Link in SODO by Brian Bundridge
Link in SODO by Brian Bundridge

So with Link up and running for a week, here is a recap;

On opening day, 2 people got stuck in the elevator at Beacon Hill Station.

Many people complained about the rough wiggle the train made along the elevated segment.

TVM’s had their share of problems.

A power/signal outage shut down the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel for nearly a full day.

Trains were “light ridership” according to some newspapers.

Today I rode on Link and my observations are the following;

The wiggle in Tukwila is barely noticeable. The maintenance of way team at Sound Transit did a great job fixing this for both tracks!

Beacon Hill has some incredible food.

Sports fans are enjoying taking Link… the train I got off around 4:45pm had at least 40 jerseys waiting at Tukwila after over 200 commuters got off at Tukwila.

TVM’s all have been upgraded, including the Sounder TVM’s.

No power issues in the DSTT.

Ridership is steadily increasing. Both of my trains had easily over 200 people, which was shocking. The A/C on the trains did a good job keeping the temps cool.

How was your first week on Link? Good experiences, bad experiences? Considering this is the first week, I am shocked on how well this is going!

135 Replies to “Link’s First Week”

  1. On Saturday I rode the inaugural train northward from Mt Baker to Westlake, then all the way to Tukwila and back to the ID with no noticeable glitches other than we caught up with another train in RV and had to wait outside a station for a couple of minutes.
    At 5:00 PM on Wednesday I took a quick trip out to Beacon Hill from Westlake and back to University St to check out the commute, take some photos and count bodies on the trains – perhaps 100 southward and about half of that northward from Beacon Hill around 5:30 PM. Fare inspectors were on board southward and were very courteous but did ask those w/o ticketing to get off the train. They did not run ORCAs through their handhelds. I’m impressed with the continuing professionalism and good cheer of the ST folks on the ground, but from what I can gather much more needs to be done with on board announcements when “there’s trouble ahead”.
    I’ll be riding about once a week to keep an eye on this project for which I’ve waited 40 years.

  2. I think its made me a little hesitant about link. My first ride on it was actually on thursday when we were having the issues with the control system. We had to wait for 5-10 mins to switch to the other track, and even once we got going there was jerking stops (more the driver im guessing). Overall I’m just disappointed it’s not as finished and polished as I thought it would be. Let’s just hope it’s smooth sailing from now on as it should be.

    1. let me end the suspense. It’s not going to be smooth sailing from now on. There will be more glitches. That’s how it works. What you hope for is for the glitches to be solved quickly. As Link gets older, they’ll get better at resolving the glitches.

      1. It’s sounding like the station readerboards showed the termination info. Sure, they didn’t say exactly why, but we’ll get more of that as time goes on.

      2. As any good customer service manager knows, effectively communicating with customers when there is a problem is key to maintaining customer satisfaction. Customers are very forgiving when they know what the problem is and how it is being handled.

        Frankly, knowing how badly so many transit agencies handle problems, I am somewhat worried. The few times I rode Link this week, the unexplained stops for 2-3 minutes were annoying. Even worse, the traffic problems at the south end of the DSTT. This signaling system and mode sharing is not working IMHO.

        It’s my hope Sound Transit and Link will become known as the Nordstrom of transit customer service. But they have a lot of work to do.

      3. Sound Transit pretty much already is the Nordstrom of customer service, or at least close.

      4. I agree with John, while the service at the stations by ST staff was excellent. I think there is work to be done inside the train when there is a significant delay.

        I’m still hoping for better signage at the stations. Maybe that will change when metro changes the routes in the fall. It’d be really nice if there was bus schedules and destinations posted at the station – you know like a transit center.

    2. Yeah, I have to second what Colin’s saying. Systems this complex always have a few issues. They’re not that bad, they get better over time, and soon Link will be incredibly reliable. But not only does it have to get reliable, riders have to get used to the new and different unreliabilities a rail system has.

  3. When will we get official ridership reports for Link? I’m gonna try riding it tomorrow to Columbia city for some food.

    1. There are monthlies that come out delayed about a month, and quarterlies. So end of August, or mid-September, we’ll find out about July, I’d imagine.

    2. Hey Jojo,

      I replied to your comment but it appears to have mysteriously vanished. In any event, Sound Transit sent a “CEO Report” via email today that said initial ridership numbers should be available next week:

      “Early Monday morning, trains began carrying fare-paying passengers for the first time. Throughout the week, teams of Sound Transit employees were at the stations and platforms helping customers use the ticket vending machines and answering questions about the new service. Initial ridership numbers should be available by next week.”

