The recent opening of the sixth and final RapidRide line was an occasion for Metro’s General Manager Kevin Desmond to take a victory lap in an email, highlighting high ridership numbers and customer satisfaction scores as well as federal grant contributions to the project’s success.
To things stand out: first, that RapidRide now accounts for 12% of Metro’s daily trips – 50,000 riders, with nearly half of those on the D&E lines alone. It shows that targeted investments in a few corridors can really move the needle for a large portion of bus riders.
Second, ridership has more than exceeded 5-year targets. Now, of course you can expect anyone whose performance is tied to a metric to set expectations low enough that they can safely knock them out of the park, but the serious hiccups that Metro faced when lines C&D launched make it clear that Metro genuinely had no idea how much pent up demand there was in this city for better transit experiences. Turns out they will ride, and you don’t even have to give them good coffee or good music.
As we’ve been saying on this blog for years, the gap between RapidRide and “real” BRT is fairly large. It stops too often, doesn’t run often enough, doesn’t have much exclusive right-of-way, and launched without crucial features like off-board payment. It was basically just enough BRT to get Uncle Sam to help pick up the check.
Still, some of the kinks have been worked out, the downtown ORCA readers are here, and it’s now a crucial part of the region’s transit ecosystem. So what’s next? As the map at right suggests, the initial six corridors spread coverage across the county. With that task out of the way, there are several routes, mostly in Seattle, that would benefit from RapidRide treatment. Given that Sound Transit is now working closely with Metro and Metro is selling service to SDOT and we’re all one big happy family, there are a few things off the top of my head that these agencies could do to make RapidRide even better:
1. More exclusive right-of-way
2. Faster, more direct service on the D line
3. Bring more in-city routes to RapidRide standards. Contenders might include the 7, 44, 48, 120 and Madison St. BRT
4. More frequent service! 19-minute peak headways are inexcusable
How else could RapidRide be improved? Let us know in the comments.