Metro is looking for your feedback on RapidRide I, a major investment in South King mobility that will provide frequent service between Renton, Kent and Auburn. See our previous coverage here.

At over 15 miles in length, the I line will beat out the E for the title of longest RapidRide line. It’ll also probably be the one that passes by the most farmland. For now, anyway. The Kent Valley has seen rapid suburbanization in recent years, and the arrival of frequent, all-day transit service is welcome.

Meanwhile, Metro is taking advantage of this increased increased frequency to restructure some routes in South King. One of the most significant changes would create a mini-grid around Kent Station with some through-routed buses to provide greater connectivity.

A map of proposed bus service in Kent.

Both surveys (RapidRide, S. King Restructures) close on August 25. I’m not a frequent South King transit rider so tell us what else is interesting.

44 Replies to “Metro looking at South King restructures to complement RapidRide I”

  1. I don’t know this area very well, but what I do know is that Carr Road (in south Renton) has long long backups as it approaches the Valley Freeway, even mid-day. Will there be bus-only lanes to help this line get around traffic backups?

    Someone I doubt Renton would do anything like that. After all, there only ST3 requests were to eliminate regional buses from downtown and build a giant parking garage elsewhere.

    1. Carr Road is truly horrible, but there are only a few ways to get up and down the hill, and that creates so much traffic both ways that I can’t see them reducing the number of car lanes to create a bus lane. Nor is there really enough room to easily build out any new bus lanes.

      There also aren’t any good alternative routes. There isn’t a street grid here at all, and skipping Valley Medical Center by going straight down Benson (which would be much quicker to the P&R and transit center!) isn’t a good option as I’m guessing it’s one of the more important destinations on the line.

      I’m afraid it’s an ‘it is what it is’ situation.

    2. Actually the city of Renton will be widening Carr Road to 5 lanes in the coming years. Would be great to have them allocate that extra lane as a BAT/HOV lane down the hill.

      1. I looked it up, and on page 55 of the Renton 2019-2024 transportation improvement program it says they willl widen the road at several locations to 2 lanes westbound (down the hill), and three lanes eastbound (up the hill).

        So yeah. If they proceed as planned the extra lanes will benefit cars going up. A bus going from 108th to Valley down the hill will still have no hope.

        but besides that – the big bottleneck at the bottom of the hill is the bridge over highway 167, and that isn’t going to be widened.

    3. They could only request that because ST is so ignorant of Renton. Renton only asked for what you mentioned, but still they didn’t even get the full proposal. It isn’t even expensive, and Renton paid more than other cities getting it.

  2. I’m curious about the history of Metro serving Muckleshoot. I’ve seen pedestrians walking between Auburn and Muckleshoot any time I’ve been on SR 164. It looks like a big employment hub, and the hotel under construction is just going to make it bigger. Metro route planning seems to imply that it’s not even there! I’m no expert on tribal land transit coordination, but surely this has a history that I’d like to know about.

    1. From my time living in Downtown Auburn, that area is served by 186 for peak sounder commuter hours and 915 for during the weekdays. The area is also fairly low density and outside of Muckleshoot that route doesn’t have much till you get to Enumclaw and even then I’d put it on par with routes like the Black Diamond, North Bend, or Darrington where it serves a so far out of the way community on its routing and has low ridership to justify frequency more than half hourly during peak and hourly off peak. But that’s just my observations.

  3. At Kent Station, is it really necessary that every single thru-routed bus detour in and out of the bus bays? With transit centers everywhere, this is a knee-jerk assumption by agencies across the country, and it has the effect of slowing down buses everywhere.

    For instance, would it really be that terrible to have the I-line just turn from James St. to Central Ave. and stop on the street? It’s only one extra (flat and very short) block for people transferring to/from Sounder, and it doesn’t seem worth having the route detour in and out of the bus bays all day long (even when Sounder isn’t even running) just to save connecting riders one block.

