In order to improve the movement of East Link vehicles to the Operation and Maintenance Facility (OMF) at SODO and operational flexibility in general Sound Transit staff have sent to the Board a proposed Contract Amendment to the East Link Final Design calling for a turnback track at International District/Chinatown Station.  The work is to take place in 2019 and will require the closure of the DSTT for 10 weekends and one whole week.  In addition:

Once the turn-back track facility is constructed joint operations with buses in the tunnel will no longer be feasible.

So there you have it folks.  The arguments over when buses will be removed from the tunnel could possibly be put to rest at this Thursday’s Board Meeting.   Shame that a center platform isn’t planned to be installed during the construction downtime.  As Martin said in the past:

Center platforms are highly desirable at termini and at train-to-train transfer points, for obvious reasons.  As the only currently planned transfer point, I’m hopeful that Chinatown/ID Station will get a center platform between now and 2020 to facilitate transfers from South to East and vice versa.

It wouldn’t necessarily require a complete reconfiguration.  While Sound Transit hasn’t studied the issue in depth the initial problems don’t seem insurmountable.

UPDATE 1, from ST Spokesperson Bruce GrayWhile the staff report “anticipates” the work being done in 2019, that date is not set in stone. We’re looking at 2019 because it allows us to have it done in time for the final Northgate systems work and testing before opening, but the date is still somewhat flexible. This is a final design contract, not construction. The main point is that the work needs to be done before Northgate opens in order to have the least impact on the riding public.  Sound Transit will continue coordinating this work with KCM, the City of Seattle and WSDOT. For now, we don’t have a date certain. Arriving at that decision will follow a lot more joint work with our partners.

UPDATE 2:  After Brent sent an email to the entire Sound Transit Board on this contract and the possibility of a central platform in the future, ST Boardmember (and Seattle City Councilmember) Richard Conlin quickly responded and said he would look into it.

101 Replies to “Turnback to be Added at IDS for East Link – Buses Removed from Tunnel in 2019”

  1. Regarding the Center Platform: These are much preferred. However, sometimes preference or ease of transfer is not as compelling as something else: safety. What are the odds that someone coming from Bellevue want to transfer to SeaTac, sees a train coming down the tunnel, and just darts across the tracks that are no different than a road, really? What are the odds that this happens with some regularity and becomes a safety issue? I would suggest that this quite likely and perhaps the best argument to convince a cost- and risk- conscious board of the NECESSITY of such a mitigation as a center platform.

    1. Build a stair and elevator to access the center platform, then people would be less likely to cross the busway. Also, people don’t have to lug their luggage up to the plaza, walk around a bunch of obstacles, then chug back down the stairs/escalator/elevator, and possibly miss a train in the process.

      San Diego allowed people to walk across trackways at stations and it is very convenient. It’s not that unsafe if you actually pay attention or install at-grade crossings at either end or in the middle.

      1. I think Seattle/Metro/ST is being overly “anal” about DSTT pedestrian safety. I think they should put a signaled crosswalk at 2 places across each station bedway in the DSTT. This would make it no more dangerous than the MLK station crossings. (yes there’s been 1 fatality due to pedestrian stupidity) There are safety officers there already and they can monitor the crosswalks. With sufficient signage to tell people to only cross at the crosswalk and only during the clear signal it should facilitate people needing to make connections.

      2. When I think about how long a pedestrian signal would have to take, and the rate at which transit vehicles go through the tunnel during rush hour, I can’t help but think any at-grade pedestrian crossing between the platforms would make transit speed and reliability through the tunnel a total disaster. With any legal crossing you’d have people running in front of vehicles to make transfers and that sort of thing… some transit center loops have that problem today, but they don’t have as many routes or passengers as the DSTT stops, and they aren’t served in quick succession.

      3. San Diego Trolley (don’t be fooled by the name, it’s full-scale light rail) still allows people to walk across the trackways at stations. Google for photos of the many many many crosswalks.

    2. It would be easy to add a center platform at Pioneer Square station for a same grade transfer. No need to add stairs, escalators and elevators for emergency egress; that could be handled by either walking across the tracks, or walking through a parked train with doors opened on both sides. Folks who didn’t want to go that far could do the up/down thing at ID station.

