West Seattle’s transit future: Metro shows off first RapidRide bus

(WSB photos by Jonathan Stumpf)
Metro showed off its first RapidRide bus this morning – the type that will be serving West Seattle in two years — and announced new federal funding. Here’s the shelter prototype that also was shown off:

And here’s County Executive Ron Sims at the podium, in one of his last appearances before leaving that job, photographed along with two of the candidates to succeed him (County Council Chair Dow Constantine at left, County Councilmember Larry Phillips at right, inbetween them is County Councilmember Julia Patterson):

(edited 2:50 pm) Jonathan Stumpf was there for WSB; he took the photos you see, and also reports:

County Executive Ron Sims, County Council Members Larry Phillips and Dow Constantine, and various other transit and federal officials were on hand at 6th and Lenora Avenues as King County Metro displayed prototypes of RapidRide’s new hybrid diesel-electric bus, shelter and fare station.

The 60-foot, three-door bus will provide seating for 48 passengers, LED-displays with upcoming stop information, wi-fi and pay-as-you-board fare collection, with some pre-pay options available at certain stations. County Executive Sims called it a bus people will want to get on, a good day for the suburbs and said that people can now throw away the bus schedule, referring to frequency the busses will run. Metro Transit anticipates them running every 10 minutes during peak commute hours and every 15 minutes during non-peak hours.

Bus shelters will include passenger-activated lights to signal the bus, interior shelter lighting, bike racks and real-time information signs displaying the number of minutes until the next bus arrives.

Funding for this project is estimated at about $180 million. It is a combination of the Transit Now sales tax revenue, partnerships with cities and support from state and federal grants. The Federal Transit Administration announced today that it is releasing $14 million in new federal grant money to help fund the acquisition of the new black, red and yellow bus fleet.

As we noted earlier, we also have the county’s detailed news release about today’s announcement/display has just come in; read on for that:

As King County Metro Transit grapples with one of the worst revenue shortfalls in its history, the arrival of nearly $14 million in new federal grant money couldn’t have come at a better time. That funding, announced today by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), comes as Metro prepares to road test the latest addition to its fleet – a cost-effective state-of-the-art hybrid bus that will move Metro’s new “RapidRide” service one step closer to reality.

On day two of a major national public transportation conference being held in Seattle, acting FTA Administrator Matt Welbes announced his agency is immediately releasing $13.8 million dollars to help fund the acquisition of new articulated hybrid-electric coaches and other system improvements to support Metro’s first RapidRide line. The funding will help pay for 16 new buses, various station and shelter enhancements and real-time information systems for the “A Line” serving the cities of Tukwila, Sea Tac, Des Moines, Kent and Federal Way beginning in 2010.

“The release of federal funding and arrival of this new coach will help
Metro deliver on its promise of offering more frequent, all-day bus
rapid transit (BRT) service on five of the county’s busiest transit
corridors as part of its “Transit Now” program,” King County Executive
Ron Sims said. “While a steep decline in operating revenues threatens
many Metro programs and services by 2010, RapidRide remains a solid
investment that must be preserved in order to serve some of the most
densely populated high ridership areas in our county.”

Sims, transit officials and county councilmembers got their first look
today at the prototype bus about to become the workhorse of Metro’s new
RapidRide service. Its look is distinctively different from others in
the transit fleet. The sleek red and yellow coach is equipped with three
doors to speed boarding, 48 seats, a roomy interior and hybrid-electric
engine that delivers fuel economy and reduced emissions. Also unveiled
today was a prototype of the new shelter design that will further
distinguish Metro’s future BRT corridors.

The RapidRide prototype is the first of 100 buses, manufactured by New
Flyer of America, scheduled to arrive over the next few years. The
buses are designed to be both efficient to operate and convenient for

In fact, efficiency is a key element of RapidRide as Metro struggles to
cope with shrinking revenues. Early BRT investments along Aurora Avenue
North have been successful in providing more frequent service to large
numbers of transit riders at a highly efficient cost. Everything about
RapidRide – the buses, the stops, the way it operates – is being
designed to keep people moving quickly and comfortably in heavily used
transit corridors.

