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Wednesday, August 2, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Community Transit plans rapid bus service along 99

Times Snohomish County Bureau

Snohomish County could become home to the first bus-rapid-transit system in Western Washington.

The plan is for buses to run every 10 minutes up and down Highway 99 from Everett Station to the Snohomish-King county line, Community Transit officials said Thursday. What's now an hourlong bus ride is expected to take about 45 minutes because of bus lanes and stoplight priority for the buses.

The buses will come so frequently there won't even be printed schedules, officials said. Each station along the route is to have a display showing the wait time for the next ride. The displays will be updated by using Global Positioning System information from the buses.

Community Transit is calling the system Swift, with a logo that looks like a fast bird.

"The swift bird rarely lands or perches — it's always on the wing," said Community Transit's chief executive officer, Joyce Olson.

The agency announced Thursday that it had secured about $20 million for the project. That's all the money it needs to complete the system and get it running by the end of 2008, Community Transit said.

In Seattle and other parts of King County, there has been talk of bus rapid transit, but the funding hasn't come together, and the planning isn't as far along as in Snohomish County, Community Transit spokesman Martin Munguia said. It's likely that when the first Swift bus departs Everett Station, it'll mark the beginning of bus rapid transit in the region.

"The Swift project is fully funded and is far enough along that it may be the first, but other things could transpire before the end of 2008," he said.

Most of the $20 million will come from Community Transit, but local and federal grants and appropriations also are part of the funding package.

The money will be used to purchase 16 buses, buy the technology needed to operate a rapid-transit service, build stations along the route and perhaps create dedicated lanes along about seven miles of the route that don't already have those lanes.

Adding rapid transit along Highway 99 could increase ridership by about 50 percent, from 4,300 boardings a day in 2004 to about 6,600 boardings a day in 2008, according to a study of the project.

Construction of the stations could begin next year, Olson said.

Brian Alexander: 425-745-7845 or balexander@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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