I think opening day was an unqualified success. Sound Transit planned for the worst, and instead, we had a best case scenario. Every train I rode was full – some packed to the brim, some just standing room only, all well used.

I have a story about ORCA  I’d like to share. Yesterday we saw some problems with the ticket vending machines at a few stations – cancelling a transaction could leave the TVM ‘hung’ indefinitely. Sound Transit already had the contractor on standby in case there was a problem on opening weekend, and overnight, a patch was written by the contractor, tested, and applied to all TVMs to fix the problem. This is unheard-of turnaround, and it just goes to show what a tight ship Sound Transit is running.

I want to say thank you to all the Sound Transit staff who gave up their weekends – sometimes as long as 7am-10pm – to pull this off without a hitch. Also a huge thank you to all the volunteers who helped out – I saw a couple of regular commenters handing out literature and answering questions. I have never seen ST staff smile so much before.

And thank you to the people who took 92,000 rides. We’ll have to wait for University Link before we see that many again!

30 Replies to “92,000”

  1. I agree–ST did an awesome job of making sure everything ran smoothly. I didn’t notice any hiccups. The only thing that went “wrong” that I saw was that one of the elevators at Bacon Hill wouldn’t close its doors. But the doors on the opposite side opened up to a maintenance area allowing the reporter for the Rainier Valley Post to escape unharmed. While at first he ignored those doors, it seems to me that the elevator did exactly what it’s designed to do. And the other very small complaint is that Tukwila was out of water when I stopped by later in the day. But I’m not complaining–early in the morning I saw at least a dozen extra jugs at each dispenser.

    No kidding on those TVMs–I caught them at Stadium at 15:17 on Friday and again around 09:15 at Westlake. All to make sure they’d be ready for the first day of revenue service. Kudos to you, ST!

  2. My one and only gripe over the weekend was today when my brother asked an ST person about the elevator to Westlake (obviously, I know where all Tunnel elevators are) and was told to use the escalator (which we received much apologies for)

    Both in Old Trusty and my new chair, no problems what-so-ever on the trains themselves.

    My only question is what would happen if I’m in Beacon Hill or the DSTT and an evacuation should be required (I.E. a fire, meaning obviously no elevators)? I have absolutely no use of my legs and can’t walk at all

      1. If I recall correctly, standard practice in the case of someone who cannot use the stairs is to build safe rooms. It would be one per floor, or possibly one every other floor. These are rooms that have 3 hour fire ratings on all walls (1′ thick concrete usually), and have a secure air source. Anyone who is unable to make it down the stairs would camp out in these locations until rescuers can make it to you. It’s an unenviable position to be in, but I think that’s the best that can be done.

        Also, elevators don’t shut down during a fire, they’re just turned over to the fire department for their use (if safe). The FD has much more precise control over the elevators, and in this situation I believe they would use the elevator as a tool to fight the fire and evacuate anyone unable to get themselves out.

      2. I saw sings at Tukwila Int’l Blvd featuring a wheelchair emblem and an arrow pointing to a Place of Refuge.

      3. I saw those signs and didn’t understand what they meant. While I could probably guess they mean “emergency shelter”, they should be clearer.

      4. I’m not sure of the exact requirements for this type of building, but I would suspect that ST would err on the side of caution. The building code requires areas of refuge to be built adjacent to or within other exits (i.e stairs)– the areas of refuge are fire-rated with smoke partitions and would not be remote from general emergency exits. The elevators would most definitely be on emergency back up power as Colin noted–expressly for the purpose of evacuating people. The stairs are also usually “oversized” so as to allow a good samaritan or fire fighters to navigate them while carrying people. I would also expect that the stations have sprinklers, which are effective enough in suppressing fires that the building codes allow an area bonus–basically a doubling of allowable building sizes–if sprinklers are used.

    1. I have an answer for Beacon Hill.

      The four elevators are actually built for emergency exit. Only one is converted to fire use, the other three are used for evacuation.

      There should also be a portable chair or two in each stairwell, although I haven’t actually looked.

      I don’t know what would happen on a train. That’s a little worrisome – I’ll ask, or maybe ST Guy will know.

      1. If the train burst into flames it would probably stop. The operator would stop it if it didn’t do so itself. Then the operator would open the doors and announce instructions over the PA. There’s room for people to stand between the tracks along the entire alignment. The pantograph would probably come down, and the OCS would probably get shut down too. Another train could come by to pick them up, or they could use one of the many emergency exit stairways located along the elevated section (or just walk across the street on the at-grade portions). The tunnel also has various emergency evacuation areas.

      2. That’s a great explanation. I meant more – what would Jessica do, as she can’t walk?

      3. In the DSTT I believe there are stretchers along the tunnel for carrying people with mobility problems in case an evacuation is needed. I don’t know about the Beacon Hill tunnel though.

  3. I wish they had done a better job of parking management at Tukwila. They didn’t give you any suggestion where to park, they just put cones in front of both lots and waved you forward. That was not helpful, it just seemed snotty. Frankly it would have been much more helpful to indicate that there was no parking at the interstection of 99th so you can make an alternate parking decision before ending up lost in a winding lane of condos further down 154th.

