[UPDATE 3pm: Service is back to normal.]

There’s an accident involving a train south of Columbia City Station. The 8 is being diverted between Orca and Alaska Sts. Link is running in separate segments: Rainier Beach-Seatac and Stadium-Westlake, with a “bus bridge” in between.

A truck made a left turn on a red light. Apparently, there are no serious injuries. King 5 has more, including photos indicating the train won.

151 Replies to “Light Rail Service Disruption”

  1. I was at Westlake for 20 min.. no message… no anything. How hard is it to put SOMETHING up on the signs in the tunnel? It’s been open a year, and they still haven’t figured it out yet.

    1. They’ve figured it out. We posted about this – the work on the operations center to provide space for a person to do this is under way.

      1. No they haven’t figured it out. I got on at Seatac at 2:15. There was no mention of a disruption until the train left. They told the train that we would be going only to Rainier Beach and we would only go at 20 mph. It took 31 minutes to go from Seatac to RB yet they didn’t bother to put up a sign.

      2. Did they even mention the opportunity to take the 124 from TIBS or the 8 to other MLK stations?

        For that matter, is there anyone out there who was at a station and can testify that information was made available about the delay or about alternative route options?

      3. They did mention the 124 from TIBS. As they were closing the doors they told us that the train would only go to Rainier beach and we would have to transfer to a bus there. When we made it to Rainier they told us that the train would continue downtown.

        ST has installed message boards and speakers at all of the stations. It would be nice if they would use them in situations like this.

    2. They put up messages saying “all trains delayed 15 minutes due to emergency repairs” in the tunnel that played 3 times in a row every 5 minutes. Then at 7:44 pm, they did the same for messages saying “normal service has resumed”.

      Good work but I’d rather have those up statically as part of a next train countdown.

      1. What were the emergency repairs? Were they related to the train/truck collisions? Or were they related to a second delay today caused by some problem in the tunnel?

    1. Actually, there already was. I had trouble seeing it at first, but look to the upper right.

      Still, the website is nearly irrelevant to getting the word out. Announcements need to happen at the stations.

  2. But for the presence of mind of the car driver to get out of his car and run out of the way, this probably would have been Link’s first accidental fatality.

    Is there some compromise that could make the MLK segment safer that would meet neighbors’ noise concerns? e.g. soundless crossing gates?

      1. If this guy had enough time to get out of his truck before being hit, why didn’t he drive it off the tracks?

    1. Not so sure this “probably” would have been a fatality. It looks like the bed took the worst of it; the cab doesn’t look terribly damaged.

  3. Idiot drivers will continue; Mistakes will be made; That is not a problem you are going to fix.

    It seams the likely cause, but does anyone have a source other than SOUND TRANSIT PR that can verify the guy ran a red?

    What type of investigation occurs now, and by whom? Is there an NTSB-type group that investigates and makes recommendations on all possible causes leading to the event? Or does the Airline (ST) investigate its own accidents and deflect blame?

    1. The Seattle Police Department will investigate this crash, just as it has previous automobile-Link collisions.

      1. There are multiple video cameras on every Link vehicle which record multiple exterior views. There will be a clear video record of the signals and the driver’s actions.

        In all likelihood the professional Metro operator was operating in accordance with his signals and the pickup driver was going against his signal. But the evidence should be clear from the video.

    2. He didn’t run a red light (and hence you obviously didn’t read anything Sound Transit said).

      He made an illegal left turn. Most of the crashes have been the result of illegal left turns.

      Police are on the scene, of course. They do not report to Sound Transit.

      1. The intersection in question has left turn lanes which separate left turn signals. The media reports say that the truck made a left turn while the truck had a red left turn light.

      2. The turn he made was “illegal” because he made it against a red left turn light. Hence both statements are accurate.

        In any case they truck driver is at fault and will be ticketed.

      3. I hope he has enough “Property Damage” or other liability insurance to cover the cost of repairing the train vehicle and not to mention it’s loss of commerce for the time it takes to repair.

      4. Please understand – Police are not like a Safety Board. They will issue a citation for an infraction to somebody – and it stops there. All possible causes and possible improvements have to be discussed; or it WILL happen again, exactly like it did, in the exact same place.

        And I did hear the sound transit spokesperson on KING say he “Ran a Red Light” Brent don’t get personal and snippy. The issue is how do we prevent this from happening again.

      5. Maybe you can prevent it from happening again by yanking the guy’s drivers license……

        What this guy did was clearly illegal and he needs to take full responsibility for the outcome. ST can’t protect against all illegal activity, and nor should we expect them to.

        Time to move on to more important things.

      6. Actually, it happens less and less over time. If you believe otherwise, you are ignoring reality.

      7. If ST ever shortens headways along MLK and runs longer trains more often, do you think that will decrease the chance of accidents?

      8. Collisions occur because people make illegal left turns because for some reason they don’t know they can’t do that. I would expect that the more trains you run, the more aware people become of them, and thus the more careful they are of them.

      9. And people run into ST Express buses all the time – usually very minor damage but neverless what makes LINK so diffrent. A collision occured; thankfully no one was seriously hurt; hopefully this guy has insurance. Some people were delayed, but it happens all the time in our lives. ST/KCM did do a fairly good job of e-mail alerts; although i’m sure the overhead signage could have been put to better work. Mabye ST needs to hold onto some of the older articulateds and keep them in reserve at the LINK yard incase a bus bridge is needed. Would have to work to find drivers, but i’m sure within an hour or so you could have something up and running.

      10. I’m not sure it had anything to do with this accident, but on MLK, Link trains cause drivers to have to wait at intersections a lot. Longer trains with shorter headways will cause worse delays for motorists at intersections. Drivers get impatient with all the delays caused by light rail trains, and some eventually try to “beat the train” through intersections because they are annoyed. The worse the delays, and the more trains, the more likely accidents are to occur, in my opinion.

