Metro Delaying RapidRide E & F

RapidRide A. Photo by Oran.

RapidRide A. Photo by Oran.

Moments ago, Metro sent out a news release indicating that the agency intends to delay implementation of new RapidRide Lines E & F:

King County Metro Transit has revised the scheduled launch dates for the RapidRide E and F lines, allowing time to complete needed construction on facility upgrades and features that will make future service more reliable.

Before launching service, construction is needed on over 100 bus stops and stations and upgraded transit signals at more than 60 intersections – which stretch across two corridors, 21 miles and six cities.

Metro reviewed and revised the construction timelines with cities to reflect the complexity of the work needed to launch service on these two lines, said Kevin Desmond, Metro Transit general manager.

“Our customers will agree that it’s better for us to reschedule the launch of service until everything is complete and the technology is tested and working,” Desmond said. Rider amenities needed before launching the service include next bus arrival signs and ORCA card readers at stations, as well as coordinated traffic signals for buses.

“We learned clear lessons after the rocky launch for the C and D lines last year and are taking these steps so things go smoother for our customers with these lines,” Desmond said.

Both RapidRide E and F lines previously were scheduled to launch September 2013. Under the new schedule, RapidRide E will begin service in February 2014, replacing the existing Route 358 which carries nearly 12,000 weekday riders between Shoreline and downtown Seattle. RapidRide F now is slated to launch in June 2014, replacing Route 140 between Burien, Sea Tac, Tukwila and Renton. Route 140 carries about 3,500 weekday riders.

I spoke to Metro General Manager Desmond earlier this afternoon. The decision to delay the introduction of these upgraded services arose from a debriefing ordered by Desmond after RapidRide C & D received a distinctly mixed reaction. The D Line in particular debuted with no signal priority, inoperative real-time arrival signs and ORCA readers, and many stations still under construction; work on electronics in downtown Seattle is continuing in partnership with the city, as is a project to reconstruct 7th Ave NW to provide a proper terminal loop in Crown Hill.

I’ve been hoping to hear this announcement for quite some time. For months, sources at Metro and SDOT have been telling me it was highly unlikely that the E Line would be ready for a proper launch by September. While even a fully implemented RapidRide E will provide neither “rapid transit”, nor a truly transformative level of local-service frequency (for which we would be aiming at five- to ten-minute daytime headways), those things would cost real money that simply isn’t in the cards for now; but within the context of the current budget, there were few things I feared more than another botched RapidRide launch in Seattle. Metro has made the right choice here, to delay the project, and take the time get it right, and I applaud them for that.

Some things aren’t changing: there are still no plans for substantive service restructures around the RapidRide E launch. Desmond assured me that whether or not the legislature gives the agency additional taxing authority to avert the looming 17% cuts, there will be future proposals to restructure and improve the bus network. Unfortunately, though, rather than working on ways to make the bus network better, Metro service planners are currently fleshing out out a 17%-cut contingency scenario. That agency staff must waste their time working on politically-induced crises rather than doing useful work is a tangible cost of the obstructionism and government-by-crisis that we’ve grown used to from Olympia the last few years.

Of the legislature and governor, we ask only for the ability to vote to tax ourselves, to pay for a service that is essential to the economic and social health of the biggest city in Washington state, so our transit agency can get back to planning for a future of growth and improvement. This shouldn’t be hard.

UPDATE: Lindblom has more details; looks like the F Line will be extended to The Landing.

Comments

  1. BigDonLives says

    Hopefully the legislature resists this push to keep taxing authority reserved for the state.

    No more money for Rapid Raid!

    • John Slyfield says

      all we ask for is a VOTE. if you are in the minority then you still get a voice in how its spent but you still get to pay through tax.

    • Chris Stefan says

      BigDon, you clearly do not go far enough, the legislature should confiscate all transit taxes collected in the state and spend the money on highways!

      • David L says

        Remember Eyman’s I-745, which tried to (almost) do exactly that?

        I’m sure BigDonLives voted for it.

  2. Anandakos says

    Well, now. When ol’ Festus Flossmore come to the Big City he don’t want ter pay no more ‘a that dern sales tax. An’ he’s tellin’ his Rep-re-sentative not ta let them Socialists in Queen County raise no taxes on his shoppin’ at Sam’s Club.

  3. Matt L (aka Angry Transit Nerd) says

    Glad to hear Metro is not going to half-ass another RapidRide launch.

