Monday, November 28, 2011

Swift Celebrates Second Birthday

It was two years ago this week that Community Transit, in partnership with Everett Transit, launched Swift bus rapid transit. When it opened, Swift had 12 stops in each direction along a 17-mile stretch of Highway 99 between Everett and Shoreline. There are now 14 stops in each direction, as four stops were added in the City of Everett earlier this year.

In October 2011, Swift had an average of 4,500 passengers ride each weekday. That totaled more than 107,000 passengers for the month – the highest ridership month so far. To put that in perspective, that means in October one out of every 7.7 weekday passengers on Community Transit was riding Swift. On Saturdays, that percentage was even greater as one out of every 4.7 riders was on Swift!

Riders know that Swift is a unique experience, but operationally, Swift stands out among our routes. It is the most frequent service in our system, with a bus arriving every 10 minutes from 6 a.m. – 7 p.m. Swift also has the most service hours of any of our routes, as the service runs from 5 a.m. to midnight, with more buses per hour during that long day. Of course, Swift is also the only route in our system that has off-board fare payment, which helps speed up the boarding process, frees up the drivers to focus on driving and requires fare checkers, known as Swift Ambassadors.

Swift is also the only route in our system that receives specific grant funding. State and federal grants combine to pay for a majority of the operating costs through 2013.

Swift also has been a victim of Community Transit’s service cuts. In June 2010, Swift lost Sunday service, just like the rest of our bus routes. In February 2012, Swift frequencies will be cut back to every 12 minutes on weekdays. To most riders this may not make a big difference, but from an operational perspective, this means big cost savings. There will be one fewer bus going in each direction each hour, saving the cost of a bus driver, the cost of fuel, and the cost of maintenance and depreciation on vehicles that will travel fewer miles because of this reduction.

Finally, what would a Swift birthday be without some poetry from rider Margaret Elwood?

Our favorite bus just turned two!
Dear Swift, Happy Birthday to you!
It's undeniable:
Fast, clean, reliable-
That's how your ridership grew.

At the end of your second year
Here's a rhyme to wish you good cheer.
Swift bus, you're a treasure.
Your service-a pleasure!
I'm glad every time you appear.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Prepare for Winter Weather

by Tom Pearce, Public Information Specialist

Perhaps you’ve heard that “a butterfly flaps its wings in China, and it rains in Brazil.” That’s how it is for Community Transit when it comes to snow.

We cover 1,300 square miles of Snohomish County. That can mean some long trips, like Route 201 between Smokey Point and Lynnwood. Snow throws a wrench in the works. We’ve seen days with six inches of snow north of Marysville and none in south county. So the bus starting at Smokey Point needs chains and is delayed. As it moves out of the snow zone, the chains need to come off. More delays. And in the end, people in Lynnwood are wondering, “Why is our bus late?”

That’s why we post Rider Alerts on our website when snow is expected. The first alert may be a general warning. Once the flakes fly, we’re on it, day and night. If snow falls overnight, we post our first alert by 5 a.m. and continue throughout the day into the evening. Every time something changes in local service, we post an alert. For commuters, there’s the 5 a.m. alert followed by a report by 2 p.m. outlining the evening commute. By 8 p.m. we have a forecast for the following morning’s commute, when we’re back at it with a more detailed 5 a.m. report.

We also offer an electronic alert system that sends notices by email or text. We'll send the same general alert out to all subscribers as we post on the website, but if your route's routing or schedule changes during the day we'll let you know.

The addition of 23 double decker buses to our commuter fleet should improve service in the snow. These Double Talls replaced our oldest 60-foot articulated buses. The 42-foot Double Talls can operate like any standard bus in slippery conditions. Artics can jack-knife easily when it’s icy, so the few times a year we get snow, we often pull them from service. That’s also why on snowy days you may see regular 30-or 40-foot buses running on Swift.

If it does snow, check our website for major delays before you head out. Dress warmly, because buses likely will be delayed if snow is sticking to the roads. And remember, just because it’s not sticking in your neighborhood, it may be elsewhere. Check to see if we’re on a reroute, or try to get to main roads, where service can operate more easily. If your stop is on a hill, wait at the top or bottom of the hill and flag down the driver; buses can be hard to stop or start mid-hill when it’s icy.

