Rear driver side exterior view
RapidRide bus at Westlake

Metro first put its RapidRide bus on display at Westlake during Earth Day and announced October 2 as the launch date for the A Line. Last month, the King County Council approved the final station locations and service levels. Today, with 100 days left before launch, Metro has announced the dates when staff will be available for information on the new service, along with a RapidRide bus on display for people to check out. Metro will be at these public events, beginning this weekend:

  • June 26—Safety Fair (Federal Way Commons), 12-3 p.m.
  • June 27—Pride Parade (Seattle)
  • July 4—Fourth of July Parade (Burien), 3-4 p.m.
  • July 14—Tukwila International Blvd. Station, 7-9 a.m.
  • July 21—Federal Way Transit Center, 7-9 a.m.
  • July 31—Seafair Parade (Seattle)
  • August 11—Federal Way Park-and-Ride, 7-9 a.m.

According to Metro, the process of installing new station shelters has begun and they are finishing work on the fiber optic communications system along Pacific Highway. The system, dubbed IntelliDrive, enables transit signal priority and real-time bus information. RapidRide A is expected to be 30% faster than the 174 and attract 2.5 million riders annually within the next 5 years, a 50% increase over the 174’s ridership. We also learn that RapidRide buses will have onboard Wi-Fi service.

33 Replies to “RapidRide A Line Launch Outreach Begins”

  1. The network will also operate 24 real-time bus information signs at stations.

    There are 14 stations, or 28 if you count each direction as its own station (no center boarding here). Wonder which ones won’t be getting the signs. It sounds like the 12 non-station stops (23 counting both directions) will definitely not have signs.

    1. I counted 13 on the map that Oran linked to. Maybe since then one “station” has been dropped bringing it to 12 stations each direction, bringing the total to the 24 in the press release.

    1. The cost to King County is minimal. The fiber backhaul that they are installing is connected to the county’s WAN, so it’s simple subnetting to allow passengers to access the ‘net.

      Expect connections to be slow or possibly drop when the bus is between two intersections.

      1. I’m sure things will be better with cameras on every RapidRide coach but I can’t imagine someone using their laptop on today’s 174 or 358.

      2. Is the 358 really that bad? I used to regularly use a laptop between Wallingford and Downtown in 2002. Never had any second thoughts about it.

      3. There are so many other smaller, expensive gadgets being used on buses, laptops probably aren’t that bad (if you google bus, robbery, and iPod iPhone or iPad, you’ll see those a quite popular targets). A big part of it, I think, is the frequent use of headphones with those products, which makes their users less aware of their surroundings. It always astounds me when I see someone fiddling with a $200 toy on an outbound bus at night with headphones in. Would they dare flaunt $200 cash in the same way?

  2. Oran, you probably know this off the top of your head. IntelliDrive sounds pretty high tech.
    How many intersections get the pre-emption routine, and do the buses have to be behind schedule so many minutes before they get a green light?
    Looking at their web-site, it seems this is an anti collision proximity system, tied to gps. Is that the source for the real time data?
    30% faster shortens the trip from TIBS to FWTC from 39-45 minutes down to 27-31 minutes.
    If I read that correctly, twice the service hours, less 30% needed (due to faster trips)for all the buses nets a difference of only 40% more service hours needed on the entire segment, for a 50% increase in ridership. Sound about right?

    1. Maybe only 40% more needed for the same number of riders per revenue hour but they are still going to be doubling the service hours (actually I think a bit more than double). So without doubling the ridership the fare recovery and route effectiveness will suffer. Back of the napkin calc (assumes avg riders/hr same as latest available data from 2008 before routes split, Metro implies that it’s actually higher now) would drop riders/revenue hour from ~57 to 43 if they make the projected 2.5 million mark. Seems like a case of adding premium service without a price premium. Someone ends up paying.

      1. I think their doubling the frequency, not hours of bus service. If the old service required 100 hours, and you double the freq then it’s 200 hours, but they plan to save 30% of that by going faster – or about 60 hours of savings – hence only 140 hours needed to double the service or 40% more. So the riders per service hour should show the improved efficiency of the entire operation.
        I think that’s why stop consolidation is so important, and should be given a fast track to help balance the budget. The savings for both operations and facilities is significant.

      2. I went by current service hours and then figured the number of service hours required to average 15 minute headways throughout the day. Comes out to more than double the service hours. It’s a bit hard to sort out since Metro date is woefully out of date (last report for 2008). Of course what really matters is platform hours since that’s what we pay for. If layover hours are the same per trip they’re going to be a greater percentage (~30% more). Hopefully they’ve figured out some efficiencies but if they try to cut it too fine they’ll end up with bunching and not much better headways than they have now.

    2. Mike, actually I don’t know that off the top of my head and it’d be interesting to find out. I quickly put this post together and didn’t have time to find out. I remember seeing a presentation about the system from Metro a year ago but I have to check it when I get home.

