RapidRide C (Metro)

There’s a battle in Luna Park developing over businesses that will lose parking to become transit lanes for RapidRide C.

“I’m really nervous right now,” the block’s major landowner, John Bennett, picked up from there. “We need to build up our defenses and get a plan going … That’s 80 percent of my parking.” He turned to the proprietors of Avalon, the new restaurant taking over the former Café Revo on the block. “You’ll be out of business before you even start,” Bennett warned them. Later, he and others pointed out the small business district already has barely enough spaces to deal with their needs: “If anything, we want MORE parking” (than currently exists)…

The business owners stressed they weren’t opposed to buses or even RapidRide. Said Bennett, “We all agree we need rapid transit – but if we’re going to do this, why don’t we do it right?” He went on to suggest that would mean above-grade or underground transit, rather than buses, and briefly lamented the loss of the once-planned monorail.

As a rail guy I’m really tempted to see an ally here, but that’s a mirage. If we build light rail to West Seattle in my lifetime, it’s very likely to be at-grade at this spot, which means the road will be either very expensively widened, or more likely, the city takes away the parking.

Metro planner Jack Lattemann was at the meeting at visualized an alternative future:

“I disagree about blight. We’re heading into a future where we simply have to rely less on cars. This [RapidRide] is the biggest transit improvement that West Seattle is going to see this generation. There’s no money for light rail [etc.] …” Lattemann suggested that ultimately, RapidRide would be a boon for Luna Park businesses: “This area will be known as one of the areas that’s easy to get to by bus.”

I don’t mean to demonize Mr. Bennett and his allies; if I were a business owner I’d probably be pretty conservative about changes to my situation as well. However, demands for unlimited free parking are something we simply have to overcome if we’re going to achieve the densities that make high-capacity transit worthwhile. There are still many, many places in West Seattle that are entirely car-oriented, but there ought to be at least a few patches where another future is possible.

The article has much, much more about mitigations that King County is offering to the merchants, none of which are apparently satisfactory. KCDOT invites interested parties, particularly those in West Seattle, to comment to Victor.Obeso@kingcounty.gov.

In other West Seattle news, some parcels near the Admiral District are likely to be upzoned from NC1-30 to NC2-40.

61 Replies to “Making RapidRide Less Rapid”

  1. Loosely on-topic: How’s Rapid Ride A turning out? IIRC, someone on Twitter had posted a comment the other day that 3 were bunched up. Is that a common occurrence? Does it normally keep the 10 or 15 minute headway as promised or is the aforementioned problem more of the norm? I don’t know as there is no need for me to ride this line at all.

    While I like the attempt to make buses more efficient, I see these Rapid Ride lines going the way of the dodo. Unfortunately, I think that people in this area only relate to buses for transportation, see how it fails in many areas, and thsu won’t even give other modals of transportation a fighting chance. This is just my anecdotal evidence – perhaps I’m wrong.

    1. That was me and there were actually four. I see two bunched up occasionally, but this was the first time I’ve seen three with a fourth trailing a few seconds behind.
      This was seen southbound at 288th. I caught it at Kent/Des Moines Road after being plopped there from the 166. I waited about 2 minutes. There were a lot of people in and around the shelter with me. I saw a lot of people waiting in/around the shelters at all stops–maybe that was because they saw what I didn’t–two coaches right behind it. Oddly the coach I boarded at KDM was virtually empty.

      I rarely use RapidRide as there is little connecting service aside from the termini, so to me, RapidRide only works if your starting and ending points are on/near Pac Hwy.

      1. So, are Metro buses that are bunched up still prohibited from leap frogging each other? The CTA now allows leap frogging and that goes along way to clearing up route congestion and reduces people’s wait times.

      2. I know of no policy prohibiting leap-frogging at Metro and I see it often on the streets.

      3. When the subject came up before, I was told by a driver that leapfrogging a run was an actionable infraction.

      1. Off-board ticket machines, dedicated right-of-way, better frequency, level boarding, better stop spacing, … 2 out of 5 isn’t a complete disaster.

