The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel will be closed for the next two weekends (May 30-31 and June 6-7) to allow further preparatory work for U-Link. Per Bruce Gray at Sound Transit:

Similar to what we did in the Beacon Hill tunnels in March, we’re testing the newly upgraded fire/life/safety and train control systems in the DSTT over the weekend of the 30-31. The following weekend, if all goes well, we will make the final switchover from the old to the new systems in the DSTT and integrate with U-Link ventilation control. Finishing this upgrade is an important step towards connecting all tunnel systems later this summer and being ready for more intense testing scheduled through the fall.

Route 97 will pick up Link riders at Stadium Station, and take them downtown.
Route 97 will pick up Link riders at Stadium Station, and take them downtown.

Link Light Rail will only run between Stadium Station and SeaTac Airport Station, and will serve all stations in between. A free shuttle (route 97), as well as regular routes 101, 106, 124 and 150, will serve the bus stops closest to Stadium Station and SODO Station. All the tunnel buses except route 255 will run on 2nd and 4th Ave through downtown. Route 255 will run on 4th and 5th Ave. Route 97 will run on 3rd Ave. A full list of stop locations for the re-routed tunnel buses is here.

The Mariners will be playing here both of these Saturdays and Sundays. The Sounders will be hosting the New York Red Bulls at 2 pm on May 31. Three-car Link trains will be running all day on the 31st. Sounder will be serving the simultaneous Sounders and Mariners games on May 31, and the Mariners’ game on June 7.

33 Replies to “Transit Tunnel Closed Next Two Weekends”

  1. Does this represent complete SCADA cutover? Or is that yet to come?

    Because SCADA cutover is huge milestone on the way to opening U-Link and/or setting the timetable for doing so…

    1. Also, if any of the editors of STB are attending the CHS media event today, could you please ask someone from ST about the SCADA cutover? Is this it? And/or when is it scheduled?

    2. From Bruce Gray at ST:

      “This weekend we’re running a bunch of drills and tests on the new system. If all goes we’ll, next weekend we cut over to the new upgraded system and the entire line is running on the new back end.”

      1. Interesting… Why would they have to introduce a new signaling system, rather than just adding blocks to the old? Have they built this new one to allow for further expansion, or will they need to shut down the whole line every time a new expansion opens?

  2. Can’t criticize ST’s choice of priorities here. Would be good if relative funding of transit vs. professional sports permanently trended same direction.

    But I see an undeserved hardship for one critical segment of transit’s passenger market next weekend: passengers outbound from Sea-Tac Airport.

    Critical because of number of them who could be one transit-related inconvenience away from permanent shift to Lyft.

    At least through max crush load times, it could be worth expense to send three or four runs an hour three stops Downtown, one for each hotel area, and then straight to the airport and back.

    Time these are needed will limit number of extra runs necessary. Consider them excellent use of transit’s marketing budget.

    But whatever the plan for the closures, heads ought to roll down a long high string of staircases if detailed advance notice doesn’t show up on every pertinent website in bright red bolded and italicized.

    Also posted in every relevant hotel lobby, with staff totally clued in. And diligently drilled between the ears of everyone in a driver’s seat and our entire security contingent.

    Because if next weekend is handled per standard of previous similar events, consists longer than one car may not be necessary from here on.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Mark – Did you miss something? There’s no bus to the airport; Link is running as normal from Stadium south. I think that one bus route from Stadium through downtown is enough.

      1. Mark makes an excellent point. As a tourist or traveler, if I noticed that PART of the light rail was down and there wasn’t a direct route to somewhere walking distance to my hotel, I’d be likely to just call a cab. I don’t think I would take the time to figure out what Lyft or Uber were, nor would I bother with Shuttle Express if that even exist anymore. I’d notice that the city has issues keeping their only light rail online, figure it’s typical of their transit network, and go with the easier route of calling a taxi. When you compare it to the cost of the airfare to get here, it’s peanuts. I’ve had my fair share of transit trips gone wrong both here and in other cities and would just do what is easiest during my travels.

