King County Metro 180 at Burien TC
King County Metro 180 at Burien TC

Metro kicks off planning for RapidRide I this week with a presentation to the Renton City Council. The line (#1033 in the long-range plan) will be a hybrid of routes 169 and 180, connecting Auburn, Kent and Renton.  

Like other RapidRide lines, the route will travel on local arterials.  It will integrate with ST3’s 405 BRT project.  Metro estimates 6,000 daily riders, roughly in line with the Eastside’s RapidRide B. The agency will apply for federal funds to augment a substantial $120M capital investment. For perspective, that’s roughly the budget for RapidRide G, which is less than one fifth the length but projected to have at least double the ridership.

Metro appears determined to continue the letter scheme, even though “I” is so easily confused with “1” (although I guess it’s unlikely anyone will board an Auburn-Renton bus when they want to go between Downtown Seattle and Queen Anne).  LA Metro, by contrast, will reportedly skip over some letters for its rail lines to avoid similar confusion.  

Plans call for a much-needed re-evaluation of existing bus service in the area in conjunction with the new line.  Design and outreach will happen this year and next, and service will launch in 2023. 

Update 12:36pm: in the comments, a link from AlexKven to Brent’s 2017 argument for extending the 169 to Rainier Beach. I don’t think it’s essential that every RR line include a Link transfer, but if it can be done in a revenue-neutral way this makes sense.

26 Replies to “Metro Starts Planning RapidRide I”

  1. Too bad their won’t be any rapid ride from the valley to Seattle. Everything I’ve seen is about connecting south sound areas to each other, with the sole exception, for whatever reason, of Federal Way: Covington to Des Moines, Kent/Auburn to Renton, etc.

    1. Looking at Metro’s long range plan for 2040, there is a Kent->Seattle express bus, which could act as an all-day shadow for Sounder when it’s not running. There is also a Maple Valley->Seattle express bus, which looks like it would connect with the I-line in Renton. It’s not great – most of Seattle will be at least an hour an a half away, but if you don’t have to get up there too often, it’s at least tolerable, assuming that Metro doesn’t cheap out on the I-line’s frequency.

      1. Yep. Connect to Link at terminate routes at all points possible (i.e. 101, 102, 169, RR I, etc). The freeway and street grids have become gridlocked, especially at peak commute hours, and especially closest to Seattle. The more service hours we can take off of slow congested freeway and street routes, the better, so we can add local service at better frequencies.

  2. It appears the I Line will be the only RapidRide route that won’t connect directly to the eventual Link Light Rail network.

    1. Yes. That lack of a Linkconnection seems silly. Perhaps Metro and these cities will rethink the routing.

      It would seem easy to simply connect one end or the other to light rail at Rainier Beach or Federal Way — or even tie to South Bellevue (via Factoria). Another concept would be to split this into two routes, and connect one of them at KDM.

      It’s also missing lots of busy locations in Auburn, including the retail/ outlet mall area on 15th Ave SW and Muckleshoot. Extending a long and frequent route less than a mile or maybe 2 to reach a major activity hub would seem to make sense.

      1. I agree the routing is a clunky miss.

        I would actually have the southern portion turn left and head up to Highline Station, and have the northern portion turn left and head to Rainier Beach Station.

        A different RapidRide Line will serve Auburn to Federal Way, including the Auburn SuperMall (or whatever it is called by then), basically replacing route 181. Another RapidRide Line will serve the highly-congested Covington to Highline corridor (with a battle royale coming over getting any sort of bus ROW priority to get it out of that all-day gridlock getting up and down East Hill). A little duplication of Kent Station to Highline couldn’t hurt.

        In sum, turn 169+101 going to Rainier Beach Station into the I Line, and route 180 south + 166 east into the J Line, so South King County can start getting decent connections to the rest of the world.

    1. It would be so easy to simply add “R” to a route number scheme that starts from 1 (R1, R2, R3…)

      At least Metro is smart enough to stay away from colors. We’d probably be nuancing blues or greens or oranges/golds by the time we got to open this line and that would be living hell for colorblind people.

  3. What is the 120 million going to be spent on (the presentation was quite vague)? Is it all service and off board payment stations, or are they expanding the roadway as well? Anyone have a breakdown?

    1. Yeah, it’s really early days, so I’m not sure they even know for sure. But I can imagine that just basic things like crosswalks and shelters will eat up a big chunk of budget on a 15-mile route. Add in some new signals and queue jumps and you’re probably a big chunk of the way there, no?

      1. Not to mention that the buses themselves will probably be a cool $1 million/per by the time this gets underway. Not sure how many buses they’d need, but I can imagine a quarter of the budget is just buses.

        To expand on Frank’s comment, most other RapidRide routes got to take advantage of existing pedestrian and transit infrastructure infrastructure (except maybe F), whereas RR I will connect somewhat dense areas that have little amenities between the dense areas, requiring significant investment to make the routes pedestrian friendly. The multi-jurisdictional routing probably adds significant cost. This is just speculation until they release a budget breakdown.

