Community Transit’s 209 bus departs from the Lake Stevens Transit Center at 4th St NE and Highway 9 on Thursday, April 20, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Community Transit’s 209 bus departs from the Lake Stevens Transit Center at 4th St NE and Highway 9 on Thursday, April 20, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Want ride-hailing at bus prices in Arlington? Let Community Transit know

The transit agency is in early development for microtransit services in Arlington, Darrington and Lake Stevens.

There’s only one bus route that rolls into Darrington.

Community Transit Route 230 has a host of stops during its 28-mile journey between downtown Darrington and the Smokey Point Transit Center. It’s nearly the same distance between Everett and Seattle, albeit with less traffic as the journey links people from the Cascade mountains to I-5.

But the bus only operates as a commuter run with one morning and one evening jaunt in each direction.

Service pilot projects in early development by Community Transit are looking to change there, as well as in Arlington and Lake Stevens. What they look like and how they operate is up to input from residents. They could be community vans, ride-hailing in specific zones or facilitating a bike-sharing or scooter-sharing program.

It sprang from the ridership shift felt by transit agencies across the country. In Snohomish County, the commuter runs that once packed park-and-ride parking lots as people bussed into and out of Seattle have been slow to rebound from the pandemic plummet.

Community Transit CEO Ric Ilgenfritz told the board during a meeting April 6 he’s confident a “paradigm shift” has taken hold. It’s one reason he and executive-level staff are testing different programs across its service area.

Instead of setting a bus system and expecting people to show up at stops, Community Transit is exploring ways to link riders into the network.

“We’re gonna go get them,” Ilgenfritz said.

Zip, the first trial, launched in October. For the same price as a bus ride, $2.50, people can call or use an app to request a rideshare-like service within the Alderwood area of Lynnwood.

That point-to-point shuttle service has been popular so far in one of the county’s most densely populated cities, community program manager Jennifer Hass said.

A mixed-use pathway goes unused as rush hour traffic zooms along South Lake Stevens Road on Thursday, April 20, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

A mixed-use pathway goes unused as rush hour traffic zooms along South Lake Stevens Road on Thursday, April 20, 2023, in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

But it might not work for more rural or single-family residential settings found in Arlington, Darrington, Lake Stevens and other parts of Snohomish County, Hass and Ilgenfritz said.

The agency’s leadership selected the next three communities to get more diverse data from its pilot projects that could begin by spring 2024.

The agency started meeting with its community working groups from each city. The groups include staff from cities and school districts as well as social service and utilities providers.

One of the first tasks is to figure out what keeps people in the city from using the existing options such as buses, paratransit and vanpools.

In Darrington, Hass and Ilgenfritz already heard a lot of residents need to leave the city for medical appointments and other services. Without buses running throughout the day, it likely requires a car trip.

For Lake Stevens, the challenge could be the transit void around the lake itself. Bus routes run through the city along the highways or into the transit center. But getting across the vast city by bus proves more difficult.

People who live and work in Arlington, Darrington and Lake Stevens can fill out an online survey available in English and Spanish through the end of April. The surveys ask for your residential ZIP code, what area of the community you live, where you travel there and why.

There’s risk in spending the money and time to evaluate options that could fail, Ilgenfritz said. But it’s worth it to see what other services Community Transit could offer, and which don’t work. Ideally if one model fits a city in one part of the county, it could be replicated in a similar community elsewhere, he said.

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

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