Lynnwood City Council hears plans for new Swift Orange Line, reviews housing report

(Left to right): Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath and program manager Christopher Silveira present plans for the new Swift Orange Line.

A new bus rapid transit (BRT) line was the topic of conversation at the Lynnwood City Council’s July 29 work sessions meeting as Community Transit staff briefed the council on the anticipated Swift Orange Line scheduled to open in 2024.

Beginning the presentation was Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath, who said the current ridership on the Swift Blue and Green lines has exceeded the public transit agency’s expectations.

“I think that both of those lines are evidence that communities like these BRT lines and citizens are using these BRT lines,” he said.

The Swift Orange Line will travel from the east-to-west corners of South Snohomish County along an 11.3-mile route between Edmonds Community College and McCollum Park and Ride. The route will include stops at Lynnwood’s City Center district, Alderwood Mall and Mill Creek Town Center. According to the presentation, the Orange Line will run every 10 minutes on weekdays and every 20 minutes on weekends. The Orange Line will also connect with the Swift Blue and Green lines to enhance the local bus network that feeds into the light rail station. 

Also, fully accessible bus stations will be installed in multiple locations where riders will be able to pay their fare and see next bus real-time information. Riders will be able to board at any of the three doors on the buses, with wheelchair accessibility at the front entrance. Bike racks will be included inside the bus for bicyclists to store their bikes onboard.

The opening of the Orange Line is scheduled to coincide with the arrival of the Lynnwood Link light rail extension coming the same year. Swift Bus Rapid Transit Program Manager Christopher Silveira said the addition of the Orange Line is expected to help with anticipated congestion at the light rail station. Ultimately, Silveira said, Community’s Transit’s goal is to connect high-density areas like Lynnwood with the rest of Snohomish County.

“That’s including here at Lynnwood, which quite frankly is going to be our most important hub for the next decade,” he said.

Related to the Orange Line, Silveira said the existing Edmonds Community College transit center will be moved to the northeast corner of the parking lot along 68th Avenue West. Moving the college’s transit center will provide more flexibility for Community Transit’s services and streamline bus movement in the college parking lot, he said.

Two Orange Line stations serving the City Center District will be installed west of the 200th Street Southwest and 44th Avenue West intersection, after the road-widening improvement project to Alderwood Mall Boulevard is completed. In addition, two stations will be added on the west side of Alderwood Mall along 33rd Avenue West, near the 188th Street Southwest intersection.

According to Silveira, the Orange Line project is currently in the project development phase with construction expected to take place from 2021-23. To learn more about the Orange Line, visit the Community Transit website.

In other business, the city council heard a presentation regarding housing and housing affordability issues in the city. City Senior Planner Ashley Winchell presented the Lynnwood Housing Report, a collaborative effort between Lynnwood and the Alliance for Housing Affordability, which represents jurisdictions in Snohomish County. The document details the city’s existing housing conditions; current Lynnwood housing policies, regulations and incentives; recently adopted Washington state legislation regarding affordable housing; affordable housing strategies and recommendations from city staff on how best to proceed.

“A lot of things have come out of these plans, but they set up the framework to move forward,” Winchell said.

According to the report, 37% of all Lynnwood households are “cost burdened” — meaning they spend 30% of their income on housing. The report states that more than half of Lynnwood residents who rent (51%) are described as cost burdened — higher than the Snohomish County average of 47%. Additionally, the report states that there are currently 1,225 housing vouchers from Housing Authority of Snohomish County (HASCO) as well as 2,144 Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) units in the city for low-income, elderly or disabled residents. However, vouchers can also be used at LIHTC projects.

After presenting the report, city staff recommended next-step strategies for the council to consider while continuing its discussion regarding housing in the city. Recommendations include exploring grant options for funding creation of a Housing Action Plan; reviewing potential programs and policies to determine what will work best for the city; involving community partners in the discussion to help draft programs and policies to meet the city’s needs; and changing the city’s municipal codes to implement programs, terms and conditions, when possible.

Related to affordable housing, the council also revisited the discussion from its July 22 business meeting, when it voted to postpone the approval of an ordinance that would amend regulations regarding development agreements in the City Center district. The decision was made after the council could not decide whether to establish a baseline percentage of future housing units that would be required to be affordable housing. During the discussion following the July 29 presentation, Councilmember Ian Cotton asked city staff if they learned anything that could help the city establish a “blanket requirement for a certain percentage of housing as a mandate for development.”

Winchell explained that although some cities have adopted those policies, any council decision to set requirements for affordable housing may affect pricing in non-affordable units, to offset the cost of affordable ones.

“If you’re requiring a certain number to be affordable, that cost has to be accommodated somewhere,” she said.

Also during the meeting, the council heard from representatives from the State Auditor’s Office about their plan for auditing the city’s 2018 financial statements, the Federal Single Audit and Accountability Audit. Currently, the audit is fully underway and is being performed by the North King County audit team.

–Story and photos by Cody Sexton

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *