I am disappointed to see the continuing absence of detailed Central Link service information from Sound Transit publications and its website. Also, schedule information was removed from OneBusAway and replaced with headway information*, a decision that the agency made a few months ago.

While Link provides very frequent service by Seattle standards (and that is a pretty low standard, in context of big city transit systems), it is not frequent enough to completely disregard a schedule that lists specific departure times. The Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual, considers service headways less than 15 minutes as “frequent service”. It states that between 10 and 14 minute headways, passengers do consult schedules to minimize their wait time. Any headway below 10 minutes, most people don’t bother with schedules, since the waiting time is minimal and is often assumed to be half the headway on average. This statement is supported by empirical research by Bowman and Turnquist and seems to make “common sense.”

Knowing the time a train is scheduled to depart, is necessary in planning trips that involve transfers to other services be it a bus, Sounder or ferry, especially to services that are not frequent. Trip Planner does this for us automatically but not everyone has access to it, some prefer manually planning, and some just want to know the departure time of a specific train. If Trip Planner has the information, why can’t we all easily see that information?

More after the jump.

One reason given for not listing the departure times has been concern for reliability. Central Link’s on-time performance has been improving, from a horrific 71% to 86.60% for the 4th quarter of 2010. It is still below the minimum of 90%. By comparison, Metro’s on-time performance target is 80% and with actual performance around 75-80% and ST Express bus is around 88.53%. Despite similar performance, Metro publishes a complete timetable for the 7, not just a summary that says “buses depart every 10 minutes from 6 am to 6 pm and every 15 minutes at all other times.” Similarly, for real-time information, it’s helpful and reassuring to know that “oh, I just missed the train by 3 minutes but the next should arrive in about 7 minutes.” OneBusAway works well most of the time for buses in mixed traffic, without the help of GPS, so what’s the deal with it not working at all for trains on a fixed track in an exclusive right of way?

While Sound Transit says they “want to give [their] patrons the most accurate information that [they] can”, it is not an excuse to leave their customers in the dark and make the system less useful and less attractive by increasing uncertainty and anxiety. With Link intended to be the regional transit spine in a transfer-based system, how can people plan their transfers without the necessary information?

* Brian Ferris tells me the schedule is still in the raw data feed for this service change but it may be discontinued, as OneBusAway now displays headway info at request of the agency.

101 Replies to “Where are the Link Schedules?”

  1. part of the problem with the DSTT is that Metro / Sound Transit seem to be unable to send buses down the tunnels in the right order. I have witnessed too many times where the first of 4 or 5 buses stops right after it exits the tunnel into the station causing every bus behind it to have to wait in the tunnel.

    I don’t understand why buses can’t be sent into the tunnel in Bay A Bay B Bay C Bay D order.

    While that won’t solve the slow boarding problem (tunnel buses should really have 3 sets of doors) it would alleviate some of the problems.

    That and why so many buses breakdown in the tunnel. Is it a problem with the hybrid drive system? if so, can’t they just diesel out of the way? the pollution caused would be a lot less of a problem then the delays the stuck buses cause.

    I will be glad when East Link is built and the buses are out of the tunnel … should improve the situation tremendously (in the tunnel at least)

    1. I was in Westlake Station shortly before the Sounders’ match last Friday night. The buses suddenly stopped moving forward. About 20 minutes passed. Then, an announcement came on that a train had broken down, so the tunnel was closed to train and bus traffic.

      It was the first new canned message I had heard in the tunnel in months. (And it was clever of Metro to blame the train, when other messages never mentioned when it was a bus causing the problem, which seems to be a vast majority of the time.)

      It is frustrating that when a train breaks down, buses aren’t allowed to go around it and use the open space on the platform. (Or, perhaps, the train stalled in the tunnel tube while waiting for traffic.)

      The announcement continued that trains could be boarded at Stadium Station. If the buses were allowed to get around the blocking train, then people would have been able to take any number of buses to connect to Stadium Station, instead of having a mass exodus from the tunnel causing a crushload overflow on many surface buses.

      The announcement did not say whether the 101, 102, 106, and 150 could be accessed at Stadium Station.

      Metro and ST have taken numerous steps to deal with the tunnel problems. (Thanks for the ORCA readers on the platforms!) Even if no other buses move into the tunnel, moving the 255 and 256 out would relieve 6% of peak-hour bus trips in the tunnel, while improving frequency of service for passengers headed to Montlake, Yarrow Point, etc. Having a 545 or 255 come every 7.5 minutes on 4th Ave would be a big improvement over having to pick between waiting for a 545 that comes every 15 minutes on 4th and a 255 that comes every 15 minutes in the tunnel. Be kind to SR 520 commuters: Consolidate the lines, please.

