Earlier today Kevin Desmond responded to my post last Friday about RapidRide C and D not having ORCA card readers downtown. In general, his point is RapidRide will be an improvement over existing service at a low cost, but there are a few parts yet to be fully deployed.
I want to clarify certain points about my previous post which I think were not as clear as possible.
First, the focus of my post was entirely on Downtown, and specifically on the one-two punch that the one-year absence of ORCA card readers and elimination of the RFA will have on degrading the speed and reliability RapidRide C and D as well as other 3rd Ave service. While RapidRide and elimination of the RFA are different issues, their effect on riders downtown are interrelated. RapidRide will be faster outside of Downtown and more frequent in most locations, but those benefits will be damped by the added delay in Downtown. If there were any stops where ORCA card readers should have been prioritized it would have been these few stops.
Second, Transit Now passed 6 years ago and the first RapidRide line opened 2 years ago. Communication to devices in the field should not have been a surprise issue for Metro and Metro should have shown some ingenuity to temporarily work around this problem because of the importance of these few stops. A low tech solution Metro can still use are loaders, which Metro is using in the DSTT.
Third, my criticism of the County Council was entirely related to the hasty, and in my opinion inadequately mitigated, elimination of the RFA. It was a last minute, entirely political decision that has consequences that have yet to be addressed less than a month from implementation. The impetus for elimination of the RFA was an estimated lost of $2.2 million dollars a year in fare revenue. To put that in perspective Metro’s operating and capital budget for 2012 is $642 million dollars and ~$182 million dollars.
To gain this extra 0.34% increase in operating revenue Metro’s own study shows that 3rd Ave travel times in the PM peak will increase by at least 10% and Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) travel times will increase by 22% to 88% without mitigation. Metro calculated the monetary impacts of elimination on its own bottom line but didn’t do the same for riders. Rather than waiting for implementation of improvements to 3rd Ave, like the grant Metro won just a few weeks ago, the Council is having Metro plow ahead. This is bad policy, reduces the efficiency of Metro, and most importantly is bad for Metro’s riders.
The fourth and final point I want to make, is one I made in December of 2009:
“And this is the failure and promise that American BRT holds. It falls far short of its high-capacity South American predecessors and high-quality international peers, while for the first time giving transit agencies the ability to justify treating buses as, dare I say it, special. It doesn’t hurt that there is lots of federal money supporting it either.
To Americans BRT seems like something special only because we treat normal buses so horribly in the first place.”
As a transit advocate I obviously want faster, more frequent buses but to call RapidRide BRT is I think misleading. Using the Institute of Transportation & Development Policy BRT Standard v1.0 RapidRide scores between 12 and 32 on a scale of 0 to 100 depending on your interpretation. To receive a Bronze BRT score a system must score between 50 and 69. RapidRide is enhanced bus service but calling it BRT is a stretch.