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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"There is no real public transportation without dedicated lines."

Posted by on Tue, Jan 8, 2013 at 11:53 AM

When I read the above sentence in Charles' short post yesterday about the COMPLETE FUCKING JOKE that "Rapid Ride" has turned out to be—no one could've predicted that a bus with the word "rapid" painted on its side isn't going to cut through traffic any faster than a bus that doesn't have "rapid" painted on its side—I thought of this headline on the cover of Seattle Times a month or so ago. The headline made me so mad I took a picture of it:


Two things.

First, bus "rapid transit" is now, always has been, and always will be the "mass transit fix" most likely to be proposed and embraced by people who don't rely on mass transit to get anywhere. Bus rapid transit only works if lanes are taken away from cars and given to buses—dedicated bus lanes—and, since that's never going to happen, bus rapid transit will never work.

Second, gee... maybe Ballard commuters would've been better served if we had built—oh, I dunno—maybe an elevated system? Dedicated lanes in the sky? With trains that ran from, I don't know, Ballard to West Seattle?


Comments (40) RSS

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DOUG. 43
@40: Right. Because only white people ride light rail.
Posted by DOUG. on January 8, 2013 at 9:28 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 42
Speaking of the Mercer Mess, all is wine and roses down there now, right, thanks to the streets that Paul and Bill built? Or rather, that we built for them...
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on January 8, 2013 at 6:55 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 41
I think @38 means the Magnolia crowd and the Mercer Mess habitue's.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 8, 2013 at 6:23 PM · Report this
DOUG. 39
@38: You obviously haven't been on a bus in Seattle. There are plenty of yuppies aboard. This ain't Memphis.
Posted by DOUG. on January 8, 2013 at 5:43 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 37
Seattle clearly never believed it was a real 20th Century city that was going to accomodate high volumes of auto traffic. Both other cities I've lived in (Denver and San Francisco) have paired one-way streets througout the city that allow synching the lights and letting lots of cars and busses move steadily at about 25 MPH for a long way. This did not require wireless computers to accomplish, but just the will to ram through real arterials in pairs separated by one block.

Seattle, in contrast, has wonders like 85th Ave NW, where you can be sure of stopping for a minute at a red light every 1 to 3 blocks, while the same thing is happening in parallel on 80th. Brilliant.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on January 8, 2013 at 5:02 PM · Report this
Yeah. "Bus Rapid Transit", especially in this case, really means "we're not going to spend squat on infrastructure to actually fix a problem because it's a problem we don't give a damn about".

You can file claims like that made by politicians under "we have goal X with a deadline 20 years after my term limit". The correct response is "Bullshit!"
Posted by gromm on January 8, 2013 at 4:06 PM · Report this
emor 35

"I could see BRT being useful along highways and freeways, especially if/when there's a dedicated lane for part of the trip"

That pretty much describes Sound Transit Express buses cruising in the carpool lane.
Posted by emor on January 8, 2013 at 3:55 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 34
Wait until they add the backup while people divert away from the SR-99 Tunnel Of Tolled Doom and gridlock everything near that.

You thought it was bad now ...

Time to start planning for actual Seattle citizens and not millionaires and billionaires who don't live here. Prioritize for Us, not Them.

Let Them ride bicycles.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 8, 2013 at 2:36 PM · Report this
California Kid 33
Rapid ride to me is another part of the Seattle Process, which is to find a compromise that no one likes, do it on the cheap and then finally do things ALMOST the right way, at twice the price it would have cost if we had done it right in the first place. We are currently at the "compromise that no one likes, do it on the cheap" part of the process on the Ballard and West Seattle Rapid Ride.
Posted by California Kid on January 8, 2013 at 1:54 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 32

There's also no longer a bus that goes directly from Ballard to Sodo, which is one reason why my boyfriend's commute is now twice as long. What bothers me about that is that it's always been a pain in the ass to get to Sodo from anywhere (by bus), not just Ballard, and Metro cut a few lines that actually made it manageable.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 8, 2013 at 1:52 PM · Report this
@11: Yes.

In general, people like to shave off or play up the beginning and end times from their trips as convenient--the fact that it takes fifteen minutes to get to the freeway from one's home isn't mentioned unless need be. Bus riders know that being able to time when the bus actually arrives can add fifteen minutes a trip if you get it wrong, which is why One Ride Away, while not perfect, is still a godsend over squinting at the schedule which may or may not be correct and may or may not be still intact at the bus stop and hoping for the best. If the only thing that the D line brought was regular ten minute departures, it would be a win.

