Transit has Swift future in Snohomish County

Voters’ rejection of last month’s roads and transit measure sent regional planners back to the drawing board, but Snohomish County’s two local transit agencies are rolling ahead with a potentially revolutionary improvement in bus service.

Community Transit and Everett Transit announced Wednesday that they’ll work together to provide bus rapid transit service between Everett Station and Shoreline beginning in 2009. The route will follow the Highway 99 corridor from Pacific Avenue to Aurora Village, with new deisel-electric hybrid buses stopping at 15 new stations in each direction once every 10 minutes. Riders won’t even need a schedule.

It’ll operate with the regularity and predictability of train service, but you won’t have to wait 20 years for tracks to be installed. Its success could lead to similar service on other major corridors in Snohomish County and beyond.

CT, which serves county residents outside the Everett city limits, has been planning its “Swift” service since 2005. The major news in Wednesday’s announcement was the new partnership between CT and Everett Transit, a critical step in making Swift a reality and a hopeful sign that the two agencies have turned a positive corner after years of friction.

The agreement calls for CT to operate the service along the entire 16.7-mile route, including within the Everett city limits, and Everett will contribute a portion of its sales-tax revenue — about $1 million a year — to the system. The city will also spend up to $4 million to build Swift stations inside its borders and install equipment that will give Swift drivers limited control over traffic signals.

In addition, Everett Transit will take over some service just outside the city limits, including service between the Mukilteo ferry landing and the Boeing plant. The agencies have also agreed to negotiate better coordination of other services, including paratransit, commute trip reduction and after-hours customer service.

With talk of a merger off the table for now, close coordination and cooperation between CT and ET are essential. Wednesday’s agreement is evidence that both agencies’ leaders understand that, and are committed to removing any remaining barriers to efficient service. Taxpayers and transit customers should expect no less.

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