4-Car Train at Capitol Hill Station (Sound Transit – Flickr)
4-Car Train at Capitol Hill Station (Sound Transit – Flickr)

While we wait for ULink’s opening date to be formally announced, I thought it’d be good to share ULink’s weekday schedule so riders can start planning their new trips for late March and beyond.

Though the official schedule hasn’t been published, Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray confirmed that there will be no new net service to existing stations, as ULink will extend service to Capitol Hill and UW using the same frequency and span of service Link currently offers. This allows us to extrapolate ULink’s full schedule from the existing one (see Excel file here for the full schedule). With the Sodo base being the only Operations and Maintenance (O&M) facility until 2023, much of the same schedule dynamics will likely endure until East Link opens.

The first 3 southbound trains will still originate in Beacon Hill, with the first train of the day (4:22am) remaining a ‘sweeper’ train limited to 25mph. The first UW to SeaTac train will depart UW at 4:49am.

The first 4 northbound trains will originate in Sodo and run every 12 minutes to UW between 4:48-5:24am, with the first SeaTac to UW train departing SeaTac at 5:04 and arriving at UW at 5:50am.

The duration of 6-minute peak service will vary depending on the station, as peak service will start earlier in the southbound direction and end later in the northbound direction. For example, riders at UW or Capitol Hill headed Downtown will see 6-minute service from roughly 6:00-8:30am and 3:00-6:30pm, whereas riders headed from Downtown to Capitol Hill or UW will see 6-minute service from 6:00-9:30am and 4:00-7:30pm, respectively. Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley riders headed to the airport will continue to have a frequency bonus afforded by being near the O&M facility, with 6-minute service starting at 5:30am.

The last trains of the day will be 12:34am from UW to SeaTac, and 12:04 from SeaTac to UW. The last 3 northbound trains will continue to terminate at Beacon Hill.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 10.22.37 PM

Assuming planned bus routes keep their same frequency and span, once Capitol Hill Station is closed Route 49 will continue running every half hour until 2am, while Route 10 will run one or two additional trips beyond Link’s closing time. Once UW Station is closed, the only access to either Downtown or Capitol Hill will be for riders to walk to 15th Avenue NE to catch Route 49, whereas current Route 43 runs at least every half hour until 2:30am (though primarily because trolley coaches are deadheading in service back to base). In fact, many of those coaches will likely still be deadheading to base as Route 44 along the Route 43 pathway, and it may be worth exploring running those routes in service to continue late-night service between Montlake and Capitol Hill, as the marginal cost of doing so is very low.

It will remain to be seen how other connecting routes at UW Station will be handled for first and last trains, but hopefully major routes replacing the 70-series will have timed connections that afford riders at least the same span of service they enjoy today.

108 Replies to “ULink’s Weekday Schedule”

  1. Logistical question: according to the above timetable, from 8:19-9:20 AM, 6 trains will leave UW, but 10 will arrive there. What happens to the extra four trains? How many trains does UW station have room to store?

    Substantive question: Can’t we please get some service until at least bar closing time? FFS.

    1. Good question. I assume that (1. the extra trains will either run out of service, (2. I made a transcription error, or (3. Sound Transit is planning but has not yet announced that those extra trains will run as far as Sodo in service?

      1. Under the current schedule, I believe trains headed to the SODO maintenance in the middle of the service day (as service switches from 6 minutes to 10 or 10 minutes to 15) do so out of service. This avoids the hassle of kicking everybody off at Beacon Hill Station to wait for the next train, which is probably coming very soon anyway. Only after all the regular runs have completed (e.g. when there is no “next train”) do partial trips exist from the airport to Beacon Hill. Even then, I think there are still at least a couple trains late at night that go from SeaTac to SODO out of service (presumably to allow the security guard to close up Beacon Hill Station a few minutes earlier).

    2. I agree. It seems like a major oversight not to run between downtown and the U until after last call, at least on the weekends.

      1. I asked Metro planners about this at the STB meetup in Pioneer Square (last fall?). They said ST could extend the DSTT’s opening hours any time, but they would have to pay for the security then. That seems to be the hurdle now, and it doesn’t seem to be a large one, except for the fact that ST is saving all its pennies now to have more starting cash for ST3.

    3. Agreed on the late night trains. It’s a serious deterrent and annoyance for making plans downtown (or soon, Capitol Hill) if you can take the train there but not take it back (in my case, Othello). I usually revert to a Lyft, or brave the 7 from downtown.

  2. It’s really time to bit the bullet and extend the operating hours of the downtown transit tunnel so that Link can have a longer span of service. Having the first train of the morning from both UW and downtown arrive Seatac at 5:35am when there are scheduled flights departing during the 5am hour is really too late in the morning. Similarly, having final departures from UW and Seatac at 12:34am and 12;04am is really too early at both ends when both are still active at those hours.

    In fact it might be most appropriate to do just run service all night on 30 minute headways during the overnight hours. Wouldn’t need a sweeper train or as many deadhead or truncated trains.

