Officials cut a ceremonial orange ribbon during a celebration to mark the beginning of the new Swift Orange Line at the Lynnwood Transit Center on Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Officials cut a ceremonial orange ribbon during a celebration to mark the beginning of the new Swift Orange Line at the Lynnwood Transit Center on Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

‘A huge year for transit’: Swift Orange Line begins in Lynnwood

Elected officials, community members celebrate Snohomish County’s newest bus rapid transit line.

LYNNWOOD — Swift Orange Line, Community Transit’s $83 million new bus rapid transit system, kicked off its service at 5:15 a.m. on Saturday morning.

About six hours later, the orange ribbon was cut at Lynnwood Transit Center on a cool, sunny day by federal, state and local officials who gathered to celebrate. About 100 people were in attendance.

Orange Line is Snohomish County’s first east-west rapid transit line and will be key to shuttling people to the Lynnwood Link.

It will have stops at:

• McCollum Park Park & Ride

• Bothell-Everett Highway and Trillium Blvd.

• Bothell-Everett Highway and 153rd St.

• Bothell-Everett Highway and 164th St. SE (Eastbound)

• 164th Street SE and Mill Creek Blvd. (Westbound)

• 164th Street SE and North Road

• 164th Street SE and Larch Way

• Ash Way Park & Ride

• Swamp Creek Park & Ride

• 36th Ave. W and 180th Place SW

• 33rd Ave. W and 188th Street SW

• Lynnwood City Center Station

• Highway 99 and 196th Street

• Edmonds College Transit Center

Light rail is expected to finally reach north to Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace later this year, though an exact opening date for that is still unknown.

People board a bus during the Swift Orange Line celebration at the Lynnwood Transit Center on Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

People board a bus during the Swift Orange Line celebration at the Lynnwood Transit Center on Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

In a nod to the future, Sound Transit brought a light rail vehicle to the Lynnwood station where it sat, overlooking the festivities at the Orange Line station below. The mood was joyful. Speakers at the event, which included Community Transit CEO Ric Ilgenfritz, bantered and joked as they spoke Saturday morning.

There was reflection, too, on what the day meant.

“As that first bus pulled out of the yard, it’s setting in motion a series of changes that are going to ripple across this region the entire year,” Ilgenfritz told the crowd. “2024 is a huge year for transit in the Pacific Northwest and the Puget Sound Region. And we are so proud to be getting it started here today.”

Community Transit officials said the project finished on time and was under budget “in the million dollar range” according to Melissa Cauley, chief planning and development officer for Community Transit. It will also connect with Swift Blue at 196th Street.

“It’s really creating that network, which is the whole goal,” Cauley said in an interview. “The goal is for people to not have to worry about a schedule, not to have to be panicked about, like, ‘I’ve got to get the bus at this time.’ And so that’s what’s really so nice about now having three lines, they all just kind of work together.”

Around 80% of the funding for the project came from the federal government. U.S. Reps. Rick Larsen, Suzan DelBene and Kim Schrier all spoke, as did Federal Transit Administration Acting Administrator Veronica Vanterpool. Larsen, a Democrat, is the ranking member on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

The podium used by speakers featured a Community Transit logo and a second sign below that read “President Joe Biden, Investing in America.”

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds helped pay for the project.

“If we want to fulfill the vision that President has of having an infrastructure decade, we need to reauthorize and pass the bipartisan infrastructure law in 2026. One more time, we’ll call it something else, but the work can’t stop with what we just did,” Larsen said in his remarks.

Following the speeches and ribbon cutting, officials boarded a Swift Orange bus for Edmonds College, where Community Transit hosted a block party for hundreds of people. It featured booths from a variety of local organizations, as well as food trucks and live music.

Angel Alexander lives in the area said she was intrigued by the Orange Line.

“I’ve had had to go downtown to Seattle lately,” Alexander said. “And I am way more interested in trying the different options. Plus I’ll drive to the park and ride. This way maybe I could walk and jump on the Orange Line, just hop on the bus. And then when light rail comes, I’ll just have been doing it.”

The event also drew a group of transit enthusiasts who call themselves the PNW Transit Fans. They’re mostly made up of teens and young adults who, simply put, love transit.

“The Orange Line stops through neighborhoods and stuff. And normally, that’s what a local bus route would do,” said Andrew McMillian, 16. “But the Orange Line does it perfectly well, because it doesn’t go straight into like suburbia. It’ll just pull into a few neighborhoods here and there and stop through, then get back on the main road serves a lot of important areas park and rides and transit centers so commuters can access it easily.”

Jordan Hansen: 425-339-3046; jordan.hansen@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jordyhansen.

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