RapidRide R Concept via Metro

Heidi Groover, The Seattle Times:

The 7 was essential before the outbreak, too. Riders boarded the route 11,000 times a day, making it one of Metro’s five busiest bus lines. But with crowded and late buses, Metro labeled the route as in need of improvements and planned to convert it to a RapidRide line with special stops and signals by 2024.

Now, those plans are on hold. 

As part of its latest budget proposal, Metro intends to pause work on the RapidRide R line to Rainier Valley and several other projects in the wake of financial losses from the pandemic. 

In a cruel twist of fate, given how important Rainier Valley transit continues to be during the pandemic, the Metro/SDOT outreach survey went out just as the lockdowns went into effect. In addition to branded buses and shelters, the RapidRide R would have consolidated several stops and extended trolley wire all the to Rainier Beach Station.

While the RapidRide branding is currently off the table (though federal funding may still be possible?), SDOT is still working on transit and pedestrian upgrades to Rainier Avenue. Many were completed this year and several more are due in 2021-22, though they may be pared back, as the Mayor’s recent budget states that “Levy reductions in 2022 will reduce the amount of elements in scope of work for Route 7 improvements.”

51 Replies to “What’s left of Rainier RapidRide”

  1. What is crazy is that they’ve delayed this line, but kept funding for I line, connecting Renton, Kent and Auburn in 2023. Does anyone believe that is a better value? I don’t understand the reasoning, unless it is purely political.

    1. Equity. A lot of low-income, minority. industrial and/or essential workers live in South King County, and ridership there decreased the least. Rainier was traditionally the center of that demographic but that has now changed. There’s probably also some politics in not wanting to put all RapidRide investment in Seattle. But the most striking thing is the Eastside losing RapidRide to South King County. Many improvements to the 7 can continue anyway, both street improvements and frequency. Next-arrival displays have already been deployed along Rainier, the only non-RapidRide route to get widespread displays so far. As to why the G Madision and J Eastlake were saved instead of Rainier, it’s because they’re further along in implementation, and Metro generally prefers to finish first projects first. (I don’t remember about the H Delridge, was it deferred?)

      1. The 7 bus still very much serves the “low-income, minority. industrial and/or essential workers” riders, so I kind of doubt equity was the deciding factor. Perhaps Rainier Valley having light rail was a factor? Both are key connections, and hopefully the retained 7 improvements will help with reliability and safety walking to/from the stops.

      2. I mean South King County as a whole and the cities the I serves have more people in that demographic than Rainier Valley does, and their transit has been neglected for so long.

      3. I’m with Brandon. I really doubt that the Rapid Ride I Line will serve more low-income, minority, industrial and/or essential workers than the 7. Not even close. Even if the ratio is bit more low income in South King (and I’m not sure that it is) the 7 will serve way more people.

      4. The I is a larger service area, thirteen miles instead of seven. That serves people who would be beyond the ends of the 7 and brings up the population count.

      5. But the most striking thing is the Eastside losing RapidRide to South King County.

        Why is that?

        Many improvements to the 7 can continue anyway, both street improvements and frequency. Next-arrival displays have already been deployed along Rainier, the only non-RapidRide route to get widespread displays so far.

        That is a bizarre argument. The 7 doesn’t need to be RapidRide, because it is already RapidRide-ish? Using that logic, Snohomish County wouldn’t have run their first Swift Line down Aurora (where they could pick up the most riders) but out to Gold Bar. Otherwise, how would Gold Bar ever get the kind of frequency that comes with Swift?

        Sorry, but that makes no sense. If you are going to focus on a corridor and improve it, then it makes sense to focus on the most cost effective corridors — the ones that have the most potential. There are other factors (such as how that corridor fits into the overall network — or socioeconomic issues) but we shouldn’t do the opposite.

      6. “Why is that?”

        Because the equity difference is most striking. And Metro has noticed that Eastsiders are the least likely to ride transit even when it’s there.

        “The 7 doesn’t need to be RapidRide, because it is already RapidRide-ish?”

        No, the 7 doesn’t need RapidRide because it can get future mprovements without the brand. The past improvements are just a sign that it’s possible.

        “Snohomish County wouldn’t have run their first Swift Line down Aurora (where they could pick up the most riders) but out to Gold Bar. Otherwise, how would Gold Bar ever get the kind of frequency that comes with Swift?”