        You see this at normal intersections, without trains. The worse the traffic, and the longer people have to wait to get through intersections, the more likely they are to get impatient, and run red lights.

    3. Hey belleviewer – this problem is fixing itself. When was the last time you heard about this happening?

      1. Eventually the lemmings will brighten up to the fact that trains win. Every. Time. Too bad kids still like to play chicken in Puyallup. Anyway. Move on. There’s nothing wrong with at-grade tracks.

      2. I agree. At-grade tracks are better for human beings, to a large extent, because they provide eyes on the street as well.

      3. …eyes on the street going 35mph. At-grade tracks aren’t that bad, but no matter what we do things like this will periodically happen, so grade-separation is nearly always better.

      4. There have been only 8 Link vs car crashes in 12 months. According to ST, this is 3 TIMES LESS than what they had expected.

      5. Ben,

        I just don’t have your confidence that the INITIAL design ST has put forth for crossings and left turns down MLK is the best they could ever do. And that we have done our best to train our population.

        We have an opportunity to investigate an accident and make improvements, including for future expansion.

        The plan so far is to:

        A. Place Blame and Call for a public stoning of the pickup driver at Westlake Center at NOON (good, good. This will help.) There are many more like him out there. He’s a triple offender — maybe we should call for life in prison.

        B. Sound Transit PR uses its vast resources to immediately address the political fall-out and not the problem issue or result.

        C. Passengers get mad because they couldn’t get to where they were going.

        D. Contingiency plans are only now being considered.

        The proper action is for a third party (not ST) to analyze the accident, consider ALL contributing factors, and make REASONABLE recommendations on how the entire system and car / train interface can be improved. (How many light rail questions are on the washington drivers test? Who trained me on how to drive down MLK in its new configuration?)

        To say “things will get better” and “it wasn’t Sound Transit’s Fault” are or may be true, but why miss an opportunity to see if there are other problems here, and to fix them; through training and/or improved designs.

        We need to PREVENT future accidents, not just marginalize them or deal with them after the fact.

  4. I’m really impressed with the (apparent) lack of damage to the side of the train.

      1. If I recall from the one of last collisions, those panels are replaceable by design. The scrapes down the side of the vehicle that are in some of the close-ups are probably harder (more expensive?) to deal with.

  5. Considering idiot drivers will always exist and the importance of ensuring reliable continous transit service to ensure ridership levels continously increase, I can’t help but think about the cheap surface-based (street running?) rail option that McGinn is pushing for the West Seattle/downtown/Ballard connection. Not only would Seattle be better off in the decades to come with a higher investment in rail transit, but I’m sure future generations would be appreciative that transit expansion wasn’t done on the cheap.

    1. Street-running and surface-based rail exists fairly safely throughout the world. Some it may require some getting used to. Or following traffic laws and signs.

      Would it be any better if the idiot makes a left on red and crashes into a schoolbus or bicylist who had a green light? Only grade separating every roadway would eliminate that. Rmember there are something like 40,000 traffic fatalities per year just in USA.

      If grade separating all rail transit were to triple the costs, and we could only build 1/3 as much, we would increase traffic fatalities as a result because the fatality rate of transit is a small fraction of that of SOV traffic.

      1. I wasn’t advocating for non street-running light rail because of safety concerns. I actually didn’t mention safety at any point in my previous post. I mentioned “reliable continous transit service,” which is what grade separated rail transit offers. If you don’t have trains mixed in with vehicles, you won’t have vehicles turning into and ultimately disrupting rail service.

    2. Idiot drivers won’t “always exist” at the same rate – that’s an oversimplification. Fewer and fewer accidents happen over time.

    3. Aaron,

      All else being equal, sure, grade separate. But as a safety measure billions to grade-separate an entire rail line don’t stack up well against other road improvements.

      1. However, when you combine the safety benefits with the speed, reliability, capacity, and ridership benefits, grade-separation begins to look better.

  6. You’d have to be an idiot AND blind to get hit by a Link train. Those things are anti-stealth.

    1. Not really. When turning, the sound is like fingernails on a chalkboard. But when I’m standing at the station and watching the train approach (but standing behind the yellow danger line), I can barely hear it.

      1. Well, I guess…but, I would hope that drivers making left turns over railroad tracks would be “looking” more than “listening” for what might be coming down said tracks. Those trains don’t really hide in the shadows.

      2. I’d say drivers making left turns should be looking at the turn signal. There’s nothing left to chance here – he ran a left arrow.

      3. Which means he had to have checked to see that on-coming car traffic was clear. Apparently, too stupid to realise the huge double-track, station, overhead wires………..

      4. Exactly! As a cyclist, I can’t trip sensors, so I often have to treat red lights as four way stops (and yes, this is legal). But I LOOK.

      5. FYI – there is no turn pocket lane or turn signal at this intersection. It’s also marked with a large sign right next to the stop light indicating no turns.


      6. Okay, so we have two reports, one indicating a left-turn signal which was ignored, and one indicating that left turns aren’t allowed there. Is there anyone there to offer a third observation?

      7. Bruce Gray is Sound Transit’s spokesperson, so I think we can assume he’s got it right.

      8. “There’s nothing left to chance here – he ran a left arrow.”

        Unless the train ran it’s signal, which I believe is possible in “Street running” mode? Somebody else can confirm. That said, my money is on the truck driver being at fault.

  7. Trains are running between Seatac & Rainier Station and Westlake Station & Stadium Stations. For service north of Rainier Station and south of Stadium Station, board the bus bridge.

    I think there’s going to be confusion if the open East Link with a stop named Rainier Station. Dearborn has a nice ring to it.

  8. The conspiracy theorist in me wants to think the guy was hired by Kemper Freeman to discredit light rail. I mean how else do you turn left against a red over two sets of tracks into the path of an oncoming train?

