The future RapidRide R Line, which was scheduled to upgrade the Route 7 through the Rainier Valley, remains on pause until additional funding is available. Metro has completed the conceptual project design for the Line, which provides a foundation for future work. Metro Matters reported the R Line’s pause in September 2020 and provided an update on all future RapidRide lines in December 2020.
Metro will continue frequent Route 7 bus service along its existing route and has no plans to stop or suspend Route 7 service. We understand the importance of this service to the community, and even during the pandemic, Route 7 continues to have high ridership.
Improvements along Rainier Avenue, however, will continue with the Seattle Department of Transportation’s (SDOT’s) Route 7 – Transit-Plus Multimodal Corridor project. The project will improve the reliability of Route 7 and walking connections to bus stops by early 2022.
Why is Metro pausing the RapidRide R Line project while some other RapidRide lines are moving ahead?
Ridership and revenue have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and, as a result, Metro is no longer able to launch all previously planned new RapidRide lines by 2027. The decisions about which projects to pause, delay, change, or allow to continue were informed by: how close the projects are to completion, equity impacts, funding sources, how projects aligned with Metro’s Mobility Framework and RapidRide policy goals, and previous community feedback received on the projects. The RapidRide lines that are continuing to move ahead are either closer to completion, have secured funding, or a combination of these factors. The RapidRide R Line project will resume when funding is available. Moving ahead with the RapidRide R Line with limited available funding risks leaving service conditions worse than their current state.
What has community engagement on this project looked like to date?
Throughout this project, Metro sought to hear from people and groups along the Rainier Avenue S. corridor who have been historically underrepresented or overlooked in transportation planning. We collaborated with our community-based partners, including Asian Counseling and Referral Service, Columbia City Business Association, Ethiopian Community in Seattle, Friends of Little Saigon, Hillman City Neighborhood Association, The Lighthouse for the Blind, Rainier Valley Food Bank, and many others, to inform our approach by seeking to understand some of the barriers people may face in participating in traditional engagement methods. We focused our engagement efforts on meeting people where they are at—conducting bus stop outreach, hosting events at diverse and accessible locations in the community, attending regularly scheduled meetings, distributing translated and transcreated materials, and providing interpreters.
Community input has informed important project design decisions and helped to guide our decision to pause the project. Although this project is being paused, community feedback influenced Metro’s preferred concept and informed the service quality improvements to be made when the project resumes. You can learn more about our community engagement efforts in our summary reports:
- Needs Assessment Engagement Summary
- Preferred Concept Engagement Summary
- Final Preferred Concept Engagement Summary
What’s going to happen to the Prentice Loop?
While the Rainier Beach Link station will be the southern end of the future RapidRide R Line, Metro’s plan is to continue providing transit access to the area south of S. Henderson Street that is either the same or better than our current service. From the start of this project, we’ve heard from the community the value of the service south of S. Henderson Street and in the Prentice Loop. Existing Route 7 service to this area is infrequent relative to the rest of the route (Route 7 service north of the loop runs seven times more frequently during peak hours than it does in the Prentice Loop), and we have also heard current service is also confusing since not all Route 7 buses serve this portion of the route. In line with our standard practice of implementing service changes, we will engage with people who use the Route 7 south of S. Henderson Street 18-24 months prior to the launch of RapidRide R Line to identify their mobility needs and to develop the right service solutions to begin alongside the conversion to RapidRide R Line.
These decisions are never easy. We believe strongly that if the project is to be paused, it is better to do so now when we are at an appropriate place to pause the design process. Our engagement with community does not end. We’ve committed to at least two updates a year during the pause in the project, and we will provide the community with as much notice as possible on the restart of the project if the economic recovery is strong enough to allow us to go forward. A restart will include additional community engagement to ensure the feedback we collected prior to this pause is still relevant before beginning the final design of RapidRide R Line.
Metro is committed to bringing the most frequent and reliable service possible to the Rainier Valley. While RapidRide R Line may be paused, that commitment is not. In fact, we have a number of projects that will improve transit in the Rainier Valley. These range from taking a closer look at how to reimagine safety, security and enforcement on our services and at our stops/stations; to how to restore service post-pandemic; to the continuation of our Via to Transit pilot program. All of these projects will require a continuing conversation with our Rainier Valley community.
As we wait for the economy to rebound, we will continue to engage with the community to ensure that you will have a continuing voice on this project.
More information can be found on King County Metro’s RapidRide R Line project webpage or on SDOT’s Route 7 – Transit-Plus Multimodal Corridor project webpage. To receive the latest information, please fill out the RapidRide R Line Sign-up form.