Friday, August 7, 2015

Session in Review: How Community Transit Fared with the 2015 Legislature

The historically long (176 days) 2015 Washington State Legislative Session is now best remembered in transit circles for the transportation revenue package passed in early July. That legislation gave Community Transit authority to seek local sales tax funding for increased transit service, which will be decided by voters on November 3.

Here is a recap of legislation affecting Community Transit.

Funding for Community Transit 

16-year New Transportation Revenue Package 
• Local option authority – As discussed above, this granted Community Transit authority to seek up to 0.3 percent sales tax increase for transit. The Community Transit Board approved a ballot measure for the full 0.3 percent to fund more bus trips on all routes, a second Swift line and a list of other improvements. Measure will be on November 3 general election ballot.
• $10 million in flexible spending for second line of Swift. This funding, which is designated to be received in future biennia, can be used for Swift capital infrastructure (buses and stations) or operations.

2015-17 Transportation Budget Regional Mobility Grants 
• Seaway Transit Center, $3 million in 2015-17 and $3.8 million in 2017-19
This transit center, located across the street from Boeing-Everett’s main gate, will serve as the northern terminal for the second Swift line, as well as a hub for all Paine Field area buses, including Community Everett and Metro Transit. Design is underway and project can be completed in 2017.
• Mukilteo Park & Ride, $3.48 million in 2015-17
This commuter park & ride will be located on Bernie Webber Drive on the west side of Paine Field, about a block off the Mukilteo Speedway. It will be primarily used for local residents catching routes to Seattle and UW. This project is awaiting final local matching funds.

Statewide Transit Funding from New Transportation Revenue Package 

Gas tax revenue, the primary revenue source for this legislation, cannot be used for any transit projects. These projects are funded through other sources defined in the legislation. Community Transit may compete for some of these grants, but funding is not guaranteed.

• Special Needs Transportation Grants increased from $25 million per biennium to $60 million
• Rural Mobility Grants increased from $17 million per biennium to $30 million
• Regional Mobility Grants increased from $40 million per biennium to $75.25 million
• Vanpool Grants increased from $6 million per biennium to $9.9 million
• Transit Agency Coordination (HB 1842), $5 million over 16 years
• Transit project earmarks, $111 million over 16 years (includes above $10 million for Swift)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Community Transit Ballot Measure -- What Does It Mean?

On July 16, the Community Transit Board of Directors voted to place a measure on the Nov. 3 general election ballot seeking an additional 0.3 percent sales tax for increased transit services.

The board resolution is not the final step. Technically, any candidate or jurisdiction in Snohomish County has until Aug. 4 to get on the November ballot. After that time, the County Auditor will release the official ballot. That should be just a formality for our measure.

A view of Mt. Rainier taken from the top deck of one of our
Double Talls serving Rte 402, traveling southbound on I-5.  
What does this mean? Who gets to vote?
The state has set sales tax as Community Transit’s only local means of funding, other than fares. Currently, Community Transit’s sales tax level is 0.9 percent, which is 9 cents on a $10 purchase. The new measure would add 3 cents to that same $10 purchase.

Community Transit’s sales tax is only collected in our service district, or public transportation benefit area (PTBA). Every city in Snohomish County, except Everett in in our PTBA (see map), as are many areas of the unincorporated county

Only people who live in the PTBA are eligible to vote on this measure, but anyone who shops in the PTBA pays taxes toward Community Transit. So, all those Skagit or King County residents who shop at the Seattle Premium Outlet Mall or Alderwood Mall help to support Community Transit.

That’s why we say “Buy Local for Transit!”

Why is new funding needed?
Remember when we cut service in 2010? People asked why we were the only local agency cutting service at that time. The reality is we made the tough, but fiscally responsible decision to balance our budget when revenues fell dramatically below our expenses.

The result is that we emerged from the recession early and began adding service when other transit agencies and local cities are still considering cuts.

Current service levels do not meet the demand for transit now. Ask any commuter who has to stand for 80 minutes to Seattle, or has a bus pass them by because it is already full. Or talk to the person who misses a connection and has to wait nearly an hour for the next bus.

New funding is needed so Community Transit can meet current and future transit demand in Snohomish County.

