I think that the underlying emotion behind the recent flap over RapidRide ORCA readers is, as Adam hints in his clarification, disappointment with what was sold to us as “Bus Rapid Transit” (BRT). It’s a denunciation done not with glee but with anguish.

It’s true that BRT is a continuum rather than a specific set of criteria, but that doesn’t mean that the term has no content and can be assigned to any new bus brand. At the least, it should incorporate at least some of the elements that make North American rail service traditionally much, much better than its bus counterpart:

  • Service all day and deep into the evening
  • Separation from traffic/signal priority.
  • Frequent Service
  • Off-board payment

Aside from the first, which was present in all six RapidRide corridors before RapidRide, the new lines largely fail to provide any of these.* Let’s take them in order:

Separation from traffic is largely a function of the cities that control the roadways the buses run on, and they’ve largely done a poor job by adding this priority where it’s easiest rather then where it’s most needed.

That said, I’ve come around to the idea that ultimately the agency whose reputation is at stake needs to step up and make a project work. Failure at Mt. Baker Station had many fathers, but ultimately it’s Sound Transit that was responsible for the success of the Light Rail project and should have filled the gaps to make it work correctly. Likewise, when a municipality’s priorities are elsewhere, Metro** should step up to make sure their flagship program isn’t a fiasco, especially since they will reap the financial gains of faster buses. Of course, like every other problem with Metro, this circles back to their budget problem, on which more below.

Frequent service. It’s true that Metro added some buses to existing routes to improve headways in isolated cases. Looking at frequencies on the four existing or imminent lines, it appears that we’re assured of 15 minute headways 7am to 10pm anywhere in the system, with 10-minute headways in the peak.

15 minutes is a good interval in many respects; but having personally experienced unreliable 15-minute intervals (the 8) and reliable 10-minute intervals (Link) all day, there’s a world of difference. If the objective is rail-like service without the capital cost, 15 minute headways are at the absolute edge of what’s acceptable.

Off-board payment. On a crowded route, on-board payment is one of the most egregious annoyances for the frequent customer. Metro hired fare inspectors, absorbing the most significant operational cost of off-board payment, and providing the only consistent brand differentiation with plain old Metro service. However, they haven’t followed up with the relatively cheap capital investment to really make this pay off.

Adam groused about off-board ORCA readers, which would help out a bit, especially if they were to be deployed uniformly rather that at select stops. But the real operational gain is in handling cash payment offboard. Buying simple ticket vending machines, as the Seattle Streetcar and Swift have done, isn’t free, but not doing so is financially reckless in the long run.

The Budget Dodge

The response to most of these complaints is that Metro is in a budget crisis. And as large service cuts continue to threaten, that’s undoubtedly true. Sophisticated Metro critics understand that cake for everyone is not an option and there are hard choices to make. The criticism is that those choices have consistently prioritized everything but high-quality bus corridors, neglecting in particular capital expenses that would save operations money in the long run.

OK then, Metro’s defenders ask, what routes should Metro cut? To a large extent Bruce Nourish’s entire body of work is about efficiencies to be had by reorganizing the system. In addition, of the new service hours delivered by Transit Now but not subsidized by other entities, fully 80% are not RapidRide, but “other core routes” or “developing areas” — read new routes to the exurbs. This service does not have deeply entrenched constituencies, and is vastly preferable to RapidRide as a budget casualty. With 40/40/20 gone, it’s not even required by policy.

There are other particular efficiencies, like truncating buses at light rail stations, that would save gobs of money. These changes would certainly create losers and bring a stream of complaints to the County Council, but one is either willing to pay the price for high-quality bus corridors or one isn’t. The answer has been, up to now, “no.”

Finally, recall that there are a total of six RapidRide lines. A system with a focus on quality over quantity might have looked at the budget situation and cut one (or two) of the lines, to reinvest the capital in the remaining five. Perhaps the victim would be the line least supported by city road investments — giving Metro leverage over the budgets they don’t control. But Metro chose to emphasize spreading the benefits around over making sure they’re good benefits, which is the antithesis of the rail ethic that BRT is supposed to mimic.

All of these are value judgments, and if the King County Executive and Council are OK with these priorities then that’s their prerogative. Seattle voters, when last asked, didn’t seem to care much about bus improvements. However, I’d have more confidence in BRT as a true complement to Light Rail if Metro was willing to prioritize it even when revenues aren’t increasing endlessly beyond its costs. At the moment, it doesn’t even merit inclusion in the discussion about major transit corridor investments.

* Let’s give Metro credit for 24 hour service on RapidRide lines [except RR B], even if it’s hourly.

** Throughout this post, “Metro” refers to the staff of the King County transit agency, as well as its executives and its governing bodies, the King County Executive and Council.

143 Replies to “Disappointment with RapidRide and the Budget Dodge”

  1. * Let’s give Metro credit for 24 hour service on RapidRide lines, even if it’s hourly.

    RapidRide lines do not have 24 hour service, hourly or not. RR A happens to have 24 hour service because it was replacing a route that already had 24 hour service.

    RR B, on the other hand, has its last trip at 11:43pm–something that I would hardly call “deep into the evening.” This is specially true given that I’m pretty sure this is earlier than the old 253.

    1. RR B is the exception, and it makes sense because there is zero demand for very-late-night transit on the Eastside. RR C and D will essentially have 24-hour service, although frequency will be less than hourly during the graveyard hours of the night.

      There’s lots to criticize about RR but span of service is way down the list.

      1. Thus defeating the point of the brand. You can either say “RapidRide has 24 hour service” or not. Will RR F have 24 hour service? I’d guess not.

        And there obviously isn’t 0 demand if the 253 ran later (plus, there have been many times that I personally have missed the last RR B).

        When I ride the 280 from DT Seattle to the Eastside at 2:15am or 3:30am there are sizable number of people on it that get off in Bellevue, and I can’t imagine that all of them live within walking distance of a 280 stop. Reorienting the 280 such that its through-routed with RR B and creating a separate route for serving Renton would be a very reasonable solution to the problem.

        My point is, you can either create a statement about what your service provides or you can’t. If 4 out of 6 of your routes end before midnight, you simply cannot say that you provide late night service. If the RapidRide was meant as a future replacement for the night owl system, then you have to actually run them all at night.

      2. Hmm. Granted it was back in 2003, but I drove the 280 a number of times. I never boarded a passenger in Bellevue, and I don’t think I ever dropped off more than two. I’d typically have about 20 passengers on the bus, five of whom were going to Renton or Interurban and the other 15 of whom were homeless people who liked the smooth freeway ride.

      3. No demand for east side late service? How can you guys be so out of touch?

        Here’s what happens:

        If you’re young and you start working on the eastside and living on the east side, you have a horrible first year due to the pain of going downtown and then you move to Seattle in the second year or you just stay antisocial.

        I think the 545 should have an Owl version doing 1am, 2am, 3am.

        I think the RR B should do 1am, 2am, 3am or the 280 should follow the RR B route.

        To test the whole thing, Metro can only do a 2am run for starters. They should promote this at venues where people go and contact big employers too.

      4. Anton, how many young Eastside-based professionals would be taking the bus for recreational evenings in Seattle anyway?

        Maybe things are changing as the Eastside densifies, but when I drove over there demand completely fell off a cliff after about 9 pm. Even on trunk routes like the 550 and 253, there were barely any riders, and there were fewer as the night went on. I remember driving lots of evening 236 and 238 trips where I did not pick up a single rider.

      5. @Anton The 545 doesn’t need night owl serivice, the 280 through-routed with the RRB would serve everywhere that the 545 serves and more. With no traffic and traffic lights the 280 + RRB would be still somewhat slower than the 545, but not obscenely so. Plus, I think it’s far easier conceptually to say “Rapid RIde provides 24/7 service” than to put night owl service on a single Sound Transit route. Ideally, Metro would say “hourly service on all RR between 12am and 5am + special connecting routes for RRA and RRB to DT Seattle”

        @David L Yeah I totally believe that the th 236 and 238 don’t have substantial late night serivce. The two primary urbanized areas are DT Bellevue w/ DT Redmond as a far second, DT Kirkland is vaugely urban but just doesn’t have the density of the other communitites. I have ridden on the last 550 before and it often well ridden. In fact I was just on a late 550 (around 10:30) that was litterally a crush load. I think that there was some event that got over in Seattle, but I think there are a lot of people on the eastside that rely on this.

