On Sunday, Community Transit unveiled its largest project since beginning service over four decades ago.
Adding to the popular Swift Blue Line, the transit agency launched a second bus rapid transit line. Light rail might not be coming to Snohomish County until 2024, but a high-capacity transit network has arrived already.
The new Swift Green Line will run between the new Seaway Transit Center, across the street from Boeing’s Everett factory, to the Canyon Park Park and Ride in Bothell. Thirty-four stations dot the 12.5-mile, east-west corridor, which connects two of Snohomish County’s largest job centers. Community Transit estimates it will take between 36 to 39 minutes to travel the entire route.
“The reality is we cannot build enough roads to keep up with the growth that is coming here,” said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood, during the kickoff ceremony Sunday at McCollum Park in Everett. “We have to find ways to use our infrastructure more efficiently, and that’s what the Swift Green Line, the Swift Blue Line and light rail represent: How can we move more people on roadways that are already congested?”
The Blue Line, which began operating in 2009, was the first bus rapid transit line in the state. It runs from Everett Station to the Aurora Village Transit Center in Shoreline mostly along Highway 99.
“It was so inspirational, that (King County Metro Transit) followed our lead and even Sound Transit has followed our lead,” Liias added.
Bus rapid transit lines are often referred to as “light rail on wheels” because they operate more like trains. These buses generally come more frequently and stations are spaced farther apart than traditional bus service. The routes aim to offer higher reliability and speed with bus priority lanes, queue jumps and all door-boarding.
At Highway 99 and Airport Road, the two bus rapid transit lines connect, forming a high-capacity transit network. Swift buses are scheduled to arrive every 10 minutes during weekdays, and every 20 minutes during evenings and weekends. Each Swift station has a real-time arrivals board indicating when the next bus will come.
Community Transit plans to add two additional bus rapid transit lines. The Swift Orange Line will run from Mill Creek to Edmonds Community College with a stop to the Sound Transit light rail station in Lynnwood. It is set to open in 2024 in conjunction with light rail arriving to Snohomish County. Also, that year, the Blue Line will get an extension south providing a direct link to the Shoreline light rail station on North 185th Street.
Three years after that, the Swift Red Line, is scheduled to connect Everett to the Smokey Point Transit Center in Arlington.
Emmett Heath, CEO of Community Transit, was on the inaugural ride of the Green Line when it left McCollum Park just after noon. As the packed ceremonial bus made its way to the Seaway Transit Center, Heath pointed out his favorite features of the Green Line — bike racks and queue jumps.
Three custom-made bike racks, near the rear door of the buses, allow riders to roll their bikes onto the bus right onto the rack. These racks are also found on the Blue Line. In contrast, traditional buses have a rack mounted outside on the front of the bus.
“I’m proud our staff designed the racks,” he said. “It’s one of the nicest features.”
Queue jumps on 128th Street, when approaching I-5, give buses a green light before general traffic allowing them to get onto the overpass first.
“This will help with bottlenecks,” Heath said.
Also on that first bus was Cole Croley. The Everett resident said the launch of the second bus rapid transit line opens up a lot of possibilities for his fiancee and himself.
“It’s the frequency, you aren’t standing in the rain or cold for too long,” Croley said.
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How Swift lines work?
New to Swift or need a refresher on how it works? Here are a few tips and answers to some common questions about the service.
What is the cost of a fare and how is paid?
A standard ride costs $2.50. There are no fareboxes on Swift buses, fares must be paid before boarding. This decreases the time spent at stations by allowing riders to use any door to get on the bus.
Riders can either tap their ORCA at a card reader at the stop or purchase a ticket from a vending machine located at each station.
Where do I find a schedule?
A schedule isn’t necessary, according to Community Transit. Buses are scheduled to come every 10 minutes between 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays. The rest of the time, buses will run every 20 minutes. Swift buses operate Monday through Friday from 4:20 a.m. to 11 p.m. On Saturdays, buses start at 6 a.m. and run until 10 p.m. And Sundays they operate between 7 a.m. and 8:40 p.m.
All Swift stations have a real time arrivals board indicating when the next bus will arrive. There is only one location where the two lines cross. To tell the difference between a Green and Blue line bus, check the sign mounted on the top front of the bus.
How do I get off?
Similar to Sound Transit’s light rail system, Swift buses stop at all the stations. No need to pull a cord or flag down a bus.
Where do I park to ride Swift?
On the Green Line, there is parking at Canyon Park Park and Ride, McCollum Park Park and Ride and Mariner Park and Ride. At the Seaway Transit Center there is no public parking.
How do I get to Paine Field Airport?
To reach the new Paine Field passenger terminal, get off at the Green Line station at Airport Road and 100th Street. The terminal is about a 7-10 minute walk from there.