Photo by Oran

When ST first announced that they would run one-car trains on some evenings and weekends to save money, it was said that this would be done based on expected demand due to special events.

Indeed, this kind of thing, if done right, can be very low-impact. But then there’s how this is actually being implemented. On a day with a Mariners game, Sounders game, and, uh, RapidRide opening, we got lots of anecdotal reports that trains were too full. Descriptions like “at capacity” and “full” are often thrown around way before trains are actually full, but people were left behind by one-car trains.

We’re at capacity NB at Beacon Hill. @soundtransit one-car trains are forcing people to wait for the next one. – Sherwin’s tweet

On a NB Link train, standing room only already at Tukwila. One car trains are not enough! – Sherwin’s tweet

Even with no major sports events… the car was at crush capacity. – PubliCola, accompanied by a photo nowhere near crush capacity

A lot of people had to stand on the 1-car trains, and some really didn’t have space for more to get on, even after the people who resist moving to the back moved to the back. (Well, more could have gotten on, but it would have been down to violating our American norms of personal space.)… I saw dozens wait for a next train. – Brent

It was bad. For one train, no one was able to board at Beacon Hill. The next train left half the people still standing, but we crushed in. Both were more crowded than the publicola photo. – psf

Not a good start.

By the end of the Sounders game, ST had started mixing in some 2-car trains, and indeed on Sunday it seemed that 2 cars were once again the norm.

ST did not return my questions over the weekend.

As a side note, in the past we’ve had really pointless comment wars over whether “capacity” should mean “how many people can fit in a car” or “the planning factor Sound Transit should use for how many people fit in a car.” The answer ultimately depends on what you’re trying to argue. Aside from that, the source for the former definition is this data sheet, which says 200. People use the word “full” to mean a lot of different things, but if a car was really leaving people behind I hope someone was out there counting, because that’s a practical limit that would be interesting to know.

117 Replies to “Day 1 of One-Car Trains a Fiasco”

  1. If this happens on a regular basis, I’m going to be quite convinced that the $400,000 saved isn’t worth it as this will start to push people NOT to use public transport and instead jump back to their cars or not spend money in the city. I was sceptical when I first thought about it, but I also though, “gee Sound Transit probably have the numbers figured out”. Perhaps they should consider moving the service reduction closer to 9pm?

    1. I agree. The $460K in operational cost savings has now probably been more than offset by damage to reputation, public perception and future ridership.

  2. The question I raised on Publicola is what is the marginal cost of an additional car given that with one car you’re already paying for a driver, who would seem to be the biggest cost.

    Electricity. That would probably be a fixed per car price.

    Security. The guard could easily monitor two cars.

    Clean up. Once there is a cleaning crew there, doing a second car would double the hours.

    So, it would be interesting to see the micro-operations numbers on a per car basis.

    1. How could one guard effectively monitor two cars? A miscreant could easily wait for the guard to go into the other of the two cars and cause all sorts of havoc. If they allowed people to move between cars, it’d make more sense.

      As far as electricity goes, it probably is approximately fixed per car price. Thus, a two-car train would cost around twice as much there.

      You forgot to mention car maintenance. If they run one-car trains, then the fleet builds up fewer total car-miles, thus maintenance should be theoretically cheaper.

      All that said, I doubt it really saves them all that much money, but any cost savings can help in this economy.

      1. @47hasbegun – fear other passengers much? One security guard or none will be fine for the Link. Other systems with a much higher utilization don’t have transit cops on each trains and they seem to be doing just fine.

        Besides, when ours can only just stand there and radio for help, it seems like a complete waste of money to have them on every train.

      2. Heck, up until a few years ago, New York got along just fine running 12-car trains without any transit cop presence or even CCTV cameras at all, 24 hours a day.

        The first step is turning off the evening news.

      3. I believe the dominant cost saving is maintenance costs. Just like on airplanes there is required maintenance every so-many hours or miles of operation, and by reducing car-miles, some of that maintenance cost is saved.

        I don’t believe there is a guard on every train.

      4. Cyclist Mike: It’s not that I fear the other passengers (I frequently ride the 358 without issue), it’s that you never know what could happen. Just look at what happen to Mike McLaughlin (on what is now the 358).

      5. @47hasbegun – This is going to be a slippery slope (or red herring? bah, I don’t know). Regardless, why even step outside then if you’re going to live in constant fear? Why walk? you could twist your ankle? Why drive? you could get into an accident?

      6. I’m not advocating those clear plastic barriers that Metro tried out, either.

        You know, it’s strange that I say these paranoid things (“you never know what could happen”) I picked up from my parents and friends in suburbia, but I usually ignore them when I’m riding transit. I should stop saying such things since I don’t follow what I say.

      7. The terminology we’ve let Bailo decide on is inaccurate. There isn’t “the guard” because not every Link train has a guard on it. Often there are fare inspectors, but many Link trips aren’t patrolled at all and there is no havoc.

      8. RE: One guard, two trains: it’s unlikely you’ll see one out at a time–safety in numbers. One guard could easily get his ass kicked, but if he has a buddy with him, the other one could at least radio for help before he started to get his ass kicked too. And at least on a Link car, the operator could pull up to a station and not open the doors until the cops arrive. But then you’d be trapping the bad person(s) inside potentially causing more harm.

        Anyway, it’s the same reason that cops always go 2+ to a dangerous situation, even though they have guns. Safety in numbers.

  3. I get the reasoning behind reducing the number of cars being run by trains. Most other transportation systems do this during off-peak hours.

    When I was in Chicago this past weekend, the Blue line on a Wednesday afternoon was either 9 or 10 cars long (I lost count when I was trying to board quickly), but when departing on a Saturday afternoon, they were only running 5 car trains. Philly does the same thing running 6 car trains during peak hours and then 4 car trains on off-peak. Apparently it does save money, but I think most of it comes from the maintenance costs.

    However, this was poor timing by ST when there was a Sounders and Mariners game going on that Saturday. I’m not sure if they’re going for the “Hey look! Our trains are always full!” perception or if they’re actually trying to cut down on costs. Regardless, I’m having a hard time believing that reducing the trains by 1 car is going to save that much money. It might on paper, but we won’t know the actual figures until a full year of reduced service.

    1. it would have been running 8-car trains, that is the MAX train length in Chicago, and the cars are in permanently twinned pairs so it is in multiples of 2 so your outbound train was probably 6 cars.

      The red line goes down to 4 cars at bar-rush creating worse-crushloading conditions at 1 AM than at Rush hour. It is quite funny really. I never expected to see more than 5 other people on the train at 1, Apparently CTA didn’t either.

      The Green line is 4 cars most of the day each day going up to 6 for a few hours a day.

      The green and yellow lines never sees 8-car trains :( the others all do.

      The Yellow line runs 2 car trains all day I think.

      I’ve only ever once seen a CTA train leave people on the platform (it left about 50 at roosevelt station (orange line)

      other than that, people CRUSH onto trains as much as they possibly can, personal space is not necessary here. Seattle ought to get used to that. Portland is like Chicago in the lack of personal space when trains are full.

      1. Thanks for the corrections, Alex. It was my second time in Chicago and I wasn’t paying too much attention to the number of cars.

      2. It should be noted that the entire CTA system isn’t built to allow 8-car trains. The Yellow Line (Skokie Swift) can only run two-car trains because the station in Skokie can only accommodate that length, and the Purple (Evanston) Line can only accomodate 6-car trains.

    1. Sam, I know you’re trolling, but that’s ok. I’ll ask you the same things I ask Norman and get no response to. Have you been to a city with a fully functional transit system that isn’t in its infancy? Have you seen what it can actually do? This isn’t just about commuting to work, but enabling people to get from point A to point B, whether its for entertainment, work, or meeting friends who live across town. If this means I want to get to Bellevue to visit my friends, why can’t a transit system take me there? Why does it need to be intracity? Why can’t we have a mixed modal system? Why does it need to be bus only?

      A huge problem is that people who live in Seattle have never been outside of this bubble and have seen a functioning system. My gf has never been outside and is constantly frustrated with our buses, and when I explained to her the Chicago “L” and regional rail lines (and including all the bus connections to these lines) she was absolutely amazed. “A train that comes every minute during peak hours?” was one of her comments. Granted, this was downtown in the loop where multiple train lines run, but if your goal is to stay within a few blocks, it doesn’t take long. “What? You can ride a train at any hour of the day INTO or OUT OF the city to another town?” Yes, Chicago and many other systems have a much larger “Sounder” line that runs in both directions at all hours of the day.

      In my anecdotal experiences here, people don’t know what a transit system can actually offer and only know what Seattle’s lacks. They get used to 3 AM express buses that go INTO Seattle in the morning and then 3 PM express buses that leave late in the afternoon. They never experienced a system where it is actually convenient to leave work early (say 2 PM) and be able to catch a bus or train home knowing it will run every 20 minutes. They don’t have to worry about catching that last express bus home or figure out how else to get home (wife needing to come into the city to pick me up).

      Why, Sam, do you hate transportation so much?

      1. How many of those cities spent $160 million per mile on a light rail line (and $600 million per mile for the U-Link segment now under construction)?

      2. Norman – In my very basic research, it looks like Chicago initially planned a 50 mile system for $267m back in 1939. Using a basic inflation calculator, that comes out to be about $87m/mile in 2009 dollars. Still significantly cheaper, but it was all elevated at the time which reduces cost. In short, I agree with you Norman; $160m/mile is a bit outrageous, especially considering that a good portion of it is at grade. $600m/mile is due to the extensive tunneling, but still too expensive. There are other methods of construction that are cheaper, though it would cause more short-term disruption to traffic. The other problem is our topology which makes those cheaper options a bit more difficult, though not impossible, to engineer around.

      3. Whoops, my comments about the Chicago system are a bit off – those numbers were for the originally planned State St subway line (red line), not the entire L line. Still, significantly cheaper than what the Link is costing.

      4. do you know what the cost of the current Circle-Line proposal is? (Which I think is a total joke btw. we need a real beltway, not another loop 10 blocks out….)

        That might be a more current comparison.

      5. Cyclist Mike – you cannot just inflate the cost back in 1939 and compare it to Link today, construction, engineering, labor, and environmental regulations and practices were much different than they are today.

      6. Oran – I know it’s not an exact apples to apples comparison, which is why I stated that it’s just a basic inflation calculator and it was done from quick research of Chicago’s planned costs. I still think it’s still a good number to do a basic comparison, though.

      7. It would be more informative to look at current light rail or subway projects, such as Portland’s new Milwaukie light rail line, at $232 million per mile, or New York’s Second Avenue Subway line, at $2 billion per mile.

      8. Zed, I assume you realize that the Chicago CTA extensions are HEAVY rail, and not light rail.

      9. “Zed, I assume you realize that the Chicago CTA extensions are HEAVY rail, and not light rail.”

        So what? They’re functionally barely different. Several of the CTA L lines have lower capacity (no matter how you parse the term) than Link and Link from Northgate to the airport will have higher ridership than all but two of the L lines.

        The only thing that makes the L “heavy” rail is that they use old style rapid transit cars and high platforms. That doesn’t really increase the cost of the extensions. Building urban rail of any form is expensive.

      10. The “L” is functionally the same as our light rail. it runs at grade when it gets farther out, above grade when it can, and below grade in the city center (some lines anyways) Our light rail probably has a higher average speed than the “L” anyways. (I have no evidence except my daily experience of “L” trains putzing along due to poorly maintained tracks, also our (LINK) longer stop spacing)

      11. To borrow from a comment on modern-day China:

        It is impressive what could be done (in Chicago) with a seemingly endless supply of Serfs from Ireland in a city run by Gangsters.

    2. Sam, I think you’re being unnecessarily harsh to our hosts here in accusing them of living unsustainable lives. The choice of where one lives is a much a matter of circumstance and history as it is necessity. Do you know the personal circumstances of any of these gentlemen? Particularly with the aspect of home ownership, one does not simply fluidly move their household simply because of the location of their employment – which can be ephemeral in this economy.

      Further, you make an absurd inference that a political boundary should also be some sort of legal or cultural barrier for where people should be allowed to work or live. The distance between downtown Seattle and downtown Bellevue is less than 7 miles. In most cities that is not an unusual commute length. There are over 4 million people in the Metropolitan Seattle area. Do you expect them to all live within the confines of one political boundary? Do you expect the factories and other work areas to also be located in such a limited space?

      If your call for sustainability means such a radical restructuring of our society that disrupts the concepts of private property and personal freedom such that people are ordered to move within 1 mile of their work or what ever your draconian definition of sustainability is, then I suggest you discard this “train” of thought because it would never happen as a matter of political choice.

      Sometimes sustainability calls for decidedly lower tech methods such as the use of goats for land clearing and sometimes it involves the introduction of high technology. It is my contention that a fixed pathway rail system is an appropriate application of technology to impact transportation choices in a positive direction towards a sustainable society. It provides a relative permanence to transportation corridors that are much more difficult to disrupt for political or short term economic reasons. It provides natural opportunities to increase density along those corridors and it creates the possibility of a critical mass where larger numbers of people can lead lives that impact the environment much less than our present society but does so without the draconian soviet style changes some might suggest are needed.

      To advocate for these systems is not a fetish but reasonable advocacy. Your use of the term “fetish” is insulting in my view and not helpful to any discussion that occurs here. How about being a good sport and dialing back the vitriol. None of us will 100 percent agree on every aspect of transportation policy. But a spirited discussion of these matters is what makes this community interesting and also useful to our policy makers and implementers that do read this blog and seek our counsel.

      As for the one car train fiasco, lets hope that our transportation agencies have the capacity to learn from their mistakes. It is our responsibility as taxpayers and voters to hold them accountable. The question needs to be asked why they did not account for the demand that would obviously be generated by the public events going on that weekend.

  4. Erica Barnett and some folks here at STB need to chill out. ST is trying things to cut costs. They may have made a mistake rolling it out on a busy game day–although I think 12 people were at the Mariners game…

    There were hardly “crush” loads and the world goes on. Some people had to stand for 20 minutes. For most Americans that is probably a good thing.

    If it doesn’t work, ST will discontinue it.

    1. And there was a Sounders game too. The point is they didn’t do what they said they would, so of course we are going to call them out of it.

      1. Fine–call them out, but don’t overdo it. And yes, there was a Sounder’s game with 32,000 people–over have of which drove to the game, 3/4’s of which don’t live in South King County, 1/2 of which don’t live along the alignment. So, MAYBE 2,000 additional Link riders. I agree that ST messed up by doing this on a game day, but Armageddon it is not.

      2. The reason I’m so are critical is because this is just one more thing in a long list of problem with how ST (ie Metro) operate Link. You don’t spend 1.4 billion dollars, design it to handle 4 car trains and then leave people behind at platforms. You don’t keep on adding buses to the tunnel when it already has delay problems. You don’t stop a train in the middle of an elevated segment to switch drivers. You don’t give up on providing real-time information even though it is an industry standard. Etc, etc, etc.

        The point I’m making is you don’t spend all this money to build something and then skimp on the operations.

      3. I knew that was wrong the minute I wrote it but didn’t have time to go back and change it. Work beckoned.

  5. I am going to make more than one post on this thread, since this is one of my favorite topics — “capacity” on light rail lines or buses — and I have links to articles and documents which I think are interesting and relevant to this topic.

    First article from the Portland Tribune from 2006, describing a somewhat similar situation when Portland cut service hours and raised fares on their light rail and bus systems. Here’s the link to the article, then I will cut and past a few paragraphs:

    “According to an analysis by the Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates, between the fall of 2004 and fall of 2005, the average number of passengers on a train headed west at Goose Hollow in the peak hour of 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. jumped from 154 to 191 passengers. With 128 seats split between the two cars of the typical light-rail train, that means more than 60 passengers are standing. In March, a columnist for The Oregonian’s Metro West Neighbors section, Jerry Boone, recounted complaints from passengers distressed by increased crowding Ñ even to the point that one was considering going back to his automobile.”

    So, even with just 64 standees on a 2-car train (32 standees per car), some riders complained about “crowding”, and one even said he might start driving instead of taking the light rail.

    ” In only one time slot at one station, Beaverton Central at 8:37 a.m., do the average loads exceed the two-car trains’ theoretically “achievable” capacity of 266 passengers.”

    So, Portland considers the “capacity” of its light rail cars to be 133 per car.

    “The problem with that, says Hughes, is that light rail is already slower than driving a car for commuters into Portland. He takes many job-related trips to Portland and finds that it takes him 10 to 15 minutes to take the bus to his MAX station, then another 45 to 50 minutes for the train trip itself. But taking his car at 7 a.m. can take as little as 40 minutes.”

    And his trip time using transit does not even include waiting for the bus, then waiting for the train.

    I recommend reading the entire article. People on this blog should find it interesting.

    1. Good article, Norman. Commenting on the last quote: Part of the light rail problem in Portland is that it shares the street with traffic and stops (downtown anyway) almost every other block. This greatly increases travel time as there is no signal priority from my understanding for the MAX.

      (Sorry for all of my references to Chicago, I just got back) Chicago’s blue line from O’Hare to the Loop is about a 40 minute ride. Compare that to rush hour traffic on I-90/94, and it is much shorter than sitting still in traffic. The hotel told me to expect an hour taxi ride for $35 versus $2.75 and a 40 minute ride. During off-peak hours, I cannot comment on which is faster.

      It really depends on how the system is implemented.

      As for capacity – yes, people need to learn and suck it up and stand. On the other hand, when you’re already at the second station on the line and it’s already standing room only, that begs to question ST’s decision on reducing the number of cars per train during major events happening downtown.

      1. During rush-hour, that cab ride would have cost more like $50 (saying this as someone who has taken that ride many-a-time on the company dime). Off-peak the cab is definitely faster (though never less than $35 from downtown), but the problem is off-peak is an ever smaller window in the Chi.

    2. “…even with just 64 standees on a 2-car train (32 standees per car), some riders complained about “crowding”, and one even said he might start driving instead of taking the light rail”

      Meh… Whatever. I rode in a Link car at 9:40am today and counted ~25 standees. It was SRO with roughly 100 people. However, even with all those people, 2 bikes in doorways, a wheelchair, and scads of luggage you could still move around the train and exit quickly. Some people may get back into their car after such an experience, but city traffic isn’t pleasant either.

      It’s all what you’re used to. A Londoner would look around and think that it wasn’t crowded at all.

      1. If there 2 bikes, a wheelchair, and “scads of luggage”, then I doubt there were 100 people on that car. In that situation, I have found that there are always seats taken with luggage, and not passengers.

        However, I have never claimed that Link cars’ capacity is only 100. I have always used 137 per car as the normal commute capacity for Link.

        Capacity in Seattle is different than in NYC or London, or Asia, etc. It is all about what people will tolerate.

