two hours.

In the coming days, and for the next two months, we’ll have more information here and on the website about the Feb. 20 service change.