        Renton-Kent-Auburn is not the least like Gold Bar. Gold Bar is like North Bend. We’d never put RapidRide in North Bend or Snoqualmie because they’re way too small, and they’re outside the urban growth boundary. But Renton-Kent-Auburn is the kind of corridor we would put RapidRide in because it’s the densest corridor in a high-population part of the county and has those low-income essential workers. And its transit has been neglected forever: Link is too far west, Sounder runs only a few times a day and is useless for getting around within the south county, and frequent transit has been woefully neglected there.

      7. Snoqualmie-North Bend is inside in the UGA, it’s just not contiguous. Far off in the future, past when we run out of RapidRide letters, a single RR-quality route serving Sno and NB would be nice, particularly if both town centers get some infill. But I digress.

    2. The I Line is not scheduled to have RR service levels for several more years. It pathway was established in September 2020.

      1. I don’t live in Seattle anymore! What does the I line cover and what routes or a specific route, very lost, someone please help me when I return to the Seattle area in the future to visit family.

      2. RapidRide I is from Renton TC to Kent Station to Auburn Station . It’s almost the same routing as Route 160 which was launched last month. It’s scheduled to start in 2023.

        I had thought it would terminate at the South Renton P&R (the future Renton transit center), but the map shows it continuing to the current transit center too.

  2. Off the top of my head, here are some things that happen when a line becomes RapidRide:

    1) Off board payment (for some stops).
    2) More bus lanes or BAT lanes.
    3) Stop consolidation.
    4) Signal priority (do we even do that?).
    5) Route changes (in this case, the extension to Rainier Beach Station).
    6) Branding.

    Here is how I would prioritize them, based on value (but if someone has more data, please share):

    Bus lanes and BAT lanes seem like a cheap way to improve things. The same is true with consolidating stops.

    Extending wire to Rainier Beach Station costs money — this is clearly one of those areas where we should explore running the bus off-wire. It is fairly flat and not that far (well within the battery range). It is an end point, so outbound (towards RBS) the bus doesn’t worry about reconnecting to the wire. Inbound, at worse the driver spends an extra minute or so hooking things back up. The change may actually save service time, assuming the tail to Waters Avenue is cut.

    Off-board payment has two issues. You have to hire folks to enforce the fares, along with adding the ORCA readers. These usually increase fare compliance and save a considerable amount of money — opening up the possibility that it would pay for itself (although I have no numbers on that). As nice as that would be (and it would be great for a run like this) I don’t know if we can have off-board payment soon, although I could see it happening with a few stops close to downtown (much as Third Avenue now has off-board payment).

    I think branding is the least important and I doubt we will have signal priority.

    I think this line can be improved without a huge investment, just like the 40 can be improved without a huge investment. Both should be RapidRide, but that says more about the flawed RapidRide process than it does the importance of those routes.

    1. In general, the more crowded a bus route – especially when you have lots of people getting on and off at every stop – the more of a difference RapidRide makes in terms of active travel time. The 7 is a poster child of the type of route where RapidRide treatment would do the most good.

    2. Right, exactly. Plenty of substantive improvement is in SDOT’s court and that’s still happening (or much of it anyway) despite Metro’s decision to cancel the branding project.

      1. Also, SDOT has demonstrated they are much more capable of incremental improvements rather than large, complex projects (streetcar, Madison BRT), so if anything we’ll get nearly the same improvement as better &faster execution makes up for the lower scope.

      2. Good point about incremental improvements vs. large scale projects. AJ. Sometimes it really is substance over “bling,” though I’d still argue the streetcar would be much more effective as a *complete* line. 1ST Ave. should have been the first thing they built.

      3. Not saying the streetcar is a good or bad project. Just saying that SDOT struggles with projects of that magnitude. Redesigning an intersection or putting a few blocks of a bus or bike lane is a completely different skill-set than managing a $100M project with dozens of interdependences.

        I am also concerned about SDOT’s ability to manage some of the major bridge replacement projects that need to be done (I would put a project like the Fairview bridge replacement as a ‘simple’ project within their project management capabilities).

  3. This morning a certain sustained lightning storm of a worldwide epidemic is delivering a lot worse tragedy than a delayed conceptual change in bus service. Red and yellow paint have a long shelf-life.

    So we’re lucky the service we need to focus on this morning is as old and familiar as it is critical. If after all these years King County Metro can’t make the Route 7 work, it could be time to give Seattle back its own Transit.

    For buses, those low-floored electric “artics” look more than adequate. Might they work better if they were spaced by headway, rather than by runcard? And if drivers were both taught and ordered to maintain coach spacing so you never get a packed bus followed by an empty one?

    And if every convenience store and espresso cafe like the Empire and the Olympia Roasters outlet at the Edmunds street stop could become ORCA outlets, might that speed fiscally-responsible boarding?