      2. Doubt all you want – every seat appeared to be full and I counted *at least* 25 heads. The luggage I saw was in an isle, a lap, or to the side of a doorway.

        So, we’ll call it 99 just to be precise, ok? 74 seats + 25 standees = 99. Or are you going to start telling me that Link cars don’t actually have 74 seats?

    3. Regarding that article: if the marginal rider decides to use his car instead, he just created more marginal congestion which may help a different marginal driver decide to take light rail. That much is worth noting.

  6. After reading the posts here, I now realize people are really demanding a lot. You should feel lucky that ST is willing to run every 10 to 15 minutes on Central Link on Saturdays and Sundays. If you look at the schedule of TriMet of Portland, Ore., the trains are now running anywhere between 17 to 18 minutes during day time on weekends and could be up to 34 minutes at nights.
    A transit agency is still an agency that needs to run on a balanced budget, or else one way or the other, your tax rate would need to go up to subsidize it. So, either ST could run the trains at 15 minute each with one car, or two cars at 30 minutes each when the budget is not being met. In that way, we definitely WILL hear people complaining about “waiting too long on the platform!”

    And by the way, people, chill! Just because you cannot have 4 square feet of space to stand in a train does not mean it is full. And when there are only so many seats available in a train, someone HAS to stand during the trip or he or she would have to WAIT on the platform for an empty train.

    1. Those trains interline through core areas, though, to provide much more frequent service.

    2. This is getting into the two kinds of criticism. One is to uphold a vision, the other is to blame people. Transit really does need to be 15 minutes minimum at all times because that’s the sweet spot where most people feel comfortable not driving. But money is not infinite, so we can’t necessarily do that right now. Still, the vision is important, and it’s important to take concrete steps toward it or you’ll never get there.

  7. If people recall Opening Day, Sound Transit carefully metered how many peope boarded per station. The early trains with dignitaries, and other full trains, carried appx. 150 persons per railcar — not a crush load but toward the top end of tolerable, like a full bus. I’ve seen a few gameday trains with similar numbers. So there’s your practical capacity figure.

    1. There are two different “capacities”: one for normal commutes; and one for “special events” like opening day, concerts and sports games at stadiums.

      For Link, the accepted “capacity” for normal commutes is 137 per car. That is using the recommended standard of 2 standees per square meter of available floor space. I will give the Link to the document which is referred to by ST, and which gives that standard in another post in a short while.

      Keep in mind that “capacity” is not based solely on the ability of a light rail car to hold a certain amount of people or weight — it is based on what normal commuters will TOLERATE. For normal commutes, people will tolerate a lot less crowding than they will tolerate after a ballgame or other special event. Link cars could carry more than 137 people per car, but during normanl commutes, over time, ST will not be able to average over 137 passengers per car, beacuse commuters will NOT TOLERATE it. The cars are capable of it, but commuters won’t put up with it.

      Am I explaining this clearly, or not?


        This is the ST “Service Standards and Performance Measures 2010 Edition” from June 2010. Page 36:

        “The Central Link Rail Fleet Management Plan set the desired upper limit of passenger load standards during peak periods. It defined the maximum scheduled peak period load as 148 passengers per car (roughly 50/50 seated and standing). This is the equivalent to 4.4 square feet
        per standing passenger and is considered to be a “comfortable standing load” in the Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual (2nd edition) published by the Transportation Research Board. This load standard is used as a planning and evaluation tool for Central Link.”

        Here is a link to the “Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual (2nd Edition) referred to by ST:

        Page 5-27: “Standing passengers can be assigned as follows: 5.4 ft2/p (2.0 p/m2), a comfortable level without body contact, reasonably easy circulation, and similar space allocation as seated passengers.”

        So, the very document which ST refers to clearly states that a “comfortable level” for standing passengers is 5.4 square feet per passenger. Yet, ST uses 4.4 square feet per passenger, which is clearly not what the “Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual” says.

        Using 4.4 square feet per standing passenger, ST gets a capacity of 148 per Link car.

        Using the correct figure of 5.4 square feet per standing passenger 2 passengers per square meter) gives 137 passsengers per Link car, which is the correct, and accepted capacity for Link light rail cars, and which appears in several places in ST Link EIS’s.

        What it looks like to me is that ST used 2 standing passengers per square YARD, instead of 2 standing passengers per square METER, which is the correct measure.

        By the way, I am planning to take some measurements inside Link cars soon, just to see what the actual space for standing passengers on Link cars really is. This is a heads up to ST so that if they see someone measuring the aisles and other standing space on a Link car, don’t be alarmed.

      2. I think the “what normal commuters will tolerate” is an interesting way to define it, and has some merit, but that will of course depend on some external conditions. If the alternatives are horrendous enough then you could have Japan-style sardine cans. But we’re a long way from that.