    And before someone says maintenance, there isn’t any evidence that there is much routine maintenance being done during overnight hours, and there are plenty of systems worldwide that run 24 hours. 30 minute headways would still allow quite a bit of routine maintenance to be done and could allow single track segments.too.

    1. I had the same exact thought. Do we have data on how much maintaince there is on Link in the evenings these days? Is it like a couple days a week or a couple days a month?

      If its multiple times a week I can see why it would be a hard problem to solve. But if we’re talking a couple times a month then you can just run a bus shuttle those days and then the other 28 days you can have good service.

    2. The 43 will be peak-only around when Capitol Hill station opens. The deadheading 44s may still pick up passengers although the operation plan wasn’t clear on that.

      The 12:36pm ending sucks when your flight is scheduled to arrive at 11:30 but it’s half an hour late, so by the time you get to the station the last train has just gone. Then you have to take the A one mile to TIB and wait sometimes half an hour or longer for the 124. Metro, please extend the 124 to the airport at night.

      Link should run until 2am on at least Fridays and Saturdays now that there will be a major nightlife center on it. But Metro has been gradually positioning the 49 to be Capitol Hill’s 24-hour route, and it does serve the U-District while University Link doesn’t quite yet.

      1. Bar service aside (I think even Phoenix runs Friday/Saturday trains until 2 or 2:30am), the lack of understanding of airport operations for a train that serves the airport needs to be fixed and trains run later. Sea-Tac has a very large arrivals bank between 10:30pm and 12:30am (it’s one of the busier times of the day), and when scheduling travel if you are coming in on any of those flights, you are unlikely to use transit as your means to get to and from the airport. Flight delays are too common for even someone scheduled to arrive at 10:30 to not be a little nervous, and anytime after 11 most people (me included) won’t even chance it. The alternatives if you miss the train are too expensive or, in transit’s case, far too time-consuming. Morning departures have the same issue. This isn’t the same issue on the East Coast, for example, where most flights have come and gone by 9pm, so their transit systems don’t have this problem.

        I like the idea of “owl” trains run every 30-60 minutes overnight–at least that way you know you won’t be stuck somewhere all night, or have to pay half the cost of your airfare (slight exaggeration, but still) just to get home. A bus shadow when maintenance is occurring would work as well, as Stephen notes above.

      2. Taxis are expensive, but not nearly as expensive as you make it out to be. A taxi ride from airport to downtown is around $50. After tax, airport parking is already about $50 for a typical 3-4 day trip, and that’s assuming you park in one of the “discount” satellite lots and ride a shuttle. (You can sometimes do slightly better than if you’re willing to put of up a lot that’s further away and a parking shuttle that takes close to 30 minutes to show up). When push comes to shove, a $50 taxi ride home that only needed in the event of an hour+ flight delay is still much cheaper, on average, than paying $50 guaranteed in parking fees.

        Of course, when the port eventually gives the green light for TNC’s to start picking people up at the airport (which is already legal in many other large cities), the cost of a ride home after missing the last Link train will drop significantly.

      3. “Of course, when the port eventually gives the green light for TNC’s to start picking people up at the airport…”

        Or, you could just walk down to International Blvd and get an Uber/Lync from there? Nonobvious, and I’ve never had to try it myself, but I hear it works.

      4. The last train to go as far as Seattle leaves Seatac at 12:04am not 12:34 Mon-Sat and like at 11:10pm on Sun. It’s ridiculously early for travelers and even more so for airport employees.

      5. DC’s Metro used to close around Midnight every night (including weekends), but then they gradually increased Friday and Saturday nights an hour until 3am. IIRC, they charge extra for the 2-3am trips. Why not make after midnight trips “rush hour” fares to take care of any additional costs (wages, vomit cleanup, etc.)

      6. I travel quite a bit and am familiar with how to get to and from the airport. A cab runs about $60 each way for me, plus tip (that is about 6 days’ airport parking, or more); I personally do not do Lyft/Uber and I can afford to park for all but the longest trips, so I drive when I have a very early departure or a late arrival and take bus/Link otherwise. I’d rather have a transit option for those trips, but apparently being one of those “choice” transit users means I can just pay to park and so I do.

      7. As a Capitol Hill resident who often catches either red-eyes or early morning flights (because cheap), my solution is to take Link between SeaTac-Mt Baker and then cab/Lyft/Uber/pickup from there ($10-15). Mt Baker has service from 4:24am-1:00am southbound, and 5:26am-1:02am northbound. That’s early enough to catch a 6am flight if you only have carryon luggage, and late enough to catch a train as long as your flight arrives before midnight.

      8. For flights during the day, I will sometimes take a bus downtown, other times, take Car2Go to a Link Station in the Ranier Valley. Since prop 1 took effect, I’ve found myself using the bus to get to Link more often than I have been before. Coming back from my last flight, I had absolutely no issues getting on a 71/72/73 in the tunnel at 11:00 at night. For flights very early in the morning, I’ll just go to the airport via Uber or Lyft all the way, since it’s not worth getting up even earlier to make the train. Convenience-wise, I consider Uber/Lyft superior to driving and parking, since I don’t have to mess around with waiting for a parking shuttle.

