Community Transit debuts ‘Swift’ line


Swift buses will operate on a 17-mile corridor in Snohomish County between Everett Station and the Aurora Village Transit Center in Shoreline, primarily along Highway 99. (Community Transit photo)

When Community Transit’s new Swift Bus Rapid Transit service debuts this weekend, it will be the first Bus Rapid Transit line in Washington state and at 17 miles, one of the longest in the country.

“More than 18,000 people have come out to check out the buses. There has been a lot of buzz,” said Martin Munguia, a spokesman for Community Transit in Snohomish County.

So why do they call it “Swift?” During weekdays, Swift buses will run every 10 minutes from 12 stations between Everett and Shoreline along the State Route 99 corridor, each one to two miles apart.

BRT differs from normal bus service in that it aims to run with the frequency and consistency of light rail. For seven miles of the Swift line, buses will run in dedicated lanes. They’ll get signal priority along much of the route, meaning less interruptions between stops. Passengers buy tickets from vending machines at the station before the bus arrives, which saves time when boarding.

The Swift buses have three entrances, which are nearly level with an elevated curb so passengers can quickly board and disembark, and the bus can be off to the next station in 15 seconds or less.

Since the buses pull in and out faster, and have fewer stops, that means more convenience and reliability for residents, shoppers and workers along the busy corridor. Normal bus service hits about 50 stops through the corridor.

“It’s a way of using buses and the infrastructure around them a little bit differently than the traditional bus,” said Munguia, whose agency operates 33 local and 31 commuter bus routes in Snohomish County and carries 57 percent of all Snohomish County-Seattle commuters to work and back.

The 62-feet articulated, hybrid New Flyer buses even look a little like light rail vehicles because they’re taller. They can seat 43 passengers and have standing room for up to 100. Community Transit has rolled out the buses for demonstrations at several public events and has been conducting lots of outreach to prepare riders.

Swift service will begin Sunday with a public event from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Crossroads Swift Station at Highway 99 and 196th Street Southwest in Lynnwood. Rides will be free until midnight.

Regular Swift service will start at 5 a.m. on Monday. Buses run 10 minutes between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m., and every20 minutes on nights and weekends. Fares are $1.50 for adults, $1 for youth and 50 cents for seniors and disabled passengers, Munguia said. For more information, check out the Web site.

Seattle Transit Blog took readers in a preview ride in this story, which said Swift can travel the full corridor in 40 to 50 minutes. A trip on regular service, which requires a transfer at Everett city limits, can take 75 minutes during off-peak hours, according to the story.

Swift buses will sail from Everett Station in downtown Everett through Lynnwood and Edmonds before ending at the Aurora Village Transit Center in Shoreline, where riders can connect with King County Metro.

The stations are larger than the standard bus shelter and have a distinct roadside marker to make them stand out along the corridor. The stations are well-lit and designed with translucent weather barriers that are graffiti-resistant, according to Community Transit’s Web site.

Riders are encouraged to obtain the new ORCA smart card, which is accepted by seven transit agencies in King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap Counties. ORCA, which allows customers to add money to an account, will replace most paper transfer slips after Jan. 1. (ORCA cards are free to obtain until February, when a $5 service charge will be imposed).

Swift bus “ambassadors” will be on baord buses to answer questions and check for proof of payment. The citation for fare evasion is $124.

Some cities such as Miama and Pittsburgh have dedicated right-of-way for BRT lines. Swift buses mostly will use “Business Access and Transit” lanes on the right, which other drivers can’t use unless they’re turning right. They’ll drive in the righthand lane through Everett, although the city could decide to install transit lanes in the future, Munguia said.

There are 20 BRT systems around the country, including a line in Salem, Ore, and more are likely to follow since BRT is much cheaper than light rail to build. In a 2004 report, the Federal Transit Administration said ridership tends to grow 5 to 25 percent in corridors with new BRT service. Many of those gains were from customers who usually drove or walked because normal bus service was too infrequent. Community Transit is projecting a 25-increase in ridership through the corridor.

Next year, King County Metro Transit plans to unveil its own BRT system with RapidRide, which will provide similar bus-every-10-minute service on six routes, starting with a route between Federal Way and Tukwila. RapidRide was part of the “Transit Now” package that voters approved in 2006.

Transit Construction on the Swift stations and the purchase of the Swift fleet cost about $29 million. About $15 million came from state and federal grants, and a partnership agreement with the City of Everett, which operates Everett Transit, Munguia said.

The Swift bus line will cost about $5 million per year to operate, but Community Transit will pay only about $450,000. State and federal grants and the partnership with Everett through the first three years.

“We feel very proud about being innovative,” Munguia said. The agency has a $111 million budget and 690 employees, serves 19 cities outside of Everett in Snohomish County.

Explore posts in the same categories: Bus, Photos, Technology, transit, United States

%d bloggers like this: