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Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

January 28, 2014 at 9:28 AM

Has RapidRide helped or hurt Seattle bus service?


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A new national ranking released Tuesday on Monday gave Seattle’s public transit system the largest decline in score of any system in a major U.S. city.

Transit Score, a transit system ranking tool created by the Seattle-based firm Walk Score, handed Seattle a grade of 57 out of a possible 100.  That’s down from a previous score of 59, calculated back in April 2012.

While Seattle maintained its seventh-place spot nationally in the new rankings, its two-point deduction is the worst drop in score experienced by any of the 25 big cities ranked in 2012, according to Walk Score’s Matt Lerner.

Transit Score uses an algorithm that evaluates, on a block-by-block basis, how well city residents are served by public transit.  More than 300 U.S. cities were scored this year, including 20 in Washington. The company uses data coming directly from transit agencies, and its methodology weighs several factors, such as frequency of service, walking distance to transit stops, and mode of transit (bus, rail, ferry, and so on).

So what change occurred in the past two years that may have hurt Seattle’s Transit Score? There is a likely culprit.

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Click to enlarge

In September 2012, King County Metro rolled out RapidRide, an express bus network with some features of a Bus Rapid Transit system.  This entailed a host of restructurings to Metro’s bus service, and some local routes were lost. While selected bus routes saw improvements to frequency and speed under RapidRide, stops were consolidated in order to help increase efficiency.

Transit Score’s new results seem to suggest that, on balance, RapidRide changes may have actually done more harm than good.

Victor Obeso, manager of service development for King County Metro, disagrees with that conclusion. While he concedes that some neighborhoods have less service under the restructuring, he believes that Metro was successful in getting the most bang for the buck out of limited resources.   Areas where transit demand is greatest now receive a higher level of service with RapidRide. Overall, Obeso says, Metro provides more Seattle riders with better service than it did before.

So what do you think — have you found that bus service in Seattle has suffered with the RapidRide system?  Or do you think Transit Score’s methodology misses the mark, and RapidRide has been a change for the better?

Take our poll, and feel free to sound off in the comments.


Comments | More in Reports | Topics: public transit


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