Video by Oran (click to watch)

Wouldn’t it be nice if Link light rail stations had signs telling you that the next train was arriving in, say, five minutes? Time enough to busily inspect your smartphone and look social, to be sure.

Sound Transit has been planning to install these arrival signs for a while, but apparently they’ve hit hiccups. First, we heard rumors from Sound Transit staff that the signs would be operational within weeks of the initial segment’s opening.

Then, Sound Transit officials told folks who had contacted them that things were more complex than anyone on the outside could have known was possible. “We have been working on integrating this station into the Central Link system and it requires us to use two different train tracking approach one for the Central Link and different one for expanding to the Airport.” Due to these issues, “the train arrival message will not be activated until the end of November.” That time came and went. With the new Airport station opening tomorrow, Sound Transit representatives diligently sent us an update.

“It sounds like we’re really looking at mid to late January for it to be up and running,” said Bruce Gray of Sound Transit of the next train arrival signs. “It’s about 97% ready to go, but we expect it to need a few tweaks after the new segment is up and running.”

Hopefully the arrival signs are more accurate than the signs of the arrival of the arrival signs.

27 Replies to “Next Train Arrival Signs: Mid to Late January, Hopefully”

  1. I’d be happy if the damn signs would just inform us about system delays and so forth. They have no problem telling us to stand behind the yellow textured strip and to let passengers exit the train before boarding.

    How about telling us why there’s been no train for the last 20 minutes? Once or twice, I heard a muffled male voice saying something, but it was totally unintelligible. Only garble, with only a blank sign, no digital readout.

      1. Like tonight when I and 20 other people got a train at Westlake at 10:40pm and were told to disembark at SODO. No big deal, as southbound trains due to go out of service always do it at SODO. But on the SODO platform we were given conflicting announcements over the intercom (one said 15-20 min intervals, the other 20-30 min intervals), and the next train arrived at 11:20pm and we didn’t arrive at TIB until 12:00am. I’m willing to countenance an 80-minute ride due to rail grinding maintenance, but a next train announcement to let us know what we were all in for would have been reassuring to the nervous parents and kids waiting in the dark at SODO.

      2. “But on the SODO platform we were given conflicting announcements over the intercom (one said 15-20 min intervals, the other 20-30 min intervals)”

        The promised intervals have been somewhat wrong, too. If you tell people 20-30 minutes, it should be 15. If you tell them 15-20, it should be 10, really. (The Disneyland line principle — tell people wait time is longer than it is, then they feel like they got lucky when the time is really shorter!) But instead they told us 15-20 minutes and yet 30-40 isn’t unheard of.

        Tonight, riding south from Westlake at around 10 pm, the driver made an announcement that was almost entirely unheard in the back half of our car — it was very faint, and sounded as if the speakers weren’t working in our car and we were just hearing it carrying over faintly from the front of the car. I think he was telling the standing-room-only crowd that there would be delays south of Mount Baker. But almost no one heard it, and people were all asking if there was an announcement and what it was saying. What the heck was going on there?

  2. I was in Portland yesterday and I used MAX and the PDX Streetcar several times and appreciated the “next train” displays. On the train ride back to Seattle, our departure was delayed by 15 minutes and the cause was immediately explained by the conductor. When I got back to Seattle and went into the tunnel, all I heard were announcements that LINK trains are running every 20 to 30 minutes due to track maintenance, with no clue as to when the next train might actually arrive. It made ST look real amatuerish compared to Amtrak and MAX.

    1. What did you think of the new Green Line LCD TV monitors for their real-time information? Pretty nice!

      1. I thought I heard that those didn’t do realtime, just based on the schedule. Is that true?

      2. They are indeed real time, at least when I was down there.

        Sounder isn’t actually real time, it is based on the schedule.

      3. Maybe it was just the bus part of it on the Transit Mall–or they are just excellent at staying on schedule!

      4. Brian,

        Yet given Sounder’s fantastic on-time performance…’scheduled’ and ‘real time’ are pretty damn equivalent! =)

      1. Sounder next train displays aren’t accurate. They are based on the schedule and it’s quite common for the trains to run a couple minutes after scheduled and the signs will say “departed” when there are still a hundred people standing on the platform. Also, they turned off the signs at King St Station a couple weeks ago for no apparent reason.

  3. It could be worse. The MTA has been trying to get arrival signs since 2003 — but the first signs will only be working at a few stations along the 6 line this next year. And after the budget cuts this last week, who knows…

    1. Seriously, it is.

      I don’t understand why the two segments would use a different method to communicate train arrivals in the first place. Seems needlessly complicated and should probably have been considered before construction.

  4. I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do with the information about next train arrival except in situations where the train is outrageously delayed, in which case they should probably be announcing that verbally over the PA system anyway. I guess maybe I get to know if I have time to re-up my e-purse at the TVM? These signs would be better in places near the stations, or on a Web server where you could display a page showing this information in your bakery or something, in my opinion. I guess it’s just kind of less stressful to know.

    1. Knowing about the environment you’re in (will I be here for 2 minutes, 5, 15, or 30) is incredibly reassuring and comforting to me.

  5. Well I sure hope it accounts for the excruciatingly long delays caused by track maintenance. I’m sitting on a train in tukwila that was scheduled to leave 40 minutes ago but instead stayed parked at the station. Shoulda taken the bus.

    How long is this track maintenance going to last? Is it going to be a recurring thing?

  6. and next bus too? ST Route 550 runs in the DSTT; so will Metro routes 41, 71, 72, 73, 74, 76, 77, 101-02, 106, 150, 212-225-229, 255-256, 301, and 316.

    1. Hear Hear!!! far more folks ride these than the train… When I arrive at my tunnel station, I have NO information as to the when the next 71 will be arriving or if I have just missed it. I have multiple options home… Some at street level, some in the tunnel. If I knew I have just missed the 71, and have 24 minutes until the next one, I would be able to take other options at Surface level… or even take a moment for something other than commute watch.

      I know there are some web applications, but my old phone is not set up, and worse, gets no signal in the tunnel. Metro knows the order they want to feed routes into the tunnel. Once in the tunnel, a list of what is comming and what has passed cannot be that diffucult. Maybe we could hire out of work folks and pay then to post the numbers on a chalk board on each side of the station…

      Really, it should not be that difficult. and electronicly, now that all coaches and trains are ID’d electronicly?


  7. “Hopefully the arrival signs are more accurate than the signs of the arrival of the arrival signs.”

    Wow, I’m confused.

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