Public Interest Transportation Forum -

King County Citizens Approved "Transit Now" in November 7th Election, a Plan that Includes Five "RapidRide" BRT Lines and More, All for a 1/10 % Sales Tax Hike

Following is an evolving story by John Niles based primarily on information provided to media by King County Government, supplemented with additional information from the Coalition for Effective Transportation Alternatives (CETA)
Historical page from early 2007

Note: Transit Now implemented as RapidRide is officially described at
Routes have changed from what's shown on the map below.

King County Metro's bus service expansion plan, first announced on April 18, 2006, was approved by voters on the November 7th, 2006 ballot as Proposition 2.

The plan is called "Transit Now," and is intended by the County's planners to remove 50,000 drivers from their cars and thus reduce congestion and air pollution.

King County's press release celebrating approval of Transit Now

The King County web site describing the Transit Now plan is here.

Voters' Pamphlet on Proposition 2 with Pro and Con arguments is here

News Coverage of Transit Now:

Seattle Times

Seattle Post Intelligencer

Editorial Endorsements of Transit Now:

Seattle Post Intelligencer

Seattle Times 

Political analyst Ted VanDyk

King County's new bus service is funded by a one-tenth of one percent sales tax increase which would amount to one penny on a $10 purchase or $25 a year for the average family. The plan is expected to generate an estimated $50 million annually for Metro service and new buses to provide the service.

"Transit Now will give people what they are asking for: more bus service more frequently," said Sims. "We will not be able to keep up with expected growth, unless we have new funding for more bus service. We have designed this proposal to include service so frequent in heavily traveled routes that more riders won't need a bus schedule, they can count on a bus arriving within a few minutes of them going to a bus stop."

Transit Now will expand Metro service by up to 20 percent system-wide over the next 10 years, and get more commuters on the bus and off the road now by launching the expansion within months of a final decision, not years. As many as 700,000 new annual service hours – or about 200 additional buses – will be on the road by 2015 if the plan is implemented. More than a half million people will be within walking distance of the new service, according to planners.

The initiative will establish new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service to five of the most congested travel corridors in King County with buses at 10-minute intervals. Regular service on existing high-ridership routes will also be expanded to 15-minute intervals all day cutting the wait time for thousands of passengers, plus new service will be added to serve residents in rapidly growing neighborhoods. BRT amounts to the incremental improvement of existing bus service, and providing more frequent service on high-ridership routes counts as another step toward BRT.

Click here for more about BRT in the Public Interest Transportation Forum.

As part of Transit Now, and for the first time, Metro proposes to create innovative partnerships where other governments and businesses would match transit dollars to deliver more intensive levels of transit service to support new job growth and local transit needs.

Metro's new service adds nearly 200 clean-green hybrid buses. The cleanest burning fuels available will power the entire transit fleet. Almost half of Metro's fleet will thus be powered by electricity, hybrid diesel-electric and biodiesel.

Sims was joined in announcing Transit Now in April 2006 by King County Council Transit Committee Chair Julia Patterson, Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger, and Sammamish City Councilmembers Don Gerend and Kathy Huckabay to announce the initiative.

"As gas prices rise, our population grows and our roads become more congested, increasing Metro bus service becomes even more important," said King County Councilmember Julia Patterson, who chair's the County Council's Transportation Committee. "Bus service across King County and especially in the suburbs is not sufficient to meet the needs of King County's commuters and working poor. There is more road construction occurring in King County today, then in the previous two decades combined. Without additional bus service it will become more and more difficult to get around on our streets and highways."

"People in the suburban areas are clamoring for more buses, more often," said Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger. "The new Issaquah Highlands Park-and-Ride garage has been a big success on the Eastside – not just for Issaquah. It demonstrates that you can get people out of their cars, if you provide frequent and convenient transit service.

"The time is right now to give our residents more transit choices, more transit options, and more opportunities to protect the environment by polluting less. That is why I support the Transit Now initiative, because it gives us the opportunity to improve our communities now and into the future."

"The trend is clear. When we offer new bus service it fills with passengers," Sims said. "We are already adding more buses to the new Issaquah Highlands Park-and-Ride that opened in February with 10 new roundtrips to downtown Seattle. Most of the buses on that route are full and more than 600 cars are parked at the new garage that has a 1,000 car capacity.

"When the economy is strong and employment is up, we know people rely on Metro even more. But current funding levels will not support any real increase in Metro service."

PITF recommends a journal article "How to Overcome the Ten Barriers to Effective BRT Planning" by Alan Hoffman available for download in pdf here. Published in Smart Urban Transport, February 2004.

The Transit Now plan was front page top headline news in both Seattle dailies on the morning of April 18th, 2006

Seattle Times: "Sims wants to boost sales tax to add buses" by Mike Lindblom

Seattle Post Intelligencer: "Sims wants to boost bus service with tax" by Larry Lange

Transit Now Initiative Highlights

‘RapidRide' Bus Rapid Transit

Under Transit Now, Metro will deploy new Bus Rapid Transit Service, dubbed "RapidRide," on five of the county's most congested corridors. The service will run every 10 to 15 minutes six days a week, delivering 85,000 additional service hours each year. Proposed RapidRide routes would include:


Aurora Avenue North (State Route 99) improvements between Shoreline to downtown Seattle


Ballard to downtown Seattle along 15th Avenue Northwest and Elliott Avenue West


West Seattle to downtown Seattle with a possible extension to the University District using the downtown transit tunnel and Interstate 5


Bellevue to Redmond on Northeast 8th Street and 156th Avenue Northeast via Crossroads and Overlake


SeaTac to Federal Way on Pacific Highway South (State Route 99).

RapidRide would also include purchasing new hybrid buses, upgrading passenger waiting areas; plus adding the technology to synchronize traffic signals and operate real-time bus arrival signs.

More bus service more often

Metro' Transit Now would also deploy more all-day, two-way service on 35 existing major bus routes that connect residential, business and recreational centers throughout the county. These high-ridership routes are available during peak and off-peak hours throughout the week, and will become even more dependable because bus service will be more frequent. In addition to improved frequency during peak and midday periods, night and weekend service will be expanded. Passengers will also see less overcrowding. These core service improvements will be tailored to specific needs in specific areas of the county.

Improved service to growing areas

Transit service has not kept up with growth in suburban King County in the past 20 years. Metro will increase service to growing residential areas by adding peak service in areas not currently served, and offering midday service in some areas that currently have peak service only. The proposal includes:


New or expanded service for Sammamish, Redmond Ridge, Snoqualmie Valley and North Bend in east King County;


New or expanded service for Maple Valley, Black Diamond, Auburn and Enumclaw in south King County.

Service partnerships

Transit Now includes resources for developing partnerships to serve rapidly expanding employment centers in locations where transit service investments will generate the most riders. These new partnerships could be modeled after the highly successful programs Metro has operated with partners such as the University of Washington and Microsoft. In both cases, the partners shared a portion of the cost of new transit service and supported the investment with programs such as pass subsidies and parking management.

Additional improvements

The Transit Now initiative also includes plans for:


Expanding Access paratransit to areas in urban King County where this service is currently not provided to increase options for users who cannot ride regular buses; 


Making ridesharing improvements to double participation in Vanpool and VanShare programs. These improved ridematching tools would make it easier for county residents to find others who could share the ride.

Executive Sims proclaims: "Metro is the backbone of the region's transit system. It's built a strong reputation as a people mover and consistently earns high ratings for customer satisfaction. It's time to continue to build on this transit system with the service people want."

(Graphic map above is from King County Government.)

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