        For a Sounder commute from Tukwila to Puyallup, with little traffic, free parking, and a long trip, the “capacity” by that definition would basically be the number of seats.

      3. In the TCQSM, exhibit 3-26 shows that a level of service that provides a “comfortable standee load for design” is in the range of 3.9 to 5.4 square feet per standing passenger. Sound Transit’s standard for a comfortable design load is 148 passengers with 4.4 square feet per standing passenger (74 standing passengers). So, ST’s standard is within the range for a comfortable load for design.


        And again in the Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual 2nd Edition in the Summary on page 5-30, it very clearly states:

        “When designing for a new system, an average of 5.4 ft2 (0.5 m2) per passenger over the peak hour is appropriate to provide a higher (i.e., more comfortable) level of service.”

        I don’t know how it could be more clear that the accepted standard that ST should be using, and did use in its EIS’s is TWO PASSENGERS PER SQUARE METER. This is what is recommended and what is “appropriate.”

        You can fudge the numbers all you want, but it is very clear what the standard set by TCQSM is: two passengers per square meter. That gives 137 as the capacity for Link light rail cars as the official capacity during the peak commute hour.

      5. It’s a guideline Norman, there’s no “official” or “correct” area that a standing passenger occupies. People don’t walk around with a 5.4 square foot box around them.

      6. When you calculate the “capacity” of a light rail system in terms of people per hour per direction in an effort to sell the public an obscenely expensive train, then you are obligated to use the recommended standard set by the experts. Anything else is being disingenious.

  8. Martin: no mention that ST increased headways post-Sounder game on Saturday? Starting at 15:06 I watched 3 trains go by southbound at SODO in 13 minutes, which is about 5 minute headways (I think 2 NB trains).

      1. There were two 2 car consists sent out after the sounder game. They did one southbound trip in service each and were taken off line afterwards.

  9. I’m starting to wonder why Link doesn’t use more bench seating to increase standing room. The width of the Link car is already fairly narrow (2.7 meters), and using conventional seating doesn’t seem like a very efficient use of space. I know Link’s arrangement is norm for light rail, but it doesn’t always have to be that way.

  10. Transit planning and management is a fricking circus in this region. Especially KCMT and ST. I saw a Rapid Ride sitting at a light on my way to work today, and it never caught up to me in the mile between that intersection and my turn-off. I assume that’s because it has to stop EVERY QUARTER MILE. So much for “Rapid”! Do they even know what “Rapid” means? Or maybe it is an acronym for Really Asinine Public Infrastructure Debacle. I was looking forward to trying out RapidRide until I saw that the estimated time between FWTC and Tukwila Link was 1 hour! The 577 can get you all the way to Seattle in less than that.

    Cutting service on Link so soon after it started is a bad sign. I know it’s been over a year now, but that’s not enough to establish longterm success, particularly when you still only have the one line, and the next line is over 10 years away. I wonder if Link and RapidRide will still be here in 4 years.

    It’s not because we don’t need transit. It’s because we really suck at it.

      1. U-Link is not a new line, but a 2-stop, 3-mile extension of Central Link. Althogh I suppose they are now treating it as *part* of North Link, but North Link (what they’re now calling North Link anyway) won’t be completed until 2020. Likewise, East Link is scheduled to open in 2020. Assuming Kemper Freeman doesn’t succeed in torpedoing it.

    1. I share your basic assessment of transit in our area: “It’s the incompetence, stupid.” Not (just) the funding, not (just) the topography, not (just) the historic development patterns, but a heaping pile of every-possible-choice-made-wrongly. (I normally direct the lion’s share of my vitriol at Metro; Sound Transit isn’t perfect, but they don’t inject poison into everything they do.)

      Thanks for the “Really Asinine Public Infrastructure Debacle” acronym. It’s really quite perfect.

      1. And unfortunately much of Metro’s incompetence carries on into Sound Transit’s operations since the former operates much of the latter’s core services.

      2. True. I was mostly referring to the things that are the immediate domain of Sound Transit, like the planning and construction of Link.

        I might have problems with the line’s routing and with its refusal to provide much improvement in in-city transit through super-wide stop spacing, but at least the darn thing moves quickly, has an open floor plan, and experiences minimal service interruptions (that aren’t caused by Metro’s dumb approach to bus operations in the tunnel).

    2. It’s not cutting service. ST tried to remove a car it believed wasn’t being used, to save a symbolically small amount of money. Maybe Saturday will show that the second car is needed after all.

      Link will be running in four years because it’s cheaper than buses to operate, and the advantage will increase as the price of oil rises.

      RapidRide, well, it is a circus. But it is a step in the right direction, even if it’s an incredibly small and thus Metro-like step.