In the past two years, job growth has picked up and more people have moved to our county, and the region. The Mill Creek-Bothell area is one of the fastest growing areas in the country right now. And, forecasts for future growth are staggering: 240,000 more people and 130,000 more jobs are expected in Snohomish County by 2040, according to the Puget Sound Regional Council.

If new funding is approved, Community Transit will provide:
  • More local bus trips throughout the day, as well as expanded service hours every day of the week.
  • A second Swift bus rapid transit line between the state’s largest manufacturing job center at Boeing/Paine Field and Canyon Park/Bothell, Snohomish County’s high-tech job center.
  • More commuter bus trips to downtown Seattle and the University of Washington.
  • Increased east-west connections within the county.
  • More bus service to job, housing and educational centers throughout the county, including communities such as Arlington, Monroe and Stanwood.
  • New routes, such as Marysville-to-McCollum Park via Lake Stevens, Snohomish and Silver Firs via Highway 9.
  • Reconfigured local bus service to connect with Sound Transit Link light rail when it reaches Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and, eventually, Everett.
  • More vanpools and expanded DART paratransit service.

The additional sales tax would generate about $25 million a year for more transit service. In addition, Community Transit could bring in up to $50 million in federal and state funding to complete the second Swift line, and possibly more grant funding for a third Swift line to link up with light rail by 2023.

A new web page is being set up to answer questions about the ballot measure. Go ahead and start asking questions here, now.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Four Things You Should Know About Our New Double Tall Buses

By Laurel McJannet

Back in May, The Herald had a post on their Street Smarts blog about Community Transit's order of 22 double decker buses to be delivered this summer. These buses will increase our fleet of Double Talls (as we affectionately call them) to a whopping 45 total this summer.

Guess what? Three of them have arrived and I was able to take some pictures and find out what new features these new buses will offer.

I know what you're thinking-- when will they be on the road? Will they be put on my route?

Before the buses can be put on the road, they will be inspected and cleaned, as well as outfitted with transit technology (GPS, ORCA and a farebox.) This process takes 3-4 weeks or longer depending on if we find something that needs to be fixed before they go into service. Once they are assigned to a route, we'll update this post.

In the meantime, we know inquiring minds want to know what's new with these buses, so here are some highlights.

Good Things Come in Small Packages. Here is a picture of a current and a new Double Tall -- an updated Enviro 500 from Alexander Dennis. The new one is on the bottom (you can see it hasn't been branded yet with "The Double Tall" decal on the front). At first glimpse, they appear the same, but the new Double Tall is six inches shorter in height, which is good because this means the buses can fit at places they previously could not.

The new Double Talls, with high-back reclining seats, will hold 80 passengers (49 upstairs and 31 downstairs OR 25 + two wheelchairs).
Pictures of current and new Double Tall Double Decker buses


New Bike Rack. The new Double Tall has a bike rack that holds 3 bikes! All new buses will have this bike rack and, eventually, all buses will follow suit and upgrade from their current 2-bike rack.

(Left) New Double Tall. (Right) Current Double Tall

The upper deck (pictured above) is largely unchanged. As you can see, there's slightly less room in the front row of the upper deck, but the unobstructed view remains the same. You're actually closer to the action!

Last but not least... a lower deck monitor! There is a monitor at the bottom of the staircase leading to the upper deck. Ever have those days where you race up the stairs to the upper deck, find it's full and have to make the climb back downstairs? Now, you'll be able to see if there are seats available on the upper deck before schlepping yourself and your bags up those stairs. Genius, I say!
So, there you have it. A sneak peek at our newest Double Talls. Is there anything else you'd like to see/know about them? Let us know in the comments.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Community Transit Recognizes Leaders in Smart Transportation Options

Community Transit’s Choice Connections program recognizes worksites in Snohomish County and the City of Bothell who support Washington State Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) goals. They go above and beyond to encourage their employees to use smart transportation options to driving alone.
 
Smart Commuter of the Quarter, Josefina Behymer
Congratulations to the Choice Connections award winners for 1st Quarter 2015:

Smart Commuter of the Quarter
Josefina Behymer is a liaison between internal buyers and engineers at Boeing Canyon Park Commons in Bothell. She is a vital connection to ensure that orders are accurate and streamlined. Josefina displays her commitment to smart transportation choices by taking the ferry and vanpooling for her commute of 88 miles each day. We’d like to recognize Josefina for her devotion to smart transportation choices that help keep the environment healthy for everyone!