      Congestion relief in the tunnel would be a wonderful externality from that consolidation. Besides reducing peak bus trips, it would enable elimination of the outbound SR 520 bay, simplifying the entry algorithm.

      Rather than beg for the schedules to be published, we may need to help Link meet the minimum on-time goal so that ST feels safer publishing the schedule.

      1. Was there any email or other communication from ST that a train broke down in the downtown tunnel last Friday? Or any message from ST that trains were being delayed in the tunnel, for whatever reason? I didn’t see anything.

      2. Imagine if WSDOT had a service that sent out emails or text messages every time a blocking accident occured on I-5. Mercy for the devil!

      3. Brent,

        The train that was broken down was stopped in the tube, not at the platform. There is no way for buses to get around a stopped vehicle in the tubes.

      4. Norman,

        KCNews tweeted about the breakdown – but not until just after it was announced to Metro Operators that the breakdown had just CLEARED.

      5. ST often sends emails about service disruptions on Link. I am just wondering if ST sent any messages about this one, or not?

      6. Beavis,

        It is technically (if not legally) possible to have buses and trains go through the tubes the wrong way. I understand the signals aren’t set up for that. My guess is that most breakdowns occur at the platforms, though.

      7. “It is technically (if not legally) possible to have buses and trains go through the tubes the wrong way. I understand the signals aren’t set up for that.”

        I would be startled if a new-build rail system had failed to install bidirectional signalling; it seems to be pretty much standard these days, and not meaningfully more expensive than unidirectional signalling.

        However, signalling BUSES in the reverse direction would probably be somewhere between difficult and impossible.

  2. We recently attended at meeting at The Red Lion Inn, close to Seatac Airport. Theoretically, it should have been easy to get there by public transit: We had a choice of buses to get us downtown, then take Link to Tukwila Station, and then RapidRide to the hotel.

    The difficulty arose when we had to figure out what time to leave home to get to the meeting by 1:00. Two of the three transit systems had no schedule – just frequency and estimated travel time.

    Without Trip Planner, how would we have ever figured it out?

    1. Anyone who has ridden a tunnel bus at peak times knows that Metro’s “schedules” are just estimates anyway.

      1. Definitely. The 76 can be up to 15 minutes late leaving the tunnel, which is where it originates on the PM commute, so how can it be late?

    2. You take the travel time and add the maximum headway, and that’s the time to leave.

  3. I am in total agreement with this article: ST must publish Link schedules, at least for those times when scheduled headways are greater than 7-8 minutes, though ideally it should publish the full schedule for riders. And the same thing is true for Metro & Rapid Ride. It is ridiculous that the entire RRA schedule is “service every 15 minutes”. Metro & ST already publish estimated times for buses, including the notation that the bus can leave early.

    The reasons that riders want schedules are many, but the most important ones are when they are making a connection to a low frequency service, they need to know accurately when they are going to get there; and if they live/work/play at a distance to the Link station, they need to know how much time to get there so they don’t have an excessive wait. When the train is on a 10-minute headway this becomes particularly easy. If it takes you 5 minutes to get the Link station and the train comes on the 3’s, you might leave on 6’s, getting you there about 2 minutes before train.

    The reasons that are given for not publishing a schedule do not hold water. The main one is that they don’t want to give an unreliable schedule. That’s absolutely ridiculous. In my experience Link adheres more closely to a schedule than virtually every bus route. It is mostly grade-separated. There is far less operator variability in how fast they drive/accelerate/cut lights/wait for runners, and the eight-door boarding makes station dwell time fairly consistent too.

    Every MT & ST bus route (except RRA) has a published schedule, and virtually every rail transit system worldwide publishes its schedule. ST in fact has a schedule for Link, it is part of the bidding package for operators.

    It is arrogant and disrespectful of the time value of riders not to publish the schedue.

    1. PS: While MT/ST need to decongest the tunnel, generally the congestion is during the period Link operates 7-8 minutes, which is the time they could just give a headway – or keep publishing the schedule and riders will tolerate just believeing the train is 1-2 minutes early or 1-6 minutes late. That’s acceptable.

      As to decongesting the tunnel, there are three operating rules which would improve throughput: 1. Discharge-only buses always pull as far forward as possible and can discharge anywhere along the entire length of the tunnel platform and never open their doors a second time. (Right now inbound 520/I-90 buses stop at bays B/D for discharage – that’s unnecessary.) 2. Buses don’t re-open doors for runners, once the door is closed the bus move one. 3. Buses don’t stop a second time at the front of Bays A/C, as they often currently do.

