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[UPDATE: More info on the revenue source at the bottom.]

Earlier this week, while reporting on the 2010 King County Transportation Budget proposal, Martin reported that Metro is in the early stages of planning a sixth Rapid Ride route, the F Line. Information on the five other lines can be found here. We followed up and got some basic details, discussed after the jump.

  • It will replace the existing KC Metro route 140 which already has planned route changes in February 2010. Route changes will increase the speed of service and better connect it to Link, Metro routes that serve the station and the A Line. This will be achieved by eliminating service to Seatac, making service more direct and keeping buses on arterial streets.
  • It will have 10 stations with 15-20 enhanced and normal stops for a spacing of about every 1/2 mile.
  • Stations will be located at:
    • Burien Transit Center
    • South 156th Street & 1st Avenue South
    • Tukwila International Boulevard Link Light Rail Station
    • Southcenter Boulevard & 62nd Avenue South
    • Southcenter (on street at Andover Park West/Baker Blvd)
    • Tukwila Sounder Commuter Rail Station
    • South Renton Park & Ride
    • SW Grady Way & Powell Avenue SW
    • Rainier Avenue South & S 3rd Street
    • Renton Transit Center
  • Weekday frequency: 10 minutes peak, 15 minutes midday & early evening, and 30 minutes night (currently every 15 minute with service quickly dropping off after 6ish).
  • Weekend frequency: 15 minutes throughout the day and 30 minutes in the evening and at night (currently 30 minutes all day).
  • Service span will be increased to midnight.
  • Cost is $34 million. Roughly half of this will go to bus procurement, with the remaining spent on fiber optic communication, TSP, stations etc.

I briefly spoke to Victor Obeso, Manager of Service Development, who was able to share more detailed information about the F Line, particularly how Metro views Rapid Ride and the history that lead up to the decision to enhance the route 140 to Rapid Ride level.

  • The 5.5% property tax that Interim Executive Kurt Triplett proposed has enough revenue to fund this additional Rapid Ride line.
  • Route 140 was one of about 20 lines that were initially evaluated before the 2007 Transit Now initiative for Rapid Ride treatment. It ranked high in this preliminary evaluation. Years before, in 1996, the 140 was identified as a “core route” by Metro. Core routes are those that form the backbone of Metro’s service and should have more frequent, all day service.
  • The 140 currently carries 3,640 daily riders, up 22% from two years ago.
  • Route 140 was targeted for improvements in 2002, 2005, and 2007. However suburban routes like it needed significant investments to bring them up this service level. Since then service investments have been made that now make this enhancement possible.
  • Initial estimates are the F Line would need an additional 18,000 annual service hours. The more direct (read efficient) route will help metro meet this additional need compared to the current route 140.
  • I asked Victor to define how he sees Rapid Ride, he said that “[Metro is] trying to apply the best elements of local arterial transit, into a package and marketing it as Rapid Ride”.
  • Detailed design solutions for increasing speed will be looked at in the future during a detailed corridor analysis but that is several years away. A significant part of Rapid Ride projects is to build the communication infrastructure that is needed for real-time information and Transit Signal Priority. For this project Metro will need to work with four different cities and possibly WSDOT.

What this says to me is that in the long term Metro will continue to transition higher frequency, arterial based routes to the RapidRide brand. RapidRide is no longer a one off proposition.  A RR/Link system map (.pdf) is here.

UPDATE: Martin here. I just found this Sep. 3 letter from the Executive (.doc) that explains where the money came from:

I felt RapidRide F was an important complement to the new east/west Urban Partnership service across State Route 520 that would be implemented with the first penny of the property tax as required by state law. However, based on the King County Assessor’s preliminary reports of 2010 assessed valuations, this would not have been possible without using at least 6.5 cents per thousand of the transit property tax levy. I was unable to fund this southern RapidRide and keep my plan tax neutral at 5.5 cents per one thousand of assessed value. Therefore I made the difficult choice of dropping this potential route.

I am pleased to report that the Assessor has provided updated assessed value information that will result in slightly more revenue for every cent levied. Through further evaluation and refinement of this concept, assumptions about potential federal dollars for this sixth RapidRide and the recently revised estimates of property tax revenue I have now found a way to make this new RapidRide F line work. More importantly, we can add this route while remaining within my original 5.5 cent property tax proposal and without raising fares beyond my initial 2011 increase. I am looking forward to providing the Council and the region with more information about this exciting service in the next few weeks and months.