Employee Transportation Coordinator (ETC) of the Quarter
Woody Whitaker has been the ETC for Allstate for eight years. He provides employees with support and information about their transportation options, and helps them find an attractive commute to fit their lifestyle. Woody takes the time to meet with Allstate’s new employees to explain the company’s subsidy program, as well as commute options to their Bothell worksite. Woody’s continued support of the program has resulted in 25% of the worksite’s employees logging trips in RideshareOnline.com, saving over 78,000 miles and more than $22,800 in fuel during the first quarter of 2015. 

Employer of the Quarter
Electric Mirror made a big commitment to smart transportation when it implemented a subsidy program for their carpools and vanpools. Parking was at a premium at their South Everett worksite, so they took a proactive approach to fix their overcrowded parking lots. Electric Mirror announced the rollout of a subsidy program to their employees in the month of February and began sign ups in March. As a result, 20% of their workforce is now carpooling. During the first quarter of 2015 their efforts removed 1,146 trips and more than 12,000 drive alone miles. 

Choice Connections rewards commuters for choosing smart transportation options and offers the tools and resources needed to get started. When you choose a smart commute, your efforts reduce traffic, save money and time, and help the environment. To learn more about the Choice Connections program, please visit www.community transit/ChoiceConnections.

 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Welcome Back Sunday Service !

By Emmett Heath, Community Transit CEO

On Sunday, June 7, Community Transit will return to a 365-day transit operation. It has always been our mission to serve the residents of Snohomish County the best we can. The Great Recession interrupted our ability to do so, in a number of ways.
Emmett Heath, CEO

Returning Sunday and holiday service is one of several actions we are taking to make good on our promise to fulfill our mission to customers.

Beginning June 7, we will add 27,000 hours of bus and paratransit service to our system, the largest increase since the recession.
• We are adding more trips in the mid-day and on Saturday.
• We are restoring a one-seat ride between Granite Falls and the Boeing plant in Everett.
• We are providing more robust service along Highway 2 in east Snohomish County, and serving job centers in Monroe that we had previously cut.

In the past year, we have hired 120 drivers to offset attrition and to ramp up for this service expansion. These new drivers are happy to be working here, and we’re excited to have them. Next week, we will have all our buses in service and all our drivers on the road doing their best to get you where you need to go, safely and on schedule.

But we’re not stopping there.

We have 22 new Double Tall buses that will be delivered this summer. Seventeen of those will replace older 60-foot buses, adding extra seats on the Seattle trips they serve. Five of those will be additions to the fleet that will increase our ability to serve that popular Snohomish County-to-Seattle market.

We also have ordered 10 additional 60-foot buses that will arrive in early 2016. Those buses will be available to increase our service within Snohomish County as many of our routes, particularly in the south county, are running at capacity.

Today, with concurrence from our Board of Directors, we approved a plan to add more service hours this fall. It is an acceleration of our planned 2016 service enhancement, but it will not provide extra trips. These 12,000 service hours will be used to adjust our schedules on trips that have been struggling to run on time as overall traffic congestion has increased travel times. These hours will go to trips running on I-5 to UW and downtown Seattle, as well as local trips on Routes 115/116 and 201/202.

We like to get people to their destinations on schedule, and some daily driving conditions prevent us from doing so now and then. When we see trips that run late almost every day, we have to invest in more service hours to give our customers a reliable schedule. That’s what we’ll be doing this fall.

I thank you for supporting Community Transit, and wish you a safe and pleasant ride.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Art Is Not What You Make - It's What You Make Of It


Over the past several months, we’ve had the pleasure of partnering with art students from Mariner High School. They designed and created 42 panels for our Mariner Park and Ride bus shelters that are now on display. Their hard work is a shining example of the artistic youth in our community, and leaves a lasting artist impression for everyone to enjoy.