      1. A lack of level emergency exits isn’t going to cut it for ADA.

        If IDS has to be overhauled to provide that center platform as *the* platform, I say it is money well spent for future generations.

      2. While I claim no expertise on the ADA, how can it be that it’s acceptable for the only emergency egress to be a flight of stairs, but when you have to step down across a set of train tracks to get to that flight of stairs, it’s suddenly against the law?

  2. Thanks, Matthew. However, I’d really appreciate it if King County Metro and Sound Transit don’t use this date as an excuse to leave DSTT operations as lame as they’ve been for the last four years of joint operations, on top of the previous nineteen years of buses only.

    That would make it a total of two decades less a year, and less two more for the 2005-2007 conversion, of having the trains of the future serve as a permanent excuse for so little effort to take advantage of the operating capacity designed into the Tunnel at its inception.

    Recent addition of bus fareboxes to existing operating obstacles indicate a governing mentality that ought to disqualify its possessors from operating transit. From the most hard-nosed viewpoint in the spectrum, a transit system doesn’t put the convenience of its accounting department above its operating schedule!

    Whether it’s six years or another sixteen- remember how long it took to get Train One- I’d like to see at least one person with governing authority over the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel made up their mind that for however long joint operations remain, the last bus through there will not hold a train outside of Westlake for three minutes while it collects fares.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Or is that three decades? Apologies to accountants and the whole calculator industry for that one. Good evidence I really am sixty eight this morning. My medically green-and-white ORCA card really shouldn’t say “Senior”. Should read “Official Longevity Distinguished.” First letters only.


    2. All you’d need to do to speed up buses would be to install gates like other systems have where you have to pay your fare to get to the platform level. Then the buses could load as quickly as trains.

      1. Sean: how do you determine whether someone got on a KCM or ST bus if they tapped on at the gate? How do you know whether to charge someone a one- or two-zone fare?

        Not saying we shouldn’t figure it out, but it’s not a simple matter of installing fare gates.

      2. Here’s how ya do it (all this cribbed from various posters here):

        1. Forget fare gates. Just go universal POP. It isn’t hard, it’s done all over the world.

        2. Unify the Metro/ST fare systems. Get rid of zones for non-freeway routes or according to some reasonable rubric (yeah, some routes have both local and freeway sections… make some decisions and don’t worry too much about them because they don’t matter all that much).

        3. Link trains have their tap-on-tap-off scheme that probably isn’t going away. For the buses, put up separate readers for each possible number of zones. There will probably have to be three of these in each cluster, but they don’t have to be any bigger than the Link ORCA readers. These are heavily used stations, it’s worth it. When buses are kicked out of the tunnel they can be moved to other high-volume locations.

        4. Sell bus tickets from the TVMs and ban on-board payment within the tunnel (and other places where TVMs are installed, as they should be at RR stations).

        5. Forget about keeping track of each individual ride for the purpose of dividing revenue, just estimate the split at stations with offboard payment based on APC data.

        6. ???

        7. Profit.

  3. What’s the rush if it only takes 10 weekends and a full week to make the conversion.
    If East Link doesn’t start until 2023, why do all this 4 years before it’s needed?

    1. I would guess it’s related to construction in the I-90 express lanes.

      1. A bus bridge is needed during closures from Stadium to points north. If the work happens after Northgate opens, the bus bridge becomes more complex and expensive, and more riders are inconvenienced.

      2. It would be nice if a short East Link could open sometime before 2023. If the express lanes are going to be closed from 2016, maybe thaey could accelerate work on Rainier station and Mercer Island station and do something with that ROW.

      3. @aw it would be nice, but I believe they would also have to construct a turn-around track segment while they were building the rest of the track across the lake. This requires extra work expenditure, extra track and potentially extra property acquisition.

        It also slows things down.

        I would rather they build as much at once as possible to reduce the wait for the lines actually being open.

      4. Based on the conceptual drawings, there would be crossovers east of Rainier, east of Mercer Island, and west of South Bellevue. They could use these crossovers to operate a shorter initial line if they wanted, although I think its unlikely. The FEIS outright says the minimum system they’d operate would be to the Hospital station (i.e. Segments A-C). Plans can change though.

