Featured Image: Metro announced plans for stations on the new Rapid Ride I Line that will serve Renton, Kent, and Auburn in 2023. Rendering of station courtesy King County Metro.

Metro Reveals Plans for RapidRide I-Line Stations in South King County

by Stephen Fesler

(This article was previously published at The Urbanist and has been reprinted with permission.)

A new Metro RapidRide line is coming to Auburn, Kent, and Renton in 2023 to provide more than just more frequent and faster bus service. King County Metro also is planning new station standards at stops and making lasting improvements to streets. In the latest project update, Metro unveiled four types of station standards depending upon expected ridership and station access needs, which will dictate which improvements will be rolled out.

Tier 1 stations on the Rapid Ride I Line will include ORCA card readers, lighting, benches, transit shelters, waste bins, and real-time arrival signs. (Rendering courtesy of King County Metro.)

New Station Standards

Metro’s RapidRide program has long had its own station design standards, but the RapidRide I Line will feature a completely new look and feel from past iterations. The agency has released four general versions of stations based upon expected ridership of stops, which include the following:

  • Tier 1 stations with 150 to 349 riders per day
  • Tier 2 stations with 50 to 149 riders per day
  • Tier 3 and Tier 3 Low stations with 49 or fewer riders per day

Tiers 1, 2, and 3 will all have ORCA card readers, lighting, and benches, but Tiers 1 and 2 will also come with transit shelters, waste bins, and real-time arrival signs. Tier 3 Low will be the most basic station design with only a bus stop flag and bus loading pad.

For branding, the Tier 1, 2, and 3 stations will appear in the traditional RapidRide red and feature blocky pylons with attached ORCA card readers, maps, and real-time arrival signs where available. Transit shelters will have a similar blocky theme and feature the station stop name on canopy blades.

The Rapid Ride I Line, scheduled for completion in 2023, will provide fast bus service between Renton, Kent, and Auburn.

Improvements by Community

Metro has already predetermined which station stops along the corridor will be Tier 1, 2, and 3. Most stations will fall into Tiers 1 and 2. In tandem with outfitting and opening these stations, the agency is planning to provide better access through street improvements. Metro has identified 19 different station access projects along the RapidRide I Line corridor that could be implemented. Many of these are new pedestrian crossings near stations.

In Renton, improvements include the following:

  • #1 — On South 2nd Street, a two-way bike lane is planned from Shattuck Avenue South to Logan Avenue South near the high school, as well as new intersection curb bulbs
  • #2 — On Talbot Road South at South 23rd Street, curbs will be bumped out for the crossing in front of Talbot Hill Elementary School
  • #3 — On Talbot Road South at South 37th Street, a crosswalk and raised bike lane through the new stations will be added
  • #4 — On Talbot Road South at South Carr Road, a pedestrian refuge island is proposed along with raised bike lanes through the new stations
  • #5 — On 108th Avenue Southeast at Southeast 186th Street, a special beacon and crossing system called a High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) and pedestrian refuge island are planned

In Kent, improvements include the following:

  • #6, #7, #8, and #11 — On Benson Road Southeast and 104th Avenue Southeast at Southeast 224th Street, Southeast 228th Street, Southeast 235th Street, and Southeast 253rd Street, additional HAWK crossings, beacons, and pedestrian refuge islands are planned
  • #9 — On 102nd Avenue Southeast at Southeast 240th Street, a new marked crosswalk, curb bump out, and pedestrian light phase are planned near the Fred Meyer entrance
  • #10 — On Southeast 240th Street just east of 104th Avenue Southeast, a mid-block HAWK crossing and beacon as well as a pedestrian refuge island are planned
  • #12 — On Southeast 256th Street at 101st Avenue Southeast near Kent-Meridian High School, Metro is planning a new marked crosswalk and pedestrian signal at the stoplight on the western side of the intersection and sidewalk improvements on the south side of Canyon Drive.
  • #13 — On Canyon Drive at 94th Avenue South, a raised bike lane through the new stations will be added
  • #14 — On East Smith Street at East Titus Street, a raised bike lane through the new stations will be added along with an accessible connection to Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks Park
  • #15 — On Central Avenue South north of South 266th Street, a mid-block HAWK crossing and beacon as well as a pedestrian refuge island are planned.

