While following up with Metro about the lack of progress on RapidRide’s “tech pylons” along 3rd Ave Downtown (H/T Andrew N), I learned that Metro will not have off-board payment via ORCA for RapidRide C and D line until the launch of RapidRide E in mid-2013. Information below thanks to Rochelle Ogershok.
RapidRide C/D lines will be opening without ORCA card readers in the CBD south of the Belltown area. Unfortunately 3rdAvenue did not have an existing communication network to support readers. However, there is a City of Seattle project underway now to provide a 4.9 gh wireless communication network that when complete should enable us to install readers. We are expecting this network to be available by mid-year 2013. Our RapidRide program goal was to have the off-board ORCA readers in time for the start of the E Line in fall 2013.
The grants that have been awarded for 3rd Avenue will help fund amenities at RapidRide stops and non-RapidRide stops in the CBD. The specific elements of the 3rd Avenue project are still being developed. Options include ORCA dispensing and cash ticket vending machines, but this is still to be determined. Currently the RapidRide program does not include ticket vending machines.
Because “tech pylons” include both ORCA card readers and real-time arrival signs this also means that downtown stops will not have real-time arrival information till mid-2013 as well.
Metro delayed the launch of RapidRide by over a year to ensure that the brand wouldn’t be tarnished by Viaduct construction related delays, but now it is failing to implement the single most important feature for surface travel through downtown, off-board fare payment with ORCA. Then the King County Council eliminates the RFA, transitioning from the fastest boarding system to the slowest downtown, just to get a few million dollars in added revenue.
All snideness aside, I can’t believe how perfectly this news depicts the RapidRide illusion, Metro’s implementation stumbling blocks and the King County Council’s political morass and indifference. We have written multiple times about how RapidRide has become a seriously compromised “BRT” system, with lack of dedicated ROW, poor routing choices, lack of adequate priority, bus heavy costs, and a half-baked payment system. These issues are now compounded by elimination of the RFA.
We have supported RapidRide and BRT from the beginning but Metro and the Council have let “BRT creep” and politics take over, not what is best for riders. When RapidRide C and D lines open on October 1st we’ll have a glorified shiny new bus that is slower than existing service.
As a lifelong rider of Metro and a diehard advocate I am having a serious crisis of confidence in Metro and more specifically the County Council. Metro must do better or else it will be hard for this jaded rider and others to get riled up to support or defend Metro next time around.