      Perhaps those rule apply during peak periods only – when the tunnel is most congested and when presumably there will be another bus to the same destination within 10-15 minutes. I was shocked recently, when after a bus had been broken down for 10 minutes in a peak period and there was a continuous wall of buses in the tunnel, bus after bus made a second stop at the front of bay A/C.

      1. If I can’t see that there is a 73 3 buses behind the 41 that currently is at bay A, it better stop again when it actually gets to bay A. It is more time consuming to have 2 groups of people get on and a third group walking in between to the two stops.

        Now, if you want to get rid of the bays, that’s fine but you can’t tell people that a bus is going to stop at a certain spot and then not have it stop there.

      2. M,

        If you are catching a northbound 41 or 73, then why not catch the first bus that comes along to Convention Place Station, wait there, and enjoy the fresh air, sunshine, and cell phone operability? Then, the inbound buses will pull out of the way, so that the 41 and 7x’s pull up together.

      3. When I was last trained for tunnel operations, drivers were instructed not to wait for runners in the tunnel. Unfortunately, many drivers still do, mostly because they are pressured to do so on the surface by other passengers. Most drivers operate both services throughout the week. The concept that there is a different policy is ineffective. Metro needs to retrain their drivers. But more importantly, reeducate the public. Passengers have a responsibility to be in the bus zone on time and as scheduled.
        As to the discharging of passengers from inbound buses, my class was instructed to drop off when ever safe to do so, no matter what your bay. This happens quite frequently as an inbound university express in Westlake. However, I find Eastside service (B&D) only stops in B (D). Perhaps the instruction wasn’t consistent.
        One of the problems is the way the lights are queued at both CPS and IDS. The lights disregard tunnel order. This would be easy to reengineer.

      4. All along, I had assumed Metro let buses through in the order of discharging, then front bay, then back bay.

        The idea that inbound buses would have a bay doesn’t make sense to me. None of the bays list inbound buses that stop there. Shouldn’t all the operators (both Metro and 550) be trained to pull as far forward as possible when discharging passengers?

        Speaking of the 550, would it simplify the process of changing training and other tunnel protocols by simply moving the 550 upstairs, so that only Metro buses use the tunnel?

      5. Brent,
        The 550 drivers are Metro drivers. I believe the 550 operates out of East Base just like the 255 and the other Eastside tunnel routes.

      6. Carl,
        Due to ADA issues drivers may need to stop a second time. You can’t expect mobility or vision impaired riders to try to get to and find the right bus on a 400′ long platform.

        For that matter this is asking a bit much of able bodied passengers, especially during evening peak when the platform is crowded with commuters.

      7. Chris,

        Handling vision-related and mobility-related ADA issues is simple: Let the passenger who needs to stop at a specific bay ring the bell (or ask someone to do so).

      8. The ADA comment is mute on drop off. While it is important to stop the second and third stop around for outbound ADA costumers, stopping for any Tom, Dick, and Harry- regardless if they are blind or in a wheelchair- on an inbound trip is actually discriminating. Metro doesn’t care whether you are black or white, gay or straight, 8 or 80 years old, disabled or able. It is your responsibility to be in the bus stop on time and as scheduled. We aren’t supposed to stop for any able bodied person to go a few more stops. Why should we do it for the disabled?

    2. do they give an first departure time and then say departures every 8 minutes or so??

      what is a heaadway???

    3. “virtually every rail transit system worldwide publishes its schedule.”
      False. The Moscow Metro does not in fact publish its schedule. If you look hard enough you can find information on headways, but there’s no specific schedule beyond last train times, not even during the late evening hours when headways can get as long as 4 or 5 minutes.

  4. “OneBusAway now displays headway info at request of the agency” may be the most boneheaded thing I’ve ever heard about ST (and I’m usually pretty lenient…)

    Can someone from ST explain how this makes anyone *more* likely to use Link? I know that it makes people less likely to use Link (I am a case in point), so is that off-set by people who find vague information useful in some way?

    Not to mention that OBA is a terrible place to offer headway information. For the casual OBA user (the person who you are trying to entice to board Link), it’s confusing to see a trains listed as arriving in 3 and 5 minutes, with notes underneath about headways. It’s not what you’d expect from an app that is set up to tell you how soon something is coming. If I didn’t know that headways was all that were offered, I’d probably be upset if a train didn’t arrive in 3 or 5 minutes.

  5. No disrespect to Oran, but this is mostly pointless whining. Link’s OTP issues are entirely due to the presence of busses in the tunnel — especially at rush-hour, when there are too many busses there. This is something ST cannot do anything about until 2016. They’ve obviously chosen to try and maintain headways rather than maintain a schedule, which is exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. Putting a printed schedule on the platform would be counterproductive as trains wouldn’t be following it most of the day.

