Tuesday I asked for your questions about Rapid Ride, King County Metro’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system being implemented as part of Transt Now! Well, here are the answers from Karen Rosenzweig of Metro:
STB How is BRT different than express bus?
KR Express bus service has limited origins and limited destinations – with the goal of generally moving people from one end of the route to the other end. RapidRide is designed to serve corridors with multiple origins and multiple destinations. We anticipate riders using RapidRide for a variety of their travel destinations along the corridor.
STB How much of a trip time reduction are you projecting?
KR We are projecting a trip reduction time of 25% or more.
STB Why is Metro duplicating the future LINK ROW along SR99?
KR One of advantages of RapidRide implementation is its relatively short implementation timeline, and future flexibility to modify the service. Whether light rail is implemented in this corridor in 10, 15 or 20 years, there is a long period of time where bus service can meet mobility needs in a corridor that has high demand and HOV/BAT facilities already in place. It integrates with the initial segment of Link to SeaTac Airport and spurs transit demand in what may become a future rail corridor. BRT is often used as a precursor to rail, creating the market for the larger, future investment.
STB How much is being spent on the rebranding?
KR Most of the costs of “branding” – customer information and signage, marketing materials, paint scheme of the bus, etc. are costs that would occur whether or not RapidRide had a special “brand.” Elements of the brand also include facility, fleet, service and service quality enhancements where a relatively small incremental investment is being made. Metro’s marketing of this service with its distinctive brand will highlight how RapidRide delivers service that is “frequent, easy to use, and the best of Metro” to current and potential riders.
STB Are existing bus routes that follow the course of RapidRide going to be abolished?
KR All RapidRide corridors are current high ridership corridors where we believe there is latent demand that can be attracted with an improved service concept and service delivery. Existing Metro routes on the five corridors will become part of the new RapidRide service in conjunction with a total new investment of 100,000 annual service hours funded by Transit Now. As with a new rail line, Metro will also examine the surrounding network of routes in each community to determine whether a reorganization of those routes can result in a better bus service network and more mobility for riders.
STB How were routes choosen?
KR These corridors were examined for potential BRT beginning in 2000 and have been identified in Metro’s Six-Year Transit Development Plan since 2002.
They have in common:
· Arterial corridor operation in more densely developed areas of King County where major residential and employment areas exist
· High current transit demand and latent transit demand as evidenced by ridership growth, development and travel trends
· Significant local as well as regional trip attractors and generators with all-day, two-way demand characteristics
· Support of the local jurisdictions to provide transit priority and the likelihood of success in providing additional speed and reliability over current conditions
STB What resources would it take to commit to more dedicated right-of-way for buses and to ensure off-bus fare purchases?
KR Intermediate capacity transit corridors with exclusive right-of-way typically have costs that vary widely in the tens of millions per mile (for example, the 1.3 mile downtown Seattle Transit tunnel cost over $400 million, while the new BRT line in Eugene, Oregon cost about $5 million per mile with mostly dedicated right of way). The SR 99 S./Pacific Highway S. corridor has been the focus of about $150 million in roadway investments over the last decade that provide near continuous HOV lanes; and the SR 99 N./Aurora Ave N. corridor is the focus of redevelopment plans by the cities of Seattle and Shoreline – Metro is supporting the pursuit of federal and other grant sources for the roadway improvements while planning to directly contribute to passenger facility and technology improvements.
Ensuring off-board fare payment at all stations and stops would require the installation of ticket vending machines (TVMs) and fare transaction processors. The cost would be significant given the number of stations and stops. For that reason, we are not currently planning for TVMs at the RapidRide stations but will provide fare transaction processors so riders with passes and smart cards can board and alight at the back two doors.
STB How can they enforce off-bus fare purchase?
KR Off-board fare enforcement will be managed using a Proof of Payment system. This system is currently used on the Sounder train service and the South Lake Union Streetcar. Riders will be expected to show proof of payment, either a transfer for cash payments or an activated smart card/ pass, to fare inspectors who randomly board the buses and/or position themselves at the bus doorways at stations or other transit facilities. Fare inspectors will be Metro Transit Police and will impose penalties for non-payment.
STB What kind of IT investments are being made? Will there be GPS tracking? Real time arrival displays at stops? What % of signalized intersections will have Signal Priority?
KR Technology investments vary by corridor. An upgrade to our bus on-board systems on the entire transit system, along with new fiber optic connections, is providing the capacity to add real time arrival information. This information will be displayed at the RapidRide stations. We are also currently working with local jurisdictions to identify key locations for signal priority treatment such as extended green lights and queue jumps.
STB I heard the rapid ride buses will have more doors, does that mean lower capacity?
KR RapidRide buses will have three doors. The additional door, plus a low floor and modified interior configuration, does result in fewer seats per bus. However, increased service frequencies will overall add more seats to the corridor. We expect to achieve service improvements with this bus by having all-door boarding which will decrease the time needed for boarding/alighting, and when there are standing loads, provide more space for people to stand that does not interfere with movement within or on/off the bus. This design is typical of BRT vehicles in other metropolitan markets.
STB How quiet/noisy will the bus engines be compared to the existing (too noisy, but better than ordinary buses) hybrids? Has any effort been made to get quieter hybrids?
KR RapidRide buses will be the next generation of New Flyer hybrid bus.
STB why is this taking so long if there are no real capital improvements planned? isn’t this just an express bus?
KR The first RapidRide line will be implemented in early 2010. Project development began in late 2006. While the capital improvements for RapidRide are limited, there are a number of elements that need to be implemented before starting service. The technology elements ( see question 9 ) , take time to evaluate, design and implement. Other improvements, such as stations, bus bulbs and other roadway improvements also take time to design and build. The implementation schedule is also affected by the resources that are available, and when they are available, through the Transit Now program.
STB How do you fight the idea that BRT is inferior service to rail? A lot of this sentiment comes from the fact that BRT is used in many third-world nations while most advanced nations have rail.
KR We are not trying to achieve a rail-type of BRT service with RapidRide. There are various types of BRT. RapidRide is an arterial BRT service where the improvements we are adding create more frequent, reliable and faster service along the corridor as compared to conventional bus service. The corridors where RapidRide is being implemented already have strong ridership growth trends.
STB Have you studied examples of increased ridership and/or transit-oriented development occuring around BRT stations? What were the main factors contributing to these successes?
KR The American experience with BRT is still relatively new. The Federal Transit Administration reports in recent studies that significant development has occurred along BRT lines and in some places as part of station development. However, as with all public investments, BRT proximity is not always the primary reason for new development. Where success has been made, it is usually through a combination of upzones and zoning bonuses, supporting investments to public infrastructure (pedestrian amenities, public facilities), and public/private partnerships. North American examples of BRT-oriented development includes the South Boston waterfront (near the Silver Line BRT), the $2.4 billion mixed used development taking place or planned adjacent to Cleveland’s Eugene Corridor BRT and new transit-oriented development in the York Region, Ontario, in response to York VIVA BRT.
STB How does the success of the third street dedicated bus way during rush hour inform Metro’s design of rapid ride?
KR There are definitely lessons learned from 3rd Avenue peak-period bus operations. Unseen strategies can make a difference (example: changes in signal timing). Stopping less often improves speed (RapidRide will stop half as often as the routes it replaces). Improved signage is important for motorists and transit customers. Priority for transit means putting people throughput before vehicle throughput: it takes local jurisdictions willing to make that jump.
RapidRide service operating into downtown Seattle will use Third Avenue.
STB Thanks a ton for the answers!