In the coming months, Metro will give its first RapidRide coach a full
workout. It will be put through a full battery of road tests to simulate
a variety of conditions, including full passenger loads on some of the
county’s most challenging counterbalances, hills and curves. The first
16 buses will be deployed on the “A” Line serving Tukwila to Federal Way
via Pacific Highway South beginning in mid-2010. Additional Metro
RapidRide corridors will include:

* Bellevue to Redmond on NE Eighth Street and 156th Avenue NE via
Crossroads and Overlake (2011)
* West Seattle to downtown Seattle using Fauntleroy Way SW,
California Avenue SW, and State Route 99 (2011)
* Ballard to Uptown and downtown Seattle along 15th Avenue NW
* Aurora Avenue N (State Route 99) between Shoreline and downtown
Seattle (2013)

As Metro continues to develop its RapidRide service, it hopes new
transit financing tools approved during the past legislative session
will help it avoid cutting other vital transit services.

“When our economy emerges from recession, we must have the necessary
transit improvements in place to meet the travel demands of a new
decade,” Sims said. “That means making smart decisions now so Metro can
continue to build on the work has already started.”

29 Replies to "West Seattle's transit future: Metro shows off first RapidRide bus"

  • Dis May 4, 2009 (1:45 pm)

    curious where these buses are manufactured? what country?

  • wseye May 4, 2009 (1:52 pm)

    Dis: A very very flat country.

  • WSB May 4, 2009 (1:54 pm)


    mentions the contract. North American companies, not sure what facility. I can send the Constantine staff a question and see if they have the answer … TR

  • Mike May 4, 2009 (2:00 pm)

    “General Motors and Cummins will provide major operating components for the buses”

    the GM part could become non existant, Cummins diesel engine is good but without Chrysler using them now Cummins is going to be a potential to be bankrupt soon too. I have a feeling these buses might not have much for parts supply in the next few years.

  • roguedelux May 4, 2009 (2:11 pm)

    How about rapid transit to the UW? I’d love to cut my commute down from 1.5 hrs.

  • CandrewB May 4, 2009 (2:20 pm)

    I can’t recall exactly, but didn’t we vote on this some time ago? Wasn’t the funding issue settled then? I also remember it going down California from Morgan to the Junction with a stop near Findlay… Or did I imagine the whole thing?

  • WSB May 4, 2009 (2:24 pm)

    Funding is a tangled issue. No RapidRide specific vote. I’ve published the route here before but don’t have the time to pull the map back out now. It’s going basically along the 54 route (which it will basically replace), to Westwood Village.

  • Eilis Flynn May 4, 2009 (2:28 pm)

    Refresh my memory — how will they work when we get snow?

  • KT May 4, 2009 (2:34 pm)

    “In the coming months, Metro will give its first RapidRide coach a full workout. It will be put through a full battery of road tests to simulate
    a variety of conditions, including full passenger loads on some of the county’s most challenging counterbalances, hills and curves.” Perhaps we can get a snow making machine from Snoqualmie to really test them!

  • Jim May 4, 2009 (2:43 pm)

    The New Flyer website has video of a BRT system in action in Eugene. basically light rail without the rails. all set to a David Foster style (St Elmo’s Fire) theme song. newflyer.com Seattle’s system will not have dedicated lanes to that extent. For the most part they will just travel down the same traffic lanes as our cars. But the bus stops will be designed to keep the bus in the traffic lane at the stops. So when the bus stops, everyone stops. Don’t need to stick those little yield signs on these buses. That’s progress, right??

  • MrJT May 4, 2009 (2:45 pm)

    Ellis, by voting out the mayor, thus getting Grace Crunican fired. The crapola service that we got in the last snow storm had more to do with road condtions than anything.

  • cakeitseasy May 4, 2009 (3:07 pm)

    So, let me get this straight.

    It’s the 54 express bus… with a new paint job… that stops at a bus stop with a slightly bigger bench… and blocks traffic while doing so.


  • dwar May 4, 2009 (3:10 pm)

    All fluff and no service!! Fewer stops to replace the route 54. Must negotiate the West Seattle Bridge, how rapid is that!! No service to the northwest sector of West Seattle!! Give me a break!!

