New details on Metro RapidRide, with opinions needed NOW

January 9, 2008 at 9:53 am | In Transportation | 35 Comments

More than 2 weeks before the Metro RapidRide public open houses in West Seattle, the Junction Neighborhood Organization (JuNO) got a detailed preview of the future service last night, including even the buses’ likely red/yellow color scheme:

rapidridebus.jpg

The buses will look different and so will their main stations and stops, so people will know the difference between a RapidRide bus and a regular bus. But before you get anywhere near riding one in 3 1/2 years, Metro’s looking for your thoughts on decisions to be made in a time frame that’s more like the next 3 1/2 months – decisions that might ultimately affect you even if you are sure you’ll never board a bus:

One big decision is regarding the route that RapidRide buses will follow through The Junction, as their route replaces the current 54. “We want this route to work and be attractive,” Metro project manager Jack Lattemann says, noting that the buses are to come every 10 minutes during rush hour.

Junction-area residents, however, say they want it to work for their neighborhoods as well as for their own use; they say they’re already dealing with plenty of “park-and-hiders” — people who park in nearby residential neighborhoods before catching buses downtown — and they’re talking with the city about whether they can create Residential Parking Zones, such as those you see near the Fauntleroy ferry terminal.

Lattemann suggests that The Junction might have to consider “parking kiosks” — the city “pay stations” — eventually to help “manage” the parking situation, particularly if RapidRide does not follow the same Junction route as the current 54. The two other options under consideration right now could both lead to some parking curtailment along California between Alaska and Edmunds — Rapid Ride buses might turn at Alaska (though Lattemann insists they would work hard to avoid making that the death of “Walk All Ways”) or even stop on California near the midblock crosswalk. If you’re wondering “what about routing the buses along 42nd” — Lattemann says a variety of factors make that unlikely, including sharp turns that the buses would have difficulty negotiating, and visibility issues because of big power poles.

Another decision he says Metro must make within a few months, from a list of three options, is where the RapidRide route will end — Morgan Junction seems to be the least-likely choice, but it appears as if there is genuine debate about ending it near the Fauntleroy ferry terminal versus ending it near Westwood Village. During last night’s discussion, Lattemann admitted that in the big scheme of Metro things, extending the route to Westwood wouldn’t cost that much more — 6,000 additional “bus hours” in a system now running more than 3.6 million “bus hours,” for example. But he says community opinions must be heard now – the routing decisions have to come before the stations can be built and other work can be done. The other major early decision will involve where the bus travels east of The Junction, and there’s been some talk about that already — the alternatives are described in this online questionnaire.

Last night, JuNO president Erica Karlovits implored Metro to keep in mind that the character and density of The Junction will change in a big way over the next few years, with the Fauntleroy Place and Capco Plaza megaprojects taking shape, and the future of the Huling ex-dealership properties yet to be revealed. The Metro reps acknowledged that, for one, a Fauntleroy/Alaska stop or station is under consideration, given how dramatically that intersection will evolve before long.

The siting of all West Seattle RapidRide stops and stations also constitutes a key decision to be made now. RapidRide will not stop everywhere that the 54 stops now, even where the route remains the same, and the most heavily used stops, as determined by Metro studies, will be “stations” similar to this rendering shown last night and described as already done for a route in Ballard:

rapidrideshelter.jpg

“(The stations will) have larger shelters, and real-time information,” Lattemann says — electronic signs telling you when the next RapidRide bus is coming. The stops that don’t become “stations” will be well-marked with distinctive red pylons that he says you’ll be able to see “from a block away.” And the buses themselves, he says, will not just have a different paint job, they’ll be different buses — with three doors that open simultaneously to let people off and on, coupled with a fare system that won’t require everyone to file past the driver and pay or show a pass.

