Photo by Brian Bundridge

In a small bonus for holiday partygoers, Central Link will be operating late the night of December 31 to January 1st.  All the extra Link trains will be southbound.  A source at Sound Transit informs us they’ll depart Westlake at 12:44 AM, 12:54 AM, 1:09 AM, 1:24 AM and 1:39 AM.  Although the tunnel will be open longer for Link, Metro service is completely unchanged – that means if you ride a tunnel route that is on the surface after 1am, it will still be on the surface after 1 am.

Helpfully, the monorail will also operate until 1 am.

Remember that if you get an OWL transfer from Metro on New Year’s Eve, you may be turned away from a Sound Transit bus in the morning – assuming that ever worked. Remember to get your ORCA before New Year’s!

97 Replies to “Extended New Year’s Eve Service”

  1. The large number of transit agencies in the area really complicates things. This is another incident of that.

    1. I don’t think that’s true at all. Your buses don’t change. Link has a few extra trains.

      1. But the tunnel is open and buses are still running above ground. That is bound to confuse at least a few.

      2. Having buses simply disappear from the surface stops where people expect them is going to confuse more people.

        Remember that the vast majority of transit users don’t get alerts like this.

    2. This region will never get the maximum return on its transit investment until we merge these redundant agencies.

      1. We’re way off topic, but I disagree. Each agency is responsive to it’s average user’s needs. King County doesn’t give Seattle the service it needs because Seattle is only a third of King County. Any vote for funding is held hostage by the other two thirds. The same is true at the regional level with ST – King County is just a piece of that pie.

        I actually think we need at least one more agency – something that belongs to the city of Seattle and will look after only our interests. I’ve laid out my reasons here.

      2. I think you only agree because you haven’t thought through the implications of merging now. With Metro’s deficit, padding for Sound Transit projects would be eaten, and any overruns would end up killing capital improvements that are cost effective when planning long term.

        Sound Transit exists largely to do what political pressures prevent Metro from doing – planning for the future. It leaves Metro in a perpetually bad position, and you’d do more damage by spreading that to Sound Transit than you’d gain by merging the agencies.

        Plus, Sound Transit has tiny overhead – there’s very little duplication because most of Sound Transit’s staff does work Metro doesn’t do.

      3. I agree with Ben. I think it’s vitally important to the region to have a regional agency that has a clear mandate to build transit infrastructure to deal with future growth. Merging them with Metro would put their revenue stream at risk of being funneled off to pay for bus operations. Most of Sound Transit’s transit operations are contracted out, so they don’t really have much overhead there, and Metro has a very small capital projects team. I can’t really see how merging them would eliminate many redundancies.

        There are far easier ways to simplify fare structures and improve the user experience than merging agencies. For instance, Zurich has 8 major transit agencies and 42 small transit companies in an area smaller than the Seattle metro, but all are coordinated through one agency, the ZVV. To the user it is completely transparent because fares are the same across the system and schedule and route information is all available from one website. The ZVV is also responsible for planning and building major capital projects, much like Sound Transit is.

        I would be all for Sound Transit taking responsibility for fare collection and scheduling for all transit in the Puget Sound area, but I don’t think merging transit providers is necessary.

      4. Zed,

        You’ve hit the nail on the head. There’s nothing wrong with having a separate agency to do the long term strategic stuff the shapes the region. That’s a good idea, but it should be independent of day to day operation.

        Unfortunately, our “long term” agency is right in the thick of daily operations with its own rules, its own fare zones and structure, its own livery, its own schedules, and so on ad nauseam. True, the operations are actually contracted out to the day to day county operators, but the rules are still different, the livery is still different, the fares are still different and the schedules are not terribly well co-ordinated.

        There may not be inefficiencies and overlap among the various agencies, but there most certainly is confusion among the public.

      5. Even a merged agency is no guarentee of sanity. Just look at the MTA in NYC, the various bus divisions, the two commuter railroads, the subway, and the bridge and tunnel division are all at continual war with each other and can’t seem to get agreement on even the most basic things.