        Also, I just input the airport to Westlake into the trip planner on Sound Transit’s own website with a departure of 11:40 am on May 30, and it still shows a one-seat ride from the airport to Westlake, nothing about the transit tunnel closed or transferring to some goofy shuttle or anything like that. It’s less than a week away and ST hasn’t updated their fricking website. Nice job, folks. Expect confused travelers!

      2. @Engineer,

        Googling shows that Shuttle Express still exists, and indeed has a true “shared ride” option, making it very competitive with taxis, for-hires, and “rideshare”.

        ST’s front page does indeed warn that Link is not operating downtown, but leaves ambiguous what is happening with bus service. A little more detail about ST Express 550 re-routes would help avoid some surprises.

        If you are arguing that the tunnel should never close for this sort of safety equipment upgrade, I will simply have to disagree. It has to be done. The only thing to debate is when. There will be more closures before U-Link opens. Should they be on weekdays?

      3. This is one thing that TriMet does close to right. When you put in something in the trip planner and there is an alert impacting the route, the alert shows up on the trip planner results.

        Alerts also show up on the Twitter feed, the newer style arrival time boards at busy stops and stations, and on the best of the cell phone apps that use the trip planner and stop arrival times also show alerts impacting routes.

        Sadly, they still get the dated instructions wrong. Asking it to go from Gateway to the Oregon Convention Center will still tell you to get off at the Oregon Convention Center station, even though the alert on the next line tells you the stop is closed.

        Maybe there is just no way to schedule trip planner results?

      4. William- How close have you ever come to missing an international flight? With how many suitcases? And how little accurate posted information, or anybody on earth, let alone around the station- to ask for directions?

        And if you did, how long would it be before you ever used any public transit to make an airline trip ever again?

        In this country, for a good many years to come, our transit industry will still be fighting for its life, after a coma of about fifty years. Meaning a customer public who, if it’s ever heard anything about transit, none of it good.

        Over same years, all public service has been scolded for not being both profit-oriented and private. So I’d like to see transit take the corporate world at its word.

        By showing people running everything from publicly-assisted sports teams to Federally-rescued mortage banks how to: “Run It Like A Business!!!”

        What am I missing here? Besides a future flight I’d better not.


      5. Mark, I agree there should be extensive information about the closure and the exact location to catch the bus, repeated, posted on every square foot of every building front anywhere close to downtown if that’s what’s needed. What I’m objecting to is your insistence there should be a one-seat express bus to the airport. A transfer to an ultra-frequent bus at Stadium Station is sufficient.

      6. Shuttle Express charges a fare that is about the same as Uber/Lyft, but for a trip that could easily take 2-3 times as long, depending on how unlucky you are. Which, effectively means not very competitive.

        For anyone trying to get to the airport from anywhere in Seattle north of downtown, the best time/money tradeoff is probably to Lyft/Uber or Car2Go to a Link Station that has service, and not bother with the local bus to downtown followed by the 97. Stadium Station may be ok if there’s no game going on, but if there is a game, catching the train at SODO or Beacon Hill Station may be better.

      7. People use trip planners? Seems like every time I try one, even for the simplest of things the results are impractical to use, usually resulting in backtracking, excessive transferring, or transfers that make no sense. Especially around the airport since no once can seem to figure out how to make good transfers around there.

      8. I’m coming back from a business trip to Atlanta this Friday night, so presumably I won’t be affected. But I have fairly limited internet access this week, and I wouldn’t have even thought to check for tunnel closures. There were no signs in the tunnel today (when I flew out), nor on the 74 I took to Westlake to transfer to Link.

        And it really pisses me off, because if I was affected and knew about the tunnel closure in advance, I’d get off Link at Mount Baker and take the 48. But if I was caught by surprise, I’d already be at the Stadium, get kicked off the train, and wouldn’t know exactly where to go to do Link–>shuttle–>71.

        So well done STB for doing Sound Transit and Metro’s job a lot better than they’re doing it!

      9. I’m sure there would be signs posted all over the train and the stations. If you’re on the train coming home from the airport, you would know to get off at Mt. Baker and catch the 48.