    Similarly, is it unreasonable for the light blue line to just stay on James St.? Again, Metro is proposing to detour an all-day bus to save 600-800 feet of flat walking when connecting to a service that only runs a few hours per day. Is this really necessary?

    1. Yes it does seem over-emphasized. I’d be more inclined to expect any future transit center to be at Link or at least at STRide. Still, I can see why a common transfer point could be useful.

      In this case, I’m also befuddled about why the routes going up to the Highline College Link station are so circuitous. Wouldn’t an east-west route or route segment straight up SR 516 be attractive?

    2. According to past comment section rants regarding other one block transfers (The future East Link Bellevue Station to the Bellevue TC transfer, for example), yes, it would be terrible to ask transferring passengers to walk a short block.

    3. It depends on the size of the transfer node and how high-volume the route is. Bellevue is the second-largest downtown in the region and 405 Stride is a frequent regional service like Link so the transfer between them needs to be close or it makes the overall network inefficient. The Bellevue station is not just a block away from one route, it’s a block away from a dozen routes, including a RapidRide and two future RapidRides.

      1. Also, in the case of Bellevue Transit Center, it doesn’t really feel like a detour. Most routes end there, and those that don’t (271), the transit center is on the way.

        In Kent, getting one block closer to Sounder is a detour. And a nearly useless one for the 18 hours a day when no Sounder trains are running. While some people might make bus to bus connections there, those same connections can be made on the street, and slowing down all routes isn’t worth it just so the people transferring have a slightly more comfortable place to wait.

    4. “why the routes going up to the Highline College Link station are so circuitous. Wouldn’t an east-west route or route segment straight up SR 516 be attractive?”

      I thought the same: the few houses on West Hill have priority over dozens of college students and staff and everybody going between central and east Kent and Des Moines. But there’s another RapidRide planned on KDM Road for Federal Way Link. In Metro Connects it’s KDM Station – KDM Road – Meeker St – Smith St – KK Road – 132nd – 124th – GRCC. (“The Line Between the Colleges”.) I don’t know whether it will make the 2024 deadline because the I will take six years and the KDM line isn’t even in design yet. It may depend on the countywide tax measure next year.

    5. For Kent specifically at least, I think it is worth it. People getting around the valley are already spending a long time on buses, and adding walking in would probably make things slower and more difficult for them. Kent has a huge population (#6 in WA) but people are spread out everywhere. A lot of cheap multifamily housing is out on far flung corridors up on East Hill like Kent-Kangley/516, and other buses that head to Auburn connect there too. Anecdotally: whenever I ride buses from the station I see a lot of people transfer (i.e., leave a bus and immediately head over to another part of the station to wait). If you google-map bus direction from downtown to Seattle to Auburn a number of routes involve either transfers at Kent or Renton transit centers, same if you check locations further out on East Hill (along 240th, 256th, or Kent-Kangley/516.)
      I don’t know how much of a factor this would be, but: Kent is also a lot more diverse than Seattle, at least in terms of language, with roughly 40% non-English speakers at home (https://www.kentwa.gov/home/showdocument?id=6407), making transfers simpler instead of dropping people off in different parts of the neighborhood near a transit center might have benefits. And I’m not trying to say non-English speakers aren’t good at wayfinding, just that it might be another barrier.

      1. When you’re making the same trip over and over again, wayfinding isn’t an issue. Once you learn where to go, you just repeat the trip. It is also the case that a block of walking is the least of your problems when the bus isn’t coming for another 20 minutes. In all probability, the 2 minutes of walk time would be “free”, in the sense that it’s time that would otherwise be spent standing at the bus stop. By contrast, for people that aren’t transferring, the detour is just added time on the bus.

        That said, if there are expected to be more transferring riders than thru riders, a detour may still make sense. But, in practice, this is seldomly the case.