53 Replies to “Rapid Ride: F Line”

  1. This is great news for South King County and great news for Link. With more frequent service later into the night than the 140 now provides, Link will be a more realistic option for people from Burien to Renton and beyond.

    An impression exists among many transit advocates that ridership on lines outside of Seattle is low except for peak-trip commuter buses to downtown Seattle, and this employment-dense, housing-dense area corridor shows that impression to be mistaken.

    In addition, Burien-Renton is the most likely corridor for the next Link project in South King County once South Link reaches the Pierce County line and a RapidRide line can tide us over until then, building ridership in the meantime. Well done, Metro!

  2. I’m endlessly amused that this was announced on Page 33 of the Transportation chapter of a budget proposal. No press release, nothing.

    1. I agree completely. I have told multiple metro employees that rapid ride information is pitifully. Ther are currently 8 pages, 4 of which are maps. It is sad. Metro needs to understand that the public supports it but it can’t be a black box. It even offputs transit adovocates.

    2. I think it’s fair to say that this here blog does a better job of getting information out than metro does – especially ACCURATE and HELPFUL information as we just witnessed with the sloppiness of the new timetables, maps, signage, and rider alerts at stops. What exactly is the obstacle for communications at KCM? Even the recently improved website, although much better, still feels like an artifact of the late 90’s.

      1. Seems like an easy and cheap way for Metro to market stuff would be to say, “Hey, check out these non-Metro information sources… we can’t guarantee their accuracy for liability reasons, but we think they’re pretty cool.”

      2. Metro’s website – and especially the trip planner – are embarrassments. Nevermind the fact that this region has some of the best and brightest minds in the field of computer technology…

      3. Does anyone else have the problem with the trip planner where you enter a valid date and it doesn’t accept it? Do the same thing two or three times and it finally sticks. This seems to happen all the time for me using Firefox under Linux.

      4. It happens to me a lot too, but usually because I use a non-standard format.

        For example, you must enter it as 4/31/09 and not 04/31/09 or 31/04/09 etc…

        It’s extremely annoying. For the Sound Transit survey I made sure to give them a big talk about their horrible transit planner. They should hire the same guys who made Vancouver’s TransLink website, their maps and planners put Metro to serious shame. In fact, just about every city’s site does.

  3. so is the stop at the Tukwilla LINK station going to be on South Center Blvd? I can’t see looping through the bus bays and parking lots to be very efficient (which is the point of the rapid ride routes, yes?)

  4. “[Metro is] trying to apply the best elements of local arterial transit, into a package and marketing it as Rapid Ride”.

    ^ Glad to see it explained like that. Rapid Ride is not BRT, it’s an upgrade to standard bus service. I’ve said this before, but most of what RR offers (Off-board payment, frequent service, further spaced stops, etc) is how pretty much every bus line should be.

    1. I agree. Glad to see that Metro is considering more RapidRide lines. Also, let’s stop calling it bus rapid transit and call it higher quality bus service.

      1. I 100% agree. I appreciate the improvements, I don’t appreciate trying to oversell the improvements as a great leap forward in service levels. After all, every single metro Rapid Ride line to date replaces existing service, rather than overlays local service as is happening w/ CT’s swift. That line is a big deal as it greatly improves the quantity of service in it’s corridor and neatly bifurcates local v. express service. I think that wantonly branding as BRT any minor service level improvement w/ a few niceties such as custom vehicles and special shelters seriously dilutes the brand of BRT itself.

    2. It’s funny; even though they’re not saying it’s BRT, in some ways they are. That is, it’s called Rapid Ride. The word Rapid seems to indicate Bus Rapid Transit, since no matter how infrequent our lousy a bus service is, it’s always going to be bus transit. Is there another way to add in the word “rapid”? Buses transiting rapidly?

  5. So RapidRide is losing its last pretence of being Bus Rapid Transit. Stops every half mile, and a big dropoff in frequency at 7pm. So “Rapid” Ride will be as meaningless as the numerous “[City] Rapid Transit District”s.

    What is needed is 15-minute all day and evening service on the 140, 180, and the Federal Way-Auburn bus. Then it would be feasable to go east-west in the south end, although you still might have to transfer twice to get to your destination (e.g., start on the 174, then 140 or 180, then 150).

    ST2 will bring Link to 272nd. A few people are trying to find additional funding to bring it to 320th. The Pierce County border is a few miles south of that, and I haven’t seen any concrete plan to bring Link that far in the foreseeable future.