    You say that “between 10 and 15 minutes” people refer to schedules. Therefore, by your own standards, Link’s lack of information inconveniences people who ride after 10PM and before 6AM weekdays and 8AM weekends and is irrelevant and counterproductive the rest of the day. So this is inconveniencing a small slice of Link’s ridership, although of course, that doesn’t mean those riders should be disregarded. Why don’t you advocate something useful, like printing a schedule for those times? Link might even be able to keep to such a schedule, as the tunnel isn’t overcrowded late at night.

    Finally, no part of any public transit system anywhere in the world should aspire to be the 7 (or the 44.) One Bus Away, was (I’m told) invented because the printed schedules for the 44 aren’t worth wiping your backside on, and the same goes for the 7 (and the 1-4, 13, 36, 43, 49 — all the long trolley routes through the city).

    1. Bruce, you may be too lazy and value your time so little that you don’t care about a schedule, but don’t impose your values on others. Giving me a schedule I can use doesn’t you can’t continue to come whenever you feel like it and take your chances.

      Oran’s research said at 10 minutes and up, people consult schedules. Link runs 10 minutes and up all day weekends and most of the day weekdays. Link attempts to depart from both endpoints on a schedule. During 10 minute operations it’s on the 0’s from Seatac Airport and on the 7’s from Westlake. During 15-minute operations its at :05, :20, :35, and :50 from Seatac and :07, :22, :37, and :52 from Westlake. Why should they hide that information or reserve the right to ignore it whenever they feel like?

      At rush hour, when Link runs 7-8 minutes, and the tunnel is congested, the schedule is least important. The rest of the day it is important, and short of a bus breakdown or a car running into a Link train, there is little reason Link won’t follow the schedule reliably.

      I will find a couple of examples of schedules published by other transit agencies to show you that what we are doing in Seattle is unhelpful to our riders and not consistent with the way other cities do it.

      1. Thanks for assuming I’m lazy and don’t value my time. Maybe I should assume you’re ignorant and retarded in a similar fashion?

        Given the choice between ST attempting to maintain headways and attempting to maintain a schedule during their 10 minute headway periods, I would much prefer the latter.

      2. PATH – Port Authority Trans Hudson – subway between NYC & NJ. Here’s the schedule between 33rd St & Hoboken, with headways varyign between 6 minutes and 15 minutes, 35 minutes overnight: http://www.panynj.gov/path/schedules/33rd_HOB_Weekday.html

        NYC Subway
        E-train to/from Jamaica, headways around 5 minutes: http://mta.info/nyct/service/pdf/tecur.pdf

        Toronto Transit Commission
        510 Spadina streetcar schedule – with headways of 1-2 minutes: http://www3.ttc.ca/Schedule/schedule.jsp?Route=510S&Stop=SPADINA_STATION

        San Francisco
        N-Judah Line http://transit.511.org/schedules/index.aspx?#m1=S&m2=rail&routeid=26621&cid=SF

        We’re the outlier here. You can find the same kinds of schedules for most systems worldwide.

      3. We’re the outlier because we’re the only system that runs giant mobs of busses in a tunnel with our trains. Maintaining a five minute schedule is reasonably possible on the NYC subway, so their schedule communicates useful information. Is is NOT possible during most of the day in Seattle, because of the frequent delays in the tunnel. This is just something I think we have to put up with until 2016. By all means get outraged after that.

      4. But Bruce, ST is in fact operating to a schedule, especially during the 10-15 minute headways. They just aren’t publishing it.

        And saying that you’d rather they keep to headways than schedules is in fact imposing your value of time on others who prefer to use a schedule. The effective variation in headway isn’t going to be noticeable to people who don’t use the schedule, so they can just use Link as you want to, but not giving a schedule to those who want to use one penalizes those people.

        Oh, and your logic is flawed to conclude ignorant and retarded from the information presented, while lazy and low time value are in fact indicated conclusions.

      5. Bruce,

        the main problem with lack of schedules isn’t during peak period. Trains and buses already run fairly frequently at that time. It is off-peak where connecting bus frequency drops off and trains run every 10 minutes or more. Off-peak, the trains do run on-time.

        As to advocating something useful, I am doing that. What you’re asking for is a subset of that. Sorry if you didn’t find it to be specific enough.

    2. OK, don’t print schedules for peak/rush, but DO PUBLISH THEM for off-peak periods when missing a connection means standing around in the dark wasting MY time.

      1. I remember reading Los Angeles bus and train schedules. They list times and then across the peak period it says something like “…and then every 5 minutes until”… and then they start listing times again after the peak. This is a common approach.

    3. It’s easy to write off people who ride the train early morning and late at night, but this is a significant set of riders and it’s one place where the battle for public transit is often won and lost. Waiting late at night at a lonely station without many other riders for a train that may be up to 15 minutes away is a recipe for making riders feel uncomfortable about their personal safety. We can do better than what we are doing now.