      6. If you thru-route the 280 and the B-line, what would do about the Bellevue->Renton->downtown Seattle segment of the 280?

      7. I think that needs to be a separate route. DT seattle->Renton is better accomplished by extending the 7 to Renton for the night owl trips.

        This means that people that go from Bellevue to Renton will have to take the 280 downtown and then the next night owl to Renton, but honestly, that’s such a small market I don’t think it’s an issue. Basically, with the 280 connecting to RRB, you’ll end up with 2 way direct service between the two primary downtown urban areas in the region.

      8. “You can either say “RapidRide has 24 hour service” or not.”

        I don’t think Metro has ever promised RapidRide would have night owl across the board. That’s why I’ve always looked at the schedule of each new route. Metro earlier established night owls on Seattle-SeaTac and later Seattle-Federal Way, and at some point an early-morning Auburn-SeaTac was added. RR C and D have absorbed the 81 and 85, and hopefully RR E will absorb the 82 and extend it to Aurora Village.

        Ideally, all Seattle trunk routes would have half-hourly night owls (cough like San Fransisco and Chicago.) but we’re a long way from that. The suburbs should have some night owl service, perhaps hourly, but I’ll refrain from proposing exact frequencies and routes. I’ll just point out that people need to get to night jobs in Kent (from Seattle and presumably the Eastside), and early morning jobs at SeaTac (from all south King County). Bar patrons need to get home from bars at 2am, and workers after then close the bar. Some sort of Eastside night owl (Bellevue/Redmond/Kirkland) is missing.

      9. I should have added, the drawing area for Kent night jobs and SeaTac early morning jobs presumably includes all south King County (Renton, Kent, Auburn, Burien) — people living near their job; and Seattle — people living near the most transit routes; and presumably the Eastside (transferring in Seattle may be an option but we shouldn’t dismiss the southern 280 prematurely).

      1. I’m still confused on the point of hourly service. Metro’s schedules show times of two hours between buses in the early morning. Doesn’t look hourly to me.

      2. I don’t think this counts as “24 hour”. There was already Night Owl service in these places, and this doesn’t seem to improve on it.

      3. Well it does replace the looping 81 and 85 with linear Owl service. With RapidRide C, Fauntleroy gets 2-way service at 3:30 whereas I believe Delridge now has no inbound service overnight.

  2. This quote is from Kevin Desmond’s column last week: “RapidRide has been delivered at a fraction of the cost and time of light rail.”

    That has been the mantra of the BRT lobby – implying that it delivers light rail quality for a fraction of the cost. But BRT implementations have never delivered light rail quality for a fraction of the cost. Instead, they are virtually always a justification for not investing in quality transit.

    In Bellevue RR B isn’t really any better than Metro 253 was. A few updated bus stops and an excuse to get the feds to pay for new buses, and rationalizing routes 230 & 253. That’s all we got. Same congestion. Similar meandering and traffic lights. Similar run times.

    1. While the B-line still has a lot of useless meandering, I have consistently found it to be much better than the 253, for example:

      – The 253 detoured into the Overlake P&R parking lot. The B-line at least stays on 152nd.

      – The B-line runs every 15 minutes all day 7 days a week. The 253, by contrast, ran half-hourly at best and hourly on evenings and Sundays. The 253 was also unreliable enough so even if you timed your arrival at the bus stop to align with the schedule, your average wait time wasn’t much better than the worst-case wait time on the B-line.

      – I haven’t actually timed it to confirm, but superficially, the B-line seems to get through crossroads and the 8th St. corridor significantly faster than the 253 did.

  3. In addition, of the new service hours delivered by Transit Now but not subsidized by other entities, fully 80% are not RapidRide, but “other core routes” or “developing areas” — read new routes to the exurbs. This service does not have deeply entrenched constituencies, and is vastly preferable to RapidRide as a budget casualty.

    Actually, the “new routes to the exurbs” or “other core routes” are probably not what needs to be cut. The best examples of new exurban service are the 216, 218, 164, and 168 extension, all of which are doing very well, and were established despite the poor funding environment precisely because there was high demand. What needs to be cut are long-established routes that have become obsolete and very poorly used as neighborhoods have become much wealthier. The truth is that there are better uses for the funding that brings bus service to Beaux Arts (part of the 249), Laurelhurst (the 25 loop), Clyde Hill (part of the 246), and the like. The fall restructure has recognized this within Seattle by cutting things like the all-day 28 Broadview extension and the 53. But the near Eastside is where the bulk of this sort of service is, and it will be much more politically difficult to move hours from the Eastside to areas of overwhelming need in Seattle and the south end.

    There are other particular efficiencies, like truncating buses at light rail stations, that would save gobs of money. These changes would certainly create losers and bring a stream of complaints to the County Council, but one is either willing to pay the price for high-quality bus corridors or one isn’t. The answer has been, up to now, “no.”

    Metro has actually been pretty decent with this so far where it will actually save a lot of money and operationally work (i.e., terminating routes from the south end at Sodo instead of downtown doesn’t count). The real test will come with the opening of North Link. There is an absolute ton of money to be saved by terminating routes at Roosevelt and Northgate, but it won’t be easy.

    1. i.e., terminating routes from the south end at Sodo instead of downtown doesn’t count

      “Operationally work” is a pretty loose term, but if you clicked on the link you would have seen that that wasn’t what I was talking about.

      1. Fair enough. I don’t consider the RBS transfer to be operationally workable at this point, though. First, very much unlike North Link, Central Link is slower than the existing freeway buses. Second, and even more importantly, you would have to completely rebuild the area around RBS to make that level of terminating/originating bus service possible without creating gridlock. Both Northgate and Roosevelt will allow much easier ways to provide the service.

      2. I agree it’s not particularly viable for I-5 express routes, but it is viable for the 106, and could have been viable for a modified 7X. There was also no need to wait for five years before cutting the 34/39 in favor of the 50. Maybe in a better revenue environment the 50 may have begun life with more frequency.

      3. “slower than existing freeway buses” is such a disingenuous, intellectually lazy metric. It may be slower using some sort of statistical mean…but Central Link is almost always temporally consistent, and you can plan an airport arrival to +/- a couple of minutes in any weather or traffic conditions, something the bus (particularly at peak times) rarely delivered. I don’t have to buffer my Link transit times as I did with the bus.

    2. The 50 really does count. And it isn’t terminating at SODO. The hours spent crawling from SODO to Belltown are eliminated from two routes. This savings is magnified by how much slower this crawl will get, and how much worse the crawl could have been for every other downtown bus if both routes were added back to the downtown congestion. Granted, a lot of the riders transfering at SODO will hop on the first bus, using up the available seats in a network that has already been squeezed to eliminate empty seats, so it isn’t as good as an outside-of-downtown truncation.

      But consider the catch-22 that would be involved in truncating the 101, 102, 150, 161, and perhaps other buses from further south at Rainier Beach Station. Doing enough of that would necessitate increased Link capacity. That means either lengthening the trains or increasing frequency. Increasing frequency would squeeze other bus routes out of the DSTT.

      So, I hope and pray ST has quietly been working on extending the stub tunnel to accomodate longer trains.

      1. Increasing Link frequency to 6 minutes is totally doable if there were fewer buses in the tunnel. There’s a downside, though – when East Link opens, frequency might drop back to 8.

      2. The thing about the 50 is that only a few people (those near the VA and those along SW Genesee St) will actually want to transfer at Sodo. The best thing about the 50 is that it has multiple good transfer points compressed into its length, and the Alaska Junction and Othello will be the ones most riders will use. This is not a feature of most south end routes.

        If people at either end rode to Sodo, the 50 would be a very slow way to get anywhere.

      3. Well, the stub tunnel is now physically connected to the twin bores to Capital Hill. Currently the track and OCS hasn’t been layed, but my understanding was that the original PSST had enough track to switch a 3-car link train, it was just that with the construction to dig the new tunnels the end of that was temporarily shortened, thus only allowing 2 cars. I wonder now that the tunnel is dug, if the end of the PSST track can once again be utalized if ST need to run longer trains prior to 2016.
        It may be a contractual issue though, as the contractor may have that space guaranteed for accessibility to their work site.

