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The Today File

Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

October 1, 2012 at 9:41 AM

‘Metro mullet’ begins: Pay in front of the bus, exit in back

Please join me at noon today, when I will be hosting a live chat.

But for now, here are some of my observations from the morning commute.

King County Metro Transit’s new RapidRide buses were leaving West Seattle fully loaded Monday morning, the first day of the new C Line there and the D Line in Ballard.

A 7:20 a.m. C bus carried 75 people, and riders said the bus before it was too full to get on. Some riders were taking the 55 Express to downtown because it showed up first — but the C Line, with fewer stops, passed it on Avalon Way Southwest. In fact, the C skipped the Avalon stop since 55 was going the same route. It was slowed on the West Seattle bridge by merging cars.

“It’s not real impressive right now,” said commuter Rob Johnson of West Seattle. “It’s about three times as crowded, I think.”

He’s overstating things a bit, and many riders were surprised to see that the new buses look busier because there are fewer seats and much more room for people to stand —  ”straphangers,” in transit lingo.

It’s not even afternoon yet, and Metro is having some difficulty with loading in front. A D Line bus at Northwest Market Street and 15th Avenue Northwest took about a minute to load. RapidRide is supposed to have ORCA readers on the sidewalk and load using all three doors there.

At Third and Pike, rider Anthony Johnson, headed out to work in Ballard, skipped one full D Line bus, then boarded the next D Line bus in the back, clutching two dollar bills and a quarter. “It was crowded up front,” he said. He walked up the aisle and fed the fare box a mile later, when the crowd thinned a bit.

That’s a bad omen for the evening commute, when buses could well be stacked along Third if paying cash upfront delays buses.

One early observation: Public habits are going to matter more than the kinds of buses on the new RapidRide lines, or other of the 79 or so service changes this week.

Metro is trying to publicize its policy of “pay in front, exit in back,” which Times reader Toby Crittenden called the “Metro Mullet” in the #busruption Twitter.

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