      I looked on for a copy of the CEO Report but couldn’t find anything, but if you’re interested in subscribing to it, rider alerts, service updates, etc. you can do so at this URL:

      – Rob

      1. Oops, apparently it didn’t vanish. Either myself or my RSS reader was confused and I somehow replied to the wrong posting!

  4. I think that they need to adjust the system so that if you tap in at one of the DSTT and tap out at another one of the DSTT stations that it doesn’t ding your ORCA card … don’t see why they cannot make it do that

      1. as long as they are charging on the train and not the buses … there will be problems …

      2. I don’t really think so. Some people will be told they have to pay. A couple of tickets will be issued to obvious evaders. People will learn. And then as we add train service, there won’t be any more buses in the tunnel and it won’t matter. :P

    1. Believe me, it was (sometime heatedly) debated on this blog if Link should or should not charge in the RFA (I was one of the “honor the RFA” folks)

  5. I am curious how it will handle the loads for the Soccer game, Baseball game and the Torchlight Parade tomorrow.

    Hopefully people will be using LINK to reach these events (even if only from downtown Seattle)

  6. Today I rode all the way to Tukwila just to have lunch at McDonalds, which actually is pretty fancy inside and has a great view of the station. Local businesses should get together to promote themselves as “Gateway to the Airport”.

    The parking lot on the north side of Southcenter Blvd is still empty (at 1:30 pm).

    I second Brian’s report that the wiggle is much reduced from before but I know they can do better.

    The Link Airport Connector buses now have a banner on the side that says “Travel Light. Link light rail.” with people floating against a blue sky like in the TV commercial.

    On my train, there were announcements that “due to traffic ahead the train is delayed (waiting for bus in the DSTT). We will be moving again shortly.” and “Proof of payment is required while on board the train. Fares must be valid. Thanks for your cooperation.” Some trains didn’t play them. I have a feeling that the announcements are not as automated as I thought.

    I saw 20 people waiting for a NB train at Othello before 1 pm.

    The Beacon Hill public library is now the easiest library to get to on Link, even more than the Central Library or Columbia City branch. It’s just a block south of the station. I did my homework in the quiet study room.

    Despite living nowhere near the line, I’ve managed to ride Link everyday since Monday.

    1. Heh. I hope the Beacon Hill library study rooms don’t get *too* crowded now. I like to go there to work on stuff. And, yes, it’s incredibly convenient from Link.

    2. You must have been riding my train. The operator has a few pre-recorded announcments that we can play. I wait for the fare enforcment teams to board and play it after the doors close and we start moving.

    3. Hee hee – McDonald’s is the Gateway to the Airport. Ronald McDonald would be proud. :)

  7. The gf and I are biking to the Sounders game, then hopping on Link to Columbia City for beer, lunch, exploration, and probably more beer. Will report back on the post-game service.

  8. I’ve only been going south in the afternoon from Westlake to International District, and aside from the outage it’s been smooth sailing. I really like how they handle ORCA on the Link.

    1. are you paying to ride the train from Westlake to the ID? Do you realize this would be free on a bus? It is ridiculous that Sound Transit is not honoring the ride free zone.

      1. If inspectors would only check fares after the train has left the ID station southbound, there could in fact be an RFA.

      2. I agree that this will cause confusion. Dunno how they’d make it work, but I agree that in the DSTT, link should be free. But again, how this would work, I have no clue.

      3. I don’t want the Link trains to be ride free – it’s not confusing at all. Free = Bus. Fare = Train. How simple is that? You get what you pay for.

  9. I ran a quick calculation on how many passengers link trains will need to have on average to reach Soundtransit’s 26,000 per day estimate. Assuming around 230-250 trips (based on the published frequencies), it would take around 100 per passengers per trip. Based on what I have seen all week, I think Soundtransit will easily surpass this figure. When you consider all the short hops people are taking, it’s not hard to imagine that a train with only 50 people on it at the end of the line has already served over 100 passenger trips at some point in it’s 30-something minute trip. This bodes well for farebox recovery too…

      1. Truer, but late at night there’s only 4 trains per hour. So the 8 trains per hour of rush hour with 200 people per train will easily average that out.

        My ride home from Westlake to Beacon Hill this evening was SRO in my car.

      2. You know, that’s a good point about frequency.

        And yeah, I do think we’ll get to 25,000 pretty soon. I just want to keep expectations low! Plus, a lot of the people riding today are still riding for the novelty, and that will wear off.

      3. Yes. But, also I have heard a lot of people riding for novelty talking with their friends about the things they could use the train for… Which does bode well for it getting used….

  10. i’ve enjoyed having the train. i took it back from the airport today around 1 and 3/4 of the seats in my car were full by the time it entered the downtown tunnel.

    and i’ve been surprised – i’ve been on the train six times now and still haven’t been asked to show my pass.