        I’m assuming that ST has learned from this and the track extension beyond Univeristy of Washington Station (Husky Stadium) is long enough to accommodate 4 car trains, plus extra space for construction of the follow-on line to Northgate.

      4. If the stub tunnel really can handle 3-car trains now, then there is a fairly straightforward way to relieve the congestion in the tunnel during PM peak: Drop Link’s frequency and deploy 3-car trains.

        If you believe the 550 schedule, which is probably optimistic, travel time in the tunnel will go up about two minutes. But if train headway is increased by 2.5 minutes, average wait time is only increased by 1.25 minutes. So, by going to 3-car trains, the average train rider commute time might actually be reduced by 0.75 minutes over what it would have been with 2-car trains. If the two-minute travel time increase proves to be too optimistic, then the math leans even harder in favor of longer trains with higher headway.

        So long as train capacity is increased, more riders get a seat and a happier commute. Plus, all the bus riders come out winners.

        As a bonus for those who favor trains over buses, Link’s cost per rider would come down, and Metro would be stuck with a higher portion of the DSTT debt payments.

    3. “the “new routes to the exurbs” or “other core routes” are probably not what needs to be cut.”

      That’s right. Recent suburban routes go to the nearest transit center like they should. The routing may be crooked or low-density milk runs, but they stay within the “subarea” and the routing can be improved later. Metro creates new routes essentially based on service levels, so it strings the lowest-density segments into a milk run (226), which can presumably be downgraded or deleted later if ridership doesn’t emerge. The all-day milk runs to Seattle are already gone. The egragiously inefficient and expensive routes are the peak-expresses to Seattle, which date back to the 1970s and have remained essentially unchanged since then.

      1. I don’t think you can group MT Express routes together. Some truly suck but it’s because of where they serve (like Vashon) not because they’re and EX route. In cases where there’s both an express and a local the local often does even worse (192 vs 193EX). Latest data I can find is the 2010 Route Performance Report. Many of the EX routes do quite well; 303EX, 306EX, 358EX. On the eastside most of the really sucky routes are locals and the gravy train routes from the 70s have been taken over by ST.

  4. Look at the second and third photos in this link, which is the BRT line in the Netherlands connecting Schiphol airport with some nearby suburbs like Hoofddorp:

    You can do a google search for “Zuidtangent” and find many more pictures. Look at what you see – elevated stations, real-time arrival info, exclusive bus lanes, level boarding platforms. This is BRT. Anything less is not BRT and should not be described as such. The fact that Kevin Desmond was still referring to RapidRide as BRT in his column last week shows that Metro still does not understand the definition, or they are blatantly using false advertising.

    As a Ballard homeowner (and former resident) about 3 blocks away from 15th, I have no reason to choose RapidRide over the existing 28 bus. The ride is slower, there’s no schedule, it still winds through Queen Anne and Belltown with multiple stops. I simply don’t see the service improvement from a rider quality perspective. The one improvement I could sense would be faster de-boarding from the 28X if there were POP, but Metro even botched that up. What I’m saying is, RR is definitely a disappointment and botched implementations like these just hurt the cause for real transit options in Seattle.

    1. Now, if I’m trying to decide between the 28 and RR D to get downtown at your location, I would take RR D. Why? I can still look at the schedule on my phone (OneBusAway), it comes more often (twice as often during the peaks, evenings, and weekends), the stops are larger and better lit (nicer during evenings, nights, and winter), and it doesn’t cross Mercer at Dexter (so, it’s more reliable during the peaks). And, both travel times are estimated to actually be about the same from Market to downtown.

      Now, RR has its shortcomings, but I’d certainly avoid dismissing it outright.

      1. You’re missing Ryan’s primary point, Andrew.

        The 28, a normal bus, is right by the house he owns. RapidRide, the new “flagship service”, is a ten-minute walk away.

        For the most part, the 28 runs on a half-hourly schedule that is reliable in the southbound direction, and will only get more reliable when the non-peak terminus is truncated to 103rd.

        RapidRide runs at no better than 15 minutes most of the day, and without a published schedule. Ryan can get no real-time vehicle info for it, because it will barely be leaving its terminus by the time he would have to start walking to it.

        Metro’s failure to implement all but the most negligible signal and lane priority, and its continued indulgence of on-board cash fumbling, ensure that the two routes retain similar travel speeds and scheduled trip-times. Moreover, if RapidRide branding leads to even the slightest increase in ridership, its lack of BRT features makes it liable to get even slower and less reliable than the often-empty 28.

        Sure, the 28 can have problems at Dexter and Mercer, but they’re no more or less likely or severe than RapidRide’s problems on the Uptown detour. Short of clairvoyance or traffic cameras from the future, this one’s a coin toss.

        So with Ryan’s 10-minute walk negating most of RapidRide’s frequency gains, and lack of schedule and unreliability negating the rest, he has no rational basis on which to choose the longer walk. His totally dispassionate, logical determination to wait for the next scheduled 28 is the correct one.

        And thus the infrequent one-seat bias perpetuates in Seattle.

        Now imagine an alternate universe in which RapidRide had actually BRT priority treatments and dwell-time-busting features, and came every 7-10 minutes all day and evening.

        Suddenly, the 28 can be eliminated entirely! They share termini. One’s corridor is never more than 1/2 mile from the other’s as far as Leary. Fremont connections can be made on the new (also doubly-frequent) 40. And those uphill from 8th can take the 5.

        When you consolidate and run service right, efficiency gains are exponential rather than linear. That’s where your money comes from to pay for true frequency.

        But this only works when the service is great. Nobody walks further to crap.

      2. d.p., if he’s 3 blocks off 15th, he’s closer to RR D than the 28. No “walking further” necessary.

        Personally, I think the areas around 85th/8th and 65th/8th are ripe for further development, and when it happens, you might be able to sensibly have 15-minute service on the 28 as well. It really doesn’t run empty from 100th south, even today. The 26 is the route that needs to disappear.

      3. In the mid-day and the evening, it has a trickle of riders — usually between a half dozen and a dozen — before reaching Fremont.

        Given Ryan’s description of the 28 as his present-day default, I was guessing he was south of 65th, in which case 3 blocks from 15th puts him at 9th Ave NW.

      4. No, I’m not even guessing. He’s clearly south of 65th, and using “blocks” in the literal sense rather than the numerical one.

        He’s at most 2 minutes from the 28, and 9-10 minutes from RapidRide.

      5. I live at approximately 53rd and 11th, so it’s equi-distant. One point to note though is convenience of the 28X which runs on a fixed schedule and takes Aurora rather than Dexter (thus avoiding the issues around Mercer).

        My point here, is that despite the investment, RapidRide is no better than the existing service options in this area. It still deals with the Ballard Bridge. It still gets hung up in Queen Anne and through downtown. There’s no signal priority planned, and there’s no way that I can try to minimize my waiting time because there’s no schedule. I don’t see the improvement guys.

        The worst thing about the 28x is that the first stop Northbound at 8th/Market is very popular and usually 20+ people get off here during rush hour, and each one has to fumble for change which means that it can take a few minutes to exit. If only there was an easier way that could be implemented on RR….

      6. Despite the investment, RapidRide is no better than the existing service options in this area.

        This needs to be engraved on a plaque and bolted to Kevin Desmond’s desk.

        It’s just that simple. False advertising leads to no changes in ridership behavior. Express users will stand demand expresses. 28 riders will stay on the 28.

        Drivers will just keep driving.

      7. The problem is the 28, not RR D. Why is a half-hourly bus remaining that’s 8 blocks from RapidRide in one direction and 11 blocks from the 5 in the other? Delete the 28 and put the hours into the D, or into both the D and the 5.

      8. What did I just say?

        Oh, here it is:

        “When you consolidate and run service right, efficiency gains are exponential rather than linear. That’s where your money comes from to pay for true frequency.

        “But this only works when the service is great. Nobody walks further to crap.”

        In the eyes of current users and non-transit wonks, the 28 is not “the” problem. The problem is that Metro can’t be trusted to roll out a flagship service that they haven’t half-assed in both speed and frequency. Why would anyone trust them to cut/consolidate and not half-ass it in the end anyway?

        The trust deficit, for which Metro is 100% to blame, is a big part of the problem going forward.

