ST Link Snip

Just a reminder that there will be no Link service tomorrow (Saturday, 11/15), and the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel will also be closed. Sound Transit will be completing systems upgrades and testing necessary for ULink. For details on shuttle bus routes and other alternatives, see our original post or Sound Transit’s Alert Page.

28 Replies to “Reminder: No Link Service Tomorrow”

    1. Even better to start training Pierce, Community Transit, and Intercity Transit drivers to handle the Tunnel. One excuse removed re: 511-512. Will also show these people something about their trade they haven’t seen before- which in all ways everybody in this country needs right now.

      Most of all, will get some people thinking about what transit and its operators can do, rather than one more example of what we can’t. Starting with habit of working together with members of the union right next door.

      Mark Dublin

      1. (a) I’m not sure it would be a good use of other agencies’ training budgets to train their drivers for the tunnel, when buses are going to be kicked out of the tunnel relatively shortly anyway.

        (b) I’m not sure what this has to do with the topic at hand, since the tunnel is closed to buses as well today.

        (c) I’m not sure why you included Intercity Transit. They’re not part of Sound Transit, and only operate as far as Tacoma. Even post-extension, the 592 is all Pierce Transit operated.

    2. I was going to ask why I saw a 97A deadheading past Tacoma about half an hour ago, but you’ve beaten me too it. Curious why they’d have two different agencies do it, and why they’d have PT forced to deadhead to the airport.

      But I’m not sure what you mean by a rare opportunity… They’re the same coaches that run on the 577/8 and 590/2/4.

      1. For some reason* I (incorrectly) assumed that Pierce Transit would pull buses out of their general fleet to run Route 97A, but it actually makes a lot more sense that they would use the Sound Transit branded motorcoaches.

        *Every other time I’ve seen a Route 97 it’s been operated with buses from King County Metro’s general fleet, but now that I think about it, those routes were thrown together in a emergency situation.

      2. There were ST hired baggage handlers in front of Macy’s on Pine ‘twixt 4th and 3rd helping folks get their bags from the storage area of the bus, so one assumes the PT highway coaches were the best available vehicles with lots of baggage storage.

  1. I’m kind of surprised that they need to shut down the whole system for a full day more than a year out. It would seem they ought to be able to do a lot of the work overnight, esp Sat/Sun and Sun/Mon when there are 5-6 hour closures of the tunnel. Or at a minimum that they could have maintained Seatac-Stadium light rail service with connecting buses.

    It’s not like they are doing a cutover to an entirely different system this weekend. I’m sure that there will be some closures required for that. But they really ought to do as much installation and testing work during the overnight closures. Missing service for a day should be an absolute last resort.

      1. I’m still surprised at the slow pace of getting link expanded in Seattle. Construction on ULink has been going on since 2009, and we are still over a year away from opening. Even though the tunnel traverses some of the densest areas of seattle, seven years for a few miles of track and only two stations seems like an awful long time. It’s definitely moving along at a snail’s pace. I just hope they don’t run into any delays, like the first hill streetecar.

      2. The slow pace of Link planning and construction in general is pretty frustrating. ST3 projects in Seattle proper probably won’t be built until the 2030s.

        At least Lynnwood Link is planned to go from construction to completion i just 5 years.

      3. I do wonder if the length of time it takes to build grade-separated rail creates bad political incentives, or at least weakens the incentives for politicians to support well-designed subways. When the planning/approval/design/build cycle for a subway line can easily take 15 or more years, few politicians can count on being in office long enough to see a project through from conception to completion and reap the political support they should get for expanding effective transit.

        Conversely, I wonder if this accounts for some of the support streetcars get from politicians- even if they’re slower, less frequent, and lower capacity than a subway, they’re also substantially cheaper, more immediately visible, and much faster to build- the tax bite is less and the gratification is more immediate.

      4. much faster to build

        In theory… but how long did it take for our only currently-running streetcar line to get built? And how long has the First Hill Streetcrawler been under construction?