  9. But, Jeff, that would put you into the same category as the 2/3 of Seattle voters Jean Godden refers to as “birthers”. ;)

  10. Front page of the King 5 and Seattle Times website – I bet City U is kicking themselves that they didn’t send a truck in front of their wrapped car.

    1. Maybe they’ll ask for a discount if this train is the next to get “wrapped” when it goes in for bodywork, paid for by the truck driver’s liability insurance provider.

      1. “paid for by the truck driver’s liability insurance provider”

        Here’s a plug for getting an umbrella policy if you drive. Even if you’re not clueless enough to turn in front of a Link train, things happen. If you get into an accident with say, a train or a van filled with children, having a high limit umbrella policy is a good idea. A friend of mine has been paying monthly for over *8 years* towards a judgment against him in an accident that was his fault. I’m guessing he has higher limits *and* an umbrella policy today.

        Look into it, it’s relatively cheap if you have a good driving record. Then again, not driving a car is even cheaper :)

        This PSA brought to you by VeloBusDriver, who’s father always said, “Insure against the catastrophe, not the occurrence”

  11. I think its strange that the caption on the Seattle Times website says that the driver was taken to Harborview, but in the body of the article it says that he was able to get out of the truck before the train hit it. Why did he need to go to Hraborview then? He should be taken to Westlake Park and publicly caned.

    1. Ah, now. Seattle is too nice for caning. Perhaps writing nasty letters with “Please don’t disrupt traffic in the future. Thanks. P.S. Here’s a coupon for a free drink at Starbucks. Feel better.”

  12. I looked at KOMO’s photos first and couldn’t figure out how the heck that truck wedged itself vertically between the trains and the fence. After reviewing KING’s pics, I discovered that the truck turned at a 45-90 degree angle into a train coming from the opposite direction. Inertia took over from there and “pulled” the truck a bit further up the tracks.

    Just in case you were wondering too.

    1. Thank goodness there weren’t any pedestrians along that fence. They may not have fared so well.

  13. I know we all want Link to succeed at getting vehicles off the road, but I’m not sure this is the best way to go about it! ;-)

  14. Almost all of Link’s delays and accidents would have been prevented with grade separation. I’m not saying at-grade rail should never be built because obviously there are budget constraints. But it would be fairer to add the external costs to the price: all future collisions, people’s wait time when the traffic lights don’t synchronize, inability to go full speed, etc. With that, at-grade wouldn’t look so much cheaper than elevated or underground.

  15. Why did Sound Transit build the light-rail like a STREETCAR! It’s so maddening! Center-running light-rail is one of the biggest mistakes in American Mass Transit History.

    Road a Rail are VERY different. They should be separated like oil & water.

  16. http://www.flickr.com/photos/51332149@N02/sets/72157624648558038/

    I was on a LInk train that left Westlake Station at 11:47 am today. After being held at SODO station, we were told to board a special bus, which arrived about 55 minutes after our train arrived at SODO. This bus took us to Rainier Beach station after a roundabout trip of 37 minutes, with a stop at the Mt. Baker transfer station. We then boarded another Link train which was restricted to 20 mph between Rainier Beach and SeaTac.

    I arrived at SeaTac Station 2 hour and 20 minutes after leaving Westlake Station on Link. Many passengers on my train said they were going to miss their flight. At least one couple planned to try to find a hotel room at SeaTac and spend the night there.

  17. I was on a Metro bus and the—supervisor? coordinator? whoever the guy is that announces the time and transfer color over the radio—came on every 5 mins or so asking any non-ETB drivers that were about to go off shift to call back if they would be willing to run one of shuttle buses that Norman wound up on.

    While it’s nice that Metro and/or ST are doing shuttles when accidents happen (has this been standard for non-scheduled disruptions? This is the first I’ve heard of it), they have to do better. If no drivers happen to be going off shift, or no drivers feel like picking up extra runs, what’s Metro’s plan then? If they’re going to put stranded riders on a shuttle rather than direct them to reliable, scheduled regular routes, then those shuttles need to be at least somewhat reliable.

    1. This is pretty standard procedure. Any report operators at the base were probably sent out immediately. “Scroungers” hanging around the base would probably be sent out as well. Drivers can be called off of the road by the coordinator if they see somebody in the area. The announcement may have also been an “all hands on deck” kind of call. When we call back in, we are put in a queue and the coordinator can go through the calls in an order that suits them. (I think they actually have a map with our rough locations, based on AVL data, but I don’t recall exactly)

      If you want a quicker response time, Metro will need to have more report operators on call. With budgets being what they are these days, I don’t see this happening though.

    2. This type of situation is just about the hardest thing to plan. Even if you took all of the on call drivers at Metro bases and dispatched them it would still take at least 30-40 minutes to get them out and starting to pick up people. There is just no easy fix. You can reroute other service but then it quickly gets over loaded and stuck in traffic caused by the accident.

      The only way to really efficiently deal with issues like this is if you have a “resilient” and connected network that can take up the slack. Image the Paris Metro. Take one link, or entire line out of the system and odds are the rest of the system will be able to take up and slack and run without disputations. Until we have a LINK/RapidRide/Core network that are resilient any significant disruption to any of the major routes will have problems like we saw today.

      1. “There is just no easy fix.”

        Sure there is, but it’s not cheap. Position report operators around the city in buses ready at a moment’s notice to spring into action. They could be positioned at 15 minute spacing around the city in core areas.

    3. When the Green Line shuts down in Boston, they immediately activate a network of super-frequent bus shuttles. How frequent? I’ve never *not* seen one at a stop. (Which makes sense: even on the branches, the Green Line runs trains with 2 articulated cars every 5-6 minutes, so you’d need a lot of buses to match that capacity.)

      I understand that the system has growing pains, but eventually, at times when Link is down, I’d like to see shuttle buses that are better than any other bus in the system, not worse.

  18. Well, the bus bridge was a nice idea, if woefully insufficient to deal with the situation at hand.

    Many people would have gotten where they were going much faster if they had just been advised of existing bus routes between stations (124, 8, 38, 39, 106).

