Photo by Atomic Taco

[UPDATE 1:30pm: Tonight’s trackwork has been canceled. Link will operate normally.]

Alert reader Carl Stork, who has gone as far as to compose a guest post on the topic, directly contacted ST with his concerns and received the following very encouraging response from Deputy Executive Director of Operations Mike Perry:

[Sound Transit is] implementing a plan to test the reliability of a fixed Link schedule on days when construction support, etc. result in service delays. Here are our thoughts and direction at this point:

1. The initial single tracking delay frequency was overstated. We expect to be operating service every 20 to 30 minutes on Thursday and Friday. Steps are being taken to address the communication glitch. [The original alert said 30-45 minutes, but has been corrected.]

2. We will produce and distribute a schedule to operate every 30 minutes beginning on Friday, December 17. There is not sufficient time to start [Thursday] in order to be cost efficient and comfortable with the quality of information. We will release an update to more accurately communicate the level of delay today (20 to 30 minutes).

3. Going forward, any planned Link delay (DECM construction rework, repairs, etc.) that would result in delays of more than 25 minutes will trigger a fixed schedule and not estimated headways. This should allow customers to better plan their trips around the slow down.

4. We will create a number of different schedules for different single track operating scenarios based on where on the alignment work is being done. This may take several weeks to accomplish i.e. to complete the repository of scenarios/ schedules, but we will still be able to complete the scheduling work needed as single track requirements arise in the meantime.

5. We will work with Communications and Customer Service to increase our notification period to customers when service delays are known in advance.

This is probably in my top three list of Really Annoying Things about Link operations, so I’m grateful that it will apparently be solved shortly.

17 Replies to “Link Track Maintenance Policy”

  1. If only there were means to communicate when trains were arriving in a dynamic fashion. Perhaps in an “electronic” format that didn’t require printing on paper. You could even be so bold as to have the “eDisplay”, as I would call it, be displayed at stations so all users would know. Naaah…would never work.

  2. As of this morning, VMS messages in the DSTT were still announcing 30-45 minute headways for the maintenance period.

  3. Good for Sound Transit, responding to legitimate concerns and working to fix a problem!

    Metro could learn a thing or twenty.

  4. Railroads have been running bi-directional traffic over single track for about 150 years, ST should be able to write a schedule. Plan to have alternating 10 minute blocks of northbound, then southbound running over the single track section. If trains leave Westlake at :00, :20 and :40, they will be on the single track block (Operations Center to just past Mt. Baker) at about :11-:16, :31-:36 and :51-:56. If trains leave the airport at :00, :20 and :40, they will be on the single track block at about :20-:25, :40-:45 and 1:00-1:05. Five trains can cover the schedule if a quick turnaround (about 3 minutes) is possible at the airport. A 6 train schedule would allow a longer turn at the airport and build in some recovery if there is any sort of operational foul-up. The danger with single track operations is that a delay anywhere on the system can quickly cascade into major snafu status for the entire system.

  5. I’ve seen the suggestions several times so far to use the electronic board to announce these types of things. Why ST didn’t even think of this in the first place is beyond me, and logic as well.

    I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting….

      1. Thanks. I’ve yet to see it at Rainier Beach, but has been some time for me.

        I do see that down at King St. on the commute side they have “no soliciting” scrolling through…I never noticed it until today. Probably been there for ages.

    1. There seem to have been recurring problems with the electronic boards.

      I think they should have hired an in-house programmer/maintainer and written some custom open-source software for them. Did they? Nowadays that’s the best way to get reliable performance out of fairly simple electronic devices at lowest cost.

      It sounds more like they bought “turnkey” systems which turned out not to be and which weren’t very easy to alter.

  6. How many nights in a row can Link go without nightly maintenance? I’d sure love to see it overnight on New Year’s Day, and potentially save a few lives from DUI stupidity.

      1. From the control center: (where I sit.)

        There is nightly work done by the track department and traction power. The elevated sections and Beacon hill tunnel need inspection on a regular basis and it is difficult / unsafe to do so during service hours. Sections of the overhead and sub-stations undergo ‘punchlist’ checks (verifying everything was done correctly on the original build) and routine maintenance.

        Contractors are still trying to get things right (Beacon hill tunnel leaks.)

        We do have the full crew out here tonight (New Years) doing maintenance.

      2. Thanks for the response, SJ!

        If you don’t mind follow-up questions, I’m curious to know if there are maintenance consequences to missing (1) a single night of maintenance; (2) multiple consecutive nights of maintenance; (3) a single night of maintenance once a week; and (4) multiple nights (e.g. Friday and Saturday) of maintenance per week.

        Also, is the maintenance of a nature that it will continue for the life of the system, or is some of it expected to be phased out?

        Thank you again for your useful responses to public questions. Have a Safe and Happy New Decade!


      3. Brent:

        As I stated, some of the maintenance is part of acceptance of contractor’s work. That will go away. Other parts are like painting the golden gate bridge, when you are done, time to start again. (Things like tightening the bolts that hold the rail to the ties.)

        Some of it is contractors, they have a set schedule, others are hourly King County personnel, with a set schedule. If they cannot do their work, they get paid to sit around. It would be a ST decision to run all night.

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