Photo by DWHonan

Sound Transit is doing some track maintenance on Central Link each night from 8 pm till closing, from Sunday through this Tuesday. Headways will be 20-25 minutes and only the Northbound platform will be open at Beacon Hill and Mt. Baker.

As usual, there will be neither schedule, nor real-time arrival information, nor onebusaway, so it’s a roll of the dice when your train might arrive.

51 Replies to “Track Work Each Evening”

  1. So what? It’s not like it’s going to be cold out at the Link stations Sunday night through Tuesday night (forecast lows on those nights 31, 23, and 29 degrees F). So, why would anyone be unhappy if they had to wait 25 minutes for a train, with no schedule?

    By the way, exactly what is the track “maintenance” ST will be doing? These tracks are only about 2 years old. What maintenance could they possibly need? They are practically brand new.

    It sure seems like Link light rail has an awful lot of “mechanical problems” and “maintenance” issues for such a new line. What is going to happen when the tracks and trains are 20 or 30 years old? Constant maintenance around the clock 365 days per year?

    1. It’s fairly common for complex systems to have a high initial failure rate as various parts go through an “infant mortality” phase. This is usually followed by a (hopefully long) period with a low failure rate, after which the rate begins to increase as parts wear out at the end of the useful life of the system.

      1. What is “complex” about steel rails?

        More importantly, what maintenance is ST performing on those tracks? Can’t anyone answer this question?

      2. Rails need to be kept in proper alignment within tolerances and good condition otherwise trains can derail. Overhead wires need to be checked. Signal, ventilation, fire protection systems tested. Trains and stations cleaned and maintained. That’s routine maintenance that is done every night to keep a safe and efficient system.

        The characteristic of the rails, how they are fixed/supported and the wheels that run on them really affect noise, stability, rate of wear and performance.

        That said, I have no idea what kind of “maintenance” ST is doing. Perhaps a visit to see what they’re doing is in hand.

    2. Norman, you’re grasping at straws.

      I’d like to see your car go through 2 years without any maintenance. No oil, no brakes, no belts, no tires.

      1. My car’s brakes, belts and tires last a lot longer than 2 years. You never owned a car?

        If Link trains had internal combustion engines, I could see changing their oil once in a while. That would not require closing any sections of track, however.

        Talk about grasping at straws: your attempt at comparing Link trains to cars is about as “grasping” as it gets.

        Steel rails are supposed to last 30 years. Why the heck is maintenance continually needed on almost-new steel rails? I suspect they were not installed correctly.

        And why can’t anyone answer this: exactly what maintenance is ST conducting, anyway?

      2. I’m with Norman here, What are they doing?
        They have a four-hour maintenance window in the evening. Unless they are COMPLETELY Replacing large sections of track, why can’t they do it during their daily scheduled maintenance?

      3. In Norman’s defense regarding the oil, brakes, belts analogy…ST has a lot of extra cars available. If I had extra cars available, it would not be too difficult to schedule things so that one was always available. Unless, of course, I didn’t have enough of them. Though these chronic service disruptions seem to be mostly track-related (the scheduled disruptions, at least).

      4. Norman, I don’t understand why you are so upset that no one here cannot answer your question. 99% of the people here don’t work for Sound Transit you know. Have you even asked Sound Transit?

      5. @Alex, I was informed by an ST employee that it takes almost an hour to power down the line, and another hour to power it back up. That doesn’t leave much time to do any major maintenance.

      6. How does it take an hour to flip a switch? I mean, is it really that complicated? an HOUR?
        that just doesn’t make sense.
        that would take a lot of explaining to convince me that they didn’t just do it wrong if that is how long it takes.

      7. Alex, obviously it is more complicated, or at least more time consuming, than flipping a switch if it takes an hour. I don’t think the technical engineers and operators at Sound Transit would care whether you were convinced that they weren’t working slowly. I take it at face value; if the people who designed, built, and now operate the system say it takes an hour, it takes an hour.

      8. @Alex,

        Consider that New York City has late night subways that don’t run during the day, and then run overnight while the other subways are shut down. Certainly, NYC must know a thing or two about electric rail systems by now.

      9. What are you talking about, Brent?

        New York has no “late night subways that don’t run during the day.” They frequently shut down portions of express or local track at night for maintenance work, but there is absolutely zero revenue track that goes unused during the day. (Or evening, for the most part.)

      10. What are you talking about, Brent? New York has no “late night subways that don’t run during the day.”

        They frequently shut down portions of express or local track at night for maintenance work, but there is absolutely zero revenue track that goes unused during the daytime. (Or anytime before midnight, for the most part.)

      11. Ah, the times have changed. They do seem to be running most of the subways 24 hours.

        Of course, they have more track redundancy (if my recollection is correct), which enables the local and express service.