    1. I know that a few people here have had fare inspectors check for payment on their rides, but I haven’t yet either, and have ridden the train 10 times since Monday. On Tuesday I saw a fare inspector on my car and asked if he needed to see my FlexPass, and he said they were just riding this week to be visible, and that checking/enforcement would begin next week.

      1. On wednesday, I had one come on at SODO and get off two stops later. He asked to see my orca card.

  11. All in all I’ve been impressed. I rode 5 or 6 times on Monday and then again a few times today. Everything went very smoothly except for my very last trip today. My southbound train waited for at least 5 minutes at Othello station with no information from the driver about the delay. He would start abruptly and then stop again even though it appeared the signals ahead were clear – not sure what was going on there. Then once I got to the ID station I transferred to the 212 to go to Eastgate. It appeared that they were having some signal issues again because our bus sat in the staging area at a red signal for over 15 minutes behind a 72 that was trying to turn around. The northbound trains kept stopping short of the signal and blocking the turn-around lane, so no buses could turn or get on the ramp to the express lanes. Don’t know what was going on, but people on the bus were getting pretty mad. Once we got to Eastgate I noticed about 6 buses arrived at the same time. I really hope they get the signaling working better or there are going to be a lot of annoyed commuters.

    Other than that I had a very positive experience riding Link and overhear a ton of complements from fellow riders. I think so far everybody is impressed.

    I do wish they would make the trains free in the DSTT though. It seems to be confusing everyone, at least half of the people on my car did not know that the train wasn’t free downtown when the fare inspectors came through at Pioneer Square. I really don’t think the small amount of revenue is worth the public confusion and inconvenience.

    1. I forgot to mention that on my trip to Tukwila this morning we passed the 194 because it was stuck in traffic on I-5. All the people on board waved and laughed. I can’t believe how many people are already using Link to get to the airport.

      1. Whoo hoo!

        Yeah, Tukwila IB station is surprisingly busy and the train hasn’t reached the airport yet. I can’t wait when Airport Link opens in 159 days or less.

      1. No checks for me so far… and I’ve ridden, um… well, let’s leave it at a lot. Well over thirty rides now.

      2. I’ve been checked five times now over 8 rides this week. I was checked twice during one ride, once around Rainier Beach and then again around Beacon Hill. Most people around me had purchased tickets. One person today who was riding from Westlake to Stadium had not. He said he didn’t know where to get one. The officer admonished him rather politely, and explained that there were people he could ask at each station.

        I would say that the wiggle around Tukwila is still pronounced. I expected it to be smoother and as drivers go faster it is still quite a shake (or is that a shimmy) that you get. I hope they improve this.

  12. I rode LINK on Wednesday afternoon down to Columbia City. The whole experience was enjoyable. I was checked on the way back but not the way down. The trains were about half full going down the valley at about 4:00, and predictably light coming back after dinner. There was only a minimal wait in the DSTT for the platform to clear.

    I ended up studying at Starbucks in Columbia City – is there a better coffee shop/cafe for studying? Maybe something with wifi?

    Unfortunately, the ORCA didn’t work. I tried putting $10 on the e-purse in Seattle, but I got an error message. I ended up just paying for one round-trip fare, but later I saw the $10 charge appear on my bank statement. I emailed ORCA support, who said that they don’t show any money added to my card. Hmmm. Hopefully this will get worked out.

    Anyway, I’m already trying to think of more excuses to ride LINK. I like it.

  13. It looks like the A/C system will get it’s first ‘test’ next week…95 degrees forcasted on Tuesday.

  14. I was a transit junkie this week, riding Link, Streetcar, Monorail, Sounder and Metro…here’s my observations:

    Saturday, a group of friends walked from our houses to the Mount Baker station. On the Beacon Hill to SODO segment, the car stopped a few times for unknown reasons, but no one cared since it just began. Took maybe 2-3 minutes to get to the Monorail and road that to the Bite of Seattle. Later in the evening, I rode Link back downtown from Mt. Baker, walked about 3 minutes to get to the Streetcar and rode that to I Love Sushi. Noticed that the train voices for Link and Streetcar were the same. Hmmm, wonder if they used the same computer voice? I like the Streetcar’s “next train” times and thought Link would have this?

    Sunday I rode the entire length by myself and had some great conversations with people. Ran into countless friends and experienced no issues.

    Monday, took the train to International District, walked about 4-5 minutes to Sounder station and took it south to my job in Tacoma. The Sounder voice is male and different than Link and Streetcar…too bad, would have been nice to have the consistancy. I was totally not stressed for once when I got to work. My normal 45 minute reverse commute took 1 1/2 hours, but it was free since I have a U-Pass.