      1. Plus Link serves the airport. The airport creates traffic at all hours of the day, including early morning and late night. And people need to get to the airport at a scheduled time for a flight.

      2. I wish the RR A buses were coupled with the 124 during night owl service, so that there would be a clearly noticeable 1-seat ride between downtown and the airport at all hours of the night, albeit needing a *schedule* so one doesn’t have to wait an hour on a dark, scary downtown corner.

        Either that, or extend the 124 to serve Airport Station and the south terminal stop during night-owl hours.

        Nobody should have to stand out alone at TIBS at 2 in the morning for an hour, with no security.

      3. Agree completely, Brent. I don’t know whether they really close the walkway/station after 1am (midnight Sundays) but routing the 124 to Seatac airport during the hours when Link isn’t operating would be a positive change for airport employees and passengers

    4. No disrespect, Bruce, but there is something else ST can do: It can pull the 550 out of the tunnel. That would relieve roughly 10 percent of peak-hour bus traffic. The 550 is not the best trunk with the other I-90 tunnel buses (212, 216, 217, 218, 225, and 229) since the 216 is the only other bus in that list that serves Mercer Island Station. Other than the Rainier Freeway Station and 216 at Mercer Island, the 550 has no stops in common with these routes once it gets past Rainier.

      Consolidating the 550 with the 202, 210, 214, 215, and 554 would make more sense.

      Of course, keeping the 550 in the tunnel and pushing those other routes upstairs would make better sense, but I rather doubt Metro is amenable to doing that.

      Oh, and don’t quite 550 ridership to me. They could transfer to other tunnel routes at ID Station just as quickly as they can now, and get to their ultimate destinations just as fast or faster by already being on the surface.

      1. One of the most important time-saving aspects of the tunnel is the direct ramp to I-90, avoiding a few stoplights to get on and off the freeway. Buses that could use this ramp, such as 550 and 554 should do so. Buses that don’t, such as 255/256 should be the ones that get moved to the street.

    5. I am advocating ST to follow basic principles as outlined in the TCSQM. I’m not whining about OTP but the lack of information. I didn’t say I want Link to be the 7, that is ridiculous. It’s an example of maybe why some people may choose to use a one-seat ride bus over Link (other reasons aside) because planning for transfers is impossible without a Internet-connected computer or long wait on the phone with Metro customer service.

      Between 10 minutes and 15 minutes includes most of Link’s operating day. The literature explicitly states “<10 minutes” i.e. less than 10 minutes.

      I don’t disagree with their headway based approach if they give us more information. If their headway is fairly regular, then why can’t they provide real-time information based on that then?

  6. I’ve been to both London and NYC in the last four months, and when I return I have transit withdrawal. I would love to have a transit system where schedules didn’t need to be posted because service actually was “frequent”.

  7. The notes in the chart for ST performance offer a clue as to what ST is thinking: While OTP was 80%, headway management was over 90%.

    ST has made a stategic decision to emphasize headway over schedule. We could lobby ST to instead emphasize schedule over headway, but the limitations with the airport and stub tunnel turn-arounds may make that difficult. Plus, ridership per train and fare revenue per train might go down a little.

    1. But the OTP is below their target. That means they have to do something to correct that. Either make the trains run on time or change the performance measure to headway.

    2. I think everyone on this thread understands what is happening: ST has changed their published “schedule” to headways instead of arrival or departure times, in order to make their OTP look better — not to improve customer service.

      1. I’d much prefer ST change its performance measure to “arrive within 4 minutes before or after a scheduled arrival”. Then, every train during peak hour would be “on time”, even if two trains count for the same “on time”.

        For people like me who ride buses that come only once an hour, arriving within five minutes after the scheduled time still feels like “on time”. But leaving one minute early is a capital offense.

      2. Shortly after typing the above, I spent over 20 minutes waiting for a 132 that never came. That’s the third time the 132 never showed up at all for me. Unlike the previous times, instead of waiting over an hour, I gave up and aborted my planned trip.

        When I rode the 131 home a few nights ago, the bus showed up four minutes faster than he was supposed to get to a stop several blocks earlier in the route. I told the operator “Wow! You’re making good time tonight.” He didn’t get the hint. Some poor saps may have believed the schedule, and shown up only a couple minutes early, only to get to wait an hour for the next 131.

        When things like this happen, I just don’t feel much empathy for those complaining about the lack of a Link schedule.

  8. For me, the solution is simple: “* Estimated arrival times”, so that the published times aren’t official for data collection purposes.

