Any marketer will tell you that a brand isn’t just what a company says it is – a brand is a set of attributes that gets assigned to a product or service over years or decades of use. Your brand is your reputation. As Martin pointed out last year, we have several bus brands operating in Seattle are: RapidRide, Metro, and Sound Transit.
The problems with the RapidRide brand go beyond the poor choice of
Copperplate Bank [thanks, DavidL & others in comments] Gothic for the typeface. Of the characteristics that make up a hypothetical BRT service – frequency, speed, off-board payments, dedicated lanes, upgraded stations, reduced stops – RapidRide can only make a solid claim to the first and weak claims to a few others. Whatever its benefits, “rapid” isn’t really the salient characteristic of the new service. Especially if you’re used to taking the 54 Express into downtown from West Seattle, say. Many commenters have pointed out, here and elsewhere, that “FrequentRide” might have been a more apt name, if not nearly as catchy.
In his recent STB op-ed, Kevin Desmond noted that RapidRide will evolve over time to include a few more BRT features (off-board payment). So that’s all to the good. Despite the complaints, West Seattleites are using the C Line quite a bit. I have no doubt that SDOT and Metro will keep making iterative improvements on all six lines over the coming years. One hopes those improvements are put in place before the service gets a bad reputation in the minds of the city.
Then again, the South Lake Union Streetcar probably had the worst brand of all time when it launched, and that didn’t keep riders away.