    Tuesday I rode the rails south from Mt. Baker to Tukwila with a friend. All was well, didn’t notice the shaking people spoke about. I honesty think there could one day be a north Tukwila station along 599 serving all those businesses and homes and of course, a Sounder/Link station connection at Boeing Access Rd. Just before we hit Othello Station, the operator had to put on the emergency brake to miss a man in a wheelchair crossing the tracks. He wasn’t even close to hitting him, but he did come on the PA system explaining the situation. There were security men looking at tickets on this train for the first time that I saw.

    Wednesday met a friend in Chinatown for dinner. I got on the 6:50 train from Mt. Baker which ended at Beacon Hill. For no explanation, we were asked to get off the train. It was rather rude and abrupt and not handled well. I knew it was to take this train out of service for the night, but others didn’t. They should have announced something to that fact.

    Took a break on Thursday and Friday, but will be on the train tomorrow to go to the Torchlite Parade in downtown. So far I love it, but the reader boards needs to be put to better use!

    1. In one or more of these threads, people have been saying that they designed the tracks to permit a future station at 133rd in Tukwila.

  15. I saw fare inspectors for the first time this morning (about the 6th time I’ve ridden Link). Some folks just showed their ORCA cards and the inspector didn’t verify that they’d actually been used, which I thought was odd. I’ve also noticed some of the trains I’ve been on have had a very noisy clicking sound coming from the rear of the car. It’s quite distracting and I hope they fix it. Most of the trains don’t seem to have the problem, so I’m not sure what’s causing the discrepancy. The other concern I have is with bikes . . . every car I’ve been on has been at full bike capacity already, so I wonder if they will consider expanding bike space if there’s even more demand. I did notice the bike rack by the Beacon Hill station is being used. Overall, it’s been a great first week.

    1. The clicking sound is called a flat spot. This happens when the train comes to a quick and sudden stop (emergency braking for example) and slides the wheel which creates the noise.

      1. There’s also another type of irregular clicking or grinding sound coming from some of the powered bogies, caused by the carbody wear plate. A fix for that is in the works for implementation beginning in Oct.

  16. A number of my Beacon Hill friends have noted that the TVMs at that station are unreadable when the screens are exposed to direct sunlight. Has anyone else experienced that problem and does anyone know what Sound Tranit is doing to fix it. (I’ve heard that the machines are the same ones as used by light rail in Phoenix, so I can’t imagine this issue hasn’t come up there and been resolved.)

    1. It used to be difficult in Edmonds in the mornings until they rotated the machines.

    2. They placed a tent over the TVM’s at Beacon Hill to shade it from the sun. That should resolve the problem.

      1. I somehow think that isn’t a good long-term solution. They need really bright screens with good anti-glare coatings, a permanent awning of some sort, or some way of repositioning the machines.

        This shouldn’t be that hard though. Banks deal with this sort of thing all the time when placing ATM machines. Of course sometimes they don’t really deal with it as I’ve used a few ATMs where I could barely read the screen due to glare from the sun.

  17. I’d expect ongoing issues with ORCA over the next weeks and months. They’re probably getting flooded with customer inquiries. I have yet to use ORCA yet (I took the 554 Eastbound on Saturday after riding Link, opening day, and tried to use it but the reader was out, so I got a free ride) and will try it with a DSTT reader on Monday. I’ll probably take a train from Downtown and grab lunch somewhere along the line.

    1. I really haven’t had any problems, and I’ve been using it regularly for over a month.

  18. On Orca: my card abruptly and mysteriously stopped reading on Wednesday (of course I found that out the hard way, while trying to pay my bus fare). I had to take over 1.5 hours out of my day to stand in line for 45 minutes at Metro’s customer service center to get it replaced. I can’t say I’m pleased at having to fumble with an excuse to my driver, lose a day’s worth of fare while it didn’t work, and with having to spend so much time to get the situation resolved.

      1. I was asked to bring it in as it was totally dead. They could have mailed me a new one, but I didn’t want to go for a few days without the pass.

    1. The driver just didn’t let you on? Tell the guy you don’t have cash and you’ll have to fix it later.

  19. A few comments:

    TVM @ Columbia City is also unreadable when exposed to direct sunlight — our solution was to use the TVM on the opposite platform.

    ORCA has worked fine for me with about 25 uses this week — except there is no reader on the northbound platform at Westlake, forcing us to go up to the mezzanine, tap off, and then return to the platform to catch a bus. I will file a formal complaint about this as I have mobility impaired friends for whom this will cause a severe problem. (ID station has a reader on both platforms, BTW, but there is no instruction anywhere which tells anyone to transfer at a particular station.)

    ORCA also isn’t accepted on the SLUT which reduces the SLUT’s usefulness as a viable transportation option.

