A week from today, I bet most of us are going to be somewhere along the length of Link – some of us riding it for the first time, some watching others get their first experience, some volunteering. Behind all that, Sound Transit will be dealing with the largest event they’ve ever organized.

To begin I want to note – Sound Transit has enough vehicles for regular service, not an all-out attack like opening day is likely to be. Trains will be running every few minutes – likely a two-car train every few minutes in each direction – but wait times to ride are expected to be long. As I understand it, trains will be running as often as possible, not just every 7-8 minutes.

Waitng will be fairly organized – not everyone will simply pile onto the platform. Sound Transit will be actively managing the number of people on each train on opening day, and will only allow those who are getting on the next train onto a platform at any given time. It’s probably going to be hot. Bring water, wear a wide-brim hat, wear sunscreen. Sound Transit will have stations so you can refill your water bottle, too.

It sounds like there should be entertainment at most stations. A full list is available from Sound Transit here (PDF), but I’m pretty sure if you just off the train, you’ll find something interesting. I’d recommend avoiding Stadium Station midday, as the Sounders play Chelsea on Saturday, and it’s likely to be a madhouse. Portable toilets will be available at all stations on opening weekend – normally public restrooms are not provided at Link stations.

Ribbon cutting should be at Mount Baker Station at 10 am, and the inaugural ride should start there, for those who have tickets. Rumor has it that a giveaway might be what’s going on @ST_TravelLight on twitter. That’s also who you want to follow for opening day news.

Note that if you take the train to a new station and don’t want to wait in line for hours to get home, there will be free shuttles from Sound Transit from station to station, as well as your usual Metro service, which won’t be free.

Any questions about opening day? Only a week to go! And this is an open thread.

45 Replies to “One Week From Now: Opening Day”

  1. Do we know anything about ORCA readers on the platforms of the DSTT? At the meet-up, Rebecca Roush from ST said that they “hope to have a solution by July 18th (having them on the mezz. only is a hassle for north end people trying to connect through)…

    1. There are ORCA readers on the platform of International District/Chinatown station located towards the center of the platform, 2 on each platform.

      Platform level readers in other stations? I don’t know.

      1. I’ve only seen the mezzanine level readers in Westlake, University, and Pioneer Square station. In University Street and Pioneer Square there is only one reader per station end located near one of the exits which makes them particularly inconvenient to reach for anyone transferring between a bus and Link. I really wish they’d stuck a reader at the top of each escalator/stair pair like in Westlake as well as having at least one in the middle of each platform for people transferring.

        Speaking of ORCA, I’ve noticed a lot of malfunctioning readers on buses. About 1 out of every 4 trips I get a bus with a non-working reader. Most of the time this isn’t a huge problem as the driver just says it isn’t working and either waves me on or off. However I did have one driver try to insist I pay for the trip with cash. He eventually relented and let me ride, but I found this to be rather annoying. Especially since with ORCA I can’t just show a driver my pass to prove I have a valid one.

      2. I haven’t seen much of that on CT’s commuter routes nor the trolleybus routes in downtown. Which routes are you referring to?

      3. Local CT routes haven’t had many problems either. I would say at the worst 1 in 15 odds of it being inoperative. ET has had more problems. I would say 1 in 4 odds on the #9 route which connects the Everett Station to Everett Community College. Fortuanately, my reduced fare card portion is stamped on the card so I can just show that to get free fare on ET. I can’t do that with CT since there is a reduced fare on CT. So far I have not had to pay for any fares yet.

      4. Can’t remember all of them but I’ve had a bad reader for a couple 66 and 67 trips, and at least one 77, 312, and 73 trip.

        The driver who tried to demand payment when the reader didn’t work was on the 66.

      5. Malfunctioning readers have been rare in my trips. I occasionally get the error message to tap my card again. It seems to be somewhat sensitive to the orientation and position of the card.

      6. If you’re transferring between bus and Link, why not just get off at either Westlake and IDS? That’s where most people get on and off anyways.

      7. Still the readers in the other stations are too few and inconveniently located. One reader near one entrance/exit kind of sucks if the station is crowded and you are using the other entrance/exit.

