Op-Ed: RapidRide will be Popular with Riders

by KEVIN DESMOND, King County Metro General Manager

Adam’s Aug. 31 post about the C and D line and RapidRide program expressed disappointment that our launch at the end of the month will not include ORCA readers and the real time signs that are standard at major RapidRide stops. Both of these features require communications backbones and downtown Seattle is a complex environment to lay fiber. We are taking advantage of a planned, Seattle funded project to install the fiber next year, and by doing so we are stretching very limited public dollars as far as we can.

We have a vision for our transit service downtown which includes RapidRide. We applied for and received two federal grants, in partnership with Seattle, to enhance the transit environment downtown, especially on Third Avenue. The grants, along with existing RapidRide funding, will allow Metro to install ORCA readers, real time signs and develop other off-board payment/ticketing devices.

Staff from both Metro and the city of Seattle worked shoulder to shoulder for many months in order to deliver the C and D lines to downtown Seattle – on time and on budget. They’ve problem-solved literally thousands of details as we count down to the Sept. 29 launch. We admit not every feature will be fully operational – but at launch what people will get is better connections, service that’s more reliable, less wait time to catch a bus, transit signal priority at many intersections, real-time arrival information at stations, well-lit shelters and great new Wi-Fi coaches.

Come Sept. 29, we will have readers at 16 stations on the C Line and 21 at stations on the D Line. So there will be a clear benefit at many heavy boarding locations.

Contrary to Adam’s transportation vision, we will never be able to mimic the exclusive, separated right-of-way rail enjoys. RapidRide is designed to operate on compact urban streets – and that’s the beauty of our bus rapid transit program.

We don’t have to guess if these new lines will meet the need of more riders. We already know.  Since the A Line between Federal Way and Tukwila was launched in 2010, ridership has increased nearly 50 percent, meeting our five year goal after just two years. It’s the same story on the B Line serving Redmond and Bellevue – ridership up 15 percent since launching last year.  On these already high ridership corridors in Seattle, we know RapidRide and Metro’s complementary routes will need to evolve over time to manage and respond to peak demand.

We expect similar success from the C and D lines – we project they’ll grow 50 percent over the next five years compared to ridership on the routes they are replacing. That’s more than 1.6 million riders each year on the C line, and 3 million riders on the D Line.

Without a doubt, RapidRide represents a major upgrade of local arterial bus service – to suggest otherwise is just plain wrong. And let’s not forget cost. Metro is adding 120 lane miles of RapidRide at the cost of less than $80 million local dollars leveraged with $120 million in federal and state grants, at a time when Metro is facing a serious long-term revenue shortfall. That means we are being smart with our money by serving more riders at a very low cost per lane mile so we can provide good transit choices in places with high ridership demand.

RapidRide has been delivered at a fraction of the cost and time of light rail, and during a time of unprecedented financial stress. To their credit, both the County Executive and County Council made continuing without delay of the RapidRide program their priority even as we slashed capital spending elsewhere. Your criticism of the Council in this case is utterly misplaced.

The end of the ride free area was not contemplated when the RapidRide C/D line planning was being completed. But, remember as well that the end of the RFA was explicitly intended by the council to help preserve transit service. This was a tough, but necessary trade-off brought on by the steep decline in Metro’s revenues.

RapidRide has been a cost effective, successful program to date and represents our vision of future Metro services working in balance with the Link program development.

As we all know, there are many difficult and complex dynamics at play in the heart of downtown Seattle as evidenced by the 40 year timeline to correct challenges like the Mercer Mess, the lack of basic fiber optic networks throughout downtown, improvements in the Third Avenue environment and the like. These elements have not been left out of our RapidRide vision – in some cases, they are taking just a bit more time, funding and coordination to achieve.

So we’re excited to launch the next of our six new lines in a few weeks. Will there be some remaining work still to be done? Yes. But we expect RapidRide will remain as popular as ever with our riders.




Comments

  1. Mr. Desmond does bring up a good point that planning for the C and D lines were completed before the RFA decision was made, which would make this problem mostly irrelevant. I think it would be better to have something, rather than waiting until all the work is done. There are issues with brand dilution, but I think these will resolve themselves with time.

    Someone commented the other day about WiFi on buses needing this fiber backend. Is this true? I didn’t see a response. I think it will be an EXTREMELY bad experience if the wifi suddenly doesn’t work downtown.

    • Ian Barrere says:

      “Someone commented the other day about WiFi on buses needing this fiber backend. Is this true? I didn’t see a response. I think it will be an EXTREMELY bad experience if the wifi suddenly doesn’t work downtown.”

      I doubt it; most WiFi on public transportation piggy-backs on existing 3G/4G services from established providers. As such, the device on each bus will have a 3G/4G interface (with service via AT&T, Verizon, etc) and an 802.11 WiFi interface and will do the translation between the two protocols.

    • Rapid Ride A was supposed to have wayside WiFi, with the transponders located along the route at the station stops.

      I would guess that C D and E will be coach-based WiFi.

      It would be wonderful if somebody “in the know” could expound on this further.

      Brian Bradford
      Kennewick, WA

  2. Kevin, thanks for injecting some pragmatic realism to this blog; it’s needed to counter some of the far fetched utopian ideas that are just not possible in current city and county economics (talking to you, Seattle Subway). I’m sure I’ll get flamed, but RapidRide has brought uniquely branded, frequent service to Seattle and King County with low costs and in a short amount of time. Bang for buck with RapidRide is high and lays the groundwork to improve the system as funds and technology allow. I think exclusive lanes and transit priority as well as some of the niceties will come in time.

    • I hesiitate to call RR “frequent”. I know it fits the Metro definition (but Metro definitions are sometimes screwed up, see “Express”). For example, the 70 is more frequent from 6-7 pm. I think until RR is 5 min or less during rush hour at least, it’s really not that frequent.

      Cleveland’s BRT (HealthLine) comes every 5 min during rush hour, and I’m sure it has lower ridership than Metro’s routes do. They are also funded the same way (countywide sales tax).

      • A lot of that depends on how you define frequent. While getting to the point where we have lines with <10 minute frequency, there is again that devil of details and reality. Politically, and to an extent economically, getting the infrastructure needed (especially for busses) is difficult.

        While that doesn't mean we shouldn't push for it (we must), it does mean we need to be realistic. 15 minutes or less for 'frequent' service branding is realistic for Metro – based on current service levels. Ideally we need to push for 10 minute frequencies, with better branding for frequent service that isn't Rapid Ride.

      • Improving headways beyond 10 minutes without infrastructure to improve reliability doesn’t actually reduce wait times significantly – it only increases bunching.

    • Matthew 'Anc' Johnson says:

      Seattle voters voted almost 2-1 in favor of ST2 (65/35), why do you think the next lines are less politically feasible?

      • Bluntly, I think it’s a political tactic to make sure such things never happen. It’s pretty easy:

        1. Dream Big, or lock onto the big dreams of others (Seattle Subway, in this case)
        2. Drop in a massive dose of cynicism, preferably mixed with semi-accurate facts and mis-contextualized information.
        3. Overwhelm every public forum (digital or otherwise) with results of #2 as much as possible.
        4. Watch the movement flounder.

