Community Transit is preparing to shift buses that go to the University of Washington in Seattle to connect with Link light rail in Northgate next month. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Community Transit is preparing to shift buses that go to the University of Washington in Seattle to connect with Link light rail in Northgate next month. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Faster trips, more service in store for Community Transit

The agency is reallocating 4,000 service hours that will be saved by ending commuter routes at Northgate.

Some of Community Transit’s busiest bus routes will be a little shorter in just a few weeks.

Starting Oct. 2, Sound Transit light rail’s Northgate station is set to open. The terminal will let a swarm of Community Transit buses stop there instead of venturing farther south into Seattle.

“It gets us out of the business of being stuck in traffic on I-5 or busy Seattle streets,” said Roland Behee, Community Transit director of planning and development.

Northgate light rail is the first major shift in the agency’s six-year development plan, with service increases, new routes, an envisioned study of zero-emission vehicles and an experiment with on-demand transit.

Once the Northgate light rail station opens, Community Transit’s 800-series routes and the 511, 512 and 513 buses will end there.

All of that saved time — about 4,000 service hours — is being reallocated to improve frequency for those routes to better align with the light rail schedule.

“We wanted to make sure people had a bus ready and waiting to take them home,” Behee said.

Those and other commuter routes saw the largest ridership losses last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, with some falling by around 90%.

But sales tax receipts from the past year weren’t as low, and ridership recovery has not been as slow as initially feared. Instead, the Snohomish County transit agency is preparing for 30% increases over the next six years.

“What really marks this update is we have, we believe, a clearer picture moving forward,” Behee said. “Happily, it is that the economic impacts are not as great.”

Sales tax comprises the bulk of Community Transit’s general fund revenue, with fares chipping in around $23 million in the year before the pandemic. Ridership on the commuter routes has regained about 70% since the end of last year.

Even with some uncertainty around the delta variant of the coronavirus, Community Transit buses are regaining ridership, especially in the past few months. Despite the shift for some people to remote work over the past 18 months, Behee and transit leaders aren’t seeing it become permanent for their customers.

“We’re seeing the same things you are — that traffic levels are starting to look a lot more like pre-pandemic,” Behee said.

A focus for Community Transit in coming years will be education around the new cleaning and safety procedures on buses. Last year, the coaches were upgraded with extra filtration systems; riders must wear masks to board; and regular disinfectant is misted inside each bus when it’s out of service.

But Behee said the agency is still learning how to make riders feel safe enough to return and gain new customers.

When they do return, they’ll have expanded and faster service.

The Swift Blue bus rapid transit line that generally runs along Highway 99 is set to extend to North 185th Street in Shoreline. That’s the location of a light rail station that will open in 2024 as part of the Lynnwood Link extension in 2024.

By then, the Swift Orange bus rapid transit line will start service between Mill Creek and Lynnwood. Nearly 18,000 people per day are estimated to use light rail at the Lynnwood City Center station, which is currently called the Lynnwood Transit Center.

But the transit center’s projected 1,900 parking spaces won’t accommodate all of them. Community Transit wants its Orange bus rapid transit line to help connect people to light rail.

Early planning is to start next year on the Swift Gold bus rapid transit line between Everett and Smokey Point, which could open in 2027.

The current connections, the 201 and 202 routes, operate on a half-hour basis, so there’s usually a bus every 15 minutes. Swift Gold buses are expected to come about every 10 minutes to each station on weekdays, with a potential for more frequency. Bus traffic could be smoother through signal priority, queue jumps and some dedicated lanes. But the details are to be confirmed through the scoping study next year.

Within the next several years, Community Transit leaders could begin replacing the fleet’s diesel and hybrid-diesel buses, likely with battery or hydrogen-fuel vehicles. First, a study of needs and capacity, as well as expense, will help define the options for the agency.

“It lines up well with our goals around environment, climate and sustainability,” Behee said. He noted that the prior strategy had been for Community Transit to wait for the technology to develop and to be implemented in enough transit areas to better evaluate their use throughout Snohomish County. “We have a very large, diverse service area.”

Next year, people around Alderwood mall and Lynnwood City Center will have an alternative transit service. Community Transit is using a $1 million federal grant to try on-demand “microtransit.”

What that microtransit program looks like is still being decided.

If the pilot project is considered successful, Community Transit leaders could keep it or implement it in other locations.

Have a question? Call 425-339-3037 or email Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A wanted suspect was arrested after a standoff with law enforcement Tuesday night. (Bothell Police Department)
Kidnapping suspect arrested after standoff in Bothell

A large police presence contained the property in the 20500 block of 32nd Dr. SE on Tuesday night.

Community Transit's Lynnwood microtransit pilot project is set to launch this fall with a service area around the Alderwood mall. (Community Transit)
Lynnwood’s microtransit test begins this fall, others possible

Community Transit could launch other on-demand services in Arlington, Darrington and Lake Stevens.

Doctor Thomas Robey sits in a courtyard at Providence Regional Medical Center on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
‘It’d be a miracle’: Providence tests new treatment for meth addiction

Monoclonal antibodies could lead to the first drug designed to fight meth addiction. Everett was chosen due to its high meth use.

Rev. Barbara Raspberry, dressed in her go-to officiating garments, sits in the indoor chapel at her home, the Purple Wedding Chapel, on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, in Everett, Washington. The space used to be two bedrooms, but she and her husband Don took down a wall converted them into a room for wedding ceremonies the day after their youngest son moved out over 20 years ago. The room can seat about 20 for in-person ceremonies, plus it serves as a changing room for brides and is the setting for virtual weddings that Raspberry officiates between brides and their incarcerated fiancees at the Monroe Correctional Complex. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s oh-so-colorful Purple Wedding Chapel is in the red

Rev. Rasberry has hitched hundreds of couples over the years. After her husband died, she’s unsure if she can keep the place.

Man dies in motorcycle crash that snarled I-5 in Everett

Washington State Patrol: he tried to speed by another driver but lost control and hit the shoulder barrier.

The Days Inn on Everett Mall Way, which Snohomish County is set to purchase and convert into emergency housing, is seen Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
County OKs hotel-shelter purchases, won’t require drug treatment

Snohomish County Councilmember Nate Nehring efforts failed to delay the vote and failed to require residents to get addiction treatment.

In a nearly empty maternity wing, Chief Administrative Officer Renée Jensen talks about how it has been almost nine years since east-county mothers could give birth at EvergreenHealth Monroe on Monday, April 1, 2019 in Monroe, Wash. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
EvergreenHealth Monroe seeks Community Advisors to guide services

Applications for the volunteer positions are due by Sept. 16.

1 dead in fire at Arlington RV park

Authorities believe the fatal fire early Wednesday was an accident.

Patrick Diller, head of community partnerships for Pallet, discusses the Pallet Shelter Pilot Project last June in Everett. (Katie Hayes / Herald file) June 29, 2021
State laws prompt changes in Everett city rules for shelters

The city is considering revisions to issue permits more quickly for emergency shelters.

Most Read