      1. and, he said hopefully, RapidRide is something Metro customers are noticing. On a 140 recently I heard several passengers talking to each other about it; when one asked the operator, she explained “that’s the way it’s all going” and talked up the offboard payment. Incremental steps are painfully slow sometimes, but it’s how a large amount of progress happens.

    3. As for the “one hour” estimated time. I amend my remarks — the official upper limit is 55 minutes. (The low end is 35

      I’ll just have to assume those are worst-case-scenario numbers, but I’m not optimistic.

      I wanted RapidRide to be an effective commuting option, like it seems to be marketed as, but it’s not.

  11. Should the next order of LINK cars be four-segments in length, as long as the present “two-car” trains with the ability to walk through the entire train?

    Sound Transit would gain all that space that is presently lost to two redundant driver’s compartments.

    This is what

    1. …TriMet did, however TriMet bought Siemens; ST bought Kinkisharyo, which doesn’t make vehicles that long.

      1. Not completely true. While KS never built an LRV that long, they designed and built an 85.5 meter long walk-through articulated train for Dubai Metro. That length is equivalent to a 3-car Link train. They also designed and built a tram in Japan with 4 articulated sections (but same length as our LRV). They definitely can design and build one for ST.

      2. I assume he means their manufacturing facility might not be able to fit something that length. If it can’t, building a new facility would drive costs way up (particularly if ST is the only customer).

    2. My question is why are Link trains limited to about 50/55 mph? Seems it would benefit if they could get up to the 70/80 mph range on longer segments such as Rainier Beach/TIB.

      1. My understanding is that in the at-grade sections, the train must follow the posted speed limit. If true, that is frakin retarded.

      2. Federal rail regulations restrict train speeds to that of the right-of-way on which they run. Having a train run 80mph at-grade along MLK Way is extraordinarily dangerous.

      3. I would love to see trains on the way to/from the Airport going faster than I-5 traffic :)

      4. My apologies, I misread Charles’ post, which did not advocate for running trains at 80mph in that corridor. But going off of what I said, most people don’t know about the funny little story why 55mph seems to be the max speed for light rail. The reason is behind Portland’s initial rail segment, which was highway running. At the time, the posted speed limits for automobiles were 55mph and officials did not want drivers to race trains, so the limits for light rail were capped at 55mph.

      5. Imagine how many fewer people would ride Link if it took the Tukwila-to-Rainier-Beach segment like a roller coaster.

        Still, there seems to be about a two-minute range of variation in travel time along that segment. Have operators been trained in the optimum safe speed along the curves? I believe taking the curves too slowly increases risk.

        For the straightaways, getting the drivers to synchronize their speeds based on what the safety gurus suggest would sure be nice.

        The safe curve speed might actually vary based on size of train.

    3. I meant to finish with:

      The is what Berlin, London, Toronto and others have done with their heavy rail stock.

      I think the Bombardier Flexity car that ran in Vancouver, BC was like this. I know that Portland chose to put seats in the cab area; I was referring to a car that would be the length of two of the present LINK cars but would have three articulations instead of one.

      More space inside the car means more room to spread out.

  12. I was on a fairly crowded one-car train from SeaTac to Westlake around 5:30, probably 110-120 passengers, many of them going early to the Mariners game. I talked to a few people who were complaining about the one-car trains. They were pointing out that it’s much harder to get a new person to ride than to keep an old passenger. So when they don’t provide excellent service before events that will draw a lot of first- or second-time riders, you could end up losing a lot of potential future riders.
    Anyways, the arguments that the trains weren’t actually at full capacity (well, most of them weren’t, but some were), so people shouldn’t be complaining are missing the point. Regardless of whether or not they could cram more people into the trains, they should be doing everything they can to make the experience as good as it can be. If they’re operating the longest trains they can at the best frequencies that they can with their budget and the trains are still full, people will understand. But if it could be better and yet conditions are like that, people will get pissed.

  13. More from the ST “Service Standards and Performance Measures 2010 Edition” from June 2010.

    Pages 40 and 41:

    “Standees are permitted during weekday peak periods, up to a maximum of 200 percent of seated capacity per car (approximately 148 passengers total). This is the equivalent to 4.4 square feet per standing passenger and is considered to be a “comfortable standing load” in the Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual (2nd Edition) published by the Transportation Research Board.

    • Passengers should not have to stand for more than 20 minutes under typical day-to-day circumstances.

    • During off-peak periods, schedules and consists should be designed to provide enough seats for all passengers except when major events are scheduled, when construction or maintenance work results in longer headways, or when service is disrupted due to circumstances beyond Sound Transit’s control.”

