The new design.

It’s a month late but it’s finally here. Sound Transit updated the design of the schedules posted at Central Link stations, both graphically and physically (example of old style). Many schedules were torn off by vandalism or left outdated. Some schedules date to before Airport Link opened. On October 7, Sound Transit via its Twitter account responded to a question regarding the missing and outdated schedules: “We’re working on a new signs. Old ones were too easily vandalized/ripped off. New ones up by Nov. Thanks for riding.”

The new schedules still show only headway and first/last train times but in a different format. The design is reminiscent of the style used in London. I made mockups of that style for the 70-series buses last year and recently for a headway-based timetable in One Bus Away. I’m not sure about the order they chose. It follows a natural sentence structure: the day, then “trains leave every”, followed by the headway, and then time periods. However, the way I typically read schedules is to look at the clock for current time, then find the time period on the schedule, and read the headway. Either way this is a minor issue. Another issue is the periods that span from a.m. to p.m. The weekend schedule shows trains leaving every 10 minutes from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., or is that from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m? Just add an “a.m.” behind the 8:00 to clarify.

The schedule is now printed on the same sheet as the fare table. The larger surface should make removal more difficult. Since the schedule is now integral with the fare table instead of a smaller add-on sticker, why not take advantage of the increased space? They don’t need to have a box any more. Perhaps in future iterations they will redesign the combined fare/schedule table. Overall, I see this as a small step forward.

18 Replies to “Link Station Schedules Updated”

  1. I’m heading out for my monthly joy – ride so I’ll take a look at these. i still hope for actual departure timetables at each stations – I know, too retentive and old school, but…

    1. These new “Frequency Indicator” signs are posted at all stations I visited just now – Mt Baker, TIBS, SeaTac, Sodo and Beacon Hill. As Carl says elsewhere on this post, these are not schedules. We are well beyond the time when ST to should publish and post complete timetables.

  2. This isn’t a schedule. A schedule shows departure times.

    This is a summary of service frequency, and even at that it is imprecise. E.g. it says it goes every 15 minutes to 1am but elswhere that the last departures are in fact at 12:41am and 12:43am.

      1. It doesn’t tell you when the trains leave the station. It doesn’t tell you when you need to arrive to get a train. It just tells you how long you might have to wait.

        The difference is important, and more than semantics. This is just a summary of service, and it is missing the details which a schedule should have. I don’t mind them posting this with the fare table for those who just need the overview. But ST shouldn’t call it a schedule and they should make the schedule available.

        The current ST schedule book has the schedule for every ST bus route and Sounder trains, but for Link it only has the same summary. Same thing on the ST web site. Why don’t Link riders deserve to have the information on when their service is scheduled to run while ever other rider gets it?

      2. I don’t disagree with you on that but Sound Transit’s approach has been to be cautious. It doesn’t want to put unreliable information out there, especially with Link’s poor on-time performance (for a train), at lot of it outside ST’s control. The same can be said for its approach to real-time arrival information.

        Headways have been over 90% reliable but scheduled times have not. If Link ran every 6 minutes most of the day then the whole schedule issue would be moot.

      3. It would be lovely if Link ran every 6 minutes, but most of the time it runs every 10 minutes, and there are sizable blocks when it is every 15 minutes, so that matters for connections or airport travel.

        My own experience has been that Link is more reliable in following its schedule than most of ST’s buses. To put it another way – when Link isn’t disrupted by an accident or maintenance or power failure, it adheres to the ~37 minute schedule remarkably well. For example, when it is running in the 10 minute pattern, it reliably leaves Westlake on the 7’s, Stadium on the 5’s, and arrives at Seatac 30 minutes after Stadium. Similarly it reliably leaves Seatac on the 0’s, and Stadium on 8’s or 9’s (28-9 minutes later). That knowledge is more useful than getting a 2 minute warning when I am on the platform.

        I also like to know that the last departure from Seatac in the 10 minute frequency is at 9:50pm, and then it runs at :05, :20, :35, and :50 until 11:50pm with a final departure at 12:10am (even when the “schedule” says every 15 minutes in the box labeled 10 – 1am). Knowing when the train leaves lets me know whether I need to hurry, or have time for a stop at the washroom. I don’t imagine I’m the only traveler who might make use of such information.

      4. I hate to do it… but this raises the old complaint about grade separation.

        Is it really acceptable if Link gets off-schedule, but maintains its headways 90% of the time throughout the day? Not when other systems, like Skytrain to the north can make up its time when it gets off-schedule.

        Yes, I get that the frequency is rapid enough that most riders don’t (and shouldn’t have to) bother looking at a schedule. I don’t for my main bus route which has 15-minute frequency most of the day.

        But this is further exacerbated by the lack of “Next Train” signs and functionality. If I could easily see that the next train is due in 3 minutes, like on Max to the south, or like with the buses on OneBusAway, then I have even less reason to care about the schedule.

  3. Portland has the same kind of setup. It is easier that having to go look an an schedule. You people are a bit behind the times. Why do you need an entire schedule?

    1. Yes, we do have them here in Portland. I hate it with a passion. If it says ‘every 15 minutes’, all I know is that my maximum wait is 15- doesn’t tell me if I just missed one or am mid-cycle or if it’s coming soon. Sure, I can call Transit Tracker. Then if it’s more than a little wait, I can go to one of the other two bus line stops nearby- and then call Transit Tracker fat them all too. Why wouldn’t people want to know when the next bus is without doing math or calling someone (the system gets overloaded a lot too)? This seems basic info! Ok, it changes every 6 months and people do vandalize them, but still… it seemed to work for years before they changed it. Can’t convince me having to look up that the first bus is at 8:04, then add 12 minutes until 10am, then add 8 minutes until 3pm, etc. is easier than seeing at one glance the exact times. Even if I don’t know what time it is, I can then see the frequency spacing that way- AND know if it’s just come or not.

      1. What’s worse in Portland is that some MAX lines actually run every 20-30 minutes during off-peak times. 15 minutes is the maximum anyone would tolerate without a departure time. Anything below 10 minutes doesn’t need times. When I ride the 70-series buses to the U District (10 min service) I don’t bother looking at a timetable. That was until Metro messed up the schedule with inconsistent headways (ranging from 0-20 mins between buses).

  4. Yeah personally I couldn’t care less if there’s a schedule or not. As soon as you have a schedule then you’ve got to adhere to it, which in of course is often difficult. With the frequency approach you get an idea of how long your wait is liable to be, and most of the day Link runs frequently enough that, to me at least, it’s not an issue.

    7.5 minutes at rush hour, for example. If my math’s correct that means I’m going to have an average wait time of 3.75 minutes, and the longest I’ll ever wait is 7.5 minutes. So I leave the house a couple minutes early and everything works out fine. I don’t know, that approach just seems more realistic to me.

    1. Why isn’t there an edit feature on here? I meant to say “…which is of course often difficult.” In all fairness I suppose I could do a better job of proofreading.

    1. Oran – this would be great. IF ONLY ST would/could get it together to post the times this way it’d be a vast improvement. I almost never ride Link (or any bus other than the 11) without either connecting to or from, so I need arrival and departure times for the connections – easy for every single bus route, impossible with Link!

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