Four days out from launch, yesterday Sound Transit invited local media to take a preview ride on ULink. The hourlong event included station tours at UW and Capitol Hill, and a roundtrip ride between UW and Capitol Hill. Like clockwork, the southbound trip took 3 minutes and 56 seconds, with smooth acceleration and great ride quality after the initial jostle of switching from the northbound to the southbound track upon departure. I heard a couple gasps from TV crews as we arrived at Capitol Hill, with an exclamation of “Already?!” and wide smiles all around.

On the return trip, the train was 2 minutes late (likely due to bus interference northbound at Westlake) and took 4 minutes and 30 seconds to reach UW. Sound Transit is looking for ways to improve northbound tunnel operations, including surfacing westbound Route 550 during the PM peak beginning March 28. Route 550 trips leaving Bellevue Transit Center from 2:35-5:25pm will drop off on 4th Avenue.

Immediately north of the UW platform, we were also given a look at the retrieval shaft where tunnel boring machine (TBM) Brenda will arrive in a couple weeks. Sound Transit’s Executive Director for Construction Management Ahmad Fazel said that damaged TBM Pamela has been running well under reduced load, and is now just ~150′ from breaking through at UDistrict Station.

According to Link Transportation Manager Marie Olson, during peak periods when 6-minute headways are in effect (and likely also during special events), trains departing UW will alternate platforms, just as is done at SeaTac/Airport today. During base 10-minute headways, most trains will depart from the southbound platform, meaning northbound trips will cross over just prior to arrival.

Though not much new was learned, it was still a great experience to ride the train and get a gut feel for its transformative power. For maximum contrast, after the ride I rode my bike to Montlake Freeway Station to catch a 255. 29 minutes after boarding, my bus arrived at Westlake, immediately behind a train that left UW 20 minutes after my bus. Bring on Saturday.

130 Replies to “First Ride on ULink”

  1. In the photo of the line map, did they replace the black and white rainbow flag with a solid flag as the Capitol Hill pictogram?

    1. The Link train I was on this morning had the line map fully uncovered. The stripes in the flag are there, but you have to look very closely. They don’t show up well at that small scale.

  2. Sound Transit is looking for ways to improve northbound tunnel operations, including surfacing westbound Route 550 during the PM peak beginning March 26.

    On Monday I took a MAX Orange Line train across the Tillicum Bridge. Ahead of us was a Portland Streetcar and a #17 bus. There are at least two sets of block signals on the bridge that keep everything separated as it is supposed to be, but allowing close enough spacing so that there can be more than one thing on the bridge at a time.

    I really don’t understand why the tunnel has to have such severe separations between the trains and the buses, and that whole circuitous southern entrance security procedure thing makes no sense to me either. The tunnel has a 15 mph speed limit and signals, so it isn’t as if there isn’t adequate warning for vehicles being on the line ahead.

    1. The Federal Railroad Administration set the rule that trains and buses can not be at the same platform simultaneously. Sound Transit is unlikely to waste time lobbying to remove that rule for the remaining 2-4 years of joint operation.

      But consider that, if that rule were to go away, and joint platform use were to be implemented, there would be an induced-demand effect in which Metro would try to fit more buses in the tunnel up to the point that operations would once again be congested during PM peak. In practice, it would also severely limit ST’s ability to put 3- or 4-car trains into peak service.

      I suspect Sound Transit had the plan to have westbound 550s run upstairs during PM peak long ago, but was afraid that if it were announced long ago, Metro would have picked another bus route to keep in the tunnel.

      Converting to one bus bay northbound (soon to just have routes 41, 74, and 255 serving it), and allowing three buses to board at once should also help.

      This will all allow room for growth, as ridership demand on routes 41 and 550 is so far insatiable.

      1. I’m not sure how moving the westbound 550 upstairs is really going to help all that much. Since these are inbound buses, each stop is lots of people exiting the bus, with almost nobody entering the bus. This means both doors open at every stop, with no fare collection to slow things down. Moving the eastbound 550 upstairs, I could understand, but not westbound.

        One would thing the elimination of the 71/72/73 from the downtown tunnel would be enough. That’s a lot of buses.

      2. The combined 71/72/73 is still only six buses per hour per direction. The 74 smoothes it out to 8 buses theoretically timed for 7.5-minute peak headway to the U-District, but the 74 is staying, and adding trips.

        The real issue, I suspect, is platooning. Each unloading bus that pulls all the way forward reduces the number of buses in that platoon that can load passengers by one, at least in the southern stations.

        But that brings up another question: Is Bay A going to physically move?

      3. @Brent

        I believe Bay A is actually just going to have other routes moved to it. Last time I was in the tunnel, I saw a sign stating that 255 was going to move to Bay A and join the 41.

      4. Thanks for the info brent. I assumed that there was some regulatory reason but was too ignorant to cite chapter and verse like you were able to!