    Running battery from Rainier Avenue to Rainier Beach station, excellent idea, Ross. But word out of professional animal breeding. Cat or horse, with a thoroughbred like the WHOLE Route 7, cutting off a tail as beautiful as the wire to Prentice Street is Just Not Done. Just for that, I get that four mile lakeshore wired to Renton!

    Heidi, thanks for your reporting all these years, and congratulations to The Seattle Times for putting you on staff. Maybe a good word from you can make them hire RossB too.

    Now. Does anybody know if the Route 7’s driving roster still includes Nathan Vass? Because this discussion now requires the perspective of some really eloquent first-hand on-the-job experience. Any direct knowledge, worth its weight in gold.

    Mark Dublin

  4. Transit has become like a yo-yo. Modest increases in the 2000s, storm clouds building in 2008, flattening out after the initial Link restructure in 2009, increasing with the RapidRide C/D/E/F rollouts 2012-2014 (which were previously funded), a 2-year reprieve in 2012 with a temporary tax supplement, a sharp decrease in 2014, unprecedented improvement in 2015 and 2016 with Seattle’s TBD and the U-Link restructure, and now a sharp decrease in 2020. I wish the politicians would smooth out the volatility rather than lurching from one extreme to another with little warning.

    1. Fund core service with property tax, not sales or income. ST is OK with sales or income because they have the Balance Sheet to smooth out, but the counties do not.

      Property tax should be used to fund essential services in general (fire. public health & safety, etc.) because it is a highly stable revenue source; WA collects a fix amount per a levy and adjust the rate as property values go up & down, rather than collecting a fixed rate.

      Use sales tax to fund capital investments that can flex up and down.

      1. Mark, the stability of the property tax levy during an economic downturn is a good lesson for those demanding — during good times — an income tax as the primary taxing vehicle. States like CA are seeing a much larger decline in overall revenue than WA. Plus a property tax is much harder to game than an income tax, you can’t move real property out of state, and an out of resident pays the same rate (except in ID).

        Personally I can see the equitable benefits from an income tax, except I doubt it will ever pass a statewide vote unless it is part of an amendment capping the percentage of total taxes to GDP, like in Colorado. Otherwise you get CA or NY, and income tax is just a tax increase.

        On the other hand, although cities are the primary generators of property taxes (and other taxes), by the time the state and county get done feeding at the river’s source there is little left over for cities.

        Seattle does well in state and county expenditures because the county has become an ideological extension of Seattle, and Seattle has such a large representation in the legislature, and has heavy social/transit costs. But cities like Issaquah, Mercer Island, Kirkland and Bellevue pay large amounts of property taxes but get back a tiny fraction, as they do for most taxes.

        Which is why those cities would like to see a modicum of efficiency from the state, county, ST, Metro, and cities getting the lion’s share of tax revenue returned, rather than insults.

        Right now the Mercer Island Council is getting ready to make painful budget cuts (after laying off over 60 full time and part time employees) while residents pay $6 million/year for the King Co. Library Levy despite the fact our library is a tiny house in a residential neighborhood and has a total overhead (for county staff) of around $1 million, and have paid this for 20 years, and $2.8 million as part of the King Co. parks levy even though we have no KC parks, and KC made Mercer Island purchase Luther Burbank park after the 2008 recession to keep it from being sold and developed. We have virtually no intra-Island transit, and the 550 was removed from the transit tunnel five years before East Link will open, when Seattle’s surface streets are unsafe to wait for a bus. Yet we are suppose to pay for transit for everyone else, even a line to Snohomish Co.

        I think the 7 is worthy because of the population it serves, but a lot of the rest is inefficient IMO because it isn’t about mobility for economic disadvantaged citizens and where they live. It is a huge ego trip, morphed into TOD, global warming, and “equity” for those paying the bills.

      2. There are various good policy reasons for an income tax. “Stable funding for essential services” is definitely not one of them.

      3. It’s more stable than sales tax. Sales tax is extremely sensitive to booms and busts in the economy. Even people who still have jobs cut their spending in recessions or delay large purchases, and that has a direct impact on the number of hours Metro can provide as we’re seeing now. That’s what causes the yo-yo.

      4. But I agree that property tax is more stable than income tax and would be a better choice for transit.

    2. Property tax or income tax are two good ideas. I wouldn’t say they’re the only way but that’s the kind of stability for transit we need.

      “the county has become an ideological extension of Seattle”

      Ha ha ha.

