Mentioned briefly this morning while the meeting was under way – now here are the full details from this morning’s West Seattle RapidRide briefing presented to the Seattle City Council:
Metro is running RapidRide, so most of the information came from its executives, but Seattle Department of Transportation had officials on hand too, including director Grace Crunican.
The briefing also brought pointed questions from city councilmembers including Transportation Committee chair Jan Drago, who is concerned that the RapidRide bus won’t be so rapid — with a variety of stops planned in addition to the “stations” that will be about a half-mile apart. Metro acknowledged that in fact, while certain parts of the route might save commuters time, in some cases RapidRide will NOT be the most “rapid” way to get downtown — express buses will still beat it.
First, the new details: This morning’s briefing provided the first major public confirmation that the RapidRide route will run all the way to Westwood Village; when public meetings in West Seattle began earlier this year, Metro had said there were three possibilities for where the route might end — Morgan Junction, the Fauntleroy ferry dock, or Westwood Village. The information presented today confirms it’s going to Westwood.
Other details of the route — such as the path it will take through The Junction and the Fauntleroy Triangle — appear to be awaiting confirmation.
Metro also revealed that its RapidRide routes will be named by letters. West Seattle is now dubbed “the C Line.”
And a few more features of the special RapidRide buses (artist’s rendering shown above) were mentioned too, such as plans to make wi-fi available, likely for free, to all riders. They’ll all be hybrid diesel-electric buses with bike racks.
In addition to the number of stops, which Crunican acknowledged was a source of tension between the city and county in their discussions of this route — as also was obvious from councilmembers’ line of questioning — there’s another sticking point: How riders will pay. Drago said bluntly that the only ideal way to run this kind of bus service would be for no payment to occur on board. Metro said politely that it’s infeasible to run it that way — there will be “smart card” readers at stations for certain passholders or ticketbuyers to use, but they still plan to make it possible for people to use cash to pay at the front of the bus.
Metro says another round of public meetings will start soon to continue discussing RapidRide details with people in West Seattle — and the official launch is now envisioned for September 2011. Today’s briefing included a few details on what authorities plan to do to meld bus service with mitigation of the transportation troubles expected when the “central waterfront” portion of The Viaduct comes down (not to mention the construction work that will begin on its southern end later this year. Extra bus service is to be added, and “transit priority” will be established on 99 to Seneca.
When all is running as projected, they said the West Seattle line could save 33 percent to 38 percent travel time — a ride downtown from Roxbury, normally 30 minutes, could be less than 23.
RapidRide has its own page on the county website, though it hasn’t been updated in a few months; find it here.