Over the weekend, I rode Seattle's brand-spanking-new Rapid Ride lines. I took the D line to Ballard on Saturday and the C line to West Seattle on Sunday. Let me open by telling you where I'm coming from: I'm kind of an amateur transit nerd, having taken both of the other Rapid Ride lines on their opening weekends—my experiences with the A line are here and my ride on the B line is here—but I certainly don't have a head for transportation numbers or any sort of a technical background in transit. I just like taking public transit. It's the first thing I do when I visit a new city. I'm in favor of as many different kinds of transit as possible, wherever people are.
But aside from the fact that Rapid Ride buses are going to be very frequent—with buses leaving at least every ten minutes during peak ridership and every fifteen minutes every other time—I don't really see that many advantages to this new system. You still get the pileup of riders paying at the front door, the buses are still stuck in the same traffic, and politicians get to gesture to the Rapid Ride lines as a symbol that they care about transit, when it's really just the same pig wearing some shiny red lipstick.
I'm especially nervous about the C line, which currently travels to West Seattle on the Viaduct from downtown. At some point—either at the hands of city employees or because of a natural disaster—the Viaduct is going to come down, and the C line is going to be stuck on the same winding path to West Seattle through SoDo as every other bus. In the fairly near future, I'm envisioning two or three of these so-very-frequent buses bottlenecked together on a ramp up to the West Seattle Bridge. And in the more distant future, I'm envisioning some hotshot politician insisting that demoting the Rapid Ride from every fifteen minutes during off hours to every half hour won't really be hurting that many people. It all feels so very temporary, and temporary is the opposite of a good transit system.