      5. Well, the FHSC should open less than 7 years after the ST2 vote, and about 3 years after construction began- that’s not speedy, but it’ll take another 6 years before the Northgate Link extension is scheduled to open.

        It looks like the SLUT was first proposed in 2002, construction started in 2006, and it opened in 2007, so about 5 years from proposal to opening.

        If I was transit dictator of Seattle, I wouldn’t have built either project, at least in their current form, but I can understand why they’d appeal to politicians operating on a 4 years electoral cycle.

      6. If Sound Transit had all of the money needed to build its projects up front the timeline could be sped up a bit. That said, given the complexity of the projects it takes time to go thorough environmental review, final design, construction, and testing.

      7. WS-DOT seems to build highway projects a lot faster than ST is able to build transit projects. And lack of funding hasn’t seemed to stop projects like the SR-520 bridge. Isn’t East Link still like 8 or 9 years away. How crazy is that.

      8. I also would really really like to know why highways can get banged out so quickly but Link is taking forever.

        I’ve heard the issue with the funding coming in incrementally instead of a lump sum, but with how long Link is taking it just feels a bit extreme.

        How about somebody in the know write a nice summary blog post here?

  2. Thanks for reminding me not to tease, Kacie- infuriating family habit of messing with people’s minds when we really, really like them.

    But as everybody who’s read the Seattle Transit Blog the last several years will tell you with a barrel-roll of their eyes, their laptop is going into the dumpster if I’m allowed to comment on the damn tunnel one more time.

    I was among the union members on the advisory group that helped the engineers design the Tunnel thirty years ago- a part-time driver of a year’s seniority who had always loved electric transit and could finally drive a trolley buses.

    Brand new ones, sixty feet long- only work-tools I ever felt like I really belonged using. But died-and-gone-to-Heaven best- part of a project just gearing up to start building a transit system for the whole region. Including King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties- in a region just beginning to explode. Whose eventual limits no nobody knew for sure.

    Whose first fleet were to be the buses I’d just gotten my hands on, except able to run freeways at 60 on diesel, and trolley through the Tunnel on the same run. In a system designed to develop steadily and smoothly from the bus line we had to the electric railroad we knew we were going to need.

    Looking back, huge number of lessons on what not to do on all fronts. But for me, first lesson was that three years building a subway fifteen years running it with buses, and maybe ten years’ joint operations beat the previous thirty years of arguing, wishing, and whining all hollow.

    And the main one still an open, ongoing question: is there such a thing as regional system designed not to “work” but to be operated by a crew of skilled, trained, and well-led individual workers? So for the serious answers you own questions deserve:

    a) As an exercise in confidence-building, skill-proficiency, and operating team-work, training budget of any bus line in the world has seen a lot less worthwhile cost items. Our marketing budget could profitably help with the cost. But too bad Tunnel buses don’t have trolley poles anymore.

    b) This isn’t the first time we’ve had to make surface buses cover rail disruptions, subway and underground. Usually less warning. Will happen many times again, so best every division have every possible training opportunity.

    c) Terrain, economics, and years of satellite photographs indicate that our region’s limits will soon be the southern suburbs of Portland and the northern ones of Vancouver BC. And likely the eastern foothills of the Olympics and the west slope of Snoqualmie Pass.

    At 6AM, I-5 is a permanent traffic jam past Olympia to Tacoma, flowing into the usual one to Seattle. To the north, one fender bender and a rainstorm can make it faster to walk in from Everett than drive. Living, working, learning, shopping- for years now we live our lives regionally.

    For decades since BART opened, San Francisco MUNI drivers have lived in Oakland and Richmond. Same soon for KC Metro drivers, bus, streetcar and LINK. Recommend you drive transit for awhile. Great view through both windshield and mirrors.


  3. I caught a 72 on Eastlake earlier today, and I thought it would make the normal routing for a Sunday, what with the tunnel being closed. But it went down 2nd Avenue. Why in the world wouldn’t the route be to turn down 3rd Avenue, as the 7x’s do on Sundays? I got off on the North side of Macy’s, and walked over to the big bus stop southbound at 3rd and Pine, where I expected the bus to stop, but no.