      6. I disagree with every one here. Look at TriMet in Portland it is very successful and it is the only agency in Portland. The more layers of government that you add the harder it takes for anything to get done.

      7. Patrick,

        Actually, there is a part of Metro (Oregon) that does the overall transportation planning, so it’s not that different from what the relationship between Metro (KC) and ST could be.

        Tri-Met is a subsidiary of Metro, but has quite a bit of autonomy and its own board and management.

      8. Anadakos,

        There are is a big difference between Sound transit and Portland’s Metro. Sound transit is a transit agency and Portland’s Metro is a planing organization, which deals with way more then just transit.

      9. I understand the political and practical reasons our transit agencies are arranged the way they are, and politcally speaking its best not to change it for now.

        But… if our metro area ever has a majority supporting effective transit, then I have come to believe that greater consolidation or coordination would be helpful.

        First, we have made a habit of constructing fixed-rail transit, which should be used where capacity needs are the highest, in places that previously did not even have local buses. How many bus services on the Rainier Valley-Tukwila int’l Blvd corridor before Link? None. How many buses travel north-south over First Hill? (only a few peak hour and rare buses, probably because demand is low). In a rational world, Metro would have a plan to convert the highest-ridership trolley routes to streetcar as capacity required. Instead, due to interagency conflicts of interest, we put higher-capacity streetcars on routes that barely support bus transit currently.

        Second, I see branding and coordination conflicts of interest between ST Express Buses and Rapid-Ride in the next decade. Metro will be selling Rapid-Ride “BRT”, while Sound Transit currently operates faster freeway services that are actually closer to BRT. Who will provide the 520 BRT services, and why? These two agencies have no incentive to mesh the whole system together to provide effective transit to the consumer.

      10. Transit is sporadic on lower Broadway because the buses aren’t there, not because the passengers aren’t. I used to live near Harborview and rode the 9 when it was available, or the 60 or walked when it wasn’t.

        ST does seem to be more rail-minded than Metro at this point.

        Tri-Met may be great and have several rail lines (which has more to do with opposition to the Mount Hood freeway than Tri-Met), but would all its areas say they’re being served adequately or equally? The reason we have several transit agencies is the same reason we have several suburbs: people want local control and are afraid the big-city government will ignore them. The local-control movement is very strong in Pugetopolis and that will stand in the way of consolidating the transit agencies. Would Seattlites be thrilled about a single transit agency that perpetuated the 40/40/20 rule, for instance?

  2. Great idea, ST! That’ll keep a drunk or two off the roads. Though ideally they would have had one run after the bars close at 2.

    I’d love it if they kept Link (and basic bus service) open late on regular Friday and Saturday nights for the same reason.

  3. The extra trains run only Southbound??? What about partygoers in Rainier Valley (and yes, Tukwila) who want a ride Northbound?

    SOL for them.

    1. The limiting factor is how late the DSTT is open. That’s up to Metro. Running northbound trains would mean it would have to be open until 2:30 or something, and they aren’t going to do that.

      This is a fundamental issue with the system right now. The DSTT will have to close later and open earlier for adequate ST2 service – even U Link service.

      1. Now Ben, you contradict yourself in this thread. Up above you say that the redundant agencies don’t complicate things. But here, you say that ST’s light rail service would be dictated by Metro’s (another agencies) tunnel operation hours. Seems that the multiple agencies complicate more than just the fare structure, yes?

      2. There’s a “simple” way to fix this, of course, which is to assign control of any shared resources to Sound Transit. In other words, have Metro sell the tunnel to ST.

        I’m sure there are reason why this is complicated, but merging transit agencies is complicated as well.

      3. Actually I’m pretty sure Metro did sell the DSTT to Metro. Though Metro continues to be responsible for the operations and maintenance.

      4. Which said agreement was terminated in 2002, and a new one was agreed upon that has Metro retain ownership and operations of the tunnel. Sound Transit shares the cost of repaying the debt used to construct the tunnel proportional to the amount of service operated until 2016, which ST shall reimburse the county 100% of subsequent debt service repayments.