In Auburn, improvements include the following: 

  • #16 — On Auburn Way North at 30th Street Northeast, a new crosswalk, curb ramps, and two pedestrian signals are planned on north side of the intersection
  • #17 — On I Street Northeast at 30th Street Northeast, new rapid-flashing beacons for pedestrians are planned on the north side of the intersection
  • #18 — On 15th Street Northeast at I Street Northeast, sidewalks will be constructed to provide access to Dick Scobee Elementary School
Many roadways will be modified to include dedicated business access and transit (BAT) lines. (Image courtesy of King County Metro)

As far as right-of-way re-channelizations go, Metro is proposing modifications in all three cities to prioritize bus movements (see maps for gold lines and location) that largely involve some targeted roadway widening and installation of business access and transit (BAT) lanes in these locations:

  • On South Grady Way near the South Renton Park & Ride and Talbot Road South north of I-405; additionally the roadway will be widened by one lane and provide a BAT lane in each direction, except that on South Grady Way an eastbound lane will be a transit-only lane instead of a BAT lane
  • On a short stretch Southeast Carr Road near the intersection of 108th Avenue Southeast, Metro is planning to widen the roadway to provide a BAT lane in the eastbound direction
  • On 108th Avenue Southeast near the Southeast 208th Street intersection, a lane in each direction is planned to be converted to BAT lanes
  • On 104th Avenue Southeast near the Southeast 240th Street intersection, Metro plans to widen the roadway to provide a BAT lane in both directions
  • On 104th Avenue Southeast near the Southeast 256th Street intersection, the roadway will be widened to provide a BAT lane in the southbound direction
  • On SE 256th Street near the 101st Avenue Southeast intersection, there will be signal improvements and the roadway will be widened to provide an eastbound BAT lane
  • On East Smith Street between North Kennebeck Avenue and Railroad Avenue, Metro will widen the roadway to provide a westbound BAT lane
  • On Auburn Way near the 15th Street Southeast and 8th Street Southeast intersections, a southbound lane will be converted to a BAT lane and the roadway will be widened by one lane

Overall, the improvements planned for the RapidRide I Line are expected to reduce travel times up to 20%, which should be a welcome change for riders. But the plans do involve a lot of expensive and seemingly unnecessary road widening rather than conversion of existing lanes for bus priority. Bike lane improvements at stations may also have mixed, conflicting results where they overlap with boarding areas rather than being routed behind stations next to the sidewalk. Nevertheless, final design of the project should wrap up in the fall and construction is planned to begin in 2022.

RapidRide I staying on schedule makes it unique among Metro’s expansion plans. Facing budget constraints, Metro has delayed other planned RapidRides such as the RapidRide R upgrading Route 7 in the Rainier Valley and the RapidRide K in Kirkland. Moreover, the Seattle Department of Transportation and Metro agreed to cut in half the RapidRide J (upgrading Route 70) and shelve RapidRide plans for Route 40, Route 44, and Route 48 in Seattle to stretch a thin budget. Likewise, the RapidRide G has faced a series of delays and snags, pushing it back from an initial hoped-for opening of 2019 to fall 2024. However, the agency is prioritizing completion of RapidRide I, citing its equity framework and high transit-dependent population in the corridor.

To comment on the proposed RapidRide I Line, you can send an email to rapidride@kingcounty.gov.

Stephen Fesler is an urban planner with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. Stephen lives in Kenmore and primarily covers land use and transportation issues for The Urbanist.

📸 Featured Image: Metro recently announced plans for stations on the new Rapid Ride I Line that will serve Renton, Kent, and Auburn by 2023. (rendering of station courtesy King County Metro)

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