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Monday, October 1, 2012

Not Very Rapid

Posted by on Mon, Oct 1, 2012 at 3:03 PM

Over the weekend, I rode Seattle's brand-spanking-new Rapid Ride lines. I took the D line to Ballard on Saturday and the C line to West Seattle on Sunday. Let me open by telling you where I'm coming from: I'm kind of an amateur transit nerd, having taken both of the other Rapid Ride lines on their opening weekends—my experiences with the A line are here and my ride on the B line is here—but I certainly don't have a head for transportation numbers or any sort of a technical background in transit. I just like taking public transit. It's the first thing I do when I visit a new city. I'm in favor of as many different kinds of transit as possible, wherever people are.

But aside from the fact that Rapid Ride buses are going to be very frequent—with buses leaving at least every ten minutes during peak ridership and every fifteen minutes every other time—I don't really see that many advantages to this new system. You still get the pileup of riders paying at the front door, the buses are still stuck in the same traffic, and politicians get to gesture to the Rapid Ride lines as a symbol that they care about transit, when it's really just the same pig wearing some shiny red lipstick.

I'm especially nervous about the C line, which currently travels to West Seattle on the Viaduct from downtown. At some point—either at the hands of city employees or because of a natural disaster—the Viaduct is going to come down, and the C line is going to be stuck on the same winding path to West Seattle through SoDo as every other bus. In the fairly near future, I'm envisioning two or three of these so-very-frequent buses bottlenecked together on a ramp up to the West Seattle Bridge. And in the more distant future, I'm envisioning some hotshot politician insisting that demoting the Rapid Ride from every fifteen minutes during off hours to every half hour won't really be hurting that many people. It all feels so very temporary, and temporary is the opposite of a good transit system.

 

Comments (46) RSS

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Matt from Denver 1
"You still get the pileup of riders paying at the front door..." You mean when they're boarding? I assume that pay-as-you-leave is a thing of the past, now that the ride-free zone is. (I don't see people paying as they board as being as bad of a hassle that paying as they left, without being able to use the back door, was.).
Posted by Matt from Denver on October 1, 2012 at 3:15 PM · Report this
Fnarf 2
Yes, he means pay upon boarding, which is a disaster compared to pay-before-boarding, which is what real BRT does. The whole point is to load people on and off with as little folderol as possible. Even if it's only thirty seconds, that's five minutes ten stops down the line. This ain't BRT, it's a marketing campaign.

The bus bulbs that make cars stop behind the bus help, because while the bus is still in traffic at least it doesn't have to pull back INTO traffic after a stop, which saves a lot of time. But it's still not BRT.

Which especially sucks if you live near one of the many stops that was removed, as I do. Because now I have to walk more than twice as far to the stop, but I don't get a faster ride in return.

And, of course, there's still no provision or interest in provision of routes that aren't feeders into and out of downtown. I can get across town E-W faster on a pogo stick than I can any Metro bus -- the only way to GET E-W in most cases is to go on downtown and then back out.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on October 1, 2012 at 3:27 PM · Report this
DowntownTaylor 3
@1, on the other Rapid Ride lines (A and B), fare is paid at the bus stop before boarding, but the C and D lines won't have the necessary equipment at the stops for quite some time (a year or two, I think...).
Posted by DowntownTaylor http://www.digitaltaylor.com on October 1, 2012 at 3:32 PM · Report this
Man With Hat 4
Seattle Metro has a revolutionary vision for Seattle transit: Less accessible, less comfortable, and less intuitive buses for everyone!
Posted by Man With Hat http://manwithhat.bandcamp.com on October 1, 2012 at 3:32 PM · Report this
5
Agreed. I asked the Metro rep handing out pamphlets last week at one of the downtown stops how the D line was going to be faster than a 15E or 18E (I could take either) during peak hours given that the Rapid Ride has more stops. He said it wouldn't necessarily be faster, but with better service (more buses). But every 10 minutes doesn't sound like more to me (I leave work downtown around 5pm), so I guess it's just slower. Bleh.
Posted by beaugirl on October 1, 2012 at 3:32 PM · Report this
6
eventually there will be orca terminals at all rapid ride stops, the hope being that most riders will have paid before entering. at some point (probably after the terminals are in place), they're going to allow people to board at all three doors (one more than other buses). and, from the metro info page: "RapidRide buses send signals to traffic lights, so green lights stay green longer or red lights switch to green faster."
Posted by ooo on October 1, 2012 at 3:34 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 7
At some point—either at the hands of city employees or because of a natural disaster—the Viaduct is going to come down, and the C line is going to be stuck on the same winding path to West Seattle through SoDo as every other bus.


