More commuters find transit works for them

Passengers took roughly 919,000 trips using Community Transit in May, a record for Snohomish County’s transit agency. The increase in ridership is a welcome development, coming just months before voters will weigh in on more regional transit and highway improvements this fall.

Snohomish County continues to grow as its job market swells and housing prices soar in King County. More people means more congestion. The state Department of Transportation expects traffic in Snohomish County to increase by 47 percent in the next 20 years. Statistics like that should inspire continued and expanded support of mass transit.

Most of Community Transit’s ridership comes from its bus lines, but it also operates DART paratransit and vanpool services. And more transit opportunities are on the way, providing commuters with additional flexibility and viable alternatives to gridlock and high gasoline bills.

Community Transit’s next big project is its Swift bus rapid transit service, slated to begin operation in 2009. The new route will run 17 miles along Highway 99 between Everett and Aurora Village, with 15 stops in each direction. Some 1.5 million people use the existing bus routes on that corridor, and the frequency and efficiency of the Swift system should further increase those numbers.

Through May, Sound Transit’s Sounder commuter rail line had made 1,315 total trips this year. Sound Transit plans to increase the number of weekday round trips between Everett and Seattle from four to eight next year, and to add a new stop in Mukilteo. (It currently stops in Edmonds.)

Another step forward is the implementation of dedicated bus and carpool freeway ramps that lead directly to neighborhood park-and-rides. The off-ramps, a joint effort of Sound Transit and the state DOT, save bus riders valuable minutes during morning and evening rush hours, allowing buses and carpools to bypass crowded city intersections.

If a rider does have a long commute, he or she might be fortunate enough to ride one of the nine CT buses equipped with a wireless Internet connection.

Seven different transit operations in four counties, including the state ferry system, tested a smart card service that would replace cash fare boxes. The planned Orca card would make connections easier and speed up the boarding process.

Snohomish County commuters have more and better transit options, and it’s good to see they’re taking advantage of them – and poking holes in the outdated notion that Puget Sound commuters will never leave their car at home.

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