    As for those planning a trip on trains and buses, it is always risky to assume that a train or bus will make its connections on time.

    1. Well the logical thing that most of us do in estimating schedules for connections is to consider the penalty of missing the connection. If I’m connecting to an hourly service (or the last bus/train of the night), I’m going to allow 15 minutes to make the connections, and I’ve probably got 99% chance of making it short of a calamity. If I’m connecting to a 30 minute service, I might allow 8 or 10 minutes. If I’m connecting to a 15 minute service, maybe I plan for 3-5 minutes and it’s not a big deal if I don’t make it.

      1. By the way, Trip Planning software generally does not know how to make this distinction. Generally trip planning software has some minimum connecting time at each transfer point, and it assumes that each service is punctual, and it doesn’t seem to factor in the penalty for missing the connection to create a buffer for delays when the penalty of a missed connection would be great. This is one reason that understanding the schedules and frequencies of service let’s a knowledgeable rider improve on the suggestions of trip planning software – of course trip planning software still needs schedules to work properly.

      2. Planning for a buffer doesn’t deal with the much better than 1% of the time that the Metro bus never shows up, and we have to wait for the following one.

  9. I’m trying to understand the problem here. Let me see if I have this right …

    Without a schedule, if a person gets off work downtown at 5:30 PM on a weekday, all they know right now is the train frequency is 7.5 minutes, so they may have to wait that amount of time, or longer.

    With a schedule, the frequency will still be every 7.5 minutes, and will still come at the exact same time it would have come at if their weren’t a schedule, but the person can try to save time waiting for the train, because now they’ll know when exactly it is coming. But they still really won’t know when it’s coming, because for a variety of reasons, LINK is having trouble staying on schedule.

    Do I have that about right?

    1. I think this is less of an issue for peak-headway during morning and evening rush-hour. It’s the rest of the day when Link headways are 10 or 15 minutes that’s the problem. These are times when tunnel congestion is lower so trains tend to hit their schedule. However, since ST is not publishing schedule information, all a rider knows is that there will be a train in 10-15 minutes. That’s a potentially long time to wait with no information about when the train is actually coming, especially late at night. In these cases, it’d be nice to have the schedule information, because Link has pretty good schedule adherence for these trips.

      Of course, the better solution to all these problems is publishing real-time info for Link.

      1. But from what I’m hearing, a schedule, because of issues like buses causing delays in the tunnel, would render a schedule to be unreliable.

      2. Unreliable only during the time of day when a schedule is not really needed (trains run every 7-8 minutes). Tunnel delays are mostly during that time. Other times, it is generally reliable.

  10. I leave for work fairly early, usually before Link gets to 7 minute frequency. My transfer from link -> bus involves standing, frequently in the rain. 15 minutes is a long time to wait on a cold rainy morning when at least half of that could be avoided by taking *exactly* the right train in the morning.

    The solution here is simple: ST must make it a priority to install a real-time arrival system. If ST won’t publish schedules, they need to provide real-time data on station platforms, mezzanines, and to the Google Transit Feed so that apps like OneBusAway can display it.

    I agree maintaining headways is more important than running to a schedule. I’m sufficiently fed-up with what ST has done that I’m thinking of standing up a webpage that scrapes link’s schedule data from Metro’s trip planner and displays it for all to use. Unlike OBA I have no reason to ‘play nice’ with ST and only display frequency.

    1. You said Link -> Bus. Not sure how real-time arrival information is useful in planning your connection and knowing when to get up or plan to leave the house. A schedule would be a lot more useful. Doesn’t the Link come the same time every day?

      1. Carl, generally speaking you’re right – in the morning, I know what time the train is scheduled to be there (despite ST’s efforts to not publish a schedule, they are running to one) and LINK runs fairly close to the schedule. If I’m trying to optimize my transfer (don’t we all?) then it actually matters whether the train is running 2 minutes late and my bus is on time. If my bus were more frequent (or had more reliable on-time performance), this would be of less concern to me.

        In summary, if LINK is running 2 minutes late and my bus is on-time, I have to run the ~2 block transfer distance and may have to wait 20+ minutes for the next one. If LINK is running on time and my bus is late (situation normal) then I have a leisurely transfer walk and I don’t spend much time standing at the stop.

        I think the important factor here is information. If ST had real-time arrival data, making decisions about my commute can be done via OneBusAway rather quickly. Allowing OBA to publish “schedule” data is a close second because LINK is usually within 1-2 min of schedule.

  11. Hours of Service
    First Train




    Northbound from SeaTac/Airport to Westlake
    5:04 a.m. 5:04 a.m. 6:19 a.m.
    Southbound from Stadium to SeaTac/Airport
    4:40 a.m. 4:40 a.m. 6:30 a.m.
    Southbound from Westlake to SeaTac/Airport

    5:05 a.m. 5:05 a.m.
    6:20 a.m.

