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

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