Those of us who live on the D Line have had plenty of opportunity to catalog anecdotally all the enhanced features that were (and largely still are) missing at launch, features which, along with stop reduction, would operate to make RapidRide D faster and more reliable than the 15 local it replaced. I’ve obtained from Metro a list of all outstanding capital projects related to all the in-service RapidRide lines, along with the estimated completion times.
First, note that this list excludes capital work in the downtown Seattle area; that was discussed in an op-ed by Metro GM Desmond. Essentially, in downtown, Metro made a high-pain high-gain tradeoff to delay installing ORCA readers and real-time displays until Seattle finished installing its own fiber network on 3rd Ave in the second quarter of 2013. This saves a tremendous amount of money (by avoiding digging up the street at Metro’s expense), but, of course, downtown Seattle is exactly the place where off-board payment and other enhanced features are most desperately needed. In this post I’m going to focus on deficiencies elsewhere.
Note that in this discussion, I’m going to count opposite-direction paired stops separately, rather than together, as riders usually do. So the northbound and southbound stops at 3rd & Cedar count as two stops, even though I’d typically speak of the two together as “the stop outside my apartment.” Also, a few of these things may already fixed, as most of my information is probably a couple of weeks old by now.
After the jump, we go Line-by-Line.
Metro has six stops with network problems on the A line, which prevent the realtime arrival sign or the ORCA reader from working. For the pair at S 308th St, this is due to a road paving project which has delayed the installation of fiber conduit; the ETA is Q1 2013. For four others, the pair at S 200th St, and northbound at 216th and 260th, the explanation given is “Problems with wireless communication, staff is working to identify source of problems and a solution” with no ETA.
Metro has three stops with the same no-ETA “wireless connection” problem as the A line: the pair at NE 8th St & 124th Ave NE and southbound at 148th Ave NE & Old Redmond Rd. Two other pairs of stops have a wireless connection problem with an fix identified and an ETA of Q1 2013: 146th Ave NE & NE 87th St, and 156th Ave NE & BelRed Road/24th St. Supposedly, Transit Signal Priority is working on the B Line, but bus drivers tell me that some days it just doesn’t seem to operate.
In addition, Bellevue Transit Center’s real time arrival sign malfunctions on almost every trip: two buses at a time lay over at BTC before setting out for Redmond; when the following bus pulls in, the “next departure” time becomes that of the follower, rather than that of the leader. The sign thus displays a times that’s off by 15 minutes for much of the day. Metro staff say they are “working with the vendor” on this.
Finally, it seems Metro is adding a new stop on the B Line, at NE 8th St & 120th Ave NE, expected Q4 2013.
The C Line is comparatively shipshape, with only one intersection (I don’t know which) where Transit Signal Priority is not working; fix ETA is by the end of this year. Network connections at two stops near Westwood Village, on SW Barton St at 26th and 35th Ave SW are pending the completion of work related to Metro’s Delridge Corridor Improvements. Not mentioned in the response from Metro, but mentioned on the Metro Matters blog, the real time arrival signs at the California & Fauntleroy (Morgan Junction) stops are also broken.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other broken things which didn’t make Metro’s list, so if you know of other facilities on the C Line which don’t work, chime in in the comments.
The D Line is a mess.
- Signal priority is not enabled at 15 (!) intersections; explanation given is “Several causes of delay: incorrect traffic signal response, bus software issue, miscommunication with SDOT, Seattle City Light permitting, staff resource constraints.”; ETA is end of this year.
- Many of the stops in Uptown did not begin construction until less than a month before the introduction of the D Line, although they seem (as far as I can tell) to be mostly complete now. Several reasons are cited for this delay: “Uptown area had longer permit reviews, coordination with trolley overhead and in some cases required work by other Seattle departments including Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities. When construction is complete and amenities installed, SCL must make electrical connections. RR needs compete for SCL resources with their other projects.”
- All of the RapidRide stops in Belltown are physically complete, except southbound 3rd & Cedar which is affected by adjacent private construction; but, just like the downtown stops I mentioned in the beginning, all the ORCA readers and realtime arrival signs will need to wait until Q2 2013, when the city’s wireless network will enter service.
- The “interim routing” at the RapidRide terminal is due to delays in the required reconstruction of 7th Ave NW north of Holman Road. “Roadway reconstruction was a bigger project than anticipated; longer design and review timeline. Staff resources were devoted to implementing the A and B lines in 2010 and 2011 and were unavailable to start design activities earlier.” ETA 2014.
- Three other stops on 15th Ave NW have been delayed either due to a “late design change” or construction on adjacent property, including (notoriously) the southbound stop at Market St.
STB commenters are, in frustration, wont to chalk all the (very real) deficiencies in RapidRide up to pervasive incompetence or supposed animus to their neighborhood on the part of Metro, but I know enough of the people involved well enough to say that’s not the case. From the information in this list, and from talking both on- and off-the-record, to Metro staff both high and low, about the tottering launch of the C & D Lines, my impression is of an agency that’s simply stretched too thin (especially, understaffed in facilities, field supervision and outreach) to properly deliver services of the quality it has publicly committed to deliver, and which riders should expect.
While I’m temperamentally suspicious of (and disinclined to throw to throw money at) bureaucracy, it may not be reasonable to expect any major improvements to Metro bus service without a substantial chunk of new revenue, in large part for new service hours, and to backfill the two-year $20 Congestion Reduction Charge when it expires, but also to fill empty positions among back-of-house staff who can design and plan such improvements. Of course, such new revenue would also free the agency from pressure to make difficult but important efficiency improvements in the bus network, presenting a difficult choice to those of us who are keen to see public money spent where it is most effective.
While exchanging email on the subject of RapidRide with Metro staff, I took the opportunity to ask about RapidRide’s infamous near-complete omission of published schedules, and I’ll discuss that tomorrow.