Community Transit: 2024 budget and long-range plan set course for more transit options  

Community Transit’s Swift bus.

The Community Transit Board of Directors Thursday approved the agency’s 2024 budget and “Journey 2050,” the agency’s long-range plan. This sets in motion major changes that will give people in Snohomish County more public transportation options than ever before, the agency said in a news release.

“The population is growing and changing, so people need new options that fit their lifestyle. Starting next year, people in Snohomish County will be able to go more places — and get there faster — using public transportation,” said Community Transit CEO Ric Ilgenfritz. “Our plans address the near- and long-term needs of this community. And as we build a transit system for the future, we are looking to make it one that is sustainable for generations to come.”

Changes start on March 30, 2024 with the launch of a new bus rapid transit (BRT) line in South Snohomish County. The Swift Orange Line, Community Transit’s third BRT line, will connect to the existing Swift Blue Line and Swift Green Line to provide a network of bus service along major corridors. The Swift Orange Line will travel between Edmonds College and Mill Creek. Notably, it will make a stop at Lynnwood Transit Center, allowing people to connect to Link light rail and the other BRT lines when it opens next fall. People will also be able to connect to rideshare services from the Swift Orange Line, including Zip Alderwood Shuttle and Vanpool.

There will be more improvements to Community Transit’s service area when light rail opens next year, resulting in better local bus service in Snohomish County, the agency said. These changes include new express bus connections to the Link light rail systemfrom most parts of the county, and higher frequency in local service, with buses running more often throughout the day and evening. All of these changes take into account major growth in the county, changing travel and commute patterns, and new regional transit options, such as light rail, Community Transit said.

Community Transit said it also has plans to make travel easier by adding new types of transit services.  Its Innovative Services program is dedicated to finding ways to bridge the “first-mile, last-mile” challenge and address transportation gaps within communities. In 2024, Zip Alderwood Shuttle, an on-demand service, begins its first full year as a regular service. Similar services will be tested in Arlington, Darrington and Lake Stevens next year. Planning for Innovative Service pilots in three additional communities will also begin. The long-range plan sets a goal of delivering innovative services for more communities throughout the county. These types of services make transit easier for everyone to access.

Looking further into the future, Community Transit said it is making plans now to reduce the agency’s impact on the environment by working to transition to zero emission buses. Zero emissions buses are quieter and cleaner than diesel-powered buses. In January 2024, a battery electric bus and a hydrogen fuel cell bus will be tested to inform future zero-emission bus and technology investments.  The two test buses will be used on routes by mid-year. The long-range plan establishes a target of achieving a full transition to zero-emissions buses by 2044.

Finally, safety and security are top priorities and are key to ensuring people choose transit, the agency said. The year 2024 marks the first full year of funding for the Transit Security Officer (TSO) program launched in 2023. TSOs enforce the agency’s rules of conduct and maintain a steady presence to deter unwanted and illegal behavior. TSOs work closely with Community Transit’s service ambassadors and transit police unit. The agency will also continue to contract with the Snohomish County Sherriff’s Office to employ dedicated transit police and a social worker who is trained to work with people experiencing crises.

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