On-demand transit around the Alderwood mall is coming this fall, and three other cities could see something similar from Community Transit.
Leaders of the public transportation agency for most of Snohomish County are in the early stages of looking at Arlington, Darrington and Lake Stevens as the next areas for microtransit service.
“We want to respond to industry-wide changes and build ridership,” community transportation specialist Kevin Futhey told the board during its regular monthly meeting Thursday. “We want to make travel easier more broadly.”
The presentation drew applause from the Community Transit board members. Jan Schuette, an Arlington City Council member, said her area has seen a lot of population growth and construction of health care facilities used by north Snohomish County residents. In a place like Darrington, which has one bus in the morning and one in the evening, someone who can’t drive might not be able to make medical appointments.
“I can see where every city is different in what their needs are,” she said during the meeting. ”I’m excited. This is really going to help a lot of people.”
Ridership declined during the pandemic with more people working from home or changing how they commute, but is rebounding. Testing new services — apart from its fixed-route buses, paratransit and vanpool program —can add people to the transit system and take personal vehicle trips off the roads, he said.
Community Transit gathered public feedback on the Lynnwood microtransit project in spring 2021. Its service area is bound by 172nd Street SW to the north, Alderwood Mall Parkway to the east, Alderwood Mall Boulevard and 200th Street SW to the south, and 52nd Avenue W and Highway 99 to the west.
MedStar Transportation, a private transit operator, will operate run the the Lynnwood project on a contract worth just over $1 million.
The Lynnwood project is set to launch this fall 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week with five vehicles that will have Community Transit’s branding on it, Futhey said.
Once it launches, users can call or use an app to get picked up and dropped off within the service area for $2.50, the same fare as Community Transit’s fixed-route buses. Riders can use their ORCA pass.
“Our hope is to get it to a 10-minute wait time,” Futhey said.
That goal could make the ride more appealing than other options and solve the “first- and last-mile problem,” a term used to describe people whose trip destinations begin and end that far from a bus stop.
Arlington, Darrington and Lake Stevens were chosen as the next potential service areas based on population density, demographics, land use and fixed route access, Futhey said.
The service’s plan has clashed with Amalgamated Transit Union 1576 leadership. The union represents hundreds of Community Transit employees, mostly drivers. But the agency is coordinating with the union about its findings from the Lynnwood project.
If the board chooses to make on-demand service permanent, the union would get an offer to be involved.
Community Transit is preparing outreach for the next three areas and forming working groups to hear what transportation needs are in Arlington, Darrington and Lake Stevens. It could be in the 2023 budget.
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An earlier version misstated the role the union would have in future on-demand service decisions. The union would get an offer to be involved.