Monday, March 31, 2014

Doing What We Can to Help the Darrington Community

When the deadly landslide struck on March 22, it wiped out a section of Highway 530 between Oso and Darrington. That was the corridor our Route 230 used to provide "lifeline" bus service to residents of Darrington, taking them into Arlington and back home each weekday.

Flag flies at half-staff outside the Darrington Post Office.
With Route 230 truncated at the town of Oso, we considered how we might be able to serve residents east of the slide. Our CEO challenged us to "find a way" to get bus service to those who previously used Route 230 and those who might now need affordable transportation into and out of the area.

Thus, Route 231 was born. It was the quickest route created in Community Transit history -- three days from idea to implementation. On Friday, March 28, the first "Route 231 - Special" bus rolled into Darrington just before 7 a.m.

This bus takes an 80-mile "re-route" north on I-5, east on Highway 20 at Burlington, and south on Highway 530 at Rockport. Early morning and early evening trips travel directly between Everett and Darrington to help people get to work, or elsewhere in Snohomish County. Two morning and mid-day trips loop between Whitehorse (west of Darrington) and Burlington, providing a link to shopping, medical and other amenities in Skagit County.

Community Transit has also been called upon by Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management to provide large vans to help transport rescue workers to the landslide scene, and families of victims to the shelter areas to visit loved ones. Each day for the past week, 2-to-4 of our vans and drivers have provided this emergency transportation assistance.

We have also let local residents know that vanpools are an attractive option for people needing to get to work in Snohomish County without making a long and costly trip by themselves. At least three vanpools have been created to get people from Darrington to worksites in the Arlington area each day.

At a time of unprecedented tragedy in our community, we are doing what we can to help.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

We're Growing, Slow But Sure

Good news! A rebounding local economy in Snohomish County may give Community Transit the capacity to increase transit service by 20 percent over the next six years.

Bad News! These service increases would total less than half the service hours that were cut during the recession, and fall far behind the demand for transit in the county.

This news comes as part of Community Transit’s Draft Transit Development Plan (TDP) 2014-19, an annual update to the agency’s six-year transportation plan. If you are interested in learning more about revenue, service and capital program forecasts through 2019, (as well as specific plans for annual expenditures, service levels and projects), this document is a great resource. The Draft TDP is available for review at

Public comment on the plan is being taken through April 10. Anyone can submit comments by emailing or by calling (425) 353-RIDE (7433).

A public hearing on the Draft TDP will be held at the monthly Board of Directors meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday, April 3 at Community Transit headquarters, 7100 Hardeson Road, Everett, WA, 98023.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

2,4,6,8...Who Do We Appreciate?

For purposes of this particular post, Coach Operators!

Yesterday was Bus Driver Appreciation Day (March 18). While non-holiday, notable days help us give drivers of all modes of public transportation some props, we work to recognize our Coach Operators throughout the year for the good things they do every day.

Here are some of the ways we do this:

  • The Reliability Award. That Perfect Attendance award you got in school translates to this award when you drive for Community Transit. This award is given to Coach Operators who have zero unscheduled absences during the quarter. In 2013, anywhere between 29-35 percent of our Coach Operators received this award each quarter (approximately 73-88 Coach Operators on average each quarter).
  • Coach Operator of the Quarter. The coach operator earning this distinction has driven skillfully with no infractions, is reliable (there's that perfect attendance again!), has had no disciplinary actions, no preventable accidents, and no negative public comments during the last 12 months. Also very important-- s/he has provided great service to our customers. Each of the four Coach Operators of the Quarter automatically become finalists for Coach Operator of the Year. The reigning Coach Operator of the Year is Ray Harnish, who earned this award for 2012 and who happens to also be 2 Million Mile Driver.

    2013 was the last year of this quarterly reward. In its place is the Transportation Department of the Month/Quarter/Year Award which enables coach operators, dispatcher, supervisors and management staff in the department to earn recognition.
Million Mile Drivers are honored by having their name and designation assigned to a bus in our fleet.
  • Million Mile Driver. We have 69 active Million Mile Drivers and eight 2-Million Mile Drivers we are pleased to call Community Transit Coach Operators. In case you were wondering, a million miles is equivalent to 40 trips around the Earth or two round trips to the Moon.
  • It usually takes a Coach Operator 12 years of full-time work to rack up one million miles, but add the distinction of driving those million miles without incurring a preventable accident (not even clipping a side mirror on a tree branch!) and you’ve got one heck of a milestone. In addition to receiving a commemorative jacket and a plaque, Million Mile Drivers have their Million Mile Driver (MMD) status displayed on one of our buses. You've probably seen them around town (as shown in the photo above).
  • Certificate of Appreciation. When it’s “all hands on deck” at Community Transit (inclement weather, a Super Bowl celebration parade, for example), you can be sure staff agency-wide roll up their sleeves and ask “What can I do to help?”

