Community Transit’s proposed 2024 bus routes. (Community Transit)

Community Transit’s proposed 2024 bus routes. (Community Transit)

Community Transit plan funnels bus services to light rail

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to remake bus service in our county,” Community Transit CEO Ric Ilgenfritz said.

LYNNWOOD — Community Transit envisions greater frequency, longer hours and a lot of connections to light rail when it reaches Snohomish County in 2024.

The Everett-based transit agency, which serves most of the county, is proposing a dramatically different system. It’s collecting more input on proposed changes based on public input from December. An online survey in Chinese, English, Korean, Russian or Spanish is open through May 31.

When Sound Transit opens light rail between Lynnwood and Northgate in Seattle in a couple of years, Community Transit plans to stop running buses to Seattle. It takes a lot of time to cover that distance and crawl with traffic, on the route that will be mirrored by the faster light rail system.

“With light rail coming to Lynnwood, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to remake bus service in our county to make it easier for more people to use,” Community Transit CEO Ric Ilgenfritz said in a statement.

If implemented, the overall number of routes would decrease from 46 to 36.

At least 28 routes are changing. Some would become new routes or be combined into others.

For example, the current Route 113 between the Lynnwood Transit Center and the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal would vanish. Instead, a new Route 103 would run between the Lynnwood and Seaway transit centers every 20 or 30 minutes on weekdays. Commuters also could use the 902 express route from the ferry terminal to the Lynnwood Transit Center, which would come every 30 minutes on weekdays.

Nine new express routes cater to weekday commuters with frequent morning and afternoon service that has fewer stops. Those would replace all of Community Transit’s current 400- and 800-series bus routes.

One would run between McCollum Park near Everett and Canyon Park near Bothell. Riders could take the new Route 905 every hour from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays between the Stanwood I-5 park-and-ride and the Seaway Transit Center near Boeing.

But most of the new express routes funnel into light rail stations. Five connect at Lynnwood City Center, one in Bellevue and one in Mountlake Terrace.

“We want to make sure we are connecting our bus network to light rail,” Community Transit’s Luke Distelhorst said in a presentation Monday.

The new 908 express route would connect Snohomish, Monroe, Woodinville, Kirkland and Bellevue with southbound morning and northbound afternoon service.

Express routes that pass north Everett won’t stop at Everett Station, according to the proposal. That’s because the major transit hub and potential light rail station is already “very full” for buses, Community Transit system planning manager Chris Simmons said.

Community Transit staff know potentially ending service won’t work for every current rider who uses its buses. But linking them to light rail helps free those drivers for other routes and higher frequency throughout the county when they’re not stuck in I-5 traffic as often, Simmons said.

“Our buses will get stuck and can get stuck at a moment’s notice,” Simmons said. “That can disrupt your schedule.”

Instead, those riders can connect with King County Metro or Sound Transit to get further into Seattle or other points south.

Some of the agency’s developments aren’t reflected in the proposal. That includes a “microtransit” and on-demand transit pilot project in Lynnwood, set to start this year, as well as Swift Green bus rapid transit reaching downtown Bothell or the nearby University of Washington campus.

Community Transit is already looking at three other areas to test microtransit and on-demand transit in the next 18 months. Brier is one of those areas, Simmons said.

The Green line currently ends at the Canyon Park-and-Ride, about 4½ miles north of UW Bothell. The Legislature’s Move Ahead WA transportation package funded Swift Green expansion with $10 million so it could reach downtown Bothell. Community Transit is reviewing what infrastructure changes may be needed for the expansion in 2027 or 2029.

The agency needs more bus drivers to serve all those routes. Community Transit has 335 full-time equivalent drivers and estimates 394 will be needed to fulfill the proposal in 2024.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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