      2. The A got full BAT lanes on 99, and the E got full BAT lanes in Shoreline. I don’t know whether RapidRide paid for all of it or some of it came from third-party funding, but it wasn’t just putting new buses on unimproved streets.

      3. The A Line got to take advantage of a (then) recent SR-99 rebuild; E line in Shoreline was a similar thing. The initial costs for both lines were significantly less than $120 million, so I’m guessing a chunk of funding came from City and State for the rebuilds, not to mention both came during the economic downturn. $120 million probably also assumes the current construction climate doesn’t get any worse.

    2. Originally the measure was envisioned as a roads & transit package. The proponents were looking at that as way to fund things like widening the Maple valley Highway, which they say is too narrow to avoid buses getting stuck in traffic. I was arguing that any road improvements should do the street improvements RapidRide and the Frequent bus network will need. If this is now a transit-only measure, then maybe there will be a separate roads measure, and we’ll have to see what’s in that. But maybe they’ll still run it as a combined measure.

  4. South King County has over 800,000 people and a disproportionate number of them are lower-income or transit-dependent. This RapidRide line is an important first step. Kent has the highest ridership of anywhere in South King County, and the 169 is its busiest local route. The 180 between Kent and Auburn is similarly well-used. There are arguably issues regarding whether this is the best interline and whether it should be extended north to Rainier Beach and south to southeast Auburn, bu tthose are secondary issues compared to creating full-time frequent service between Renton, Valley Medical Center, the Benson area, Kent East Hill, Kent Station, and Auburn. If we want people to think more locally and shop more locally and travel shorter distances and demand less express transit, then we have to provide the local service to connect their cities and neighborhoods together, just like Seattle has done filling in gaps in frequency.

    If you think it should be extended to Rainier Beach and Auburn, then write it in the feedback. That’s what the first round of public input is for, determining the proper scope of the project. That’s how we got RapidRide G extended from 23rd to MLK, and a debate on whether to continue to Madison Park. (Extensions may require third-party funding.) I’d also write that you want to see meaningful street improvements and transit priority so that it’s faster than the current routes.

    This line does not connect to Link because Renton, Kent, and Auburn aren’t on Link. The reason they’re not is Sounder. ST was up front with them that if they got Sounder there wouldn’t be as much money for express buses and possible light rail that could be more all-day than Sounder. Southeast King County said, “We prefer Sounder.” That’s why there’s no all-day Kent-Seattle express. But, Metro’s long-term plan has a Seattle-Kent-Auburn express to fill that gap (and to address the pending loss of the 578 when Federal Way Link opens).

    This is not the only RapidRide planned for South King County. The 181 is to be upgraded between Auburn and the Federal Way Link station, and a new line from Kent Station on KDM Road to KDM Link station.

    1. I’d point out that RapidRide and Link are all-day, high-frequency concepts. Sounder is not — and probably will never be unless the tracks become owned by the public.

      I could see how a suburban non-user — even an elected official — may think that Sounder is a valid substitute. Still, that would be a political substitute and not one for serving RapidRide riders well.

      Finally, I would acknowledge that this route would apparently connect to both 405 BRT and RapidRide F. That will give it some connectivity to the regional high-frequency network — but still will require a transfer.

      1. Sounder has the ability to provide a great level of service, with a few upgrades, including better weekday evening coverage for Amazombies stuck late at work, or nurses working a 12-hour shift at Harborview or UW.

        What South King really needs is adequate local service. As pointed out, 800,000 residents. Our transit service levels here mirror what I would expect from a post-industrial rust belt city with sprawly land use and extremely low transit ridership. It’s nowhere near on-par with levels in Seattle or Bellevue, and that’s problematic. Seattle has had neighborhood service throughout the City dating back decades. South King is built out to well beyond Seattle’s 1970s or 1980s densities, but still suffers with routes that are peak-only, hourly, or non-existent. RR I is a good step in the right direction of getting high frequency on a major corridor. We need a similar boost in service levels out to the neighborhoods located laterally off of RR I.

  5. What are the differences between the north-south corridors in southwest King County (99) and south-central King County (104th, Auburn Way, West Valley Highway)? Does 99 match people’s trips better and make it easier for RapidRide A to serve them?

    My impression of south-central King County is that Renton, Kent, and Auburn are larger cities than SeaTac, Des Moines, and Federal Way. At the same time, the bulk of their populations live a mile or two east of their downtowns, creating a gap that needs more than just north-south transit. Then on top of that, Link is on 99. This sounds like maybe a telescoped-out case of the northeast Seattle situation, where it’s hard for a bus on NE 65th Street or 75th to get to the U-District without violating the grid; and the answer was more service on 25th, 35th, and Sand Point Way so that everybody is within five blocks of a frequent north-south route. (Never mind low-density View Ridge and the work-in-progress on 15th [meaning the 73 is still infrequent].) So arguably southeast King County needs strong east-west routes from the eastern residential areas to Link. But that doesn’t negate the north-south demand that RR I is trying to address.

    North Auburn is mostly industrial, car dealerships, and strip malls, so I don’t see a huge need for a one-seat ride from there to Link. But Kent East Hill and the Benson area are where residents live so they’d want more direct access to Link. However, the total travel time to Seattle would still be an hour or more because of their distance from Seattle, and there’s not much Metro can do about that. You’d need Sounder running faster than 65 mph all day to get anything faster.

