RapidRide: Taking the “fun” out of Bus Rapid Transit

Bus Rapid Transit is an innovative solution to the congested city’s public transport woes. Part bus and part train a BRT system can be both efficient in the movement of people and can also be less stressful and more convenient to the rider. According to the Federal Transit Administration’s Characteristics of Bus Rapid Transit for Decision-Making, an effective BRT system should have a segregated running way marked clearly as a separate lane, but on the surface street to articulate a difference between the BRT lane and the regular surface lane. Typically stations will have level boarding platforms and all sorts of amenities such as posted real-time schedules and vehicle arrival information. Vehicles in a BRT system should allow for rapid passenger circulation and look sometimes more like trains with wheels. Service should be both frequent and predictable with vehicles arriving at very short intervals. All of these aspects of BRT should lead to improved system performance with increased time savings, reliability, safety, capacity and accessibility for the user.

There are some great examples in the world of functioning Bus Rapid Transit systems. The system mentioned in the textbook The Carbon Efficient City in Bogota, Columbia is one great example of a successful BRT system. In the image below, you can see how the transit system has its own designated right of way. The station is designed similarly to a train or subway station as it is elevated and separated from the roadway. This system looks inviting and easy to use. So where did King County Metro’s RapidRide go wrong?

Bus Rapid Transit system Bogota, Columbia

Bus Rapid Transit system Bogota, Columbia

To begin, RapidRide’s D line does not have a segregated travel way designated simply for transit use. The system is bogged down by poorly timed traffic signals and bottlenecks caused by rush hour traffic. Vehicle arrival information is either non-existent or completely ineffective. RapidRide travel can even take longer than regular King County Metro express routes say some users.

RapidRide's D Line in West Seattle

RapidRide’s D Line in West Seattle

While this system may be experiencing a few technical difficulties as it works out the kinks, riders should not be discouraged from the benefits of true BRT systems. If implemented properly they can be “fun” to ride and will hopefully increase transit ridership as cities are continually searching for new ways to get people out of their vehicles and onto public transportation.

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