      “and Seattle has such a large representation in the legislature”

      You crack me up. If Seattle had a large representation in the legislature our transit would be much better, more like other countries.

      “the 550 was removed from the transit tunnel five years before East Link will open”

      That was necessary to construct East Link. The Convention Center issue accelerated it by only nine months. ST installed a turn track at Intl Dist that’s somehow incompatible with buses. ST might have been able to design it differently, but that’s the reason buses aren’t in the tunnel, and it takes time to construct a light rail line. If Seattle had better and safer surface circulation then it would have been less of an issue, but that gets back to the issue of limited and yo-yo transit funding.

      1. If Seattle residents want to pass a flat or progressive income tax that is their prerogative, although I am not sure it is constitutional. If they want to pass a county or state income tax I doubt either would pass, certainly if “transit” is the poster child after I-976. So we can put aside an income tax for now, and even if one were proposed it would have to be tax neutral to pass, even though it wouldn’t pass anyway with this legislature. So enough about a fantasy income tax (designed for others and not ourselves of course) to fund more transit. The future is less transit, obviously.

        Seattle has by far the largest representation in the legislature so I am not sure what you are laughing about. The world does not revolve around transit, and I think most would think transit spending between ST and Metro is out of whack, certainly during a pandemic/recession, and Metro’s recent decisions suggest they feel the same, for the next five years at least. The state just voted to reduce tab fees to $30, so that is some indication of state sentiment, although some might disagree.

        I also imagine King Co. if so inclined could allocate the new 1/10th cent sales tax increase — very regressive — to transit rather than emergency housing, but those crazy conservatives on the King Co. Council decided even more money for homelessness and affordable housing is necessary, not more money for transit, and they may be right because if the streets are not safe who wants to take transit. Interestingly this tax has an opt out, and eastside cities from Issaquah to Kirkland to Renton are opting out.

        The removal of the 550 from the transit tunnel wasn’t required to construct East Link. I don’t know why you would say that. The 550 still crosses the bridge span, and traverses the streets of Seattle, although it does not have a dedicated I-90 exit and entrance (but does have a HOV lane). If Seattle decided the convention center was more important than a major transit stop, or allowing any bus to access the tunnel, and Seattle wants to let the streets become unsafe, I guess it has that right, but it certainly turns the eastside off when it comes to transit spending.

        If Seattle wants to tax itself for more transit, or at least tax those who have incomes, it can do that, or raise fares, there is an idea That is what it did with the head tax, although that money is going to communities of color to begin with. But it could go to transit instead, if transit is more critical.

        But if you live on the eastside and see what we are paying for awful transit — when transit already begins with so many inconveniences — can you blame those citizens for feeling it isn’t worth it, for them. What obligation do they have to subsidize your transit, especially if so many won’t be commuting to Seattle in the future?

        People almost always vote their best interests, and more money for transit isn’t one of those interests on the eastside, and apparently the Seattle and King Co. Council feel the same right now. Your beef is with them, not me.

      2. Actually, Mercer Island voted against I-976. East King, as a whole, was split nearly evenly. What put it over the top was voters elsewhere in the state, who do not pay taxes to Sound Transit, and really have no skin in the game.

      3. “If Seattle decided the convention center was more important than a major transit stop”

        It was the state and county that decided to expand the Convention Center now. Seattle had no say.

      4. But if you live on the eastside and see what we are paying for awful transit — when transit already begins with so many inconveniences — can you blame those citizens for feeling it isn’t worth it, for them.

        The point of an increase in funding is to make it less awful. Seattle had awful transit. They raised more money, and it was pretty good. The rest of the county has awful transit because they failed to pass a similar measure. That is because the rest of the county is less liberal and has a lot less density. (I also think it took place outside a general election, but I’m not sure). A measure that included only the more urban cities of the East Side (Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond) might very well pass a similar transit measure, since they have seen increased density. But the best chance of it passing would be during a general election. (Look up the history of Sound Transit votes and you can see that *when* the proposal is on the ballot is more important than *what* is on the ballot).

        What obligation do they have to subsidize your transit, especially if so many won’t be commuting to Seattle in the future?

        You seem to be implying that people outside Seattle are paying for transit inside Seattle? Ha, if only. Seattle pays more than its share of all taxes in the state. This includes transit.

        There are people inside Seattle who use transit to travel outside it. But they are dwarfed by the number of people outside the city who use transit to get to Seattle (or within it). As a Seattle resident, I’m OK with that. You’re welcome.