        I also discovered that you can very easily work around Uber’s not being allowed to pick up passengers at the airport, by simply walking one block from the south end of the terminal to a nearby hotel and ordering a Uber ride from there.

      9. Scott,

        What’s wrong with “owl” buses? Whatever it takes to provide service from the airport to downtown all night long should happen. If that means extending the 124 when the A Line doesn’t run, so be it.

      10. Extending the 124 at night would be a start. Especially since the schedule isn’t well-coordinated with the A.

        However it isn’t nearly as useful as running Link all night or at least later at night and a bit earlier, because – it doesn’t help UW, nor does it help workers or travelers heading to/from the stops on MLK and Beacon Hill.

      11. Anandakos,

        Basically, time–which has a not intangible value for many of us. I’m a fan of more owl buses in general, and on more obvious routings, but not all neighborhoods even have owls to get to the 124, and mine winds through about 10 different areas before getting downtown. I did that routing once for the hell of it, and ended up leaving home at 1:30am for a 5:30am flight. Never again.

        As far as parking goes, if you sign up at the Sea-Tac website for email coupons, they almost always have a parking rate that is comparable with the bulk of the larger shuttle lots (and many of the tiny ones as well). Remember that the airport rate includes all taxes and the advertised rates at the lots do not–and there are many of them. That $12.95/day rate works out to $18 or $19 in reality. The airport charges the same, and no shuttle. Again, 6 days parking is equivalent to cab fare for me–a no-brainer.

        I will always take transit if my flight times are reasonable, and I do so in most of the cities I go to as well (although after my experience with LA’s transit last weekend I will likely always get a car there); but if I’m not sure I’ll make Link’s last train I will drive and not feel badly about it in the least.

    3. You see no maintenance going on just like others see empty buses. They do it every night, but not necessarily involving the whole length of the track.

      I’m glad that ST keeps up a maintenance schedule rather than allowing entropy to take its course like certain other state transportation agencies do (due to misprioritization by the legislature),

      1. We could count on someone to be an apologist. Obviously NYC, London, Berlin and other places that run all night are doing it wrong and they should all shut their systems for 5-6 hours every night so that the platforms can be swept.

        I do not believe that the overnight closures are there for maintenance but to save on operating expenses and because the tunnel closes. But there is an expense to closing and sweeping the tunnel every night and reopening it. I’d rather that money be spent on overnight security.

      2. @Carl:

        London does generally shut down its rail system overnight. It is planning to run a limited overnight service on certain lines, but to my knowledge that hasn’t happened yet. Labor relations are the sticking point.

        NYC can run overnight service because the subway has many 3-4 track lines where maintenance can be conducted on one set of tracks while trains run on the other set. However, these lines too are often limited or shut at night for repairs. Just look at the service exceptions on the MTA website every week. Some weekends most lines have at least some maintenance work disrupting service.

      3. NYC runs 24 hour service on essentially all its lines – and many of them are 2-track lines. The 4-track segments are trunk segments and they pretty much all branch our into 2-line segments. Obviously maintenance is easier on 4-track segments. And yes, NYC does two kinds of maintenance shutdowns occasionally although they tend to try to keep service going in at least one direction if at all possible.

        Link shuts down for maintenance and construction, too.

        My point is that it is entirely possible to run a 24-hour operation and that routine maintenance doesn’t get in the way. If there are a couple of overnight closures each year to perform some special maintenance, no big deal, but we don’t need a daily nighttime closure, and I have to wonder what the labor cost of closing, sweeping, and then re-opening is, and whether that money couldn’t be better used to help to fund keeping it running overnight.

        I didn’t realize that Labor has bollixed the London overnight plans. I know it’s not the entire system, but it is quite a few of the key lines. Berlin runs overnight on pretty much all their lines at least Friday and Saturday and pre-holiday nights.

        Money may be an issue. Negotiating with Metro over tunnel costs may be an issue. Security may be a worry. But routine maintenance isn’t the reason not to run overnight.

    4. Anticipating ST’s reasons why not:

      1) Cost, both direct and opportunity. Maybe some other time is better deserving of the service hours.

      2) Safety and security concerns, particularly with drunk riders. Also, legal risks from drunk riders being hit by trains, fighting, etc. With all the stupid stuff I see going down in Pike/Pine, I can only hope I don’t end up on a train with those people.

      This is not to say late night service is automatically a bad idea. Maybe it is the next best use of operating funds, but it isn’t without some potential issues.

      1. Why would the risks for Link be any different from the Buses? There are already the night-owl buses that would potentially have to deal with these issues. In fact I would argue that the trains are safer than buses because there’s fewer train-pedestrian conflict points than bus-pedestrian conflict points.

      2. Might think about this, Alex. In my experience, where transit good enough for ordinary working people to use instead of their car or a cab, their presence in large numbers creates an atmosphere where people are you are comfortable.

