Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Swift, vanpool ridership rise as overall ridership falls

While they are pre-audited numbers, Community Transit’s ridership totals for 2009 are in – a 4.6 drop in ridership after four straight years of record highs.

Thar’s not unexpected given high unemployment and downward national transit trends due to the recession. The American Public Transportation Association last week released a report showing an overall decrease of 3.8 percent in transit ridership in the U.S. last year.

The bright spots for the agency are the Highway 99 corridor, where the Swift bus rapid transit line has become the highest ridership route and helped ridership on the corridor increase 11 percent.

Also, the vanpool program hit its all-time ridership mark, climbing 1.6 percent higher than 2008 numbers, when high gas prices created a huge demand for these agency-sponsored pools.

Total ridership on the agency’s buses, vanpools and DART paratransit vehicles was 11.4 million last year, down from an agency record 11.9 million passenger boardings in 2008.

By transportation mode, that can be broken down to:
· 5.2 percent decrease in fixed-route bus ridership
· 1.6 percent increase in vanpool ridership
· 0.9 percent increase in DART paratransit ridership

On June 13, Community Transit will suspend all Sunday and holiday bus and paratransit service – including Swift, and will cut service on many routes the remaining days of the week. This is being done to balance the 2010 budget.

Swift, Highway 99 ridership
· Nov. 29, 2009, Swift begins service with 1,523 boardings that day
· December , 1,699 average weekday boardings
· January, 2,367 average weekday boardings
· February, 2,660 average weekday boardings

While many Swift riders have switched from Route 101, the local bus route that runs from south Everett to Aurora Village along Highway 99 as a companion to Swift, Route 101 ridership remains healthy and is second highest in Community Transit’s system, with an average of 2,218 weekday boardings in February.

Combined, Swift and Route 101 carried 4,878 passengers each weekday on February 2010, compared to the 4,376 combined weekday boardings of Route 101 and Route 100 (which Swift replaced) in February 2009. That 11 percent increase on the Highway 99 corridor came as other transit ridership in the system dropped 8 percent February 2009 to February 2010.

Importantly, Swift is already near the system average of productivity for buses, even with more Swift buses running than on other routes.

Weekday Productivity by Boardings/Hour per vehicle
December January February
Swift 11.6 16.1 18.1
Local 18.9 19.7 19.8
System 19.7 21.7 21.9

This statistic represents how many passengers get on one particular bus in a given service hour. Keep in mind that on each route there are multiple buses in service at the same hour.


  1. It's great to see that news of the Swift ridership numbers is being covered. Here are a couple of articles...

    Riders take to Community Transit's Swift buses (The Daily Herald)

    Swift/SR99 Ridership Bucks the Trend
    (Seattle Transit Blog)

    What's your Swift experience?

  2. Thank you for some good numbers!

    My experience as a daily (choice) rider from end-to-end is quite good. Travel time seems to be pretty consistent at about 45 minutes, which is excellent for transfer planning.

    A couple of questions:

    1. What's the status of TSP? That's one of the key highlighted advantages of Swift, but my understanding is that it hasn't been used since the trial period? Is that correct?
    2. The ITS project is scheduled for completion next year, but will that be a phased launch? Will we see pieces like automated stop announcements and Swift station displays (another Swift highlight) roll out sooner?

  3. I guess I'm still a little worried about cutbacks during what I hope is an economic recovery. Some of the busses I ride some days are standing room only from Seattle to Lynnwood.

    This indicates to me that though the 2009 ridership numbers might have been pretty low, that we're turning a corner economically (I hope!!!)

    However, Community Transit has said that they're cutting routes in June to deal with numbers from 2009 that indicate no one rides the bus.

    How does one reconcile that? Does Community Transit need better bookkeeping so they can tell what really should be done? If there's positive data showing ridership is up, is there time to reconsider the planned changes for June?

    I'd hate for my standing room only bus to turn into "we've got to turn people away because we're overcrowded now" bus. Then what should people do? Drive?

  4. Regarding new technologies along the Swift route... TSP is still being fine-tuned but we hope to have it working all along the Swift route this year. Some of the issues have involved the different systems being used within the city of Everett and outside the city. But we'll get it worked out soon.

    As for the next-bus signs at Swift stations and automatic announcement on buses, they may be rolled out to Swift first, but we're still a ways out to know for sure. Again, we'll keep you posted.

    Now, on the ridership and how it relates to service cuts...

    Community Transit is certainly aware of our ridership on specific routes. We've been watching the downward trend since early 2009. Actually, commuter ridership has really dropped, although you may not see it on the particular bus you ride.

    The service cuts are being done because our revenues are down and don't match up with our current expenses. They are not a response to ridership trends, although when we looked at where to make cuts ridership was taken into account.

    Study the various changes being made on the commuter routes (, we are cutting a number of trips but making adjustments that will still accommodate current ridership.

    For instance, if you take a bus to Seattle from Lynnwood Transit Center, there will be more routes to choose from to get to your destination both ways. By bringing some north county routes to LTC, we are able to cut the number of bus trips, save money and still have enough seats for all our passengers.

    We won't be leaving people stranded without a ride, but you certainly may see more crowded buses between Lynnwood and Seattle as we are trying to maximize use of the trips we'll have available.

    Hope that answers your questions!

  5. I take the Swift daily between Aurora Village and Airport road. The concept is sound but I have a few gripes about the busses. There are too many sideways facing seats. The side to side motion when accelerating or braking bothers my back so I only sit in the forward facing seats. However many of those have intrusions into my knee area (ok, I am 6’5” so that is a limited problem for the general public) and they are mostly located near the center door. When it is cold outside and that door swings open, any warm air in the bus exits in a hurry and is replaced by a cold blast. So I would like to see the seating reconfigured with all forward facing seats except maybe in the bike area that I hope to make use of soon.

  6. I just realized something. Commuter ridership is down because your fare is higher than ST. Their 2 zone from Lynnwood to seattle is 2.50 currently while your commuter fare is 3.50 Personally the only way I would take a CT bus into Seattle is if i saw the Double Tall,otherwise Ill save my dollar considering your buses get to the same destination approx the same time. As for the North Snohomish commuter buses,their fare is actually MORE than South Sno. Co. Are you going to institute a 2 fare zone there?