        The above works just about everywhere, but is especially potent in political cultures like ours, where there is a broad desire that everyone ‘have a say’ and that ‘every opinion counts.’ All good things, mind you, but often confused with ‘letting a few drown out many others’ and ‘every opinion is equally valid’.

        …and I’m quite aware of the irony of this comment, which is rather cynical in-and-of itself.

      • Matthew 'Anc' Johnson says:

        Again, Seattle is already BUILDING a Subway. Or more accurately we are paying Sound Transit to build it for us. And they’re doing a bang up job, under budget and ahead of schedule.

        All Seattle Subway wants to do is give Sound Transit the tools to speed up their already planned expansions. Yes we are dreaming big, but we are working in reality.

        And the reality is that the people of Seattle are desperate for High Capacity Grade Separated transit connecting our neighborhoods. This was made overwhelming clear by the Sound Transit 2 margins. How often in today’s polarized political climate do you see people coming together in such a massive wave of support and votes?

        The people of this city NEED better options, we are WILLING to pay for it, and we TRUST Sound Transit to build it for us. All Seattle Subway is trying to do is leverage all three above facts into action.

      • A couple points

        -Seattle Subway is not recognized in the long range ST plans (currently, be my guest to try to get it on there)
        -Cost is king, we could/should have built a subway for all of link thus far constructed but the costs would be astronomical
        -If you are going to say that Seattle Subway is just the popular name for grade separated transit, then change the name to something more fitting, subway = $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ compared to elevated, at grade, separated
        -And perhaps most importantly, ST is a regional organization with a mission to connect major employement and housing centers, not neighborhoods within Seattle. Sure ST2 passed by a good margin because it was regionally focused and offered at least table scraps to everyone in the taxation zone. U-Link provides a quick connection between the downtown hub and points beyond. A subway between neighborhoods in Seattle does not benefit the numbers that a light rail line between redmond and seattle (And all points in between).

        Someone tell me if I’m crazy, but part of the reason to establish express bus routes with high frequency is to help determine future corridors for high capacity transit such as light rail/subway/what-have-you.

        I would not count on ST to build the seattle subway unless the seattle sub-area paid for it, the cost to benefit ratio is not there, and the potential growth in those areas is less than the potential growth in the suburbs.

      • Matthew 'Anc' Johnson says:

        goodluck, I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what Seattle Subway is and what they want to do. If I wasn’t clear enough in my previous post, let me try again.

        Seattle Subway simply wants to move Sound Transit’s EXISTING PLANS forward in time. Sound Transit has already identified corridors in Seattle for future expansion. Not only that, we actually already voted on a plan (ST2) that earmarked money to plan those lines. It is just that under the current timeline that planning money won’t hit until the end of this decade or early next.

        Seattle Subway is simply saying that is not fast enough. We don’t need to start planning in ten years we need to start planning tomorrow. We want to explore ways to raise some revenue in the city to contract with ST to move their EXISTING PLANS forward. We aren’t creating a new agency, we aren’t pretending to me transit engineers. We already have a great agency with great engineers. Seattle Subway just wants to give Sound Transit the tools to do what they are already doing, just faster.

      • A subway between neighborhoods in Seattle does not benefit the numbers that a light rail line between redmond and seattle (And all points in between).

        Given that the generous ridership estimates for East Link max out a less-than-stellar 45,000-50,000, this is a fundamentally counterfactual statement.

        An in-city subway of actual speed and quality would allow a large percentage of city dwellers to get most places they need to go, most of the time. That’s how transit ridership is built the world over.

        Suburban Link serves a few people, some of the time. Thus the tepid results.

      • “I would not count on ST to build the seattle subway unless the seattle sub-area paid for it,”

        Kind of a moot point since that’s the way Sound Transit’s subarea equity rules already work. No one in the suburbs is paying for light rail in Seattle, now or in the future.

      • Seattle Subway is not recognized in the long range ST plans (currently, be my guest to try to get it on there)

        I’m not sure how much Sound Transit’s long-term plan actually matters, but the ST long-term plan map does have the BallardU-District and BallardDowntown corridors marked for potential rail extension. Respectively, those are Seattle Subway’s Purple Line, and the middle segment of their Red Line.

      • Matt L (aka Angry Transit Nerd) says:

        These corridors were also mentioned as the subject of planning studies in ST2 (p. 13):

        “In order to advance completion of further expansions of the system beyond this ST2 Plan, funding is included for a series of planning studies….The studies include high-capacity transit from…University District to Ballard and on to Downtown Seattle…and Downtown Seattle to West Seattle and on to Burien.”

      • > No one in the suburbs is paying for light rail in Seattle, now or in the future.

        The suburbs aren’t even paying for the light rail in the suburbs. That’s why some suburbs aren’t getting it. :P

  3. Will Metro again deny riders a schedule for these routes? Even when they only run every 15 minutes?

    • Alex Francis Burchard says:

      Why do you need a schedule, just walk out to the stop and wait a few minutes… Its not like busses are really all that good at following any posted schedule anyways…

      • Once again, if a rider is making a connection to half hourly service somewhere along the way, a printed timetable becomes supremely important. It eludes me how this simple fact can be so confounding for so many in the STB and transit planning communities.

      • Fifteen minutes is not frequent. Especially, like Lloyd says, when you have a connection to make. Which is something we should be encouraging because one-seat rides are evil.

      • The operators have pick cards that indicate a schedule. If those schedule times are merely theoretical, but they just maintain headway in live service, then a statement from Metro to that effect would probably end the calls here for the schedule to be publicized.

        If the operators follow a schedule with timepoints, then I would find it absurd not to publish that schedule. 15 minutes is a long time for those of us without priceyphones, sitting at one of the stops without RTA signs, to wait for a bus, if we have to get somewhere or make a connection. Having a schedule impacts when I head to a bus stop.

        This is not intended as a broad criticism of Metro’s and SDOT’s (and other cities’) tremendous efforts in bringing RapidRide to fruition, but as a simple question for which Metro can offer a simple answer.

      • I often ride a bus with a 15 minute headway most of the time now, and I rely extensively on a schedule. Like most riders, I want my commute to be efficient.

        Furthermore, not publishing a schedule feels to me like an admission that rapidride will not be as efficient and reliable as advertised. That may not be the motivation, but that’s what it feels like.

      • Beavis McGee says:

        The C and D line run cards have both fixed time points (usually the first couple of miles from the terminal) and estimated time points. Operators and coordinators will monitor both schedule time points and headway at the same time, with the goal of not straying more than 3 minutes beyond either.

    • I agree, there should be schedules for 15-minute service. At 10 minute headways, schedules become unnecessary.

      • Schedules are useful at *any* frequency, for trip planning purposes if anything. I know the Internet has made “the old-fashioned way” of planning a trip with paper schedules and maps mostly obsolete, but having them for backup is still useful.

        Full disclosure: I collect paper bus schedules as a hobby so I may have a bias beyond the practical.