    Indeed the 106 would have gotten Norman to RBS in 30 minutes, plus wait time. Norman, for his part, could have told some of these stuck passengers about the buses. Right, Norman?

    Providing information to people at stations and on the trains about existing bus routes could have saved them a heckuva lot of time, and saved ST a decent chunk of money.

    1. Norman previously told us that he is just “an observer,” so unless he gets paid he isn’t going to share his data/knowledge with anyone. I still don’t comprehend the concept of complaining about service deficiences without providing feedback to the operating agencies so they can work to improve their services…

  19. So why would the train be limited to 20 mph on the RB to Sea-tac segment during this incident?

  20. Actually, we were told at SODO that a special bus would pick us up and take us to the airport. We were not told the bus would drop us off at Rainier Beach and we would take a 20 mph train to SeaTac. We weren’t told the train would be running only 20 mph until we were aboard that train.

    I had no idea when I boarded that “bridge bus” that it was going to head back north to Dearborn, and then out to Rainier Ave. S., then to MLK Way. Nor were we told that there was a detour on MLK Jr Way that added more time to that trip.

    I had no idea what the plan was, and I don’t think the Link driver had any idea what the plan was. We were just told to walk to that bus stop and get on a “special bus” to the airport. I just followed ST’s directions. I did not plan this operation, you know. I just followed ST’s plan.

    Is this my fault? lol

      1. A man interviewed on KOMO said a cop told passengers to go to a bus stop to wait for a bus that would take them to the airport. According to the KOMO reporter, no such bus ever arrived.

        I normally minimize Norman’s comments entirely, but I don’t think there’s any reason to give him crap for his comments in this post. Watch the KOMO piece. He wasn’t the only rider who was screwed over. And despite being screwed over, Norman will probably continue to ride Link. The rest of those folks who wound up having to get a cab, or missing their flights? I’m sure most of them will do everything they can to avoid Link in the future.

      2. “I’m sure most of them will do everything they can to avoid Link in the future.”

        … Until they end up stuck on I-5 in a cab trying to get to the airport when a truck has jackknifed. It’s not like that never happens on I-5.

      3. Except the cabbie hears about the accident on his radio or phone and avoids the accident. Or he creeps to the next exit and detours. He doesn’t just drop you on the side of the highway and tell you another cab will be by sometime.

        And psychologically I think there’s a huge difference. Drivers are used to and usually expect traffic jams. People don’t expect traffic jams on Link. And when you’re jammed up in a car, you still feel like you have options. When you’re trapped on a train, or put off a train with no information on alternative routes, you have no options.

        Personally, every time I hear about a Link delay like this, all I hear is, “Never take Link to the airport.” It may take me an extra transfer and 20 more minutes by bus, but I’m passing on Link the next time I need to catch a plane.

      4. I think giving up on Link to the airport is tad overboard. I didn’t hear of anyone being held prisoner on any train. There were plenty of buses to get people moving to where they were going. There was simply a lack of information being provided, and too much misinformation being put out by official sources (if you believe Norman).

        So, yeah, Norman could have still gotten to the airport by heading to the 124 or catching the 106. He knows these routes. He’s just trying to prove a point that the 194 was better, and everybody here has long since stopped listening to him.

      5. I think you’re letting your (justified) disdain for Norman get in the way of seeing a legitimate point. If the transit agencies aren’t providing any (or enough) information in these sorts of situations, how are folks supposed to know that these other options exist? I consider myself more transit savvy than most of my peers, but I’d have no idea how to get to SeaTac from Beacon Hill or Columbia City station, and I don’t have a web-enabled phone that would let me just google that sort of thing when I’m at a station. Norman may know the 124 and 106, but I’ve never ridden them, and I have no idea how to get to them from any Link station. Most people don’t. If I’m going to have to remember what buses to take in case Link breaks down, and how to get to them from random locations along the Link route, it seems like less hassle to just take the buses instead.

      6. Read the rest of the comments on the thread, and Find my name to see my other comments on putting up permanent posters at stations.

      7. Yeah, saw that further down. I agree. I’ve long thought each station should have area maps, showing nearby libraries, social services, trails, parks, etc. Bus routes with destinations or connections should of course be part of such a map.

      8. These maps exist, and are at every station, although they don’t follow the bus routes as far as one would like.

      9. Ooh, hey, they do exist. Were they there from the beginning?

        Agree with Martin though that they should follow the bus routes farther, or somehow state the destination. If you don’t know where the buses go, knowing where to catch them can often be of little use.

        Also, what’s with Edmunds being marked as a “pedestrian path”? From what I can tell, Edmunds has a plain old sidewalk, like all the other blocks around there.

  21. I’m pro-rail and have been for decades, but lets face reality here.

    Sound Transit’s Link light rail is a joke and a blight on Seattle, at best. Poor and purposefully misled planning from the start, second-rate tracks, NO supervision that actually equals anything worth a hoot, much less a dollar.

    These are the types of things that turn people into hating their local transportation system.

    It’s funny, because you think with both San Diego and Portland relatively close, this crazy agency would have learned how to do it right.

    Worse yet about todays accident was the guy who just came in from Denver to Seattle, and found himself w/o any help from Sound Transit. What a way to welcome people to Seattle!

    This agwency should be immediately audited, I can only wonder at the possible fraud and shenanigans going in there. They certainly can’t run a light rail system, maybe it’s time to pull the plug on their funding until they show they actually care about their passengers.

    1. So let me get this straight… Because Sound Transit didn’t have somebody at the platform to inform passengers about the delay all of a sudden the agency is rife with fraud? That’s a bit of a stretch.

      I use Sound Transit services almost daily and have for years. There have been plenty of miscues over the years but *nothing* compared to the chaos I experienced in 7 months of commuting via the tube and buses in London back in 2000. That’s not to excuse Sound Transit from improving things but I’m sensing your standards are a little high.