Unfortunately, they haven't quite gotten there yet, but with some tweaking and/or a few more busses, I'm sure it can be done.
Posted by tiktok on January 8, 2013 at 1:52 PM · Report this
@27: Tell that to the 4.5-minute light at Elliott and Mercer Place.
Posted by d.p. on January 8, 2013 at 1:23 PM · Report this
In the triage of Metro's many self-inflicted wounds of RapidRide implementation, not enough attention has been paid to the massive service cuts that Ballard received in the crucial end-of-evening period.

Between 11:00 pm and 1:00 am, we lost literally half of the service that we had before the change. And the service that remains misses the actual population and two-way demand center of central Ballard by half a mile.

Post-11:00 is not "spoiled drinking hipsters demanding a ride" hours, but "punish you for going to a movie or taking advantage of your own city" hours.

It is profoundly pathetic and has firmly convinced me that our transit provider doesn't give a shit about those who live car-free, or frankly about anyone without a corporate-subsidized pass that gets used only at rush hour.
Posted by d.p. on January 8, 2013 at 1:22 PM · Report this
tainte 27
buses should be faster since they don't have to stop at red lights.
Posted by tainte on January 8, 2013 at 1:16 PM · Report this
Dougsf 26
What @24 said.
Posted by Dougsf on January 8, 2013 at 1:11 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 25
@9 - I just wish sometimes that there were a faster way to do things than finding each and every wrong way before we go into discussions about which wrong way we'll try next.
Posted by MacCrocodile on January 8, 2013 at 12:57 PM · Report this
Baconcat 24
Hooray for single mode agitators who basically ensure a completely incomplete system that fritters away years on whatever single mode gets the most support at any given time while trying to destroy other modes through outright animosity or casual indifference.

Rail is terrible! WE NEED BUSES!
Streetcars are terrible! WE NEED A SUBWAY!
Subways are terrible! WE NEED LIGHT RAIL!
Light rail is terrible! WE NEED A MONORAIL!
Buses are terrible! WE NEED HOV LANES!

No, we need ALL of these things and we need to be prepared to work on any given mode when the money and political will present themselves while not trying to smash the toes of supporters of other modes.
Posted by Baconcat on January 8, 2013 at 12:53 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 23

Bingo! Finally. Somebody mentioned podcars. What did I win?
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on January 8, 2013 at 12:51 PM · Report this
BostonFontSnob 22
In Boston we have the "Silver Line" buses that have a dedicated lane along part of their route. Other motorists just drive in their lane anyway.…
Posted by BostonFontSnob on January 8, 2013 at 12:49 PM · Report this
DOUG. 21
Until the residents of Ballard step up and DEMAND from the Ballard Chamber of Commerce that they discontinue obstructing the Burke Gilman Trail missing link, I have zero sympathy for their commuting woes.
Posted by DOUG. on January 8, 2013 at 12:49 PM · Report this
for the cost of (inflexible 1800s technology) rail, it seems more cost effective in the long run to invest in
1) centralizing the traffic grid (ie, timing traffic lights, etc) using wireless
2) invest in developing autonomous electric cars that interface with the traffic grid, and can optimize paths to pick up and drop off multiple people and multiple destinations.
Then, as people and businesses move around, the public transportation system can move with them. then people are less constrained by the infrastructure.
Of course, getting anyone in Seattle to agree to THAT in less than 20 yrs would be a miracle.
Posted by semi-crepuscular on January 8, 2013 at 12:47 PM · Report this
Karlheinz Arschbomber 19
RapidRide in Ballard is pathetic. It has put me back in my car.

Retracing how Metro/Sound Transit cut service, changed the bus-paint, and put me back in my car when I lived in Bellevue.

The pattern is clear.
Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber on January 8, 2013 at 12:46 PM · Report this
cressona 18
Echoing California Kid @1.

The answer is so obvious. Retrace the monorail Green Line route from Ballard to downtown to West Seattle as a light rail line, either elevated or in a new tunnel downtown. Unless there's more demand for a Ballard-to-U District line, there's every reason a dedicated westside light rail route should be in the next Sound Transit ballot measure.

And to the skeptics who say the voters will never go for another tax increase, then what are you afraid of? If you're so confident, then let's let Sound Transit 3 go on the ballot in 2016 and see what happens.
Posted by cressona on January 8, 2013 at 12:42 PM · Report this
if Seattle can't complete a bike trail in Ballard, it sure won't be able to put a rail line in.
Posted by semi-crepuscular on January 8, 2013 at 12:39 PM · Report this
@6, As far as West Seattle goes, you can get downtown from WS by an Express bus or RR in a reasonable amount of time. And the fact that you work on Capitol Hill is even more convenient since so many bus lines go to the hill, connection times are not a big issue.

The larger problem with West Seattle is you can't go from there to any other neighborhood by bus and get to those places in a reasonable amount of time.