      • Adam Bejan Parast says:

        This is one of the best examples of a bus schedule I have seen that shows both frequency and exact time. Such a beautifully simple solution.

        http://www.flickr.com/photos/helgabjo/3915679368/

      • I have seen Adam’s kind of schedule in other cities. Yes, it’s the most easy to read format I’ve seen anywhere.

        I think Oran actually made a sample schedule in a similar format. It got into some trouble with variations. (E.g., how to fit those “B” and “W” letters, or exceptions for certain kinds of days.

      • John Slyfield says:

        That was community transit’s policy regarding Swift. When buses ran 10 minutes apart schedules were “estimated” and at all other times they were schedule. Now that community transit has had to cut schedules and swift only runs every 12 minutes during peak all runs run on a posted schedule.

      • Schedules are extremely useful, and absolutely essential for service which is less frequent than every ten minutes. At headways of less than 10 minutes, headway-based planning starts to make more sense.

  4. The issue that I have with RapidRide is not the program itself, it is the execution. No schedules, a payment system that seems almost deliberately complicated, lots of stops, an extra unnecessary brand to confuse the riders, a bad choice for terminus at each end of the C and D lines, and all for not much increase in travel times. I fear RapidRide will end up like the Translink transit card in SF, and have to be re introduced because of poor execution.

    • I have to disagree about the termini. Westwood Village is a better terminus for the C Line over White Center (so long as other bus routes also get to Westwood Village).

      If RapidRide D had more funding, it could theoretically reach all the way to Greenwood, and maybe Aurora, and eventually make most of the new 62 obsolete. I hope that that is in the works (though I am puzzled by why the county council went along with entombing the route path and stops in law, when that should be an administrative decision).

      The C/D termini are an improvement in the route path, IMHO.

      • They are an improvement, but not by much. That’s my fundimental problem. There is more of a focus on branding and nice looks than there is on speed, frequency, orca readers, or extending the line to a better spot.

        The B-lines in Vancouver have almost no special branding or bus shelters. Instead, they run every 5 minutes, and stop less often. I think Seattle should emulate that. More money on service, less on looking nice.

      • A primary point of emphasizing capital investment is (hopefully) getting more service out of fewer service hours.

      • Lack Thereof says:

        The distinct branding is required in order to qualify for federal BRT money.

  5. Thank you Mr. Desmond for an official post on how RR is doing. I’m probably one of the biggest complainers around here about lack of service and high costs, so your comments on how RR-A is good news. Of course, this good news needs to be tempered with the service hours being deployed to accomplish it, which boils down to how efficient RR-A is turning out. (complaint to follow: Asking questions on the RR Blog on your website results in ‘No Reply’, so I’ve given up. Your Route Performance Report is getting very tardy, so I can’t look there either, and the charts on the website are very dated. It shouldn’t take a year to figure how much things are costing >>> end of bitching)
    I think more forthcoming reports from Metro on new projects, and not PR spun fairy tales, would go a long way to quelling some of the bad press Metro gets tagged with here daily.
    RR-A doubled frequency over the 174 to get 50% more riders. So did efficiency per hour go way down, did the service hours double, or are the buses really doing the route much faster, making it a good deal for both riders and Metro alike?
    It appears that sales taxes have recovered to pre recession levels, including the 6.4% inflation rate since ’08. How much damage has been done to the Metro budget (depleted reserves, is the tank now on empty, and deferred maintenance and fleet replacement), and will the CRC be enough to build those reserves over time. What’s the game plan? I’m not seeing ridership on Metro increasing, in spite of all the talk about becoming the ‘lean, mean, transit machine’ we all hoped for. The back peddling on route decisions (2, 3/4, 42, etc) has left many to wonder if Metro can tough it out in bad times and good.
    I hope you can respond to some of our thoughts here, and thanks for getting out in front of the wagon train.

    • ref: boardings per hour or mile last updated Sep/11. http://metro.kingcounty.gov/am/reports/monthly-measures/service-effectiveness.html

    • “RR-A doubled frequency over the 174 to get 50% more riders. So did efficiency per hour go way down, did the service hours double, or are the buses really doing the route much faster, making it a good deal for both riders and Metro alike?”

      As I’ve been saying for years, on the margin of ridership there are people who won’t take a bus at 30-minute frequency but will take it at 15-minutes. (And ditto for 15 to 10 and 10 to 5.) Some of them may dismiss 30-minute routes entirely, others look at it more as, “If I know a bus will come in 15 minutes I’ll go to the stop, but if I don’t know, or I don’t remember exactly when the frequency drops, I’ll drive instead, make the trip at another time, or forego the trip entirely.”

      50% more ridership means the route is 50% more useful. Perhaps you expected 100% because the service hours doubled (more or less)? Ridership can’t be predicted precisely, because people make spontaneous decisions and their trip patterns evolve. It was certain that ridership would increase because of the principle I said above. But how much it would increase in N years is hard to predict. Maybe 50%, maybe 100%, maybe 110%, maybe (unlikely) 150%. The point is that a frequent route is better service, and people benefit from it even if they don’t use it every day.

      Saying that frequency is justified only if it leads to a zero increase in cost per rider is treating people like commodities. It completely leaves out the human factor: people don’t want to wait more than ten minutes for a bus, and they want reassurance that if they go to the bus stop before a uniform cut-off-time (10pm being reasonable), the bus will come in a few minutes. This improves people’s quality of life, and maximizes their willingness to use transit.

      • Trying to follow your logic leaves me unsure why we even have route perfomance indicators and policies in place to reduce service on poor performing routes and put the hours into overloaded routes.
        Of course 50% more is better. I’m asking is it justified.
        Let’s take Lynnwood Link. ST is showing 4 min headways from today’s 8 min, or double. Would that generate enough riders to justify the extra cost? Maybe an extra $50mil a year, when 8 min. headways handle all the loads expected through 2040. Would 50% more be good enough for you because as you say “50% more ridership means the route is 50% more useful.”.
        If operating revenue were like monopoly money, I’d say go for it, but we’re talking real money here. Cost/Benefit really does matter!

      • The principle applies to all routes. If the 27 or 42 is doubled, more people will ride it who won’t consider it now. But you’re right that we have to focus on designated transit corridors, not spread routes like peanut butter as if all streets were the same. The biggest thing standing in the way of Seattle becoming a heavily transit-using city like San Francisco or Chicago is the lack of frequency, and the frequency dropping off on evenings and Sundays.

      • “50% more ridership means the route is 50% more useful. Perhaps you expected 100% because the service hours doubled (more or less)?”

        That’s what happens on Amtrak, routinely. That’s what happens on an awful lot of train routes, actually.

  6. A lot of the disappointment in Adam’s post was probably due to the fact that none of this was disclosed to the public. Metro continued up until this Monday to indicate that the RR stops downtown would be Stations on the RR C&D maps, with all the amenities they provide.
    I get that there are challenges downtown, and the timing of eliminating the RFA complicates things, but a little transparency goes a long way.

  7. Lot’s of things that are poorly run are popular, especially when it’s the only game in town. That fact that RapidRide is popular doesn’t mean that Metro is doing a good job with it.