    2. I think you are blowing this out of proportion. A train crunched up a trunk. It isn’t like ST it just unconvincing riders for fun. ST and every transit agency can *always* do better in situations like this but lets keep everything in perspective. Most people understand if you get in a car accident while driving you probably are going to be late to wherever you were going and in all likelihood you’ll won’t have a great day.

    3. Try searching for “audit” on this site sometime. ST frequently passes audits with flying colors.

  22. Amazing at all this blame going to the light rail line that is in place. LINK hs probably had the least amount of accidents of any light rail start up in history then we have this one accident in months and everything is going to pot. It’s like the murder that happened in Beacon Hill today. This was only the 8th this year in Seattle (the lowest since 1964) and yet everyone is making Seattle out to be murder capitol of the US. Likewise LINK has had it’s 9th train vs car crash and everyone is making the system out to be the worst designed in the country. Get a grip everyone…be happy you live in Seattle and appreciate what this city has especially this new light rail line.

    The only thing I see that can be learned is by ST and this is that there should be station and on-board train annoucements regarding the accident. I must say that this rarely happens in other cities that I’ve witnessed, but would be nice to happen here.

    1. Ridiculous, this is an agency that’s supposed to have its act together. It deserves ALL the blame for this, and no the people of Seattle shouldn’t be grateful, they should be asking where and why did they spend all this cash on such a poorly run system.

      The only thing that people are going to learn from this is that they can’t trust their govt. to even run a simple light rail train. Clearly once again someone dropped the ball, and we are paying for them to muck it up.

      The only thing I see is that passengers should stop paying their fares, send ST a message that they should earn our money.

      Other cities have issues from time to time, but Seattle takes the cake when it comes to botching up a simple transportation network. Just go and listen to their crazy station announcements in the morning. It never has anything to do with being useful, usually just warnings that help no one but the agency itself.

      1. Oh please get off.

        What I see is the culmination of a process that included extensive community involvement, balanced with the severe constraints that the budget for this system provided in a political atmosphere that was very unstable. That this system got build and opened is a strong testament to the management and staff of Sound Transit and the stakeholders.

        The choice to build at grade in the Rainier Valley is being “Monday morning quarterbacked” to death here. Central Link Light Rail is a starter line. It is going to have issues because it is the segment that the agency will learn the most from. What works, what can be improved etc. Already, Sound Transit is taking a closer look at alignment choices in North Link I would surmise due in part to what they are learning with Central Link.

        To brand the system a failure is just nuts. Over time, they will learn what works and how to improve. For instance, they will learn how to mitigate the currently high incident rates. The truck/train accident was the 1st of 2 reported problems on the line today each causing system wide delays. But stuff like this happens on any and all transit systems, public or private.

        Try a little glass half full for a change.

      2. Hate to break the news to you, but this is most likely the best system will get as it stands in terms of infrastructure, cleanliness, smooth operations, and having a staff that cares. All of it still sub-par also. The culmination of their efforts, hmmmm, severe budget constraints, those sound like excuses for not getting the job done. How much money has been wasted? We won’t know for sure.

        They have ample enough time and money to study other well entrenched systems already in place for DECADES, yet they can’t come up with a simple contingency plan for its paying pasengers? Give me a break, either you don’t want to see some of its faults, or are touting how good it is for a reason I am not sure. Either way it doesn’t help or explain anything in a rational sense to passengers as to why ST is this way.

        Just think down the road when there’s a MAJOR meltdown. ST will once again have those “deer in the headlights” look, and they’ll still get paid massive dollars (and not solving anything) while the public stands there wondering what the heck is going on.

        As for Monday morning QB stuff, I guess you forgot about all the hoopla before it was built? Tunnel Yes! HAH! I knew that was a farce from the very start, yet the politicians touted this garbage up until they knew that their lies couldn’t passed off so easily anymore.

        As for the glass being half full? Try riding the commutes. Now there is an arena where work is progressing in a positive direction in most aspects. I am still troubled by some costing issues, but in all that’s a area where ST needs to focus more. The crews are great, runs are a blast to ride, and worth every penny they charge.

        I wish I could say the same about Link, which btw the way is misnomer since one can’t directly transfer onto anytghing else w/o buying another ticket. How stupid is that? Have a ticket machine that won’t allow you to buy an all day pass, or add another dollar for a transfer onto a bus?

        Clearly their thoughts culminated much too early and they didn’t think the whole process out. Yeesh, how hard is it for some of these people who get paid big figures to understand?

      3. Oh [expletive]. Please name the “better” system you think Seattle is “subpar” compared to, and then give us some hard numbers. You’ll be surprised. All systems have their problems.

        Link certainly needs to fix the ticketing, and the electronic information systems are *genuinely* subpar, but apart from that your criticisms are simply ill-informed.

      4. DC metro is way better at handling things like this. I used to ride the system daily and I often heard announcements like “The elevator at Federal Traingle is out of service. Shuttle bus service is available from Metro Center.” That message would be broadcast to every station in the system. Here they don’t even bother to warn passengers that the train they are boarding will experience a half hour delay.

      5. And yet there was a blog just week saying how bad DC Metro is. Alas, the grass is always greener…

      6. ST is inexperienced in dealing with this situation. Well, inexperienced in general as the system’s only been open a year. But if they’d had the sort of accident rate that was predicted they’d be pros at it by now. I put down a lack of experience in dealing with collisions as a good thing.

        I guess this wasn’t even a valid left turn (or U turn) point but has anybody noticed the little screens up by the traffic lights that tell you when there’s a train coming? I saw them last time I was on MLK waiting… and waiting… and waiting some more to make a U-turn since the driveway I pulled out from is blocked from turning left. Sort of cute but I don’t think they do much good. OTOH, the safety record has been pretty darn good, so…

        Question, we’re fortunate these collisions have pretty much avoided rush hour. Coincidence or are mid-day drivers just more loopy? Having done a lot of road riding, both motorcycle and bicycle I tend to think it’s the latter. The commuters are the pros and mid-day is amateur hour.