        I foresee the public eventually demanding an alternative light-rail track through the SODO, not just because a trip of over an hour on light rail will be intolerable for Tacoma riders (and Norman), but because an accident on MLK will still shut down the entire line, all the way from Tacoma to Everett.

        ST is eventually going to have to choose between crossing gates, track redundancy, or whole-system meltdowns.

      12. There were never nighttime-only services to allow for daytime track maintenance. That just wouldn’t make any sense.

        Track redundancy allows for nighttime maintenance work with only mild service disruption. But again, nighttime means after 11 or 12.

        If Sound Transit only needs 3 nights of 8PM – 5AM closure to do this work, then they really should be doing it in 6 nights of 12:30 – 5 instead. Remember that they’re in the position of symbolically restoring an entire metropolitan area’s faith in the reliability of the transit experience. Arbitrary wrench-throwing is not the way to do that!

      1. Which is kinda funny because I consider Link to be super quiet as it is (save for the squealing along the Duwamish).

    3. Actually Norman, those temps are pretty cold especially for Seattle. And pity Seattle doesn’t have the one nice feature that Chicago CTA rail stations have – heat lamps to keep waiting passengers just north of frozen.

    4. “So, why would anyone be unhappy if they had to wait 25 minutes for a train, with no schedule?”

      Because some people value their time. Twenty-five minutes is a long wait.

  2. I don’t understand why more riders aren’t outraged when ST publishes no schedule when service is reduced to 20-25 minutes for maintenance. Scheduled service on 30 minute headways would be more useful than unscheduled service.

  3. I would have expected more cross-overs in the system to allow isolation of track segments for routine maintenance. 25 minutes between trains works out to ‘block sections’ about 4 miles apart for single track operations. Seems like it should be better.

  4. From the Flickr page for the above photo:

    Shortly after this photo was taken, Sound Transit Police kicked me and my two friends out of the station, claiming that we were “not on the approved photographers list.” Subsequent conversations with ST’s Bruce Gray and Ed Frederick, Security Account Manager for Securitas (effectively the head of ST security), revealed that there is in fact no list for “approved photographers,” and they informed me that photography from publicly-accessible areas on ST property (which specifically includes station platforms) is indeed permitted.

    1. Why dosent that surprise me. Years ago i had a run in with them at Puyallup station, but they dident throw me off the property than. Securitas, Wackenhut, etc. are all the same. Rent-a-cops paid minimum wage to “protect” the property, in the process thinking they are a full commissioned law enforcement officer, and pulling stunts like that to a) make themselves look powerful, and b) have something to write up on their reports to make themselves look good.

      1. Oh, and dont even get me started about the voice of god at FWTC. Yeech. Of course in LA at El Monte station, LAPD provided the seucrity, and the cop would sit in his car and get over the Loud speaker if anyone was riding their bike or whatnot. Real Police officer though, vs, rent-a-cop…

    2. I’ve only had one good experience taking photos on ST property. While at Everett Station, I was taking photos of Souder and a Security guard approached me. When he asked my I was taking photos, I replied halfheartedly “because I find it interesting.” He replied that he thought it was great that so many people he saw were interested in trains, and proceeded to wish me a good afternoon.

      1. I just wish ST would get around to publicly publishing their photography policy, like some other transit agencies have done, so that amateur photographers know what they can and cannot do. I pursued this point with Mr. Gray for a couple months following the incident but eventually let the matter drop after no action resulted.

        For what it’s worth, here’s a sampling of what other large transit agencies have provided on their websites:

        I’ve updated the caption of my photo with a statement emailed by Mr. Gray, which is copied here:

        “The public can take pictures for non-commercial purposes at any Sound Transit facility as long as they are in areas open to the public and not interfering with operations or other customers. Security personnel may ask the purpose of your pictures but may not prohibit non-commercial photography at Sound Transit facilities if you are not interfering with operations or other customers. Note: If you’re on the platform, you need a ticket and may be asked to leave or issued a citation if you don’t have one.”

  5. I don’t suppose ST has a plan up its sleave for night owl service in a few years. It seems like it should be possible to power down one line and leave the other going. Even one train going back and forth between Airport Station and Stadium Station would be superior to slower night owl buses on the same route (and either would be far superior to forcing graveyard airport workers to drive and not get to use Link at all).

    Or have two trains, with one going back and forth between Airport Station and Othello Station, and the other going back and forth between Othello Station and Stadium Station, offset so they are safely a few minutes apart at Othello Station.

    If Metro is not considering any night owl airport service and ST can’t find a way to have any overnight Link service, perhaps ST could divert some of those service hours from the frequent 574 night owl runs, and have the 574 continue north from the airport up I-5 to downtown Seattle. But it is hard to bear the thought of Norman staying up late just to ride that new bus route back and forth.