    • reality based commute says:

      The fact that you can write a snarky comment doesn’t mean you understand the challenges and issues Metro faces either.

      • Alex Bailey says:

        Except Sam’s comment drives at exactly why Mr. Desmond’s post is largely misleading. Yes Rapid Ride A did increase it’s ridership by 50% over existing service. But service hours (i.e. running cost) also increased greatly to provide the service. This fact calls into question the efficiency of the service, but can’t be found in the figures Mr. Desmond cites. Similar inherency or “so what?” arguments can be made about other statistics he cites. In other words it is largely irrelevant if ridership increases unless funding increases (by percentage) are also considered.

        Moreover, as Sam points out, Mr. Desmond’s post fails to consider counter-factuals. Even if we consider Rapid Ride to be better, or even good, it could have and should have been much much better. For Rapid Ride D, it should have had much wider stop spacing, particularly between downtown and Ballard, and it should have avoided the slog up mercer, which will cost significant time for most riders while helping only a select few for whom a stop at first and Denny would be far more inconvenient. It also should have had ten minute day time frequency. Similar statements can be made about Rapid Ride C.

        While the downtown reader gaffe in an of itself is forgivable and the RFA elimination timing unlucky, the Rapid Ride project has been heavily watered down to the point that it is not rapid and will only be “popular” in that it already serves a popular growing corridor that was already in need of more service anyways.

      • Also, other changes in Ballard routing, especially replacing the 17 to downtown with the 61 to Leary (another note: why the hell not go all the way to Fremont? Why stop in nohweresville, just short of a popular destination with good transfers?) will feed riders from West Ballard onto the Rapidride, although not exactly by choice. Numbers will go up relative to the 15, and success will be declared. The schedule changes are rigged to guarantee that the D line will look “successful” based on ridership numbers.

      • Beavis McGee says:

        Djw, the 40 will get you from Ballard to Fremont. Having the 61 go there instead of Queen Anne would duplicate service from Market Street on.

      • Beavis, you’re right about the 40 of course. And connecting downtown Fremont and Ballard with something more useful than the 46 is a major improvement to N Seattle routing (also a no-brainer; connecting urban villages should be a much greater priority for Metro than it apparently is. Another beef–why not send the 40 to Greenwood, thus connecting it to 4 urban villages rather than 3. It would probably slow it down a few minutes, but this isn’t a route people are going to take for the long haul anyway, and we’re losing the Greenwood–Northgate connection via the loss of the Northgate 5, and from downtown Greenwood to downtown ballard still requires a connection…)

        But you’re wrong about the 61–it doesn’t go to Queen Anne. According to Metro it will terminate at 8th and Leary. That’s why I’m puzzled–yes, a transfer to Fremont is now possible, but why not terminate a mere additional mile down the road to make the bus more useful as a single ride? (I’d prefer Queen Anne via some portion of the old 17 route; I actually found that connection useful, but apparently that was a link Metro decided was unnecessary. I know a couple SPU faculty in West Ballard who are fairly livid.)

      • Beavis McGee says:

        The 40 DOES go to Greenwood, crossing at 105th. Connection made.

      • Beavis McGee says:

        Sorry. 62.

      • Right, I meant downtown Greenwood. My preferred routing for the 40 would be to stay on 85th past 15th, go north on Greenwood to 105th, and go from there. I think the slightly slower (I know the area and traffic well, and I really doubt that would add more than 2-3 minutes) routing would be well worth the direct service between the core of the Greenwood neighborhood, serving businesses and a somewhat higher density. My concern isn’t making connections to the five as much as easing commutes between centers of higher density and commercial activity–like downtown Ballard/downtown Greenwood and downtown Greenwood/Northgate, both of which lack a direct connection given the 40 route, but could be easily fixed. I’m pleased that metro recognized this problem with respect to Ballard/Fremont, but they could have gone further at little cost.

        The 62 is just an express bus. Doesn’t solve the problem of Ballard access to North Queen Anne that the loss of the 17 presents. I still think replacing the 17 with the 61 is (in part) a way of making sure rapidride is a “success” by making sure its numbers go up relative to the 15.

      • Beavis McGee says:

        One problem with that is that even with the recently re-done intersection at 85th and Greenwood, I don’t think that a left turn (or right in the other direction) would be possible.

  8. Having seen RR-D go from something that would have been an earthshaking, truly “rapid ride” to nothing more than a rebranded 15 local, with a few stops removed, has definitely left a sore spot with me.

  9. Mr. Desmond, at every bus stop, Swift gradually builds-up the sidewalk a few inches so the step from the bus stop platform to the bus is easy. The distance between the sidewalk and RapidRide buses is too far. Why doesn’t Metro make its RR platforms higher, so it’s a more comfortable step for people? And please don’t mention the bus kneeling function. Drivers rarely use it.

    • +1! Amen!

      It really is random who kneels and who doesn’t.

      Seriously, though, if Metro did a study over a few days of which stops had boarders who need the kneel and/or ramp, and who do not, it could inform where to prioritize laying some cement to create a level boarding environment. Laying the cement, though, would be an SDOT function.

      • Just to clarify, I mean a volume study of where there are boardings/alightings that justify a kneeling and/or a ramp deployment, and just on RapidRide.

    • Beavis McGee says:

      All operators use the kneel function when asked. With most stops with curbs, the DE60LF coach floor is about the same height as the HF coaches, without the disadvantage of three steep steps. As a rule, I personally kneel coaches automatically at high volume stops (like 3rd and Pike) and in outlying areas where there’s no sidewalk/curb.

  10. Matthew 'Anc' Johnson says:

    Mr. Desmond thanks for taking the time to write up this post. You bring a very valuable perspective to the Rapid Ride discussion. I hope this wasn’t a ‘Fire and Forget’ post and that either you or someone on your staff will take the time to respond to some of the questions raised in the comments.

  11. I still haven’t heard if an interim data connection method (or offline readers) has been explored.

    Has Metro called CenturyLink and Comcast regarding these locations? Have you consulted with ERG about putting the readers in an offline mode and dumping the data once or twice a day?

    I understand there is a drive to deliver it in a final state once, although we don’t often have that luxury, and need to make interim arrangements.

  12. I’d like to get an idea of how Metro plans to communicate to new riders how payment will work. Will there be signs at each stop/station indication whether said location features off-board payment? Also, will said signs -clearly- indicate the hours which are non-proof-of-payment operations. In lieu of real-time information at many of the stations, how about posting links, QR codes, phone numbers, etc. so that people who arrive at a non-tech station can know when the bus-without-a-schedule is coming? Please, Metro, communicate with your customers, not just when changes are proposed, but on the day-to-day basis where conveying important information makes the difference between a successful trip and a frustrating failure.

    • +1

    • Beavis McGee says:

      Operator with OBS coaches have been asked to play new PSA’s periodically to our riders prior to the service change. We were told that these PSA’s would be available to us August 29th. So far, they are still not available on our OBS units.