  23. The truck driver, Reid B Saario, was cited for third-degree driving with a revoked or suspended license, a criminal traffic violation, on Mar 05, 2010. The charge was dismissed because of “FTO”, which I assume stands for “first time offender”. Not sure where I’d go to find out why his license was suspended. (The WA Courts records search page is down at the moment.)

    Of course, that was just his first criminal violation. Saario has been cited for four non-criminal traffic infractions in various vehicles, including:

    TURNS, PROHIBITED on Jul 19, 2006,
    TURNS, PROHIBITED on Sep 30, 1987.

    That’s just in the Seattle Municipal Court system. He actually lives in Pierce County, and I assume he’s racked up violations down there.

    I don’t think anyone can doubt that the driver was 100% at fault. Unfortunately, watch the KOMO News piece and you’ll see that the story has become not about the crash itself, but the horrible job ST did to manage its aftermath. No one cares why the car was hit. People are just going to remember the passengers missing their flights.

    1. The car being hit was an accident. A good response should be planned, not blind luck. This is a case where good is better than lucky. That’s why it’s a story.

    2. No one disputes that the driver is at fault. Sound Transit is supposed to be able to cope with situations like this, cars crashing into trains is nothing new.

      That’s why ultimately ST is at fault here. They obviously don’t know right now how to cope with a simple incident like this. One can hope that they learn,but I would be pleasantly surprised if they do. Besides, this isn’t the first car vs. train scenario on the line. So why did they botch this one? They already have had a couple of fender benders.

      And yes, people should remember that some missed their flights, ST failed there As well. They could have done much, much better and in the process gained enormous positive publicity. Instead they chose the opposite, on purpose no less.

      What were they thinking? I would like to know, seriously.

      1. OK, here’s your chance, at the next meeting of the Sound Transit board, go and sign up to speak. You get 2 minutes. Lay out your concerns and see what happens. You are very lucky to live in a state that has very strong open meetings law and open records. It’s pretty difficult for politicians to completely pull one over on the citizens and not get caught.

        I’m willing to bet that Sound Transit staff will already have been on the issues brought to light in this latest incident by the time you show up to speak your concern.

        The citizens of Puget Sound voted and we got Sound Transit. It is here for the long haul. And they voted again and we’re getting EastLink, SouthLink and Northlink. No amount of your kvetching or micromanaging their actions is gong to change that. I think it provides pretty damn good service offerings, and I think it’s pretty well managed and governed. I don’t expect government agencies to be perfect but I expect them to be responsive and responsible. I expect them to learn from mistakes and I’m confident they will learn from what happened “yesterday”. And trust me, compared to where I currently live, having the open governance processes you have in Washington State is quite a privilege.

        So instead of calling this system terrible, and sub-par, and questioning the integrity and competency of Sound Transit staff, simply because this isn’t your vision for how it should have been built or if it even should have been built, accept what the voters approved and let it go. Or at the very least do what most of the rest of us do around here and offer constructive observations that hopefully help the system work better.

        I think if you start looking at Sound Transit as YOUR government agency and participate in constructive ways instead of the canard of “government is the enemy” you may find that things work better and you might be happier instead of angry and cynical.

      2. 1) My two minutes will fall on deaf ears. They could care less, that’s already proven time and time again.

        2) ST should already have had the issues taken care of long ago, this as stated many times has been nothing new with transportation systems. So why didn’t they have their act together?

        3) The citizens didn’t get what they voted for, at least down in Rainier Valley, ST modified their plans on the south end, where’s the tunnel?

        4) I haven’t been micro-managing anything, I guess you can’t see that, too bad. Everyone HAS let ST do their job, they’ve showed that they aren’t up to the task yet.

        5) Constructive criticism equates to “shut your mouth”. It appears that the only way to get their attention is to start demanding as taxpayers a right to cut off funding.

        6)ST isn’t my agency, they’ve shown their disregard for their paying passengers, period. What about this do you not understand?

        In closing, if more people stood up and expected real, viable, wholesale transportation choices from their transit agencies, especially ST, and said you aren’t getting more money until you show how to help the general public, this city in particular will continue to have a red herring for a light-rail system.

        Why don’t YOU stand up and demand that passengers be TAKEN CARE of? That’s what is supposed to happen, FIRST.Is that to hard to understand?! Instead you defend a system that should be criticized. Your statement of being constructive only helps one side, ST. I certainly know now that you could care less about me, even though I pay my fare.

        As for angry and cynical, you clearly are off-base, and biased. I support ST in the commuter rail arena, but I have a much more equitable view of ST in general than yourself or others here. Criticism is correct for this other half of the rail part that doesn’t get its act together, Link light rail is a joke, and they proved that yesterday.

        Last, since ST refuses to enforce it’s no smoking policy on its platforms, I shouldn’t have to pay one dime for riding it, but I do. Get a grip ST, you just plain suck at doing the job.

      3. Well, Anthony, some of the critiques here suck at basic analytical skills (not to mention people skills).

        For starters, what if that 16-year-old at Puyallup Station had been somewhere where Sounder wasn’t slowing down, and decided to play chicken with the Sounder train? Sounder would have been out of commission for awhile.

        Look at the number of days North Sounder was completely out of commission this past year due to mudlides, and FTA regulations putting them out of business for 2 days afterward.

        By contrast, Link is much more dependable.

      4. Your criticism of the slides is understandable, though in all fairness to ST they have little to do with that aspect of the 48 hour(or is it 72) rule of not running passenger trains until the hillside is deemed safe.

        I strongly support changing the rules on this one, if a 10,000 ton freight can move through the area immediately afterwards, then there should be a supervisor on the ground in that location as well to ensure a commute can do its duties as well. There isn’t a legit. reason in my book to wait that long, its just plain silly.