        (Whether the 48 can be trusted to actually leave Mt. Baker TC within 15 minutes of its scheduled departure, though, is another story).

    2. “Also posted in every relevant hotel lobby, with staff totally clued in.”

      There’s the big problem. In an ideal world, this is doable. But realistically speaking it’s quite tricky to pull off that level of coordination for 4 non-consecutive days of partial service outage. Catering to a few transit airport travelers (~2,000/day) doesn’t seem to be the best use of resources when tens of thousands of locals also need transit to serve them.

      A tourist isn’t likely to go through the hassle of figuring out some sort of Metro hotel/airport shuttle, rather opting for a cab or something less stressful. Perhaps the hotels should fill in a gap for the community and run a shuttle themselves. For locals departing SeaTac, we’d have an easier time figuring out the 97+Link or simply drive.

      1. ” In an ideal world, this is doable. But realistically speaking it’s quite tricky to pull off that level of coordination for 4 non-consecutive days of partial service outage. ”

        Seattle’s transit information problem could be fact that its world is probably in Planet Earth’s 99.99th percentile of ideality. Causing it to be same percentage something else starting with “id” and ending with “y”.

        By experience critical information gets progressively better the less ideal the world gets. Meaning the more life itself depends on getting facts right.

        [Off topic]

    3. Every subway system in the world has days off for maintenance. In New York they shift the trains to the express track or local track or a neighboring tunnel, but we don’t have neighboring tracks so it has to be shut down. ST is doing the right thing by providing a free 97 shuttle, although it may not be well used since locals will take the 101, 106, or 150 if they come first. I think ST will have people at the station entrances to direct people to the buses, or at least it has in the past. They’d better because I’d assume the buses were on 3rd, not 2nd, and even if I knew they were on 2nd I wouldn’t know which stop and would go to the wrong one, which has happened to me in the past when the buses were changed.

      As for visitors at downtown hotels, the hotels should be the ones responsible for informing their guests of current access changes. It only takes one sign in the lobby, and a hotel manager subscribed to ST’s email alerts.But I’m sure there are some hotels that barely know that transit exists and wouldn’t lift a finger. In any case, most hotel visitors take taxis or shuttles, and I’m not concerned if all of them do on maintenance days. What matters is what they do on regular days. They also won’t “switch to Uber for life” because they may not be in this city again for six months or a year.

      1. They should make ALL buses free from Stadium station through downtown…not just the 97.

      2. As a front desk agent at a SLU/LQA hotel, I try to keep the rest of the staff aware of closures like this. You’d be surprised how many people staying at hotels take Link and then utilize whatever hotel shuttle will pick them up at Westlake to take them to their final destination.

        (Also, it would be great to be able to just hand out ORCA cards to guests but that’s for a different post.)

  3. So….I’m still not sure of exactly when SCADA cutover will occur, but it has to be before this August because its being reported from today’s media event that in August all trains will continue north thru the entirety of U-Link. This is the shake-out period prior to opening U-Link for passenger service.

    U-Link will be a game changer, so if construction takes a few of these temporary service changes, then bring them on.

    1. OH, and yes, that is a 4-LRV train sitting at CHS. Apparently ST has been testing U-Link with a 4-LRV consist.

  4. As a hotel worker myself, when our guests find out that they have to take a bus shuttle to connect with Link, most of them opt for a cab for the sake of convenience. Unlike us transit nerds, the general public will pay a premium for catered and easy service rather than to save $40 for an extra 15-20 minute inconvenience.

    My real concern for these closures is how Metro/ST responds to them. The 97 shuttle often fills to standing room only once it leaves Westlake because of ridership and everyone’s luggage. With both the M’s and Sounders in town, I’m concerned that a mere bus won’t be enough to accommodate the overload of fans who (surprisingly) park in downtown and take the Link to the stadiums. The 97 must run every five minutes, maybe even less to meet the demand – and deal with stadium traffic. Most event goers and airport riders aren’t going to pay enough attention to take the 100’s.