      9. Yes, but that doesn’t subsume my point. The 28 goes through a single-family area with only a token number of apartments and businesses. The 15/D and 358/E go through neighborhood commercial districts that attract riders from outside the neighborhood, and tons of multi-family housing as well as single-family houses. So that’s where the frequent routes should be. (Focusing on the 15-28-5 area, not the 5-358 area.) This remains true regardless of what Metro or the residents think.

        For a long time, the 15, 28, and 5 all had half-hourly service (plus the 5-Northgate), so people didn’t know which street to live on if they were hoping for more frequent service in the future. Now Metro has prioritized the 15/D and 5, as it should. The remaining issue is whether the 28 is taking too many service hours, preventing the 15/D and 5 from reaching their potential (in terms of ridership and neighborhood access). I believe it does. If we had excess money, we could improve the 15/D and 5 and leave the 28 alone, but we don’t have excess money. My concern is that the current 28 is an active detriment to higher transit use and transit orientation in northwest Seattle. We can debate how to change it (less frequency, deletion, truncation at Fremont, upzone 8th/Market and 8th/85th). But the point remains that it’s sucking up service hours inefficiently.

        You’re right that the substandard streetscape/routing/signal priority of the 15/D and 5 is hindering their efficiency, this strengthening residents’ resolve to keep the 28 as-is.

        “Why would anyone trust them to cut/consolidate and not half-ass it in the end anyway?”

        Because it’s the only thing we can do. Not to “trust Metro”, but to continuall call for improvements, and to give Metro the benefit of the doubt until we know it’s making a bad decision. I’m not willing to just throw up my hands and accept the current situation for the rest of my life, and I’m not very inclined to move to another city because I would have done so by now.

      10. …until we know it’s making a bad decision.

        When has Metro ever not made a bad decision?

        The 17 and 18 are dead, originally with my approval. But what do I get? A 25 minute longer and 100% wetter trip home, any night of the week.

        You want to talk 28? Let’s look at how Metro has handled nighttime service on the 28/40 overlap between the Fremont Bridge and 8th Ave NW:

        Each hourly… and 5 minutes apart. Bloody geniuses over there!

      11. d.p., you’re comparing the current 28 schedule with the future 40 schedule, and the 28 schedule is also changing. They’re actually 10 minutes apart. Not much better, but it’s… something.

        And for most of that corridor, the 26 is also a reasonable option.

      12. No, it’s not. 50-minute gaps on any service corridor are ridiculous. As in, “why even bother?”

        Twenty-four hours after this discovery, I’m still in awe of just how much worse my car-free life and mobility are about to become.

        After September 29th, I literally cannot leave Ballard in the evening without expecting it to be a substantial pain in the ass — long waits, long walks — to get home.

      13. And Ballard hasn’t been a substantial pain in the ass before, when you had to guess whether the bus on 15th or the bus on 24th would come sooner, and if it was late you’re screwed and would miss the other one too, and if you wanted to get the next bus whatever it is you had to walk to 15th & Leary, and the 17 and 18 weren’t evenly spaced?

      14. Yes, Mike. Ballard service is already a pain in the ass.

        Getting home from anywhere requires dealing with terrible transfer penalties.

        But at least there are 3 buses every hour right to Ballard Ave, plus two more up 15th.

        Those buses to Ballard Ave are disappearing, and service on 15th is staying the same. Such a net loss in service is unforgivable!

        The transfer penalty is now worse. The walk is now worse. Everything is now worse.

        This is how people return to their cars.

    2. “I have no reason to choose RapidRide over the existing 28 bus.”

      What about the fact that it’s twice as frequent as the 28 is or the 15 was. No more having to check the schedule before you go to the bus stop. Of course, you’ve probably memorized the schedules for the stops closest to your house, but a visitor to Ballard will not have. And even if you have the schedule memorized, there’s still the lag time between when you start wanting to go somewhere and when the next bus leaves. I have one 30-minute route I regularly take, at the far end of a transfer. If only it ran every 15 minutes, I could save hours per month. Finally, if a bus is late and the route is frequent, it’s not as big a deal because the next bus will be coming sooner.

      1. The point that myself, and many others make, is that we still want schedules for a 15-minute frequency. Living in Amsterdam for the time being, I still check schedules for the Metro that comes every 10 minutes.

      2. It is decidedly not twice as frequent as the 15 was.

        And remember that it’s actually less frequent south of Leary, so each bus will be more likely to stop at every stop and pick up a greater number of Interbay’s habitual cash-fumblers.

        As you know perfectly well, our divvied-up 30-minute one-seat dependency is bad. Unfortunately, 15-minute unreliable schedule-less “walk further and trust us” isn’t all that much better.

      3. I’d rather have a 15-minute unscheduled bus than a 30-minute scheduled bus. Every time I take RR B or A, I’m glad it comes every 15 minutes, even if I have to leave a 10-15 minute buffer to transfer to the 550. And I wouldn’t need that buffer if the 550 came every 15 minutes too, but it doesn’t part of the time.

      4. Right.

        If those are the only two options, then you’ve just pinpointed why this city clings to one-seat rides.

      5. Those are the alternatives that are feasable now. I.e., they’re the least common denominator between transit fans, Metro, and the governments. I like many of your ideas for improvement. But we have to distinguish between what’s feasable near-term (meaning we can convince Metro/governments to do it), and what’s not. Regarding the latter, we need to make clear what Metro/governments are doing wrong and chide them once and then keep reminding them to correct their mistake, but continually lambasting them does no good and leads to an antagonistic atmosphere. What’s really needed for these unchangeable situations is laments, not outraged lambastings.

      6. I think telling me to wait twice as long for the bus plus walk a 1/2 mile further than before, for which I’m paying higher sales taxes and a fare that has nearly doubled in six years is pretty fucking antagonistic, don’t you?

        I’ll walk further than most people for better service. I won’t prostrate myself for dregs.

        I’m seriously considering buying a car.
        Right now.
        Been researching it all day.

        I’m willing to pay hundreds of dollars a month to stop dealing with Metro’s bullshit, and to never give it another red cent.
        Metro needs to put that in its pipe and smoke it.

      7. You could also move somewhere with better transit, like the U-district, Capitol Hill, or Rainier Valley. Fremont is about to double its downtown transit with the 40 adding to the 26/28. Ballard “should” be a major urban village with efficient transit connections to downtown and the U-district, but the transit part isn’t going to happen for an indefinite period of time.

      8. The U-District is a shithole where no self-respecting urbane adult should be expected to have to live.

        Capitol Hill is sort of fine for what it is, although it’s not as attractive, well laid out, or functional as it should be to rise to the level of the “apex of urban living” that clueless midwestern transplants seem to believe it is. I also feel like I’m playing a game of “Look At This F#%king Hipster every time I’m up there.

        And unlike Ballard, Fremont hasn’t the density of three-dimensional urbanity (and sheer number of uses and attractions) that Ballard has, nor has it doubled in population and residential density in the past 15 years as Ballard has. Aside from the weird water-level office park that has some convinced it needs primary-level transit service “as an employment destination”,* Fremont isn’t half the urban center Ballard is becoming.

        It’s not like I’m demanding grade-A night service to a single-family wasteland, or to a minor urban-ish outpost like Roosevelt [cough, cough]. I’m saying that it’s reasonable to expect the fourth biggest urban center in this entire city to be accessible for those without cars, in a manner that isn’t an affront to those who value their time.

        Only in Seattle would this be deemed demanding too much.

        *Note: only hopelessly tech-centric people say this.

  5. The opening reference to *North American* rail service had me picking my jaw up off the floor. Are you talking about the slooooooow train?

    1. Yeah, Amtrak runs 24/7/365, so it certainly runs well into the evening, and you can take an overnight trips, … which you had originally booked as a day trip, but the train didn’t get there until evening because…

    2. It shares most of its tracks with freight trains, which have priority which means …

    3. It couldn’t be more frequent than 1-3 times a day on any given shared corridor, as even at that headway, bunching would occur;

    and 4. If you can find an open station, then, yes, off-board payment is the way it’s done, but you better get your ticket online or when the station is open.

    So, in an honest comparison between Metro RapidRide and North America’s premier passenger rail service, RapidRide beats the c*** out of the train.

    1. It should be obvious that he’s referring to urban rail systems such as the NY Subway and DC Metrorail that serve BRT-like corridors.