    • Also, on the topic of communication, how about replacing all the “Metro Will Get You There” signs with something informative (like the new pay-as-you-enter system). Also, for busses that have OBS, could the audio message outside of coach say something like “Route 49 to downtown University District, please pay at the front door” while the message inside could say “Pine St./SCCC, please exit through the back doors”. Is this a feasible feature? It could be really helpful for the first few months of the payment system transition.

    • John Slyfield says:

      at all rapidride stops (and stations) there is a qr code to onebusaway which enables users to get the next bus information for that stop. That’s already done and on the route maps.

  13. Just to be clear, will RapidRide be getting 120 exclusive lane miles? Or just 120 lane miles? Because honestly the latter doesn’t seem that impressive to me. I could route a bus to Everett via I-5 and say I added 120 lane miles.

    • I’m pretty sure it’s the latter…

    • The D Line got HOT lanes on 15th Ave W a few years early. And then the car warriors tried to take them away. (HOT lanes are for buses, bikes, and turning in the peak direction during peak hour only, and used for the lowest and worst use possible — storing a handful of cars — the rest of the time.)

      It was a political mistake to take the lanes early, as car warriors tried to roll them back, and transit enthusiasts aren’t giving SDOT or Metro much credit for installing them. We may be too tough a crowd for our own good sometimes.

      • Clarification: They are BAT Lanes (Business Access Transit). HOT Lanes are High Occupancy Toll Lanes, such as those on SR 167 in South King County.

      • Alex Bailey says:

        If you’ve ever ridden a Ballard or Magnolia to downtown bus during morning rush, the lanes are a god send. But it should be noted that the lanes are BAT lanes during rush hours only. Is this going to change with Rapid Ride?

      • Beavis McGee says:

        +1

  14. Thanks, Mr. Desmond, for the op-ed here. I really appreciated your taking your time three years ago to make the case for joint use of the DSTT on this blog, and I appreciate your responses to personal letters.

    To those who don’t get their questions answered here, write to Mr. Desmond. He gives answers when contacted directly.

  15. Contrary to Adam’s transportation vision, we will never be able to mimic the exclusive, separated right-of-way rail enjoys.
    – Kevin Desmond, King County Metro General Manager

    The RapidRide system is essentially rail on wheels…
    – Peter Rogoff, FTA Administrator

    Oh, my. Is Mr. Rogoff ever going to be upset when he finds out about this! He might even demand his money back, as soon as he returns from meeting with those Nigerian princes.

    ——

    The end of the ride free area was not contemplated when the RapidRide C/D line planning was being completed.

    Unless you were at one point intending to use Pay As You Leave on RapidRide — which would have been even more pathetic — the RFA is completely irrelevant to this discussion. You had six years to discover that the fiber optics necessary to high-volume prepayment were missing, and you failed to do anything about it!

    ——

    It’s the same story on the B Line serving Redmond and Bellevue – ridership up 15 percent since launching last year.

    That’s not the same story. In fact, that’s within the margin of error of contemporaneous ridership increases on services that received no RapidRide quasi-features.

    ——

    Without a doubt, RapidRide represents a major upgrade of local arterial bus service – to suggest otherwise is just plain wrong.

    I guess when all of the missing features, lanes, and frequency yield a line no faster and no more reliable, every transit user and every person who knows what he or she is talking about and everyone familiar with the meaning of the word “major” will just have to be wrong!

    And it wasn’t supposed to be an upgrade of “local arterial service”. As you wrote yourself just three paragraphs earlier, it was supposed to be Bus Rapid Transit!

    Let us itemize:
    - zero off-board payment downtown, where it really matters
    - zero off-board payment anywhere for cash, the payment method for which it really matters
    - refusal to disincentivize cash payment
    - zero exclusive lanes on the Queen Anne deviation, where it really matters
    - no signal priority at the hilariously long Elliott/Mercer light, where it really matters (at least there’s a queue jump a block earlier, where it doesn’t matter)
    - reduced mid-day and Saturday frequency between Leary and downtown
    - significantly reduced total service to Ballard after 10:30 pm

    Seems like the facts inconveniently “suggest otherwise”.

    Let’s face it: Metro set the bar ridiculously low, and it still missed that bar! This cannot be fixed with spin!

    • Dear Kevin:
      Both d.p. and I have been under constant medications since long before RR entered the scene, due to our gut wrenching feelings that good transit service is light-years away,
      The glossy phamplets at election time (ST1/ST2/Transit Now), bolstered by politicians reading from scripts, has left us with major head injuries and blunt trauma when the realities of actual execution set in.

    • Thanks for the excellent and specific rundown of problems. A cool brand and shiny new buses and shelters is no substitute for getting all the details right. As others have implied, the ridership increases on the A and B lines are probably almost entirely due to frequency increases. Since the C and D lines will not be more frequent than the lines they are replacing, I doubt we will see much ridership.

    • p.s. I’ve seen the RapidRide D run card. Still 12-14 minutes from Pike to Mercer. Still 25-29 minutes to Market.

      For each time of day, estimated trip times are essentially identical.

      In what alternate universe is this a “major upgrade”?

      • Most of the run cards I see show 9-11 minutes for Pike to Mercer and 24-26 for Pike to Market; I found a couple that show 27, right around 5:30pm. Admittedly, still not much of an improvement over existing conditions, but the schedule could also be adjusted in the future if trips end up being faster or slower… it’s a bit hard to know at this point since off-board payment, TSP, and queue jumps* are not activated yet.

        It’s also work noting that “estimated timepoints” are used north of Alaska Junction northbound and south of Market southbound, meaning that the schedule allows for trips to be early.

        *Queue jumps are now installed at SB Elliott/Prospect, NB 1st/Denny, NB 15th/67th. Plus, protected right turns to help clear the vehicle queues at NB & SB 15th/Market.

      • Look closer. Those 8-11 minutes you’re reading are between the Pike and Denny rows. There isn’t a single Pike-to-Mercer listing of less than 11 minutes between 6:00 AM and midnight!

        Again, who cares about a queue jump at the 25-second Prospect light if nobody’s willing to address the 4.5-minute Mercer light?

      • d.p., it’s Queen Anne/Mercer in this pdf:
        http://www.atu587.com/documents/CBRCwk.pdf

        The trip planner is also consistant with those run cards for Pike to Mercer.

        Also, while I haven’t timed the Elliott/Mercer light, I belive the cycle length is closer to 200 seconds, not 4.5 minutes. Again, still a lot of delay, but not as bad. For most people, time spent waiting typically feels twice as long as it is in reality.

      • Why don’t they use “estimated timepoints” for the whole route? What does it even mean for a bus to be “early” if the schedule is unpublished? Now that the public isn’t allowed to know when the bus is “supposed” to be in various locations, the least you can do is use that to your advantage. Run the bus as quickly as is safely possible; no waiting for a schedule that nobody but the driver even knows exists.

      • Interesting, Andrew. You seem to be going off of a run card of the sort that gets clipped to the driver’s side of the farebox. The chart I was looking at was sent to me a few months ago, and is in more of a schedule-grid format. There’s a good chance your document is more recent than mine.