    1. At some point they should be planning for 24 hour service on Central Link from Sea-Tac to Northgate. Seattle is no longer a sleepy little city and it needs a transportation operation that reflects that.

      1. As part of the next phase of st they should plan for some basic 24 hour service on routes like the 510 545 550 574 594 (or extend the 574 to downtown seattle after midnight)

      2. I think it would be best to start this on Friday and Saturday. They do this in Stockholm and it works great.

    2. The frequent 574 trips are for all the airport employees to get to theior jobs in the morning. I beilive that some even operate outside of sound transits normal service hours and have an exception for that.

      1. That’s why I suggested that the 574 be extended to downtown Seattle overnight. Not all the airport employees live in Federal Way, Tacoma, and Lakewood. I know some live along Link, as I have seen them riding Link (although the ones I’ve seen would be the day-shifters).

        As an alternative, run the 550 overnight, extend it out to cover the 545’s eastside stops, and have it turn south from downtown to go to the airport.

        Or have the 510 overnighter run take the airport extension.

        Four overnight routes (including one for local service on MLK) ought to cover the future turf of Link and all the airport employees living along its future path.

  6. So I assume the closure is between SODO and Columbia, an 8 minute ride on link? and you have to wait up to 25 minutes for a train because of this? Over the whole route? MADNESS. Take an idea from the UK. Run a full schedule service on either side of the closure, put in a replacement bus service on the bit thats closed. How hard is that? We do it all the time. London travellers would not stand for hanging around for so long due to ‘maintenance’. When the train arrives at the closure, the bus waits for all passengers to transfer, then departs. When the bus arrives at the other end of the closure there should be a train waiting or not far away for them to get onto. The bus waits for the next incoming train and repeats the process back to the start.

    Oh and for all you people who like saying ‘what are they doing’ why are they doing’ and best of all ‘how long does it take to flick a switch’ obviously have no idea of how things work, why things break, safety systems and failsafes. Preventative maintenance inconvieniances far outweighs serious disruption caused by a major failure due to NO maintenace being undertaken.

    Really. Come to London I’ll show you how its done.

  7. Simple maintenance could mean tightening of screws, picking up litter, pest control, changing of light bulbs or wiring, etc.. The screws on my home’s wall plates get tightened every year due to house movements. How many screws do you have see missing from wall plates that you may have missed?

  8. Nobody appears to have considered the timing of this maintenance work. Thanksgiving is one of the single busiest travel weekends of the year; might it be that ST is performing extra work in advance of the holiday weekend to ensure that their high-profile light rail system, for which every little delay or maintenance issue causes people on this blog who don’t have the first clue about what goes into maintaining a railroad to moan and wail about how poorly their tax dollars have been spent, will operate as flawlessly as possible?

      1. From Joni Earl’s CEO report issued Friday, which I only just now read:

        A brief note that Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, we’re running Sunday service on ST Express buses and Tacoma and Central Link light rail lines. There will be no service on our Sounder commuter rail line.

  9. It would be nice if they ran two-car trains during the track work, since each one is carrying about twice as many people.

  10. Imagine how much easier this would all be if we just had BASIC ELECTRONIC SIGNS like other systems which would tell the arrival time for/minutes until at least the next train or could, you know, point out that trains are departing/arriving on the other track.

  11. According to a bulletin posted at our maintenance facility on Friday, Beacon Hill Station southbound platform is having work done to address the water leaking onto the platform on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings.

    I suspect that equipment needs to be moved into the ROW to access the ceiling area thus requiring the De-energizing of the OCS (a process that includes more than just turning the power off – ground wires need to be placed at specific points to ensure the safety of anyone working near the OCS).

    This operator speculates that a reason why we do not post schedules during such disruptions is because we have not been able to predict accurately how long it takes for each train to transit through the area where service is reduced to single track operations. We have not paid enough attention to our departure times from Westlake and SeaTac to have trains arrive at the beginning of single track operation as that circuit clears from a train operating in the opposite direction thus avoiding any delay. If any train is delayed because the track circuit is not clear ahead – it adds delay to everything behind that train and potentially for the next train traveling in the opposite direction. We also do not predict what level of service is possible through said area very well and therefore how many trains need to be taken off line to prevent trains from held at other stations along the line due to trains delayed ahead.

    We need to do much better and I hope we are learning from each service disruption that we inflict on our passengers and over time we become better able to minimize delays. The same tools and techniques we perfect over time are also usable for those unplanned incidents which cause delays on our system.

    1. Last night I checked out both around Mt Baker and the OMF and didn’t see any work so I suspected work under Beacon Hill. When I went to Beacon Hill Station earlier this afternoon that’s what I thought. There’s a huge white ring around the tunnel wall and a wet platform.

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