I used my rare afternoon off Wednesday to check out the state of Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel joint operations, now that Link Light Rail trains are running every six minutes each direction during peak, and six bus routes have been moved upstairs.
A pair of tunnel security personnel kept the dwell time for trains in Westlake Station just under a minute, while the operator stayed close to the cab.
One long bus platoon featured back-to-back 41s, followed by a 71, a 150, and a 255. All only stopped once in Westlake Station. So, rumors that Bay A buses (41, 71, 72, 73, and 74) would be allowed to stop two bus lengths away from the bay marker, and not have to stop again, proved to be true. That 255 was only one length away from Bay B, behind a deboarding 150, and also stopped only once. Nor did that 150 have to stop a second time in the fully forward position along the platform.
One benefit of routes 216, 218, and 219 moving upstairs is that ST Express 550 is the only Bay D bus left, allowing ORCA Boarding Assistants to leave their readers set to ST Express single county, with no peak differential. Having routes 77 and 316 go upstairs (along with route 76) allows the assistants at Bay A to leave their readers on 1-zone peak Metro.
But the proof of how much more quickly buses are moving in the tunnel during peak is in my time trials: A northbound train trip just before the peak hour took me 8 minutes and 30 seconds from Stadium Station to Westlake Station. A southbound train trip from Westlake Station to Stadium Station during the peak hour took me 9 minutes and 45 seconds. The difference was entirely due to train boarding time. A subsequent northbound train trip during the latter half of peak hour took 10 minutes and 10 seconds, with at least a minute of that spent stopped in the tube approaching Westlake Station “due to traffic ahead”. This is substantially better than the last time I timed train trips through the tunnel over a year ago, featuring an eleven-minute trip from Westlake to Stadium Station, and a 16-minute trip from Stadium Station to Westlake.
It appears Metro and Sound Transit are taking smooth joint operations in the tunnel seriously! I owe Mark Dublin lunch at the Beacon Hill taco truck.