        Part of this results from fact that most of our people are have enough good character and intelligence to take action to maintain order

        Including calling the police with the information they need to get on scene and ready for action. So whatever bad habits a few people have, norm becomes that they keep it to themselves.

        Mark Dublin

      3. Metro bus drivers have (either in writing or in unspoken rules) discretion that would be difficult to enforce on Link. After riding buses in the downtown core for 15 years late at night I have on many occasions seen a bus driver refuse to let someone “throwing up drunk” or with other obvious issues board the bus.

      4. Were they refusing to let the passenger board because he was a biohazard risk (which would mess up all the other riders’ transportation plans), or because he refused to pay?

    5. Alternate idea: Run late-night service only between UW and the Stadium tail track. That’d reduce the cost a lot, and also the safety concerns because it’d only be in the tunnel. Rainier Valley would still get the night owl 7.

    6. Why don’t the run the link shuttles used during emergency shutdowns after hours? Does that make too much sense?

      Even though link would be closed there would still be a way to get to basically all stops along the line on an easy to read service… at night the roads are basically dead anyway so there won’t be much traffic.

    7. I’d love to see a train for the 6am flights and a train for the 7am fights, Lyon France does this and it was very crowded with Travelers, Flight attendants and Airport workers. And its criminal on Friday and Saturday nights not to run high quality transit until 3am you know so the drunks leave their cars at home when they go out.

      1. Excellent idea to work closely with the airlines so passengers know, by schedule, when the train leaves to get their flight. The “work closely” part is critical.

        Also the keep it advertised part. Every hotel desk clerk should have fjll info on his desk.


      2. Part of the disincentive to run late is only a small fraction of the barflies in Capitol Hill and Pioneer Square live near a Link station so they can’t take it all the way home anyway. And those who live in Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, and the U-District already have the 49 and 7.

      3. 6am flights tend to be the lowest price and can just as easily be domestic or overseas flights. But aren’t late-night flights mostly overseas ones so they don’t arrive at 3am and require all the airport staff to be there?

      4. There are tons of domestic red-eye flights to places like Boston, New York, Newark, Washington, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Charlotte, even Minneapolis. But Link can be used to arrive at the airport in time for these flights. It’s the late night arrivals which require later trips. Depending on the time of year there are arrivals scheduled as late as 1am, and of course that means workers ending their shifts as late as 2am. And then workers and passengers needing to arrive as early as 4am for the first flights and shifts the next morning.

      5. What’s particularly friustrating is that Sound Transit understands this–see the 574 schedule. Apparently they think it’s important to serve travelers with early flights and workers with early shifts if they’re coming from TAC but not from SEA.

      6. There are lots of airport workers on Link, too. But there could be more and more shifts covered if they could get to work as early as the 180 and 574 get them to work, or could leave as late as those bring them home (or to their cars?)

      7. Midnight flights out of SEA or PDX heading to the east coast are perfectly times to arrive between 6 and 7 AM. “Redeyes” keep planes in the sky 18-20 hours a day which is a very lucrative proposition.

      8. I missed a flight once and got back to Seattle around 12:30am. Link was closed, as was the footbridge to International Blvd or whatever the name of that arterial with all the motels and long term lots is. Once I figured a way out of the airport on foot including running across that expressway under the Link viaduct, I found that the bus service is horribly planned to get into downtown. I ended up walking up to Tukwila station (the next A was a long time away) and then waited for an hour for the next 124. Why the 124 doesn’t continue to the airport after hours I have no clue. But it was a real process to get home in Cap Hill. I should have taken a cab or Uber.

  3. Any word on when FHSC or Bertha will start running? Those are both SDOT transportation projects being paid for by others, so maybe ‘mums the word’.

      1. I’ve heard those rumors before. They have been false before.

        I will believe nothing until I see an official announcement.

      1. Yep, Bertha and the DBT are both purely WSDOT projects. The city of Seattle has no direct role whatsoever and isn’t a signatory on any of the actual construction or design contracts.

        It’s just sloppy reporting by the press when they refer to the DBT as a “Seattle Project” for no reason other than that it is physically located in Seattle.

        Seattle is however responsible for the seawall.

      2. In all fairness, it was Seattle politicians who asked for a tunnel. They wanted to open up the waterfront. And so the waterfront was opened up, with lots of heavy digging equipment. But it will never be a public space bereft of a car sewer running down the middle.

      3. Well played WSDOT. So, some engineers in Olympia were sitting around one day and came upon this 4 lane freeway idea going under downtown and proceeded to march it up the ladder to get presented as the best replacement for the Viaduct, over surface, transit, and rebuild. Yes, I can see that all happening.
        Except it didn’t. Local Seattle pols and business interests pushed the idea, finally getting WSDOT to embrace the idea after some high level arm twisting and promises (port $$, Tolling $$, and Seattle $$ to cut overruns).
        Sorry, I give bragging rights to SDOT and Administration all the credit for whatever happens to this project. For me, they own it. Warts and all.

