Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Swift Perspective from Behind the Wheel

There’s no avoiding numbers when it comes to celebrating milestones.

In honor of Swift's 5th Anniversary this week, we’ve been sharing its impressive numbers here. And here. Oh, and here.

But behind the numbers and what makes Swift, well, swift, is the people. I had the opportunity to talk to one of these people-- his name is Stuart.

Stuart is a Community Transit Coach Operator. Of his 11 years driving for the agency, he has driven Swift since it launched five years ago. Stuart has a unique perspective on Swift and how it came to be because he is one of three coach operators who were on the startup committee to launch it.
“Being on the startup team and driving the (Swift) service gives me a sense of ‘ownership in the process’ that others might not,” says Stuart.
On the idea of BRT in Snohomish county (let alone Washington state)
I thought BRT made sense for the Highway 99 corridor considering the history we had with our old Route 610 route, which was popular because people didn’t have to transfer from bus to bus in order to get to Aurora Village.

On changes he’s seen over the past five years of Swift:
Knowing how we had planned to run this service, it is nice to see that it is working almost exactly as we planned. Higher ridership than expected, so soon after launch.  We estimated 2500 boardings per day at the end of the first year of service. We reached 3200 boardings after only six months, and now we are around 4100. The overall perception is that Swift is unquestionably faster than driving a private vehicle.

So, what does Stuart think about Swift II?
I like it! I hear it would be 128th St SW to Boeing. A good choice for an east-west artery. Ultimately, it might be nice to have a Swift "box" with two north/south and two east/west lines, where people could start on a Swift bus to get elsewhere in the county. (For more info about the proposed Swift II, go here.)

On driving Swift versus a local or commuter route
I have done all of Community Transit’s local/UW/commuter routes.  The difference for me is that those runs are much more mundane than Swift. There always seems to be something going on out there (Swift) that is not found on our other services.

On this “ownership in the process” Stuart talks about
Any time you involve the drivers with planning a project or service addition, it gives instant credibility within the ranks of the drivers. Many were very skeptical of Swift early on UNTIL they found out that three of us drivers were on the committee.  After that, it seemed like we were peppered with questions up until launch about how it would work, etc. (which we were glad to answer). 

Bottom line-- for me, with ownership of Swift, it’s to make sure that over a period of time, it is not "diluted" or changed to the point where we look back and realize we aren't very "Swift" anymore.

On the biggest change to Swift in the last 5 yearsThe concept of Swift was to run the same as a subway system and have coaches equally spaced in the corridor every 10-12 minutes regardless of the time on the clock.  What we did then was call dispatch at each of the designated ‘pace points,’ so they knew where we were. With transit technology and GPS installed on the buses now, we don’t have to do that anymore.

On what makes driving Swift so rewardingI derive the most joy on Swift from working with our Swift Ambassadors and Transit Police.  They do their best to make sure people on Swift are safe and, as a result of their efforts, I believe our transit police have the highest percentage of arrests on warrants of any in the county.

No comments:

Post a Comment