Thursday, October 27, 2011

Highway 99 survey examines corridor post-Swift

The highway from Everett to Shoreline has long been Snohomish County’s busiest transit corridor. But how has Swift bus rapid transit changed the way people travel this road?

Prior to launching Swift in 2009, Community Transit and Everett Transit did a survey of bus riders in the corridor to learn about their transit use and demographics. The agencies will be conducting a similar survey next week.

Survey teams will ride Routes 7, 9, 101 and Swift on Nov. 1, 2 and 5 (Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday). The surveyors will ask bus riders to fill out a quick paper survey on their riding choices and habits. Some questions get at understanding who the rider is and how s/he uses transit: daily, weekly, infrequently, for work, school, recreation, etc. Other questions ask whether a rider takes whatever bus comes along or chooses to ride only Swift or local service for various reasons.

Results of this survey could help Community Transit plan and receive funding for future Swift lines. The information also will help reveal what impact Swift has had on the Highway 99 corridor.

Why do you choose to ride Swift, or not to?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dick's opens restaurant along Swift line

“Dick’s is the place where the cool hang out,” according to Sir Mix a Lot. With the opening of the new Edmonds location today (scheduled for 3 p.m.), Mix and his posse can now take Swift bus rapid transit to get a deluxe with fries.

The new Dick’s is less than a city block from the Swift stations at 216th Street on Highway 99, in the Top Foods parking lot. Several other buses converge on this location, Routes 101, 110, 112, 405, 406 and 871. Transit presents a great option for getting your burger, but don’t eat on the bus!

The anticipated opening of the first Snohomish County Dick’s location helps Community Transit’s bottom line. The agency receives 0.9 percent of every sales tax dollar spent in the service district, so your $10 Dick’s purchase sends 9 cents to support transit service! If you really want to help, eat more!

What are some of your favorite eateries or entertainment destinations that you get to on Community Transit?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Local businesses shine at state commute awards

By Tom Pearce, Public Information Specialist

When it comes to commute trip reduction, local companies Amgen and Esterline Control Systems, Korry Electronics are leading the way. They are two Snohomish County businesses that work with Community Transit’s Employer Outreach program, which helps companies throughout the county meet state requirements to reduce the number of single-occupant vehicles on the road.

Their efforts also helped each earn a Governor’s Smart Commute Award last week. Amgen was honored with the Employer Leadership Award for Voluntary Employers while Esterline Korry received the Employer Champion Award for Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) Affected Employers in Snohomish County.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Commute Trip Reduction law, which requires Washington businesses with 100 or more employees to develop programs that encourage their staff to use alternatives to driving alone for their commute. Worksites with fewer than 100 employees can participate in the program voluntarily.

Amgen and Esterline Korry are shining examples of success. Both offer ORCA pass programs that allow their employees unlimited access to buses, trains and vanpools in the Puget Sound region. The also have internal programs to support CTR goals and provide a guaranteed ride home program so employees who choose to use a commute alternative don’t get stranded without a ride home in case of an emergency.

Amgen’s Bothell Campus remains part of the state’s commute trip reduction program even though the company transferred employees to other sites so the Bothell campus has fewer than 100 employees. In addition to the other benefits, Amgen offers a subsidy to employees that walk, bike or carpool to work on a regular basis.

Its transportation program helped Esterline Korry retain almost its entire workforce when it moved from Seattle to Mukilteo two years ago. Thanks to quality transportation benefits, 51 percent of the company’s Mukilteo employees use an alternative to driving alone.

Amgen and Esterline Korry offer two examples of how CTR programs can help businesses attract and retain experienced, well-trained employees. If you or your company is interested in providing an employee transportation program, Community Transit’s Employer Outreach is ready to help.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Viaduct Closure Could Delay Later Commuter Buses

By Tom Pearce, Public Information Specialist

While Community Transit does not operate bus service on the Alaskan Way viaduct, there are 110,000 reasons a nine-day closure of that structure starting Oct. 21 could impact the agency’s service. Each day the week of Oct. 24-28, there could be 110,000 cars forced onto city streets instead of their regular trip along the viaduct.

The City of Seattle expects delays of about five minutes to cross downtown on city streets from all that extra traffic. In Community Transit’s case, those five minutes will add up, literally. Many Community Transit commuter buses make their first trip through the city, then return for a second, third and even fourth trip. That’s a five-minute delay each trip. And that doesn’t account for other potential delays – heavy traffic, accidents, traffic signals. We expect delays of 20 minutes or more on some of our later trips due to the closure.

So what’s a commuter to do? Here are a few suggestions:
• Try to take an earlier trip, before those delays have a chance to pile up.
• Look at other Community Transit routes. Several routes go to more than one transit center, offering several alternatives to a destination.
• If you travel with an ORCA card, you can ride a bus to one transit center, then transfer to a local bus to get to where you parked without paying extra.
• Talk to your boss about flexing your schedule or even working from home.
• Consider taking Sounder. Trains should not be impacted by the viaduct closure, and buses connect Sounder with several transit centers.

The viaduct closure will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21. It will allow crews to demolish the southern mile of the viaduct and attach the remaining portion to the new Highway 99. The Washington State Department of Transportation expects to work to be completed by 5 a.m. Monday, Oct. 31.