Can someone explain why they don't just send the C down 1st Avenue to skip under the West Seattle Bridge and come up the back way? It could skip the entire WSB -> Viaduct AM bottleneck for commuters, surely?

Example link.
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on October 1, 2012 at 3:36 PM · Report this
Eric F 8
Why not pay beforehand? If the city can replace all its coin-op parking meters with card-accepting, solar-powered units, why can't Metro do the same, at least at high-volume stops?
Posted by Eric F on October 1, 2012 at 3:37 PM · Report this
9
It's telling that the website is quick to tell you how the buses are better and have WiFi and air conditioning, but the actual nuts and bolts of the new routes require a bit of drilling to find.

I work in SoDo so those details are kind of important to me. And I'd rather enjoy a single shot ride on an older bus without the perks than bopping between the new hotness and the old standby, but it has WiFi!!! Meh?

Watching this in action, it feels more and more like the pretty buses are simply there to distract people from a downgrade.
Posted by Chris B http://eccentric-orbit.org on October 1, 2012 at 3:38 PM · Report this
10
Rode the C from the Alaska Junction all the way through downtown until it became the D and got off at the Ballard Bridge: some observations:

No way this thing is on an every 10 minute schedule during peak commute. Hopefully this will get better over time.

The pretty new coaches have about half the seating capacity of standard buses. We're talking a double row of strap hanging at highway speeds on 99. If a car cuts off one of these buses and the operator has to hit the brakes hard people WILL be hurt.

They are crowded, I mean Japanese train crowded. If this doesn't level out, this will be the #1 reason people abandon the bus for a car.

I'm hoping things improve as the new routes settle into a routine, but if they don't people are going to be rightfully PISSED and get back into their cars in droves.
Posted by Westside forever on October 1, 2012 at 3:38 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 11
Takes me twice as long to get anywhere.

Literally.

Giving the King Tut get together in Queen Anne a miss now, cause I don't have an hour and a half to blow on getting there. Faster to walk!

Wait. Hmm. That's it. I'll WALK there in 45 minutes INSTEAD! Damn you, suburbanites!
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on October 1, 2012 at 3:39 PM · Report this
tabletop_joe 12
Allow me, a career transit rider, to coin the phrase, "Vapid Ride".
Posted by tabletop_joe on October 1, 2012 at 3:40 PM · Report this
stuckie 13
One of the advantages of the RapidRide system is that boarding is supposed to be faster (http://metro.kingcounty.gov/travel-optio…) due to prepay stations at the fancy new bus stops.
Posted by stuckie on October 1, 2012 at 3:40 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 14
@ 2, 3 thanks for the clarification.
Posted by Matt from Denver on October 1, 2012 at 3:45 PM · Report this
15
@12 I love you and want to subscribe to your newsletter.
Posted by Chris B http://eccentric-orbit.org on October 1, 2012 at 3:46 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 16
Also @ 2, you're riding the bus now? Good on ya...
Posted by Matt from Denver on October 1, 2012 at 3:47 PM · Report this
Original Andrew 17
Why do the interiors of Seattle buses have to be so fucking ugly? They're dark, drab and depressing, especially when its dark outside.

Contrast with the colorful interiors of Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus or London's Tube--these are places that I actually don't mind spending some time.
Posted by Original Andrew on October 1, 2012 at 3:56 PM · Report this
18
The idea that they could cut other Ballard service (17 AND 18 replaced with just the 40) and only run this stupid thing every 15 minutes was obviously flawed from the get-go. They managed to spend a truckload of money--ours and the Federal governments--making Ballard to Downtown service demonstrably worse. The idea that this monstrosity--not off board payment, too many stops, pathetic signal priority, not enough service--counts as BRT clearly means the Feds need to re-define their guidelines.

I'm particularly amused by the notion that every 15 minutes is something new and special. Plenty of regular routes do at least this well or better. the 44 and 48, for example. But Metro's turd-polishing team is presenting this kind of schedule as new! and better! than ever before.

The whole thing is just pathetic. Someone better get fired once the dust has settled.
Posted by David J on October 1, 2012 at 3:57 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 19
So, I've been doing the math, and the fact that it is slower than walking, and MUCH slower than biking, means I'll only use it when it's pouring rain.

Wow.