We were lucky to capture the first hand experiences from Racheal Yi, a student involved in the art project. Wise beyond her years, she shares with us her experiences and pride for the project:


As a student in the Mariner High School Art department, I feel honored to say that in the past several weeks I participated in one of the most important projects that this classroom has completed during its history. For nearly two months, our classroom worked on a mural to express what is so underrepresented in this community: some of Everett’s finest artistic minds and creative youth. We worked as a team on a total of 42 panels that will be installed at the Mariner Park & Ride bus stop. There was never a moment when we were not working as a team, but this did not limit our room for individual creativity; the production of each panel required thoughtful, original input from multiple artists who brought their ideas forward to produce something with consummate prestige.
Community Transit approached our advanced art class this year with an opportunity that most of us had never come close to having before: to work freely on a lasting piece of artwork that would represent our creative roles in this community for years to come. The unique thing about this project was that as much as we felt free to create something almost completely from scratch, we also felt the pressure of knowing that our art would serve as a demonstration of the creative dynamics of not only our school, but of our entire community.
In the planning stages of this project, our class started out with multiple different ideas that were eventually narrowed down to four major themes: Surrealism, Evolution of Art & Transit, One Way or Another and Transit Through the Ages. All of these themes synthesized different modes of transportation with different styles of art, allowing us to meet the needs of Community Transit while demonstrating our creativity as artists. Surrealism features extraordinary subjects in surreal settings. Evolution of Art & Transit and Transit Through the Ages depict the evolution of transportation over time, as well as various different styles of art. One Way or Another expresses transportation since the beginning of time through modern silhouettes in vibrant settings.
From this experience, our class learned a lot about being mature, individual artists. It will surely be rewarding to see our work age with us as we continue to strive for nothing but the best as creative thinkers. We hope that through the completion of this project, we can encourage more recognition for the artistic youth of this community. The production and installment of this mural will surely last as a major impact on our lives as we grow from students to leaders. Additionally, the production of this mural gave us some real-world experience as contemporary artists - we worked with a client’s needs in mind as we exercised our artistic vision as well. This experience served as a professional example of what many of us may decide to work with in the future, while also giving us the freedom that we need as young adults.
The most important lesson that many of us have learned from our experiences in the Fine Arts department is that art is not to be defined by a sentence or by an image; art can be defined only through one’s interpretation of something new. Art is not the ability to paint well. It is not a measure of intellectual capacity. It is the freedom to let something promote thought and consciousness.
We hope that by leaving this legacy behind, we can advocate more creativity and an increased representation of a student’s artistic capacity. We hope that even after we exit the halls of our school for the very last time, art can be a universal medium through which this community’s students can interact with the world. Perhaps someday, art can become a more recognized mode of expression.
After all, art is not what you make - it’s what you make of it.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

5 Tips (and more!) From A Self-Professed Bike Geek

You 
By Laurel McJannet



Does the guy pictured above look familiar? He should-- he's Roland, our resident, year-round bike commuter often featured on our Bike to Work efforts (above left is a screenshot from our #MovesLikeTransit video). You can also see him on our video showing how to use our bike racks on buses.

Besides being our resident cyclist, Roland is also a strategic unit planning manager in our Planning and Development Department, pulling together data about our buses and surrounding communities to help the agency create and update our plans for adding service-- like this Transit Development Plan, for instance.

Ah, but this is about Roland and his biking prowess. Here's what he had to say:

How often do you ride to work?
Usually 3 or 4 days a week, year-round.

How long is your commute? 7 miles each way, 25-30 minutes. 

Do you combine bus and bike? 
Frequently. Usually bike and Swift in the morning and then just bike in the afternoon.

How often to you bike outside of Bike Month?  All the time.

Why do you bike?
It's always been part of who I am.  Fitness, mental well-being, I like to see the sights up-close.

I'm a bike geek. 

I like keeping our air clean.  I save a lot of money.  We've always been a one-car family and have been able to 
keep it that way, even with two teenage daughters.  Living where I can bike and bus to work is critical.

What do you like most about biking?
It's fun. I always look forward to my commute-- how many people can say that?

What makes biking to work challenging at times?
Carrying cargo.  Dry cleaning, shoes, boxes, plants.  After 25 years of bike commuting, you get very strategic
about what objects to leave in your office and how to carry them on the bike.

What kind of bike do you ride? 
I currently ride a steel-frame Cyclo-cross bike equipped with fenders, rack and lights for commuting.  It's 
comfortable, not flashy and does really well in the rain.


What advice do you have for the beginning bike rider who is contemplating biking to work?
Get out there and try it!  Don't get hung up on having all the right equipment or clothing.  Get a functional bike.  Find a place to park it (rack, stairwell, office).

Look for ways to make it easy-- combining bus and bike can get you over hills, distance or high-traffic areas.

Thanks for the tips, Roland!