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.