        As for the unfortunate circumstance of the 16 year playing chicken, tragic and avoidable. This really isn’t different than the car vs. train scenario, but more consequences as the end result. In cases like this, once again a contingency plan that goes about helping paying passengers ASAP is the number one priority, period.

        Last, as for people skills, if you had met me on the platform you would realize how wildly inaccurate your statement is. Whether it’s the bus or train, I am always cordial, polite, and follow the rules in general. In fact, I’m much more fun to be around than many of the employees, period.

        Analytical skills? Hmmmm, sounds like many here need a refresher course in everyday basic understanding of what a rider like me goes through, and why many of us consider the system a failure to date. Whether I’m coming from Mukilteo, or the Rainier Valley, I’ve seen a lot of work that just isn’t up to the level of money that has been spent. I criticize because ST deserves it, once again many defenders of ST here fail to understand the basic needs of an everyday commuter if something goes awry.

        Have you thought of turning your viewpoint around to reflect what commuters like myself expect of ST, so far I only see a unwillingness to help passengers. Something still not addressed by ST defenders, because they would have to admit to numerous errors and inconsistencies within…

      5. Anthony, I’ve pointed out many errors by ST here. It helps to get people to listen to also point out things they are doing right.

        The first priority for any transit system is not passenger comfort. It is safety. ST invested a lot into finding the vehicles least likely to kill car passengers on impact. I think they chose their vehicles well.

        I was not happy that light rail was built at grade in any segment. But it was. It has been built. They are not going to tear out the tracks and redo it. And really, for passengers getting on at a given station, having the station at grade is the most convenient way to do it.

        Sound Transit has made mistakes, but we have one of the best light rail systems in the world. If we want to make it better, tearing the system down won’t get us there.

      6. Brent, I agree that safety is paramount, but as we both know this compromised plan they came up with certainly does not meet that criteria, unfortunately.

        As to ST getting rail cars that minimize the impact to both the train and car in case of impact, that’s a decision I applaud ST for, but to be fair that should be a standard regulation no matter what.

        Agreed, tracks are here to stay and we have to work with that now. But since they opted for this design, one with think that ST would’ve completed a full scale plan that encompasses how to cope with situations like they just had. Obviously they didn’t, or half-a**ed it that bad, a real bummer and waste of money.

        I actually support at grade stations more than a tunnel; but since ST sold everyone on the tunnel and then did a “switcharoo” for lack of better terms, they wholeheartedly deserve the criticism.

        Believe me, I wish so passionately I could concur with your statement about this being one of the best light rail systems on the planet. I respect your POV but adamantly disagree. When, and if, ST comes around to operating Link like it’s supposed to, then I might consider a change in my opinion. But until then, they are way down near the bottom of the list comparatively to other west coast cities (to start) like San Diego, Portland, even LA. Let’s not even go back east or midwest yet.

        People here take it from my words that I hate ST, not so. In fact the opposite is the case, I’ve had high hopes for a long time to only see them crushed again and again. Seattle deserves a real light rail network, the Monorail I could never take seriously; when light rail was announced initially, I was ecstatic.

        What I feel that needs to happen is for more supporters to criticize and tear apart(figuratively, not literally) the worse aspects of ST, otherwise ST will just “use” its supporters for their own well being w/o regards to the paying public. I alone now wonder what ramifications my posts will have upon myself since I openly identify my real name, unlike many others. I wouldn’t be surprised if ST pulled something shady, but I hope not.

        I want people to be elated about Link, but it’s ST that’s doing the damage to cause “bad blood” among the local citizenry. If they would wake up and realize that, then maybe we have a chance of succeeding. Until then, every case like this one will be a litmus test as to whether they really will get their act together.

      7. TriMet is good at dealing with these situations because they’ve had lots of practice. Three fatalities, one man pinned under a train, one bus-train collision, and multiple car-train collisions this year alone.

        I wouldn’t be so quick to point out how much better other cities are at running their systems when you don’t experience those systems on a daily basis. It’s easy to experience something as a tourist and come away thinking that everything is peachy, when the daily reality is much different.

    3. Why are first time offenders let off for DRIVING WITH A REVOKED LICENSE? I mean, geez, there’s a reason the license was revoked, this isn’t really a first offense.

      1. The WA courts search page came back online and though the guy’s been to court many times, I wasn’t able to find anything that would’ve gotten a license suspended. Perhaps the license was just expired, but the courts use the same terminology as if it were revoked/suspended? Then again, given that we don’t suspend licenses until 60 days after a DUI, I can only imagine what other sorts of suspended license loopholes there are in the system.

    1. Not at all, because center-running isn’t an option there, and hasn’t been a serious contender for a while. Surrey Downs’ opposition has been entirely predicated on land value and quality of life.

      1. Not to be rude, Kyle, but you are incorrect, and probably haven’t been paying that close of attention to this issue or the concerns of Surrey Downs residents. Safety, especially where the trains will be running just north of Surrey Downs, is, and always has been a key issue.

      2. Sam, please provide evidence that safety has ever been a key argument from Surrey Downs in the 112th Avenue debate. All coverage of this issue, from Publicola to Seattle Transit Blog to the Seattle Times, has only ever mentioned the issue of property values and noise.

      3. Excuse me, but I’m not the one accusing someone of ignorance. Not to mention you’re asking me to defend a negative position. You’re the one claiming that Surrey Downs residents have made safety a key position in their arugment—back up your claim.

        Here is the search I am using to find all light-rail related comments in the Bellevue City Council meeting minutes. The only complaints I have seen have been about impacts to land value and quality of life (due to noise or construction), traffic, and the wetlands.

    2. Surrey Downs doesn’t want trains in their neighborhood because many of those involved in the fight don’t use transit and are afraid of the potential for noise. Their solution is to take away access from those of us who want access to Link at South Bellevue and push the trains out to 405 where they will be in somebody else’s back yard – literally.