        Nevertheless, the difference between the two is never more than 1 or 2 minutes, and that represents only 2-3 minutes of estimated savings over the current 15 local. Many of the nonsense entries, like 12 minutes to get from Pike to Mercer late at night — when they will actually be required to wait at the timepoints — remain.

        Otherwise, the estimates confirm what we already know: these buses will be on average no faster than they are today. Enforced timepoints or no, in the daytime they are unlikely to get ahead of these estimates because they lack the frequency or the reliability and payment features.

        Eric is right, though. If RapidRide were even in the ballpark of the service that we were sold, there shouldn’t be timepoints at all. 10-minute headways (or even closer at rush hour) help to smooth out fluctuations in demand), which speeds the trip up even in the absence of other features or modifications.

        With true high-frequency service, there’s just no reason to hold up a bus that’s making good time, especially when it’s reasonable to suspect the bus behind it — no more than 10 minutes away — is making good time as well.

      • [end bold]

      • Matt L (aka Angry Transit Nerd) says:

        Well my understanding is that “active management” was supposed to be part of RapidRide as well. Unlike conventional bus service, a dispatcher would be monitoring the vehicles in the system and could send short text messages to operators to try to maintain even spacing, like is done with Link and pretty much every subway system on the planet.

        But I have no idea if that’s actually happening.

      • Bevis McGee says:

        Mloar,

        Correct. Drivers and coordinators both have indicators of both schedule and headway. Coordinators have an actual graphic map (dynamic) of the entire line, including bus locations relative to one another.

      • Forgot to to respond about Elliott & Mercer.

        Yes, I have timed it. With my phone. Starting the moment the bus pulled up just as it turned red. For 5 or 6 hours in the PM peak, that light stays red for a full 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Really. It stays red for more than a minute even AFTER the walk light changes. It’s the light that refuses to change.

        I once had a driver barely miss it. He proceeded to put the bus in park and do a compete calisthenics routine in the entry well. He had clearly done it before; it was perfectly choreographed to put him back in the driver’s seat just as the light finally changed.

        4.5 minutes of going absolutely nowhere. #RapidRide

    • Why didn’t they consider moving the Dravis stop to underneath the bridge? Seems like there’s more than enough space underneath the bridge on both sides to put a stop. Then you could have stairs and a wheelchair ramp wind down there. It would save a few minutes, especially when the Dravis interchange gets a little hairy.

      And why, oh why, do they still have pre-light stops in lower Queen Anne on Mercer? There’s nothing on the other side of the lights that would prevent metro from putting the stops post-light.

      • I’m guessing the Dravus stop would be prohibitively expensive to install ramps or elevators for accessibility. Plus the waiting environment under the overpass would be even less pleasant than existing conditions. The new northbound far-side stop at Dravus is a good thing, (a bit) more so when TSP is working.

        I do agree though that the near-side bus stops in Lower Queen Anne don’t make sense to me; particularly WB Mercer/Queen Anne and EB Mercer/3rd. At least, the NB 1st/Republican stop can take advantage of its proximity to Seattle Center (i.e., no business entrance issues to deal with).

      • True about TSP. If they can get that working smoothly, it won’t matter if the stop is above or below the bridge.

    • - refusal to disincentivize cash payment

      This drives me crazy. If they are really planning to go forward as it seems they are with no off-board payment downtown to launch rapidride, the least–and I mean very least–they should do is a big push to get Orca card use up. The cards need to be free, and easier to load, and to not have a de facto transfer time penalty relative to generous drivers.

  16. Mark Dublin says:

    “Contrary to Adam’s transportation vision, we will never be able to mimic the exclusive, separated right-of-way rail enjoys. RapidRide is designed to operate on compact urban streets – and that’s the beauty of our bus rapid transit program.

    A few days in Helsinki, Stockholm, and Gothenburg show miles of proof that through streets narrower than ours, a city with the will to achieve good public transit can create transit right of way by chiefly by passing laws ordering other vehicles to stay out of transit’s way.

    With the help of a citizenry that finally decides it would rather live in a city than a network of linear parking lots.

    Be careful what you tell yourself is impossible. I think the chief value of the Seattle Transit Blog lies in its being in the hands of people to young to know all the things that can never be done.

    Mark Dublin 8:15 PM Gothenburg time, Thursday, September 6

    • ‘Visionary’ or ‘innovative’ are definitely qualities lacking in this whole RR program. The vehicles are nicer, but that’s about it.

    • Indeed. You want to know how buses operate on compact urban streets? Well, there are many examples, but personally I like London’s Congestion Chargge.

      And those streets are compact. Seattle doesn’t have *any* streets as narrow as the ones in London.

  17. Um…”RapidRide has been delivered at a fraction of the cost and time of light rail”, is one crazy delusional comparison…and sort of exemplifies the adage “you get what you pay for.”

    • ”RapidRide has been delivered at a fraction of the cost and time of light rail”

      … and at a fraction of the cost of the Mars Rover, too. +1 for delusional comparison.

      • Beavis McGee says:

        How many commuters does the Mars rover carry again?

      • The Rover doesn’t actually serve anybody just yet. That’s why it was important to spend a lot of money up front to spur TOD. No pesky zoning laws to get in the way! Doubtful it will work though; rubber tired vehicles just don’t work. They really should have put in a streetcar.

      • I think they tripled service on Mars with newest HRV system just deployed (heavy rover vehicles).
        So far, still no riders, but all the cameras are watching for them to pile on as soon as the signs get installed.
        “Next HRV – 8 minutes”

  18. Matt L (aka Angry Transit Nerd) says:

    Thanks, Kevin. Before today I still had a flicker of hope that Metro would manage to improve the terrible state of transit in this city. That hope has now been extinguished.

  19. transitrider says:

    I think RR C and D will be popular, if they’re anything like RR A and B. Too bad that Metro couldn’t have had off-board fare collection exclusively and too bad they load wheelchairs and bicycles in the usual way. All of these work to needlessly slow the “rapid.” Of course, ven worse will be RR E, which is targeting 12 stops in 3 miles in Shoreline to pacify the city vs. meeting BRT standards. Metro could’ve met both with underlying local service on S 99, but so far has opted for the status quo.

    • Really, because Desmond just admitted to a negligible 15% ridership bump on RapidRide B, much of which results from forced transfers rather than objective improvement or intrinsic appeal. Doesn’t sound “popular” to me.

      • I have ridden the B-line a few times between Microsoft and the Bellevue Whole Foods. While not perfect, it is a much more pleasant experience than the 233 or 253 used to be. There are multiple reasons why. First, does get through crossroads faster than the 253 used to. Second, 10-15 minute headways, compared to 30-60 minute headways is really a big deal. Third, the bus does seem to show up more reliably than the buses it replaced. With the old 233 or 253, even if I timed my arrival at the bus stop to match the schedule, I still ended up with a 10-15 minute wait (if you arrive at the bus stop 5 minutes early for a bus that is 10 minutes late, it comes out to a 15 minute wait when you do the math). With the B-line, I’ve found that when 10 minute headways are promised, the worst-case wait time to actually be 10 minutes, with the average closer to 5, and that’s just randomly showing up at the stop, without bothering to consult any schedule at all.

