Friday, March 17, 2017

Swift Green Line is still on schedule – for now

Within the next two months, construction will begin on the Seaway Transit Center. This facility will be a central hub for Paine Field-area transit service and will serve as the northern terminal for the Swift Green Line. This is a state-funded project and all finances are “in the bank.”

This week’s news that President Trump’s proposed 2018 “skinny” budget does not include many transportation projects already in the pipeline was not a surprise at Community Transit. While the bulk of funding to build the Swift Green Line will come from the federal government, Snohomish County’s second bus rapid transit project is very much moving forward. Presidential budgets are starting points for funding discussions, but it is Congress that writes and approves the federal budget.

Last year, President Obama included Swift II (later renamed the Swift Green Line) in his 2017 budget proposal. Community Transit received a favorable ranking in the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts grant program for the project; it just needed funding. Because of the close presidential election, Congress never approved a 2017 budget.

Instead, the federal government has been kept afloat by Continuing Resolutions, which allow regular spending at 2016 levels, but do not include new projects. Not only are the Swift Green Line and Lynnwood Link light rail among these, but there are many transportation and infrastructure projects nationwide that were vetted through their respective federal agencies in this funding limbo.

Community Transit hopes to get a $48 million Small Starts grant approved as part of a 2017 budget or through a 2017 appropriations bill. Just this week, Community Transit staff and board members were in Washington, D.C. pushing for that. They were told by all five of our elected officials – Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and Reps. Suzan DelBene, Pramila Jayapal and Rick Larsen – that they strongly support our Swift Green Line project and were hoping to get such bills done fairly soon.

Community Transit Board members and staff met with Sen. Maria Cantwell
on March 14 to discuss federal transit funding and the Swift Green Line project.
Budget approval will allow for new Swift buses to be ordered and stations to be constructed starting later this year. This would keep us on schedule to open the Swift Green Line in early 2019, about two years from now.

Meanwhile, Community Transit has received a “Letter of No Prejudice” from the FTA, which gives us authorization to spend money now, to be reimbursed later when the grant is approved. With this letter, we are able to start work on one part of the project that is federally funded – road improvements to the I-5 bridge at 128th Street in south Everett.

This summer, we expect to start work creating one new lane approaching the I-5 bridge from both directions that will allow cars to enter I-5 more easily and buses to get across the bridge more swiftly.

There are very real concerns about federal funding for public transportation, and how the Swift Green Line project could be impacted. For now, we’re optimistic that a 2017 funding package will include projects that already have FTA’s approval and there will be no delay for the next Swift.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I Drive It: Meet Donald, Community Transit Coach Operator

When your job goes from handling small pieces of machinery to handling machinery that is nearly 50,000 lbs, that's a big change! After years of trouble shooting photoelectric sensors as an electric bench technician, we are happy that Donald decided to stretch his legs and give driving the bus a go. In almost 12 years (and getting close to his Million Mile Driver Award goal), Donald has expanded not only his view out the window, but his view inside the window as well.

It was the excitement at the responsibility of driving a large passenger vehicle that initially inspired Donald to drive for us. While he had driven a semi-trailer truck before, the thought of a vehicle with space inside and people as its precious cargo was a little intimidating. Our nine-week comprehensive training program soon set his mind at ease. "I appreciated how in-depth the training program was. Our training department is really top-of-the-line. I was given such a sense of confidence because I didn't have to worry too much about what might happen on the road. As long as I followed my training, I was fully prepared."

Along with confidence came the connection with passengers inside the bus. "Right away I started understanding service is about people helping people. I like that part. The people I serve is life; it's why I'm here. One morning I was driving the 116 from Silver Firs and a woman up front was acting a bit edgy like she was running late. She said to me, 'I know you don't care, but I really need to catch the 113 at Ash Way. I don't want to miss my bus.' That really affected me. In her experience drivers are robots, just driving the bus. I looked at her and said, 'Don't worry, you'll catch your bus. And by the way, I really do care.' Her whole demeanor changed and she relaxed."

Donald said this commitment to service makes him proud to work for Community Transit. "Because the company as a whole values service, it really sets us apart from other agencies. The higher-ups respect and listen to all employees. This helps the demeanor of the drivers and creates a wonderful camaraderie here."

What do you value in a workplace? Do you feel valued by your workplace in return? If making a difference in people's lives is important to you, we're hiring Coach Operators:

Friday, March 3, 2017

Stabbing Victim Reunited with Life Saving Transit Deputy

Fotiki Fofana and Deputy Cline
Fotiki Fofana nearly lost his life on January 31 when he was stabbed multiple times in the neck at Everett Station. After several surgeries and a stay in Intensive Care, Fofana is now home and recovering. He wanted the chance to meet and thank the man that he believes saved his life.

That day came on Tuesday, February 28, as Snohomish County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Cline visited Fofana and his family. As soon as the door opened, Fofana exclaimed, “My hero! My hero!”

It was a fairly typical Tuesday morning in January for the Community Transit Police Unit. Deputy Cline was headed to Everett Station for a check of the area when routine turned into chaos.

While stopped at the traffic light near Everett Station, Deputy Cline saw a man running from the bus bays bleeding heavily from his neck. Within seconds Deputy Cline was out of his patrol car and applying pressure to the multiple stabs wounds.

While providing aid, Cline called for medical help. A witness at the scene pointed out the attacker coming towards them. Deputy Cline had no back up, but was able keep the suspect away with verbal commands. The suspect took off in the other direction and Deputy Cline called to other officers the suspect’s description and direction of travel. Sergeant Don Hart of the Transit Police Unit was nearby and was one of the first officers to respond and arrest the suspect.

Fofana has a long road of recovery ahead but was thankful for Deputy Cline being in the right place at the right time and knowing how to save his life.

Just this week the suspect was officially charged with attempted murder by the prosecutor’s office. The suspect and Fofana did not know each other and the attack was unprovoked. 

The Transit Police Unit is a division of the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office working under contract for Community Transit.