Metro planners are still awaiting some information that will factor into their upcoming decisions; they say a consultant report is due by month’s end. They hope it will be in before all those West Seattle meetings are done. Then, the RapidRide advisory panel, which has citizen representation from West Seattle, will help Metro evaluate the feedback that’s come in, with Metro making these first key decisions in the spring, and ultimate approval coming from the King County Council.

But first, this month and next month, West Seattle RapidRide is in “public outreach” mode, with your next chance to get details and offer opinions on terminals/stops and routing coming at one of the meetings (all listed here). (The Metro reps mentioned last night that a meeting also will be scheduled in Westwood, but we don’t yet have official word on when and where that will happen.) Also, take the online questionnaire, and use the contact info on this page if you have questions for Metro right now. Then when decision time comes closer, be sure to let your King County Councilmember Dow Constantine know where you stand – before he and his colleagues decide whether to go with what Metro recommends. Remember, this is a county service, though coordination with the city will be vital, and discussion last night indicated that’s still very much a work in progress — “I can’t assure continuous coordination with another jurisdiction,” Lattemann acknowledged.

And there are more than a few jurisdictions involved, considering that Lattemann describes RapidRide as “more than a spiffed-up 54 – it’s really a re-do of the corridor between West Seattle and downtown” while acknowledging that what happens when you get downtown, is dependent on what the state and city do about The Viaduct.

But however all that shakes out, once the service launches — target date fall 2011 – it’s up to you to ride it. “We’d like to double the [current] 54 ridership, which is flat,” says Lattemann. “You’ve got to get more of these people [West Seattle residents] into transit – with service every 10 minutes, it will get to be ridiculous with so many people still wanting to use their own cars.”

To help make sure RapidRide service is something that will indeed entice you out of your car, if you don’t already use Metro, your best chance to help shape it is right now.

Want to talk more about RapidRide in addition to commenting on this post? There’s a topic open in the WSB Forums; go here.

35 Comments

  1. No forums for me; I like the blog.
    .
    To be “Rapid,” the bus (it’s still a bus!) has to use the best through streets, NOT the most popular. Insistence on using Alaska and/or California will cause the most local pain in order to get (let’s face it) ferry riders downtown and back.
    .
    Fauntleroy Way is clearly the street this bus (it’s still a damn bus!) should be using.

    Comment by Michael — 10:05 am January 9, 2008 #

  2. Any bus that doesn’t stop at the Junction should be a non-starter. I’m sorry but the 54 is not just for people shuttling between the ferry and downtown.
    As to ridership on the 54 being flat, as mentioned in the article: could that be because it is at capacity? It’s packed every time I ride it.
    The 54 isn’t my preferred bus, but if it’s that much faster, then I’ll ride it more. Hopefully the speeding up of the 54 doesn’t result in further stagnation of routes like the 55 and 56.

    Comment by Jeff — 10:48 am January 9, 2008 #

  3. Not to be superficial or anything BUT those colors are horrid. Why cant they use colors inspired by the Northwest wilderness like shades of blue and green!

    Comment by Jana — 11:47 am January 9, 2008 #

  4. Sorry, Michael, we didn’t mean to make that sound like “talk about it in the forums, not here” – we just happened to know there was an open topic. Will amend the languaging above.

    Comment by WSB — 11:52 am January 9, 2008 #

  5. To clarify, it would definitely stop at The Junction; the only question is where – would it follow the current route with a stop somewhere around Alaska/44th, or would it take a new route with a stop on California, or turn onto Alaska to stop there. But along the route, somewhat like current “express” buses, it wouldn’t stop as frequently as buses generally do.

    Comment by WSB — 12:17 pm January 9, 2008 #

  6. I strongly oppose having this run down California. That’s not the place for rapid transit. We have lots of real estate available down off Fauntleroy now (i.e. gee motors). Plus, by 2011 that intersection is going to look COMPLETELY different and much more built up. One of the major arguments is that if they put the station down there people won’t walk 2 blocks up to the junction (which I doubt). If they don’t want to walk they can wait 5-10 minutes for the 54,55 or 22 to take them up the hill. I ride the bus to work daily in downtown and I’d love to see more routes, but this is not the best solution. They need to work with the city planners to see how the area will look in 2011, not right now.

