Photo by Matthew Johnson

As the picture at right shows, Sound Transit recently erected new signs to indicate where 4-car (and 3-car) trains should stop. That reminded me of a question that had always bugged me: why do 2-car trains stop in the middle of the platform at all stations, when several stations (Stadium, Sodo, Rainier Beach) have only one exit, at one end of the platform?

The extra 90ft isn’t a huge problem, but it does mean a bit more running and some missed walk signals, perhaps more if you’re not the type to run.

As it turns out, there’s a reasonable explanation for it. Bruce Gray of Sound Transit: “Essentially, we agreed to stop the trains in the center of the platforms at all stations after consulting with the special needs community – keep it consistent across all the stations to help remove guesswork of where to board.”

That early design decision drove the placement of the tactile strips and various train control sensors, so it’s not an easily reversible policy.

20 Replies to “Why Stop in the Middle?”

    1. Turn Seattle back into a place where you can get a full sized (850 sq. ft.) apartment for under $1000 and I’d gladly squeeze back in.

      But then again, meeting Syndicate crooks halfway is a Fool’s Paradise.

    2. Hey, that’s my goal too. Rent increases need to not only be stopped, but rolled back to get back into balance with the median income. (And “median” should include people who get priced out of the city and move to the suburbs. If you count only current city residents, it looks like median income is rising and people are getting healthy raises and can afford higher rents, but it really means high-income people are moving into the city and low-income people are moving out.)

  1. I always use the grooved areas on the platform to wait for the train so that I know that the door will open right where I’m standing. Especially important when waiting for a southbound train at Westlake between 5 and 5:30pm and you want to be sure to get a seat.

  2. I like the center boarding for several reasons:

    – Many stations have entrances on both ends so this splits the difference for walk access.
    – The shelters don’t cover the full platform (another one of those user unfriendly design elements that doesn’t really cost much to have done differently) and they are centered on the platform, so waiting under a shelter and out of the rain or sun is the most natural thing to do.
    – The signs indicating where to stop the front car (those round rail icons that don’t say where the train is headed, unlike Metro’s signs in the DSTT) also give an indication where the back of the last train car will stop going in the opposite direction.

  3. Doesn’t matter much to me as long as the doors open in a consistent spot. It’s like a cheat code for us regulars.

    1. We could even paint lines to encourage queueing. (I can’t tell if queueing is not in the spirit of Seattle or if resources haven’t been constrained enough to require it.)

  4. Interesting – since I’m DSTT centric, I thought it was to prevent LR users from clustering together with the bus users.

    1. Rail riders will never cluster with ordinary bus riders. The sooner they leave, the better they say.

      1. I usually book it straight down to the 41 stop myself. I want a good seat ;-)

  5. Of course stopping in the middle makes perfect sense when you walk down one flight of stairs to the underground pedestrian walkway connecting tracks. Many stations have a mini-mall of shops and services under the tracks too No, I’m not talking about Seattle, but it could be any number of European cities. Walks to the very end of the platform to exit the station are rare except where all the lines terminate in the station itself.

    1. Wish we had concessions… or even vending machines in the stations. Restrooms would be nice too.

  6. Forget where the train stops!

    The turquoise and white steel lollipops marking location for the train’s front end- alongside the driver’s right hand window, I believe- are an active menace. Would bet that a check of the records would show more than once incident of a passenger running along the platform watching the train alongside, and run headlong into the post.

    I’m also fairly certain that LINK drivers themselves worked out a system of marks on the vertical platform edge to the driver’s left- visible by drivers and passengers both, and posing no danger whatsoever.

    If Sound Transit can’t spare a workman with a socket wrench and another one with a paintbrush to paint the two new marks- is that giant hardware store still on the corner of Rainier and McClellan- a two minute walk from Mt. Baker Station?

    Just askin’. Meantime: Mic, go get the brush, the paint, and the wrench. You’ll be rewarded with a guaranteed place beside rail passengers. Who’ll be glad to tie a rope to the rail for you to slide down to get your though getting to your bus might make you install a fire pole – until the Route 7 becomes a streetcar.


  7. The main issue is that if a two-car train stops in front, then a bus or two could stop behind it simultaneously, and that would increase DSTT capacity and decrease delays. But it’s a temporary issue because four-car trains will probably be standard by 2021.

  8. For stations which only have a single entrance at one end, like Stadium, Sodo & Rainier Beach, this was purely and simply a design error. It would have been entirely possible and easy to put the tactile markings at the end of the station near the entrance/exit, and short trains would stop there while longer trains extend further. This sort of thing is done on systems around the world. Sometimes also at stations with multiple entrances but with one more dominant one or one that is closer to transfer connections.

    It may be expensive to change now, but it wasn’t initially designed in the manner that is sensitive toward rider convenience. And why would that be a surprise given how bad most of the bus transfer conditions are at our light rail stations including those still under construction.

    1. Some of us would be tempted to say that a station with access at one end only is inherently a design flaw.

  9. makes perfect sense to me … no matter if 1, 2, 3, or 4 cars long there will always be a car stopping at the same place so one knows where to wait if they are unfamiliar with the system.

  10. I wouldn’t really care where the train stops if the DSTT had Orca card readers closer to the stairs or escalators. If you’re traveling from Westlake to Pioneer Square you don’t really care if it’s a bus or train you’re on. So, you have to guess at the platform whether to wait in the middle or at one of the bus bays. Do you tap in the mezzanine and wait for a train, wait for a frequent bus like the 70’s or split the difference and run from a bus Bay to the Orca reader in the center platform? Seems inefficient.

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