Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Improvements Ahead as Swift Turns 4

It was four years ago this Saturday, Nov. 30, that Swift bus rapid transit was launched. People still talk about the flash mob that invaded the grand opening party. And the sub-freezing temperatures that first week of service, when staff were out at each station teaching people how to use the off-board ticket vending machines and ORCA readers.

Today, Swift is a mature BRT line talked about across the country. Because it does not have its own dedicated lane, some say it is not “true” BRT. But Swift uses right-turn BAT lanes for 7 miles, transit signal priority its entire length and off-board fare collection at all stations to save a third of the trip time of a regular local bus. And, with 4,400 riders a weekday and nearly 3,000 riders on Saturdays, people obviously love to take Swift!

After its 2009 launch, several improvements have been made to Swift. In 2011, four new stations opened in Everett; a pair at 112th and one each at Pecks and Madison. In 2012, a queue jump signal was added at northbound 148th as the BAT lane ended. This early light gives the Swift bus a three-second jump on other traffic so the bus can merge into the general purpose lanes.

There are two new improvements coming in 2014.

A WSDOT project in early 2014 to shave the “pork chop” islands at Airport Road will allow Swift buses to use right-hand turn lanes, rather than general purpose lanes, as they cross the busy intersection and glide into the next station. This will save time and make for a smoother ride into the station.

Later in the year, Community Transit will build a southbound station at 204th near Edmonds Community College. That station was in the original route design, but was delayed because 204th was a dead-end street. The city of Lynnwood plans to extend that road between Highway 99 and the college, so it is finally time to build that station.

The big news that will emerge in 2014 will be details for what is being tentatively called Swift II. A feasibility study is underway for a second Swift line that would travel from Boeing-Everett in the north end, down Airport Road along 128th crossing Highway 99 and I-5, then south at Highway 527 (Bothell-Everett Highway). The route would serve Mill Creek Town Center and terminate at either 164th or Canyon Park.

Before people get all righteous about why this next Swift route is where it is, visit our 20-year Long Range Transit Plan to see that we do envision a network of Swift routes. Unless we fall into a great deal of new funding, we’ll take them one at a time, seeking federal and state funding for each one. The good news that we are moving forward with plans for more Swift!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Swift 4th Anniversary

Birthday wishes for our BRT

Happy Birthday, dear Swift. Are you four?
You have riders and fans now, galore.
I just want to say.
You still make my day.
You're the bus that I'll always adore.

Margaret Elwood is a big fan of Swift, Community Transit’s bus rapid transit service.

She has commemorated all four Swift anniversaries with poems and even shared a birthday song on our video gallery. Margaret, who lives in Edmonds and works as a Technical Training Administrator for the PUD in Everett, uses her bike as part of her Swift commute.

We launched Swift as the first bus rapid transit line in Washington state. Swift is an affordable, fast and frequent service on Highway 99 between Aurora Village Transit Center and Everett Station. After only one year, Swift also proved to be our highest ridership route, whisking riders to work, shopping, school and errands. Feasibility studies are underway for construction of a second Swift bus rapid transit line.

Margaret added, “Congratulations, and thanks again for your continued service. I appreciate it as much today as I did four years ago.”

Margaret, thank you! We appreciate your support.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Kids STEP on board Community Transit buses

Education Coordinator Steve Peters shows a class
how to board a Community Transit bus
Community Transit’s School Transit Education Program (STEP) is a free educational experience offered to all public and private schools throughout Snohomish County with the goal of teaching students K-12 the benefits of public transportation. 
Education Coordinator Steve Peters uses his background in theater to bring a 30-minute classroom presentation to life! Steve uses stories, imitations and funny characters to introduce public transportation to thousands of children each year. Kids learn about transit and their role in keeping the environment clean, as well as basic bus know how such as how to read a route number, bus etiquette, bus safety and much more! 

Once the classroom presentation is complete, all children board a Community Transit bus for a half-hour ride around the community. This “rolling classroom” driven by some of Community Transit's best drivers, allows students to apply their skills as new bus riders.

Since the program began in 1985, Steve has worked with over 140,000 students at more than 200 schools throughout Snohomish County.  For more information about the program, call (425) 348-7148 or email

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Four Minutes for a Better Website

The last time Community Transit's website got a virtual facelift was back in 2008. This is what it looked like in June 2007 just before we conducted a website survey and did the redesign: - June 2007

Interestingly enough, we conducted a website survey then, too, resulting in the website you see today: - November 2013

It doesn't seem too long ago, but when you consider what's happened in the last five years technology-wise, could do with a little refresh. Since our last website re-design:
  1. The iPad was launched (and three versions since);
  2. Websites need to fit on all sizes of screens thanks to mobile phones and tablets;
  3. Content has to be relevant and searchable more so than ever due to user and search engine demand (I'm lookin' at you, Google)
  4. Mobile device usage is on the rise and will soon outnumber desktop use.
We hope to implement a new content management system soon that will help us keep our website up-to-date and user friendly no matter what you use to view it. We also want to take the opportunity to refresh the look and feel of our website.  This is where you and four minutes of your time come in.

We want to know how you, our customer, use our website. Yes, we have Google Analytics reports that can tell us browsers used, numbers of visits and pages visited, but we want to go deeper than that. How do you use the website? What do you like the most? The least? What can we do to make it better?

