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Posts Tagged ‘RapidRide’

Take the B-Line to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens

June 16, 2012 Leave a comment

With 53 acres of display gardens, woodlands, meadows and wetlands, the Bellevue Botanical Gardens offer a break from the city without having to actually leave Bellevue. Within the garden grounds, you will find an array of landscapes, water features, and woodland trails for a peaceful walk in the woods. During the winter Holiday season the Gardens offer an amazing light display – the Garden d’Lights.The Gardens do not charge an admission fee, except during the Garden d’Lights.

To reach the gardens, exit the Rapid Ride B Line at the 124th Ave NE Station, walk south along 124th Ave NE, preferably on the eastern sidewalk, until you reach Main Street.  At Main Street continue up a small hill to the gardens on the south side of Main Street.  The total walking distance from 124th Ave NE is about .7 miles or 15 minutes.  You can also ride a bike and lock it up at the bike racks available just off of the main parking lot.

For more information visit the Garden’s web site at: http://www.bellevuebotanical.org/.

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How’s this for a “war on cash”?

June 13, 2012 2 comments

I’m back to driving the Sound Transit 550 and while I enjoy the freeway driving and wide stop spacing, I am missing RapidRide’s off-bus payment. There were lots of passengers paying cash on RapidRide but at least other passengers frequently had the option of paying off the bus and getting to their seat while I pulled out my keys to unjam my fare box or watched a stream of $1 bills go into the bill slot.

I realize that my distaste for the $1 bill can border on the obsessive. I still go out of my way to obtain and spend dollar coins and let everybody that will listen know that they are the 2nd best way to pay for the bus.  (An ORCA card is the best) While waiting for bills to work their way into the fare box, I’ve taken to daydreaming about London’s bus fare structure to keep myself sane. To pay cash on a London bus, you’ll have to fork over £2.30 (approximately $3.50) vs. only £1.35 (~$2) if you pay with an Oyster card.  To further encourage Oyster use, there is a daily cap of £4.20 (~$6.50) in lieu of an all-day pass. How’s that for a war on cash?

With the Ride Free area going away in September, it’s frankly mystery why Metro and Sound Transit have not switched to a similar fare structure to encourage ORCA adoption. After all, do we really want that passenger who dumps a mixture of small denomination coins and lint from a tattered envelope into my fare box, promptly jamming it, holding up the 5 buses behind me? That scenario hasn’t played out yet, but it will

Categories: Transit Tags: ,

“B” is for “Beer”, “Black Raven”, and “B-Line Beer Run”

March 2, 2012 7 comments

A while back I spent several days conducting “research” on establishments for a B-Line pub crawl event. Of all the drinking establishments I visited, the Black Raven Brewing Company was by far my favorite. Located in an office park a 1/2 mile from the B-Line, Black Raven’s taproom has all of their beers in a warm and relaxed atmosphere. They don’t serve food, other than free peanuts and pretzels, but you can have pizza delivered by Flying Saucer Pizza to enjoy with your fresh beer. (I think Zeek’s also delivers but that is unconfirmed, check with Zeeks and/or Black Raven). Lastly, you can get growlers and kegs to go. (A keg on the bus. Now that would be interesting)

To get there, take the B-Line to the stop at 148th Ave NE & NE 87th St in Redmond, just before/after the intersection with Willows Road. From the bus stop walk east on 90th and then north on Willows Road using the large sidewalk on the east side of Willows. Right before 95th turn east and scramble over the bark covered berm and walk into the parking lot next to the inactive railroad tracks. (This avoids walking along NE 95th which doesn’t have a sidewalk.  It’s also a shortcut since the driveway for Black Raven is located past the entrance to the Tap Room) You can also find directions here on Google maps.

This area isn’t normally someplace you’d think of walking around, given that it’s a bunch of office parks in a very suburban and car-dependent setting. But the sidewalks are wide and comfortable and it’s not that long of a walk.  If you bring a bike, Black Raven also has a small bike rack out front.  (Note: While biking while intoxicated is not technically a crime, it IS pretty stupid. Drink responsibly and be prepared to walk your bike back to the bus.)  If you’re up for a little transit/beer adventure, why not give Black Raven a try?

B-Line loose ends – ORCA readers inactive / RTIS blank at 2 stations

January 31, 2012 2 comments

[ 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.

B-Line Snow day

January 16, 2012 4 comments

As everybody probably knows, we were on snow routes across the entire Metro system today. While I must admit I was skeptical about the B-Line snow route, I’ve never been able to come up with a better route that I could picture driving and things actually went pretty smoothly this morning so I’d call it a success. (At least with the road conditions we had today which were a little slick but manageable)

Here are some quick thoughts about the snow route:

Trouble spots

  1. The hill coming down NE 31st St to 152nd Ave NE was a bit dicey. I lost traction a couple of times in this stretch and had to crawl along even more carefully than other areas
  2. The right turn from 148th Ave NE to Redmond Way, heading toward Redmond Transit Center, still had quite a bit of snow and ice on it. While I didn’t lose traction this turn involves crawling down 148th heading toward the traffic light pole as you are turning right.  If right turn lane isn’t kept free of ice, I could easily see losing control here no matter how slow you go.
Suggested Improvements
  1. Once the coach leaves normal routing, the automated stop announcements no longer work. At the stop immediately before going onto snow routing, I made an announcement about the route I was going to take just to be sure passengers knew why I was turning right at NE 24th.  It would be great if OBS could be modified to make a similar announcement as well as announcing the stops down Bellevue-Redmond road.
  2. The B-Line map on the schedules has the snow route. However, it doesn’t show the 245 route which could be used by passengers travelling to Crossroads.
  3. Providing alternative stop locations along Bel-Red road for the various NE 8th stops with suggested walking routes between the stops would also be helpful.

