New Wi-Fi Enabled Metro RapidRide Transit Launches Saturday
Metro Transit’s new RapidRide “A” Line will debut this Saturday, Oct. 2, and when it does, according to a breathlessly-worded press release:
“…thousands of passengers in South King County will be riding on smart new buses that will come so often there will be no need for a schedule.”
On Friday (Oct. 1st), King County Executive Dow Constantine, along with local leaders and transportation officials, got a preview of the new “A” Line that will run along Pacific Highway South/International Boulevard. The line, which will operate between the Tukwila Link station and Federal Way Transit Center, will be the first of six RapidRide lines scheduled for introduction in the coming years offering frequent and more convenient service for thousands of Metro customers.
“Metro’s first RapidRide line will combine the best features Metro has to offer customers,” Constantine said. “In addition to shorter travel times and 10- to 15-minute service much of the day, the ride will be better, too. RapidRide will be operated with a new fleet of environmentally-friendly hybrid buses, offer new technology features and free Wi-Fi service during the trip. It will mark a new generation of Metro bus service we can all look forward to.”
These improvements are expected to cut travel times by one-third along the busy 11-mile line serving the cities of Federal Way, Des Moines, Kent, SeaTac, and Tukwila. The “A” Line will offer twice as much service as the current Route 174 and will conveniently connect with Link light rail stations to offer passengers even more travel options to downtown Seattle.
Additional amenities will include:
- Larger well-lit shelters offering more protection from the wind and rain.
- Stop-request signals at stations so riders can alert bus drivers when they are waiting for a bus at night.
- More benches and bike racks at stations.
- More green lights and other improvements to keep buses moving.
- Free Wi-Fi service on all RapidRide coaches allowing passengers to go online during their trip.
- New automated stop announcements and electronic signage on RapidRide buses that will display upcoming stops, landmarks, transfer opportunities and other customer service messages.
These improved features will allow Metro to deliver on the promise of offering more frequent, all-day bus rapid transit service as part of Metro’s “Transit Now” program. The line is expected to draw more than 2.5 million riders annually within the next five years, a 50-percent increase over current ridership.
The RapidRide “A” Line also promises to be a good investment. Despite a steep decline in Metro’s operating revenues, the service has already attracted millions of dollars in federal grants due to its potential to efficiently serve thousands of riders in some of the county’s most densely populated areas.
The system has so far received $61.6 million in federal and state grants, with an additional $20 million included in President Obama’s 2010 budget. Combined, these grants are expected to cover nearly 40 percent of the capital cost of putting RapidRide on the road.
While the “A” Line officially debuts Saturday, additional amenities will be coming later this fall. That’s when riders will begin seeing real-time bus information signs phased in at 24 RapidRide stations. The service will begin shortly after the start of regular RapidRide service once Metro has calibrated data that allows the system to function.
And later this year riders all across the county will benefit from new on-board technology introduced on regular Metro buses. Automated stop announcements and electronic signage should be standard on all 1,400 Metro buses within about 18 months.
Customers interested in learning more about RapidRide can explore the “A” Line for free on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 2 and 3. Metro street teams will also be on hand at selected locations along the line to talk with riders and answer questions.
PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Brunk