      2. Since I can see it from my window, I’ll agree, there is a lot of transfer between routes that serve the Kent Station bus routes. Sounder is in many ways irrelevant to the issue. It’s that all those little routes that go every which way from Kent Station are heading in directions that people want to go, and Kent Station is just the hub. To bypass that with the most frequent route now being created and requiring someone coming from 104th to walk to the station, or, worse, someone coming up from Auburn to cross Central (which is remarkably pedestrian unfriendly and even more bike unfriendly) to get to Kent Station is to put the convenience of through passengers over people who will use the station to transfer. No one is clamoring for the endpoints of the I; it’s just frequent service to various points along the route. And Kent Station is the hub. The bus should serve it.

  4. Metro should seriously reconsider naming this route “I”. LA Metro skipped the letters H (Hospital) and I (looks like the number 1). King County Metro should do the same.

    1. At least it’s not colors!

      “I” is also a lower case “l” (as in light rail). It is ironically the only RapidRide nowhere near a light rail station.

    2. That’s because Renton, Kent, and Auburn aren’t near a light rail station. But they clearly need a north-south corridor between them.

    3. Gonna found a new transit agency with the goal of naming the lines 1, I, l, |, and !. If the system needs to expand, name the next two lines \ and / to avoid confusion (the backslash leans the opposite way of the forwards slash, couldn’t be more distinct).

  5. Ok… That would work. But you got to make more direct access for the buses. It will double the tome trying to merge lanes in Renton traffic. 🙁

  6. The farmland south of downtown Kent is the last remaining bits of protected agriculture land in the Green River valley and is also outside the urban growth area (as an exclave of the UGA), so it will hopefully stay that way.

    1. The sign on Auburn Way says it’s a protected agricultural production zone. That has more teeth than some random fringe lot in the exurbs.

      1. It’s just a place where the bus won’t likely ever stop. I go to the office park directly north of it and it’s not far from there to Auburn’s Auto Row. Which I’ve actually taken the bus to.

  7. The proposal to extend the 906 to Tukwila Sounder at peak makes little sense. What makes more sense is moving the F line to a faster route, and have new peak-only timed Sounder connectors at Tukwila. It’s these kinds of services that would entice route 102 riders. And there’s no reason to have the F line to to Tukwila Sounder Station.

  8. This is not much of a restructure, not like northeast Seattle or Kirkland. The I will standardize the situation on East Hill, where right now you have 15-minute service to Kent Station alternating on opposite sides of 104th like the 3 and 4 used to do on Queen Anne Avenue. It looks like a lot of the reforms are waiting for the KDM line (KDM Stn – Kent Stn – GRCC). I hope that restructure will be more substantial than this one, otherwise Kent will have two minimal restructures and no hope for anything better for decades.

    I hope the peak expresses get restructured. It’s ridiculous to have a Metro express paralleling Sounder when Sounder takes 20 minutes and Metro takes 45 minutes.

    1. The Metro expresses serve a lot of Kent that is not particularly near Sounder and there is insufficient feeder bus service or park and ride space to accommodate.

  9. Most of what I saw in the restructure looked very beneficial for the area: changing routes to make them faster, getting rid of under-performing lines (92, and another one 9xx) and using the money to increase service elsewhere. The I line looks promising. To be honest, most of Kent/Covington/Maple Valley is screwed, transit-wise because of land use (most of east hill is zoned for enormous SFH lots: at 6 units per acre http://cityofkent.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=a8cd81ee741e40b0a7e8e7cdf2ed920b) but this should help a little. Anecdotally, I would frequently her complaints about not being able to park at the sounder station, or about traffic on 167, but for the majority of these people there’s nothing to do about it: they mostly live out in the sticks on giant lots, some as far away as Maple Valley. Running a bus through The Lakes is a good idea I think, and I was glad to see that suggestion. Also, connecting bus lines to the new multifamily developments out on Meeker looks promising too, although I don’t know why anyone would vote for that because those residents haven’t arrived yet, and accommodating them slows down current routes for existing residents.
    The routes potentially getting more service or slight restructures are hugely important: 150 (downtown Seattle, Southcenter Mall, KCHA, Kent TC), 180 (Auburn, Kent TC, Seatac & Light Rail, Burien TC) , 166 (Kent TC, Highline College, Burien). Anything that speeds these up or increases availability will be very beneficial.

