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Developing the Next Frontier: Capitalizing on Bus Rapid Transit to Build Community

The report documents the findings of The Bus Rapid Transit and Land Use Initiative, a partnership among ULI Seattle, King County Metro Transit, the city of Seattle, the city of Shoreline, and the ULI/Curtis Regional Infrastructure Project. The partnership formed a team of ULI members and transit professionals to analyze and make recommendations about connecting RapidRide and land use opportunities.

Executive Summary

By 2013, King County Metro Transit’s bus rapid transit (BRT) service, known as RapidRide, will be expanding to six lines covering 64 miles of high-use corridors. The Bus Rapid Transit and Land Use Initiative is the product of a partnership between ULI Seattle, King County Metro Transit, the city of Se­attle, the city of Shoreline, and the ULI/Curtis Regional Infrastructure Project. The partnership formed a team of ULI members and transit professionals to analyze and make recommendations about connecting RapidRide and land use opportunities. The team developed case studies of similar BRT service in other cities and ana­lyzed three station areas in Seattle and Shoreline.

From the perspectives of multimodal corridors, neighborhood design, housing, jobs/workers, market­ing, and stakeholders, the team developed specific recommendations for RapidRide and initiative partners, as well as recommendations for each station area. Three overarching themes emerged:

  • Focus on corridors;
  • Develop champions;
  • Promote community value.

These themes can be widely applied to BRT on com­mercial arterials. This final report introduces RapidRide, documents the case studies, and presents the team’s recommendations.

BRT in King County: RapidRide

Bus rapid transit comes in many different varieties. King County’s RapidRide is a type of “arterial” BRT. Arterial BRT works by providing convenient and priority access to all that is available—jobs, shopping, services, hous­ing, and friends—in the corridor.

RapidRide deploys a set of infrastructure investments and technologies to improve the speed and reliability of trips:

  • Running ways in “business access transit” (BAT) lanes;
  • Transit-signal-priority technologies;
  • Real-time arrival information at stations;
  • Low-floor, three-door buses;
  • Boarding areas about every half-mile.

RapidRide will be highly visible in the corridors. Full-featured stations and enhanced stops, including lighted signs and shelters, make up over two-thirds of the system’s boarding areas. Distinctive branding based on a red, black, and yellow design scheme marks the stations, stops, and buses.

Frequent service will also boost RapidRide’s visibility in the corridors. The target frequency is every ten minutes, and the target service span is 18 to 24 hours a day and on weekends. Initial service will not reach the target levels but will be an improvement over existing service.

BRT in Kansas City, the TwinCities, and Cleveland

Because BRT is so new in the United States, this report documents brief case studies on the experience of systems similar to King County Metro Transit in Kansas City, the Twin Cities, and Cleveland. Selected conclu­sions include the following:

  • Arterial BRT can be an important economic and com­munity development tool.
  • Project partners and champions drawn from a diverse group of public and private stakeholders, including the real estate community, are essential.
  • Arterial BRT has the potential to become an organiz­ing catalyst that helps focus market demand for higher-intensity development.
  • When stations and stops are spaced at a half-mile or less, the corridor—not just an individual station area—becomes the economic development unit.
  • Encouraging transit use makes these arterials multi-modal “complete streets” in function, even when not in form. The goal should be a complete street in both form and function.
  • Branding for arterial BRT can happen at three levels: the corridor, the transit line, and the neighborhood or business district, providing numerous opportuni­ties for collaboration between the transit agency and community members.

Recommendations

This report provides recommendations that address the transit system, corridor development, marketing, and stakeholder involvement. In addition, it examines hous­ing opportunities, neighborhood design, and corridor development in the vicinity of three planned stations: ' 15th Avenue Northwest and Northwest Market Street in Ballard (city of Seattle) on the D Line;

  • North 130th Street and Aurora Avenue North in Broadview/Bitter Lake (city of Seattle) on the E Line;
  • North 192nd Street and Aurora Avenue North near Echo Lake (city of Shoreline) on the E Line.

The three stations represent a range of development conditions typical of arterial corridors in the Puget Sound region.

To realize RapidRide’s potential for both King County Metro Transit and the neighborhoods and cities that the system serves, the report recommends three significant shifts in focus:

  • Corridors instead of stations. RapidRide can become a powerful catalytic mechanism that unifies entire arterial corridors of diverse communities and land uses.
  • Champions instead of “necessary” stakeholders. A broad base of support can be built by seeking out and cultivating place-based advocates who take ownership of the community agenda as well as the promise of RapidRide.
  • Community value in addition to trans­portation value. As it brings in new transit users and improves the transit experience, RapidRide presents an opportunity for establishing and extend­ing neighborhood identity and branding over time. It can be the backbone of community development and green infrastructure in the corridor and for the neighborhoods.