When voters think of the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure, the first thing that comes to mind is usually light rail. But the people in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties who are voting on the plan will have to consider other modes of transit, too.
ST3 would add something called bus rapid transit to Sound Transit's transportation options.
What is bus rapid transit?
Bus rapid transit is not the same as express buses. These buses have certain features like elevated platforms and ways for passengers to pay before they board. Most importantly, they typically have their own lanes so they can maintain regular speeds, come more frequently and make stops that are farther apart like a train might.
Under ST3, bus rapid transit would run in corridors that see a lot of congestion during peak travel times: along I-405 between Tukwila and Lynwood, SR 518 between Tukwila and Burien, and SR 522 between Bothell and Shoreline. These routes are among ST3's earlier projects, to be completed between 2019 and 2025.
Bus rapid transit and other bus projects included in ST3 are one way to get service to certain areas in general. But Sound Transit's other goal is to integrate the buses with the light rail system.
One alternative to light rail
Critics have said that bus rapid transit shouldn't play second fiddle to light rail. They say the region needs to look at flexible transit choices now, rather than decades later.
Many argue that a broad bus rapid transit system with regional reach would be cheaper and faster to build because it works on existing infrastructure. The routes don't have to be built from the ground up.
ST3 supporters argue that bus rapid transit doesn't have the capacity that light rail has, and that building out a bus system doesn't help get people off roads.