Rapid Ride strikes me as more of a political response than a service response. Rather than fight the tougher political battles to build above or below grade mass transit for communities like WS and Ballard, we'll throw them the phony solution sop of rapid ride so they'll stop demanding light rail and then we can say we solved their transit needs.
Posted by neo-realist on January 8, 2013 at 12:37 PM · Report this
RatGirl 15
@ arbeck

I just moved to West Seattle in July and had never commuted from W.S. to work prior to the new Rapid Ride schedules/stops being put in so admittedly I cannot compare it to the old lines it replaces. But yes, the frequency of the busses at peak times does make it very convenient!
Posted by RatGirl on January 8, 2013 at 12:31 PM · Report this
Bauhaus I 14
There are several Rapid Transit lines here in Los Angeles. They differentiate themselves from regular bus servce by the stops they make (Rapid stops less frequently). I can speak to the one that makes the long., long tek down Van Nuys Blvd. out in the SFV. Local bus service from Glenoaks in Pacoima south to Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks takes about an hour and thirty minutes. Rapid service is just under an hour. So there is a difference. But if Van Nuys Blvd. had bumper-to-bumper traffic like the route sometimes does as does the route from Ballard to downtown Seattle, there'd be very little difference. If the Rapid line down Van Nuys Blvd. had dedicated lanes (let's compare it to a midnight run down Van Nuys Blvd with zero traffic and the passenger stops like the stops for a stop light), the trip would take maybe 20 minutes max. There's really no comparison when it comes to dedicated lines. You get home or you get to work in a quarter of the time.
Posted by Bauhaus I on January 8, 2013 at 12:28 PM · Report this
brandon 13
Fuck it, I'm getting a car. Call me when the light-rail is ready.
Posted by brandon on January 8, 2013 at 12:27 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 12
Fuck Joel Horn gently with a chain saw.

Also whoever wrote that flawed Sound Transit MVET study.
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on January 8, 2013 at 12:25 PM · Report this

Once you get on the Bus, the RapidRide is just slightly faster or about the same speed as the 54/54E that it replaced and the still existing 55. However, the fact that it's coming every 5-10 minutes at peak times means less waiting. You basically can just go to the stop and you know it will be there. I take it every day and I find that aspect very convenient.
Posted by arbeck on January 8, 2013 at 12:22 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 10

I could see BRT being useful along highways and freeways, especially if/when there's a dedicated lane for part of the trip, but a Ballard to Downtown line obviously isn't going to have that. The C and D lines have a dedicated lane part of the way down 15th/Elliott but only in one direction during rush hour. The rest of the time the buses are stuck in gridlock, in the slower moving right-hand lane, of course.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 8, 2013 at 12:21 PM · Report this
Rotten666 9
Think of it as a necessary failed experiment.

In the near future we can point to the uselessness of BRT when we begin the real discussion of extending light rail in new and wacky places.
Posted by Rotten666 on January 8, 2013 at 12:19 PM · Report this
No, not just the Ballard line. The A line south down pac highway sucks too. It may be a minute or two faster than the old 174, but A line and light rail takes twice as long as an express from Federal Way to Seattle.
Posted by garumph on January 8, 2013 at 12:15 PM · Report this
Former Lurker 7
@5 LOL!
Posted by Former Lurker on January 8, 2013 at 12:14 PM · Report this
RatGirl 6
Not to diminish Ballard commuters' experiences but perhaps it's just this one line that sucks? I live in West Seattle, just a couple blocks from Fauntleroy, which the Rapid Ride "C" Line travels on before it gets to the Junction and then heads to the West Seattle bridge and onto 99. It takes a dedicated bus lane on the bridge to merge onto 99, which does speed things up most days. Honestly, I find it fast, convenient and comfy (free wifi!). I can get to work (on Capitol Hill) most days in about 45 minutes, and that includes a bus change downtown.
Posted by RatGirl on January 8, 2013 at 12:13 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 5
If they just outfitted the RapidRide bus with buzz saws that project out when it enters traffic, and rockets that fire forward when it tries to drift from the right lane to the turn lane in the center, it would be fast.

Or the SPD and WSP could actually pull over cars that don't yield for them.

Either way would make it faster.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 8, 2013 at 12:11 PM · Report this
OutInBumF 4
Such bitterness.
Posted by OutInBumF on January 8, 2013 at 12:09 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 3
Completion of the racing stripes and flame decals are expected by 2024.
Posted by MacCrocodile on January 8, 2013 at 12:04 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 2
My boyfriend is convinced that Rapid Ride is slower than the regular bus. He has to get up a half hour earlier than he used to.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 8, 2013 at 12:02 PM · Report this
Posted by California Kid on January 8, 2013 at 11:58 AM · Report this

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