    And yes, local funding options for transit should be a no-brainer, but this is Washington. I did take the opportunity at the 36th District Town Hall on Saturday to express to our legislators my frustration at constantly being asked to “save” Metro.

    If our legislators can’t get over themselves and stop using transit funding as a political football, then I’m filing an initiative for Pugetopolis to secede from Washington.

    • says

      Good for you Matt to give ‘em hell. Enough already.

      We are one state or we are not. Curtis King can go to hell.

      Either you are for direct democracy or you are not. As a great President said 10 years ago, “This will not be a campaign of half-measures. It is a fight for the security of our [state] and the peace of the world, and we will accept no outcome but victory.”

      NO OUTCOME BUT VICTORY!

  4. David L says

    Perhaps this can be the beginning of an indefinite delay for the F Line, which won’t be rapid and which will leave its passengers rattling around in big RapidRide artics. There are two far better choices for the next RR line in South King County, Auburn-Southcenter and Renton-East Hill-Kent.

  5. says

    I must admit I’m quite excited to hear about it getting delayed which is an ironic first.

    Remember: do it right or do it twice.

  6. Doug says

    I have say, 3500 does seem like a low number to make it rapid ride eligible…aren’t there other routes with greater readership?

    • Bruce Nourish says

      Yes, many. The F Line is something of a political project.

      I’ve heard it said that Metro scrapped its three subareas, but in its place got eight regional cities that now want a slice of the pie.

      • aw says

        Irrespective of whether RR-F is a good idea, is June 2014 close to the completion date of Tukwila Station? If so, there should be better bus connections there.

      • Mark Y. says

        There’s 18 runs of Sounder each day. If they run RR F at 15 minute frequencies from 7a-7p and 30 min otherwise, that’s 58-64 runs a day. So at a minimum 40 runs won’t have anything to connect to at that station.

        Maybe you could make it a transfer point to other routes, but they chose not to do that with the Renton restructure.

      • aw says

        There are also a few Amtrak trains; next year there will be another Sounder round trip, and in 2016/17 there will be three more Sounder round trips, including off-peak service.

      • says

        @Mark Y: It’s worse than that. There will be 58-64 RR runs per day (and 9 Sounder runs per day) in each direction. So a minimum of 98 runs won’t have anything to connect to.

      • Mike Orr says

        So the question is, how much will it be going out of its way to serve the Sounder station, and what is it bypassing? The current 140 makes a big detour into the station but I’m told that’s temporary until the permanent station is built. And RapidRide will make a giant U shape from Southcenter to Sounder to Renton instead of spiking down to Southcenter and again to the Station. So it doesn’t look like it’ll be going out of its way much, and what it bypasses is Grady Way. Is that really much of a loss? And is Lind Avenue perhaps a gain?

      • Mark Y says

        Al Dimond, yep, I realized that after I posted. I doubled the Sounder runs (9 each way) but not the RR-F.
        I’m not saying RR-F shouldn’t stop there if it’s on it’s way, I’m saying it probably shouldn’t exist at all.

  7. says

    As to:

    Unfortunately, though, rather than working on ways to make the bus network better, Metro service planners are currently fleshing out out a 17%-cut contingency scenario. That agency staff must waste their time working on politically-induced crises rather than doing useful work is a tangible cost of the obstructionism and government-by-crisis that we’ve grown used to from Olympia the last few years.

    Of the legislature and governor, we ask only for the ability to vote to tax ourselves, to pay for a service that is essential to the economic and social health of the biggest city in Washington state, so our transit agency can get back to planning for a future of growth and improvement. This shouldn’t be hard.

    You have this Skagitonian’s full moral support. Full stop. No qualification.

    Furthermore, I have signed the Transportation Coalition’s petitions and after my NAS Whidbey Island friends bury three of their heroes, the transit issue will reappear on GrowlerNoise.com. Obviously this isn’t the time until say Wednesday or Thursday for a major cyberspace outpost in the NASWI community to get back to politics-as-usual…

    But soon, very soon the battle will be joined. That I can promise you.

  8. Mark Dublin says

    Is anyone thinking about some lane priority? “BAT” lane is unfortunately a good despcription of “Business Access/Transit.” Notice how nobody ever talks about “Business Access/Express Tracks- or /Freeway Lanes.

    As long as service is still blockable by the slowest of street traffic, all we’ve got is a bus whose slowness calls extra attention to itself. Does anybody know if the fleet has “hush mode?” The roomy interior and third door would make them good Tunnel buses.