      4. @mic,

        Na, you have it all backwards.

        Yes, Seattle wanted to open up the waterfront, but Seattle was very firm in that a retrofit or rebuilt viaduct was not in the cards. It would be tunnel or surface.

        So the state decides to build the DBT and Seattle is not a funding partner, nor a planning partner, nor a contractual partner. Everything is on WSDOT and the contractor.

        So Seattle gets its new waterfront and does it without incurring any liability for the DBT. Seattle basically accepted no risk in exchange for some pretty great rewards..

        Ya, we are rebuilding the seawall. But that was ours and there was no way we could get the state to pay for any significant portion of it.

        So I think Seattle played WSDOT and the state very well. And in the end we get a new waterfront.

        And by spending billions on a DT tunnel we lock up dollars that would otherwise have gone to new roads in the suburbs.

        It’s a win win.

      5. Yikes Laz, pouring billions down a rat hole under Seattle is a good use of funds to ensure that very little gets built anywhere else?
        Back on subject, Link in 2020 will be costing $4.34 per rider (SIP 2016), plus another $7.00 per rider to amortize it’s cost over 30 years (FTA averages), for a cost of $12+ a rider. Farebox In 2020 will be about $1.66/ ride.
        I suppose this is to prevent additional transit spending in the suburbs as you logic goes.

      6. How much per driver to amortize the $2 billion Alaskan Way tunnel? We know 50% will divert if they are asked to pay a $2 toll.

      7. @mic,

        My only point is that it’s pretty clear that either WSDOT or the STP contractors will be left holding the bag for any cost overruns on the DBT, whereas Seattle will be “stuck” with a new waterfront. I would say that is a pretty good deal for Seattle.

        Well played Seattle.

        Regarding Link subsidies, we all know that all modes are subsidized. It makes no sense to talk about the subsidy of one mode without comparing it to anything else, which you confidently fail to do.

      8. WSDOT could have opted for a shallow cut and cover tunnel that would actually serve people other than Wallingford residents that work at the steel mill under the West Seattle bridge. It’s not like there aren’t already hundreds of shallow trenches through there to serve steam heating, water, sewer and electrical needs. Somehow the biggest, riskiest, project that would least serve downtown Seattle (maybe out of spite that Seattle didn’t want the viaduct replaced?) was chosen instead.

    1. “A Mighty Wind” has a song on the [soundtrack] album about a train wreck in a coal mine, “Blood on the Coals. Most tragic thing is that the fatal locomotive is burning
      Number 9 coal from the same mine! Bit

      I saw the movie too, Mic butut know by experience that neither BN nor Sounder tells its engineers to give up their lives to be on time.

      Bertha? Main protection is that no matter how far off-course it goes, by the time it hits the DSTT, plate tectonics will put passengers at exactly the place on Iceland where the plate comes out of the world. Which, incidentally, is patrolled by Securitas.

      First Hill Streetcar could conceivably switch in accidentally, but first LINK train through will just pull or push it all night if necessary. Our shops could also figure out a way to couple the 550 and the 41 for same situation. They did a lot more to keep the Breda fleet on the road all those years.


  4. It seems strange to stop running the trains frequently at 8:20 AM southbound. A lot of the restructures in the U-District were based on asking people to make a transfer. I can see this being a pain for a commuter. They look at the schedule, realize how fast Link is, then aim for a train around 8:40 to be downtown in plenty of time to get to work at 9:00. Miss the train, though, and you have a ten minute wait.

    1. Gosh, I would love to live in a neighborhood where 10-minute service is considered “infrequent”. And have a blog where people whined incessantly about having to wait another 10 minutes for the next bus/train. Oh, wait, never mind.

      1. At least some of the 30 minute services in the city/surrounding suburbs are finally getting close to 15 minute service. Most of the rest of the state is not doing nearly this well though.

      2. Gosh, I’d love to live in a neighborhood that had service every 10 minutes most of the time, rather than every three minutes at peak period and every 30 minutes the rest of the time.

      3. I don’t think you understood what I wrote. Read it again. Have someone help you with the big words.

        I’m talking about a transfer. A transfer. Again, ask someone if you don’t understand the concept.

        Let me see if I can explain it to you without breaking out the puppets. Let’s say you live around NE 55th and 15th NE. You have a meeting at 9:00 every day downtown. You catch the 73 at 8:25 every morning. This gets you down to Westlake around 8:45, which is plenty of time to walk to your office.

        Now, instead you take a bus to the station. This takes 12 minutes. The walk to the actual platform takes another 3 minutes. It is now 8:40. On your way down the escalator, you notice the train pulling away. So you wait 10 minutes. 6 minutes later you are downtown. You are late for your meeting.

        10 minute frequency during rush hour is not right. With all the work that has gone into trying to make a transfer that will obviously be slower most of the time (even if you manage to time it just right) the least they can do is minimize the penalty for when you don’t.