    I looked up the RapidRides on the map, and the KDM-Kent one continues east to KK Road & 132nd crossing East Hill, then south to Green River CC (northeast Auburn). So that will serve one part of the residential-to-Link connection. And the 181 replacement goes from southwest Federal Way to northeast Auburn, so that connects two other residential areas. That still leaves the Benson area and northern East Hill, which would have a 2-seat ride to Link or downtown (via the 101 or the Kent-Seattle express). And Southeast Auburn has only a Local route, so it would have an infrequent 2-seat ride. But getting east-west lines into at least some of the residential areas is a start. And what the Benson area primarily needs is frequent transit to Kent and Renton, which this plan provides. The next issue will be short transfer waits at Kent Station and the new Renton TC. The 106 is already somewhat timed with the 101; I’ve had only a 10-minute wait northbound whenever I’ve taken it. (I’ve never taken it southbound.)

    John Bailo said that a lot of people at Kent Station midday take the bus to Highline CC and that area, and Green River CC and that area, so that shows that Kent Station has all-day ridership in all four directions. He also cited a City of Kent study that most bus trips that start in Kent end in Kent. And he lived right near the 104th/KK Road intersection, which is arguably the densest and most walkable part of Kent in terms of a shopping center and apartments and frequent buses. (It’s the crossing point of the 164, 168, and 169, which go to Kent Station every 15 minutes although on alternating sides of the street.) So those are three data points.

    1. I think it’s great to look at these things!

      One advantage of a BRT network is that route connections can be adjusted as needed once both east-west and north-south corridor stops are built. It’s not like rail, where routes are fixed for at least a few decades.

      It would seem to suggest that most South King RapidRide routes east of I-5 should be L-shaped. Sounder, Link and local activity corridors are generally north-south oriented. An L-shaped layout for each route would ensure single transfers to Sounder, Link and activity corridors, as well as provide north-south coverage for residents on the East Hill who aren’t near an east-west connection.

      Once Federal Way Link has broken found, I expect to see an uptick in South skinflint route restructuring interest.

      1. What L-shaped routes do you want? The precedence is four lines from northeast Kent (104th/108th), Covington (KK Road), northeast Auburn (132nd), and north-central Auburn (Auburn Way) and possibly southeast Auburn (M Street). If all these went to KDM Station, that would arguably overserve the part west of Kent Station, and take service hours that could have gone to making these lines more frequent. You also have to look at what trips they would break, in this case 104th to Auburn. That pair doesn’t seem to have a strong market as I said above, and it has never had a one-seat ride, but we should at least look at issues like that as we consider whether L-shaped routes would be the best, and if so which ones. Currently, the 180 and 164 are L-shaped routes, and the 169 kind of is too.

        If the I is extended to southeast Auburn, it should be less squiggly than the current 180, otherwise all those turns would add time and unreliability. I’ve ridden the 180 there a couple times, and I think it goes by a school and one or two large apartment buildings. I don’t know enough about the travel patterns there to say how necessary those turns are. But as a starting point, what if it went along Auburn-M, A-17th-M, or A-17th-F-21st-M?

        I’m assuming the 181 upgrade would remain as is. I don’t know whether any other route would serve northeast Auburn better, and it has to serve Green River CC for access from the west. That was my dilemma with the 164. To me it looks like a street of houses no denser than the neighboring streets, so I wondered if it was arbitrary, but I did see people getting off at most of the stops off-peak. Does that mean it’s the best location for the route, or simply that people were going to where the bus was? When I lived in Bellevue the buses seemed to be arbitrarily on NE 8th Street and 164th Ave NE, and that was lucky for the people near those streets but unlucky for people in the equally-dense rest of the city, so it seemed like an unfair advantage. (I was lucky enough to live on one of those routes, but I walked to people’s houses who weren’t, and felt like I’d never want to live there and what was it like for them?)

      2. I don’t have a specific route in mind. It’s just a general comment about getting people directly to Link, Sounder and commercial districts — rather than make a rider transfer twice when using Link or Sounder.

        I know it flies against the ideal of a grid system that some desire to see. However that grid system concept is designed for urban areas and not suburban ones where grids are fairly wide and on-street transfers require crossing many lanes of higher-speed traffic.

      3. My main concern about transfers is avoiding a long wait. I have to take an hour-long slow bus because if I take any of the more direct ones that transfer to it. I end up just missing it and having to wait 15-20 minutes with no bench or shelter so I have to stand the whole time. If all the RapidRide and Frequent lines in Kent are 15 minutes, then will someone on northern 104th have to wait 15 minutes at Kent Station to get a bus to KDM Station. Also, transfers are more tolerable on longer trips, such as 20+20 minutes or 30+10 minutes. When they get down to 10+10 minutes or 5+5 minutes, then they can be annoying (“I just got on the bus and now I have to get on another bus”).

  6. The “F Burien” naming was terrible for whoever came up with that one. Grrr “R Burien” or “Z Burien” for example is much better marketing!

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