    I too complained about the ride on the Tukwila elevated area and noticed today that it is significantly better. Good job.

    Otherwise — and bottom line — LOVE THE LIGHT RAIL!!!

    1. Do you really need to tap out at Westlake? It’s at the end of the line and when you tap in at any station it deducts the fare to Westlake (or Tukwila). If you tap out before Westlake (or Tukwila), they credit the difference back into your card.

      1. Yes, but if you tapped in at, say, Beacon Hill, Westlake is a $1.75 ride, but Tukwila is a $2.00 ride. When you tap in the ORCA reader doesn’t know which direction you’re traveling, so I’m sure that without a tap-out, it will charge you the higher of the two fares.

      2. Well how are we supposed to know that? We’re told to tap/tag in and out. Is there a list of ORCA tips/hints?

      3. When you tag in it’ll show some stuff on the screen like how much was paid from your card, the origin station, and your balance. I have a $2.50 pass so mine says Permit to Travel, Westlake, paid $0.00. When you tag out it’ll show your final fare, origin-destination, and remaining balance.

      4. That makes me think…. the system allows you to travel the distance of the highest fare, even if youre pugetpass has a lower value. You could travel the first half. Walk out of the train, tap out, tap back in and reenter the train.
        Where I live you have either a specific section you’re allowed to travel or you have a center where you can travel from.
        As a “Fictional” example: Your center station would be ID station and you’d be allowed to travel 2 zones in any direction. So you wouldn’t be able to tap out and tap back in because you’d have a 2 zone radius from ID station.

        Unless I’m missing something that prevents this, it’s kind of useless to have the highest fare pugetpass.

      5. The card stores the last ten uses. So if they really wanted to get strict with enforcement, the handheld readers can tell that you tapped out and back in again. If the time between out and in is too short, then it’s probable that they can slap you a fine.

    2. From the streetcar’s website:

      “With the launch of light rail transit, the region is transitioning to a new fare payment system, ORCA (One Regional Card for All). ORCA fare card readers will be added to streetcar platforms in 2010. In the meantime, ORCA passholders can show their card as proof of payment on the Seattle Streetcar.”

      Nice to know eh?

    3. What happens for a Link-to-Link transfer with an Orca card? If I ride from the I.D. to Columbia City, it should cost $2.00. If I then get on another southbound train 10 minutes later, do I pay another $2.00 to get to Tukwila, or does that count as a transfer from the first ride, making the second ride free?

      If I’d stayed on the train it would have cast $2.25 to go I.D. to Tukwila. If the system doesn’t count the Link-to-Link transfer at all, I will have to pay $4.00 total, which doesn’t seem fair. How does this actually work?

      1. Well, I should say, not free exactly, but not full fare either. Basically, when you tap in at the ID, it charges your card $2.25 for the whole trip to Tukwila. Then when you tap out at Columbia City, it refunds the excess, since that trip is only $2.00. When you tap back in, I think it charges the extra money again. So you pay the $2.25 total, no more. At least, this is how it appeared to operate when I have used it this week.

        Here’s a thought — what if you have only $2.00 in your e-purse, and you want to go from the ID to Columbia city, and you don’t have autoload? How does it handle that? You have enough for the fare of the trip you plan to take, but not enough for it to charge you for the entire trip to Tukwila the way it does.

      2. Well, yes — but what if you don’t have cash or a debit card or anything with you to add value? That is what I meant to ask. So you’ve legitimately got enough money in the e-purse to allow you to go from the ID to Columbia City, but not enough to go to Tukwila — are you then able to go to Columbia City at all, since tapping in will try to charge you for the trip to Tukwila?

        Yes, obviously I would just refill my e-purse, but I can imagine that someone might not be able to at some point.

    4. They should make it so you don’t have to tap out when making a transfer. If you get out in a tunnel station and transfer to a bus, you should be able to tap just when boarding the bus.

      1. I may try this today… I got an extra card the other day to test a Link to Link trip (Beacon Hill-Mount Baker-Beacon Hill) which worked just fine within the transfer window. If I have time I’ll add some $ to the extra card, go down one stop and hop on a bus and see what gets deducted. I have a feeling that the intelligence isn’t there, but would love to be proven otherwise :)

      2. “…you should be able to tap just when boarding the bus.”

        But in the DSTT, you don’t tap when boarding the bus, you tap when alighting. There are platform-level ORCA card readers at ID/C and Westlake Stations. (When transferring to a bus, do that at the first available station — that way, you’re assured of getting a seat.)

    5. Since Westlake Station is the end of the Link route, you don’t need to tap off with your ORCA card. But if you got off Link at the IDS station and didn’t tap off, you’d get charged as if you rode to Westlake.