    2. I thought it was pretty obvious from the context that I was referring to subway/metro service in American cities, not Amtrak. BRT isn’t sold as an alternative to Amtrak, it’s sold as an alternative to light rail.

    3. Hee hee hee. But seriously, compare Amtrak to *intercity buses*. Currently the premier operators (Megabus and its clones) are *advertising* the fact that they pick up at unlabelled locations on the street with no facilities. And then there’s Greyhound, where you can’t even find a published list of routes (I’ve tried, I’ve tried)….

      …somehow it seems remarkably easy, in this country, for bus service to just be deliberately awful.

  6. Thanks Martin. I completely agree. As you outline a lot of my frustration is I don’t see Metro and the Council as a strong enough advocate for the high quality transit service BRT can provide but often doesn’t. I brought this issue up tangentially with relation to the RTTF. See PP 4 (

    Metro does have to balance competing objectives, but RapidRide is Metro’s flagship product and they should be willing to make the compromises necessarily to make it a real flagship. All-day headways of 10 minutes or less is one example. In the long term I’m seriously concerned that RapidRide will not be an adequate transit product to catalyze the type of car-free, higher density and improved mobility this region is counting on them delivering.

    1. The problem is with RR being Metro’s “flagship” product when it doesn’t cover Metro’s most important routes. A few of Metro’s very most important routes (and some less important ones) will be covered by rail in the near future, and the next few RR lines to be added are more “core” to the system than the first couple. But how many people are really counting on RR for car-free high density living along the A and B lines?

      10-minute headways on the first 5 RR lines would be a dramatic service improvement for most of them and a huge increase in hours. You’d probably have to cut hours from important core routes that aren’t low-hanging targets for RapidRide-ization. In many cases these routes are really more important than the RR routes that would receive their hours. This is even true with capital improvements. For example, I’d give up the capital improvements happening now for the 44 in exchange for offboard payment downtown, but not for improvement of RR stations anywhere else.

      It would be great if RR really was happening on the most important long direct routes in the system, or routes with blockbuster potential if their speed and reliability issues were fixed. The only one of the first 5 that’s in the “most important long direct routes” conversation is the 358. And probably none are in the “blockbuster potential” bucket. So why double down on the wrong investments?

      1. But Ballard and Aurora are two of the primary corridors in north Seattle, Pacific Highway is the primary corridor in the south end, and Bellevue-Crossroads-Overlake-Redmond is the primary corridor on the Eastside. The problem child is really West Seattle, if you believe Delridge is more deserving than Alaska Junction and the Fauntleroy ferry terminal. Burien-Renton is… well, a lot of people think it’s an emerging corridor even if it doesn’t look like one yet. (And even if Renton-Kent looks more like a corridor.)

        Here’s an interesting idea that combines some others. An enhanced 120 from downtown – Delridge – Burien – SeaTac, connecting to an enhanced 169 as SeaTac – Kent Station – East Hill – Renton – Rainier Beach. A big “U” shape.

      2. I’m not saying the RR corridors are altogether worthless. I’m not saying it isn’t worth consolidating services along those corridors to create frequent, legible service patterns (as was done with the 358). I am saying that there are many Metro routes that are more important than RR, which limits how much you can take service hours from other Metro routes, and capital money from other Metro projects, to improve RR.

  7. If you search “RapidRide” on Metro’s website, it asks if you mean RapidReader. This is cracking me up right now.

  8. We had BRT before RapidRide.

    It’s called the network of express buses from Metro and SoundTransit.

    The only problem is — like Sounder — they run mainly during rush hours.

    Rather than create a whole new system of buses (that run slower than the existing express buses) I would prefer we expand their schedules.

    I still don’t have a good all day, all week, express option from Kent Station to downtown Seattle.

    And I’ll keep saying it until I do!

    1. Express bus service is decidedly *not* BRT. BRT service always has frequent core two-way service. It might have express service overlaid (only really in South America and Asia) but the core, two-way core is what makes it BRT, not the express service.

      The only time you see BRT on a freeway/highway/busway is when there are inline stops every 1-2 miles.

      1. Many ST express routes do operate all day in both directions, albeit every 30-60 minutes on evenings and weekends. When done right, the network of freeway stations can make the service BRT-like.

        The problem is that, in many cases, we have made poor choices on choosing the locations for a freeway station, often choosing a location based on convenience, rather than its potential to attract riders.

        Overlake and Eastgate freeway stations are my favorite examples of freeway stations done right – they each attract a lot of riders and save a lot of time vs. meandering the bus through a bunch of stoplights to reach a place to load and unload passengers.

        Montlake was also a good location for a freeway station, although there are some issues with the implementation. For example, the eastbound stop is not wheelchair accessible. And you have to wait for the eastbound 542 and 545 at different stops. And you have a very awkward crossing of Montlake Blvd. to transfer from a westbound route to a southbound route, or to get from the bike parking area to the 542 stop.

        Then, there are numerous places where we got the locations all wrong. For example:
        – The Yarrow Point freeway station should never have existed. It should have been built at 108th instead to allow connections to Bellevue and Kirkland.
        – The I-5/45th St. should have been built in a way so that buses could still serve it while using the express lanes. This is why going from the U-district to Everett actually requires a transfer during the peak, but not the off-peak.
        – The 145th St. station should have been built at Northgate, which would have attracted far more riders from Northgate Mall than Lakeside High School. The 510, 511, and 41 could have been interlined to provide an ultra-high frequency trunk route between downtown and Northgate as a precursor to Link.

        I think the more egregious mistake is Yarrow Point. While we’re already spending hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild the corridor, now is the time when we should be moving that station to 108th. Instead, the attitude has always been that because the bus stop has always been at 92nd Ave. that 92nd Ave. is where it belongs – regardless of the stop’s actual potential to attract riders.

        So, instead of moving the stop, we actually spend a ton of money to improve the stop at Yarrow Point, which has almost nothing around there except a few mansions, besides having zero north-south bus connections. (It’s somewhat useful to bikers, but bikers could easily use the Evergreen Point stop instead).

      2. For a bus BRT system, I agree…you want major stations that are “real stations”.

        Kent Station transit center is ideal.

        1. Situated in the densest, most retail oriented part of the city.
        2. Feeder for local bus lines
        3. Has rail and bus connections

        The idea for BRT is to “use” the highway corridors, but obviously you want the major stations to be places that people actually want to get to!

        That is why it continually amazes me there is no express route between Kent Station — South Center Mall — Downtown Seattle !

      3. @asdf: Yes to almost all of this. The I-5/45th thing is hard (read: requires lots of ramp-building) without the buses physically being in the same location on all their runs. But generally most of the freeway stops (and in many cases the accompanying pedestrian accommodations) were designed pretty thoughtlessly.

        I’ve never heard a suggestion to move Yarrow Point to 108th, but that really makes sense. That’s where the South Kirkland P&R should be, too. It should be a parking garage with a pedestrian connection to the flyer stop and local streets. Lay the thing out right and you could eliminate a lot of the inefficient parts of the routes through South Kirkland P&R today (234, 235, 249). Reverse-commuting cyclists that use Yarrow Point would mostly be better off at 108th anyway — they’re not working near Yarrow Point, they’re working in Bellevue and Kirkland, mostly closer to 108th than 92nd (108th/112th is a decent bike route to Bellevue as it is and could be improved; 108th is a difficult route to Kirkland, but LWB is decent, and you could get there on the to-be-built 520 bike path). They only get off at Yarrow Point because it’s the farthest east they can get without overshooting.

      4. “The 145th St. station should have been built at Northgate”

        Huh? A Northgate station is already planned. Are you saying the 145th station should just be dropped? Or are you advocating for a Hwy 99 routing? The 130th station does seem to be on-track, so there’s no tradeoff there.

      5. Ultimately, the freeway stations along I-5 at both 45th and 145th will eventually be replaced by Link stations. However, for the meantime, this is what we have.

      1. The only way Sounder will improve is if Sound Transit gives *alot* of money to BNSF and BNSF’s focus right now is coal, grain, soybeans, and oil trains in our region. Not passenger trains.

        We could have 30 trains a day for a few billion more. Or do a large capital project on the Union Pacific between Fife and Tukwila to double track all of that to allow freights certain freight trains to use that route and passenger trains on the existing.

        There are plenty of ways to have additional trains, it just takes a little bit of money, far more than Sound Transit can afford right now.