    Comment by Brian — 12:17 pm January 9, 2008 #

  7. OK….all of this is fine and good…..but until Metro devotes more hours to Seattle (and specifically the West Seattle penisula) and then develops some east – west routes along with buses going places other than downtown we will not see any improvment in our transportation issues. An example would be going from West Seattle to somewher in the area of Northgate. You must go through downtown and transfer to at least one other bus. The commute time is approximately 20 minutes by car but it takes almost 1 1/2 hours on the bus.

    SDOT, King County DOT as well as WSDOT need to come up with a comprehensive plan for West Seattle. As has been previously written here on the blog is that they put all of their eggs on the Monorail and since it has gone away there has been no secondary plan developed to alleviate our transportaiton problems. With our ever increasing density the traffic backups on 35th, Delridge and other major routes in West Seattle will only grow more unmannageable over time.

    Comment by Pete — 12:20 pm January 9, 2008 #

  8. Why don’t they just add more express buses to the existing routes? Why spend all this money on studies, special buses, and new stations when it seems to me like hardly anything will change except what happens at the Junction?? The only bus I take is the 21 (I’d have to walk 15 minutes to catch the 54) and the 21 express is packed to the gills every morning and doesn’t run often enough in my opinion. Metro needs to add more buses to the routes where the city is letting developers build. This seems like a cheaper alternative than this ‘Rapid Ride’. This seems so stupid to me I can’t believe Sound Transit isn’t behind it.

    Comment by m — 12:46 pm January 9, 2008 #

  9. Ditto the first comment on this bus using Fauntleroy.

    For purely personal reasons I’d be more likely to forego my usual stop on 35th (currently ride the 21) and walk a bit farther to get to a stop on Fauntleroy.

    Comment by SA — 12:54 pm January 9, 2008 #

  10. Good lord. Let us count how many variations of mass transit this area will have if this RapidRide takes hold. 1) Metro city buses 2) ST Express buses 3) Link light rail 4) Streetcar – which will likely expand soon 5) RapidRide. I am a regular bus commuter and this is nuts. Why can’t they plan an integrated system? Totally new and different bus stops in addition to those existing – in the Junction instead of using current 54 stops? Ok, it’s cheaper in the meantime than getting some sort of rail system over here, but it won’t do a dang thing for easing congestion. The RapidRide will be no faster, and likely slower, than the current 54x. Expand the CURRENT bus system and install more bus dedicated lanes. THAT would be a rapid ride.

    Comment by Al — 1:38 pm January 9, 2008 #

  11. My understanding from a quick comment during yesterday’s City Council Transportation Committee is that the fares may be bought using kiosks very similar to the new green parking kiosks that have been installed around town.

    They’re looking at implementing something like this for the SLUT.

    Paying for fares this way is not only good for boarding passengers quickly, but the kiosks could allow folks to pay for bus fares with debit/credit cards!

    Comment by Mickymse — 2:01 pm January 9, 2008 #

  12. The Metro folks last night said that ticket machines are their preferred option, among “staff,” but implied that they may not have total buy-in elsewhere in the agency. Whatever the case, they’re definitely looking at some method of fare payment that will include a sort of honor system, with employees riding the buses to do spot checks and provide security.

    Comment by WSB — 2:28 pm January 9, 2008 #

  13. This idea is completely bassakwards to me. The solution is much simpler and can apply to just about any express bus in West Seattle, or anywhere. With our current system, both the express buses and the non-express buses serve West Seattle exactly the same. The routes don’t differ until they reach the bridge. So rather than spend millions of dollars on new buses and bus stops, why not spread the express stops out every mile or so so that they serve the sole perpose of getting people downtown faster? Having an express bus stop every 1-2 blocks is very rediculous to me and always has been. This would eliminate any need to spend money on new rapid ride buses. Money would only need to be spent on new bus stop signs that signify that it is an express bus stop. As far as the 54X stopping in the Junction goes, I don’t ride that bus, but it sure doesn’t seem like an express should find it’s way into the heart of WS. Maybe a new express should start at the junction and take a direct shot out while the 54X follows Fauntleroy and stops every mile or so.