    Mark Dublin

    • aw says

      A problem with running the buses in the tunnel would be with the ORCA validators there. They’re intended for use with Link and its distance-based fares. If someone used them to get on a proof-of-payment bus, what would the fare be?

    • Ben says

      Completely agree this. In order for transit to be successful it has to be faster than driving.

    • Mike Orr says

      The existing BAT lanes don’t seem to be blocked by cars. They’re usually empty or occasionally have one car turning right. I’d rather have BAT lanes all along Aurora than nothing.

    • David Seater says

      All of the New Flyer hybrids, including the RapidRide coaches, have hush mode and the necessary radios/transponders to operate in the tunnel.

  9. AlexKven says

    Well, it seems that Metro all but forgot about the A-Line. It was a big deal when the A launched, and even still when the B-Line launched. But ever since the C and D lines hit, there has been basically no mention of the A-Line, the bus I ride to college every day. Aside from (as well as contributing to) the fact that it really isn’t very rapid (Federal Way TC to Tukwila link station was supposed to take 30 minutes, remember?), some stops don’t have the real time arrival signs and off-board payment systems working. This is a big deal at S 240 st, the stop serving a major community college. It is a disincentive to use ORCA cards, and it leaves a non-homogeneous mix of riders on the bus, with people at the front standing in the aisle, and pairs of empty seats in the back. It has been like this for several months, and it doesn’t seem like Metro has any plans to fix it.

    I am also saddened about the delay of the F line. But, the originally proposed schedule didn’t plan the F line until 2015, and didn’t include the extension to the landing, so it’s still good all around… Well, except the 17% cuts.

    • asdf says

      If the 17% cut goes into effect, is there any hoping of canceling the F-line completely, so as to use its service hours to maintain existing levels of service on other routes?

      • AlexKven says

        That wouldn’t happen. Cancelling a rapidride is an extremely drastic change. what could happen is eliminating 10 minute headways, and making it come every 30 minutes on weekends.

        But canceling it isn’t an option. They probably would have to pay back the grant, like Mike Orr said.

      • d.p. says

        Would also have to pay back the grant if they didn’t give it a minimum number of hours of 10-minute service on weekdays.

        Might be worth it to pay back the grant, given that resource-suck.

      • Mike Orr says

        Also, on rerouting the F substantially as in Kent-Rainier Beach (to replace the 169 and 101): it depends on how much approval and process the feds required for the Burien-Renton routing. Metro would have to get it approved again, and it may have to go through the EIS process.

  10. fil says

    If a transit tunnel were to be built to grade separate rapid ride e downtown, where should it begin and end? Should it be made to also accept the rapid ride line from ballard? And or a streetcar from fremont? It seems like all of this talk about tranist to ballard and fremont should include aurora transit as well…

    • Mike Orr says

      The most commonly-discussed locations are 2nd Ave or 5th Ave. If it’s built for both rail and bus, it could serve RR C, D, and E as well as Link. Although it may get overcrowded with two 10-minute train lines and two 15-minute bus lines? (I’m assuming the C/D remain interlined, thus two bus lines.) Note that Link can’t replace RapidRide because it’s limited stop like Swift.

      However, some of us have noticed that a Ballard Link could go into the existing DSTT at Convention Place, and thus postpone the need for a second tunnel. The bottleneck in the DSTT is in the University Link segment, not downtown. But I don’t think we could fit an Aurora Link or BRT into the DSTT with Central Link, East Link, and Ballard Link. So putting a Ballard line into the DSTT will make it less likely that a second tunnel is ever built, because I can’t see building it just for the Aurora/Georgetown line. However, the Ballard line could switch to it to even out usage between the tunnels more.

  11. Anonymous Coward says

    I noticed today that the LED arrival signs at the westbound RapidRide D stop on Mercer St. at Queen Anne Ave. N were showing times not just for the D, but for the other busses (1, 8, and 32) also. Is this new? A pilot? Is this (hope against hope) going to be rolled out to the other RR stops?