    For example, our Coach Operators have helped shuttle firefighters to forest fires in the Leavenworth area, evacuated residents from homes due to threats of flood, assisted in police transports and participated in mass casualties drills for Snohomish County.
  • For example, our Coach Operators have helped shuttle firefighters to forest fires in the Leavenworth area, evacuated residents from homes due to threats of flood, assisted in police transports and participated in mass casualties drills for Snohomish County.
  • Official Commendations. We welcome commendations from our customers! Compliments from you are not only appreciated by our drivers, but also earn them recognition among their peers and supervisors. When you send in a commendation (using the methods below), please include the bus and route number.
  • Call (425) 353-7433
  • Send a letter to Community Transit, 7100 Hardeson Road, Everett, WA 98203, Attn: Customer Service
What does your workplace do to make you feel appreciated and recognized for the work you've done? Please share in the comments below.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bus Driver Appreciation Day: Thanks for the Great Ride!

Banner image of bus driver promoting Bus Driver Appreciation Day March 18

Tuesday, March 18 is Bus Driver Appreciation Day, which was created in 2009 by a couple of bus riders in Seattle who wanted to show gratitude for the men and women behind the wheel. Since its creation, the bus riding public and transit agencies far and wide have embraced this day of recognition— and Community Transit is no exception. As we did last year, our employees are organizing to show our appreciation of our co-workers as they leave to cover their routes from our Merrill Creek base.

Picture of staff on Bus Driver Appreciation Day

We think our coach operators are amazing people! Like other customer service jobs where all you hear is the bad (and hardly ever the good), it can really make their day to hear a simple and heartfelt, “Thank you!”

So on March 18, we invite you to give your bus driver a word or two of appreciation. We suggest:

  • Showing your virtual support of Bus Driver Appreciation Day by joining the event on our Facebook Event Page.
  • Share what you appreciate about your bus driver either by commenting on this post or on our Facebook page.
  • Giving your driver a virtual "High Five" on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #high5
  • Just say, "Thank you" as you de-board the bus.

Consider sending an official email to or call (425) 353-7433. Commendations from our customers are not only appreciated by our drivers, but give them recognition among their peers and supervisors.

Thanks for taking the time to give 'em thanks!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Six Year Plan Forecasts 20 Percent Service Increase

The latest draft six-year Transit Development Plan (TDP) forecasts enough of a sales tax bump to fund up to 20 percent more service for Community Transit. That is great news for riders who endured a 37 percent cut in service during the recession.

A sobering statistic is that the new service, combined with grant-funded increases in 2013, still total only about 45 percent of the service hours cut from 2010-2012. In other words, modest sales tax gains will only get modest service gains, and it's possible that service won't return to pre-recession levels without a new source of funding.

But let's focus on the good news.

According to the draft TDP, if sales tax revenue trends hold, Community Transit should have capacity to add about 7,500 hours of new service this year, 25,000 hours of service in 2015 and 7,000 hours of service in each year from 2016-19. For perspective, the agency cut 160,000 hours of service a few years ago. But this level of new service is enough to fund some level of Sunday/holiday service and some improvements elsewhere in the system. Over the next six years, that is.

Since last summer, Community Transit has been asking riders for their input on where they would like to see new service. Currently, we are conducting a Transit Values Exercise to get more input on service additions in a game-like environment. Together, these data sets will be combined with regular customer comments and rider statistics (which routes and stops have the most or least activity) to come up with a proposal for new service.

Expect the first proposal to come out in April for this fall's service change. The more substantial increase will be in 2015; a proposal for that service change is expected to come out before the end of this year.

Again, for perspective, before Sunday/holiday service was cut in 2010, there were about 28,000 hours dedicated to that service.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Free Webinar Helps Businesses Learn How an Employee Commute Program Can Help Their Bottom Line

As traffic congestion and commuting costs continue to rise, the way employees get to work is becoming a larger part of how Snohomish County companies do business. The quality of an employee’s commute experience can have a significant impact on job satisfaction, productivity and quality of life. 

Community Transit is here to help employers meet these challenges with a new program, Choice Connections Business, which provides free services, resources and incentives to help develop a customized employee commute program.

Community Transit will be hosting a free Choice Connections Business webinar for employers in Southwestern Snohomish County and Bothell on Wednesday, March 12 from 2:00p.m. – 3:00p.m. The webinar will highlight cost-effective ways to help employees find better commute options that will help boost productivity and improve morale.

To learn more about Choice Connections Business or to register for this FREE webinar, visit or contact a Community Transit representative at or 425-438-6163.