Metro is on the move

Transit to transform several local bus routes to RapidRide corridors by 2023

Today, Metro Transit’s RapidRide service provides dedicated rights of way to buses on six lines throughout King County, a feature the agency calls “signal prioritization,” which allows buses to skirt congestion up to 20 percent faster than standard bus service can.

Among RapidRide’s many features, signal prioritization makes for a more reliable trip.

Riders dig that, Metro officials say, they dig it a lot.

Since 2006, the agency has been busy with a multi-year program to create new lines of the popular service from Seattle to points as far south as Auburn.

Of particular interest to riders on the south end is the agency’s plan to launch a RapidRide Bus service called “I Line,” which by September 2023 will provide the cities of Renton, Kent and Auburn with fast, frequent, reliable bus service.

The I Line is to take over today’s Route 169 between Renton and Kent, and a portion of Route 180 between the Kent and Auburn Transit centers. Greg McKnight, project manager for the Rapid Ride I Line, said 6,000 people use this corridor every day, making it one of the busiest routes in the South King County area.

“The RapidRide I Line is our next big push for the … prioritization of that Metro Connects’ vision,” said McKnight, referring to the agency’s long-range vision for its transit service network. “We are very excited about this line. It was prioritized ahead of certain other lines for a lot of really good reasons.”

Metro Connects, which studied what transit would look like in the years 2025 and 2040, identified an expansion of its RapidRide system, which will add 13 new lines by 2025 and 26 lines by 2040.

To pave the way, to respond to changing mobility needs, and to improve mobility and access for disadvantaged populations, Metro has started an area mobility plan in South King County.

The agency expects about $120 million in capital investments for the corridor, meaning, among other things, infrastructure, station amenities, platforms, trash cans, shelters, the real-time information signs and signal priority.

The investment does not include operating dollars or money for the bus fleet, both of which will be handled separately.

“What we looking at right now is just figuring out all those capital elements for the project,” McKnight said.

For that funding, one of the big items Metro is looking at going after is Federal Transit Agency (FTA) grant funding. It plans to apply for a small start grant through the FTA in 2020, and anticipates receiving about 50 percent of project funding from that grant.

But that is not the only source of funding. Indeed, Metro has already received grants from the Puget Sound Regional Council and the Washington State Department of Transportation. The local match for those grants will come from the King County budget, and that money has already been appropriated from the last budget cycle.

“We have our Metro dollars aligned for this project in anticipation of receiving those grants,” McKnight said.

On March 4, Metro released a survey to gather feedback from communities on the transportation needs of Renton, Kent and Auburn. The survey closes March 29. The survey is available in multiple languages and can be accessed here.

That feedback is crucial to development of Metro’s Area Mobility Plan, which will map out future transit options for communities within the Green River Valley and East Hill.

The plan will include local bus service, dial-a-ride transit (DART) buses, and Metro’s Community Connections Program, which provides cost-effective transportation options in areas that are not set up to support typical bus service.

Metro is talking with area communities to learn and understand their needs and priorities for the new RapidRide service and other mobility solutions. Input will help Metro make decisions about:

This summer and fall, Metro will present the communities with its proposals for new service and RapidRide I Line routing, and plans to finalize recommendations for the Area Mobility Plan in winter 2019.

So, how does the community get involved?

• Take Metro’s Renton-Kent-Auburn Area Mobility Plan survey here.

• Talk with representatives when they come to the community.

Metro will host information tables throughout the area this spring where people can ask questions and fill out its survey. The calendar is online at kingcounty.gov.

Finally, Metro is seeking community members who live, work and travel within the area to advise it about service change concepts and proposals and ways to engage with the community.

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