        Of course, there is still plenty of opportunity for improvement. I’ve seen off-board Orca readers break down on occasion, as well as intersections where the bus had to wait at a red light for over a minute before proceeding. And I will also admit I avoid the 152nd deviation by jogging from the bus stop right outside my building to another bus stop 1/2 mile down the street (because someone at Metro made the idiotic decision that we have to slow down everyone’s trip today in order to serve some TOD development that won’t even exist for another 10 years).

        In spite of these misgivings though, I would absolutely contend that bus service on the eastside is significantly better after the fall 2011 restructure than it was before.

      • Okay, so perhaps reliability has improved somewhat. In that case, its “popularity” is even less than one would like to expect. Whereas RapidRide A service doubled, it sounds like RapidRide B service tripled at many times of day.

        And yet ridership is up only 15%?

        And it certainly isn’t getting any priority on The Deviation. While driving over there a few weeks ago, I got stuck behind a RapidRide bus that took two full light cycles to turn left onto NE 24th. And those cycles are l o n g . . .

      • I think we’re in agreement here that the 152nd deviation is one of the stupidest decisions made regarding the B-line. I consider it an absolute travesty that for a so-called RapidRide line, getting on the bus at a stop half a mile down the line is actually faster than getting on that same bus at an earlier stop right in front of your starting point.

        Still, Metro could have made things worse by making the B-line bus leave 152nd St. to do another deviation into the apartment parking lot, for no other reason than that’s what the old 253 did.

        The fact that Metro didn’t do this makes me grateful enough to just take what I can get.

      • I think you’re making the same mistake that Metro is, by asking the wrong questions.

        The question is not “is this slightly better than what existed before?” or “is this not as bad as it hypothetically could have been?”

        The real question is:
        “Is this good enough that a rational person would choose it, when weighing the advantages and disadvantages of taking it against the advantages and disadvantages of driving?”

        With deviations that you can outwalk, and with a statistically-insignificant 15% ridership bump over the first year, the clear answer is that RapidRide B is not good!!

  20. Rochelle Ogershok says:

    Glad to see so much interest in the upcoming RapidRide C and D lines! We thought the following answers to some of your questions about RapidRide might further explain elements of the program.

    Someone commented the other day about WiFi on buses needing this fiber backend. Is this true?

    WiFi will be available on-board via mobile routers. The bus equipment operates independently from the communication network needed for ORCA readers and real time arrival signs. We will have WiFi available on the bus for the full length of each RapidRide line when service begins on Sept. 29.

    Will Metro again deny riders a schedule for these routes? Even when they only run every 15 minutes?

    We plan to use the same style printed schedule information on the C and D lines that we have used for the A and B lines. We show only the headways for service whenever it operates every 15 minutes or more frequently. If service is less frequent than 15 minutes, we include those times on our printed timetable. Riders should keep in mind that they can use the online trip planner to get specific trip times and figure out their transfer connections. With this approach, Metro has some flexibility to adjust service and respond to problems after the start of a service change. If we need to make adjustments, then we can easily change online information as needed. This approach allows us to better serve our customers.

    Why doesn’t Metro make its RapidRide platforms higher, so it’s a more comfortable step for people?

    When we were designing the RapidRide program, we examined raised platform boarding as a way to reduce dwell time. We decided to include features such as low floor buses with three doors and off-board ORCA readers to speed boarding. However, our evaluation of the additional dwell time benefits from raised platforms did not seem to support the cost.

    There are close to 300 stops (of which 120 are stations) in the RapidRide network. A raised platform requires a much larger bus stop footprint to accommodate a gradual slope up to the platform. And given RapidRide’s mostly urban environment, we have many locations where we simply do not have the space or the right-of-way to create a raised platform. Many of our stops are located on narrow city sidewalks. In those cases it would be problematic to raise the sidewalk without impacting the surrounding walkways, building entrances, etc.
    So given these logistical issues, it would not be feasible to build raised platforms at some locations, which further reduced the overall dwell time benefit.

    Will RapidRide be getting 120 exclusive lane miles or just 120 lane miles?

    Kevin Desmond’s op-ed made reference to overall lane miles. Given the lack of right-of way, cost considerations and an aggressive schedule, RapidRide cannot support fully developed exclusive transit lanes. Acquiring ROW, removing general purpose travel lanes or parking spaces, and building new roads would have added a huge amount of complexity and significantly more time and money than the program has available. Our RapidRide lines do include HOV lanes, BAT lanes, and special transit-only bypass lanes in many locations where they are the most needed (balanced against budget, schedule and the need to partner with local jurisdictions on the use of ROW.) When all six lines are up and running, about 10 percent of RapidRide miles will be on fully dedicated ROW for buses and 30 percent semi-dedicated ROW. Establishing RapidRide in these busy high-ridership corridors provides us with the opportunity to expand our capital investment in the future as demand for transit grows and funding becomes available.

    • Jason Rogers says:

      Thanks Rochelle. I have a question about off-board ORCA card readers and the on-board Wifi. If the buses will have operable Wifi via mobile routers, is it possible to utilize this system for the ORCA card readers at stations? I would think it is possible to set these up like the readers on buses are used, except instead of data transfers happening when the bus is at the base, the offboard readers would instead be able to do a data transfer every time a RapidRide bus is serving the station.

    • Rochelle, I think 1 point that people (including existing RR riders) keep making over and over and over again is that 15 minutes is not frequent enough to do away with a schedule. Metro seems to not want to hear this.

      At the numerous stops without countdown clocks, you are essentially denying any and all schedule information for passengers without a smartphone or handy access to the trip planner – how is this better serving customers? Metro is so stubbornly clinging to its initial claims of high frequency that it seems to be willing to let a certain set of riders walk up with no information at all.

      Metro has several routes with more frequent all-day service (route 36 comes twice as often) that still have published schedules. If this “flexibility” benefit is so great, why not do away with the schedules on these routes as well? I just can’t accept that as a valid reason to do away with schedules on routes that are far from Metro’s most frequent. I think Metro needs to EARN the right tell its riders to just arrive and go without a schedule and at 15 minutes you just aren’t there yet.

      • +1

      • Most bus routes are unreliable enough so if you just look at the static schedule and don’t consult OneBusAway, you’re typical experience will be arriving 5 minutes early for a bus that actually arrives 5-10 minutes late, which means an average wait time of 10-15 minutes.

        This is still an improvement over just showing up and winging it when the bus comes every 30 minutes, but when the bus comes every 15 minutes, looking at the schedule without also looking at where the bus actually is buys you nothing.

        As for planning connections, again, you’ve still got the problem that if your connection is dependent on your bus showing up at your stop less than 15 minutes late, your connection is unreliable and cannot be trusted. So you have to plan on a 15 minute wait even if you look at the schedule, which is no worse than if you don’t look at the schedule.

        If we can wave the magic wand and make buses super-reliable, then providing schedules for routes with 10 minute or 15 minute headways might actually provide some value. Until then, you plan connections under the assumption of maximum wait time and use OneBusAway to plan your actual arrival at the stop so that your actual wait time is considerably less.