    Comment by Ron Burgundy — 2:30 pm January 9, 2008 #

  14. Folks, all these comments are valid and all have weight and many are conflicting. All the more reason for y’all and many, many more to show up at the scheduled meetings – 5:30 to 8:30 pm on Thursday, Jan 24, at the Hall at Fauntleroy; noon to 3 pm on Wednesday, Jan 30 at the Senior Center (Oregon@California, on Oregon); and again 6:30 to 8:30 pm on Thursday, Jan 31 at the Senior Center. Jack Lattemann is a great guy and is trying his darnedest to do right by West Seattle and the more West Seattleites he gets to hear from, the better Metro’s outcome will be.

    Comment by credmond — 2:37 pm January 9, 2008 #

  15. Pete, you hit the nail on the head. I would take the bus (westwood area) to where I work, Lake Union, but doing so would add at least 3 hours to my commute each day. I’m sorry I have more important things to do than sit on four busses, from WS to DT – 21 xfr to 70 and vica versa on the way home. Add to that a walk of about 1/3 mile to and from the bus in WS and another 1/4 to and from work.
    Sorry until the bus or other mass transit can match my 20-30 min drive in the comfort of my car, I’ll keep driving.

    Frank

    Comment by Frank — 2:42 pm January 9, 2008 #

  16. BTW – Weren’t the Sonics’ colors red, green and yellow for a few years? Hideous color combination then and still is now.

    Comment by Ron Burgundy — 2:49 pm January 9, 2008 #

  17. Chas – I sent Ellen at Metro (who was there with Jack last night) a note asking about the Westwood meeting they mentioned and she hasn’t gotten back to me except to say she would do so ‘later.’ Do you have a date or place for that, by any chance?

    Comment by WSB — 2:50 pm January 9, 2008 #

  18. Frank, it seems like you probably haven’t looked at all possible solutions for taking the bus from WS to Lake Union. I take the bus from North Greenlake to West Seattle and it’s only 50 minutes.

    Although I agree the bus can be less comfortable than a car, your response is selfish and typical of a lot of people in the Northwest. Seattle is growing and with it comes the need for people to stop relying on their cars. There’s plenty of things to do while you’re on the bus, like read, listen to music, etc.

    I’m hoping that the next step in getting more people to ride the bus will be to increase the cost of getting a license, increasing taxes on vehicle purchases and increases in the punishments for traffic violations (such as permanent removal of a license after the 3rd DUI violation). Remember, driving is a privilege, not a right!

    Comment by Iridius — 3:10 pm January 9, 2008 #

  19. I want to point out that while the WSB is a fabulous resource, if you really want to give your input you need to attend a meeting(s), write in, or contact Metro. Here is the directory link to Service Development, which is the group that does all route and facilities planning, scheduling, market development, and speed and reliability projects.
    http://directory.metrokc.gov/GroupDetail.asp?GroupID=20710

    Comment by carraignasplinkeen — 3:12 pm January 9, 2008 #

  20. As we said in the article above. GO TO A MEETING! FILL OUT THE QUESTIONNAIRE! It’s amazing what weight is carried by the words of those who take the time to show up. Last night at JuNO, small group but important conversation … and ANYONE would have been welcome. We talked about it here in advance, too.

    Comment by WSB — 3:16 pm January 9, 2008 #

  21. 3.5 years..lmao!!