    1. Just curious – I hadn’t heard that there was an effort out there to extend to 320th. Can you give us some more details?

      1. See the comments by Chris Stefan September 19th. Apparently ST applied for a stimulus grant for the Airport-to-200th segment, and that might free up enough money for 320th.

      2. Well I’m not sure getting a grant for going to S. 200th would free up enough money to build Link to S. 320th by 2023. It might, but the drop in tax revenue might eat up any savings from getting extra Federal money. Also it is a bit further from S. 272nd to S. 320th than from the Airport Station to S. 200th.

      3. The bit about extending to S. 320th if ST is a SWAG (Silly Wild-Assed Guess) on my part. I’m assuming the first goal for any funds leftover in the South King sub-area Link account would go toward getting to S. 320th since it is clearly an important regional destination and a logical end-point for the South Link line.

  6. Is the Strander Blvd project still on? It would seem much more efficient if RapidRide went on Oakesdale to SW 27th St (which will become Strander Blvd) and then to the Tukwila Sounder station.

    This really seems like an interesting route. I never knew the ridership along this corridor was so high to create a RapidRide line.

    Also, I think the RapidRide station at the Link station should be on Southcenter Blvd and people should just walk to the station platforms. Seems feasible… I think…

  7. I noticed the South end of the Tukwila station area that has been slowly being cleared out. You can even see some of the outline of where the old racetrack was.

    1. Wow, I should go visit. I got my first summer job (and time living away from home) between jr and sr year in HS at Longacres. Do they still run the Belle Roberts Handicap since they’ve moved racing to Auburn? She was quite a lady.

  8. A hotel in Renton provided the point of origin Thursday as two rubes from east of the mountains, aka the spouse and I, took our first Link ride. We looked at taking the 140, but the double transfer (Sea-Tac and Tukwila Int’l) combined with sparse nighttime service prompted us instead to occupy a parking spot at Tukwila, which was jammed at 4 p.m. I suppose it’s only a hope that BRT frequencies will match those of Link at Tukwila.

    Dated hotel literature rhapsodized about Metro buses with no mention of Link. But I overheard a desk conversation involving a carless guest who wanted to go downtown. It seems the hotel shuttle makes regular stops at Tukwila, and the clerk informed the guest about Link and how the hotel facilitates a light-rail journey. So word is dribbling out.

    BTW, senior citizens (the spouse is one) get a terrific deal on Seattle-area transit. She rode for less than 10 cents a mile — which is less than gas alone, forget about parking and costs for road rage-induced blood-pressure meds.

    1. I’ve noticed many hotel shuttles at the Link station. Most of these were from the Southcenter area.

      1. And what would it look like anyway? A line that junctions into central link in two places or alternately runs parallel to link? The “Tukwila Freeway Alignment” that ST was forced into has really created an ugly proposition for East-West light rail in that corridor. Your choice: a line that is functionally difficult or a parallel line that is duplicative and expensive and requires backtracking for many riders.

      2. I think having them run together for a mile or so along the 518 wouldn’t be too bad.

  9. Last week I decided to drive the “A” line route (Hwy 99, Seatac to Fed. Wy TC), which I believe is supposed to startup next Feb??. Having driven that route for Metro for some time before retirement, I didn’t really see any difference along the street, the stops, the signs, or anything that would indicate a BRT line was imminent. Shelters, pad, signs, signal pre-empt, orca readers, next bus info, etc all take time to build — making all the difference between a frequent bus route and a BRT route. Anyone care to provide some insight?

    1. It’s been pushed back to next June, to open on the 12th. The RapidRide page still shows it to begin in February 2010. Another example of how terrible Metro is at communications. Unlike Community Transit, which is doing a good job at promoting Swift by putting a huge graphic banner and countdown on the front page.

      Again, from page 33 of the budget:

      All of the RapidRide ITS elements except for the real time information signs and stand alone fare transaction processors will be ready to support the service start date of June 12, 2010.

      No next bus info and no orca readers on the first day, pretty disappointing. Swift won’t have next bus info on the first day as well.

      1. Thanks Oran, your always a treasure chest of information!
        Do you know if or how they intend to impleament signal priority on HWY 99, and all the other RR corridors. IF, it’s just a little more green or less red time, depending on whether the bus is so many minutes behind schedule, then that’s not very useful, as the schedule gets to be a tug-o-war with the traffic engineers who want their LOS at intersections to remain intact.
        True signal priority, lets the buses run fast 24/7, and the planner/schedulers to shave minutes off the timetable based on actual experienced running times on the corridor.
        I’m guessing Metro has already lost that battle with the suburban cities.