      1. OK, I found it. Uses GPS for automatic vehicle location. Automated stop announcements & signs. Integrated passenger counting. “Lateness and load” data for TSP system. 4.9 GHz 802.11g network for the “last mile”. High bandwidth AVL (= more frequent and precise location updates)

        Then I found the thing I wrote for Metro’s Wikipedia article on ITS:

        In 2010, Metro will rollout a new IP network based ITS infrastructure for its RapidRide service. Buses will communicate with roadside equipment using 802.11 wireless technology on the 4.9 GHz public safety band. A fiber optic backhaul connects access points and roadside equipment together to Metro’s Communication Center. The system will extend the legacy RFID-based TSP system. It will also be used in conjunction with GPS technology to provide frequent and accurate location updates for next bus arrival signs at RapidRide stations. Those signs are a component of what Metro calls a “Tech Pylon”, a free standing wireless-capable kiosk, that also has an ORCA Card validator and other rider information.

      2. One of the problems with signal pre-emption is that it’s never designed to give transit ‘true priority’, like with emergency vehicles. Rather, it’s a compromise between traffic flow for all others, and a negotiated level of priority for transit with the local traffic engineer (which means transit usually takes a back seat).
        Buses, and light rail for that matter, only get to ‘juice the green’ when they are behind schedule, and the schedule is generally set a modest levels, so they are never optimized for transit, and then only at selected intersections.
        I suspect RapidRide will operate in the same fashion, and at the mercy of each jurisdictions ‘tweaking’ the signals for optimum LOS == more cars, at the expense of slower bus schedules.

      3. Metro hasn’t exactly been gushing with details like this. I guess they might have some final design drawings or report that we might be able to get our hands on.

  3. Well, at least PART of my commute will have wifi when RR starts. Unfortunately once I switch to the ur-modern Link, and the well-used ST 550, I’ll be back to Minesweeper and Solitaire.

    30% faster than the 174

    Uh…. that’s not an encouraging metric.

    The 194 (RIP) was already about 70% faster than the 174, IMO.

    Does anyone know if RR will transfer onto Link and ST? Because it would be really nice to pay one fare the whole way on the three modes I’ll need.

    1. The 194 was also on I-5, and not making stops on Pac Hwy.

      You’ll get transfer credit if you pay with an ORCA card. I don’t know if Metro has decided what fares will be yet.

  4. Wow, running their own backhaul sounds expensive. They couldn’t use commercial or wireless backhaul somehow? (Please excuse my ignorance.)

  5. Free wifi :) Can’t wait until Rapid Ride B, an additional 10 minute walk is well worth wifi, more frequent buses, and less travel time.

  6. And still, Metro teases South Parkers by bringing the 132 within a mile of the terminus of the Line A, only to yank riders away to Burien Transit Center.

    Want to increase ridership on the line? Let the 132 reach it.

    1. Don’t disagree, but what do you do with the 132 riders along 128th and Des Moines Blvd? I wonder if RapidRide A line would be more useful if it extended north to say 128th for the transfer point, then down along E Marginal to do the Link Bypass of MLK that so many here advocate for in the future?

      1. Have the 139 extend beyond Burien TC to cover this turf, and then go to TIBS. Give Lake Burien and south Riverton area riders a 1-seat ride to Link and to the Line A. Scavenge the 123 (which is the 139 plus the duplicate-head to downtown Seattle) to provide the service hours to extend the route to TIBS and increase the frequency.

        Also, the 131 ought to be altered to head straight downtown after crossing the 1st Ave Bridge going north, and extend to meet up with the Line A going south, roughly where Des Moines Station will be (presumably walking distance from Highline Community College).

        The 122, for its part, should also meet up with the Line A at Des Moines Station, and head to Airport Station or TIBS instead of going out of its way to Burien TC. Truncating the 122, and using those service hours to increase frequency, should give riders in that corridor better service to downtown and better connectivity in all directions.

        With the impending gridlock on the 1st Avenue Bridge, Metro really needs to rethink service in that corridor. Plus, the east-west connectivity between the 1st Ave S corridor and the Line A / future South Link corridor is basically nonexistent right now. There is no reason for that beyond Newton’s First Law of Bus Routes.

        On top of that, I hope Metro can find a way to install the night owl Link shadow route and a route to serve Allentown and the other neighborhoods that have to put up with the noise from the Rainier-Beach-to-TIBS track without any bus service to access Link.

        In regards to the suggestion of extending the Line A, yes it would give better 1-seat ride access to the Line A, but it won’t help with the 1-seat ride to Link. Plus, there are twists and turns, and no good place for a turnaround. I’d kinda like to see the Line A extend north by Boeing Field, as the 124 frequency just doesn’t cut it for convincing Boeing employees to risk their jobs riding the bus.

  7. On a related note…was up in Lynnwood last night at a Korean restaurant and saw the Swift buses gliding by for the first time. I told my friend that I had to experience one with a ride, so we did. They are very nice. I like the stations and kiosks, the buses are very fast and comfortable. The station spacing of about a mile was just right. good ridership on a Friday evening at 9pm as well. I look forward to the Rapid Ride buses.

    1. You must not have gone too far north of 196th St. The stop spacing is much farther apart north of there into Everett.

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