        Besides due to crowding I often will transfer at a station other than Westlake, which can get really jammed, especially during PM peak.

      8. You should be able to transfer whenever the fancy strikes. I have trasferred at every single DSTT station, though most often transfer at International District.

    2. Randy,

      As Oran said, there should be readers at platform level in the International District Station, and also at Westlake. I asked ST twitter-er the same question and that’s what they said but I have yet to check it out for myself.

      – Rob

    3. Orca readers should be on the trains, not on the platforms. People can validate their pass upon entering the train (Sounder or Link) and again upon exiting. Put them by the doors. That’s how they do it pretty much everywhere else and it’s how the busses work.

      I guess they couldn’t afford that many Orca readers though.

      1. Most rail systems have offboard payment, either honor system or turnstiles. The last thing you want is people standing in the doorways fumbling for their pass.

        Where else do trains have onboard payment, other than very basic streetcars?

      2. Since Link doesn’t have turnstiles, I guess I was comparing it mostly to train systems without turnstiles. Paris’ light rail network, for example.

      3. I think Paris’ trams still have offboard payment. I could be mistaken, I thought I used an RATP ticket and validated it before boarding.

      4. I don’t think it makes sense to have readers on the bus, but intra-downtown tunnel trips will likely be confusing without ORCA readers on every platform. People are used to being able to take the next available bus in the tunnel. This habit will be hard to break once trains become an option, especially since ORCA readers will only be at the Westlake and International District stations.

        If a train is the next available option, how many people are going to go back up to find a reader or purchase a ticket or wait until the train passes and a (free) bus comes?

        I guess the solution for monthly pass-holders is to just tap in at a reader so your bases are covered either way. I’m not sure about everyone else. Any thoughts?

      5. I don’t think pass users have anything to lose by not tapping in. If a fare inspector asks, and they have a pass for more than the maximum Link fare, they’re good. They still should, of course, but I can’t imagine they’d get a ticket.

        Also note that buses are already running on a with-trains schedule. People’s wait times if they’re using a bus won’t change.

        And remember that most tunnel users seem to be pass users.

      6. Well I plan to take the train for inter-downtown trips, but I don’t like the idea of having to play “hunt for the ORCA reader” if I’m using either University Street or Pioneer Square station.

        There are ORCA readers in both the University Street and Pioneer Square stations, however there is only one per mezzanine and it is right by one of the surface entrances/exits (which sucks if you are using the other surface entrance/exit).

      7. I don’t like the idea of having to play “hunt for the ORCA reader” if I’m using either University Street or Pioneer Square stationI don’t see why not… Easter only comes once a year, and now you get pretend it’s Easter every time you are in the tunnel!

      8. I just checked and it appears Pioneer Square has two Readers per Mezzanine. For the South Mezzanine than means one next to the station entrance/exit and another near the top of the stairs to the platform. For the North Mezzanine there is one near each station entrance/exit.

        Not as bad as I thought, but I still think there needs to be a reader in the center of each platform for all tunnel stations.

  2. My understanding is that platform-level readers are (or will be) installed at ID and Westlake stations, on the assumption that NB riders would want to transfer at he first opportunity, at ID Station, to assure having a seat on the bus. Same with SB riders transferring from bus to train, they should want to do it at Westlake. No reason for anyone to transfer at the intermediate stations.

    1. I was in the Westlake station today where I saw one yellow post on the platform that looked ready to have a reader installed, but I didn’t have time to really look around.

  3. Per the ST website, ribbon cutting ceremonies begin at 8:20:

    Inaugural ribbon cutting Saturday, July 18
    Ceremony Starts at 8:20 a.m.
    Link trains carrying the mayors of Seattle and Tukwila will meet at the Mount Baker Station for a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony. Afterward, Seattle’s mayor will continue to Tukwila and the mayor of Tukwila to Seattle with invited members of the public riding along. Opening Weekend service begins at 10 a.m. Win tickets on these local stations.

    Note that there is no parking at the Mt. Baker Station, please plan accordingly.

  4. I think the train should run 24/7 so plane passengers who have early flights could ride the rails. If 24/7 is not feasible at least open at 4 AM so passengers who have 6 AM flights can use the light rail.

