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More routes for Metro's million-dollar busesJuly 17, 2012 @ 6:43 pm (Updated: 2:24 am - 7/18/12 )
Buses with free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, low floors, and three doors for easy loading are showing up on the busiest streets in King County.
Compared to regular Metro buses, the red and yellow RapidRides look magical. The system even has a superhero mascot - Rapid Ride Man.
RapidRide buses caught my attention because a new line will run through my community, Ballard, this fall.
Lines are already rolling from Federal Way to Tukwila and Bellevue to Redmond. In all there will be six routes by 2013, connecting transit corridors like West Seattle to downtown, Seattle to Shoreline, and Burien to Renton.
Metro is promising "fast, easy, frequent" service with the RapidRide lines.
Service will be every 10 to 15 minutes for most of the day, seven days a week. They have traffic-signal priority at major intersections to keep trips consistent for riders.
The bus shelters have bigger roofs for better protection from bad weather and interior lighting for safety. How's this for modern? There are also passenger-activated bus stop lights to use at night to alter drivers that you're there.
Bus stations have illuminated map routes, and are able to show real-time data on arrival times for the next two buses.
This is starting to seem like a late night, infomercial. But wait, there's more.
The 60-foot articulated buses can accommodate up to 86 passengers and feature no steps when entering or leaving the bus for smooth, easy loading. With a diesel electric hybrid engine, Metro says the bus has "an extremely low level of emissions while providing power and improved gas mileage."
Now, how much would you pay for all of this?
The startup capital cost for the system is around $215 million. That includes $118 million for 113 new buses, about $50 million for road and signal work, and another $35 million to build the bus shelters and other station facilities. RapidRide buses are comparable in price to hybrid green and yellow Metro buses, and about $225,000 more than a regular articulated bus.
How are we paying for these? Remember back in 2006 when King County voters passed the "Transit Now" initiative? No, we forget those things but that's where some of the money comes from through higher sales taxes.
The Federal Transit Administrationâ€™s Small Starts grant program is also paying for a chunk of the system. King County has $81 million from federal and state grants, including the most recent FTA grant of $20 million.
I like nice machines, and with the Wi-Fi this could get me to hop on a bus more often. You too?
Story and photos By LINDA THOMAS
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