Talk about social engineering to get me to bike ...
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on October 1, 2012 at 3:59 PM · Report this
Paul Constant 20
@1, sorry about the confusion. @2 and @3: Thanks for clearly explaining what I accidentally forgot to say.
Posted by Paul Constant http://https://twitter.com/paulconstant on October 1, 2012 at 4:00 PM · Report this
Fnarf 21
@16, not very often, but I do ride. I reject the moral implication.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on October 1, 2012 at 4:25 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 22
@ 21, as long as you do that before the moral implication rejects you. Gotta show it you won't take that shit lying down.
Posted by Matt from Denver on October 1, 2012 at 4:34 PM · Report this
John Scott Tynes 23
The new D line stop near my house does have a prepay kiosk for ORCA cards. If you prepay you can board through the back door which makes the front door line go faster.
Posted by John Scott Tynes http://www.johntynes.com/ on October 1, 2012 at 4:51 PM · Report this
24
@3 - Huh? This morning, I boarded the C line after tapping my ORCA card on a reader at the station in West Seattle. What are you talking about "a year or two?"

@7 - You obviously never took any of the buses through SODO to West Seattle when they tore down the 1st Ave onramp to the Spokane viaduct. Going on the low bridge added at least 15-30 minutes to a bus ride.
Posted by TJ on October 1, 2012 at 4:59 PM · Report this
25
Hello? Monorail?
Posted by TerryS on October 1, 2012 at 5:23 PM · Report this
26
#23: Fnarf apparently didn't get the memo that Metro is rolling out pre-pay. But the gripe is all.
Posted by Jizzlobber on October 1, 2012 at 5:25 PM · Report this
27
I use route 3 or 4 do go to work and it still taking me more than 1/2 hr to go from downtown to Harborview.
Just found out that they revised the route and I have to take an even earlier bus to be on time at work.
Bus system is horrible and more than 3,000 people from work uses it everyday to go to Harborview and other hospitals uphill.
City of Seattle should add a rapid line to hospitals on peek hours.
The system nowadays takes longer than a bus that comes from Federa Way.
Posted by Top Hill on October 1, 2012 at 5:33 PM · Report this
28
No more free zone fewer free loaders I think is a good thing. I will wait awhile to see how this all shakes out.
Posted by gberry on October 1, 2012 at 5:34 PM · Report this
Free Lunch 29
@7 - The hard part is getting over to 1st south of downtown, as the downtown portion is too congested to be useful for buses. Back when they used to run down 1st, you could beat them walking most days at rush hour.

So you'd have to come over from 3rd or even further east, which means crossing train tracks. This is what many buses do now, and when there's a train, they go practically down to Michigan to go around it. Or they just sit there. Both options suck.

@24 - My distant memory tells me there was another on-ramp to the bridge from Spokane St. east of the tracks. 4th? Now that would be useful for buses.
Posted by Free Lunch on October 1, 2012 at 6:36 PM · Report this
30
The fact that they advertise as a selling point the fact that there is no more bus schedule while maintaining the same periods between buses kills me. "You don't need a schedule!" I think they're just taking the buses with the worst ontime performance out of their statistics.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on October 1, 2012 at 6:49 PM · Report this
scojomojo 31
They also eliminated BOTH bus lines I use to get to work. Now there are no buses that go to Capitol Hill that I can catch on 1st Ave. But they kept the 99 express, which I've rarely seen half-full, let alone full. When is this city going to realize that people DO LIVE DOWNTOWN?
Posted by scojomojo on October 1, 2012 at 8:36 PM · Report this
32
@ 31

The 12 no longer runs?
Posted by Seattle14 on October 1, 2012 at 11:32 PM · Report this
33
@31: The revisions to the 10, 11, and 12 are arguably the only things Metro got right in this change. Not having to trudge back and forth on 1st will make all three routes more reliable than they were before.

If you live downtown on 1st, you're not more than a couple of blocks from one or all of these routes. Just make the walk to them; I'll think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the improvement.
Posted by d.p. on October 2, 2012 at 12:20 AM · Report this
34
@7: Railroad crossings. You can be stuck at one for upwards of 15 minutes when they're shunting trains back and forth. That's a big problem all over Sodo. And the only other way to West Seattle that isn't the WSB is the low-level swing bridge that frequently opens for marine traffic. Plus that whole area is snarled with trucks going in and out of Terminal 5, especially on Mondays. That whole area under the WSB just sucks. Even with heavy traffic the WSB is the best way into West Seattle.
Posted by TheBadSeed131313 on October 2, 2012 at 1:25 AM · Report this
35
Metro is cutting costs, and slapping a paint job plus a new route tag on a few main lines gives them license to pretend they're improving service when they're actually allowing it to get worse. It's like shitting on your face and calling it a hot fudge sundae.