      5. Charles B, why would they need a “turn around” track? They would just need a stub or cross over track at the end of the last operating station. Something they’re going to build anyways.

      6. @Charles the stub/crossover segment is what I was referring to. Its not clear that they are going to make one between the I90 bridge an the Rainier stop, but I could be wrong.

        An early open for that one station is unlikely to happen in either case, but if you guys want to try and push for that, more power to you.

      7. @aw: 2016? That sounds awfully soon. Don’t they have to reconfigure the car pool lanes onto the main roadway through the Mercer Island lid, over the floating bridge, and through the Mt Baker tunnels before they can close the center lanes?

      8. @William, Stage 3 of the I-90 two-way HOV project is set for completion in September 2016 (construction starts August 2014). Once that is done ST can begin construction.

  4. In my opinion, a center platform looks like a trivial addition. It doesn’t look difficult to separate the tracks more, dynamite the escalators and stairways on either side of the tracks, and install a new central elevator and stairway in the middle. This would also make implementing the turnback much easier, since the tracks are already farther apart.

      1. Buses with doors on both sides are problematic. Procurement is hard — we don’t have many manufacturers and they are not always willing to reengineer things so heavily. Operationally, there don’t tend to be enough left-side doors for fast loading, and there is not much room for seats. (Remember, we are in Seattle, land of the rider revolt over taking just a few seats away on RR coaches.)

      2. Yeah, but compared to a dual mode, how hard would it have been :)

        I know you’re right though.

        It would also have required off board payment because you can’t have a farebox by a door not next to the driver.

    1. @Schuyler :

      So instead of pink unicorns they ought to have specified pink unicorns with wings?

      And why would they have needed off board payment. The center doors would only have been used in the tunnel, which was in the ride free zone, so every fare collection opportunity could still have used the door by the driver.

      1. >So instead of pink unicorns they ought to have specified pink unicorns with wings?

        I didn’t say it was practical :)

        Also, good point on the RFA. Didn’t even think about that.

  5. From that picture it looks like we should be able to install a center platform without having to move the tracks. No one ever said it needed to be a huge center platform. Whatever happeneds the sooner the better as ridership affected by a closure is going to increase not decrease in the future.

    Before the buses are removed something needs to be figured out to keep them moving. Buses delay the trains by up to 8 minutes half the time I’m on the train. They should either board like the RapidRide and/or everything in the tunnel should have the same fee so we can start using turnstiles.

  6. So we’ll have 3 years of joint bus-rail ops with ULink, then 2 years of rail-only ULink. It is peculiar to kick buses out without changing service levels, and that means the DSTT will be underutilized between 2019-2021, but as a frequent DSTT rider I’ll be quite happy to get such a reliability improvement 2 years earlier than I was expecting.

      1. 2019 is the year that the bonds which financed the tunnel construction finally get paid off. ST does not want to kick buses out of the tunnel before this date because the way the debt service agreement works, ST would have to assume Metro’s share of the bond payments if they were to do this.

        In 2019, this consideration stops mattering. The way bureaucracy works, I believe this is the real reason they chose this date.

      2. What if ST were to give Metro an in-kind donation of platform hours?

        For example, ST takes over routes like the 271 and 255, in exchange for Metro continuing to pay its share of the tunnel debt service?

        It’s all a numbers game, but it lets Metro move money from operations to debt service, just to have it paid back by ST from alternative revenue sources.

        Then, after 2019, maybe some of those ST routes go away. Without the consultation of the King County Metropolitan Council.

      3. Sounds good on paper, but getting two independent bureaucracies to agree to anything is like pulling teeth.

  7. The next question to be asked: what happens to all the former tunnel buses between 2019 and 2021-2023? What happens on the surface? Where do all those 41’s go?

    The surface is already clogged with bikes, pedestrians, buses, cars, and jammed up intersections.

    1. The right answer would be… restructure to get some buses out of downtown, to make room for those displaced from the tunnel. The 7 and 36 are obvious candidates; getting those two alone off 3rd Ave would open up space for 12 buses per hour at midday and 15+ at rush hour. Both routes provide multiple transfer opportunities to Link.

