RapidRide R Line
Inclusive and equitable community engagement
King County Metro (Metro) is upgrading bus service in Seattle’s Rainier Valley with a new RapidRide line. By late 2024, RapidRide R Line will serve people who are currently using Route 7 with better, more reliable bus service. Route 7 is currently one of Seattle’s busiest routes, serving 11,200 riders per day with significant projected growth. The communities around Route 7 and Rainier Avenue S. are among the most diverse in Seattle, with higher rates of racial, cultural, and language diversity than the city-wide averages. Many people who live in the Rainier Valley use Route 7 to get to the grocery store, school, medical appointments, and more—not just as a commuter shuttle to travel to and from downtown Seattle. While Route 7 buses are scheduled to come every 10 minutes or sooner throughout most of the day, buses are often delayed. Metro’s key goal for RapidRide R Line is to provide more reliable service, meaning buses will be more frequent and stay on-time more often.
Metro hired PRR to conduct and document intentional, inclusive, and equitable community engagement and communications for the project. PRR approaches this work with a pro-equity lens and creating accessible engagement opportunities for general Route 7 riders as well as focused efforts to meet priority populations where they are. In this project, the priority populations are people who are transit-dependent and people from historically underserved communities and who are transit-dependent including people with limited-English proficiency, people from immigrant and refugee communities, people who are visually impaired, or have other accessibility challenges, and people who are older.
In the initial needs assessment, we asked about priority places people want to travel to and from, barriers to accessing transit and improvements to encourage more transit use, and ways to effectively engage with people who have been historically marginalized in local government’s public involvement. Engagement activities during this phase included interviews with community-based organizations (CBOs), service providers, and other community groups; tabling at community events; community briefings hosted in partnership with CBOs and community partners; and an online survey available in English, simplified Chinese, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Metro used the input and feedback received through the needs assessment to inform preliminary design concepts as well as the communications and engagement activities planned for future phases of the project.
Once Metro’s preliminary design concepts were ready to share, we embarked on the next phase of engagement. We shared proposed station locations and options and to gather feedback on ways to keep the bus on time and ideas to make it easier and safer to access bus stations. Using what we heard in the needs assessment, we adapted our approach to be more inclusive and responsive to community feedback:
- Providing materials in additional languages, including Amharic, Arabic, braille, traditional Chinese, Oromo, Tagalog, and Tigrinya
- Having interpreters at in-person engagement events based on the language needs shared by community partners in the area
- Doing outreach at bus stops with multilingual staff to engage with transit riders
- Following up with the community with more engagement before deciding on proposed station locations and presenting multiple station location options to community members to consider
- Meeting with additional community groups recommended by CBOs and partners
During this phase, we tabled at community events gathering places, and housing communities; developed deeper relationships with CBOs and other community groups; talked with people at bus stops; hosted in-person open houses with refreshments from local businesses and activities for kids to reduce barriers for attendance; hosted an online open house in English, simplified Chinese, Somali, Spanish, traditional Chinese, and Vietnamese; met with Route 7 operators; and briefed city and county councilmembers. To get the word out about opportunities to engage with the Metro team and provide feedback, we employed a suite of tactics, with a focus on facilitating more inclusive engagement:
Metro incorporated the feedback they heard through this engagement directly into final bus station locations and into a system to prioritize projects to increase safe access to stations. So far, we have engaged over 1,500 community members in person and heard from over 2,000 people through the survey and online open house to ensure community input helps drive the RapidRide R Line plans.