    Comment by Bobo — 3:55 pm January 9, 2008 #

  22. The red and yellow colors come from the red and yellow traffic light scheme and symbolize the buses’ performance in real-time traffic in the year 2011. ie; yellow: slowing down and red: stopped.
    Leaving the green out was part of the prophetic vision of the bus designer.

    Comment by flipjack — 4:21 pm January 9, 2008 #

  23. This public outreach segment is a follow up to the past few months of the West Seattle Rapid Ride Advisory Panel meetings that have been providing great discussions about all the good and bad points of the plan as it currently stands. That said, this is just the initial phase of planning and comments. There is a second phase that will address Rapid Ride as it relates to future Metro bus service in much more detail yet to come.

    Take a few moments to really study what the Rapid ride plan is and come with your comments to the Open Houses that credmond mentioned above.

    However there is one clarification, in addition to the meetings on the 24th and the 30th, there is an Open House on Tuesday January 29th from 5:30-8:30 at the West Seattle Senior Center. The meeting on the 31st is just a meeting of the Advisory Panel, at least according to the latest schedule I’ve seen.

    Comment by Kevin — 9:54 pm January 9, 2008 #

  24. here’s the proposed route map.
    http://transit.metrokc.gov/up/archives/2008/wsea-rr-0108-map.html

    seems odd that it’s NOT going all the way down Fauntleroy as well…and no connection to the Admiral District???

    Comment by grr — 7:38 am January 10, 2008 #

  25. Since there seems to be some discrepancy between the RapidRide “open houses” and “meetings” is there any way to get a concise listing of times/dates for both options? I am assuming that Metro will conduct discussion w/public only at the meetings, correct?

    I have to comment on Iridius’ time table (North Greenlake to West Seattle, 50 minutes). How many transfers does this include? What time of day? Rush hour or off? I live in WS and also work in Lake Union. To work = 54x or 21x (if the 21 shows up or it’s not too full) then transfer to the 70 or the trolley with about a 15 mintute wait time, plus some walking. It commonly takes me 1 hr 15 min to get to work at 8:00 am by bus. And that’s if I make all the connections. Going home by bus usually takes a minium of 1 hr 30 min. 2-3 transfers depending on what bus I can catch. I live EIGHT miles from work. This is why people drive so much to/from W Sea – to get to major work areas other than downtown (Lake U, Pill Hill, Bellevue, Redmond, Renton, etc.) it involves at least, least, one transfer and way too much time. Now, I don’t drive out of choice, and choose mostly bike b/c it takes only 45 minutes. But when I can’t even get to my dentist office in the late afternoon b/c of of reduced schedules in WS I am forced to drive. RapidRide will not give us any more options and just add to mass transit confusion.

    Comment by Al — 9:06 am January 10, 2008 #

  26. Since there seems to be some discrepancy between the RapidRide “open houses” and “meetings” is there any way to get a concise listing of times/dates for both options? I am assuming that Metro will conduct discussion w/public only at the meetings, correct?

    I have to comment on Iridius’ time table (North Greenlake to West Seattle, 50 minutes). How many transfers does this include? What time of day? Rush hour or off? I live in WS and also work in Lake Union. To work = 54x or 21x (if the 21 shows up or it’s not too full) then transfer to the 70 or the trolley with about a 15 mintute wait time, plus some walking. It commonly takes me 1 hr 15 min to get to work at 8:00 am by bus. And that’s if I make all the connections. Going home by bus usually takes a minium of 1 hr 30 min. 2-3 transfers depending on what bus I can catch. I live EIGHT miles from work. This is why people drive so much to/from W Sea – to get to major work areas other than downtown (Lake U, Pill Hill, Bellevue, Redmond, Renton, etc.) it involves at least, least, one transfer and way too much time. Now, I don’t drive out of choice, and choose mostly bike b/c it takes only 45 minutes. But when I can’t even get to my dentist office in the late afternoon I am forced to drive.

