By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
EVERETT — It doesn’t go faster than any other bus, but looks like it could.
As far as riders are concerned, it will.
Community Transit unveiled its first Swift bus this week.
The more streamlined-looking bus glided up to a bus stop at CT headquarters for about 40 invited guests at an event earlier this week.
Community Transit plans to run 15 of the hybrid diesel-electric articulated buses between Everett Station and Aurora Village in Shoreline beginning Nov. 30.
Swift buses will make fewer scheduled stops and run more frequently than regular buses on the route.
“We believe Swift will attract a lot of new riders to transit,” said Joyce Eleanor, Community Transit’s director.
The buses will make only 12 stops each way on the 17-mile route, compared to about 60 stops on Community Transit’s regular routes. A rider should expect to go from one end to the other in 40 to 55 minutes, compared to 50 to 70 minutes for conventional routes, Community Transit spokesman Tom Pearce said.
Buses will stop every 10 minutes from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. and every 20 minutes evenings and weekends. The buses will run 20 hours each day. The regular routes will continue to operate as well, serving stops not on the Swift schedule.
The system will be the first of its kind in the state, according to the agency. “Bus rapid transit,” however, is being used increasingly around the country, said Bill Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, who was at the event on Tuesday. The association is based in Washington, D.C.
The buses rely on measures such as frequent runs, fewer stops, express lanes, quick-pay systems and to cut travel times. They even have priority at traffic signals. Passengers know it’s a faster ride and are more inclined to use the system, which in turn draws businesses to set up shop near the stops, Millar said.
“It’s getting the best out of a great technology, meaning buses,” he said.
Cities such as Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Miami have been using buses in this way for several years, Millar said. Others such as Eugene, Ore., and Cleveland have added systems more recently, he said.
King County Metro is planning on starting a similar system, called RapidRide, in 2010.
Community Transit’s Swift stations will have two electronic features not seen at conventional bus stops.
To keep things moving quickly, riders will pay at the stops: Buses will not have fare boxes.
Passengers can either scan an ORCA card, a regional card good for use on any transit system in the region, or pay with cash, debit or credit card.
After the buses are up and running, Community Transit plans to activate reader boards at the stops to tell riders the number of minutes until the next bus arrives. The buses first must be fitted with GPS systems to make this work accurately, Pearce said.
Riders can board at any of three doors. Swift stations are built with high curbs, so passengers barely have to step up to board the bus.
Community Transit has built a mock-up of a Swift station at its Everett headquarters so drivers can practice the more precise parking needed to get next to the higher curb and to line up with boarding points for wheelchairs and bikes.
As a hybrid, the Swift bus in the demonstration ran very quietly. The bus accelerates more slowly and smoothly than a regular bus, “with none of the shifting down or up,” said Matt Chomjak, who trains drivers at Community Transit and drove the bus at the event.
For now, the buses will use conventional diesel fuel but are capable of running on biodiesel. Community Transit is not using biodiesel in its buses because it is currently more expensive than regular diesel, Pearce said.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.