Two years ago, King County Metro embarked on a project to improve transit in Renton, Kent, Auburn, and surrounding areas. Aptly named the Renton-Kent-Auburn Area Mobility Project, it was informed by members of the community every step of the way. On Sept. 19, the results of this collaborative effort will be implemented at last, and residents will see improved bus service on their city streets.

At the onset of this effort, Metro’s project team had broad goals, partially informed by the fact that transit network changes should include creation of a single route from Renton to Kent to Auburn that could be upgraded to the future RapidRide I Line in 2023.

It had been over ten years since Metro made significant changes to transit routes in this part of the county, but there had been other significant changes in the area, including dramatic population growth and increased density, with higher concentrations of people of color, limited English-speaking populations, and low-income households. This growth led to evolving travel patterns and issues with transit service performance.

A major project goal was to increase transit efficiency, prioritizing investment where needs were greatest, such as communities historically underserved and these areas with higher percentages of people of color and residents with low income or limited English proficiency.

Another goal was to inform, involve, and empower these communities in project decision-making, and collaboratively develop a network of mobility services to meet the specific needs of each community.

Metro embarked on an 18-month community engagement process to hear from residents and riders about what they needed from their transit system. They also established a Mobility Board consisting of a diverse group 27 transit riders from the Renton, Kent, and Auburn areas with a range of mobility needs and experiences using the transit system. Members include native English, Somali, and Spanish speakers, and bilingual speakers who speak Somali, French, Arabic or Farsi. This board helped Metro’s expert transit planners prioritize mobility needs and develop service concepts.

Key themes Metro heard from residents was that the existing transit network was geared towards 9 to 5 commuters to downtown Seattle and lacked many options for people who travel or work midday, in the evening, or on weekends. Traveling east to west and accessing key destinations within each community were also challenging.

Coinciding with Metro’s twice-annual service change, residents will receive:

  • A new, frequent powerhouse route, Route 160, which connects Renton, Kent, and Auburn and will convert into the future RapidRide I Line in 2023
  • More evening and weekend service for shift workers and people who rely on transit
  • Better east-west connections and integration with Sounder Commuter Rail
  • Faster travel times and direct service to key community destinations, wherever possible

You can review all changes and enhancements that start Sept. 19 sorted by area here.

“The implementation of the Renton, Kent, Auburn Area Mobility Project means that south King County residents will receive a transit network that’s truly customized to meet their unique needs,” said Terry White, interim general manager of King County Metro.

Despite many challenges posed by COVID-19, Metro is pleased that this mobility project is moving forward to better provide historically underserved communities with access to jobs, school, childcare, and more.