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Transportation

Sept. 28, 2011

Eastside transit speeds into the future as Metro’s RapidRide B Line debuts this weekend

King County Executive Dow Constantine calls for it to be a model for Metro service

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King County Executive Dow Constantine and elected officials representing the Eastside joined together in Crossroads this morning to connect Bellevue and Redmond with a new form of fast, reliable transportation – Metro Transit’s RapidRide B Line.

BLine_Dow_Ribbon_web

Executive Constantine hosted a "ribbon tying" for the B Line on Sept. 28 to symbolize strengthening transit connections between Bellevue and Redmond. He dusted off his Boy Scout skills to tie a perfect square knot for the ceremony.

King County Executive and elected officials representing the Eastside joined together in Crossroads this morning to connect Bellevue and Redmond with a new form of fast, reliable transportation – Metro Transit’s RapidRide B Line.

“RapidRide means less time waiting and more time moving,” said Executive Constantine. “The features that make RapidRide a great model – like high-frequency service, off-board fare payment, and systems that integrate the buses with traffic signals and signage – all add up to a more efficient and effective transit system to carry King County into the future.”

The B Line will start carrying passengers at 6 a.m. this Saturday, and rides will be free all weekend. It is the second of Metro’s six planned RapidRide routes.

The A Line debuted a year ago, and runs between Federal Way and Tukwila along Pacific Highway South and International Boulevard. Ridership statistics show that the A Line has increased bus ridership by30-40 percent in that corridor. Executive Constantine expects similar results for the B Line, and said Eastside RapidRide ridership is projected to increase to nearly 2.2 million passenger trips a year by 2016.

RapidRide is a different type of Metro service that includes newly designed buses, shelters and signs. The distinctive red-and-yellow buses are energy efficient, low-emission hybrid vehicles with low floors and three doors for easier, faster boarding. The B Line was funded with $20.2 in federal funding in addition to local dollars.

“RapidRide buses conveniently connect many people in our communities to the places where they work, shop, and socialize,” said U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert.  “I was impressed to learn that this advanced transit system syncs to a single network, and hope this technology will improve reliability and efficiency.  I anticipate the B Line will better meet the Eastside’s growing ridership and passenger needs over the next several years.”

The B Line travels between the Bellevue and Redmond transit centers, both located in the downtown core of those cities. In addition to the downtown areas, it makes limited stops along Northeast 8th Street, 156th Avenue Northeast, 148th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 90th Street which include service to Crossroads, the eastern portion of Overlake, the Microsoft campus, and north Redmond. It operates with 10-15 minute service most of the day.

“It’s more and more important that King County provide fast, convenient and reliable bus service for the Eastside,” said King County Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “RapidRide B Line is a huge step towards achieving that goal. I think Eastsiders are really going to like it. It’s also essential that we keep people moving for the sake of our economy and local jobs.”

B Line buses have many features that make the ride more convenient and comfortable for passengers. The coaches are 60-foot articulated buses with three doors for faster boarding.  They have free Wi-Fi, interior and exterior stop announcements, security cameras, and a passive restraint system to speed boarding time for those using wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

“RapidRide is the biggest improvement in transit on the Eastside in years,” said King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert of Redmond. “This investment in fast, comfortable, frequent service makes using transit convenient and adds service where people need to go, whether to work, shopping or medical appointments. I am pleased that RapidRide will add transit connections that will help relieve traffic congestion. This will be especially useful during construction of the State Route 520 Bridge. I encourage everyone to try out our brand new red-and-yellow buses.”

The B Line is expected to operate about 20 percent faster than the current routes in those corridors. This is achieved by combining bus stops, quicker fare collection with off-board payment at major stations, and transit signal priority that either extends or provides green lights for arriving B Line buses.

“With three regional highways passing through it, Bellevue is the transportation crossroads of the Eastside,” said Bellevue Mayor Don Davidson. “We expect the B Line to boost transportation efficiency, as it offers workers, residents and visitors fast, comfortable, and convenient bus service.”

The B Line has 19 RapidRide stations installed at locations that currently have the most transit use. Station amenities include: large shelters with interior lighting; real-time arrival information; ORCA card readers; benches; and a lighted signal that passengers can activate to let bus drivers know there is someone waiting. The remaining 28 stops along the line also have benches and the passenger-activated lights.

Buses are scheduled to arrive every 10 minutes on weekdays during the busiest travel hours, and every 15 minutes during most other times of the day and week before 10 p.m. During the late-night and early-morning hours, it operates every 30 minutes. On weekdays, it operates from 4:30 a.m. to approximately 1 a.m.

“The frequency and convenience of the B Line is a great service for Redmond,” said Mayor John Marchione. “As it connects Redmond’s two urban centers – downtown and Overlake – with Bellevue and beyond, it supports our vision for a community connected to each other and the world that is economically vibrant and contributing to the region.”

Although the B Line operates just between the two cities, it offers great connections to regional transit services at several key locations, such as the Bellevue, Redmond and Overlake transit centers.

“The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) looks for federal, regional, state and local investments that support the growth in our region and improve transportation services,” said Bellevue City Councilmember Claudia Balducci, who is also chair of the PSRC Transportation Policy Board. “The RapidRide B Line in Bellevue and Redmond is the type of service that reflects what we’re trying to achieve with Transportation 2040, PSRC’s action plan for the central Puget Sound region for the next 30 years.”

Because of the way the B Line connects the Eastside, Metro is also restructuring much of its bus service in Bellevue, Redmond and Kirkland to improve the efficiency of the transit network and to integrate with the new RapidRide service. The revisions also begin Oct. 1 and include: significantly revised routing for 11 routes; elimination of 12 routes to avoid duplication of service; and three new routes to fill in the network.

Eastside bus riders are strongly encouraged to study the new service, routing, and schedules before Oct. 1 due to the many changes.

For more information about the B Line, and other Eastside transit changes that begin Saturday, visit Metro Online, or call Customer Information at (206) 553-3000.

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