Joni Earl, Sound Transit CEO, and King County Councilman Larry Philips watch as Mayor Nickels announces the start date of Link service.
Joni Earl, Sound Transit CEO, and King County Councilman Larry Philips watch as Mayor Nickels announces the start date of Link service.

Ever since the construction float disappeared in the Beacon Hill tunnel, the July 3 completion date for Link light rail was under threat.  Today, Sound Transit announced that the opening date will be Saturday, July 18.

I’m told that part of the reason for a two-week delay, besides a margin of error, was to avoid the added demand from both July 4 festivities and the Mariners home game on Saturday, July 11.  That gives them a couple of days to handle all the for-fun riders and work out the kinks before a Monday morning commute.

Given all that padding we’d consider this date extremely unlikely to slip.

Riders won’t have to pay a fare to try out Link during the inaugural weekend.

[NOTE: This post has been revised as more information came in.  Some of the comments below refer to earlier versions of the post, which erroneously referred to July 3 as a previously announced opening date; in fact, it was the project completion date.]

38 Replies to “Light Rail Date Announced”

  1. Two weeks isn’t a huge deal, although it would have been fun to take it on the 4th of July for the US vs Granada Concacaf Gold Cup match.

  2. Yeah, I think this is mostly because the 11th has a Mariners home game, and if there are snags, that’s not a day you want to have it.

  3. Less than three months away!

    Does this mean that the bus tunnel will be open late starting with the June schedule revision? Or will buses stay outside the tunnel after 7 PM until September?

    1. I spoke with a Metro supervisor during last Saturday’s joint bus-rail tunnel test. He said they will begin to test trains in the tunnel mixed with buses in May. Also, for the summer service change on Saturday, May 30, tunnel hours will be extended to match Link’s service hours: 5am-1am Mon-Sat and 6am-midnight Sunday. (via @VeloBusDriver on twitter http://yfrog.com/edtunnelhoursj)

      1. Awesome awesome awesome!

        Based on the current timetables (which I would expect would change) I took a look at how many non-tunnel trips there would be.

        Weekdays:
        194: 1 morning trip
        041: 1 evening trip
        071: 3 evening trips
        072: 2 evening trips
        073: 2 evening trips
        150: 2 evening trips
        174: 6 evening trips (possibly 7)

        Saturday:
        041: 1 evening trip (possibly)
        071: 2 evening trips (possibly 3)
        072: 1 evening trip (possibly 2)
        073: 1 evening trip
        150: 1 evening trip (probably 2)
        174: 6 evening trips (possibly 7)
        194: 1 morning trip

        Sunday:
        041: 2 evening trips (possibly 3)
        071: 7 evening trips
        072: 3 evening trips (possibly 5)
        073: 2 evening trips (possibly 3)
        106: 2 evening trips
        150: 3 evening trips (possibly 4)
        174: 9 evening trips (possibly 11)
        194: 1 morning trip
        255: 1 evening trip
        550: 1 evening trip

        I based this off the times they’re currently listed at arriving on nearby surface street intersections. Buses move faster in the tunnel, and Metro might fudge the schedules a little bit to make one or more trips in (or out of) the tunnel, so that’s why it might be say 2 instead of 3.

        This means 3 really awesome things:
        1) In the 7 months of winter you won’t have to wait outside in the cold if you’re transferring between two tunnel routes (which is nice because the tunnel stays decently warm). Same for the 2 months of summer, except you won’t have to wait in the blistering heat.
        2) It’ll be suuuuuuper easy to transfer from one of these routes to Link!
        3) Easier to read timetables! Now instead of two extra columns; Metro will probably do what they do on the 194 timetable–a symbol after the time, in this case, ‘D’: “D-Tunnel closed. Arrives/leaves 2nd Ave & Pike St at this time.”

        Horay all around!

      2. The supervisor said test trains running in pre-revenue service mixed with in-service buses. They’ll stop at all stations and dwell for 20 seconds. They just won’t open the doors for you to hop on ;-).

  4. Wait for the anti-LRT guys to chime up and complain about a 2 week delay…watch for the bashing on the news….eesh

    1. Nobody should be complaining about a mere two week additional delay for an urban rail system specified in the mid 1990s that is partially opening three years later than the commitment when it was funded back then. I’m sure not. What’s two more weeks on top of three years? Things happen. Safety first.

      However, based on what I’ve been reading, there’s at best a 50-50 chance of meeting this new deadline. July 18th does provide a hard goal for the entire team of Sound Transit (system builders and testers) and King County Metro (system testers and operators) and General Electric (systems contractor) to strive for. Good luck to them.

      Since Sound Transit is now on record saying the opening could have been as early as July 3, a delay beyond July 18th will only transpire if something unexpected happens. Houston had a lot of wham-bam-tram collisions in the pre-revenue testing, Phoenix did not, neither system opened late, and I’m guessing a few more fender-benders for Link in testing — IF they happen — won’t delay the opening.

      My best guess as to the likely problem area leading to a Link revenue service start-up delay, based on Federal monitoring reports, is related to the token ring communication system and all that hangs on it, previewed in the thousand page, 9.3 megabyte pdf at http://tinyurl.com/csvxz4 .

  5. Only 2 free days, huh? I guess I’m not too surprised since it does depend partially on farebox recovery.

    1. An ST person I talked to a while ago told me it was going to be one free day–then normal service starting Saturday at 6.

      1. Your source was mistaken. Two free days of rides. All trips will be “special service” and not mimic a regular weekend service schedule. Trains will NOT run the full 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. schedule on Saturday and 6 to midnight on Sunday; a significantly shorter time span is in the works.

    2. I’m making up for all of it by wasting money on my new Orca when I already have a flexpass. :P

  6. I want to add that July 3rd was never an official opening date. It was assumed in a meeting that would be a target date only, never a full opening. July 3rd was merely the date if the float was not exhausted. With the buffer gone, this gives ST 2 extra weeks not to rush things. This also gives the FTA more time to go over the system with a more flexible schedule

  7. I heard from my contacts working on the planning of the opening that a) the official date would be announced today and b) that the primary reason for delaying it is concerns about police managing both Link opening crowd control and 4th of July weekend crowd control at the same time.

  8. Hmmm…not sure they’ll be getting much relief that weekend if any at all. Not only are the Sounders playing that day, but they will be playing Chelsea. The whole of Qwest (~67,000) will be open for that game, not just the 27,000 they have open for regular games. Plus you’ll get it in one fell swoop as opposed to spaced out if it were the weekend before. But perhaps they need the two weeks in any case. I’ll happily take it to the game that day!

  9. Chelsea is in town on the 18th which is supposed to fill up Qwest field. That should be interesting to see the crush of people riding to the game and walking around the new lightrail for the 1pm game. Fun times!

    1. The transit police will also get experience while dealing with drunken English soccer hooligans. :) Though it’s Chelsea and not Man U or Liverpool.

  10. I suppose they could have let me know this before I planned a camping trip. Maybe this group should plan for a first day (perhaps first train?) on-board meet-up.

    1. If ST2 comes two weeks late then I’ll be pretty happy. But as others have noted, there was never a start date announced previous to this.

      1. Because the unofficial date that all us transit nerds got tattooed on our foreheads was “July 3”, even though all of the official ST docs said “opening in July 2009”.

  11. Yey – this is my birthday!!!!! I secretly hoped that the opening of Link would coincide with my July 18th birthday and now it looks likely to be the case!

    Tim

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