      2. Mike,
        I agree with you. Signal priority that just allows a little more green time or a little less red so buses can remain on schedule is useless. If the money is going to be invested, it should allow the schedulers and planners to save enough so they don’t need as many buses to operate the route at that level of service. Those savings could then go into more frequent service.

      3. There will be signal priority. The question is how much priority? I really don’t know. And you’re right, it depends on how well Metro cooperates with the traffic engineers and their signals. Metro invested money into building a fiber optic network along RapidRide corridors to power the signal priority, next bus info, ORCA payment system, and other on-board communications. They should get something more out of it.

        With the way RapidRide is setup, implementing signal priority on the same level that Link has (freeflow between station stops) will be a challenge to coordinate. I’m not saying it’s impossible but RR has much more stops than Link has and doesn’t have a lane to itself.

      4. This is an example of how Mike McGinn’s proposal for a City owned fiber to the premises network actually has implications beyond just broadband service for undeserved neighborhoods. It would make it much easier for SDOT to implement an ITS on all Seattle arterials, which makes implementing transit signal priority easier. It also means Metro and ST can use the network to talk to systems both on-board and at transit stops.

        Another reason to support the broadband proposal is the likelihood it would lead to many more people telecommuting which has all sorts of good impacts on land use, transportation, and the environment.

      5. There will be ORCA readers on the buses, just no TVMs at the stops to allow you to buy a ticket. You can still pay cash on-board.

  10. I cant understand why they just dont build a light rail station at the burien transit center, It would be incredibly easy. The track can be built on the side of 509, it would have to go through very little private property to reach the transit center, it could even be deep bored underneath the 518/509 interchange to reach it. It would not cost very much but would add a lot of riders to the system.

      1. Destination 2040 Alternative 5 ( includes high-capacity transit between Burien and Renton, and ST is scheduled to study the line in more depth as part of ST2. It wouldn’t be cheap but it would definitely be ST’s most important east-west connector after Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond, and it’s likely to be the next in line for the South King subarea after South Link gets to the county line.

        There are three main east-west corridors in South King County: Renton-Burien, Kent-Des Moines, and Auburn-Federal Way. Of the three, Renton-Burien is by far the most transit-ready and the furthest along in terms of employment and housing density.

    1. How much would it cost to build a shuttle line from Burien to Tukwila I.B. with one or two 1-car trains? If Burien and Tukwila could build this themselves, perhaps with a matching grant from somebody, it could be seamlessly extended to Renton later. And just the presence of a segment would encourage people to build the rest of it faster.

      1. If it is all elevated and the same cost per mile as the south of Sea-Tac segments, it would be $940m.

      2. According to the study documents there is an at-grade section along 518, the Downtown Burien and the section at the 518 & 99 interchange would be elevated.

        How much per mile are the South of Sea-Tac segments? I get about 3 miles between Tukwilla International Blvd and the Burien TC. That would make elevated $314/mile, which sounds a bit high. Indeed it is as Sound Transit estimates the entire 8.9 mile corridor from Burien to North Renton to cost between $1 and $1.4 Billion in the Burien-Renton rail issue paper.

        Assuming the 2.6 miles to Burien can be built for the average cost of the entire line or less. I get a high figure of around $410 million and a low figure of $300 million for just the Burien to Tukwilla segment.

  11. Level boarding, off-coach fare collection, electronic reader-boards- as someone said above, all bus transit should have those features. Streamlining is pretty too, but at thirty-five miles an hour…somebody with vehicle engineering experience, tell me how much fuel you’re really going to save.

    My guess is you’d gain a lot more efficiency by giving the coach at least as much lane reservation between stops as LINK gets in Rainier Valley. King County Metro’s own acronym for the lane system is sadly accurate: BAT lanes. Like in “Belfry?”

    “Business Access/Transit.” Think about it. One of the chief advantages of rail is that nobody would dare put tracks in a lane also advertised for business access and call it “rapid”. Business Access/Express Track? Great abbreviation there.

    Seriously, reporters interviewing officials need to cut to the chase on this one. Express transit gets car traffic out of its way, period and paragraph.

  12. Would this start running after all the other RapidRide lines, or earlier? If it’s going to the end of the line, it will be several years away.

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