      They simply don’t see the positives that 2 rail stations within a short walk of either end of their neighborhood would bring. A 15 minute walk = quick access to Downtown Seattle or points east, including Microsoft.

      I sympathize with the noise issue but Sound Transit is dealing with the issue and is already planning to avoid similar issues on East link. No doubt you’ll disagree.

    3. Actually, the only gripe I’ve ever heard from the Surrey Downs people about surface trains is the bells and lights associated with at-grade crossings. I’ve never once heard any of them complain about safety.

  24. To summarize today: The cause of people not being able to get where they were going quickly was because Metro and Sound Transit still have not developed a method of getting out information at stations quickly regarding (1) the fact that a blockage has occured; and (2) alternate bus routes that are available. (The inability to put out live non-recorded messages at stations seems ridiculously Luddistic.)

    Maybe ST could develop a simple poster to put up permanently at stations, giving riders a list of bus routes from that station, or within walking distance of that station, to each of the other stations. Then post it at each station, so that supervisors don’t have to be rushed out to each station to get the information out the next time a SNAFU happens.

    Then, when the all-down call is made, the ST personnel could direct passengers to the bus backup route list. This list should also be available for distribution on the trains, for those unable to reach the next station.

    The solution seems so simple that I feel like charging a consultant fee.

    Of course, ST would still have to inform riders that a blockage has occured, which they seem terribly reluctant to do.

    1. Sound Transit seems to have recurrent customer information distribution problems.

      Perhaps they need to hire an expert to focus on nothing but this problem.

    2. All this chatter about having a good bus backup system in place and information on how to access it is just nuts.
      Metro has difficulty filling all the scheduled runs on some days with the current fleet of buses and cadre of drivers. There’s not a lot of fat in the system siting idle, waiting for the fire bell to sound.
      ST has no equipment of their own for the fire house drill either. In other words, you cobble together the drivers and buses from a ‘scrounge’ effort, knowing the situation will eventually melt away.
      Sure, make it easy for riders to be directed onto alternate resources to continue the journey, give the best information you have (no BS)as quickly as you can, work to resolve the blockage and know that tomorrow is a new day.
      That’s reality.

      1. Here in Chicago, if the one of the major “L” lines has a service disruption, they will pull buses off routes to create bus bridges. Usually off routes with high frequencies. Normally bus riders would probably not notice but they’ve sometimes made the mistake of taking too many buses from one route.

        That happened to me a few years ago and I complained about being stranded at my bus stop for 45 minutes (bus frequencies on that route are about 6-8 minutes during peak periods) after they had taken several buses from the route to support the bridge. The CTA actually sent a postal letter of apology. (I was shocked)

      2. So, one more question at the top of my thinking process is whether a bus bridge or a surge of temporarily-increased service on station-to-station bus routes would be more effective for blockage situations.

      3. Okay, Mike, I hear you.

        If some of the desktop publishing geeks could put together a simple emergency alternate route poster, do you think ST would be interested in putting them up at stations?

        And then add a simple cannned message that can be activated for these occurences, such as “The train is blocked ahead due to an accident. Please refer to the emergency alternate route plan posted by the ticket machines until further notice.”

        BTW, Did anyone else read the comment at the Times story claiming someone had a green light to cross this same intersection while trains were approaching from both directions? Maybe Norman could save taxpayers a little money and check this out.

    3. Yes. Does Link really not have an intercom that can broadcast to all stations and railcars? Can ST really not assign somebody to make accurate announcements about the nature of the delay and exactly what mitigation steps are in place? If they can’t afford it, can they at least make it a top priority to fill this gap before other things? It’s a basic aspect of reliability that the trains should either arrive on time or the passengers should be told why not and when they will come.

      As for a list of local bus routes, that has been a problem in Rainier Valley since the beginning. Most subways have just a subway map. Many have a local map showing all transit in the surrounding few blocks. Link has an ST map, which shows one agency’s routes rather than the routes most relevant to the station. As if it’s more important to advertise ST’s network than to show the routes most people want to take. It’s especially irrelevant in Rainier Valley where most people are going downtown, within the valley, or to Broadway or the U-district. Very few are going to Everett or Auburn, or care about the Auburn-Bellevue bus.

  25. I’m surprised no one has brought up ST’s woefully inadequate rider e-mail alerts. All the e-mails said about this incident was that a bus bridge was in place but no info about where to catch the bus bridge–which is especially important riders at Mt Baker (do you catch the bus at the transit center? on MLK by the station?) and Columbia City (my neighbor said the bus wasn’t serving the station due to the accident which is understandable but how do I get to Columbia City?)–how often I can expect it to come (a rough estimate is fine) or what a bus bridge is for those that haven’t heard the term. They also directed you to ST’s alerts page where there was no additional information. The current, relevant information for riders (both those at the station and those who get e-mail alerts) is extremely frustrating, in particular for those who can use Metro (36, 7, 14, 8, 124, 106, etc) to get where they need to go if they are aware of the situation and that it might be quicker to get to their destination via Metro.

      1. That would be great for those with cell phones and I support it. But what about those like me who don’t have a cell phone? They need to have station by station backup plan.

    1. I think we’ll just have to spread the word, “When Link breaks down, catch a bus, don’t wait for Link.”

  26. Here’s one more suggestion, though it isn’t cheap:

    Complete the built-in bus bridge, so that there is a bus route connecting each station to the next.

    The only holes in completing the bus bridge are SODO to Beacon Hill, and Rainier Beach to Tukwila. Extending the 38 down to SODO would be the easiest way to cover the north hole in the bus bridge. Or maybe alter the 39 to serve Beacon Hill Station.

    There really ought to be a bus route from Rainier Beach to TIBS, as a courtesy mitigation to the neighborhhoods under the Tukwila line that have to hear the train but can’t access it. It would also give South Base operators a quicker way to get to Link.

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