    Last Train




    Northbound from SeaTac/Airport to Westlake
    12:10 a.m. 12:10 a.m. 11:05 p.m.
    Northbound from SeaTac/Airport (last stop Mt Baker)
    12:50 a.m. 12:50 a.m. 11:50 p.m.
    Southbound from Westlake to SeaTac/Airport

    12:37 a.m. 12:37 a.m.
    11:37 p.m.

    Train frequency

    frequency (minutes)

    5:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m.


    6:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.


    8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.


    3:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.


    6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.


    10:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.


    Train frequency
    Saturday, Sunday & Holidays

    frequency (minutes)

    5:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m. (Saturday only)


    6:00 a.m. – 8:00 a.m.


    8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.


    10:00 p.m. – midnight


    Midnight – 1:00 a.m. (Saturday only)


    Central Link map
    Click on station icons for detailed information

    Central Link stations

    Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel stations

    University Street
    Pioneer Square
    International District/Chinatown
    Seattle stations

    Beacon Hill
    Mount Baker
    Columbia City
    Rainier Beach
    Tukwila and SeaTac Stations

    Tukwila International Blvd
    Travel time between Stations


    where is the non detail that you lie about???

    1. ST is an independant regional orgainization with oversight by county, city and state representatives. The actual transit service is operated by King County Metro employees (by and large) inside of King County under contract to ST. I believe the only direct ST employee operators are Tacoma Link. Sounder is operated by BNSF.

      1. CT and PT also operates ST routes that traverse King County and head either north to Snohmish or South to Pierce to/from King County.

  12. So, has anyone actually contacted ST about this, or is this just the Transit Knitting Club?

    It seems like something ST could do that may make them less likely to do this is to separate out on-time performance measures by time of day.

  13. Of course, if you’re in the tunnel, all the Twittering and OBAing won’t help you b/c there isn’t cell or wifi service. Maybe if ST utilized those massive and costly LCD screens, then we’d be in business. Or put up some nice big TV’s with arrival and departure info. I mean that technology has only existed for, what, 50 years?

  14. I sympathize with ST’s position on this, but I have to admit that a lack of schedules is why I never take LINK southbound. With a tightly-timed, two-transfer commute in a post-OneBusAway world, I just have to have real time info. Commuting from Madrona to Lakewood it theoretically takes me the exact same amount of time to Bike/LINK/574 as it does to Bike/Sounder/599. Given that I can never count on real-time information at Mt Baker Station, and with a close transfer time to the 574, I just bike to Sounder because it’s rigidly scheduled and almost always on time. Coming home, I know that I can count on LINK departing on time from SeaTac, so twice a month or so I ride LINK just for variety. With real-time info I’d be a daily LINK rider.

    1. One other anecdote…when I was a concierge in downtown Seattle, I always cringed when I had to direct an iPhone- wielding tourist looking to get from Westlake to Safeco Field: “Go into the tunnel and take ANYTHING BUT our new light rail. If you want real-time transit information for EVERYTHING BUT our new light rail, download the OneBusAway app.”

      1. Why cringe? Juset tell them that the Link runs ever 7 minutes or so. Tell ’em to enjoy the artwork in the tunnel while they wait. Maybe grab a Macciato at Godiva coffee on their way down.

        Sheesh, the way you people sweat over 5 minutes here or there.

      2. We sweat over five minutes here or there because that five minutes, if it is a daily nuisance, makes the difference between someone taking transit and someone throwing up their hands and buying a Subaru (which is why they were smart to advertise on the buses and trains).

        Five minutes added to a route, multiplied by the average number of runs in a day, multiplied by the number of days in a year, is a lot of money we do not have. And that doesn’t count the lost human productivity for the poor souls who have five minutes each way added to their daily commute because some snobby neighborhood wants to divert some buses down their street with traffic circles, or some business wants to keep on-street parking where a RapidRide lane is supposed to be, or a hospital wants buses to sit in line with everyone else trying to park, or a major university won’t let buses stop close to the elevator to an underground rail station, or a state transportation department wants as many cars as possible in an HOV lane on a floating bridge across a wide lake, or some politicians want to keep paper transfers out of fear of being seen as callous to the library-challenged, or another set of politicians won’t stand up to the DSA and reconfigure all downtown bus paths to give buses the optimum speed getting through downtown, or some politician cuts a deal with a development firm owned by an eastside city councilmember to provide loop-de-loop front door service to his housing development in the middle of nowhere on what was a trunk route, or other politicians give in to the anti-transit hysterics when it gets suggested that the most major trunk rates be given tertiary traffic signal priority (behind EMS and freight trains), or some neighborhood insists on keeping bus stops every two blocks because their leaders aren’t bus riders and can’t get the big picture, …

        Five minutes can add up, especially if it is multiple five-minute nuisances on the same route, twice a day 200-250 days a year. And then because of all those five minutes here five minutes there add-ons, Metro has to reduce frequency on the route to maintain the service hours. That five minutes just grew to be a lot more than five minutes.

