On Friday, Community Transit released three different options to extend its successful Swift Blue Line to the future Link light rail station at NE 185th St in Shoreline. The agency is planning to roll out the bus rapid transit line extension in 2024, the same year that the light rail station is poised to open.
Swift service currently runs between Everett Station and Aurora Village Transit Center in Shoreline. The proposed extension would route Swift buses up to an extra two miles to reach the Shoreline light rail station, provide service every 10 minutes on weekdays and every 15 to 20 minutes during weekends and evenings.
The three options that Community Transit is considering between Aurora Village Transit Center and the NE 185th St station include the following:
- Alternative A would run the Swift Blue Line via SR-99 and N/NE 185th St;
- Alternative B would run the Swift Blue Line via N 200th St, Meridian Ave N, and N/NE 185th St; and
- Alternative C would run the Swift Blue Line via SR-99, N/NE 175th St, and 5th Ave NE, but would not directly stop at Aurora Village Transit Center.
Using zoning as a proxy of future ridership potential, Alternative A would seem like the better bet to move more riders than the other alternatives. Zoning near SR-99 provides for substantial multifamily and commercial development. Infill development has grown rapidly along that stretch of SR-99 in recent years. N/NE 185th St was also rezoned in five years ago for much higher development capacity and several small multifamily projects have recently broken ground along the street–with more undoubtedly on the way. The blocks along along Meridian Ave N, N/NE 175th, and 5th Ave NE hold far less potential for Alternatives B and C since they are primarily zoned for single-family residential uses.
The main drawback of Alternative A is that it would require running buses further along SR-99, which can be problematic at peak times due to congestion. Fortunately though, transit lanes and transit signal priority have been installed along the SR-99 corridor and the extension project ultimately will come with additional transit priority investments. Community Transit will also install new stations using the agency’s signature platforms, shelters, and off-board amenities to aid the speed and reliability of buses.
Metro currently routes express and local service on the streets that Community Transit is considering run the Swift extension on. The most prominent route is the RapidRide E Line on Aurora Ave N with stops at N 192nd St, N 185th St, N 180th St, and N 175th St. Routes 346 and 348 provides local service on Meridian Ave N and N/NE 185th St respectively while Routes 303X, 373X, and 301 provide peak-hour express service on Meridian Ave N, N/NE 185th St, and N/NE 175th St respectively. Metro is planning a bus restructure to pair with Northgate Link Extension in 2021 and is still finetuning the route changes.
Community Transit has indicated that the extension might only included a limited number of additional stops. Two of those could be infill stops at 228th St SW and N 200th St on SR-99. However, if the extension is routed via SR-99 to N/NE 185th St or N/NE 175th St, a stop could be added at N 192nd St on SR-99. That stop happens to coincide with the Shoreline Park-and-Ride. Other potential stops between the light rail station and Aurora Village Transit Center have not been identified at this time.
If the extension is routed along SR-99 and via either N/NE 185th St or N/NE 175th St, it would seem sensible for Community Transit to at least provide a stop pair at that intersection to allow for local transfers for rides who use the RapidRide E Line. That would ease very local transfers with more frequent connectivity. However, if the goal is not provide a local stop on the stretch between SR-99 and the light rail station on N/NE 185th St or N/NE 175th St, it may wind up being faster to connect Swift riders to light rail by just using Alternative B via Meridian Ave N. The tradeoff there, though, would be much lower ridership.
Community Transit hopes to wrap up project development next year and begin construction in 2022. An online survey on the options will be open through February 27th.
Correction: The original version of this article mistakenly attributed issues with N/NE 175th St to N/NE 185th St.