EVERETT — Swift buses are living up to their name — at least based on a ride on the first day of Community Transit’s new bus line.
A late morning round trip on Swift on Monday between Casino Road in Everett and Aurora Village in Shoreline took one hour and eight minutes, compared with two hours for the same trip at the same time on the local routes a week before.
“Amazing. It took the same amount of time as if I had a car,” said Amy Allman, 24, of Edmonds, who rode the bus north from Aurora Village to Casino Road. Her trip took 34 minutes.
Allman was one of about 1,500 people who rode Community Transit’s new, $29.6 million bus system on Monday, its first day of operation. The line runs more than 17 miles between Everett Station and Aurora Village in Shoreline, mostly on Highway 99.
The system speeds things up for passengers by running more frequently, making fewer stops and requiring payment before boarding.
Community Transit didn’t have a target ridership in mind for the first day.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” said Martin Munguia, a spokesman for Community Transit.
Community Transit had staff members at the stops on Monday answering questions, and they’ll remain there through the first week. Munguia said staff members were reporting increased ridership on Tuesday compared with Monday.
The agency projects a 25 percent increase in ridership on the Highway 99 corridor in the first year and a 57 percent increase over five years. About 4,500 people board local buses per day on the stretch. Regular buses still operate along the route. It won’t be clear for awhile how much overlap there will be in ridership between regular and Swift buses.
Swift is the only bus rapid transit line in Washington state and is now one of 22 in the nation. The Swift line is also the longest bus rapid transit route in the nation, though planned extensions to at least two other systems would make them longer.
Community Transit estimates the buses will cut what is typically a 50- to 70-minute trip for all 17 miles down to 40 to 55 minutes.
Felix Angel Morales, 45, rides buses from his home in Seattle’s Lake City to his job in Everett, a trip of up to three hours each way, depending on the smoothness of the transfers. He estimates Swift will cut an hour or more off the trip each direction.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “It’s very convenient for me to ride this bus.”
On Monday, the most frequently asked questions were how to pay and whether Swift takes transfers from other bus systems.
Payment is made at each station with cash, debit card, credit card or ORCA pass, good for a ride on any system in the Puget Sound area.
Community Transit, along with other transit agencies around the region, is phasing out transfers as a way of encouraging passengers to buy ORCA cards.
Transfers are good within local lines or from one Swift ride to another, but not across systems. Swift does not take transfers, nor is a Swift ticket good for a ride on another Community Transit bus.
On Dec. 31, Community Transit, Kitsap Transit and Sound Transit will stop issuing paper transfers within their own systems. Everett Transit stopped the transfers three years ago.
The six transit agencies in the Puget Sound region will cease to accept cash transfers from other agencies’ buses. Metro and Pierce Transit are keeping cash transfers within their systems, so riders who board their buses and pay with cash can continue to get a transfer good for their buses only.
The ORCA cards provide a two-hour transfer anywhere in the region.
The passes may be bought on an unlimited, monthly-pass basis, or they may have any amount of cash attached to them and then paid down as used. The card itself is free until Feb. 1, $5 afterward.
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