Several of Metro’s busiest routes are scheduled to be upgraded to RapidRide before 2024, while several others will get speed and reliability improvements but without the RapidRide branding, according to the agency’s latest Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
While RapidRide is a program of King County Metro, Seattle’s 2015 Move Seattle Levy promised “seven new RapidRide+ corridors” in the city, which were pitched as above and beyond current RapidRide in terms of dedicated right-of-way. In the face of budget pressures and an increasingly hostile federal funding environment, SDOT reassessed the levy earlier this year, SDOT saying that while it “can deliver investments on all seven RapidRide corridors…the cost to complete a level of investment that aligns with the higher mobility needs of our growing city and meets community expectations is greater than available funding.”
As Metro and the City work out what they can actually deliver and on what timeline, that level of investment is coming into focus.
The CIP targets four Seattle routes for RapidRide treatment between now and 2024: Madison BRT, Metro Route 120, Route 7 and Route 67/70 (Roosevelt-Eastlake BRT). That those four rose to the top shouldn’t come as a shock. Madison BRT is fairly far along in planning and is a marquee project for the city, both route 120 / RapidRide H and Route 67 / Roosevelt-Eastlake are in various stages of the design phase, and the well-used Route 7 is an obvious contender for any high-profile improvements.
The remaining three routes identified in the levy (the 40, 44, and 48) will still see speed and reliability improvements, but we shouldn’t expect RapidRide branding or amenities like off-board payment on these corridors in the near term. “The [seven] RapidRide lines Seattle identified remain in the Metro Connects vision plan, and upcoming and future CIPs will clarify how and when those routes will be implemented,” according to Metro’s Jeff Switzer.
Switzer confirmed that funding is available for electrifying the 48, though a timeline has not been established. SDOT already put in the poles when it rebuilt 23rd Avenue several years ago.
Outside the city limits, Metro is moving forward with three additional lines by 2027: A RapidRide version of Route 169 (Renton-Kent-Auburn), to be designated “RapidRide I,” a Totem Lake-Bellevue-Eastgate line, and an unspecified “East or South King County” line.
We had high hopes for RapidRide+ when the levy passed, and while the retrenchment is unfortunate, it’s good to see Metro and SDOT moving forward with 4 high-quality lines that show what RapidRide can be, rather than implementing all seven in a more uneven manner. Even without the red buses, however, exclusive right-of-way can and should still be prioritized: creating a transit-only lane in Seattle right-of-way doesn’t require fancy buses or shelters, just the desire and political will to do it.