    1. What? The tunnel hasn’t been closed on Sundays since Link started running in it. All non-tunnel service on the 71-73 travels south on 2nd when southbound into downtown.

    2. I couldn’t help but noticing that the 71 bus I was on got into downtown faster with the tunnel closed than it usually does with the tunnel open.

    3. I’m guessing Metro reworked the tunnel closed plan a while ago and decided to put the tunnel buses on 2nd/4th because there is more capacity there, especially if they have to go to a surface operation at peak.

  4. Re: Pace of transit construction: Seattle is probably the most right-of-way deprived city in North America. Virtually everyplace else is wider and flatter. Also, just about everybody else inherited a fortune in existing abandoned or for-sale rail spurs- going exactly where transit needed.

    Arguable, though, that Seattle and environs should have pushed harder for some above-ground corridor space we might have gotten with some effort. Two instances:

    1. A southbound bus lane from Northgate to Convention Place. Busy pm rush takes hit in both directions, since northbound schedules are delayed out of Seattle because buses deadheading in from Lynnwood are stuck in traffic. Not very many miles- though it would involve modifying existing structures. And worse- maybe taking lane from car traffic.

    2. The HOV center lanes on I-90, which could have been put to 2-way transit years ago- really just advancing the light rail project by a decade or two by fixing it so all that would be needed would have been to add the tracks and trains.

    And behind it all, considering the lack of natural or easily obtained right of way, we’re only now starting to get enough population to create both the ridership figures to justify and the taxes to build the transit we now need.

    And will now probably get, now that there’s no longer either doubt or choice about the need.


  5. I thought Metro’s operation of the surface routes today was pathetic and unacceptable.

    The 71X NB that I wanted at around 1740, never came. Then on the way home at 1923 the 70-series at University Way and 41st had spacing of:
    71: Departed 2 minutes ago, and was 4 minutes delayed
    72: Arr in 39 minutes, 31 minutes delayed.
    71: Arr in 68 minutes, 45 minutes delayed.

    (The OBA screen cap: )

    I’d cut Metro some slack if this was an unexpected surface operation because of an issue in the tunnel, but they knew this was going to happen, so there is simply no excuse.

    I gave up on Metro and used the $10 of Flywheel credit I had to get home.

    1. It’s possible that the buses were actually running on time, and that the tunnel being closed simply caused OneBusAway to get confused.

      Nevertheless, I don’t blame you in the least for coughing up a few bucks to avoid finding out the hard way.

      1. Yeah, I’d be curious how the GPS implementation should handle this. In theory once the bus finds its way back to its route, the on time information should correct itself.

  6. I took a 49 downtown at 4pm. The driver announced that the tunnel was closed, trains were running from Stadium, southbound buses were on 2nd, northbound buses were on 3rd or 4th, these men at the station could tell you where your bus is, and she wished Metro had given drivers a better list of where the routes would be… “maybe next time:. I aked her loudly, “I thought the trains weren’t running today.” She said they were. Since it was possible she might be right, I didn’t say more. She also complained that Metro didn’t give drivers a good list of where the routes would be, “hopefully next time:”.

    There was a line of cars down Pine Street like a traffic jam. I don’t know if it was because of the tunnel closure or something else, but it’s worth looking into. I got off the bus at 5th in case it got stuck going to 3rd.

    At 2nd & Union I saw two 97A’s one right after the other. The first one was empty; the second had three people. That could mean low ridership, or it could mean a third bus was right ahead of them.

  7. I was hoping the upgrade would include an eta of the next train displayed. The announcements of “next train arriving in .. two minutes” seem to be hit and miss as to if its announced or not.

    At Rainier Beach they need to recalibrate this, because when it does work its wrong, and also “train now arriving” you’d think means you’ll see the train coming around the corner, not showing up a minute later.

    At least Rainier Beach northbound shows the amount of time since the last train, from that you can get an idea of when the next one might make an appearance.

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