RapidRide B – First day report
I have my first day of driving RapidRide B behind me and can report that it went pretty well. My coach performed well with no radio or mechanical problems. I spoke with two other drivers that were not as lucky. That said, we had enough service on the road that I don’t think any passengers had to wait too long. Nobody asked me where the last bus was, at least. Surprisingly, most of my passengers seemed pretty comfortable with RapidRide. I expected a lot more “where is the 253?” or “How do I get to <some place I have no idea existed>?” types of questions. Nobody really stumped me which is unusual after such a radical service change.
Being a former software tester for a well-known mega-software giant located in the greater Seattle area, I expected there would be plenty of glitches with the technology associated with Rapid Ride. I was not disappointed. As of noon, when I stopped by Bellevue Transit Center, none of the curb-side ORCA readers were working so everybody had to file onto the front of the bus like the good old days. Additionally, I could not detect any sort of signal priority working in either Bellevue or Redmond. Out of 3 trips that I drove, I counted an average of 6-8 minutes of waiting at red lights. I only counted red lights that I was within 10 seconds of catching, so these were the perfect signal priority scenarios – extend a green light by 10 seconds – save a bus full of people a minute or two of waiting. On the plus side, almost all of the reader boards at RapidRide stations were working. Either that or they were stuck saying, “Rapid Ride B – Due”. With a decreased number of stops, improved routing, and 3 doors, Rapid Ride was already noticeably faster than the old 253. As the kinks are ironed out, things will improve even more.
One interesting item was that the Headway control display was enabled during a couple of my trips. In theory, headway control allows Metro to add extra buses and dynamically change the headway of RapidRide service as demand increases – For example, Metro could add extra coaches during the Bellevue arts fair or the Strawberry Days festival. Since the “schedule” isn’t published, it’s relatively easy to do using the Headway control. In practice, I don’t believe RapidRide A has used Headway control yet. I hope they leave it enabled but just tell us to ignore it. I like knowing how far I am behind my leader, even if there is not much I can currently do with the information.
Let me know what burning questions you have about driving RapidRide and I’ll do my best to answer your questions.