I’ll be out on the B-Line tomorrow with road conditions that are predicted to be much worse so I’ll update this post if I have more information.  Wish me luck on that right turn from 148th to Redmond way.  That pole looks like it’s been hit at least once or twice although not by a bus…  yet…

PSA Recycling to help speed RapidRide – What PSA would *you* add?

January 13, 2012 7 comments

With the upcoming demise of the Ride Free Area in Seattle, there will be at least one opportunity for a bit of recycling…  Of a Public Service Announcement. Yes, I know Metro could simply add more PSAs to this list, but just for fun, lets assume the total number of PSAs bus drivers can choose from is limited. (After all, do you really want your bus driver searching through a long list to find the PSA he or she is looking for?)

When the Ride Free Area is discontinued later this year, the “Have your fare ready before exit” PSA will no longer be necessary.  I’d like to use this slot for an educational message on RapidRide routes that explains how to speed boarding at RapidRide stops.  This announcement would encourage back door use for exiting and for boarding when you have a valid fare – such as a transfer or an ORCA card that has been tapped at the curb.  Even several months after the start of Rapid Ride service on the eastside, I *still* have passengers crowding to get onto the front door so they can tap their ORCA card or show me a transfer. The whole point of RapidRide, especially at crowded stops, is to get passengers to use ALL of the doors.

At stops where passengers “get it”, things work well – I stop, open 3 doors, and 10-30 people stream on and off of the bus in less than 20 seconds. (140th Ave NE & NE 8th in the morning is a great example)  Adding this PSA would also allow announcements in other languages although choosing one or two from the diversity of languages spoken along the B Line might be tough.

But that’s my view from my little slice of the world, how about you?  What PSAs would you like to hear?

Categories: Transit Tags: ,

Rapid Ride: The runner’s route

December 1, 2011 10 comments

Of all the routes I’ve driven for Metro, RapidRide B seems by far to have the largest number of runners. On almost every single trip I drive, I inevitably see somebody running for my bus. For those who’ve followed my Tweets, you’ll probably remember that I tend to be a bit ruthless on the subject.  Runners slow service since they typically don’t have their fare ready.  They also tend to do really dangerous things while running for the bus.  I still won’t wait for people jaywalking in ways that risk their lives near my bus but I have softened my stance and lately have been waiting more often than not.  Here are some reasons: First, while my trips tend to be well utilized, my bus usually isn’t packed so I almost always have room for them.  Additionally, 3 doors allow folks to get on and off a crowded bus more easily.  Second, Metro doesn’t publish a schedule for RapidRide so there isn’t an easy way for passengers to know when the bus will be arriving.  Third, I know my follower is pretty punctual and likely will be no more than 10 minutes behind.  Lastly, real-time arrival information still isn’t available on OneBusAway or other tracking apps so there really isn’t any way a passenger can control whether they are “on time” or not.

Solutions

Here are some ideas to make passengers more comfortable with RapidRide’s schedule and hopefully cut down on some of the rushing for the bus:

Real-time arrival data:  First, get arrival information on OneBusAway, Tracker, and other apps working – ASAP. I find this omission the most frustrating as a passenger, mostly because I have a knack for arriving at a RapidRide stop about 30 seconds to 1 minute after the bus has passed by. Sure, the RTIS signs on the route are nice, but they aren’t at every stop, are still not all functional, and aren’t useful for trying to figure out how to transfer from RapidRide to a lower frequency service route like the 249.  Real-time data on the go is what I really want.

“Soft” schedule: An easy way to give passengers more confidence is to publish a “soft” schedule on Metro’s web site. This “soft” schedule would look like any other timetable except that all time-points would be estimated. It would also need a disclaimer explaining that RapidRide schedules are subject to change at any time and would urge riders to check the web site often. Trip planner sort of does this since it gives actual times for trips with a leg on RapidRide.  (As of 12/1/2011, the times in trip planner are still based on the original run cards we received at the beginning of the shakeup, not the revised run cards we received recently.  I have reported this to Metro so hopefully that will be corrected soon.)

Expanded Scheduled service:  I’ve read somewhere that passengers stop using schedules when headways get below 10 minutes.  I don’t recall if this was a formal study or just somebody’s opinion but it matches with my personal experience as a passenger on the Sound Transit 550. During the middle of the day, when headways are every 15 minutes, I check the schedule and head out to meet a specific bus.  During the rush hours, with headways of 6-10 minutes, I usually just ride my bike to the park & ride and catch the next 550 that comes along.  Expanding the “Scheduled Serivce” section of the RapidRide schedule to include all times when headways are 15 minutes or greater would help.  Again, a disclaimer could be added that the schedule is subject to change if more service is needed.  (Perhaps if Microsoft funds added RapidRide service during a company event at the Meydenbauer center?  That’s a whole separate blog post idea in itself…)

These ideas are probably just skimming the surface but should be relatively easy to implement.  If anybody has other ideas to help make riders more comfortable with the schedules, I’m all ears – comment away…

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