      I don’t know if there’s any possibility of that actually happening.

      1. I think there’s at least a plausible chance of combining the 36/49 once ULink opens (TMP Corridor 3). All the wire already exists to create a new crosstown trolley bus with frequent transfers to the FHSC at 12th/Jackson and to Link at Othello, Beacon Hill, and Capitol Hill.

      2. Though, the problem with removing the 7 and 36 is that they serve dense areas between the Link station and downtown. And the 7’s connection to Link sucks in Rainier, but is useable at IDS. The 36 also turns into the 1 and vise versa (if it’s not a 60’), so it has additional utility. Maybe it is time to face the no-more-one-seat-ride reality and at least cut the 7 to turn around at IDS. The next issue becomes what other buses can be truncated? I think the answer is not many.

        Buses like the 71/72/73/74/76 would be no longer need to go downtown and force transfer at UWS, but there are so many tunnel buses that exist that Link will not duplicate until 2021-2023, or ever. Some serious examples include the 41 (one of the most used buses in the region), 101/102, 150, 255, and the good ol’ 550 (ST’s most used bus). Those represent about one dozen buses every 10 minutes at peak. There’s simply no room on the surface to put those things. Even by dedicating 3rd to 100% buses, and parts of every other road for more bus lanes, there still are intersections and other conflict points, then getting to the freeway. While I’m not trying to be all doom and gloom, it’s a very serious situation and there are few feasible alternatives that offer the same level of service and capacity that the Tunnel does.

        While the chaos during the 2005-2007 shutdown of the Bus Tunnel wasn’t bad once everyone got used to it, it’s worth noting Seattle had nearly 60,000 fewer inhabitants at that time, and using 3rd was a piece of cake. But now, Seattle is bigger, the Downtown has exploded, 3rd is nearly at capacity due to increases in service throughout the years, and the regional transit demand has shifted closer into the city.

        Perhaps if we were smart, we should have been building a new bus tunnel as part of ST2 or some other measure instead of waiting for ST3 in 2016 + another 10 years…

      3. Without meaning to go too far offtopic (we will be talking much more about this in the near future) there are ways to get around the issues you mentioned with restructuring city routes.

        As far as the suburban buses displaced from the tunnel, we are just going to have to find a way to accommodate them, like we did in 2005. 3rd could become bus-only during peak with no turns on or off; that would help by itself. Some routes will move to 2nd and 4th, which are not quite at the limit of their capacity (101/102, 550, and 255 would be good candidates for that). Some inbound buses may revert to using 5th. A few north-end buses (64 and 74 come particularly to mind) might work as feeders to U-Link. The system is not so stressed that there is no more room for minor adjustments.

      4. While 2nd & 4th may not be at capacity, they are gettign close. I’ve certainly noticed that 2nd works a lot less well in the PM peak since they moved the 212 upstairs.

      5. The 36 should turn around at pac-med.
        The streetcar will serve the ID and the hospitals.

      1. It would probably be more useful to enter downtown farther south like the 522 does. But it indeed might be a good idea for some of these routes not to make a surface run all the way through downtown north-south.

  8. Thinking through where the East Link tracks will join in, I’m pretty sure the crossover for the turnback will have to be in ID station proper. Would the geometry preclude having a four car length center platform if that’s the case? I suppose it could work if the crossover was at the far north end of the station, but you’d be backing into the tunnel at that point which may be a safety concern for the various risk-averse entities involved.

    1. I would imagine all the trackwork would be to the south of the platforms. As I see it, there are two reasons why buses will be evicted from the tunnel when this goes in. One is that they will attach rails to the sruface rather than using embedded rails. The second reason is that they’ll be able to take over the bus queuing areas for tracks. It’s probably too much to hope for that they will be able to take out the security barriers at the same time.

      1. If this gives them the opportunity to straighten and streamline the teeth-pulling zig-zags south of the station, then I’m all for it.

        Frankly, I’d love to see them close the tunnel for two months, rip out about 500 feet of ROW, and rebuild it from scratch.