      2. I believe the system is not fully operational until the end of the year, so I am not sure this has been implemented yet.

      3. The best “active headway management” is the “thumb over the shoulder” wave. It’s been that way on SF trolleybuses since (probably before) the ’60’s. The 7 Haight used to be PACKED with all us hippies riding up from Market so when a leading coach got full and a trailer was in sight behind, the driver would give someone waiting at a stop for which he had no stop request (in those days it was always a “he”) the thumb.

        A minute later the follower would pick up the devastated rejectee.

    2. Good question, and not a peep yet from RapidRide Blog on ridership.
      The first numbers to come in should be compared to what it replace, the 174, which had about 5,000 daily riders on weekdays (est. based on number of trips per day, and total weekday trips extrapolated from April’s fare evasion survey showing 33,806 riders per week)

  2. Why does almost every West Seattle bus make that turn down Avalon and go past Luna Park to get on the WSB? The 54 and 55 used to not do this then 5 or 6 service changes ago, they decided to have them follow the same path as the 21, 22, etc. Is it because the merge lane from 35th to the on-ramp for the WSB is too short for them to accelerate quickly enough? For RapidRide, that jog needs to be eliminated and it needs to get on the WSB at the beginning, not close to the middle.

    1. During the rush hour it is stop and go on the 2 lane eastward portion from 35th and Avalon to 26th SW – so… the 54 and 55 use Avalon, then right on Spokane and onto the transit only lane to avoid the stop and go at the west end of the WSB.

      1. There are only two lanes on the west end of the bridge so I don’t think a transit only lane is in the cards there.

        However, there is a transit only lane along Spokane next to the steel mill right around the corner from Luna Park. The transit lane on Avalon would allow a continuous path for inbound buses.

      2. The bus-only lane on Spokane doesn’t start until somewhere after the ramp from Admiral Way touches down, so the lane wouldn’t actually be continuous.

      3. There’s a nice amount of ridership to be gained from that jog as well, from dense buildings along Avalon and neighborhoods above and below plus the de facto Park-and-Ride under the Bridge.

  3. What bothers me about “Rapid Ride” is the pretense that a streamlined body-shell makes a bus fast. Am I the only one that thinks that a “Business Access/Transit” lane doesn’t pass the laugh test? Talk about proof that buses by definition get no respect- can anybody imagine even thinking “Business Access/Express Light Rail Track”?

    Despite conflicts with traffic at intersections, LINK’s reserved lanes make trains a lot faster and more reliable than if they ran on curb lanes across business driveways. Give “Rapid Ride” similar lanes and stations, and the name would cease to be an insult to the dictionary. We’d also have a system easier to electrify and eventually convert to rail.

    We’d also have a system that would bring a lot of permanent customers to every business anywhere near a station.

    Mark Dublin

  4. Note that it’s NC1-30 changing to NC2-40. No 240 foot towers for West Seattle, however awesome that would be.

  5. Time and again peoples say this change in parking or this road-diet is going to put me out of business or create horrendous congestion. Guess what happens? Most of the time nothing. If something particularly horrible does happen you can always go back.

    I have no personal experience with this particular example but I would say, Metro and SDOT should move forward with the project. If impacts rise to the level of “it’s then end of the world” then some compromise can be hammered out. Remember it’s just paint, not like we are actually building anything.

  6. Here’s an idea: How about above-grade or underground parking, and leave transit on the surface?

  7. The notion that RapidRide would bring customers to Luna Park businesses is somewhat belied by the fact it’s the lame-ass mockery of BRT called RapidRide.

  8. Part of the problem, if you read the whole article and take a look at the map, is that there are no nearby RR bus stops close to that area. The nearest stop will be Yancy, which is more than just two short blocks away (it’s half way up Avalon itself). It’s not a fun walk. The “speed of RR” would be entirely taken away by the walking distance. RR also refused to put a stop in underneath the WSB which may have been a good alternative.