    Also they weren’t controlling the lines well — people were walking where they obviously weren’t supposed to, etc. And Seattlites sure do have the subway mentality down pat — push right in front of people if you want to get on first.

    I am pretty sure I was on the last train out of Westlake tonight. Not quite as good as being on the first train opening day, but it’s something. Tomorrow, I will find out how feasible it is to work the Link into my daily commute.

    1. A ‘no more parking available’ sign might have been helpful, but it would have to have been actively managed – people were coming and going by car all day.

      The lines looked well managed to me. There were quite a few plainclothes media around, probably 70 or 80 of us.

  4. I also didn’t enjoy the fact that the Westlake Center entrance was off limits. Would have been real nice today to be able to go straight from the tunnel up to the monorail platform. And vice versa.

  5. Thanks for the kind words, Ben, and others. Yes, it’s been an exhausting weekend, and of course exhilarating. I’ve been working on this project for nearly eight years professionally, and longer including my civic life. On Saturday, after my volunteer shift at one of the stations, I rode the line from end to end a couple times, along with hundreds of others, and saw it from a new perspective.

    For the first time, I was able to see the whole, the totality of it all, beyond the various pieces I had a small part of. How it all works so well together, how it all fits together aesthetically, including the 20-year-old DSTT, with the eight new stations. I saw finished stations for the first time at Beacon Hill and Mount Baker (finished only the night before…). Stunningly beautiful. I explored them with awe.

    Yes, it was an emotional experience.

  6. Isn’t the ORCA contractor in Australia? Still a weekend, but “overnight” could actually be during the day there.

    1. The contractor, an Australian company called ERG, based its U.S. subsidary in Concord, California. When ERG had financial troubles due to a cancelled project they spun it off into a company called Vix ERG. More recently Vix ERG sold their U.S. operations to Cubic Transportation Systems, which is also based in California.

    2. ERG is just for ORCA, the contractor for the TVMs and software is German, with software engineers in Germany and the Czech Republic – the patch came from Europe.

  7. Sound Transit did a great job, and I hope the momentum continues so our community embraces Link as Portland has done for MAX.

    My only regret is that there isn’t a station in Tukwila at Allentown, at S 133rd and Interurban. I like that location for a Link station for its access to Boeing, Southcenter, the Interurban Bike trail, Starfire Sports Complex, et al., and it can revitalize a community and business park that’s less than a half-hour’s ride away from downtown Seattle. Metro can close down the Tukwila Park-and-Ride, since it’s only a couple of blocks south and there is room for parking even at the current office park. A station there also means lower speed and train noise that concern the nearby residents. Maybe one day this will happen.

    But at least there’s finally a good alternative of transportation in this area. I’ll be riding Link again soon and often!


  8. I don’t see why metro is going to continue to operate route 194 all the way to Downtown the remainder of the year why can’t they truncate it at Tukwila station, and why is sound transit is going to operate a shuttle from the airport to Tukwila station. It seems like there is a lot of overlapping service.

    1. A couple of reasons:
      1) The 194 connects Federal Way and Seattle, not Seattle and the airport. The airport is just one of its stops.
      2) The tri annual service change already does enough to confuse people. Let’s not confuse them by changing this route halfway through the shakeup.
      3) While we won’t know for sure, I wouldn’t be surprised if the connector shuttle will be cutaway vans with luggage racks. Yes, I’m aware that the LRVs do not have luggage racks, but they have level boarding which makes things much easier. Having previously worked at an airport valet lot, I know having luggage racks on buses makes things far easier. But we won’t know until later today what they (ST contracted out the connector) are using.
      4) The routing kinda sucks if you’re coming from Seattle and trying to get to the airport via Tukwila station. You have to take 518 (which is what the 194 does anyways) and get off at 99, backtrack to the station, and then take 154th to Air Cargo (AKA Perimeter) Road. It’s even worse northbound–instead of continuing to 518 from the Airport Expressway, you have to dump off at 170th to take Air Cargo to 154th and then get on 99 to go south to 518’s on ramps. I don’t know what traffic is like at the intersection, I would only go through there once or twice a week–and it was always after midnight.
      5) This is the most important one. King County/Metro pays for the 194. Sound Transit pays for Link. Metro has nothing to gain by changing its routing and picking up a bunch of people that won’t pay.
      6) Let’s keep rewarding tourists that choose to use public transit. The 194 is a one seat ride to the tunnel stations. Yes, the train is sexy, but some people will take a cab or a shuttle instead if they know it’s going to be a two seat ride. I failed on this point since the connector effectively makes it a two seat ride. Maybe I can save it by mentioning that that the connector runs on the same schedule as the train. The 194 has 15-30 minute headways weekdays and 30 minute headways weekends, or about half that of the train. If you’re going to increase headways, you need to have someone pay for it, and I don’t think ST could justify the cost of paying for more 194 trips when they could get their own customized shuttle for cheaper.

      1. The connector doesn’t have the same schedule at this point, actually – it’ll be on 15 minute headways. Closer than that was apparently not feasible.

      2. I think you might have heard wrong on this, Ben. The shuttle’s schedule seems to have 10 minute frequencies for most of the day.

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