      2. Even if nothing is straightened it will still help that there is no bus traffic to trigger speed restrictions. Once there are no more buses down there, trains should be able to do 30 mph once they’ve cleared the initial kink immediately south of the platform. That will be a huge relief.

    2. If necessary move the turnback a station further, to Pioneer Square. The center platform is too valuable not to have.

  9. I thought the East Lionk trains wouldn’t be using the SODO OMF. That they would be based out of a new Eastside OMF in the Redmond area. I can see that occasionally East Link trains might have to visit the SODO base, but if this were an infrequent activity, I don’t see why trains couldn’t simply switch back at the current crossover in the PSST. Am I missing something here?

    1. OK, so I did miss the Board Motion where is said it was for adding cars for peak hours. But wouldn’t it still make more sense to add those cars from the east side OMF at the end of the run before the train heads into the city? Otherwise you have pre-peak riders who will be inconvenienced by trains that only go as far as ID station (though this is less of an inconvenience than current Central Link riders who get Beacon Hill only trains just before 9:00am, sense at least the East Link trains will make it to the edge of Downtown).

      1. What it an initial operating segment of East Link opened before the track to the sattelite OMF was laid?

      2. But my understanding (per the Link O&M Satellite Facility Plan, 9/2012) is that there isn’t enough room for the East Link cars at SODO. Once all the cars for the University, & Northgate extensions are acquired (102 vehicles total), SODO will will be just shy of capacity (104). Lynnwood, Overlake and Kent/Des Moines adds an additional 78 vehicles bringing the total to 180. So an additional facility will need to be online by 2023.

  10. I still vote that we kick the buses out now. What a colossal operational failure every weekday.

    1. Let’s please not turn this into an operational failure on 3rd Ave, before Metro and ST grow the political backbone to incentivize ORCA use and ban cash payment downtown, with ticket machines at every bus stop.

      1. Still can’t figure why KC or ST haven’t installed those Parkeon TVM’s everywhere like Community Transit did for SWIFT, Seattle on the S.L.U.T., or real BRT anywhere else. They take cash or credit, print out a 2-hour tickets with a big time stamp on them, and no more paper transfers or onboard payment. It makes so much sense and would help our transit network so much. Especially RapidRide.

        Though, most people I see downtown use ORCA passes and it still takes forever. People fiddle with their wallets, or dig in their purses to find the card while blocking the door, which takes time. And people taking RapidRide (been witnessing this at outlying stations on 15th, so I’d imagine it will happen downtown too) still tap their cards at the front door instead of utilizing the off-board reader at the station and boarding at another door. Then there’s the runner. Always the runner. And always the polite bus driver who lets them on even though the bus is already several minutes late and the light is seconds away from going red.

      2. 3rd Ave is already an operational failure. 2nd Ave needs to become transit-only as well for relief of 3rd and the buses getting kicked out.

      3. No more bus-only streets! They turn the entire sidewalk into a waiting area that is hostile to people actually trying to enjoy the neighborhood.

      4. I think 3rd Ave sucks for reasons that are entirely unrelated to the fact that it’s reserved for buses. Rather, I think the problem dates to the cut-and-cover construction of the DSTT, during which a lot of businesses left, and few came back.

      5. 3rd Avenue’s suckiness definitely has to do with the heavy volume of buses that use it, but adding cars wouldn’t change that. Many of the sidewalks are pedestrian-unfriendly just because of the high volume of people waiting for buses. (It’s even worse because there are too many people who use the bus stops for purposes entirely unrelated to waiting for buses. I’m all in favor of a Giuliani-style security crackdown to at least reclaim the bus stops for bus riders.)

        The ROW is also a bit narrower than would be ideal for the street’s current use.

  11. Does the design of the proposed turnback at IDS preclude the construction of a center platform there?

    If so, are there other alternatives, such as a turnback at Pioneer Square Station?

  12. Would a center platform really need to be a full-on Spanish Solution? Particularly since it would be narrower than other platforms, it seems like it would make sense to allow exit from both sides of the train.

    1. I think the reference to the Spanish Solution is metaphorical.

      Passengers on the center platform would be moving in one direction: out the west doors of incoming trains, and in the east doors of outgoing trains. Beyond emergency exit features, clever crowd control devices could be used, such as partial fences, or even something as fancy as a new wall with doors that open only when an outbound train is sitting on the other side.

