Transportation
11:46 am
Mon May 30, 2011

RapidRide buses coming to Eastside this fall

Shiny burgundy buses equipped with automated pay stations, three doors each, low-riding chassis and accelerated time tables started serving south King County last fall. They're called RapidRide and they're funded by the Transit Now ballot measure that voters approved in 2006. 

A second route is slated to start serving Bellevue and Redmond in October. The King County Council votes on exactly where they'll go on Tuesday afternoon

King County Metro is gradually phasing in six service areas of RapidRide. South King County got the first one, with modern buses running just about every ten minutes between Federal Way and Tukwila. 

King County councilman Larry Phillips says next up is the Eastside corridor, known as the B-line, "which includes service between the Bellevue Transit Center, Crossroads, Overlake and on to Redmond."

"We estimate that it will enhance ridership by some two million riders per year. And it'll also be 20% faster than the current local service," says Phillips, who chairs the transportation, economy and environment committee. 

Till now, King County Metro has managed to keep bus service intact and bring promised improvements, despite dramatic declines in sales tax revenue - but only by raising fares four times over the past 4 years, almost doubling the cost for riders. And there has also been some controversy over a lack of rapid service for students of Bellevue College, many of whom live in Renton.

"And we're looking at a proposed amendment, no guarantee as to which way that's going to come out. I think there's going to be a very drawn-out conversation about what makes the most sense."

He says metro staff and transit planners are advising against it. They say making a detour to the campus of Bellevue College would add extra time onto the commute for people going from downtown Renton to downtown Bellevue – and that would hurt overall ridership as much as it might help students, who currently have to transfer.