    Comment by Al — 9:07 am January 10, 2008 #

  27. Although I wish the route were getting closer to the Admiral Neighborhood, it needs to go where there is the greatest population density. That of course is Alaska Junction. I don’t care if drivers are delayed because of another bus coming through the Junction. The whole point is to get people out of their cars by making it easier for them to walk from their homes to the bus stop, and then to have a quicker and more reliable commute to downtown. No, it won’t work for everyone, but it really needs to attract as many riders as possible to be successful.
    I think it would be great if it could make it to Westwood Village. I’m assuming there would still be a stop at the ferry terminal. The more the better!

    Comment by SLK — 2:09 pm January 10, 2008 #

  28. I just moved to West Seattle a few months ago. I bought in the new “High Point” neighborhood and have been frustrated by the lack of frequency of metro buses. The “express” bus (21) only comes every 30min at the height of AM rush hour. One miss, and it’s ugly! High Point phase 1 has over 500 families…phase 2 is under construction now with even more. Talk about headache if there isn’t more bus options! How will this “rapid-ride” affect us? Or is it only for those who live/work in the junction or who use the ferry? Now I’m considering buying a “vespa” instead of using my car…I can’t seem to get that #@$! express bus! Help!

    Comment by EM — 4:49 pm January 10, 2008 #

  29. I’m equally baffled by the “express” 21 and the lack of planning for 35th. I rode the 21 daily for three years, but stopped a year ago because it’s packed and people were being turned away. So call me “selfish” for driving, but I have to be to work on time and have to be able to pick up my son on time.

    Comment by Oliver — 9:26 pm January 10, 2008 #

  30. I have to consider other cities around the world that are much more dense than Seattle and wonder why its so hard for us to re-invent the wheel. I dont pretend to be a world traveler by any means, but i’d love to talk with those in other dense areas around the world to find out how they manage. Maybe they are more tollerant of walking? Also, i bet they all use trains.

    Comment by Jenava — 11:22 pm January 10, 2008 #

  31. Now that I’m aware of this, I will try to attend this meeting.

    The problem with “mass” transit out here is that nothing comes rapidly enough. I’m encouraged that there’s a route that will be near my house that will run every 10 minutes. I’m discouraged by people who don’t want the buses in their neighborhood street. That’s the whole point! The bus route is near your house so you don’t need to drive so much.

    I think we could also do better with more of those short water ferry-type buses so they could run more. I presume the problem is that the initial investment in the bus isn’t as much as the cost of the drivers, and replacing one of those double-long buses with two or three short buses means doubling or tripling payroll.

    Comment by Mike Flynn — 1:46 pm January 11, 2008 #

  32. I’m all for public transit but…. PLEASE no more huge, articulated buses on Cali. 9 times out of 10 there appears to be less than 5 people in them and the drivers either can’t or don’t bother to pull all the way over to not block traffic.

    Comment by been there — 1:54 pm January 11, 2008 #

  33. There are 3 public outreach events: Thurs, 1/24, 5:30-8:30PM open house at the Hall at Fauntleroy; Tues, 1/29, 5:30-8:30PM open house at the West Seattle Senior Center; Wed, 1/30, 12-3PM information table at the W.S. Senior Center. Representatives from Metro will be there with visuals and information, and they are seriously looking for community input. Advisory panel members will be on hand to record community concerns and suggestions, for discussion at upcoming advisory panel meetings. The advisory panel meetings are closed. “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain,” so get informed and express your opinion at one of the outreach events.

    Comment by Susan — 5:33 pm January 11, 2008 #

  34. I live in front of a current 54 stop on Faunleroy. I am concerned about the new larger red bus stop signs”that can be seen for blocks”. I don’t too much care to have something so large right in my front yard and look at it. I’m all for better bus serve though.

    Comment by Rob — 10:19 pm January 13, 2008 #

  35. Will the Rapid ride connect West Seattle to the Sound Transit light rail at Lander street?

    Comment by TFP — 3:53 pm January 29, 2008 #

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