    Two points I find interesting here: No passengers should ever have to stand more than 20 minutes on Link. If Link trains ever had 148 people per car leaving International Station (which is about the peak point on the line), there’s a fairly good chance that at least some of the time some of those standees would have to stand more than 20 minutes (it takes more than 20 minutes from International to Tukwila or SeaTac.}

    Secondly, according to ST, nobody is ever supposed to have to stand on Link trains in off-peak periods (except before or after special events). I’m guessing this includes all of Saturday and Sunday. So, if there are ever more than 74 passengers on one Link car in an off-peak period, that car is “over-capacity.”

    1. These are customer service measurements, not definitions of capacity, and the phrase “over-capacity” isn’t used. What people are comfortable with will shift over time and depend on alternatives.

      Would you say WSDOT’s definition of road capacity is “what drivers feel most comfortable with” or is there another definition?

      1. Passengers per vehicle, and vehicles per hour are two very different things. Minimum headways on light rail lines (or vehicles per hour on a freeway) are not determinced by Passengers’ comfort level. Passengers per vehicle capacity on light rail cars is in part determined by passenger comfort level.

        I realize that no standing passengers during non-peak hours is strictly a policy determined by ST. Nonetheless, by their own standards, if there are standees on Link in non-peak hours, then ST itself says more capacity is “needed.”

  14. Tomorrow night is the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. 32,000 Sounder fans are expected. If that isn’t a special event, I don’t know what is.

  15. If you got left on the platform then the effective headway is actually the same as if ST had just removed half of the two car trains in service. Which actually would be more than a symbolic cost savings. Makes me wonder if the one car train ploy really is just a stunt to make Link appear to be cost effective weekends and evenings. The irony is that a single car train can never be cost effective since according to ST’s own numbers it costs 3X as much per hour to operate and effectively only holds 2X as many people. Or, another way to look at it is; for the same cost buses can provide 3X the headway and provide direct service to a wider range of destinations. For example, 1 out of three buses from a sporting event could go directly to the eastside rather than take people DT where they require a bus anyway to complete their trip.

  16. With all due respect to Martin, snowpocalypse was a fiasco, the Mariners’ season was a fiasco, and the process by which the legislature designed the deep-bore automobile tunnel on the back of a napkin was a fiasco. Saturday was merely a miscalculation.

    I don’t think *anyone* was seriously delayed, or inconvenienced. I do believe, though, that ST blew the opportunity to maximize its savings.

    Perhaps it wasn’t even a miscalculation, but merely a miscommunication between the planners and the O&M facility.

  17. I was on one of the Light Rail trains headed Southbound after the Sounders game. It was not crowded, it was standing room only, but people seemed like they were unfamiliar with cramming everyone onto a light rail car. Some people seemed afraid to sit down on actual open seats. People kept huddling around the doors instead of what experienced transit riders do which is MOVE.

    1. Actually, huddling around doors seems to be a common problem on trains. I observe it on the L here in Chicago. People are reluctant to fill up the aisle space.

      The other thing is Americans will not willingly tolerate the sardine crunch common on train systems in other cultures. If you want to entice people out of cars, then respect their personal space because that is a quality of life aspect that a car provides.

      I think the configuration that Sound Transit uses on it’s express buses in using coach style seating is a concession to the customers they’re trying to attract.

      1. “Actually, huddling around doors seems to be a common problem on trains.”

        And buses. I’m constantly asking people to move back to make room for more passengers. The narrower doors on the bus don’t help. The 3 door buses do help, but only when passengers paid before/while boarding. (Pay as you enter/Rapid Ride)

    2. People likely huddle around doors, because they are afraid if they move to the middel of the aisle, they won’t be able to make it to the door to get out when the train arrives at their station.

      Your observation agrees with my own observations: most of the time on Link cars there are empty seats, or seats taken by luggage, even when there are people standing.

  18. Part of the problem is we are not used to standing loads on link, the rest of the probelm is that they still need to work some bugs out of their one car schedule and make sure when you have major events in downtown and sodo they run a 2nd car. of course i have to wonder if all the making and breaking of the trains wont mitigate their planned savings…

    1. You have to wonder why the sports franchise aren’t being asked to pick up the tab for extra service just to serve their events?

      1. So you’d argue as well that the Chamber of Commerce members should pick up the tab for rush hour services to downtown?
        Link is a transport system, an alternative to the heavily subsidised private automobile “system” -an albatross we’ve lived with for 3/4 of a century.

      2. You mean in addition to the heavily subsidized sports stadiums we provide for these teams? It seems the teams are making bank on the parking revenue on these stadiums.

      3. Commuting to or shopping downtown isn’t a special event requiring additional peak service. It also doesn’t require that you buy an expensive ticket to attend.

        You mean in addition to the heavily subsidized sports stadiums we provide

        And provided as we’re still paying for the concrete mushroom that was imploded to make room for the new stadiums.

  19. Try riding a metro in Asia. You want to talk about being jammed full. :) They put NY or even London to shame. That is one thing I love about traveling. Trying out the public transit. I’m happy when I don’t have to drive.

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