Tell us the answers to these and other questions through our short, online survey available by clicking on the link below. It should take around 4 minutes to complete and will be available until 5 p.m. Friday, November 29.

Thanks in advance for helping us create a better website for you!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Special session: Don't forget Community Transit

Gov. Jay Inslee has called the Washington Legislature into special session to pass legislation intended to ensure that Boeing builds the 777X airplane line in the state, according to Inslee. Among the legislation under consideration this session are manufacturing tax breaks, education and workforce training, and transportation improvements.

The transportation improvements are presumed to be centered around legislation that failed to pass the state Senate earlier this year. However, it’s not exactly clear how serious an effort will be made to pass a transportation package immediately. Assuming the discussion starts with the proposed House transportation package, there are several things that could greatly benefit Community Transit riders, and Boeing.

Operational funding
For several years, Community Transit has asked the Legislature for additional money to operate bus service. The recession reduced Community Transit’s sales tax revenues, and while the economy is rebounding, there is no way to bring back near the level of service we had in 2009 based on sales tax alone. To increase service significantly, new operating funds are needed.

The House package provided a small amount of operating funds, about $13-23 million for all transit agencies in the state. At most, Community Transit might get $1.4 million a year from this fund, which is about a third of the amount needed to offer a reduced level of Sunday service. That is not much.

From an operational perspective, the most beneficial feature of this legislation is a local option. That would give the Community Transit board authority to place a ballot measure in our service area seeking additional tax revenue. It could be sales tax, it could be a car tab fee or excise tax. Such an option could generate enough revenue to fund service levels at the 2009 level, and maybe beyond. It goes without saying that there is no guarantee voters would approve this funding, but at least this option allows the agency to make its case. And it is the only option on the table that would allow Community Transit to add significant service.  

Swift II
The House package also contained a capital transit project list. This is one-time money that can be spent on building something. The list included money to help Community Transit build a second Swift bus rapid transit line.

This “Swift II” project (just a working name) is a perfect project for this session. The proposed Swift II line under study would serve Boeing-Everett at the north end, wind east across Airport Road/128th to 132nd, then turn south at the Bothell-Everett Highway. There are two options of a southern terminus: just south of Mill Creek Town Center or Canyon Park.

A feasibility study of this project has been underway for close to a year now, a prerequisite for federal funding.

If the governor and legislature want to support Boeing, and the 777X would be built in Everett, improved funding for transit service to the Boeing plant and the surrounding community is vital. Community Transit works closely with Boeing to ensure bus and vanpool service to the plant. Several Boeing trips were cut during the recession, so the loss of bus service has affected Boeing employees. Swift is a proven high-capacity service that can help the aerospace giant build planes without building new parking, and retain and attract quality employees. Funding to add Community Transit service in general, and funding to get a Swift II project serving Boeing should be high priorities for this session.

Unlike King County Metro, Community Transit does not need state money to avoid service cuts. Those cuts were already made (partly because the state did not step up earlier). Community Transit has no plans for any further service cuts. Instead, we are poised to grow. In the 2014 budget there is money from increased sales tax revenue to add 2,500 hours of new service. Not much, but it’s growth.

Any funding that comes out of the state legislature would help us to add more service and do it quicker. Don’t let legislators forget.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Community Transit Staff Give Back

Each year Community Transit employees come together to give back to our community by volunteering our time and donating to the United Way of Snohomish County.  Earlier this fall, Community Transit kicked off our 2013 United Way campaign, Strength In Community, with a goal to raise $45,000 for charity organizations throughout the county.

The campaign kicked off with over 25 Community Transit staff and family volunteers assisted with repairs and general maintenance including cleaning, repairing the barn roof, fence maintenance and moving drain pipe at the H3 Horses Healing Heroes farm as part of United Way’s Day of Caring on September 14.

Community Transit volunteers, Pete Juozapaitis, Steve Winecoff and son Andrew Winecoff mending a broken fence.
In October, the United Way Campaign team held a variety of events to raise money for United Way including waffle feeds in four Community Transit worksites and the annual Community Transit Silent Auction.  This year’s auction received over 100 items donated by Community Transit staff members including a Crepe Breakfast for 10, a BBQ for up to 20, autographed Seahawk memorabilia, lots of amazing gift baskets, handmade crafts and more.  We finished off the campaign with a Prize Wheel and a Grand Prize drawing for a one-night stay at Hotel Max in downtown Seattle and a $75 MasterCard gift card for all employees who submitted an annual pledge to United Way.

Members of the Community Transit United Way Campaign Team serve up 
piping hot waffles with all the toppings to hungry employees.  

Community Transit employees scramble to get last minute bids in the Silent Auction.

Customer Relations Director, Bob Throckmorton, demonstrates the prize wheel.

Thanks to the generous employees at Community Transit who made pledges, gave donations to the auction/prize wheel and came out and participated in our events we raised over $47,250!  That is $2,250 over our 2013 goal.

And a special thanks to our Community Transit United Way Campaign Team that dedicated their time to making this great campaign possible.

United Way Campaign Team co-chairs, Sue Masel and Diane Kinnear, take a moment to enjoy all their hard work.