      • This is especially true for frequent routes which, by nature, tend to be more popular, which means more potential for random delays by change fumblers/lost tourists/etc. than the hourly milk runs in suburbia which almost nobody rides.

        For instance, the #48 runs every 15 minutes most of the day Monday-Saturday. But no way would I assume that because a bus is scheduled to go by a particular stop at 1:23 that a bus would actually go by that stop at 1:23. Rather, I would plan under the assumption that if you show up at a #48 stop at a random time during the day, you will probably get a bus within 20 minutes. And if you want to do better than that, you need OneBusAway. In short, the #48 paper schedule provides virtually no additional value over just saying the bus comes every 15 minutes and leaving it at that.

      • So, asdf, you make the point that if the buses are unreliable, frequently coming 5-10 minutes late, then it’s barely worth consulting a schedule; you just have to wait.

        Indeed.

        So if RapidRide, the “Bus Rapid Transit”, is this unreliable, I don’t see how it can be called “rapid”.

    • Shorter Ogershok:

      “We looked at adding actual BRT features to our BRT, but then we decided… hey, why bother?… But hey, Wi-Fi, right? ‘Cause you’re going to be on this big red slow-moving box for a while!”

      • Wait, I’m not done.

        Wi-Fi is great to have on Amtrak. Wi-Fi makes sense on long commuter bus trips (i.e. across the lake).

        Wi-Fi is not a priority for urban mass transit. Calling this a “feature” is just yet another reminder that the quick, easy trips that are the hallmark of functional urban transit are an utterly foreign concept to everyone in charge at Metro.

        Garbage understanding –> garbage results.

      • As long as the bus bus from downtown to Ballard takes at least as much time as the train ride from downtown to Auburn, it absolutely makes sense for the bus from downtown to Ballard to have Wi-Fi. It’s not the distance you travel that determines how much you need Wi-Fi. It’s the time – have many minutes of your day are you sitting on the bus?

      • Well, gee, if only Metro had been given a golden opportunity to fix that speed problem.

        Say, if the public had voted to dedicate money for a flagship BRT service that the agency had six years to make fast. Perhaps a service that even had “rapid” in the name.

        Metro doesn’t fucking get it. Bringing up the Wi-Fi makes that crystal clear.

      • Metro doesn’t control the lanes or the traffic signals. The latter is SDOT’s oversight.

      • Metro controls the dozens of features and payment policies that “examined” and then didn’t bother to implement.

        If I can drive the same route 4 times faster than the bus can, it ain’t just the lights.

      • Are you guys really going to accept permanently snail-slow on a vital in-city corridor, just because Metro throws out a Wi-Fi bone?

        I’ve never seen anyone whip out a lap-top on an in-city bus anyway. Too much stop-and-start, too many distractions, too many foul smells to concentrate.

        And the 3G-routed Wi-Fi isn’t any better on your smartphone than using your own carrier’s 3G, so there’s zero benefit unless you’re one of those non-existent laptop users.

        This is a colossally stupid feature to ballyhoo.

  21. Jason Mitchell says:

    “…we will never be able to mimic the exclusive, separated right-of-way rail enjoys. RapidRide is designed to operate on compact urban streets – and that’s the beauty of our bus rapid transit program.”

    BRT can absolutely run on dedicated ROW on “compact urban streets.” The deficit of commitment, imagination, and vision that decided this and other BRT features were impossible is not the beauty of RapidRide, but rather its great failure. It *is* worth noting, however, that the responsibility for this failure certainly extends beyond Metro.

    Ultimately, while the service improvements are nice enough, the fundamental point of bus rapid transit is that it’s rapid—it’s obviously already “bus transit.” If it ain’t rapid it ain’t BRT.

  22. Kellen Donohue says:

    Thanks for the op-ed Mr. Desmond, glad to see a back and forth conversation here.

  23. Why do you let this man come on to STB and trot out the same old BRT lies. RapidRide isn’t BRT. It’s not even *rapid*. It’s merely *frequent*. I’m sure he’d say “those are the same thing”, but they’re *not*. RapidRide is *slow*.

    BRT, everywhere else in the world, *does* enjoy “the exclusive, separated right-of-way rail enjoys” at least for the majority of their route. In fact, buses in SODO already enjoy it — it’s called the E3 Busway.

    Metro isn’t interested in providing good service, they’re only interested in providing good buzzwords. Must be the Microsoft mentality creeping in. Features aren’t nearly as important as hype.

    • I am announcing the formation of a blue-ribbon committee. — Mayor Quimby
      Man, am I appeased. — Carl

      Seriously, what’s with the placated obsequiousness?

      Even by the standards of defensive, deflective, obvious bureaucratic spin, this was delusional and patronizing drivel! As it suggests an agency unwilling to hold itself to even minimal standards of service or etymological honesty, it does far more harm than good.

      Let us be very clear: In the six years that elapsed between the passage of TransitNow and the roll-out of RapidRide through the CBD, Metro made no preparations to permit the service’s most important feature to work.

      Six years of additional, regressive sales tax were collected for a program that was sold as a leaps-and-bounds and improvement in the way transit operates in this city, and the agency wasn’t even planning to try to make it work! If Adam hadn’t inquired about it, there would never even have been a statement about it. Metro wasn’t even planning to tell us!

      But Desmond’s statement barely addresses this six-year quandry. He tries to blame the end of the RFA (irrelevant, RapidRide was never to be part of the RFA), and tells us that RapidRide is a “without a doubt a major upgrade” despite the absence of every single improvement that was sold to the public.

      Metro fails at transit, fails at logic, and clearly even fails at spin.

  24. Beavis McGee says:

    BTW, 8 days and counting since Metro drivers were told we’d have new onboard prerecorded PSA’s to play to help get customers ready for the service change. We have been given information booklets and an Operations Bulletin asking us to play these PSA’s periodically.

    They still aren’t available to us to share with the public.

  25. I am on the Rapid Ride A this morning, and I thought the idea was it stopped at all the stops regardless? It flew by two “stations” and left me wondering. Is that a Swift only idea?

    • Why shouldn’t the bus blow by a stop if no one needs to get on or off there? Not doing so accomplishes nothing except to waste fuel and everybody’s time.

    • Beavis McGee says:

      No, RR operates like other routes. No passengers wanting on or off, no need to stop.

  26. On review of the C and D lines, I have come to the following conclusions:

    1) STB com enters are right. This isn’t BRT. it’s isn’t even really RR.

    2). True BRT or RR would be a system where conventional bus service supplements RR rather than RR REPLACES (or attempts to) conventional service.

    3) Evidence of KC abuses of the BRT concept art evident in the reconfiguration and elimination of existing routes in favor of RR lines with too frequent stops.

    4) Regrettably, with the above in mind, RR may in reality be an unfortunate and unnecessarily inefficient shell game with regard to transit improvements,.

    I think I get it now.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] today Kevin Desmond responded to my post last Friday about RapidRide C and D not having ORCA card readers downtown. In general, [...]

  2. [...] King County GM Kevin Desmond gamely attempts some spin, avoiding claims with any specificity quite [...]

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