    1. Metro will be monitoring ridership, and prepared to add extra service on various routes during peakloads (including on ST Express routes).

    2. >> the general public will pay a premium for catered and easy service rather than to save $40 for an extra 15-20 minute inconvenience.

      All the more reason that building a light rail line out to the airport as your first thing (or even part of your first thing) was silly. Chicago didn’t have a line out to O’Hare until the 80s. Yes, that’s right, the second biggest city in the USA and the biggest airport in the world (at the time) didn’t have a smooth connection between the two. Folks did what they do all over — they take shuttle buses or get dropped off. That’s why the excitement over the SeaTac station was misplaced. “Everyone will take the train to the airport.”. No, not they won’t. They will get dropped off or picked up, or arrange for a cab or limo service. I’m sure workers use it, and the occasional savvy traveler, but most people just pay a little extra and either consider it part of the vacation or just expense it.

      On the other hand, U-Link is a huge deal. “Everyone will take it from the UW to Capitol Hill”. Yeah, pretty much.

      1. “the second biggest city in the USA and the biggest airport in the world (at the time) didn’t have a smooth connection between the two”

        That’s not a reason to imitate their bad choice. To some people a train from the airport is a factor in whether they choose to visit, do business in, or live in a city. Because it gives a first impression of how much the city cares about non-car/taxi access in general. And the city and airport are competing with cities that do have a train to the airport, as more and more are doing. SFO didn’t have a train to the airport for years, so Oakland airport with its BART shuttle was preferred by many transit fans and backpackers. Then SFO did get a frequent train to the airport and joined the first world.

        Of course, a good BRT line could also compare. The 194 wasn’t that; it was subject to traffic, dropped off to half hourly, and stopped running entirely at 9:30pm.

    3. And Saturday I took Link from TIB to Beacon Hill, and was struck again as I’ve been repeatedly that 3/4 of the seats were already occupied (this coming from SeaTac), and few people got on or off before I did. That reflects what I’ve seen countless times going all the way from Westlake to TIB or SeaTac: a large crowd gets on at Westlake and doesn’t get off until SeaTac or TIB, more than the number of people getting on’/off at the Stadium-to-Rainier Beach stations. At peak the in-between stations collectively may surpass them, but not individually.

  5. I often use LINK and 574 to connect Seattle with my car parked at Tacoma Dome- unfortunately best adjustment to service realities between Tacoma and Olympia.

    So I repeatedly hear southbound passengers tell me that they wished somebody would have told them about LINK before they took a cab downtown. Word to both Sound Transit and the Port of Seattle that the public would appreciate an ST presence at the airport equivalent to what Portland MAX gets. Which our Port gets in the form of a few billion in transit.

    But every time I fly into another city, not only do I appreciate convenient ground transit, the closer to the jetway the better, but upon return home, tell everybody I can the results. Sometimes negative, but generally a lot more positive than here.

    I also think that a visitor’s general impression of Seattle as a destination can be seriously discolored by an experience like missing either a Route 97 because of an overload, or missing a flight because I missed the 97.

    This is what’s the matter with using ordinary local transit calculations to deal with service known in advance to be irregular. Lost goodwill and bad travel publicity will cost us much worse than some very temporary Airport express bus service.

    If critically reliable ride means no extra stops or transfers, still ink them to the black column of the marketing budget.


  6. Today’s Sound Transit news release about taking Sounder to this Sunday’s Mariners and Sounders games erroneously states, “Link runs every 10 minutes on Sunday and serves 13 stations in downtown Seattle, SODO, Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, Tukwila and SeaTac. Link’s Stadium and International District stations are a short walk from the stadiums.”

    1. What’s erroneous about that? There are 13 stations. Whether it implies “13 stations in downtown Seattle” is ambiguous; it could be read either way. Perhaps ST should have worded it more clearly, but I don’t see it any worse than “Thirty people took off their jackets.” Does that mean each person took off one jacket, or did each person take off thirty jackets?

      1. The error is that, this weekend, Link does not serve any stations in downtown Seattle. The press release should talk about the construction, rather than leaving fans to be surprised.

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