      I don’t think the existing elevators and escalators are set up well to handle spikes in transfers. I think a cement slab will handle these spikes with much lower maintenance cost over the long haul, with a positive impact on ridership and revenue. The difference between 5-minute transfers and 15-minute transfers is no small deal when we’re talking about what will be the only train-to-train transfer point in the entire Link system, and the huge numbers of riders that will be impacted.

      1. I dunno if we need the flow control devices, Brent… normal usage patterns will already control the use of the center platform. I’m kind of sympathetic to concerns about the center platform width; from the above photo, it looks like we might just be able to squeeze one in. Plus, if I’m coming from the North and I missed my stop at Pioneer Square, it would be nice to perform an across-the-platform transfer to a northbound train.

        I think the attached photo shows a perfect place to attach an emergency exit. It must not be a regular exit for crowd control _and_ POP perimeter reasons.

      2. I’m not sympathetic to “concerns about width”. The space between the yellow lines would be nearly two vehicles wide.

        We need to stop coddling the Great Western Overbuild Impulse.

      3. d.p., you need to learn that it’s okay for standards to change based on a hundred years of learning how people behave and circulate in train stations. Just because people use something—even if it’s a lot of people—doesn’t mean it’s the right solution.

      4. If “changing standards” result in stations that are three times harder to access, and that cost so much that you build them too far apart and the line becomes useless, and that make you the most expensive country in the world in which to build infrastructure, resulting in streetcars where grade separation was needed…
        then your “changing standards” are objectively destructive.

        For another stellar example, see: “We can’t build good mid-rise buildings anymore, so let’s build a bunch of crap.”

        No, I don’t accept the decline of quality of life as “progress”.

        The rest of the first world has managed to make quality results comport with “standards”; I don’t accept that we can only be stupid and unreasonable.

      5. And anyway, most everything Sound Transit does demonstrates a pathological dismissal of 120 years of transit precedent — the exact opposite of the “observe and refine” model you suggest.

  13. Response from ST board member and Seattle CIty Councilmember Richard Conlin, in response to an email I sent 2 hours ago to, regarding the lack of planning for a center platform and the timing of construction:

    “That is a really good point. I will raise the question, if it has not been answered as yet. My first reaction is that the specific design is just conceptual at this point, so there is a lot of flexibility, but even the concept lays down some markers that could be problematic, so we need to check this.”

    Although I have not been a supporter of Conlin, I will say that he responds to my emails more so than any other council member. As demonstrated during the pedestrian-bridge-vs.-parking-at-Northgate debate, he does his due diligence as a board member.

    1. Yay!

      A third, center platform just makes so much sense at IDS. It really looks like a (relatively) cheap opportunity to improve service and increase station capacity when East Link opens. I’m glad someone is willing to look into it.

    1. 16 extra minutes (8 minutes each direction) for every single movement between the East Link line and the OMF will add up very quickly in terms of operational costs.

      1. @David L: But just how many movements from East Link to the OMF are needed? Can the scheduled one’s be done as revenue trains reversing at Northgate and stopping/starting short at SODO during the peak shoulder? Is it perhaps less than 3% of East Link trains?

      2. That would work for a few trips but not most of them. Most Link service is all-day, and would be heading out first thing in the morning and coming back either after PM peak or late at night. All the trains that will begin or end at Overlake will need to deadhead from or to the OMF (assuming, as seems reasonable, that this is foreshadowing a second OMF in Lynnwood). Running them in service to or from Northgate first would waste a very large number of service hours at 3 or 4 in the morning.

      3. David, it sounds like you’re implying every Link train would need to visit the SODO OMF. Why?

      4. If the second OMF is in Lynnwood, it will be most efficient to use Sodo-based trainsets for the East Link runs that originate or terminate in Bellevue. At least to date, Link trains all overnight at the OMF — there is no overnight parking of trains at stations.

        If the second OMF is in Bellevue, then operations without the IDS crossover would not be quite as painful. That’s why posters are seeing this news as a possible indication that the second OMF is most likely to be in Lynnwood.