        The world does not revolve around transit, and I think most would think transit spending between ST and Metro is out of whack, certainly during a pandemic/recession, and Metro’s recent decisions suggest they feel the same, for the next five years at least. The state just voted to reduce tab fees to $30, so that is some indication of state sentiment, although some might disagree.

        OK, first of all, Metro is assuming a cut in revenue. This has nothing to with sentiment, but the economy. You raise less revenue when the economy sours.

        Second of all, the state voted to reduce car tab taxes. But the county opposed that measure by almost 60% — and that was an off-year election.

        Third, the county, like the city, is limited by the state in how they can raise taxes. Not only the type of taxes (no income tax, for example) but the amount. I-976 is just one more example. It is quite possible that our taxes would be much higher if we were allowed to pass such taxes. But for whatever reason, folks in other parts of the state want to put a limit on taxes, even when they don’t pay those taxes.

        The lack of tax money for transit is simply the combination of limits on taxation *from outside the city and county* along with the downturn in the economy. It does not reflect the feelings of the representatives, or the people they represent.

        It is quite likely that there will be a much more left leaning legislature this year, along with a third term, lame duck governor. That means that it is quite likely they will allow the city (and county) to raise taxes. It is also quite likely that the city and county will raise taxes, given the chance. It is just demographics.

        Then, of course there is the federal government, who might gladly subsidize transit with a “Green New Deal”. I honestly can’t think of a better value than simply increasing frequency of very bus and train system across the board. Can you?

  5. Most of Rainer Ave south of Hillman City now has a Route 7 bus lane in one direction. This improvement is one of the ways that buses are ascribed the RapidRide label.

    I see some hesitation involving challenges on Rainier Ave itself, particularly between Mt Baker Station and Downtown. Traffic volumes are heavy on that segment all during the day (not just peak hours). SDOT already has planned eliminating lanes on MLK, which will encourage more traffic on Rainier Ave. Taking a lane of Rainier Ave is quite controversial.

    I see the other challenge to be Metro making some restructures upon Judkins Park Link Station’s opening. While it may not impact Route 7 specifically, one plan tied Route 7 south of 23rd Ave to Route 48 as a RapidRide route which would probably mean a different routing system. The restoration of Route 9X (a limited stop route seemingly convertible to RapidRide) is another option that could be considered.

    A final issue is what happens with FTA after the election. If lots more transit funding emerges at the Federal level, this well-performing corridor would be much more likely to receive them to create a RapidRide designation.

    I think a delay until East Link (Line 2) opens is reasonably appropriate. There are lots on details that could be controversial with the communities along the Route and it’s likely going to take time to generate any community consensus, and funding from new sources could emerge.

    1. SDOT and Metro made a strategic decision in the 2018-2019 timeframe when it became clear that Move Seattle couldn’t afford all the RapidRide lines planned. They decided to invest in some incremental street and frequency improvements to a larger number of corridors without the expensive conversion to RapidRide branding. When RapidRide A-F were designed, the federal grants required that they have a distinct brand and level of service compared to other routes. That meant all-or-nothing: both the more cost-effective things like street improvements and full-time frequency, and and the less cost-effective things like a unique fleet of red buses and ORCA readers even at small stops that only get 1-2 people at a time. It probably wasn’t clear then how much the feature of unique red buses would be a cost overhead. Now that RapidRide has been established for several years, there’s probably more flexibility on grants. So ST and Metro are switching to a more incremental approach rather than all-or-nothing. Metro’s long-range plan will have to be revised given the limited revenue, and I’m sure some unbuilt Rapid lines will be converted to Frequent.

    2. Islanders did vote no on I-976. True. It was a very blunt initiative. Mercer Island lost its own $20 tab fee that raised $375,000/year for transportation on the Island. Mercer Island also lost an annual $36,000 state grant for “intermodal” transportation when I-976 passed.

      However studies done at the time determined that Islanders paid around $7.5 million in vehicle tab fees each year above the $30 fee. And still got shitty transit and county services.

      If I-976 is upheld the trick is convincing Islanders to pour some or all of that $7.5 million in annual savings back into Mercer Island, because like most cities Mercer Island has ignored its water and sewer lines, and has several other capital needs. Maybe even our own intra-Island shuttle to make up for the loss of the 201, and lack of park and ride access. Or we could buy the park and ride with one year’s revenue of $7.5 million based on past offers to sell the park and ride to Mercer Island, although the price might have risen to two years of revenue.