      2. There are plenty of other ways Sounder can improve. Straightening tracks, superelevation, adding passing tracks in a couple of places, closing at-grade crossings…

      3. @Ben – That is the main issue. There isn’t really any places you can straight the ROW between Seattle and Tacoma that would make a difference for Sounder. Electrification would be best way to speed up the trains but the cost again would not be justifiable to do that to get traction.

        The core way to get the trains to be faster would be to removing some at-grade crossings but even then, BNSF still controls the maximum speed limit for the trains, which has been locked at 80mph between Everett and Tacoma for all passenger trains, regardless of safety systems installed. ST/Amtrak/WSDOT would have to built their own ROW, which simply isn’t in the cards.

        The only REAL solution would be getting freight trains over onto the UP mainline, thus allowing Amtrak and Sounder to run at 90mph+ without the fear of catching up to a freight train. Double track the UP, make it 60mph and you can easily run hourly Sounder and Amtrak trains. The third main will still need to be built between Tukwila Station and Pacific, WA but that would solve all of the mid and long term plans for passenger trains up here.

      4. Brian, here’s the problem.

        If you make a list of the issues to transit supporters like this – you kill support. You just convince people it’s too hard and everyone goes home.

        Build support for a message to the state: “I want to get from Seattle to Portland in an hour, and it’s up to you to tell me how much that’s going to cost and figure out how to make it happen.”

        Let THEM be the ones to bring up problems, because then THEY are the ones who you can demand solutions from. If you bring up issues like this yourself, you take your popular support and you demoralize and confuse them with information they don’t want or need about specifics.

    2. Time for you to agitate to turn the 150 into a RapidRide line. That route even has room for actual bus lanes along most of its length!

      (Although I think it would benefit more people to start the RR line at Southcenter and run it straight to downtown Auburn, rather than running it between Kent and Seattle.)

  9. Rapid Ride isn’t great BRT, but the displays installed are awesome and the buses are much nicer.

      1. This cracked me up. Yes, but if you spend all your money on the poster and the seats, you shouldn’t be surprised the movie’s lousy.

      2. Actually, a great poster might just sell more tickets than a good movie. I’ve certainly been suckered before…

    1. I was on the 358 today and the thought that wouldn’t leave me alone was “It sure would be nice to have the Swift on this route”. I think Swift style BRT would solve a lot of the 358’s problems.

      1. Swift-style payment, yes. A Swift-style attempt at level boarding, yes. Swift-style stop spacing would be ridiculous for a route with so many disabled passengers.

      2. If a Swift route were added, the 358 would remain as a local shadow. But it would be less frequent, because most people would either be near a Swift station (which would be at all the highest pedestrian concentrations and transfer points) or willing to walk to one, rather than sit through the 358 making all its stops.

  10. Your main point is right, Martin. Whatever the material covering the wheel-rims of the vehicles, efficient transit depends on a firm political decision to get everything possible out of transit’s way.

    Which in turn depends upon an agreement with this goal by a large number of voting citizens. And also a personal agreement to stay out of the way themselves.

    I’m leaving Gothenburg, Sweden with considerable regrets early tomorrow morning. I’d like to spend a lot more time here, and highly recommend that anyone seriously interested in either streetcar or bus transit pay a visit.

    The soils under downtown Gothenburg won’t hold a tunnel- and people and politicians seem to prefer surface transit in any case. Perhaps that’s because both streetcar and bus routes include so many neighborhoods that it would be a shame to travel under.

    Over the years, the city has taken measures to assure that pedestrian and bicycle travel are both easy and enjoyable, with an entire network of marked bike lanes and walkways- with bike lanes well separated from the street.

    But most interesting point is the way transit machines and people, on and off bikes, stay out of each other’s way- in a town where jaywalking is a way of life. No one in the streetcar system here or in the other three Nordic cities I’ve visited, sees anything unusual about pedestrian safety- it’s natural that Europeans know what grooved rail and catenary mean.

    So right of way is a lot more a matter of agreement and habit than technology or street space. Many European streets were built in the Middle Ages between buildings it’s illegal to remove. What they can do, we can do- and enjoy the results when we do.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Your experience matches mine in London. Biking on a rental bike from London Bridge to Richmond Park and back, I felt safer with the narrow bike lanes and bike boxes than I do on my own bike on the “Cadillac” bike lane on Dexter, even though I was of course biking what my brain considered the wrong side of the street, because I knew that the cars and buses (and there were buses everywhere) were actually watching out for me and making sure they gave me room.

  11. Without some public scrutiny, RapidRide will only be as good as dwindling $$ will allow it to be, now that all the free buses from the FTA have been purchased, so thank you Martin and Adam for keeping the pressure up.
    Here’s my take on RR so far.
    It was over promised and hyped by Sims and team to get another 1/10 cent bump in the sales tax when the “Good Times just Kept Rolling Along” before the recession hit TRANSIT NOW?-or maybe half assed in 2013- you be the judge.
    Sales taxes were outpacing inflation, so back then it was easy to make promises, then figure out the messy details later. Now that money is tight and reserves are on empty, just providing basic bus service is a daily stretch.
    ~~Frequent Service and Signal Priority:
    RR-A did double frequency for a 50% gain in riders. Riders per hour has gone way down, because travel times haven’t come down the promised 25%. (can’t wait for the route performance report to come out, which is months behind schedule). Budget is part of the problem, but Metro didn’t get iron clad interlocals from cities to get green time on ‘their’ traffic signals – too few of them, and don’t give greens all the time, so a timid schedule ensures a slower route. It now looks like the gains in frequency for all the other lines are mostly filling in some gaps to get the promised headways. I don’t see much improvement in service hours being deployed for RR C thru E.

    ~~Off-board payment:
    Metro has choosen the most expensive way to do off board fare payment, when years ago they were given options to use cheap TVM, like Seattle deploys for parking (actually the same machine CAN do both quite well). Getting rid of the queue at the farebox and front door has seemed to have taken a back seat to “This is what we are doing – no matter how long it takes, or how much money is costs”. I wish they would admit they screwed up, and move on.

    Finally, Metro has been silent on doing some proactive ‘Before and After’ analysis so that corrections can be made. Waiting several years for an annual report to gloss over how deployment and operation is working out is really not acceptable when Metro will be asking for new funding sources very soon. Where’s the White Paper on RR-A and B, going into the other 4. RR-F is a complete joke to any BRT-like service as it meanders all over the place. That’s a pure political bone thrown in at the last minute for ‘ know who’.
    So I give RR a D+, with a note at the bottom that ays, “student seems to lack focus and must work much harder to avoid a failing grade”

    1. “RR-F is a complete joke to any BRT-like service as it meanders all over the place.”

      Absolutely agreed. If I had my way, we would have cut the F-line altogether and re-invested the money in making the remaining lines better. The fact that it even exists is pure politics.

      1. Yep. There are at least three corridors in South King County (West Valley 150/180, 169, 168/164) that make more sense for the RR treatment than the 140 did. RR F is going to be a disaster.

      2. Having the same ridership as the 140 is not a disaster, it’s a disappointment. If ridership plummets, that’s a disaster.

      3. It’s going to feel pretty disastrous with the same ridership. They are going to be replacing 30′ and occasional 40′ coaches with giant artics, and increasing to doubling frequency pretty much every time of day except weekday middays. That is going to be a *lot* of empty seats unless ridership jumps substantially.

  12. I wonder how the people running our transit agencies get to their careers? I’m guessing they’re not transit nerds, which is strange since it seems like you would have to be in order to be attracted to such a job. I guess my point is, if a transit nerd (with all of the necessary credentials) was planning/running RR they would fall on their proverbial sword to get something like off-board payment (or any of the other items listed by Martin). Maybe they do care that much, but why don’t we ever hear about it when they rhetorically impale themselves in front of the council?

    1. One serious employment qualification for anyone seeking work making decisions affecting public transit should be considerable personal experience riding transit.

      And one job requirement should be frequent ridership on board the service one supervises.

      At least a recurring excuse for bad decisions would go away.

      Mark Dublin

      1. Dow drives a Prius, which I have seen him park illegally within half a block of a SLUT stop.

        [Ad hominem]

      2. With all due respect, elected officials take a lot more flak for being late for meetings than they do for driving cars. They get paid too much to spend their time riding or biking around.