  20. I have to admit, I laughed rather uncharitably when I read about the “wiggle” on the elevated section. My first few weeks of riding the CTA in Chicago, I was pretty convinced that my train was about to tip over. But it didn’t. And it gets me to where I need to go. So instead of complaining… I just got over it and focused on the benefits of mass transit.

    1. Tuesday and Wednesday I caught Link at Westlake then transferred to the 48 and beat my usual bus (the 2) home.

      Tonight, I rode to Tukwila. The train cranked it to top speed (awesome!) going past the Duwamish and only slowed down when we got to the final bend. Then we stopped. On that really high part just beneath that hump up to get into the station.

      It felt like a roller coaster.

      1. Yeah, it seemed to be pulled along the tracks gently without doing that gentle rock trains do when they get above 30.

    2. The rough ride on the L never bothered me, but the stops on the Loop that feel like they’re about to collapse did! I can’t believe how many are still the original wood and cast iron stations. In comparison, the Link stations look like they were built to last a thousand years.

      1. Yeah, I think a good number of them are just held together with a hundred years of paint.

      2. When I lived in Chicago in the ’90s, whenever the L stations were repainted, they put up little rectangular paper warning signs that said “FRESH PAINT” (as opposed to “WET PAINT.”)

        One day, I saw somebody had torn up one of the “FRESH PAINT” signs and taped it back together rearranged so it said
        “AINT SHIT”.

        I loved that almost as much as I love “STOP FOR ME, IT’S THE CLAW” around here.

  21. Question.

    How would you go about paying fares for a guest with an ORCA? I just thought– is it possible to purchase a SR or RT ticket with your e-purse at a TVM? Or can ORCA only be used by the reader?

    1. Yes, it’s possible to purchase one or more extra rides (tickets, one-way or RT) at a TVM, paying with your ORCA e-purse. Look for the option as you punch through the screens; I can’t describe it off the top of my head, but it’s pretty straightforward.

    2. I remember playing with a TVM and tried to purchase a RT ticket. There were 3 choices: cash, credit/debit, and e-purse. However, that was a TVM with test software (the one inside Union Station) a month before Link launched and things might have changed since then.

  22. I have a question about ridership. How is it counted? Do the security cameras count heads? Do they run statistical models based on perceived train load? Do they just count ticket sales and write-off the non-Orca monthly pass users? Just how exacly do they come about their figures?

    1. I asked that question on opening day via twitter. ST sent me a direct message saying that they have infrared counters on several trains that automatically count people, then they use a model to determine ridership.

      1. I noticed recently that a bunch of the trains have holes where the counters would be. I’d imagine we’ll get more later.

  23. I had two somewhat bad experiences and several good experiences.

    The good: I rode rail to and from work all this week between Mt. Baker station and downtown. It was quick and comfortable for the most part, although when factoring in the longer walk to the station, no faster for me than taking an express bus. The trip seems to span from 15 to 24 minutes either direction.

    The bad: The power outage in the downtown tunnel was no biggie, although the 106 I had to ride instead was a muggy, packed sardine can. Worse was my experience on Wednesday. I caught a Westlake-bound train at Mt. Baker at 8:44 AM. The train pulled into Beacon Hill Station at 8:47 AM. Everyone was forced off the train because it was going out of service, and we had to wait an extra 8 minutes for the next train. It doesn’t sound like much, but adding 8 minutes and a change of vehicles on the way to work kind of sucks, and (for me) made the trip slower than it would have been if I took a surface bus. Also, it seems like trains should be taken out of service at the end of the line, not when full of commuters on their way to work downtown. I often commute at this time and I don’t really want to take light rail if I have to change vehicles and add 8 minutes for service changes at unpredictable intervals, particularly if I’m timing my trips to catch a transfer bus downtown. I also wasn’t able to find out anything about whether this was a regular occurrence from the ST website.

    1. I’m following up on the trains going out of service. They should only do that in the off-peak direction.

  24. I rode Link for the first time on Thursday, in from the airport. Caught the first shuttle at 5:07 am, and connected to the train at TIB station. A few observations:

    – The shuttle needs to better connect to the trains. For instance, trains leave TIB station every 15 minutes from 5-6am, but the buses arrive at 5:14, 5:29, etc. Thus, the bus arrived just as the train was leaving, meaning a 15 minute wait for the next week. I would think the bus should arrive somewhere in the middle, so there is enough time to buy tickets and get to the platform.

    – There were only two people (including me) on the shuttle from the airport to TIB. They really need to improve the signage, etc. to make it more straight forward. However, while on the airport shuttle, a supervisor was explaining to the driver that they would be shortly adding some marketing on the side of the buses. That should help.