      $7.5 million/year dedicated solely to Mercer Island when the net tax to the citizens is the same with the passage of I-976 would solve all our problems, and then some. Throw in $6 million/year in savings from leaving our tiny KC library and forming our own, and $2.8 million for KC parks each year we pay through the new levy, and that would result in $16.3 million each year in additional revenue without raising taxes on Islanders above what they were already paying, half our annual general fund budget.

      The real movement for some on the eastside is to split King Co. into two counties, one west of the lake and one east. My guess is Mercer Island would choose to join the one on the east. If makes sense because King Co. is so large, and the east and west just have different ideas of what they want for their communities.

      1. Daniel, here’s why taxes should be “Progressive” in the fiscal and not political sense. Truth to tell, where transit works in Europe, Bernie Sanders would be Moderate Right.

        Between Mercer Island and Rainier Valley, how what percentage of each population had their home become their car in the Crash of 2008?

        And which address would make the police be more likely to drag you out of court in handcuffs over your inability to pay a fine for the same offense?

        With all due respect to Topicality, I think a great deal would get “straightened out” in our country with an amendment to the Bill of Rights establishing the right to be able to earn (and absolutely not be GIFTED WITH) enough money to earn a living that includes an inalienable place to LIVE.

        And some obedience to Scripture’s mandate to limit time in debt. In the old language, “Jubilee” didn’t mean “Whoopie!” Or even in recognition of that gleeful WAMU liar-loan officer….”WOO-HOO!”

        But I think Mercer Island will finally come to look at its transit taxes like I do mine: Whatever vehicle I need to be using that Day, getting literal trainloads of cars out of my Way. There’s no freedom like making attendance in any traffic jam optional.

        Mark Dublin

    3. Taking a lane of Rainier Ave is quite controversial.

      Yeah, of course. That always happens. But eventually drivers find a different way to get there.

      I see the other challenge to be Metro making some restructures upon Judkins Park Link Station’s opening. While it may not impact Route 7 specifically, one plan tied Route 7 south of 23rd Ave to Route 48 as a RapidRide route which would probably mean a different routing system.

      The different combination you are describing has nothing to do with Judkins Park. It was part of the RapidRide+ improvements that were supposed to be part of Move Seattle (https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/12/21/rapidride-the-corridors/). That money isn’t there (Kubly and Murray lied). I personally think it is six of one, a half dozen of the other. I don’t think it makes much difference how you slice it. Besides, if both routes become RapidRide (and they should) then it is fairly trivial to combine then in different ways.

      The restoration of Route 9X (a limited stop route seemingly convertible to RapidRide) is another option that could be considered.

      With proper stop spacing, the 9 becomes superfluous. It would be silly to run an express for that distance. Just run the 7 more often (everyone saves more time).

      I think a delay until East Link (Line 2) opens is reasonably appropriate.

      Good heavens, why? East Link will have a minor influence on transit for the 7, or other Rainier Valley routes. There are only so many people headed to Bellevue. There will be a few people who take the train to downtown, but only a handful. Despite a much better transfer environment, very few (if any) would transfer to the train if they are headed downtown. Maybe for someplace on the north part of Link (e. g. UW) but not downtown (or Queen Anne, or Ballard, or Aurora…).

      There is no reason to wait. Hopefully there will be additional money from the feds in a few months. The further along we are, the better suited we will be to spend the money wisely. And if we happen to be done, there are plenty of other projects that could use the money (e. g. everything else in Move Seattle we were promised, but didn’t have money for).

  6. Mike, since Topicality is something I take as seriously as my mask, I’m heeding recent cautions about taking transit discussions into the realm of politics. But up to now a lapse hasn’t damaged my credit score, this question’s worth the risk:

    If any driver on the Route 7 started handling their electric sixty-footer as erratically as you’re ascribing to politicians, first supervisor on-scene would start proceedings to end their career- wouldn’t they?

    And with a chain of command that works like clicketing dominoes (major boiler-plate lie about the Viet Nam War) if I still voted in King County, it would be my duty to start recall proceedings against the employee of mine I’m paying to keep the Seven safe, wouldn’t it?

    Since being a voter makes you an owner, your name’s on the company papers. Over all these years, has the problem been training, vehicle maintenance, or both? Either way, fix it or its your fault.

    Mark Dublin

  7. I do have to wonder if Rainier Ave would benefit from having left-door RapidRide buses and median stops every 3/4 to 1 mile — using the RapidRide G type of vehicles. That idea alone could be explored with this delay.