      3. And then – you Transit Advocates ™ which really means RAIL UBER ALLES will CHEER the extra 5=15 minutes that people have to WALK to LINK from cancelled Metro stops (or God Forbid – routes) to catch a rail connection) to get to their destination. Even if those affected are elderly, arthritic, or otherwise just interested in getting to their jobs/destinations more quickly.

        [expl, ad hom]


      4. Brent,

        And yet you rail advocates routinely dismiss the additional 10-15 minutes walk time to rail stations or other public transit transfer points due to elimination of bus zones or routes entirely to support “efficiency”. You do so in spite of the fact that many who will have to make that walk have time as valuable as your own; or who have arthritis; or who are elderly and otherwise inconvenienced by additional “walk time”.

        [expletive, ad hom].

      5. Zed,

        Maybe the man has something valuable to add. Unfortunately, he’s no longer allowed to add it at STB.

    2. See, to me your example illustrates why this is much ado about nothing. If I had to catch Sounder from my apartment downtown in the morning, I would never plan to take the last Link train that would get me there. Assuming 10 minute headways and that the travel time from University St station was 8 minutes (Link 4 min + walk to Sounder 3-4 min), I’d aim to be at U-Street 30 minutes prior. That way I can expect two Link trains that’d get me there. And if there’s some accident on the tunnel that shuts it down, I have time to come up to 3rd, grab a trolleybus to the I.D. and walk (not run) to King St.

      Similarly, I assume you don’t time your departure on your current bike route to bring yourself zooming into King St a minute prior to departure: you pad your schedule. I know I pad my travel time by 5-10 minutes minimum for any public transit or bike trip, or any walking trip more than I mile or so when it’s essential I arrive on time. Maybe my standards are low, having never lived in a place where the transit actually ran on time, so I don’t think the right way. Or maybe I am, in fact, just lazy and my time is worthless (just don’t tell my employers.)

      Oh well. At least I’m not retarded and ignorant.

      1. If you were to use transit in Japan, Switzerland or Germany, you would experience published scheduled connections with 1-2 minute transfer times. Often these would be arranged on adjacent platforms for maximum efficiency. Remarkably they make these connections work day-in day-out. Maybe that’s one of the reasons transit has a high mode share in these countries. Also a commitment to operating on time.

      2. And to achieve that kind of punctuality, they avoid doing things like running busses in one-lane tunnels with trains. When all the busses are out of the tunnel, I will expect that kind of performance from Link, at least on the Northgate to Stadium segment. Until then, I will be found sitting on the platform ten minutes early, reading a book.

      3. Carl,

        “If you were to use transit in Japan, Switzerland or Germany, you would experience published scheduled connections with 1-2 minute transfer times. Often these would be arranged on adjacent platforms for maximum efficiency”

        Gee and all that Japan, Switzerland and Germany have are Socialist economies. We don’t. I we did – we could probably do what they do. Focus your energies on changing THAT, and best of luck.

  15. To be clear, the problem I have is that ST is running Link on a schedule (they have run cards, they have the schedule data in Metro’s trip planner), but they are going out of their way to exclude that schedule data from services like OneBusAway. Apparently they are doing this because they are worried about on-time performance, both measured and perceived. They feel this is justifiable because factors affecting their ability to run on-time are largely out of their control. This is my understanding of the situation.

    ST knew there would be factors outside of their control affecting their ability to run on-time. The best mitigation to this is real-time arrival data, and that should have been part of the requirements for the LINK system. I think they should communicate to the public what their plans are around real-time arrival data.

    I would argue that Link runs closer to its schedule than any other transit service in this State (of course that depends on your metrics…), it makes sense to make that data available for consumption via tools like OBA as well as at station entrances, on mezzanines and at platforms. Feel free to caveat the data like OBA did “Scheduled Arrival” and leave it at that. Then when real-time data becomes available, they can remove that caveat.

    1. Sound Transit would love to have real time data, probably even more so than their riders. It was just one of the many things that were axed from Central Link due to cash constraints.

      1. All kinds. I’d vote and advocate for any reasonable tax increase that would hasten the build-out of ST2 and continue the expansion of Link to Redmond.

      2. Zed,

        In what way is Link being “overpaid”? Do tell. Numbers appreciated – and well, necessary to back up your [expletive]

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