LYNNWOOD – Buses passed, cranes beeped and workers hammered during the construction of a light rail station on Tuesday, as elected leaders and community transit staff signaled the start of work on the new line rapid transit by Swift Orange bus.
In two years, 60-foot articulated buses will run with a frequency of up to 10 minutes over 11 miles between Edmonds College and Mill Creek.
“Here’s the power of great infrastructure policy,” Community Transit CEO Ric Ilgenfritz told a large crowd ahead of the groundbreaking ceremony at the Lynnwood Transit Center.
In the crowd were Governor Jay Inslee, the Senses. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Reps. Suzan DelBene and Rick Larsen, and state lawmakers including Transportation Committee Chairs Jake Fey and Marko Liias, who spearheaded a nearly $17 billion transportation package this session.
Bus rapid transit is nicknamed “rail on wheels” for its fast and frequent service. As with rail service, passengers pay before boarding, saving time. There are also not as many stops as the traditional bus service.
Snohomish County has had Swift bus rapid transit service since 2009, when the agency launched its Blue Line, primarily along Highway 99 between Everett and Shoreline. Swift Green was launched in 2019 between Boeing at Seaway Transit Center and Bothell.
This is a popular service, accounting for around 33% of all transit trips. Ridership hasn’t plummeted like on general buses during the pandemic, according to agency data.
The orange line will have 13 stations in each direction between Edmonds College in the west and McCollum Park in the east. It should be 25% faster than existing local service, according to Community Transit.
When it begins in 2024, Swift Orange buses will connect to the Sound Transit Link light rail at Lynnwood Transit Center, also known as Lynnwood City Center. It will share some stations with the Green Line along the Bothell-Everett Freeway and intersect the Blue Line at 196th Street SW and Highway 99.
Traffic light improvements and bus technology are included in the development to help ensure reliable journeys.
the $75.6 million investment project also includes the construction of new transit centers at Edmonds College and McCollum Park. The Mill Creek Park & Ride lot will be demolished and rebuilt, said Community Transit’s Christopher Silveira.
Most of the Orange line’s money comes from federal grants to help build the stations and purchase 15 New Flyer buses for Community Transit’s Swift fleet. Each of the 52-seat buses can carry 70 passengers and has three roll-up bike racks inside.
“Whether it’s a bus, ferry or light rail, we love it,” said Nuria Fernandez, administrator of the Federal Public Transport Administration. “It’s about giving taxpayers what they deserve, and it’s the best transportation system this county has to offer.”
Cantwell and Murray said they would continue to support federal government investments in public transit.
The new vehicles will retain the same paint scheme as the existing blue and green Swift buses. No orange band will join them, as each bus could be deployed on a different line.
Work is expected to begin in two weeks, first at Edmonds College, then at McCollum Park and Swamp Creek park and rides.
There are other Swift lines in the early stages of development, including the Gold line north of Arlington and a potential Silver line that would run east to Highway 9 at Cathcart Way. These two lines each received $10 million under the Legislature’s Move Ahead WA program.
“We have many, many more Swift lines to build,” Liias said.