    1. I do have to wonder if Rainier Ave would benefit from having left-door RapidRide buses

      There was talk of that with the RapidRide+ plans (https://seattletransitblog.com/2015/12/21/rapidride-the-corridors/). To quote:

      The TMP also includes this nugget: “evaluate tradeoffs of converting First Hill Streetcar running way on Jackson Street to center-running transit-only lanes to allow for shared RapidRide/streetcar operations and Japantown, Chinatown, and Little Saigon center-platform stations.” The result would be an impressive 33% travel time savings through the corridor.

      1. Would make those center station islands actually useful!

        Having left hand doors for routes like Madison and Rainier would actually make having a different brand within the KCM fleet useful.

    2. I do have to wonder if Rainier Ave would benefit from having stops every 3/4 to 1 mile

      Good God, no. That reminds me of the d.p. line “if it didn’t stop at all, it would be really fast!”. Standard stop spacing in North America is 200-250 meters. That is too short. In Europe, Australasia, and East Asia, the standard is instead 400-500 meters. That is just right.

      For very short runs, it makes sense to make more stops. For very long runs, it makes sense to stretch the envelope. Stop spacing has to adjust to the particulars (e. g. cross streets with buses). Express buses in Europe are rare (they don’t need them). Thus the closest thing to a European bus is RapidRide E, on Aurora. It stops every 400 to 800 meters (a bit long, but appropriate for the area). It is a very long route (longer than average). Yet it doesn’t have an express overlay — it is the only bus on the corridor. The 7 is significantly shorter, so the international standard should apply, which is, again about 400 to 500 meters (quarter to a third of a mile).

      References: https://pedestrianobservations.com/2017/08/23/anti-infill-on-surface-transit/. If you search on “stop spacing” you can find some interesting essays that involve a lot of math, but come to the basic conclusion (you can overdo it on stop spacing). https://humantransit.org/2010/11/san-francisco-a-rational-stop-spacing-plan.html — much easier math, and it again suggests something in that same range.

  8. This will give Metro more time to figure out how to provide a type of service that relies on FEO’s and increased stop spacing to a community that is increasingly anti-FEO and anti-increased stop spacing.

    1. They need wider stop spacing to get faster service, even if they don’t realize it yet. And we’re not talking ultra-wide, just 0.25-0.5 miles, like other countries have on their high-quality regular routes. And it’s not everybody in Rainier Valley who’s opposed to wider stop spacing, just few noisy status-quo advocates.

  9. Sam, Intercity Transit found an effective cure for Fare Enforcement, based on their own traditional double-entry set of Books. Making the source tax revenue puts us all “Money Ahead.”

    And talk about Common Practice: whatever police have the right to demand of a motorist, how many cruisers carry a farebox anymore? And does anybody know the installation date of the last residential pay toilet?

    When you think about it, money itself only stands for value, instead of being valuable itself. Was also a time, in the Middle East, I think, when lending institutions kept track of your account with wedge-markings on the huge circular stones that also ground grain. If robes and kilts had had pockets….that’s why they invented money.

    With what the Pandemic has done to restaurants and retail commerce starting in March, cash money has gone the way of the millstone. True, in its time, thin rectangular plastic had not yet been invented.

    But come to think of it, purpose of both ORCA and Visa are both being relocated from cards to your cell-phone as we speak. Or text. Personally hate it, but am proud of the way this generation of voters is handling this order of change.

    So as they’re forced to invent the exercises to continue their own school-free education, maybe the offspring of my own Route 7 riders can be the ones who invent a fare system both fair and revenue-friendly.

    Turn the project over to them. I think their consulting fees will be reasonable.

    Mark Dublin

  10. How about sending the Roosevelt Rapid Ride budget over to fund Rainier? The RRR no longer will serve Roosevelt and there are no improvements proposed for north of Olive. So the RRR is really just the Route 70 with half the stops eliminated in Eastlake and Southlake. Eliminating stops might make the bus incrementally faster, but not the individual commutes — they get longer with the extra walking.

    1. That’s something you can suggest to SDOT and the city council now because the decision is just being made now. In Metro budget cuts RapidRide expansions Dan wrote, “Metro is cutting funding for the J line (to Roosevelt via Eastlake). But SDOT suggested Tuesday that they would attempt a scaled-back version of the project where the line would terminate to U District station instead.” A lot of feedback that Rainier is more critical could get them to change their mind. When I first heard about it I thought, “Eastlake is not that important, and the watered-down plans won’t improve transit that much because buses will still be stuck in traffic.” Eastlake is important, but not more so than many Seattle corridors, while Rainier is one of the top few.

      I wouldn’t have high hopes because Eastlake is much further along toward completion, and SDOT is clearly choosing to finish the first projects first. But if a hundred people tell the council and SDOT that Eastlake’s resources should be shifted to Rainier, it might change things.

