Light rail’s arrival to Lynnwood will shift Community Transit bus service in major ways.
Higher frequency. More express service. New routes.
The Snohomish County agency has planned for it for years, but problems beyond its control have added kinks in that work.
Primarily the issue is when light rail reaches Snohomish County and how often it runs. Trains could start arriving at the Lynnwood Transit Center sometime next year, but maybe not until early 2025.
Leadership for Sound Transit, which serves King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, has two options for the sequence of upcoming light rail projects.
One choice is to open a “starter line” of service between Redmond and Bellevue first without a connection west to Seattle while deficient work is redone on Interstate 90. If that proceeds first, it would connect to the Operations and Maintenance Facility East, and Lynnwood Link work would sit unused for months.
The other is to open the Lynnwood Link extension first, connecting with the rest of the line south to Angle Lake, with 8-minute frequency at best in mid-2024.
Snohomish County leaders have advocated for the latter option.
“Some service is better than no service, and a delay is just not something that is very acceptable,” Mountlake Terrace interim city manager Andrew Nieditz said during the city council meeting this week.
Community Transit has been planning a large redesign of its service in anticipation of light rail. The biggest change will be ending commuter routes into Seattle, which are long and subject to the whims of traffic congestion. Instead, Community Transit proposes redeploying those buses and drivers throughout Snohomish County to improve coverage and frequency locally.
“We are at a decision point,” Community Transit system planning manager Chris Simmons told the board during its Feb. 2 meeting. The board could vote on the network overhaul in April. There’s an online meeting about the changes from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday.
Community Transit initially envisioned starting Swift Orange bus rapid transit service in tandem with light rail launching in Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and Shoreline. Construction of those stations is under way and on track to open before the earliest possible start date for Lynnwood Link light rail, Simmons said.
Further complicating plans is the Washington State Department of Transportation’s work on Interstate 5 eyed for next year.
Community Transit staff crafted four phases for its 2024 network redesign that correlate to light rail. Assuming Lynnwood Link starts late next year, the agency will modify service to Northgate, keep some commuter routes and add standby buses for the I-5 corridor.
“That’s the point we have to deal with first,” Simmons said.
If light rail service begins with 8-minute peak frequency, it can connect to the East Link line and operations facility in Bellevue, Community Transit would shift those Northgate connections to Lynnwood. At 8 minutes, that’s about half the frequency initially intended.
Around the same time, it would open its Swift Blue line extension to the Shoreline North/185th Street light rail station, add Mountlake Terrace light rail station connections and keep most Seattle commuter routes.
If Lynnwood light rail service hits 75% late next year, Community Transit’s network redesign would match it.
Once full light rail service starts, the full Community Transit change would take effect.
The proposed system would have 35 routes totaling 480,000 annual service hours, almost 32% more than what’s offered today, Simmons said. It adds the express routes and the Swift Orange bus rapid transit line, expands the Swift Blue line and boosts frequency throughout the county.
Several new proposed express routes would have frequent morning and afternoon service with fewer stops to replace all of Community Transit’s current 400- and 800-series bus routes into Seattle. Instead, most of those routes would connect to Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace light rail stations.
After public comment on the draft proposal last year, the agency adjusted some routes.
Route 102 between Edmonds Station and the Lynnwood Transit Center added weekday frequency to every 20 minutes and weekend service to 30 minutes.
Route 130, which also links Edmonds Station and the Lynnwood Transit Center on a different path that includes the Aurora Village and Mountlake Terrace transit centers, had its frequency improved to 20 minutes.
Express Route 909 aims to match the ferry schedule for sailings between Edmonds and Kingston with 50-minute frequency every day.
Route 106 between University of Washington Bothell and the Mariner Park and Ride replaces routes 105 and 906 for daily service with 30-minute frequency on weekdays and hourly in off-peak times on weekends.
Route 109’s frequency improves to 30 minutes on weekdays.
Route 166 is being moved to match the current Route 116 and improves Saturday frequency to 30 minutes.
Express Route 901 serves a Puget Park Drive loop and loses its segment to Snohomish.
One of the other changes from the draft is renaming a previously titled express route in Mukilteo to a local route, 117. It would coordinate with the ferry sailing schedule for runs between Clinton and Mukilteo.
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