      3. Well, gee, maybe they should fix the goddamn transit system so that this isn’t an either/or.

        That’s precisely why they should be required to experience the hell that is under their purview, Brent.

      4. Brent, I’m solidly with d.p. on this. If they can’t be on time using transit, it’s their fault.

    2. Most of the brain trust has left Metro Service Development. The current crew is shackled by ‘Political Planners’, with heavy handed oversight from the computer programs and bean counters.

      1. So, Metro is run by ‘general’ bureaucrats who are supported by non-transit related technical specialists (accountants, programmers…)? That’s a bummer, but definitely explains a lot…just a job and not a passion.

      2. I think there’s still plenty of transit knowledge and passion, but taking their advice and letting them soar high is quite another thing.

  13. RE: Budget Dodge – Last time I drove RapidRide B, I timed 9-14 minutes of signal wait time per trip in the AM. That wasted time roughly equates into an additional bus being out on the road to service current headways. That means 11 buses to serve the AM rush instead of 10. That’s real money going down the drain every weekday until Redmond, Bellevue, and Metro officials get in a room and figure out how to squeeze efficiencies out of the system. It’s enormously frustrating.

  14. I became convinced of a possible shell game as I’ve paid more attention while driving the 15, 18 and 54 – ostensibly replaced by parts of the new RR C and D lines. From the north terminal to downtown (along 15th) and from California and Fauntleroy to Westwood – the RR lines are almost indistinguishable from the routes being replaced in number and frequency of stops (it’s about every other). KC has abused the BRT funding by using it to replace, rather than reduce, existing service.

    1. In the mid-day, total service along 15th Ave W decreases from every 10 minutes to every 15.

      In the late evening, Ballard is getting totally screwed.

      (See below.)

    2. Well, the Bush administration and subsequent Congresses were pushing “BRT” (in order to prevent funding of rail), and as long as there was free money out there, can you fault them for taking it in order to get some new buses?

      Well, yeah, you can fault them, ’cause of the dishonesty.

      1. You can stop calling it dishonesty without proof. Do you really think Metro executives sat around and said, “Let’s go through this huge planning disruption and pull our staff off other work for several years, and then we’ll get some free vehicles from the feds!” That doesn’t sound likely.


    RapidRide D and new route 40 schedules are out.

    Want to get between downtown and Ballard after 11:00 pm?

    Well your life is going to start sucking!

    Whereas you can currently take an 15 or 18 at 11:00, 11:15, 11:30, 11:45, or 12:00, or take a 17 at 11:15…

    You now have the option of a half-hourly RapidRide at 11:05, 11:35, or 12:05, or an hourly 40, helpfully staggered at… 11:05!!

    Ugh! I’m feeling a little ill just thinking about this loss of evening mobility, and all the fucked up connections that will happen when late 49/10/11s make me miss these halved Ballard buses.

    1. I would like to see Kevin Desmond explain to residents of the 10,000-population central Ballard urban village why they now have to wait twice as long and also walk much further to get home, if they should wish to take the bus to a play, a concert, a movie, or any other perfectly normal (read: not by any definition late-running) evening event.

      Seriously, I would like to see him do that. In person.

      He’ll be lucky if he doesn’t get spit on.

    2. This is just the extension of a trend that has affected Metro for about five years. Believe it or not, virtually every downtown trunk route used to be half-hourly until 1:00 a.m. Now most of them are hourly, and some of them have disappeared altogether in the late-night hours.

      Yes, ridership is lower (on some routes!) during those late times, but what Metro isn’t understanding is that as Seattle grows there will be disproportionate growth in demand for late service, and the lack of it will affect a large number of people. Bigger cities stay awake later.

      Of course, this isn’t just an issue in Seattle — it is something riders are fighting in pretty much every city except New York. In my own “other home” of DC, riders have to unite pretty much every year to fend off efforts to shorten Metrorail’s span of service. In Boston, despite the huge and very drinky student population, the system stubbornly resists any effort to continue service past 11:30 p.m. or to match frequency to the crush loads at night, and the “night owl” buses were even discontinued a few years back.

      This is a case of fiftysomethings who go to bed at 10 pm every night running things.

      1. but what Metro isn’t understanding is that as Seattle grows there will be disproportionate growth in demand for late service, and the lack of it will affect a large number of people.

        Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!

        And moreoever, we’re talking about Ballard here. One of about three neighborhoods in all of Seattle that was made an explicit promise: “Build up; densify; live here; pack in; parking will get hard, so we’ll make it so that you can live your live easily without a car.” This is a brutal violation of that promise!

        In Boston…past 11:30 p.m.

        Not to jump down your throat (I’m just very upset right now), but I read this with surprising frequency, and it’s absolutely false.

        The last inbound from Harvard Square is at 12:28. From Central, it’s 12:34. Kenmore, 12:36. Green Street, ditto. The only recurring problem is having to be on a train from Allston by 12:18.

        Outbound trains leave Park-Downtown Crossing at 12:45, and all service is held for connection. Outbound in every direction, all connecting buses are also held.

        And, most importantly, everything is still running 9-13 minute frequencies up until that very moment!

        And if you know your way around the cross-transit buses (1, 66, 47, 77, etc), you can rely on service at 1:05 or later!

        And if all else fails, cabs are easy to get and will cost you $12, not $30.

        And your monthly T pass was $70, not $90, so a couple of taxi rides a month and you’re still paying less than in Seattle.

        The MBTA was governed by hostile forces in the early 2000s, and unfortunately they did everything in their power to kill the Night Owls. But service between 11 and 1 is about a thousand times what it is in Seattle.

      2. Mea culpa on the times. I should have said 12:30, not 11:30.

        But it still isn’t enough service, and it still shows that things are run there, just like here, by people who commute home at rush hour and then go to bed at 10.

        As it happens, I was in Boston just this past Saturday (for a one-day stopover on my way back from a trip to Maine). My wife and I took the T all over the place Saturday night. Our trips on the Red Line worked fine, but the Green Line was a uniform disaster, no different than I remember it from my days living there. I’ll tell my story just to prove that Boston has the same issues we do, despite the rosy picture you paint on this blog.

        First we traveled from Arlington to Haymarket around 6 p.m. We watched six (6) B and D trains terminating at Government Center go by, and waited 13 minutes, before we finally got an E train to Lechmere, which was crush loaded. We never saw a C train. But at least we got on that E train, and it moved reasonably quickly once we were on it.

        After our dinner, we tried to travel to Kenmore around 8:30 p.m. Even though it was a Red Sox game night, the C train that picked us up was a single-car consist. It arrived at Park Street at the same time as a two-car B train. The two, together, were completely inadequate to pick up the waiting crowd, even though it was 90 minutes after game time. After dwelling for about three minutes at Park Street, we abandoned probably 2/3 of the people waiting on the Park Street platform, and were literally smashed against the wall of the rear operator compartment on the Type 8. The B train left the station in front of us. Because of the crush loads, it had to dwell for several minutes at each station. Our trip from Park Street to Kenmore took 20 minutes of unpleasantly being smashed against a wall; we could have walked in that time had it not been occasionally raining.

        At about 9:30 we needed to go from Kenmore back to Arlington. Unfortunately, there was a rain delay at the Red Sox game, during which some of the fans began to leave. The number of fans completely overwhelmed the system. We finally got on the fourth train to arrive at Kenmore after our arrival, in approximately 12 minutes with lots of pushing and shoving, and this time were smashed into someone’s (already occupied) seat. Again, because of the crush loads and long dwell times, we waited for several minutes outside of each station, and our trip took longer than walking.

        Finally, at 11:00, we needed to get back from Arlington to Park Street. Had it not been raining, hard, we would have of course walked. But it was raining and my wife was in nice clothes. So once again we braved the Green Line. This time, we only had to wait through one crush-loaded train before getting another one with room on it. But the trip still took much longer than walking.

        I wish I could say that was just a bad night, but it matches all my Green Line memories very well.

      3. I should have said 12:30, not 11:30.

        Even that’s a bit of a common falsehood, since it’s later for the many people whose later-night journeys would be outbound, and since there many bus options that don’t leave their termini until 1:05.

        Green Line nightmare…

        Absolutely, weekend evenings are one of the times where Green Line service most disastrously fails to match demand. But remember that the failure is coming with 4 interlined services running at 13 minutes or less, and only because the demand approaches rush-hour-type levels.