    And the crosswalk issue here irks the locals as well. There was a good marked crosswalk that was removed due to new sidewalk regulations. A crosswalk that routed pedestrians right to the Luna Park businesses. While every intersection is an “unmarked” crosswalk, if you take a look at the map you realize that there are no intersections on Avalon between Yancy (unmarked – highly difficult to cross – pedestrian flags have been provided here b/c vehicles tend to not stop for peds) and Spokane (no RR bus stop here, remember?).

    I support adding quicker service, but there’s more to this story than simply removing the parking. I’d say providing good bus service that actually gets people to Luna Park is a bigger issue.

  9. “If we build light rail to West Seattle in my lifetime, it’s very likely to be at-grade at this spot.”

    I’m pretty sure rail could not possibly be at-grade; this stretch of Avalon is relatively steep. Coming off the West Seattle bridge or a purpose-built bridge of equal height, it would make the most sense to fly over the Luna Park district on an elevated structure. (Or to invest the money into tunneling under both channel and hill.)

    But Luna Park’s problem, as illuminated by its businesses complaints of “not getting a RapidRide stop anyway,” is that it is yet another “business district” completely divorced from the urban continuum. The Yancy stop is a mere 1/4 mile — not a terrible walking distance, even on a steep grade, when there’s stuff along the way. Luna Park’s problem: no stuff. Two separate mini-storage buildings, a couple of condos, auto parts, and long stretches of empty fence make 1/4 mile seem pretty arduous.

    I hate to say it, but as long as such psychological obstructions exist, one must presume a smaller walkshed. A RapidRide stop at the bottom of the hill is probably in order.

    1. Agreed – I was having trouble articulating why the walk was so terrible. It’s dark at night (not much lighting), no storefronts along the way…essentially a deserted arterial for most of it (and all along the east side of the street).

    2. Characterizing Luna Park as a business district is quite generous – bordering on the absurd. Do a quick walk around on Google Maps drives the point home.
      C’mon, a little cafe and glass shop do not make a business district. Nor does a steel mill bordering one side of the street and a bunch of storage buildings up the hill.
      Mr. Lattemann is right. “…biggest transit improvement that West Seattle is going to see this generation.” The point of RapidRide is to move lots of riders from W.Seattle to the Seattle CBD. Metro should have a minimum criteria to plant a RapidRide station anywhere, to justify adding time to the schedule.
      Wish all you want, but Light Rail isn’t going to happen in W.Seattle anytime soon, so RapidRide should stick to its mission of moving lots of bodies.

  10. If “80% of (Bennett’s) parking” is on public rights-of-way, then the city needs to send Bennett a large bill.

    1. Was wondering how far down the thread I had to go before someone hit on this point, just surprised it was the bottom. This space occupied by parked cars doesn’t belong to Bennett or any tenants of the property he owns. Somehow parking spaces have become the property of the nearest residents or businesses, rather than owned by all residents of the city like every other public space. Seems like these intense battles over minuscule amounts of parking will continue until a shift in thinking occurs.

      1. I can understand the point you make, Grahm; but when I lived on QA on the west side I routinely had to deal with cars taking up my space since they usd to come from other parts of town/county to catch the relatively easy #2 to downtown.

        Its easy to say that others are mis-using or maybe overly concerned about their parking spot, but when one is in the middle of it and has to deal with the daily issues, well I think a lot of people’s opinions would reverse course.

    2. The city “owes” no business, large or small, on-street parking. Having a RR bus stop at the bottom of the hill makes sense, however.

      1. Anthony,

        Sorry, you missed the point: it’s not “your” spot. It’s may be the one which is most convenient for you to use and you may live adjacent to it, but it’s not yours.

      2. I generally agree that free on street business parking is way over done in Seattle; in fact on street parking in general. However, in residential areas that were developed prior to multi car ownership becoming almost a necessity (working spouse or large single family home now “apartmentized”) I have to say I feel for the residents displaced by “outsiders”. It may not be “your” spot. It’s certainly not “your” sidewalk either but the cities typically make the property owner pay when one is put in. Likewise, a fair portion of the property tax is going to maintain that portion of road which only exists to serve property owners (i.e. residential street, not arterial or collector). Commercial parking should be limited to spaces in front of the commercial establishments that require said parking.