    – Overall the ride was smooth and went much more quickly than expected. I didn’t notice the ride quality in Tukwila that others have mentioned. I also agree with other posters that the ride through the Valley was much quicker than expected.

    – While I didn’t get hung up at any red lights on MLK, I’ve read that others have. This is extremely disappointing given then money we’ve pumped into the signal coordination. ST needs to work it out.

    – It seems like the dwell times at some of the stations could be cut. On my early morning ride in, we would still dwell at the stations for 15-30 seconds, even when only one person would get on or off (or when no one got on or off). Seems like this could be an area that could provide some travel time savings; some of the heavy rail systems I’ve been on seem to have shorter dwell times (Toronto, DC, Rome, Cairo, etc).

    – Some of the stations seem pretty dead. I’d like to see more vendors and other forms of life, the revenues from which can be pumped back into the system. For instance, the Westlake Station has this huge empty mezzanine which could easily add an espresso cart, newsstand, etc. It would add life, bring in a small amount of revenue, and improve overall customer service.

    – Finally, while I was able to beat the whole signal mess, it’s becoming apparent that the mixed-use in the tunnel has some issues. My first question is, why do we need such stringent control and separation between buses and LRT in the first place? In many cities, LRT runs in the street with traffic, and it doesn’t seem to cause any issues. In that vein, why do we need an expensive system to make sure spacing is a certain amount, etc? Why can’t we just rely on the judgment of the drivers, as it really is not rocket science. Secondly, if such a system really is needed, I would start to ask if it’s really worth it to have mixed operations. It’s obvious that buses will be kicked out of the tunnel when U Link is open anyways, so why do we keep pouring money into this mixed-use experiment? Maybe there’s a reason other cities haven’t gone this route – it doesn’t make sense and adds unnecessarily complexity. Even when the tunnel was closed for repairs, there was not a noticeable increase in congestion. It seems that this political compromise (to muffle the screams of the typical light rail critics) isn’t working – I think if we see similar issues, it’s time for the tunnel to say bye-bye to buses.

    Overall, I think the system was quite slick. I enjoyed every minute of the ride, and it goes without saying that it’s a 100% improvement over the buses. I look forward to seeing ridership increase and to see expansions through the city.

    1. I agree about the dead space/potential for vendors at some stations. Mt. Baker station has a HUGE space underneath, large enough for several vendors or even shops. Instead, it’s just a big, empty concrete shell with very little seating and no reason to linger anyway. Seems like a wasted (or future?) opportunity to put something useful there.

      1. Future. No business can survive on a thousand riders a day. Wait for ridership to climb.

      2. It is a major intersection with several successful business already. Anything built there wouldn’t necessarily have to survive without only transit riders as customers. My concern is that the station was designed as a giant, empty, useless cavern without apparent thought to multiple or future uses.

      3. Consider this like a new house. You have yet to obtain furnishings, some appliances and accessories. But over the course of some time, it will feel more and more like home.

      4. I think Sound Transit should think about where they are willing to rent space for businesses serving riders and see what the interest level is. For all they know there might be someone willing to open a coffee cart or news stand at Mt. Baker right now even with the current level of ridership. Besides the whole process of deciding where to allow vendors, what rules they will operate under, soliciting bids, qualifying them, and accepting them will take a while.

    2. I assume they didn’t put an espresso stand at the LR stations because there are no bathrooms on the line. That combination is just asking for trouble…

      There is no way we should just ‘rely on the judgment of the drivers’ when it comes to light rail either.

    3. We need mixed operations for one reason only: marketing. The more people are down there waiting for their bus, the more they will crave the ability to take the lightrail to their destination instead of the bus.

      So yeah, having buses and light rail mix is (really) bad from an efficiency standpoint, it is excellent from a marketing standpoint.

  25. I haven’t ridden it yet (I know, shame on me) but the ORCA card website looks like absolute trash in Chrome.

    1. It still looks like trash in Safari, too. I kind of thought they would have fixed it by now, but no, it still looks as bad as it did back in April.

      1. I spoke with the ORCA folks at ST about this. Safari is supposed to improve, that’s actually in the contract. However, smaller browsers aren’t in ST’s contract with the company, they only have to support the biggest browsers – I don’t know what the wording is, but ST is working on it. There may be a new contract to improve other browsers’ rendering, but there are only so many ORCA people to go around, and they’re working on TVM issues right now.

      2. Nothing in that site is so unusual or technically advanced that this should even be an issue, IMHO. The design is pretty standard and there really isn’t any reason for the problems in some browsers. I certainly hope that the folks doing the website aren’t the same people working on the TVMs, and that they actually have someone who knows how to build a website.

        Having said that, it’s still usable even if it looks awful. But it certainly doesn’t look professional.