We’re ready for winter weather at Community Transit. If it snows, we want you to feel comfortable that you can rely on the bus to get you where you need to go.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Join the Curb Club

By Debbie Anderson, Transportation Demand Management and Outreach Specialist

Suzanne D., Ph.D., rides the bus to work almost daily. As a biostatistician for the University of Washington, research is a part of her everyday work. Finding a smarter way to work and saving money – no Ph.D. required!

Through Community Transit’s Curb the Congestion program, information about how a person’s travels impacts her community can be gleaned once that person switches from driving alone to an alternative mode of travel.

Suzanne says, “Curb the Congestion is a useful way to provide important information to Community Transit, to obtain some monetary incentives, and to get stats concerning how much you save in terms of gas, mileage and the prevention of pollutants into the environment.”

Curb the Congestion is offering great rewards for participants. Log trips on at least 8 days monthly in your online calendar and you may be eligible to receive a $50 bus or vanpool voucher, gas card or REI gift card for three consecutive months. After those initial three months, participants are eligible for a monthly $150 drawing. (Incentives are funded by Snohomish County through federal grants and developer fees.) Visit for complete eligibility rules.

Participants can also recruit family, friends and co-workers and receive an additional $25 incentive, up to four times!

Curb the Congestion offers participants personal assistance in finding carpools, planning bus trips and considering other alternatives to driving alone. You can contact your personal assistant at or (425) 438-6136.

Curb the Congestion is a partnership between Community Transit and Snohomish County to reduce traffic and encourage healthy travel options on congested roadways. Curb the Congestion is funded by Snohomish County through development mitigation fees and federal grants.

The program started in 2008 after Snohomish County declared 164th Street SW between Lynnwood and Mill Creek at “ultimate capacity,” creating a program to invest in transportation demand management and safety improvements rather than halt development or try to widen already built-out roads. In 2009, the county added 128th Street south of Everett and 20th Street SE near Lake Stevens to the Curb the Congestion program.

Curb the Congestion is helping relieve the congestion on these roadways. So far in 2011, the program has removed almost 56,000 drive alone trips, reduced travel by more than 1.2 million miles and has saved participants over $196,000 in fuel costs.

If you travel on one of the targeted roads, contact the Curb the Congestion Specialist about your commute options: (425) 438-6136 or

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Minor" Holiday Service

For transit agencies, figuring out how much service to put on the road on holidays is a guessing game. In good times, you might err on the side of providing more service and risk having empty buses. In frugal times, you might constrict service to the point that it inconveniences some riders.

Well, these are frugal times and many riders have been inconvenienced by the fact that Community Transit no longer operates on six “major” holidays: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The rationale for cutting service on those days, along with Sundays, was that those holidays are more universally observed and transit demand was much lower. Plus, drivers were paid premium pay to drive on those low ridership days, making that service very expensive to operate.

Community Transit still operates on four “minor” holidays: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Friday. These are days when some businesses are closed and transit demand is lower than a typical weekday, but there are still a significant number of people riding the bus.

On these minor holidays, Community Transit usually runs a regular local service schedule. Even if people aren’t working those days, they still travel to do shopping, run errands or visit family.

On these days we reduce commuter service to downtown Seattle and the University District based on expected demand. For instance, this Friday, Nov. 11 is Veterans Day. History tells us that few people change their work schedules and demand for commuter service that day remains high, so we’re running a regular schedule on all service that day. However, on Thanksgiving Friday, Nov. 25, we will operate only Route 414 with extra trips into downtown Seattle and only Route 855 to the University District. Past experience has shown that few people (about 20 percent) take our buses to Seattle on “Black Friday.”

As we prepare to cut service a second time in three years, it is a coincidence that our first day of the new service change is Presidents Day, Feb. 20, 2012. We might have run a reduced commuter schedule, but because our service will be reduced from what we operate now, we have decided to run a regular schedule that day. We’ll see how that goes.

Do you, or did you ever ride the bus on holidays?