Thursday, April 25, 2019

What's the Value of Public Transportation?

Today is National Get on Board Day to recognize the value of transit

Ask a bus or train rider why they choose that mode of travel and you’ll get many different answers. Cost savings. Convenience. Not having to deal with traffic or parking. Less stress for their commute.

Most major cities and even many rural ones have some form of public transportation. The value of that service is sometimes expressed as a lifeline for those with no other travel option, or a choice for people who simply don’t want to drive every day. Usually, it’s both.

In 2018, Community Transit provided 10.7 million trips on its buses, vanpools and DART paratransit vehicles. That’s more than 33,000 times a day someone had to get somewhere and chose Community Transit to get them there.

Because about 70 percent of our riders are “choice riders” who have access to a car but chose transit, we like to say that without our service, there would be another 23,000 cars on Snohomish County roads every day. Mitigating even worse traffic congestion is one of the values transit provides to everyone in our community.

Snohomish County is growing like crazy. More than 10,000 people a year are forecast to move here over the next 20 years. That’s the equivalent of a new city the size of Snohomish added each year!

This is the perfect time to add more transit as we want every one of those new residents to consider not adding another car to the day’s commute.

Thanks to voter approval of Proposition 1 in 2015, we are increasing transit service in the county. By 2022, Community Transit will have expanded its bus service by 40 percent over 2016 levels. This summer, we will be engaging the public on a how to redesign our bus service to integrate with Link light rail when it gets to Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood in 2024.

One key to that transit expansion is adding to our Swift bus rapid transit network. When the Swift Green Line launched a month ago, it quickly became the second most popular route in our system, behind the Swift Blue Line. Combined, those two routes carry more than 7,000 people a day.

There are downsides to this expansion – impacts from the construction of some projects, being stopped behind a bus as it boards passengers. If you’re stopped behind a bus for 20 seconds thinking about blowing your horn, consider this: 23,000 more cars on our roads every day, 10,000 more cars on I-5 every day, and 10,000 more cars added each year without transit. Even if you don't use the service, you are benefiting.

What do you value most about transit?