On December 11th, 2011, the Kirkland City Council approved the purchase of the abandoned BNSF rail corridor within the city limits of Kirkland. The purchase closed sometime back in March and shortly afterwards, Kirkland placed concrete blocks across the rail line. Because the tracks have already been severed south of the Wilburton trestle in Bellevue, it is currently impossible for trains to travel anywhere within the city of Bellevue. With Kirkland planning to convert their section into a bicycle and pedestrian trail you can be assured that trains will not be crossing at either NE 8th in Bellevue or 108th near the South Kirkland park & ride any time in the near future.
Unfortunately, because of the way State law is written, commercial drivers in buses and trucks are still required to stop at these crossings, because they both lack an “Exempt” or “Out of service” sign. Given the mandatory penalty of a 60-day license suspension for not stopping, you can bet that the vast majority of commercial drivers will be stopping. (The State Patrol has recently been stepping up enforcement at other crossings in the area – ones with active train traffic – so there has been increased awareness among commercial drivers of the rules and penalties)
I’m not sure what the hold up is in getting these crossings marked “Exempt” but it is likely due to the fact that the Port of Seattle still owns the corridor within Bellevue. Rest assured though, that marking these crossing as “Exempt” will improve traffic flow in both areas. Cars can’t pass stopped buses at 108th and NE 8th has a considerable amount of bus traffic since it has the RapidRide B-line and is a deadheading route for buses coming from the east side bases.
A noticeable improvement in traffic flow for two congested areas for the cost of 4 “Exempt” signs? I’d call that a prime example of low hanging fruit.
[ UPDATE – 2/2/2012: Apparently there are indeed holes in the wireless network that are being addressed. Several new access points are in the permit process and due to be completed within the next couple of months. This should fix these issues as well as several signal priority issues I have yet to blog about but encounter on a regular basis – In short, they’re working on it. ]
It’s been almost 4 month since the RapidRide B-Line started operating. There have been many hiccups along the way but in general, the line is working well. I’m pleased with it as an operator and also as an occasional rider. I rarely ever took the 253 but often take the B-Line since it provides frequent service to my favorite food court at Crossroads mall. (Although figuring out how to schedule transfers back home is still difficult) For the last days of this shakeup, I’ll be writing up all of the remaining loose ends I know about here and tagging them as “B Line Loose Ends” – I’ll be working the B-Line next shakeup as well and will keep all of these posts up to date with any changes.
First up are two B-Line stations that have never been fully functional. Stop #73240 (148th Ave NE & NE 51st Street) and Stop #73108 (148th Ave NE & NE 87th Street). Both of these southbound stops have deactivated ORCA readers that are hooded and Real-Time Information System signs that are always blank. I believe these stops are located within gaps in the wireless network that the B-Line operates on. I was told by a Twitter follower that a fix was in the works but that was months ago and I’ve heard no updates since. If anybody has more detail on this issue feel free to comment here. Neither of these stops are terribly busy, at least during the morning rush hour when I’m driving, so I’d understand if they have been pushed down on the priority list.
I’ve been using RapidRide B, in conjunction with the 249, to travel to several locations I would normally drive to. Each time I travel, I plan my trip using various transit planning services including Google maps, Bing, and Metro’s trip planner. So far, all services have worked well with each giving a simple trip recommendation involving a single transfer. My 249 shows up at Bellevue Transit Center where I walk over to a waiting RapidRide B coach which usually leaves within a few minutes. Total travel time from my front door to my favorite food court at Crossroads Shopping Center is usually about 30 minutes.
Getting home, however, has been more difficult to plan. When using Google or Bing maps, I cannot get a trip recommendation that involves RapidRide. All recommendations involve long walks or transfers to other numbered routes with fixed schedules and typically travel a much longer, and sometimes more complicated route. On some trips Metro’s trip planner gives the same results but on others I can get a route recommendation with RapidRide, if I tweak the travel times a bit.
An example will illustrate. Use your favorite transit planning service to get a trip recommendation for the following locations and times:
Start point: 2000 104th Ave SE (Add Bellevue, WA if you need to – Trip planner doesn’t need / want this)
End point: 15600 NE 8th
The result should be a trip on the 249 transferring to RapidRide B. However, if you plan the reverse trip you’ll get many different route recommendations, most of which do not include RapidRide B. On Metro’s trip planner I get a trip on the 245 transferring to the 249 in Overlake. However, if I switch the departure time to 5:20pm I get trip on RapidRide B transferring to the same 249 recommended above but closer to my destination.
I’ve also seen this problem occur with other trips that involve a transfer at Bellevue Transit Center so I’m guessing there is something wrong with the GTFS data for RapidRide B at that point. I’m going to stop digging here, lest I “go down the rabbit hole” as my wife likes to say. Besides, it’s time for bed – I’ve got to get up tomorrow to actually drive RapidRide.
If you are in the know, feel free to add comments or contact me on Twitter and I can work with you to investigate further.