      5. David,

        I think you are missing the other side of the equation: the lost dwell time for each and every train going through ID/CS due to using half as many doors as they could be using. That’s a lot more trains than the number going in and out of service for East Link, even before subtracting out the ones staying at the East O&MF yard. A few more minutes for deadheading trains vs. adding half a minute to every trip. Which is more expensive?

  14. is this the current plan for the junction between East and Central Link? (page 2 of the PDF)

    if so, getting a trainset from SODO OMF to EB East Link would just require a new set of switches connecting the current NB Central Link track to the current SB track just south of the IDS platforms. That track won’t be used any more if they build the new connection from NB Central LInk to NB East Link like the FEIS linked above shows.

    However, the problem is getting a trainset from WB East Link to the SODO OMF. The only place they can put this turnback track will be in the IDS station itself without building an expensive double-crossover (which may not even have room due to structural supports in the bus turn-around area). If the current Central Link track will no longer be used then it might be possible to re-arrange it so that you can connect the NB to the SB tracks … but that would seem to be quite costly and complicated.

  15. What’s going to happen to U-link during the 10 weeks of construction? If the entire line has to be shut down, or truncated at Capitol Hill, forcing everyone going downtown back on the 70 buses, only having to fight traffic at the exit ramps with the direct express lanes->tunnel connection, this is going to be truly awful.

    If we could get Link to serve at least Westlake Station during the closure, that would help matters immensely.

    1. The plan being proposed is to close the DSTT for this retrofit work 2 years before U-Link opens.

      1. Huh? The construction work is being planned for 2019, which is three years after U-Link is scheduled to open. It is two years before Northgate Link is scheduled to open.

        Presumably, they’ll do the full week closure sometime when UW is not in session.

      2. By the time this construction happens, U-link will have been open for three years. It would be a tremendous disruption of service if the entire line had to be shut down simply because the trains have no way to detour to the surface.

        Having shuttle trains run between UW, Captiol Hill and Westlake, while not ideal, would at least serve the bulk of the riders, although if the trains can’t even deadhead through the ID station to reach the SODO O&M facility, even this will probably not be able to happen.

        Which means a lot of train users are going to be shunted onto the same old buses we have today. And lots of new service hours are going to have to be found for U-district->captiol hill->downtown bus travel to make up for the loss of the train. Is this something where Sound Transit is expected to throw the bone at Metro and say “your problem”. Or is this something where Sound Transit is expected to pay for some extra runs on Metro routes as mitigation for their disruption of service.

        One interesting question I’ve been wondering about, though, is, if the closure is only at ID station, would buses still be able to use the staging area at Convention Place Station to travel to and from the I-5 express lanes? During the peak, this bus-only exit saves riders huge amounts of time by not having to wait in the line on cars getting off at the Stewart St. exit. it is not uncommon for a bus to take a good 10-15 minutes just to get one block from the Stewart St. exit ramp to the bus stop right after Denny Way.

    2. If I’m reading correctly, there will be 10 weekend closures and one week-long closure. Here’s my educated but uninformed guess about what will happen:

      Trains will run between Pioneer Square and UW Station, and between Stadium Station and the airport. Shuttle buses will run on the surface between Westlake and Stadium to take people to both stub trains. Trains will be pre-staged on the northern segment during the day Friday, and will stay there (without visiting the OMF) throughout the weekend (or the week, in case of the week-long closure). The most painful part of this will be commuter and early-evening travel to the south portion of the line on weekdays; the bus bridge will have trouble with the necessary capacity. Such is life with bus bridges, though, and they are used in other systems all the time.

    3. The 71/72/73X will probably not be deleted until 2021, because of congestion on Pacific Street, lack of abundant layover space at UW station, and significantly higher travel time. But they will likely be thinned out (perhaps by half) as some riders switch to Link. So Metro would just have to restore the current number of buses. (Plus a few more if the population grows and ridership increases as expected.) But that’s all for just one week. Weekends, Eastlake Avenue and Stewart Street are not congested, so I doubt there will be much difference other than adding back a few buses (or just forcing riders to suck it). On Capitol Hil of course, it would just be a matter of re-adding service on whatever the 43 and 49 become. (Or letting it be overcrowded weekends.)