    3. That bill should include the value of the riders’ time for the trip-time added, plus the extra operating costs to the county.

  11. That’s good that they’re rezoning that area. NC1-30 seems ridiculously low for an urban village. That’s the same height that will be allowed in low-rise zoning under the new regulations.

  12. Business owners should be more careful about their public statements. The goofball who blamed the mayor for not having customers at his bookstore on the steep part of Madison during the blizzard had a bunch of people say they would no longer shop there after reading his assinine comments.

    The business owners in Luna Park probably don’t realize how many RapidRide C Line passengers will boycott their businesses if they get away with slowing down the C Line (or rather, just because of the public dismissal of the value of bus-riding passengers by these businesses).

    There are some odd stop sitings on the map. There is one only one stop on Avalon, which single-handedly deeps the C Line from using Fauntleroy. And just south of that, there is what appears to be a gratuitous out-of-the-way routing to Alaska and 35th, with no stops between Alaska and Fauntleroy, and 35th and Fauntleroy, which leaves me puzzled why the Line C didn’t just take Fauntleroy.

    1. I totally agree with you that these businesses need to consider the greater needs of their customers and try to compromise on their demands. But I disagree on your routing questions.

      I am not sure how much you know about West Seattle. The stop locations on Avalon are about 3-4 blocks from the Luna Park businesses. They were put there because those were already busy stops much closer to the very dense development going up the hill.

      The routing on 35th is anything but gratuitous. The current stop at 35th and Avalon is the only stop in West Seattle where you can access almost all West Seattle buses and is a transfer point to the busy 21 corridor and the 22, 51, 54, 55. Not only that, due to heavy traffic on Fauntleroy, the 35th and Alaska routing is faster. In the bus world, a straight line is not always more reliable.

      Fauntleroy in the stretch running up to Alaska is one of the busier arterials in the city. Crossing the street as a pedestrian is incredibly dangerous and outbound bus stops would be on the wrong side of development.

  13. I’m no expert on West Seattle, but wasn’t Luna Park at the north tip, far away from the C line? Are we talking about the Luna Park Cafe, next to the West Seattle bridge? Or is that whole area called Luna Park (which would be strange, because it isn’t where Luna Park was).

    1. Yes, Luna Park is what you are referring to. It’s a busy area: good coffee shop, Luna Park Cafe (popular), glass studio, several apartments, a new restaurant going in, a hair studio and a spa.

      I think what irks people is not the removal of the parking alone, but the fact that RR is touted as bringing more people to the location in spite of the fact that there’s no RR stop near there. Again, the only RR stop is up the hill, not an easy walk (or crossing), and the time it takes to walk it negates any time saved via RR “speediness.” I think that if RR actually stopped there, there may not be as big an issue.

      1. It is 3-4 blocks and is at the midpoint of the businesses and the dense development up the hill. And Rapid Ride is not only speedier, but much more frequent, which will give people more options to move around West Seattle.

        Walking a few blocks might just be good for you after devouring a Llama Pile at Luna Park…

      2. But why is Luna Park nowhere near Luna Park? Isn’t it confusing to have two Luna Parks in one section of the city?

      3. Right. But that’s like renaming 3rd Ave W on the N side of Queen Anne hill “The Counterbalance”. It would be historically incorrect and confusing.

      4. I think they thought most of the people who went to the original Luna Park are now dead.

      5. As are most of the people that rode the Counterbalance. History would be pretty boring if we only knew about what we lived through.

      6. Walking 3-4 blocks in this area is a big deal for those who aren’t used to doing it especially if one has to cross Avalon…anyone here done that lately? Anyone walked up/down this area lately at night? I am a proponent of better, faster bus service and removing parking too. I’m just advocating for some common sense regarding this RR line. I live in West Seattle and am a bus/bike commuter so these issues will effect me personally – plus, I know the area and am familiar with the current bus/pedestrian/bike issues here. If one puts a RR stop at the bottom of Avalon, where buses will likely have to stop anyway for the red light and/or to slow down due to the intersection, that will make it easy to get to the Luna Park businesses, why is that so bad?

