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Some 12,000 passengers a day ought to save a few minutes, now that King County Metro Transit, starting Saturday, has converted Route 358 to the RapidRide E Line, serving Aurora Avenue North.

RapidRide uses distinctive red buses with low floors, which make fewer stops than conventional routes. Passengers are encouraged to prepay by tapping ORCA fare cards on readers at each station, then enter at any of three doors, instead of clumping at the front door.

Riders will save one to nine minutes per trip, depending on distance and time of day, said Metro spokeswoman Rochelle Ogershok. Other features include peak-hour bus lanes in Shoreline and Seattle, and traffic-signal changes, some not yet completed, to hold a green light longer if a bus is approaching.

Metro is boldly predicting that ridership will grow by half in five years. Ogershok said there is latent demand and a surge in apartment construction near Aurora.

In addition, she said Metro hopes the addition of fare inspectors will make riders feel more secure. The 358 was often scorned because of an ample clientele of addicts and people with mental-health problems.

As a main north-south line, the 358 has served thousands of workers and students, arriving as often as every five minutes, and with RapidRide, evening service is being boosted.

Also, new sidewalks coming in the Bitter Lake neighborhood ought to make it easier to reach Aurora bus stops, for the big senior population just west of the Aurora strip.

This is the fifth RapidRide line since voters approved a sales-tax increase in the 2006 Transit Now ballot measure: There’s the A Line in Federal Way, SeaTac and Tukwila; B Line for Redmond, Overlake and Bellevue; C Line from West Seattle to downtown; and D Line passing Ballard, Seattle Center and downtown.

Five years ago, Community Transit launched its own roomy, frequent Swift bus rapid-transit service from the King-Snohomish county border (where the E Line ends, at Aurora Village) to Everett.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or On Twitter @mikelindblom