When the RapidRide B Line launches in Redmond and Bellevue on Oct. 1, riders will see some differences between buses rolling out on the Eastside and those currently serving the A Line (from the Tukwila International Blvd. Link station to the Federal Way Transit Center).
For one thing, the front end of the B Line buses will have a slightly different shape than the A Line buses, due to a change in the bus model being offered by the manufacturer. It’s still pretty clear they’re members of the RapidRide family, however, due to their distinctive red and yellow color scheme.
On the inside, most users will notice a different type of seating throughout the bus. The new stainless steel seats are far lighter than the steel, plastic, foam, and upholstery seats on most Metro buses, which will help Metro cut fuel costs. Eventually, all Metro buses will use the new style seats – the B Line buses are just the trendsetters.
Also, in addition to the usual wheelchair securement area, the B Line buses will offer Metro’s brand-new passive restraint system for wheelchairs. Customers using wheelchairs will just roll in, facing the back of the bus, and set their brakes – no buckles or straps needed. A padded backstop will keep wheelchairs from moving if the bus brakes suddenly, and a handy pole will prevent lateral movement during sharp turns – and also provide a convenient stop-request button.
This system will allow wheelchair users to board and exit more quickly, helping RapidRide get you there faster.
So riders in wheelchairs face the back of the bus with this design? The passive restraint system definitely seems like an improvement, but facing backwards seems like it could be a little disorienting and make it harder for some people to keep track of where they are and when they need to ring for the next stop. Possibly a little more difficult to exit in reverse too. I don’t use a wheelchair myself, but I’m curious about this. Of course, the quicker wheelchairs can board and exit the bus, the more time everyone saves.
Jon – Thank for asking about RapidRide’s passive restraint system for wheelchairs and other mobility devices. Here are a few facts about the system Metro uses.
It’s been used throughout Canada for many years, and is now coming to the United States.
Natural forces contain the wheelchair in its rear-facing location, eliminating the need to secure it with belts. This means faster boarding, more independence for customers, and fewer injuries for drivers.
Our next order of RapidRide buses will be modified to make it easier for customers to maneuver into and out of the passive-restraint area.
In the future, we hope to add a real-time sign that can be seen by customers in the passive-restraint area. In the meantime, customers can listen for the automatic next-stop audio announcements. Also, they can always ask the driver to remind them of their stops.
For another perspective, here’s a post about the system by one of our bus drivers on his personal blog.
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