      4. Add 2 more minutes to downtown on Link.
        Let me draw you a picture (in color). Link and bus together are not any faster for most trips. They are more predictable than the bus staying on the surface.
        So, to recap, Link will make you predictably late to every meeting, resulting in your dismissal, causing you to hitchhike to the unemployment office each day, where you predictably get to stand in line for the next clerk.
        Stop you sniveling over missing a train.

  5. This is potentially a dead horse, but does it really take 8 minutes to go from Westlake to Husky Stadium, or is there some padding built into the entire schedule due to frequent bus delays?

    I’d love to see some actual data showing the impact on LINK’s schedule from bus delays. Anecdotally, sitting in a tunnel for 1 min not moving on the train feels like an eternity, but maybe the delays aren’t as bad as I perceive. During PM rush I frequently see southbound trains more or less bunched through Rainier Valley, and I assume that is often due to bus delays in the tunnel.

    1. Padding, and joint operations with buses. When buses leave the tunnel, the time will drop to 6 minutes. Sound Transit is already quoting 8 minutes from U-District Station to Westlake, meaning that in terms of service hours, U-District station will cost nothing to operate when it opens in 2021.

      But I suspect you’ll see trains consistently arrive early at UW. The 8 minute travel time will more consistently apply southbound approaching Westlake at the level junction with the remaining bus routes (41, 74, 101, 102, 106, 150, 255, 550)

      1. If there’s anywhere Link should have “signal priority” it’s “at the level junction with the remaining bus routes”. Jes sayin’.

      2. I would actually argue that buses entering the tunnel at the end of their routes should get to go first because it means that people transferring from bus to train to continue their trip will have a minimal wait. Since there’s no fare payment on exit, these buses would move through the tunnel stops almost as fast as Link anyway.

        When a bus is entering the tunnel for the beginning of the route, the reverse is true. Here, the train must go first, not only to facilitate train->bus transfers, but also because fare collection means the bus will move through the tunnel much more slowly.

      3. Zach, I think your position with Seattle Transit Blog entitles you to an escort from an engineer or two, for some serious observation and fact-finding on present operations. And what they really portend when U Link opens.

        Starting with how much of the expensive signalling equipment installed in DSTT 35 years ago specifically designed to control operations still works at all. Dust is hard on electronics. Or what other coordination will be in place.

        I think the 550 and the 41 could work ’til the final end of joint use. With large numbers of current guards re-trained and -assigned to handle information, and wheelchair loading with speed unknown in the industry. Also, every single farebox into a shredder.

        For the other routes, if they can’t turn at LINK stations, SDOT needs to get paint ready for stripes and diamonds, every traffic light set to favor transit, and every bus fitted with a camera recording license plate numbers for anything non-transit any transit lane. 24-7-365 and especially holidays.

        But mainly: this next phase of DSTT operations is going to require from every single first-line worker more pressure than they’ve ever had to handle in their working lives. Starting with intensive ongoing training in conditions neither we nor any other system in the world has had to handle.

        I’d rather see necessary change orderly and well-planned, than the way I think it’s going to happen. So I mean it, Zach. Let’s go look at transit for awhile. And bring anybody you like with you. Luckiest thing in the world for me would be for someone I respect showing me where I’m wrong. And first, fastest move if not.

        Mark Dublin

      4. I managed to ride a northbound tunnel bus that had to stop and wait north of Westlake for an empty Link train to start its southbound trip. It’s so strange to see the crossing signals (but no gate) come out of seemingly nowhere.

      5. asdf2,

        Um, er, did you forget that as of March whatever those Link trains will be full of people transferring from buses which used to enter the tunnel there?

    2. Expect to see the padding happen at stations. The trains will wait around an extra minute each at UW and Capitol Hill to give more time for busses in the tunnel to move. Even with this though there will probably still be a fairly frequent pause just north of Westlake in response to the occasionally additional bus slowness: chair lifts, long lines of cash payers, people running to catch the bus at the last minute.

      All of the above issues slow buses down and are pretty much unavoidable, but will not exist as issues for our level boarding, offboard paying, frequent trains. Collisions and break downs will also be a lot less frequent when the buses finally leave.

      That being said, 8 minutes for a few years is no big deal. Its still much, much faster than any of the existing methods to get from UW to downtown.

      1. Glad Sam checked out monocle rules for drivers couple posts back. Because comments on joint ops have seized the Olympic Understatement title away from London in a humiliating defeat. Unless people are cribbing from Monty Python without permission.

        Considering state of joint operations at rush hour right now, after five minutes Metro will be flooding the lines of plumbing supply rentals world-wide trying to find a Roto-Rooter on plunger of the necessary size for first flush of many.

        And after both ULink tubes have been holding a single coupled train out and back for several days….above are listed at least three volunteers for some other resulting sanitary jobs. Also need to talk to Water Quality about gradients to check direction and speed of flow in each section.

