Much of the Rainier Valley community “doesn’t really want the RapidRide R,” Kidde [of Rainier Valley Greenways] said, adding that they don’t like the reduction in the number of stops, the removal of the Prentice loop at the south end of the route nor the RapidRide-style fare enforcement where officers check payment on the bus. Advocates fear that the new fare enforcement will result in disproportionate enforcement against people of color.
Important source material includes longtime 7 driver Nathan Vass’ essay opposing the R line. It has some valuable firsthand testimony and some ideas I completely agree with. It also has not a lot of data and a weird assertion that RapidRide “counts as gentrification.”
Notably, Metro is going ahead with the BAT lanes, probably the most important substantive improvement. But really, what is RapidRide?
- a minimum level of service all day and night (which the 7 already meets)
- fare inspectors, which should reduce dwell times (even if it still accepts cash onboard)
- some branding that helps core routes stand out from the spaghetti (although current riders have figured it out, and a good map can achieve this, too)
- as Vass points out, it’s a magnet for federal funding, which is a big deal
- stop consolidation (a tradeoff between addressable population and speed)
- road improvements for speed and reliability, but not always.
So from the 7 rider’s point of view, you have a few speed and reliability improvements at the cost of enforcement interactions and longer walks for some (1). Like Vass, I wouldn’t dream of speaking for the average 7 rider, or potential R rider (2), nor would I make assumptions of which they prefer. But it’s not surprising “much of the community” would prioritize the losses over the gains. Indeed, RapidRide is very-low-grade BRT and it’s far from shocking not everyone is in love with it.
Of course, all over the city riders are experiencing that mixed result, as faster buses and federal funding are good for the Metro’s finances. Personally, when I ride the 7 I mostly wish it was faster. My opinion shouldn’t matter that much, but the well-intentioned but Sisyphean outreach process does matter. A Metro that doesn’t make changes it judges to be broadly acceptable improvements, because there are tradeoffs and losers, is a Metro that can’t improve.
That said, if the R is relatively unpopular, by all means kick it to the back of the line.
(1) The route is also shorter: no Prentice Loop on some trips, and Vass points out that the 7/49 interline is quite useful to many current riders. Metro makes few promises about maintaining these interlines, and I wouldn’t presume this particular one is more useful than the alternatives. But a reduced service area is important!
(2) Not otherwise mentioned in this discourse.