The count up clock

Reader Michael Arnold tipped us off to new clocks at Rainier Beach and Mount Baker stations that count the time since the last train left the station. At Rainier Beach, the clock is installed on a pole by the northbound track before the crosswalk near existing train signals. At Mount Baker, it is installed on the overhead catenary support just south of the platform for southbound trains. “They’re designed to help keep the trains from bunching up on MLK,” according to Sound Transit spokesperson Bruce Gray. He says the “shorthand for operators is this – if flashing, hold. If solid, make your signal call to proceed.”

Every time a train passes by those points and leaves a station, the clock resets to 0:00 and begins counting up. The elapsed time flashes until 4.5 minutes have passed at Rainier Beach or 5 minutes at Mount Baker, then stays solid. Although trains are nominally 10 minutes apart during the day, I observed that trains depart as soon as possible which can be a minute or two under ten.

Watch the clock in action in this video.

19 Replies to “Clock for Trains Spotted at Mount Baker and Rainier Beach”

  1. I can’t see videos at work, but that has to be the least exciting video that’s been posted here.

  2. Moscow Metro has a count-up clock at each of its stations indicating how long it has been since the previous train left the station. I never saw one go above 90 seconds in my visits there.

    Would love it if Translink would install a similar clock on SkyTrain.

    Of course the US would never be capable of such efficiency. And yet it thinks it can build true high-speed rail?

    1. Of course the US would never be capable of such efficiency.

      NYCTA would beg to differ.

      1. PATH and NYCTA run at less than 90 second headways? In your hallucinations.

        NYCMTA can do 120 second headways, but rarely pulls it off. PATH does 3 minute headways at best and only for a couple of hours each day.
        Moscow Metro does 60-90 second headways all day long Monday thru Saturday.

    2. The Moscow and St Petersburg clocks go up to 10 minutes in the evenings.

      This is a major improvement. I hope they put the clocks on all platforms. They’re a cheap, simple way to estimate when the next train should be there and whether it’s later. They can give ST some breathing room until they can install real-time arrival signs.

  3. In that video next to the clock there is the traffic-signal-like thing with a yellow horizontal bar on top and a white vertical bar on the bottom. Is there documentation somewhere on what these mean? I’ve also noticed similar but different signaling for the SLUT, does anyone know how that works too?

    1. It’s pretty simple. The horizontal amber aspect means stop. The vertical lunar aspect means proceed. They flash when they’re about to change. At switches there is a slanted lunar aspect which indicates the switch is diverging.

      I think the SLUT is basically the same, but those signals have an arrow which shows the switch position instead of two different lunar aspects.

      I think I’ve used all the railroad terms correctly; if not I’m sure Mike B will correct me. :)

  4. So if they can do this, why can’t they do a “train will arrive in…” sign? It seems like you just use this same technology, just placed at more points on the track and some pretty simple predictive algorithm and there ya go.

    I suppose if you know the headways at that particular time of day, you could use this as a crude version of that.

    1. Agree with this. They are only an estimate anyways so they don’t have to be 100% accurate. I think most people would be happy with +/- 2 or 3 minutes. We can easily predict between two stations within that range I would think and it could be built dirt cheap too.

    2. I agree. It’s only 2-4 minutes from one station to the next. So if a train just left Rainier Beach it’ll be about 7 minutes away from Mount Baker, 3 stations down the line. They know where trains are in between stations because the signalling system knows.

      There’s a photo of the Link control center with a huge display showing the status of the entire system, including the locations of trains, so they already have the information.

      1. Any more word on possibly getting the reader boards at the stations show the next couple trains and how many minutes they are away?

      2. Wow, then I’m really annoyed with ST. Having the onebusaway app to easily estimate when the bus will come increased my transit usage significantly. I didn’t have to worry about remembering schedules, etc. Having that confidence is underrated and I wouldn’t be surprised if this could improve ridership for Link if it was actually working.

      3. A freelance programmer took “only a few hours” to put together a live map for THE ENTIRE LONDON UNDERGROUND:

        It’s rather depressing that a guy with nothing better to do with his time can come up with something for a 250-mile, 11-route network that a large taxpayer-funded transit agency can’t seem to accomplish for its own single 15-mile line.

      4. I am sure that any reason for Sound Transit’s gross incompetence in the matter will be hidden within a blanket statement of “Security Reasons”, “Patriotism” or “Apple Pie”, etc.

        “Last refuge of despots”, IIRC.

        As if any terraist needs that kind of data.

      5. I think taxpayer-funded is the keyword here. Twice in my life I have applied to work as a software developer for a government agency (one city and one state, neither here in Washington). The interview process was very different from interviewing for a private company. The panel of three interviewers in each case asked only questions from a script. Because they worked from a script they did not do any digging based on my answers. Nor did they ask me to write code, diagram a design, or do anything else on a whiteboard or even on paper. Everything was oral.

        By the time I was done with the experience, I harbored serious doubts about accepting any offer that might be forthcoming, since I would be working alongside co-workers selected by the same process. If ST uses a similar process to hire developers, they won’t wind up with the same caliber, e.g., of this guy in London.

  5. I had been meaning to ask about this here, since I saw the clock while driving by a couple of weeks ago. I was wondering why they counted up instead of down, but now that I read about it here, it makes sense.

    It would be nice if they would put these in at every station so we could at least get a vague idea when the next train might be due. Though I would much prefer a true real-time “next train in…” sign like most other systems manage to do.

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