        Can you imagine what would happen if Seattle had that kind of demand? Actually, you don’t have to imagine; just try to take absolutely anything in any direction after a Sounders game.

        While the T should be running rush-hour service levels every single Friday and Saturday night on the Green Line, it already does do so for Red Sox games. And as long as you’re not claustrophobic, it works pretty well — as long as the start and end of games comes on a predictable enough timeline for them to ramp up the service. Rain-outs totally screw that up.

        So while your experience is not unfamiliar to me, it is the worst of the worst of the worst that can ever happen in Boston.

        And you still never had to wait more than 20 minutes.

        In Seattle, hourly service to a major Urban Village is the new normal!

      4. For the uninitiated, that’s 4 interlined services at 9-13 minutes each failing to meet demand.

        Yes, each.

      5. I think a smart way about addressing late night demand is to extend/increase late night service on Friday and Saturday night and make sure to call attention to it.

        When I lived in Stockholm every subway line had hourly bus service when the subway was closed, but on Friday and Saturday the subway was open 24 hours a day to meet demand and discourage drunk driving.

      6. Adam,

        I know I’m often seen as a lone crank on this blog, but I’m also about the only one I know who even considers walking between the current 17/18 and 15 services in order to extend my night frequency and reach.

        How do you think the other 99% of people — many of them in their 20s and 30s — who live in and frequent Ballard at night are going to react to direct service dropping to hourly and even indirect service dropping to half-hourly. Are they ever going to take the thing again?

        I was one of the ones who actually advocated for my own longer walk… as long as the service was actually frequent and actually fast.

        When I was shown the RapidRide timetables a few months back ago, I specifically told the person who showed me them that half-hourly RapidRide after 11 was only acceptable if the 40 were also half-hourly and staggered.

        Instead, the 40 is hourly after 10, and not staggered by even one minute.

        Is there any way to get the full weight of the STB editorial board behind the unacceptability of this development? Is there any way to get action? I’m losing my mind thinking about how much more of my life Metro is going to be stealing from me starting September 29th. Like they haven’t stolen enough already.

      7. I can’t think of a single transit route that’s better than half-hourly after 11 PM except for the #44 and Link. Most routes aren’t even half-hourly at that time. Ballard is still getting better night service than most other areas.

        The reality is – it’s a lot harder to get people to ride transit at night than during the day. People are less willing to walk or spend time waiting at a bus stop. And service is sparser, which means any late-night transit trip requires more walking and waiting.

        And then there’s the fact that things people do at night are usually with other people, rather than alone. When two people travel together, the cost of the bus fare doubles (in both money and time), but the price of driving or taking a cab remains the same, so the bus inherently becomes less competitive.

        Then, consider that when you go somewhere as a group, even if just one person in the group has a car, everyone will ride in it. So not just one person, but the entire group has to be car-free for the bus to even be worth considering. And even if the entire group is car-free, a group of 3 or 4 can split a taxi ride from downtown to Ballard for a per-person cost that’s just barely more than what the bus fare would have been. If you live car-free, you save a ton of money. And spending $15-20 a month of your savings on taxi rides during periods when the bus service sucks is really not that big a deal in the scheme of things.

      8. Well, the current 15/18 combines to 15 minutes until midnight, so there’s that, and at least a few similar examples.

        “Consolidate” should not mean “delete”.
        And “deleted” certainly cannot be claimed as “improved”.

      9. And you can’t claim that your “urban village” can promote car-free living if you take “people won’t use transit at night” as a given.

        Ballard kept its end of the density bargain. Now put up or shut up, Seattle.

      10. This is the important point from d.p.’s post about the Boston Green Line–>”And you still never had to wait more than 20 minutes.”

        Crush loads are certainly a problem. On a service with that many trains going through at such high frequencies, that is the sort of problem which calls for… (drumroll)… a new subway line.

        Unfortunately, Boston and Massachusetts have been run by forces hostile to public transportation since the Big Dig, and so there isn’t a new subway line. (Actually, restoring the surface streetcar lines might take the pressure off, but that’s obviously not happening either.) Even the most obvious expansions have been sandbagged.

        So Boston has some serious management problems. They are different problems from Seattle’s problems.

    3. You’re ignoring the significant increase in all-day service on both 15th and 24th for a good part of the week. I was expecting the 40 to be half-hourly. I was stunned that it will be 15-minutes weekdays and Saturdays. People complain that RapidRide has decreased general Ballard-downtown service, but the combined D and 40 have increased it majorly for much of the time. If it drops off at 10pm, sorry, but Metro has other even more glaring gaps in its schedule, so other people are suffering more than you. The 11 drops to hourly at 10pm weekdays, 9pm Saturdays, and 8pm Sundays. The 120 drops to hourly at 10pm every day, and it’s a steep hill to alternative routes, and soon Delridge’s night owl will be gone too.

      1. Let’s totally compete in the Olympics of Crappy Transit, shall we?

        The Madison Valley and Delridge have never been promised have never been promised service levels good enough to live car-free. They haven’t upzoned, they haven’t filled in, they haven’t intentionally made parking harder under the implicit (and sometimes explicit) promise that car-free existence would be made feasible and attractive in return.

        Every single person in the Madison Valley has a car. And let’s face it: Delridgers have cars too, even if they’re junkers, and at no point along the Delridge corridor are development patterns such that one could expect to go without.

        What makes the Pathetic Meter explode here are the massive, unequivocal reductions in service that are arriving with RapidRide:

        – Downtown-Interbay-Ballard service (15+18) drops from 15 minutes to 30 after 11:00. That’s a huge fucking deal.

        – Direct downtown-Central Ballard service (17+18) drops from thrice hourly to once hourly after 10:00. That too is a dealbreaker for most people.

        I was stunned that it will be 15-minutes weekdays and Saturdays.

        It’s replacing both the 18 (already 20 minutes weekdays/Saturdays) and the 17 (half-hourly). 15 minutes is barely a break-even point for a location with near-constant demand. This is no “stunning” gift from Metro.

      2. To clarify and repeat: 5 buses hourly (daytimes and Saturdays) are now 4. This is “stunning” and impressive because why?

      3. If it’s any consolation the red/orange buses are easier to see from further away, so it won’t ‘feel’ like fewer buses per hour.
        And these buses have 3 doors. Get it! 50% MORE. That’s huge! And Wifi.
        Did I mention cup holders again?
        I’m starting to feel warm and cozy about this RapidRide stuff.

      4. It’s not replacing the 17. The 61 is replacing the 17. If the 32nd bus service were truly gone, then you’d get your late-evening frequency back.

  16. The problem with losing late evening frequency is not just on RapidRide lines. South Park is finally getting much-improved service on the 132 throughout the day, at the cost of losing service on the mangled old 131. The 131 won’t be missed, at least until evening, when South Parkers are back down to hourly service on the 132. By cutting down the willingness of people to head out and spend money in the evening (as well as leaving late-shifters waiting an hour for a bus, or stranded in the case of Delridge), Metro is helping push the downward spiral in sales tax receipts.

  17. Don Draper worked his magic and did a great job for Metro. What a great ad campaign – people actually belive there is something rapid about RR. The Ballard Line is slower than the 15X, doesn’t do “downtown” only “uptown” (this is the descritpion posted at my stop). The 18local will give the Duck a run for its money as a tourist attraction – what a silly route.

    Meditations on Seattle’s Rapid Ride C&D line rollout, 29 September 2012

    They’re gonna pimp my ride
    Give it a new hue
    Now red and orange will be what I do.

    Goin’ downtown
    Is gonna get fastah
    Don’t think the rollout
    Will be a disastah.

    Naysayers may say
    “What they doin’ with my taxes?”
    But there’ll always be
    Those who grind axes.

    I had long bus waits
    But now I can see
    The light in the tunnel:

    Lookin’ forward to
    More riders, new friends,
    West Seattle and Ballard
    Attached at both ends.

    Way to go to save gas
    Re-think my trip
    Won’t let my dollahs
    Out the nozzle drip.

    Leave the car at home
    Come over to my side
    Flash your Orca Card
    Join my Rapid Ride.

    Cause they’re gonna pimp my ride
    Give it a new hue
    Now red and orange will be what I do.

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