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Transit upgrade targets bus service

Bus service every 15 minutes along Pacific Highway South and every 30 minutes in the downtown area are dreams Federal Way hopes to make a reality by 2009.

King County Metro Transit is planning significant improvements to King County's transportation services. The changes will be brought about through its Transit Now measure, passed in November 2006. Federal Way recently submitted proposals, meeting the Oct. 1 proposal deadline, for increased bus services along Pacific Highway South and areas served by bus route 187. Funding for the projects has not been secured yet, traffic engineer Rick Perez said.

In July, the City Council submitted letters of interest to King County Metro Transit detailing improvements it wished to see through its city center commute trip reduction act: Expanding services in the western regions of the city, creating a rapid ride program and improving service on Dash Point Road, Perez said.

The city could not afford all those projects and has since decided a Rapid Ride program and increased service times for route 187 appear most feasible and beneficial to residents, Perez said.

Both are predicted to increase ridership on the already heavily-used routes, said Jack Lattemann, King County Metro Transit lead transit service planner.

"It was really an issue of getting the most bang for the buck," Perez said.

Rapid Ride:

Rapid Ride patrons will experience increased bus services along Pacific Highway South from Federal Way to Tukwila International Boulevard in SeaTac.

Rapid Ride will replace parts of bus route 174, which travels from Federal Way to Seattle, but will operate twice as often as that route, Lattemann said. Buses will stop along the corridor every 10 to 15 minutes, he said. Service will be available weekdays and weekends until 10 p.m. It will then revert back to route 174 operations, making the service available 24 hours a day, Lattemann said.

Rapid Ride bus stops and vehicles will have a new look. Each stop will feature real-time information. Transit riders will have access to a reader-board, which will give exact times of the next bus arrival. Riders will be able to recognize Rapid Ride buses by their distinct look, Lattemann said.

The Rapid Ride service will be implemented in four other areas within King County, but Federal Way will see improvements first, Lattemann said. Service will begin in February 2010, he said.

Federal Way currently has the greatest need for a Rapid Ride route, he said. The section of the corridor that will be served by Rapid Ride currently carries approximately 5,000 passengers a day, Lattemann said. Within three years, KCMT expects this number to rise to 10,000, he said.

"This corridor is the highest ridership corridor in south King County," Lattemann said.

Improvements to the Pacific Highway South corridor have been in progress for the past six years, Latteman said. Even if the city had not submitted a proposal for the project, it still would have been implemented, he said.

"There is no question (as to whether Rapid Ride will occur). We are going to go forward with this," Lattemann said.

The city submitted a proposal for the service because it wanted to outline a possible partnership with the city of SeaTac, Perez said.

If the cities can show that the Rapid Ride route will reduce travel time by 10 percent, Federal Way could be rewarded with an additional 5,000 service hours, Perez said.

The city wishes to capture those hours and apply them to improvements upon bus route 187. At this time, the partnership has not come emerged, but discussions may continue between Federal Way and SeaTac, Perez said.

Bus route 187:

Service times from the Twin Lakes area to downtown Federal Way may also be increased if the city's proposal is accepted.

Currently, bus route 187 is served every hour. Transit Now would bring service every half-hour on weekdays and weekends. Service times will be extended to 11 p.m., Perez said.

The route is one that is commonly utilized by Federal Way residents and the city has received requests for increased service times. The change would be beneficial to the city, Perez said.

"Anytime you are running a bus only once an hour, you're compromising its ability to be successful," Perez said.

If the city is able to offer increased services for this route, the numbers show people will take advantage of those services, he said. King County Metro Transit has signaled that route 187's service hours would increase by 20 percent and, in return, its ridership would increase by 51 percent, Perez said.

However, before any additional or improved services could be added in Federal Way, King County Metro Transit and the Metropolitan King County Council will have to approve the proposals. The city would have to find money to fund the services.

Money issues:

The city expects King County Metro Transit to reveal the status of its proposals by December, Perez said. Around the county, Transit Now changes will begin implementation as soon as 2008, Lattemann said.

If the city's proposals are found viable, it would be expected to pay one-third the cost of each project approved. Federal Way's proposals amount to $550,000.

Currently, the city does not have a way to fund its proposals, Perez said.

"There isn't anything proposed for 2008 in the budget," he said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

To learn more about Transit Now, visit the King County Web site at www.metrokc.gov/kcdot/transitnow/.

Fast fact

Transit Now, an initiative passed in November 2006, is funded by a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase. The initiative aims to improve and expand Metro Transit services in King County by 15 to 20 percent in the next 10 years. Each city receiving transit improvements is expected to supply at least one-third of each project's funding.

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