Metro head Kevin Desmond, like everyone else making these decisions for Metro, doesn't use the bus and doesn't really give a shit how the decline of his bus system adversely affects any of us.
Posted by Gomez http://misterstevengomez.com on October 2, 2012 at 11:16 AM · Report this
36
@ 33 The pay as you enter thing is amazing, been wanting that for a long time now.
Posted by Seattle14 on October 2, 2012 at 11:27 AM · Report this
37
23. Pre-pay is only good at stops with working kiosks (many of them aren't), and only from 6am to 7pm.
Posted by Gomez http://misterstevengomez.com on October 2, 2012 at 11:46 AM · Report this
Akbar Fazil 38
@31, as someone who rides the 99 every morning my bus is often very full. Even more so now that other "get through town from 4th and Jackson" routes are gone/modified.

I know it's only been two work days so far, but drivers need to start educating the idiots who still try to exit out the front. Every single stop for me so far has had to deal with that.
Posted by Akbar Fazil on October 2, 2012 at 12:02 PM · Report this
39
#35, just wait until that $20 "congestion fee" expires. And you know what? This car driver doesn't give a shit about your buses, or your bicycle. Fuck ya.
Posted by Mister G on October 2, 2012 at 1:21 PM · Report this
40
@39 that reducing in-city traffic is pretty cool to me. But then again, I like to look at the bigger picture than 20 bucks.
Posted by CbytheSea on October 2, 2012 at 2:02 PM · Report this
41
38. I bristle at inattentive stupidity more than anyone, but I think it unfair to call people idiots for not being able to break years of habit after only two days. And not just because I did it once already :P
Posted by Gomez http://misterstevengomez.com on October 2, 2012 at 3:50 PM · Report this
42
@36: Agreed. I was referring the 10, 11, and 12 as being the only routes made better in the change, mostly because the flagship Ballard changes were so badly botched.

But yes, the payment policies are infinitely better. Score one for a Seattle agency taking only 40 years to learn to do what works best everywhere else in the world.
Posted by d.p. on October 3, 2012 at 2:32 AM · Report this
espato 43
The awesomest part for riders of the very crowded C line is the hundreds of new condos they keep shoving down our throats in West Seattle. Without, apparently, a thought for transportation infrastructure. Yay.
Posted by espato on October 3, 2012 at 4:30 PM · Report this
44
the d line sucks. rapid ride is anything but. frequent ride is more like it (if you believe more buses are actually showing up - and "on time"). and what is with the 9 18E's running in the evening vs. 6 15E's, with 3 18E's running before the first 15E runs in the evening? i've been a tried and true 15E commuter for as long as i've lived in ballard, and this change is painful. the 15E's are as packed (or more packed) than ever, and the d line is also always packed. rapid ride... 'er, frequent ride, turns a 20-25 minute commute into a 35-40 minute commute. the only real benefit would be the wi-fi - but when it's standing room only with constant jostling to let others move towards the doors, that's blown as well.
Posted by beads on October 3, 2012 at 6:32 PM · Report this
45
the d line sucks. RAPID ride is anything but. frequent ride is more like it (if you believe more buses are actually showing up - and "on time"). and what is with the 9 18E's running in the evening vs. 6 15E's, with 3 18E's running before the first 15E runs in the evening? i've been a tried and true 15E commuter for as long as i've lived in ballard, and this change is painful. the 15E's are as packed (or more packed) than ever, and the d line is also always packed. rapid ride... 'er, frequent ride, turns a 20-25 minute commute into a 35-40 minute commute.
Posted by eternalcommuter on October 3, 2012 at 8:28 PM · Report this
46
I take the D line now at about 1:30 pm to downtown. I've been late to work almost every day this week, leaving my place earlier each day for a new delay. First off... Every 15 minutes my a$$. Also, no app or anything to indicate when the next one will be so I don't know about how much time I'm going to be waiting... They also took out my stop so I have to walk twice as far as before. I've had people completely ignored at stops... I guess rapid ride means not stopping for everyone? Today it almost skipped me but noticed last second and stopped 50 feet past the stop. I miss the regularity of the 15 and 18, they were more consistent, and although they were usually delayed, one always came much more often than this p.o.s. system.
Posted by Luke1138 on October 4, 2012 at 2:16 PM · Report this

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