        Since fair number of officials will have read above comments and be enthusiastically riding first trains through the tube- or partly- maybe flat-cars can carry the 550 and the 41 through the DSTT each trip. Pretty much like Stuttgart does with bicycles. Would probably work. But whole freight train of them….see above comments about the coal mine.


      2. How does trains taking a smoke break at UW and Capitol Hill help the situation when they arrive at Westlake, since the problem is caused by buses being knocked off-schedule and arriving at unpredictable times. The main effect of pausing for two minutes is to cause fewer train runs per day. That certainly reduces tunnel congestion but it degrades frequency for Link passengers. That’s like if your shoelace frays and you throw away the shoe to keep the frayed lace.

    3. It should absolutely not take 8 minutes to go 3.1 miles when it’s only making one stop in-between. If I recall, it was originally to take 6 minutes, which is an average of about 30 MPH. That’s a good speed. 8 minutes to go 3.1 miles is an average of only 23.25 MPH. That’s a very poor speed when it’s only making one stop along the way, even taking the curves of the line into account.

  6. Question on the first train of the morning. Assuming every train starts at the OMF, the first train northbound will hit SODO station at 04:48 and arrive at Husky Stadium at 05:07.
    The schedule indicates that the first southbound train from Husky Stadium leaves at 04:49. So does one train leave the OMF at about 04:30 and deadhead to Husky Stadium?

    1. Well, the last train departs UW at 12:34am, but the last train arrives at 12:50am. Maybe that train lays over at UW overnight and the 12:50am arrival becomes the 4:49am departure? Otherwise, yes there would be both a 1am deadhead and a 4:30am deadhead.

  7. From the photo, does this mean they will start running 4-car trains once ULink opens? I think they’re all 3-car trains now, right? (Pardon my ignorance as a NE Seattleite) I assume that would allow continued ridership growth and expansion…

    1. No, that was for a media day last year. There will be a mix of 2 and 3-car trains in regular service, but 4-car trains will be for special events like Husky games. ST deferred purchasing new light rail vehicles in order to batch a larger order. As a result, they won’t start arriving until 2018 or 2019, after which ST would have the flexibility to run 4-car trains more regularly.

  8. Regarding your comments on the deadheading 43:

    In fact, many of those coaches will likely still be deadheading to base as Route 44 along the Route 43 pathway, and it may be worth exploring running those routes in service to continue late-night service between Montlake and Capitol Hill, as the marginal cost of doing so is very low.

    Usually, it is actually a net gain for transit agencies to try to put deadhead moves into a service move. That’s because deadhead moves don’t qualify for FTA funding, but an in service move does.

    One agency back east (maybe MBTA but I don’t remember) got in trouble over that a couple of years ago as they were reporting deadhead moves that allowed passengers to ride to the layover end point as in-service moves. FTA said that isn’t the same thing as an in-service move.

    1. Thanks, I tried to compromise. I strongly prefer the 24-hour clock but most Americans hate it, and writing out “AM/PM” looks clumsy, so I just bolded PM times.

  9. Regarding early and late flights, I crunched some numbers. With a one-hour minimum window to clear security and the earliest UW-SeaTac train arriving at SeaTac at 5:35am, that means you can’t safely make any flight before 6:35am.

    – There are 9 flights between 5-6am for which it is not possible to use Link, primarily non-Alaska service feeding domestic hubs (Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston) There is also a lone international flight, Korean Air’s 5:50am flight to Seoul.

    – There are 14 flights between 6:00-6:35 for which you can use Link if you originate in the Rainier Valley only,

    – You can use Link to catch every red-eye. Link runs until 1:20am, and the last flight of the night is Eva’s flight to Taipei at 1:00am. There are 12 domestic red-eyes, 2 from 9-10pm, 4 from 10-11pm, and 6 from 11pm-12am.

    I don’t have time to look into arrivals at the moment, but it seems like the issue is strictly early morning service.

    1. Nice analysis. Arrivals are a different matter, of course, but for departures Link really only misses a limited window of flights.

      I’ll also point out that the early AM flights are sometimes cheaper than later AM flights. So even if you can’t use Link, you might still save money. I recently chose an 8:10am departure over a 9:50am departure because the 8:10 was $50 cheaper. That savings more than paid for my on-sale Lyft to the airport instead of Link.

    2. Am I reading this correctly–that there are there no flights between 1 and 5 AM now? When I flew to Taipei several years ago my flight left at around 2:20 AM. There were enough people in security with me at 1:00 AM that there must have been a few other flights upcoming.

      1. The Taipei flight is the last of the night, and it used to leave at 2:20 but has been moved up to 1:00am. The only other departures after midnight are Midwest redeyes that need to leave late, namely an AA flight to Dallas and a Delta flight to Minneapolis.

    3. Link is as much (or more) for airport workers as it is for passengers. There are hundreds of concessions workers, TSA workers, ground service workers, etc. who do not get employer paid parking and who have to report for work well before the first flights leave. That is why the route 180 and route 574 have such early service. Why should not Seattle residents have transit access to those jobs?

