Snohomish County, Wash. – Temperatures were in the teens the week that Community Transit launched the state’s first bus rapid transit line in 2009. About 70 agency employees and temporary staff stood at bus stations along Highway 99 to help riders learn how to use the new Swift Blue Line.
“I remember it was cold,” said Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath, who, as the agency’s Administration Director at the time, distributed coffee and hot chocolate to keep staff warm. “Despite the conditions, employees were eager to help people learn the new service and experience the quick ride on Swift.”
There was a learning curve to riding Swift, as riders pay fare at the station, not on the bus, and board through any of three doors to minimize time the bus is stopped.
Swift attracted about 1,500 riders a day in its first week. Today the Swift Blue and Swift Green lines attract more than 8,000 riders each weekday with service between Everett and Shoreline, and Bothell and Seaway Transit Center, respectively. Since 2009, the Swift lines have served nearly 15 million riders combined.
This month, Community Transit is celebrating 10 years of Swift by thanking riders for using the service. Employees boarded Swift Blue Line buses last week to hand out Swift candy bars and thank riders. For the next two weeks, Community Transit Facebook followers will have a chance to get a limited-edition Swift pen with a traveling Swift bus by answering trivia questions. There will also be social media posts highlighting the employees behind Swift, and destinations along the two corridors.
“When we introduced Swift bus rapid transit in 2009 it was a bold concept for getting more people where they needed to go,” said Community Transit Board Chair and Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling. “Swift has succeeded beyond expectations and our Swift system has become a model for BRT throughout the state.”
Swift Blue Line was the state’s first BRT line when it started service in 2009. Since then King County Metro Transit launched its Rapid Ride BRT lines, and C-Tran in Vancouver launched the Vine BRT. Pierce Transit and Spokane Transit Authority are both in project development on new BRT lines in Tacoma and Spokane.
Community Transit opened the Swift Green Line in March 2019, now the agency’s second highest ridership route behind the Blue Line. The agency is in project development on a Swift Orange Line, which will operate between McCollum Park and Edmonds Community College, connecting with the Link light rail station in Lynnwood when it opens in 2024. An extension of the Swift Blue Line is also planned to connect with Link light rail at I-5 & 185th Street in Shoreline in 2024.
“When the Swift Green Line opened this year it created a fast, frequent transit network for South Snohomish County,” said State Senator Marko Liias. “With the Swift Orange Line and Blue Line extension just a few years away, we are creating more transportation equity for people who do not drive.”
Community Transit is responsible for providing bus and paratransit service, vanpool and alternative commute options in Snohomish County.