Of course, all the media hype about our own Northwest "Carmageddon" could influence enough people not to drive their cars downtown that week, and things won't be so bad. That's reason enough to watch the morning traffic report and check our online Rider Alerts to see how things are going during the closure. With some advance planning and flexibility, we’ll all get through this.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chance To Get a Van Expires Oct. 31

These vans won't turn into pumpkins on Halloween, but the opportunity for Snohomish County nonprofit organizations to get a van at no cost expires that day.

Community Transit's Van GO program awards surplus vans to worthy nonprofits that demonstrate they can use the vehicles to provide needed transportation in their community. Since 2000, Community Transit has awarded 96 surplus vanpool and service vans as well as paratransit minibuses to organizations through an annual competition.

A number of those vehicles awarded over the years are still in service. Community Transit takes good care of its vehicles, so even a van with 120,000 miles on it is likely to provide years of service for a small organization.

The deadline to apply for this year's crop, up to 10 eight-passenger vans, is Monday, Oct. 31. The vehicles are awarded through a competitive process in which community groups demonstrate how they will use the vehicles to provide transportation service. Awardees will get the van at no cost but must show proof of insurance and pay to register the vehicle.

Questions about eligibility should be directed to or (425) 438-6136.

Applications and more details about the Van GO program are available at

Applications that are mailed must be postmarked by Oct. 31. Electronic or hand-delivered applications must be received by 5 p.m. Oct. 31. Electronic applications must be followed by a hard copy containing the appropriate certification signatures.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Riding the Double Talls

Crosscut today ran this great first-person account of riding one of our Double Tall buses for the first time. It made me recall the thrill of that first ride I took on our leased bus back in 2007.

In this article, Mr. Hinshaw discusses the benefits to Community Transit in using double decker buses for commuter service, mainly transporting more people without greater operating costs. Another benefit to the agency is visibility. People in Seattle see the Double Talls and think of Community Transit. Other transit agencies elsewhere in the country call us to ask about our experience with the buses, or if they find out I work here they say, "Oh yeah, you guys have the double deckers."

Hinshaw asks why a U.S. company doesn't get in the double decker market, and that's a legitimate question. But yet another benefit of Community Transit's order for 23 double deckers from U.K.-based Alexander Dennis, Ltd. is that the company set up a plant in California to build our buses. That did employ U.S. workers, and set a precedent for other agencies to purchase such buses with federal "Buy America" money.

The author confesses "a childlike glee" in running upstairs to get a front row seat. What about you? What was your first ride on a Double Tall like? Are you a regular Double Tall commuter? Are you still waiting for that first chance to board a double decker? What's your story?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What Is STEP?

The School Transit Education Program (STEP) is a free educational experience offered to all public and private schools throughout Snohomish County. Its main objective is to teach students K-12 the benefits of public transportation.

Education Coordinator Steve Peters uses his background in theater to bring a 30-minute classroom presentation to life! Steve uses stories, imitations and funny characters to introduce public transportation to thousands of children each year. Kids learn how to read a route number, bus etiquette, bus safety and much much more!

Once the classroom presentation is complete, all children board a Community Transit bus for a half-hour ride around the community. These buses are driven by some of Community Transit's best drivers! For more information about the program, call (425) 348-7148 or email

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

35 Years: A Quiet Celebration

By Tom Pearce, Public Information Specialist

An anniversary is a celebration. It’s a milestone in life, marking another achievement. Even in tough financial times, we find ways to commemorate those milestones. It may be a husband and wife marking their 10th wedding anniversary with a nice home-cooked dinner because they can’t afford a fancy restaurant. But we do remember.

Today is the 35th anniversary of the start of Community Transit. We’ve done big celebrations in the past. But this year, we are that couple sitting down with candles in our own dining room. We’re marking our anniversary with another day of planning to implement service cuts in February 2012. It’s certainly not what we would choose, but it is what we must do, just like some families across the nation who spend anniversaries just trying to make ends meet. Hopefully those families find at least a few minutes to fondly look back at those quaint early days, and look forward to a brighter future.

On Oct. 4, 1976, Community Transit was the newlywed. Our drivers were dressed in fine new uniforms, but they were driving 15-year-old leased buses. We started small: seven communities, seven routes. We were casual: no bus stops, just wave to the bus somewhere along one of our routes and the driver would stop to pick you up. Ring the bell and we’d stop and let you out at your destination.

As time went on, our family grew. Routes became more formal. Almost every city in Snohomish County joined Community Transit. We added routes and began to run buses more frequently. Ridership climbed as the public embraced us. Our future was bright.

And then a crisis. The Motor Vehicle Excise Tax was eliminated, taking away about 30 percent of our funding. But our friends rallied to support us. The public went to the polls to approve new funding, and Community Transit recovered and thrived. Service that had been slashed was restored, new service was introduced and ridership soared. In the mid-2000s there were four consecutive years of record-breaking ridership, culminating in 11.9 million rides in 2008.

The next year, Swift was born.

Like every other family, Community Transit was hit hard by the Great Recession. Four straight years of record ridership turned to four straight years of budget cuts. The agency borrowed from its reserves, holding off new projects and new purchases to keep service on the road as long as possible. In June 2010, service was cut 15 percent. The economy still did not rebound. In February 2012 there will be another 20 percent service cut.

This time around there is nothing for friends to rally around. Not yet. The agency has put itself in a position to be able to grow again, smarter and with a focus on improving productivity. The February 2012 service change will be a place of stability that will provide a solid base from which future growth can occur.

And we're still optimistic about that brighter future!