      Link is fine for reaching red-eye departures but it ends way too early for late night flight arrivals as well as for late night work shift ends. Again the route 180 and 574 schedules demonstrate that later service is needed in the evening – for both travelers and workers.

      1. Link is as much (or more) for airport workers as it is for passengers.

        Really? Is there data on this–that more SEATAC employees than travelers use link? That seems highly improbable to me.

      2. It’s quite common at airports with good transit service that there are more airport employees using the transit than travelers. And that makes sense given that the employee may work 250 days a year, has time to figure out transit, and usually doesn’t have luggage to bring.

        That doesn’t mean transit is not useful for travelers. But employees are an important part of the market. And they are voters and taxpayers.

    4. Departures are only an issue in the early morning, because you can control your arrival time at the airport otherwise. Arrivals at night are much more of an issue as you are at the vagaries of airlines and weather as to when you actually arrive. If you’re departing on a 2am flight, you could still take the last train and wait a while longer. If you arrive at 11pm you may be hard-pressed to make your train, particularly on Sunday nights (a notably busy arrival time). Good luck if you have checked baggage – even if you arrive by 11pm you may still be pushing by the time you deboard, walk to the baggage claim, wait and walk to the train–I normally only have a carry-on and it still can be a dash. That means in effect that when the train leaves around midnight anything scheduled to arrive after 10:30pm just adds an additional layer of stress to your trip, and domestic air travel is stressful enough without adding another layer.

      Currently there are 21 flights scheduled to arrive after 10:30pm; most of those are after 11pm and most of those are from hubs, meaning full flights and people coming from all over. That’s around 3,000 passengers arriving after 10:30pm, some of whom would likely take the train if it were possible.

    5. I’ve caught some of the Link trains that originate at Stadium Station for early morning flights to the Airport. They actually time really nicely with the last 84 owl bus from Capitol Hill. The bus stops on the busway and you have about 5 minutes to walk the 100 feet to the station and board.

    6. Thanks, Zach – I had a feeling that what you wrote was approximately the case. We DO need later night service inbound from SEA on Link, and certainly until 0230-0245 on Friday and Saturday.

  10. I see lots of comments about extending hours due to nightlife (which I completely agree with seeing how I live in Columbia City and would love this) and for later/early airport access. But another reason I see on par with these is the UW Med center itself. There are patients, doctors, nurses, etc there 24 hrs a day. Note I don’t know the exact shift change times but I feel laternight and earlier morning train runs to/from there would be great for all that use the hospital. I feel the spine (whether one long route or split into two) should be 24 hrs.

    1. I used to work at Harborview supporting the people who schedule the nurses and medical assistants. Standard 8-hour shifts were 7am-3:30pm, 3pm,-11:30pm, and 11pm-7:30am. 12-hour shifts were 7am-7pm and 7pm-7am, although they may have overlapped a bit for “report” (the outcoming nurse telling the incoming nurse each patient’s status). There were also 10-hour shifts (4×10), 16-hour shifts (3×16 + 1×8), 8-hour shifts starting at 10am, part-time shifts, etc. I think it was a thousand nurses total if I remember right. So people were stating shifts all day and evening, but I don’t think any shifts started or ended between 11:30pm and 6am. If there were it was very few.

    2. The Med Center currently has great service on the 43 until about 2 AM, at least as far as the turn at Broadway. And nobody really wants to go downtown at 2 AM if they don’t have to.

      Link quitting early + the 43 axe is going to hurt hospital physical staff.

  11. “With the Sodo base being the only Operations and Maintenance (O&M) facility until 2023, much of the same schedule dynamics will likely endure until East Link opens.”

    I don’t think this is quite right. When Northgate opens in 2021, I believe ST plans to serve the corridor with 4-minute headways. If this is not cast in stone, at least they will need to look at frequencies to make sure they can carry the inevitable load that will result from the next major re-structure (so long, 41).

    1. Maybe four car trains but I doubt there would be enough stock accommodate four minute service. Besides it wouldn’t be very smart to boost frequencies only to reduce them once East Link is online. The RV is capped at six minute frequency like East Link will be.

      1. The RV is capped at 6 min headways due to the street config, but this means that LR can run at 3 mins headways in the urban core. 3 min headways would be accomplished by interlining with another line – either East Link post 2023, or with a Central Line running just from Husky Stadium to Stadium Station.

      2. Six minutes on each of two branches equals (roughly) 3 minutes in the shared stem. Of course there will be the inevitable scheduling anomalies because the two lines are different lengths.

    2. Maybe I’m wrong, but I thought they were moving to 4-car trains all the time when Northgate opens, but keeping headways to 10 minutes off peak/6 minutes peak until East Link opens, with the intention of moving to 8 minutes off-peak/6 minutes peak per line, with combined 4 min off-peak/3 min peak between IDS and Northgate.

  12. The other part of the Link operation plan is train length. ST has the fleet to operate 3-car trains with a healthy spare ratio, but are they going to actually do it? Seems to me that ridership volumes will quickly demand it.

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