        The agreement also allows ST to operate a maximum of 10 trains per hour per direction in the tunnel and 10 buses per hour per direction.

      5. 10 trains per hour per direction? So we’re limited to 6-minute headways? I hope that can be changed when the buses leave the tunnel.

      6. Ryan, I’m saying this isn’t really an example – an “incident” – of that. There is complication, but there are much simpler fixes that don’t require changes to state law (big changes) like agency mergers would.

      7. Besides with agency mergers I’d be afraid money intended to build capital facilities like Link, Sounder, etc. would end up siphoned off into the black pit of operating deficits the local transit agencies seem to be suffering from.

      8. Except that as with the idea of Single Payer health care, merging bureacracy and operations would (in theory) substantially reduce costs – and hence, reduce or eliminate operating deficits resulting from redundant facilities, processes, and personnel.

      9. Indeed, but doing it now would almost definitely put capital expansion at risk for the sake of immediate operations.

      10. How about we mandate that they (Metro, ST) plan services together, merge fare structures, and provide unified schedule info while allowing them to continue as separate entities with their own funding structure and service branding?

        That would seem to solve the practical issues that have been raised without endangering infrastructure projects.

      11. I think they are currently mandated to do just that! I know they talk a lot, but agreements with smily faces don’t fall off the trees.

      12. I pretty sure that Metro is contracted to operate the tunnel. I don’t think I have ever seen any ST vehicles in the tunnel.

      13. Well, Link vehicles are in the tunnel. There’s also one ST Express route, the 550, that uses the tunnel.

      14. I own the tunnel, and it’s for sale. Contact me with a reasonable bid. Keep in mind the tolling potential, and the possibility of turning it into a car-based downtown bypass tunnel.

      15. ACTUALLY, THE PEOPLE OWN THE TUNNEL. We pay ST, Metro, and SDOT to manage things well. We elect their bosses. Any fault, is our own.

      16. Let, please check your facts before telling me I’m wrong. As Oran already posted, the County transferred ownership of the DSTT to Sound Transit so a light-rail retrofit could be made. It’s one of many Sound Transit-owned Metro-operated facilities.

      17. Sherwin, he’s right. After searching the County legislative database I found a new agreement that superseded the previous one in 2002. I posted it right after my other comment. Oh and the Wikipedia article needs to be corrected also. I was the one who wrote that section.

      18. Matt the Engineer:

        There have been at least two cases of private vehicles using the bus tunnel. One was a lost woman in a car, the other was a truck who thought he was “transiting” the city and so followed the “Transit Only” signage.


        County to give bus tunnel to Sound Transit

        Resulting traffic concerns downtown business owners

        Wednesday, April 26, 2000


        When workers convert the downtown bus tunnel to light rail, it will mean substantial changes in the way cars, trucks and buses get around in the central business core.

        Yesterday, elected officials from King County and Seattle announced that that the county would give Sound Transit the 1.3-mile downtown tunnel so that it could make the conversion.

        As part of that announcement, King County Executive Ron Sims said the county would try to minimize disruptions when work begins in 2004.

        But business owners have raised concerns about the dual-powered, 60-foot coaches that would be driving on downtown streets once the tunnel is permanently closed to buses.

        Although planners originally thought that some buses would have to be shifted to surface streets, they later said that sharing the tunnel with King County’s Metro buses would not work.

        “We’re furious,” said Kate Joncas, president of the Downtown Seattle Association. “We went through three years of very difficult construction . . . with the promise that we would be able to remove some of the buses from downtown streets.”

        (Rest at: )

      20. The tunnel ownership and finance is complicated to say the least. I think Oran’s got it right that it was transferred from City ownership to County ownership when Metro became county wide and then it was decided that the county should retain ownership even though ST spent way more than the original construction costs in retrofitting for Link and has taken over the debt repayment based on percentage of use. It really doesn’t make sense for ST to own it. It’s public property and the ownership should be the directly elected government of King County. After Link is complete ST could disappear or be folded into some other agency.