    1. Rail systems can’t run 24/7 with only two tracks, you need nightly downtime for inspection and maintenance. NYC has four track systems, and Chicago’s Red and Blue lines have third tracks. Those are the only 24-hour lines I’m aware of.

      Opening at 4 am would mean closing earlier.

  5. The reason the ORCA readers aren’t on the trains is that you’re supposed to tap once at the station you board at and AGAIN at the station you get off at, since Link’s fare structure is distance-based.

  6. Depending on the time of day, it is possible to wait up to 15 minutes for a LINK train to arrive at any given station. If you “tap in” at an ORCA reader up on the mezzanine level of a stop in the tunnel and then don’t board a train for another 15 minutes, you’ve lost a pretty big chunk of time for a free ORCA transfer at the end of your trip.

    What possible reason could there be for NOT having ORCA readers on every station platform?

    1. That raises an interesting question. Anybody reading this know if the transfer time starts at tap-on? It might start at tap-off.

  7. And remember, in many cases, you don’t have to take your ORCA card out of your wallet, you can just tap your wallet to the ORCA reader, and it will read it just fine. Or just leave your wallet in your back pocket, and turn around, and press your butt up to the ORCA reader.

    1. Since I keep my wallet either in my jacket or my bag (if it is too warm for a jacket) I often have to take my wallet out. Though I can usually get the reader to pick my card up if I bump the pocket on my bag with my wallet in it up against the reader.

  8. I’m still getting the mag-stripe pugetpass from work, will I be able to use it in combination with an ORCA, or will it be completely useless for Link?

    1. That’s a valid fare, assuming it covers the cost of your trip. Just show it if you get inspected.

      Incidentally, I was fare-inspected about 5 times on San Francisco Muni during my trip last weekend. That’s as compared to 0 in about half a dozen trips to Portland over the years. Interesting.

  9. I’ve had better luck with the card inside my wallet rather than separate. The readers seem to be attuned for that position. If I take the card out, I have to slowly move the card across the reader until it finds the exact right position, which takes a second and holds up the line.

    I get around a 66% success rate with the readers. Twice drivers have mumbled about paying my fare, including one woman who made me come back to the front to try again. I told her I’d felt uncomfortable holding up the line waiting for the machine to reset when it was 50% likely to fail again anyway, but she just said, “I’ve got plenty of time.” I carry a printed receipt of my pass purchase in case the driver really insists, but so far it hasn’t gotten to that.

    Not having platform readers at every station is just ridiculous. I’m sure ST will change their mind once they get a lot of people not tapping in because there’s no reader. People will obviously transfer at every station, and nobody will go back up to the mezzanine to look for a reader, much less walk to both ends of the platform. (Don’t forget that the ends don’t have “down” escalators, which makes it even more tedious to pop up for a second.)

  10. Does anybody know how much it will cost to ride the shuttle from the Airport to Tukwila Station? Will it be operated by Sound Transit (i.e. will I have to pay even though I have a U-Pass)?


      1. Tim, that doesn’t affect payment. It’s still free, although you have to have a transfer if you’re going *to* the airport. You don’t have to have a transfer or any form of payment if you’re coming *from* the airport.

  11. I am planning to visit Seattle from Oregon next weekend (not this weekend- I don’t *have* to ride Link on the first day). I would like to pick up an ORCA card for my occasional trips up to the area. Will I be able to obtain a card at a Sounder TVM? It seems like you can, but the websites barely mention the option, instead urging online ordering. Will there be a $5 charge for the card? I won’t be up often enough to need any passes, just the “e-purse.”

    The light rail will make things so much easier up there.

    1. Hey Bill,

      The informatiom provided by ST on their site an in the travel guide make it look like that’s the case but it doesn’t work yet. Hopefully at least the Link TVMs will be able to issue ORCA cards on the 20th, otherwise you could probably order one by mail now and get it in time for your next trip here or get one from Metro’s King Street customer service location or the Westlake station.

      – Rob

      1. Just be warned that the customer service center at Westlake will not be open on the weekend. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere along the line there are people that are handing them out.

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