  10. I’ve been thinking a bit more, and the more I think, the less I like this route.

    A long-term goal for all four major transit systems in the three counties should be that everyone, and I mean everyone, gets a one-seat-ride to the mass transit system. Including rural areas within the three counties. That seems like a bare minimum to make a system truly useful.

    If Metro isn’t willing to do this for a well-populated suburban area like Renton, Kent, and Auburn, then it seems like farther-flung communities like Stanwood, Maple Valley, or South Hill, will never see any real benefit whatsoever for our $54 billion transit investment.

    It’s not like it would be hard to extend southwest to Federal Way, northwest to Rainier Beach, or northeast to Bellevue.

    1. Yeah, your point seems reasonable. I don’t think Metro has fully grasped the coming transit reality of frequent, high-capacity transit moving at 30-55 mph when it comes to South King. In my mind, this route would be split, with the Kent-Renton segment (Route 169) going west up SR 516 (shoulder bus lane?) to Highline and the Kent-Auburn segment overlapping with Route 150 to Southcenter and eventually the BAR Station. This would create a mega-grid for RapidRide with multiple connections to Link and STRide.

      Further, lots of this route appears to almost reach important destinations but ends up stopping well short of them. For example, how do you get to a Target store on this route? Renton Landing is a mile away. East Kent’s Target is over 1/4 mile off the route. How do you get to Walmart? The Renton one is close at three blocks away, but the Auburn one is 2/3 of a mile away. These stores are big employers and shopping destinations of low-skilled and sometimes transit-dependent people. I would think that there would be requests to push the ends just a bit further.

      I don’t live or visit this area much so I’d have to trust the local observations and transfer data. Still, I see Link as a powerful future draw for folks all over South King.

    2. Daniel observed Kent has a high population but is really spread out. That’s the same problem South King County as a whole has. It’s hard to get in or out of the area or to interesting destinations if you’re not near the 99 corridor. At the same time, South King County’s distances are so far. If you fold map over at Westlake Station, Lynnwood would be in north Kent and Everett would be just south of Federal Way. The centers of Kent, Renton, and Auburn are 3-6 miles from 99, and most of their population live a mile or two further east.

      Metro has some reasonable ideas but they won’t be in place for 5-10 years. This is the same problem as Link: the need is now but the extensions won’t open for 2-17 years. It’s like the gap between UW Station and the U-District. The agencies’ answer is to suck it up until then, and they don’t have the money to fix it if they wanted to, and the last few countywide Metro tax measures have failed. This just leaves us with substandard transit and more car dependency and garages for years and decades.

      I’m not fully sure how to fix South King County’s mobility needs even with significant money, and I haven’t lived in the area so I have a limited understanding of people’s trip needs. If I could wave a wand I’d add a Link line from Federal Way to Auburn, Kent, Renton, splitting in a Y to Rainier Beach and Bellevue. But that’s way beyond the budget.

      Al S. is on to something that Metro hasn’t thought enough about putting the lines where people really are and want to go. The RapidRide route and termini are already set, so there’s not much scope to make it much better. It does just follow the 169 and 180 rather than anything beyond that. So a person on 108th going to The Landing or Link will have to transfer, as will a person in north Auburn going to Federal Way TC, or a person in Lake Meridian or east Renton going to Valley Medical Center or somewhere in the Benson/Talbot area. And this line will be 15 minutes off-peak and the transferring routes will be 15-30 minutes? In the Federal Way case there will be a RapidRide 181 someday. The north Renton case is a failure of imagination. The Bellevue case, that’s too far for one RapidRide line to be reliable. There is a Renton-Overlake RapidRide planned. (Sorry, not Renton-Bellevue as some in Renton have started talking about; the closest it gets to downtown Bellevue is Factoria. To get to Bellevue you’re really better off taking 405 Stride. Unless you live in Newcastle or Newport Hills. Which are so low-density, why are we putting RapidRide there? It must have been one of Sam’s recommendations. Well, the Kent farmland will laugh at it and say, “My square mile around me is denser than that.”)