      3. I forwarded the page to a friend in web design and he says the problem with safari is they are using IE specific conditional codes. He laughed when he saw the one for ‘not IE’ since of course only IE (and those accommodating it) will even pay attention to it.

        He says the solution is to get rid of the IE specific:

        Special instructions for IE 6 here

        condition codes and replace them with actual standard compliant browser ID routines like

        if(navigator.appName == “Microsoft Internet Explorer”)

        conditional codes.

        His company does a lot of development for HBO, Showtime and the like and their strategy is to write standard compliant code and then trick it back into working for the broken IE browsers. The Orca people are doing it exactly backwards.

  26. If you tap in at westlake it will charge the maximum fare when you tap out at Columbia city it will put 50 cents back in your e-purse. Then when you tap back in to go to tukwilla it will take only 50 more cents. Also yes I know a bus through downtown is free but I’ll gladly pay $1.75 to ride a train with no smelly/stinky bums. also on the trains you don’t get the people that have a million questions about where this bus is going when they get on.

    1. That or the idiots who take 20 minutes to fumble for change (oh, by the way idiot, since this bus is LEAVING Downtown Seattle: you had a whole bus ride to get your fare going)

  27. Another thing I’ve noticed on the train I’ve met several very friendly and pleasant people. On the bus most of the time if you try to say anything people just give you a weird glance.

    1. It’s Sound Transit versus Metro overall, I’ve noticed the same thing on ST commuter services versus Metro.

      That’s just one of the hidden benefits of rail.

      1. You guys kill me. I’ve been riding Metro for 25 years now, and I’ve had literally thousands of fascinating conversations on routes all over the County.

        Over-generalizations aren’t any better when transit fans make them.

    2. Really? I’ve had a lot of friendly people talk to me on the bus (sometimes even when I didn’t especially want to talk).

      I’ve also overheard some totally entertaining conversations. There’s a lot of flirtation on the 49 on weekend nights, for example (and the lack of diesel engine noise makes them easier to overhear). Personally, I consider the other riders a major benefit of public transit, though I understand why some folks don’t like it so much.

      1. It really depends on who’s there. I ride the 34 into downtown to transfer to the 72. Downtown office workers are very talkative and perky on their way to work, whereas the high school students on the 72 haven’t even woken up yet. It’s the opposite in the afternoon – the students are having a great time, and the office workers are all dead.

    1. Yes, indeed. Keep them coming. Very useful to the agency; we still have a few details to sort out…as has been noted

  28. I’m a driver for Metro and I have a tunnel route. Took the family down on Thursday cause I wanted be on the train through the tunnel (To see what goes on while I wait at all those red lights for the trains to pass :^) ). Ended up on the bus.. :) Oh well.. Besides that I live in Des Moines so it’s a great way for me to get downtown for the sporting events or just the afternoon!

    I still thought the northbound ride from Tukwila was choppy till we got onto the street level but all around I give it high marks!

  29. Too bad I can’t overhear them talking when I’m riding the bus, which sucks. I can oversee what people are signing about, though. That makes me a “loner” on buses or light rail.

  30. Due to being out of town, I took my first rides only yesterday. Few things:

    1. I second the point that as long as trains are stopping in Tukwila, they’re going to need to have some way of notifying riders which track the next train is on. This could be high-tech (electronic reader board messages) or low-tech (someone radios in to a station staffer, that person then directs foot traffic).

    2. For all the talk of needing re-development in the rainier valley, it just didn’t look all that bad. Sure there were more than a handful of vacant and/or blighted lots, but for each one, there seemed to be a shiny new (although admittedly homogeneous) townhouse in new holly or rainier vista.

    2a. I think it was at Othello station that there was a vacant paved lot surrounded by chain-link fence. This is a golden development opportunity.

    3. Train shimmy: for a new rail system, it felt slightly excessive, especially when first descending northbound out of Tukwila. Don’t know what can be done about it though.

    4. Not all of the TVM’s have their ORCA readers set up. The machine I tried to use in Tukwila to see my balance had the ORCA button grayed out. (One in Westlake worked just fine.)

    5. Sound Transit folks continue to be pretty excited about this. A bunch of them (some of whom sounded important) boarded in the DSTT and sat right down next to me and rode to Columbia City. (If you rode about 11:45am yesterday, I was the guy in the Yankees hat.)

  31. Why does everyone keep saying that they got stuck in an elevator? It’s simply not true. The guy that got “stuck” is an idiot. The elevator did exactly what it was supposed to do–he just ignored the doors that opened behind him leading to a safe exit. He clearly pans over to that side showing the exit. The dumbass even walks out there but fails to look all around him. If he did, he would’ve seen a door that leads right to the platform. Luckily one of the volunteers had a brain and coached him out of it.

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