  14. I love you guys.

    Guess you found your “transit villain of the week” — was it because he is trying to make a living (without working for the government) or because he uttered the word “monorail”?

    How long before your threaten that “he better not step in front of my bus!”

    Perhaps the city should evict him immediately and replace him with a transit friendly government-run business.

    1. ??? So he wants government subsidised parking in front of his business. I don’t think anyone’s called him a villan. Some of us just see a better use for this roadway.

      1. Mr. Bennett could be a hero by taking some of his vast land holdings and building a parking facility!

      2. He may not be “entitled” to parking, but these are spaces the city has traditionally provided in order to make the commercial area succeed. This isn’t downtown or even the West Seattle Junction with tons of foot traffic, and the steep hillside eliminates the walkshed east and west. I have seen the cafe from the bus and thought, interesting place but it’s too isolated a location for me to walk there from the bus. The isolated location makes a good argument for putting a bus stop there, and keeping parking there until it has been cut down in more pedestrian-friendly places. On the other hand, maybe this all argues that it’s a bad location for a business district and the city should give up supporting it as such.

    2. Perhaps you should read this again:

      “I don’t mean to demonize Mr. Bennett and his allies; if I were a business owner I’d probably be pretty conservative about changes to my situation as well.”

      Yes, villain of the week.

      1. martin,

        I think you fairly presented it, in a transit favorable way, which is understood. This IS a transit blog isn’t it? But the comments seemed to take a nasty turn when the transit army laid claim to all asphalt and concrete in the city, determined that parking a car in Seattle was a violation of a commandment, and marched on the West Seattle land baron to take back the kings property which Bennett had mistakenly laid claim to at an earlier date.

  15. If you really want “slow,” see allegedly “Rapid” Ride Line E. Shoreline’s city officials take the prize in my book, as they’ve insisted on a whopping 12 stops in 3 miles of Shoreline (205th – 145th)! Compare this to 8 stops in the next similar segment to the south, 5 in the next, and only 3 after that. It reminds me of when Metro had the limited stop #360 on Aurora, which saved little time at all over the #359. What has helped the most is having a third lane for transit, even if only during peak times on the south end. I used to commute that way, and it would take me an extra 20 minutes going from Green Lake to Aurora Village after 7, when the 3rd lane was full of parked cars, than it did before 7, when it was open to traffic. The other thing that helped all was timing the lights, which Seattle did from 145th south. So long as somebody didn’t cut in front of you – and across 2 lanes of traffic to get there – cruising along just under through just over the speed limit got you green lights all the way to Green Lake. It was wonderful! Conversely, going north, 98% of the time I got a red light at 145th, which was the not a timed light, being on the border. What would help everybody is consolidating driveways…some businesses have 3 entrances, and the owners get up in arms when it’s suggested that even 1 of those get consolidated with the others.

    1. Shoreline is the natural catchment area for RRE. South of 145th Aurora is primarily auto-oriented businesses. There are no to very few residences directly adjacent to it; they’re along Midvale to the east or Linden to the west. CBD-oriented transit works best in exactly the configuration that RRE will have: frequent stops in the catchment area, an “express” section with good interchange to crossing lines and stops at activity nodes, then collection/distribution in the CDB.

      That’s exactly how all the great LRT lines that survived from the streetcar era operate: Pittsburgh’s West Hills, San Francisco’s Muni Metro, Cleveland’s Shaker Heights TT, and the Green Line in Boston, especially the Riverside line.

  16. Excuse me folks. For the Luna Park issue, the clear answer is to buy the “British Auto Center” wrecking yard and replace it with an attractive minipark/parking lot. How expensive can that be? It’s an eyesore and far from the “highest and best use” of that property.

    There would then be no need for parking on the isolated east side of the street. People would not be jaywalking to and from it.

    And “Yes”, put a stop at Spokane and Avalon.

    Metro should be jumping at this.

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