[UPDATE 2:29 - Sound Transit will be extending hours of operation. More updates as we get them]
[UPDATE 3:12 - ST will add two southbound departures, leaving from Westlake at 1:00am and 1:15am]
Yesterday Sound Transit sent out a press release reminding riders that all ST service New Years Eve (Friday Dec. 31st) will operate on the normal weekday schedule while service on New Years Day will operate on a Sunday Schedule. I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that Sound Transit will not extend Link’s hours of operation beyond the normal last departure at 12:41 12:37 from Westlake, just 20 minutes or so after fireworks at the space needle ends. I find this absolutely ridiculous and an oversight on Sound Transit’s part.
First look at Metro’s core routes. Most of them will operate till around ~1:30am with the last trip of the night on high ridership routes like the 49 and 7 leaving downtown at 2:12am and 3:30 respectively. Even the monorail is operating till 1am. Or look at our neighbors to the north and south. Vancouver is extending skytrain operations by an hour to ~2:15am in addition to its extensive, easy to understand, and well branded night bus network. Not to be outdone Portland is running MAX untill 3am. And in both cities all night service is free!
And it makes perfect sense why Vancouver and Portland are taking these steps. First off New Years Eve is essentially the biggest and latest party night of the year, tens if not hundreds of thousands of people will be drinking, hundreds of thousands of people will be out watching firework displays and it will be essentially impossible to get a taxi. To me the the correct decision is obvious. In fact in a perfect would Metro would add late night runs to it’s routes as well.
My hunch is that last year when ST extended service not that many people took the trains, likely due to lack of knowledge, not demand. If Sound Transit announced service today, tied it to the fireworks at the space needle, points out the horrible traffic, got Mother Against Drunk Driving to encourage people to take transit, and made all rides after 8pm free I’m sure a few news sources would pick up the story and get the word out.
Sound Transit is building a multi-billion dollar regional mass transit system and it needs to complement that capital investment with an operational investment in the highest level of service.
I intended to write about late night transit service in more detail later.