  • cakeitseasy May 4, 2009 (3:12 pm)

    Wait a minute, the bench isn’t bigger…it’s just the roof.

  • elevated concern May 4, 2009 (3:13 pm)

    It’s a Rapid Ride to the Junction, ONLY. From there Rapid Ride will follow all of the previous generations of buses in a single lane down Alaska, wait through three traffic lights to get onto Avalon Way so it can finally reach the bridge. Metro, you hub at 35th and Avalon SHOULD BE MOVED to 35th and Fauntleroy, one block so that Rapid Ride can use the arterial Fauntleroy was designed as and go directly onto the bridge, avoiding the bottlenecks we currently endure.

  • cakeitseasy May 4, 2009 (3:17 pm)

    Uh, I did not put that link with my user name in comment above…how did that happen?. WTF?

  • WSB May 4, 2009 (3:20 pm)

    What link? The two “cakeitseasy” comments in the past few comments here show as the same IP address. But cookies are by computer, not IP, so unless you left your computer for a few minutes and somebody else sat down and posted that comment …

  • p May 4, 2009 (3:21 pm)

    is it just me, or does this resemble the oscar meyar winer mobile…..

  • sea-sea May 4, 2009 (3:21 pm)

    as far as the bus-stop prototype goes…how about two levels of benches (the bigger and longer for adults and one smaller and lower for children… and please make them comfortable for all those people who have to wait for the buses!!! Let’s make them classy as well as functional.

  • wseye May 4, 2009 (3:38 pm)

    I’ve seen the BRT in Eugene, it looks very space age, but it doesn’t really do anything better than a regular bus. That is the basic problem with the “RapidRide” system, it doesn’t get people to where they need to go any faster than the existing system. In fact, it is slightly slower, and the bus stops are twice as far apart. How about designing a transit system around the user for a change?

  • Sage May 4, 2009 (4:01 pm)

    Why not RapidRide to the Water Taxi and avoid the congestion of the bridge while solving part of the Water Taxi parking issue by getting people there more quickly? Seems a much better route than getting stuck in traffic getting onto the bridge like every other peak-period route.

  • cakeitseasy May 4, 2009 (5:33 pm)

    WSB – the ‘website’ section in the ‘leave a comment section’ was automatically filled in with website address I’ve never seen before…it just popped in there after I entered my username, mail and hit ‘post’. I caught this with my second post, and removed that field.

  • cakeitseasy May 4, 2009 (5:37 pm)

    WSB: It just did it again. Something is auto-filling the website field on the comment log in.

  • 56bricks May 4, 2009 (5:41 pm)

    Like it or not, we gotta keep these folks working. Isn’t that part of the real goal here?

  • been here a long time May 4, 2009 (6:59 pm)

    I don’t have a car so the bus by any other name is the bus and I’m pretty grateful for any public transport.
    We here in Seattle have it pretty good. We don’t have the San Francisco Muni style bus…. it arrives after trains have left. It stops EVERY block and on my visit, all three busses I was on broke down completely.
    I too would love to see the water taxi used more. I love the fact that they have their OWN direct shuttle. It’s works well.
    I’ve been here when we didn’t have it and people said it was a stupid idea. I think it works better every year.
    If the citizens are all opposed to the bus then …. don’t use the bus if you hate it.
    I do enjoy reading those who have posted viable ideas and questions and not just snotty bitter jabs.
    As far as the money… We’re going to have to replace the models we have sooner or later. I’m glad it’s sooner.

  • Mike D. May 4, 2009 (7:33 pm)

    been here a long time – You are a breath of fresh air!

  • Mark May 4, 2009 (8:13 pm)

    THe appearance reminds me of the movie “The Big Bus” ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074205/ ).

  • Friend O'Dingus May 5, 2009 (6:35 am)

    This is better than a monorail? Morgan Junction to downtown on 14 minutes….EVERYTIME….let’s see this new space age bus do that!

  • Near Alki May 5, 2009 (7:42 am)

    Ya, I was always for the monorail. Seems there was a real concerted effort by our elected officials to squash that thing. I’m really not sure why? I wonder after all the financial accounting was done (purchase land, sell land, admin fee’s, reviews, study’s, etc.)what was the net $ loss?

Sorry, comment time is over.