      21. C’mon, Ben, look at the numbers. NB trains could leave SeaTac/Airport station as late as 1:00 a.m. and still get to Westlake before the last SB train departs at 1:39. A few late NB trains wouldn’t delay DSTT closure.

        Methinks the folks who put this together, none of them live south!

    2. This seems to be due to the reasoning behind ST’s decision. They’re not actually running more trains to provide later service. They are anticipating special event-type crowds in the Downtown area on New Year’s Eve so they are running additional trains southbound to clear out the crowds and reduce overcrowding on the trains.

  4. Anyone really curious about how Orca works, ATU 587 has a complete copy of the operation’s manual posted in an unprotected area of it’s website – even though the bottom of each page says “confidential” and “need to know only” type language on it.

    I’m not going to point to the direct link, but suffice it to say it can be found from a direct link on the main ATU 587 page. Should clear up a few questions that will doubtless be coming up in the next week.

    1. Hey thanks ATU ;)

      (it looks like a PDF that was supposed to be hidden behind the login prompt)

      Me & Adam are going to read over this. Can anyone say ORCA genius? ;)

  5. I’ve said it before. Seattle bars and clubs could REALLY rack up some good PR by sponsoring late night service. If not every weekend, monthly or something.

    1. The moment we get buses out of the DSTT, I think this will be politically feasible. Maybe even before that.

  6. Random ORCA question:

    If I have an ORCA pass (not e-purse) and I tap on but don’t tap off, is there any harm to me? Will I just be “charged” for the highest price on the route I’m on? (I’m assuming my pass covers fare that high.)

    1. You’ll just be charged for the highest fare, yes. One potential issue is if you’re only going one or two stops, you might get an error if you try to tap in on a bus immediately afterward. It takes a while for the trip to “time out”.

      1. Sometimes I’m on buses that are completely packed. These express buses will often open up the rear doors at the first few stops out of downtown so that people in the rear don’t have to walk down the middle aisle. Those people leaving the rear door are then expected to come up to the front and show their pass and/or transfer and/or pay. In reality though many people (an overwhelming number who are passholders) just wander away instead of showing the driver anything. Some people try to show the driver their pass but it seems like sometimes the driver couldn’t care less as they’re more interested in keeping their schedule, etc.

        In an ORCA world I can see myself leaving via the rear (if given the opportunity) and not worrying about re-entering the front to tap out. It’s possible that drivers may just stop allowing rear exits during pay-as-you-leave, but that will likely cause a ton of chaos on super crowded buses.

      2. Yeah, I know someday they’ll have rear door readers, but I’l be surprised if all (or any) buses have them by the end of 2010.

      3. Not sure why there will be readers on rear doors, as depending on where the bus is loading/unloading, everyone files past the fare box.

        Since users pay not only by Orca but by cash and flash pass still – riders must exit through the front door when leaving the RFA, board at the front when incoming to the RFA, and always through the front door after 7pm.

        Unless and until Orca is the only payment option – having readers at the rear door doesn’t make any sense. Also – the Bredas have 2 back doors, and if that isn’t tossing good money after bad, I don’t know what is.

      4. At least according to an older version of The Book, operators are permitted to allow exiting via the rear door (post-RFA) if the coach is super crowded.

        I’ve gotten on buses at CPS in which people are squeezing themselves into the rear door. When the bus then reaches the next stop three miles away it’s pretty much impossible for people in the rear to walk up through the aisle and exit from the front door.

        If people are forced to always exit via the front door then there will be chaos.

      5. If you do not tap in, then that can be considered fare evasion by the ST fare inspectors and a ticket can be written up.

      6. My understanding is that you still tap in and out to show that you’ve paid the fare even if your pass covers it.

      7. “Similarly, if I have a pass that covers the full $2.50, do I have to tap in?”

        You should at least tap-in so that Sound Transit receives their fair share of the revenue from the sale of your pass. ORCA is supposed to improve the way pass revenue is distributed between agencies, but that won’t work if pass users don’t tap-in on Link.

      8. I have no problem tapping in, I was just wondering if it was required for my fare to be valid. I guess the only scenario where I would have a reason not to tap in would be if I just wanted to get through the tunnel and didn’t care if I was on a bus or a train. I guess with a pass it doesn’t hurt to tap in.

