EVERETT — An easier, smoother way for bus riders to get between Everett and King County looks to be one step closer.
Early next month, Community Transit plans to start building 24 Swift bus rapid transit stations along the Highway 99 corridor between Everett Station and Aurora Village in Shoreline.
Service on the route is targeted to begin next fall.
Not only will the buses stop less frequently, but riders traveling across the Everett city limit will not have to stop and transfer from Community Transit to Everett Transit or vice versa.
Under an agreement between Community Transit and the city, which operates Everett Transit, the Swift buses will go all the way to Everett Station.
“We know it’s going to be good for the customers,” said Steffani Lillie, a program manager for Everett Transit.
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.
With only 12 stations each way on the 17-mile route — compared with about 60 stops on Community Transit’s regular routes — a rider could go from one end to the other in 40 to 55 minutes, compared with 50 to 70 minutes, Community Transit spokesman Tom Pearce said.
Work is scheduled to begin Dec. 3. Informational meetings on the construction schedule for Tuesday and Thursday.
Community Transit is spending $32 million on the project, about half on the stations and half on 15 new buses, Pearce said.
Half of the money is coming from Community Transit, and the rest from the state and federal governments, with Everett Transit pitching in $4 million plus some tax money.
The stations will consist of normal-looking bus shelters with several added features, including electronic readerboards announcing the time until the next bus and ticket vending machines for riders to prepay to speed up boarding.
The system will be the first of its kind in the state, according to the agency. Swift buses will have three doors for boarding and priority at traffic signals to give them a slightly longer green light or shorter red light at intersections.
Signal priority already exists on 10 miles of the southern route, while the city of Everett will install the technology within the city limits.
“Bus rapid transit works best on a high density corridor to move large numbers of people quickly between major destinations,” said Community Transit director Joyce Eleanor.
The agreement also signals a thawing out in relations between Community Transit and Everett Transit. In the past, Everett has resisted overtures toward mergers by Community Transit.
Community Transit is planning to operate the Swift line and Everett Transit is planning to expand its coverage to underserved areas just outside city limits, according to the agreement.
The city plans to build a Swift terminal at Everett Station. It also will spend up to $4 million to build Swift stations inside Everett and install equipment that allows Swift buses to change traffic signals along their route.
The city of Everett also must pay Community Transit about $1 million in sales tax annually each year toward the Swift system.
“Swift represents a new era for public transportation in Snohomish County,” said Eleanor.
Lillie said it signals a willingness by Community Transit and Everett to “stop thinking about ourselves and the agency itself and thinking about riders and the people who need to use the system to get around the county.”
Praise for the plans are muted at the Amalgamated Transit Union 883.
“Our contract says we’re the only drivers for the city of Everett and they’re taking transit dollars to have other people drive routes,” union president Steve Oss said.
The union is considering legal action, he said.
A proposal by the union to have the route split between Everett and CT drivers fell flat with the city, according to Oss.
“Negotiations are coming up and anything can happen,” Lillie said.
Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two meetings are scheduled this week to provide information about Swift bus service:
6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Snohomish County PUD, 21018 Highway 99, Edmonds.
1 to 3 p.m. Thursday at Everett Station, 3201 Smith Ave.
A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for 11 a.m. Dec. 3 at Highway 99 and Airport Road.
For a 20-second animation of the bus-rapid transit system, go to http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=42149393486.
For more information, go to www.communitytransit.org/swift.