    2. there are no improvements proposed for north of Olive

      Really? My understanding is that there would be ORCA readers (e. g. stations), BAT/bus lanes, stop consolidation as well as RapidRide branding. Basically it would have everything that this would have. That just seems like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

      The Roosevelt Rapid Ride — for all of its compromises — is way overdue. Too many people have worked on that project (including a lot of community input) to just cancel the whole thing. It is bad enough it has taken this long.

      1. The BAT lanes were sacrificed on Eastlake for a cycletrack. North of the Ship Canal SDOT argued congestion wasn’t bad enough for BAT lanes. The 70 is already as frequent as RapidRide (or was until last month’s cuts reduced weekend evenings to 20 minutes).

      2. The BAT lanes were sacrificed on Eastlake for a cycletrack.

        Since when? Last I read, there would be BAT lanes on Eastlake. Not the entire way, but for part of it. There would be more on Fairview (which is clearly north of Olive). The latest detailed design shows both the cycle track AND the BAT lanes (http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/SDOT/TransitProgram/RapidRide/Roosevelt/2019_1024_RRJ_ConceptDrawings_compressed.pdf).

        It isn’t as good as we hoped, but the same sort of compromises are likely to happen on Rainier. It would be silly to suddenly abandon a project that is largely ready to go for one that is in the first stages of planning.

      3. I see one block under the freeway. That leaves dozens of blocks with nothing, which is my point. I spent hundreds of days on the 71/72/73X slogging through Eastlake traffic at rush hour. RapidRide is supposed to get people out of traffic. This doesn’t do that, so it will get slowed down by traffic like the D and E do. That’s hardly a solution to our transit problems. When other countries build BRT or streetcars they give it full transit lanes across the entire length of the route. BAT lanes are a compromise for access to the surrounding lots. The A and E have full BAT lanes outside Seattle. Maybe Eastlake has unique problems due to the extremely narrow shoreline before the hill, but the same thing has played out with every other RapidRide line in Seattle.

      4. Come on Mike. OK, fine, I’ll list the places which will have BAT lanes or bus Lanes:

        Pretty much all of Virginia and Stewart. It is mostly bus-lanes, but there are small sections where there are BAT lanes.

        Most of Fairview. Again, mostly bus-lanes, some BAT lanes. There are a few gaps: Southbound between Valley and Mercer and Republican — my guess is they figured with so many cars turning right, there was no point in creating a BAT lane. Southbound between Mercer and Republican, but that is a de-facto BAT lane (drivers can’t keep going straight, but buses can). There is another gap both directions between Yale and Eastlake. Northbound the lanes narrow to one lane, but there is a queue jump there, before it widens to two lanes. Southbound there is a queue jump as well. There is also a subtle change in the street grid: Northbound Eastlake narrows to one lane on before the merge with Fairview. This reduces the number of cars heading north on Eastlake (while not hurting buses — since buses don’t go that way).

        Eastlake will have very few bus lanes. It will be one lane each direction, with a center turn lane south of Allison. Northbound benefits for the reason mentioned earlier. Buses will travel quickly on Fairview, then after the merge it should be smooth sailing, as traffic has been “choked off”, so to speak. Southbound it is similar. It goes from two lanes to one lane south of the bridge, with a queue jump for the bus. This will slow the flow of cars southbound on Eastlake.

        North of Allison (on Eastlake) there is one block of bus lane. This acts as a queue jump, as the road expands from one to two lanes there.

        From there, over the bridge onto Roosevelt there are very few bus lanes. That doesn’t matter, since the project isn’t going to go that far north.

        From what I can tell, *most* of the route (from the UW to downtown) will have bus lanes and BAT lanes. They will probably be in the worst areas (around the freeway, downtown). There are subtle changes that restrict the number of cars on the corridor, while allowing the bus to move freely (often using queue jumps).

        Then there is the stop consolidation and off-board payment, which will likely speed up travel as much as any set of bus lanes would.

        It isn’t perfect, but nothing in our system is. Not Link, nor our RapidRide system. I can see areas that might be a problem, but those can be fixed cheaply in the future. I have no doubt that buses would travel much faster than today. The work done on this corridor is very similar to the work that will be done on Rainier and is similar to the work done on all the RapidRide lines. Using this logic, we should cancel the H Line, and focus on something else, since so little of it has bus lanes. Sorry, that’s silly. You can dream of having center running buses the entire way, but that is just not gonna happen. It would be crazy to throw away the work that has been done on this line with it so close to completion.

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