      9. Lucas, it’s not a matter of whether you should or not. You have to tap in. Fare inspectors carry readers with them that tell whether or not a trip has been paid through an ORCA card or not. Also, bear in mind that when Link is extended and the distance-based fare structure is still used, the $2.50 will not cover everything, so deduction from the E-purse will be needed.

  7. Does anyone know if the South Lake Union Streetcar will be running late as well? I’m going to SLU for a party and I live near the Mount Baker Station, so I am hoping they will extend their hours as well!!

      1. They extended streetcar service on the 4th of July, but there’s nothing on their website now. The best idea is to walk over to Fairview and catch a 71/72/73 into downtown.

    1. Assuming you leave after the fireworks, it will almost definitely be faster to walk to Westlake Center. Transit is warm but there’s always a lot of traffic. It’s about a 20 min walk so not too bad.

  8. “In May of 2000, the Council agreed to transfer ownership of the 1.3-mile transit tunnel to Sound Transit for use by light rail as part of the light rail line from Sea-Tac Airport to Northgate.”

    Wow. And I thought I had found the silver bullet, but while at first it appears this news release answers the question of who owns the tunnel, on second reading (of the entire release, not just that one blurb), I have no idea what the heck it says! LOL

    1. The original 2000 agreement for ownership of the tunnel to transfer to ST was made when on the assumption that the initial Link segment would go from SeaTac to Northgate, with no more buses in the tunnel. Since the line was shortened and there is joint bus/rail operations for the time being, I believe the transfer of ownership to ST will be delayed until the line to UW opens and the buses are removed. So technically, the county still owns the tunnel at this point.

  9. True to form, Metro cancels the last run of the 358 (from Seattle Center area) to North Seattle on New Year’s Eve…Metro service planners and there bosses are so out of touch with reality…

  10. Bobby,

    You’re referring to a series of trips cancelled due to “reduced weekday” scheduling.

    I’m not sure what would be required to make an exception for 1 run out of the entire week, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be simple to schedule.

    As a driver, I’d be damned if I’d want to drive the 358 at 12:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day anyway – not without a SWAT team onboard at any rate.

    1. Jeff, I wouldn’t blame you for not picking that run. But, someone drives those late trips, and night owl trips, and many other cities do things to try to encourage transit use on New Year’s (i.e., SF Muni offers free rides from 12/31 evening till 1/1 morning). It’s not out of the realm of possibility that cops could be assigned to ride, and extra buses put out instead of canceling buses. Failing to provide a transit option for revelers is just another example of transit riders being put on the back burner…

  11. Bobby,

    I hear you – but I have yet in 2 years driving routes at 3 different bases to see a police officer on board a bus – ever.

    There were “transit options” for revelers – just not past a certain time. Budget cuts being what they are, the “reduced weekday” plan has seen it’s first year this last service period, and will continue to see them.

    If you want more transit options scheduled during more hours (and more security), as I keep saying – all it takes is money. Slamming “planners” for doing their jobs and making cuts during overall low-demand periods is what they get paid to do.

    And other than the 174, I can’t think of what bus I’d least want to drive (or ride) than a 358 headed north from the Seattle Center after midnight on New Years.

    Would YOU want to be on that bus?

    1. Jeff, I don’t hesitate to ride late night buses and would suspect that overall the New Year’s crowd, while likely to be unruly, is probably no more dangerous than other non-peak hour crowds on any given route. But I would not have wanted to be on that particular bus because I would not have wanted to worry all night about whether there would be space for me due to an ill-advised service reduction.

      Earlier you mentioned that scheduling an exception into the reduced weekday schedule would be a challenge. I think that they could do it the same way they add extra trips on game days. In my opinion that is what they should be doing – advertising transit as a reliable post-celebration option and adding trips. But, you’re right – someone needs to pay for it. Until that happens, maybe they could cut back little-used service on the east side and use that funding.

      Anyway, happy new year! We’ve about gone round on this enough.

Comments are closed.