      This may have a silver lining, if Link turns out to be much better service and increases ridership as we expect. It will give people a short reminder of how much transit used to suck, and they’ll be thankful they supported ST2.

      1. It appears I may have misread the effect. I was under the impression that the tunnel would be closed for 10 full weeks, including 50 weekdays during those 10 weeks. 10 weekends is bad, but not nearly that bad.

        Of course, the issue still remains that during the closure period, trains won’t even be able to serve U-District->Capitol Hill->Westlake if they can’t get there due to the lack of a deadhead route from the O&M facility. Hopefully, the construction will still be able to accommodate a few deadhead trains through the ID station each day, so they don’t have to shut down the entire line.

        Running trains to Pioneer Square during the closure leaves the problem that they would have to turn around somewhere. The turnaround area south of ID station would be right in the middle of the work zone, which leaves the turnaround area north of Westlake Station. Doable, but running single track between Westlake and Pioneer Square Station would result in a big hit to the frequency of the line. You could probably do 15 minutes if the train had the tunnel entirely to itself, with no buses to slow it down, and had zero layover downtown, but I don’t think would be physically possible to get 10 or 7.5 minute headways this way.

      2. @asdf: So run four car trains. Even fifteen minute headways would likely be worthwhile, particularly if you scheduled the work to (as much as possible) correspond with UW and SCCC breaks.

        Or do the work in the week between Christmas and New Year.

      3. For service between Pioneer Square and UW Station during the shutdown, they could just run two single-track shuttle trains between them. If the ID station area was outside the workzone, maybe it could be included in the shuttle routes. They would then only have to have a bus bridge between ID station and Stadium station.

  16. For some reason I thought the buses were going to be removed after U Link started operations in 2016..

  17. Can someone please explain what the problem is with routing East Link trains into and out of the SODO OMF using the existing switches and crossovers? See

    As for the center platform at ID/Chinatown Station, it can have the ADA elevator at one end and a stairway at the other end. Since it is designed and marketed as a Transfer Platform, it doesn’t need escalators. There’s a straightforward way to do this, but count on management (who don’t ride the system except for photo-ops) to complicate it to death.

    1. Nevermind on that first one. Brainfart. My birthday is same as Mark Dublin’s — it must be catching.

    2. East Link is going to follow the current “bus lanes” on I-90, which are substantially to the north of that. The current plan is that they will swing down heading northward and not heading southward (so, they’ll follow the ramp under “Interstate 90 Express”). A southbound curve could be added (near the onramp from “Edgar Martinez Drive) but it would be a complex bridge and it’s probably easier to add a reversing siding.

      1. If the reversing siding would take up the same space as the center platform, move the reversing siding one station down the line to Pioneer Square. (The reversing siding can be anywhere, whereas the center platform really belongs at IDS)

  18. I just got back from a week beyond cell phone range and saw this post – this is very good news indeed.

    Of course nothing precludes ST from removing the buses earlier, and they could either remove all or some of the buses in 2016 when Husky-Link opens. My guess is that they will remove some of them at that time to improve schedule reliability, but will probably keep most of the Eastside buses in the tunnel for mainly political reasons.

    Per the turnback, as the IDS will be the major transfer point between East Link and all of Central Link south of DT Seattle, I think it makes sense just to add a center platform to the existing platforms and move IDS station to an “all doors available” situation.

    BTW: if Metro had half a brain back in the 80’s when they designed the DSTT they could have gone with all center platforms for the entire tunnel and skipped the outside platforms entirely. All they would have had to do was switch the driving directions at either end of the tunnel (i.e., run NB buses in what are today’s SB lanes and vice versa). It would have saved on excavation costs, saved on stair/escalator costs, eliminated the safety issue of people darting across the tracks, and set the tunnel up for eventual rail conversion. And they wouldn’t need special buses.

    1. How is moving the buses out of the tunnel going to improve their schedule reliability? In my experience it hasn’t helped the 212, and according to my co-workers it hasn’t done much for the Northbound busses that got moved out either. Nor has it done much for their safety.

      My recollection of tunnel bus operations in the past is that the center lanes were used for passing. Am I misremembering?

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