  12. Harold Gems says

    I am confused on why we need an articulated bus every 10 minutes between big box stores of Downtown Renton and parking lots of Southcenter?! And why anyone wants to travel so far soutwest to Sounder and even worse, tukwila light rail, if you can take 101, 102, 143, 167, and even 106, that go directly north to seattle and will get you there much faster with less fuel and labor hours wasted(talking about metro being short on cash). This line F makes no sense. There is more demand on going through downtown Renton, and not to Downtown Renton. Residential density is all on the hills,and most business have mile long parking lots and sell things that you can not take on the bus… I would prefer to have this line F resources used for faster transferless service between Valley Medical and Seattle or Bellevue. as well as more late night service on 156-155 line between airport and Valley Medical as one route, as it is routed right now. Also please get rid of that Renton Transit Center terminus , it is so off course, and so inconvenient to transfer there. Extend routes beyond Downtown Renton, and move all the bus traffic off big box stores of Rainier Ave to Main Ave where buses can serve city hall and courts, as well as library, Aquapark, and the community center.

    • asdf says

      I have always felt that the F-line was going to be a total joke, as any route like that will never be remotely rapid. Detours to serve the front door of a Sounder station when there are no Sounder trains to connect to? The whole thing just makes me cringe.

      Whatever service hours are being added to the 140 to turn it into the F-line would be far better spent upgrading the D line to every 10 minutes all day, every 5 minutes peak. But sub-area equity says those service hours have to be spent in Renton and so the F-line is what we get.

    • David L says

      You’re right that the F is more service than needed and wrong on pretty much everything else.

      People, a lot of them, do take the bus to big box retail. 3rd and Rainier is the second-highest-volume stop on the 101. Quite a few people ride the 169 past S Renton P&R to the retail on Rainier. Southcenter and the apartments northwest of it are the linchpin of demand on the current 140, and for the apartments, 140 -> Link is a pretty good way to get downtown.

      The idea of expanding service on the 156 + 155 is a joke. No one rides the current service, especially the 155 part. Metro is shrinking the 155 down to a DART van to use the resources better. What VMC needs is more service on the 169, which is the route everyone uses to get there.

      • says

        I will disagree here and state that RR-F is a great corridor. It links several high-demand nodes: Burien, Link light rail, Southcenter, Renton.

        The issue is how it links them. The 140 has low ridership due to indirect slow routing and low frequency. RR-F could be successful if it focused on linking the high-demand nodes in an efficient manner, like less than 15 minutes to Southcenter from either Renton or Burien. But RR-F has basically frozen in place 140′s route, which limits its usefulness to only the transit-dependent market.

      • David L says

        I’m not sure how you’d make the route more efficient without failing to serve one or more of the high-demand stops, other than skipping the Sounder deviation. I suppose you could use SR 518 between Burien and TIBS, but 154th is already pretty fast and that part of the route isn’t the problem. The real issue is that Southcenter and southwest Renton are a bottomless pit of pavement hell where any route that serves the mall and the Rainier Avenue retail corridor can’t help but be indirect.

        All that said, it’s not that the 140 is a bad corridor; it just doesn’t warrant RapidRide service levels. Current service levels with an extra night trip or two would be fine.

      • asdf says

        Thanks to the internet, there is very little reason to ride the bus to a big box store. Virtually everything you could buy at those stores, you could order off either Amazon or the store’s own website and have delivered right to your door. About the only time physically going to a big box store is really necessary is employees at the store going to work and returning unwanted items.

        While some bus service to Fry’s and Target is certainly warranted, Rapid Ride-level service is not.

      • Bernie says

        Somewhat true but my mom for instance will never ever order anything online. Not going to happen, can’t even get her to use email. Then there’s the shipping for things like 20# bags of Moss Out. They’re not going to ship that to you for free even if you order more than $25. The shipping almost doubles the cost. Then there’s showrooming. And if the social justice crowd is incensed over the burden of a cash surcharge how is that going to reconcile with “let them order their bread cake online”?

  13. Treebeard says

    Is metro upgrading the RapidRide stop at 2nd and Columbia? Is there a timeline for the orca card readers at Rapid Ride stops downtown?

  14. d.p. says

    The F line will truly be a nightmare for anyone who tries to use it as any sort of through service — i.e. anyone who dares ride past more than one of its six loop-de-loop transit centers or massive detours.

    Sound Transit’s Tukwila International Blvd parking lot is a particularly egregious waste of time and energy. Do you realize that if buses just stopped on Southcenter Blvd, they’d be only 300 feet from the Link platform?
    [ot]

    • asdf says

      All it takes to the transit dependent to use the F-line as a thru-service is to be just fast enough to beat waiting an hour for the 560. Needless to say, though, everyone with access to a car will drive, and those that don’t will make a good-faith effort to beg for rides from friends before using the F.

  15. Ses says

    I really hope RT 169 is one of the next RapidRide Routes. It deserves the status much more than RT 140. The Landing-Renton-Valley Med.-East Hill-Kent makes a lot more sense than the bull#(%# they’re giving us.