      1. Thanks for endorsing the concept of a systemic needs and demand study, Mike.

        Another alternative would be to have a Route 101+180 become a RapidRide and have second RapidRide use Route 169 and go up SR 516 to the Highline/KDM Station — maybe even continuing into Des Moines.

        I even wonder if the RapidRide F north of the Renton TC should be transferred to this new RapidRide (and this line possibly extend to the NE 44th STRide Station). Then RapidRide F could eventually be extended east along Route 240 or Route 105 or north from Burien to Westwood.

        All these destinations and combinations should have been studied before putting these routes together. Once established, it’s hard and expensive to modify a RapidRide route. Maybe Metro did analyze things — but it sure doesn’t seem that it’s been done or at least explained.

        Given the two to four years from concept to operation, the South King RapidRide program should anticipate STRide and Federal Way Link as open, since they will both be open in 2024 God willing.

      1. I thought there was. Was it on an earlier Metro Connects version that then got changed? Was the KDM-Kent-GRCC RapidRide redirected from KDM-Kent-Covington?

  11. One comment about the 102. They talk about how slow the 102 is as a reason that Fairwood needs a Sounder connector. But it seems like the 102 is not hard to fix.

    1. Skip SODO, and use Seneca north / Edgar Martinez south to access downtown Seattle, like the 143 does.

    2. I believe both I-5 S to I-405 N and I-405 S to I-5 N have direct HOV to HOV ramps, that buses don’t use except to access South Base. Seems like a good way to provide faster service to S. Renton.

    3. S Renton P&R is just two signals after the bus exits 405. This same path will be used by the future Stride line.

    4. Continue to Fairwood. Maybe service hour savings from shorter travel time will fund more trips to Fairwood.

    1. The 101 is already slow; it’s 40 minutes between downtown and South Renton P&R, so the 102 can only be longer than that. That’s the general problem with South King County I was alluding to. Renton should be 20-30 minutes given its distance and transit’s SOV competitor. But none of the proposed systems will achieve that. Link is already 28 minutes at Rainier Beach or 35 minutes at TIB (from Westlake), so that only gives 10-12 minutes for a bus (including transfer) to match the 101, and it really should be better than that. Kent has the same problem: the 150 takes 45-55 minutes, but Link already takes 38 minutes to SeaTac and will probably be 45 at KDM, so the 180 can’t match that except with zero transfer wait (ha ha), and the 180 is already pretty fast and can’t get much faster, yet Kent’s travel time really should be 20-30 minutes but there’s no way to do it. The peak-express buses take 45 minutes so that’s no help. Ah, but there’s Sounder. But making Sounder 30-minute frequent would require a billionaire’s endowment, and 15-minute service is even more out of reach. So South King County is basically screwed except the lucky part near 99.

      The main reason for a 102 Sounder replacement is efficiency, not the speed of the 102. Fairwood is the furthest east of anything resembling a population concentration, so it and the rest of eastern Renton should have as fast a connection to Sounder and the upcoming Renton TC as possible.

      1. Can’t we get light rail in the Y method you mentioned? They spent enough for the north, the entire ST3 was for the north. ST4 should be for the south.

  12. Looks much like the current routing if the 169. Wish it would run closer to IKEA and some of the other popular destinations near East Valley highway.
    (I remember wishing the same for the F line.)

    1. IKEA needs some better route. Metro’s 2025 plan has a 30-minute route. (Des Moines – SeaTac – Southcenter – Carr Rd – Fairwood). That area was farmland and Boeing until the 1970s, and Renton did a really unwalkable job of renovating it.

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