  16. AndrewN says

    This delay is good to hear. SDOT has already announced that some of their infrastructure improvements along Aurora wouldn’t be completed until early 2014 anyway. See:
    http://www.broadviewseattle.org/2013/03/04/rapid-ride-e-line-open-house-march-20/

    Which reminds me, there is an open house regarding some of RapidRide-related improvements tomorrow afternoon/evening. It’ll be interesting to see the BAT lane proposal from SDOT and any pushback from the community (e.g., Aurora Merchants Association, etc.) See above link or here for open house info:
    http://metrofutureblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/planning-for-rapidride-e-line-continues/

    • Bruce Nourish says

      There already has been lots of pushback from the AMA — they are why the section of Aurora from 75th to 145th will have peak-only, rather than all-day bus lanes.

      • AndrewN says

        Is that still the proposal? Currently, the NB BAT Lane from 115th to Shoreline is 24/7. And last spring, SDOT hired a consultant to study BAT lanes along Aurora; I have been wondering how that analysis could have informed/changed what will be presented tomorrow.

      • Bruce Nourish says

        Correction: there is a section of Aurora that is full time, but Metro and Shoreline wanted 24/7 all the way from 75th, and they didn’t get it, due to the AMA. That was the state of play last I checked, which was several months ago (but I wasn’t expecting that to change).

  17. says

    I will start taking RapidRide seriously when they build separated lanes. Until then the “system” is nothing but paint and fancy bus stops.

    • David L says

      Most of the the length of RR A, and a good chunk of both RR B and RR C, already have dedicated lanes. RR D has a few blocks of them and RR E will have them over about half its length at opening. We just need to keep adding them block by block.

      • David L says

        My mistake. I was thinking there were bus lanes along NE 8th. The renovation project only installed bike lanes, not bus lanes. So never mind.

      • d.p. says

        Ummm… I use the D regularly, and I can’t picture a single full-time dedicated lane anywhere on the entire route.

        I’m straining to think of one, but I’m almost certain none exists.

        Nothing like sitting on a bus with the word “rapid” on the side, waiting for an opening in the line of 50-mph cars whizzing by you before you get to move again at all.

      • David L says

        The lanes are there and ready for use, so the capital investment is done. We just need to do the non-dumb thing and ban parking in them full-time.

      • d.p. says

        There’d still be no queue jump at the bridge, no signal priority at Dravus, no lanes through Uptown, and the slowest possible slog across Belltown, of course…

  18. MrZ says

    I kind of hope that Metro, PT, and ST would work together to extend RR “A” to Tacoma. Also speaking of extensions, an extension of RR “C” to TIB/SeaTac would not be bad either in my opinion.

    • David L says

      You’d have to break the RR C/D through-route, an expensive proposition, in order to extend RR C. Demand between West Seattle and the airport will be served by the newly full-time 560 from Westwood Village starting in September.

  19. Matthew Johnson says

    As a daily rider of the 140, I can see the the F Line’s potential. Hopefully this delay will be used to make some minor adjustments/improvements.

    Does anyone know how the connection of Strander to SW 27th over the tracks and the new Sounder Station will effect the routing in that area?

  20. Mikail Kachian says

    Once again, where are you going to get so many people to travel between Downtown Renton and Tukwila Sounder or Tukwila Light Rail on this F line?!(name says it all) Those stops can’t be final destinations and only insane will travel like this to transfer to Seattle or airport. 560 travel non-stop between airport and Downtown Renton already, and 101, 102, 143, 167 will get you to Downtown Seattle in way less time and drama… Anyone posting here in support of this need a lesson in geography… Downtown Renton is not a destination either. To terminate so many buses there is joke. That’s why most of the routes in renton are a last resort for commuters, most just drive. Ironically, Renton employment centers that provide free bus passes, don’t even have any meaningful service. Valley Medical Center has service to Kent East Hill, Southcenter and to Downtown Renton! Are those really the destinations to go from a regional center like VMC? who cares about dart on 155 east of nowhere in Fairwood, it needs to be extended west to the airport after 6pm, and drop those loops around the mall, before it turns into 156. Southcenter is not a destination for a bus rider, especially a rider from Valley Medical and Pacific Medical centers in Renton. Same goes for tragic 169. I doubt anyone who works at VMC and lives north, which is most of the employees, takes this bus. It has to be extended north to something meaningful besides Downtown Renton.

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