      5. It’s not just the platform but also the segments between stations as well. This is why buses or trains sometimes have to idle in the small space between the platform and the beginning of the tube.

      6. Do you mean Federal Transit Administration? Federal Railroad Administration has no authority whatsoever over Link or buses (they regulate Sounder, Amtrak, BNSF).

      7. Only moderately related, because that’s shared FRA and FTA oversight of lines where light rail trains are operating over the general railroad network. Link doesn’t do that anywhere, at least not yet.

        That does explain the system TriMet has on the bridge stations. They have railings on the platform. So, a bus can pull in right behind a light rail train but they can’t actually serve the station until the train leaves due to the handrail.

        The big concern must have something to do with people trying to go between the bus and the train or something. Otherwise the TriMet arrangement wouldn’t have been approved.

      8. @ Glenn in Portland
        “That does explain the system TriMet has on the bridge stations. They have railings on the platform. So, a bus can pull in right behind a light rail train but they can’t actually serve the station until the train leaves due to the handrail.”

        Actually, the platforms on either end of the Tillikum are bus/train separated – there is an island platform for each direction, with MAX on the outside of each platform (i.e. doors open on the left), and bus on the inside, so MAX and bus do not share the same platform face. Buses merge into the rail guideway after clearing the station. So a bus never pulls in behind a MAX train at the platform.

        At the western end, streetcar runs along the “inside” with the buses, but they do not serve those platforms – the streetcar stops are around the corner on Moody Avenue. At the east end, the streetcar platforms are completely separate from the MAX/bus station.

    2. “On the return trip, the train was 2 minutes late (likely due to bus interference northbound at Westlake) and took 4 minutes and 30 seconds to reach UW. Sound Transit is looking for ways to improve northbound tunnel operations, including surfacing westbound Route 550 during the PM peak beginning March 28. Route 550 trips leaving Bellevue Transit Center from 2:35-5:25pm will drop off on 4th Avenue.”

      Inbound or outbound, especially nights there’s a game, a route that halls like the 550 needs to stay in the DSTT both directions. Which is perfectly possible if the Tunnel is put under the control it was designed and equipped for. If it isn’t, routes in there now will choke it.

      If I thought 2 minute delay at Westlake was going to be common I’d shut up and accept it. Anybody else think delay won’t be three to five times that, let’s hear why. Most “interesting” translate infuriating thing I heard today was from a southbound 150 operator leaving CPS southbound:

      “No, nobody’s told us about any different operating rules. We’ll probably just keep going into the Tunnel in the order we arrive. When we arrive.” Northbound at IDS, have been told that northbound buses will all leave from staging, so as few things as possible will interfere with trains.

      For either direction, I need to have it explained to me exactly under what control number of buses, and in what order? Are buses supposed to still operate “First arrives, and goes in, time and order they arrive at portals?

      And how will buses be spaced out at every stop. Are we going to end up with a crowd of passengers at the head of the platform, with no idea where to stand to to board their bus. And therefore interfere with each other at every arrival?

      Thing that bothers me worst is that the last bus will have to stop twice. As on the street. Do not like at all another surprise. That the very large control boards full of switches to throw signals to control bus departure have been in a closet for Lord knows how many years.

      If LCC has any control on this matter, chance it could work. Though original idea of those two little control towers was to have an actual person looking at the yard and deciding order of departure. Fact they won’t bothers me almost as bad as the lack of training.

      An absolutely-got-to-do is put a cap over those fare-boxes in the DSTT, and making whole DSTT a proof-of-payment area. Thereby using both doors at ever stop, and putting a lot of fare-related conversations at an end. If ORCA is in the way of doing this, just go back to the paper tickets TVM’s already issue, ’til matter can be worked out.

      And finally, this new system simply will not permit present length of delays loading wheelchairs. I see no problem whatever in re-assigning as many security guards as possible to assisting duty, and passenger information as possible.

      Because I think anybody who’s driven any hard, fast, and heavy route, like the 7, knows that the smoother, more confident and competent, and more efficiently someone keeps the bus moving, the less the chance of either getting hit. Or passengers either.

      By observation in Africa: To lions and leopards, halting motion means dinner. To healthy zebra and buffalo, lions are doormats.

      Mark Dublin

    1. As mentioned briefly in the article, Pamela has been running well at reduced speed and is roughly at 45th/Brooklyn, with just a block to go until breaking through for repair/refurbishment.

    2. Supposedly she is undergoing a routine mechanical inspection before making the final push to U-Dist station. She is about 160 ft out and has been performing fairly well in her limp mode.

      Last I heard Plan A was to use Brends for the SB tunnel. Although that could still change.

      1. That makes sense. Based on the current schedule, Brenda should make it to the retrieval shaft a few days before Pamela makes it to U-District. Assuming Brenda doesn’t need repairs at that point, the fastest way to complete the process is for Brenda around and head north, and pull both of them out of the U-District station site.

      2. …actually, I’m starting to wonder what’s driving the Northgate Link schedule. The main tunnels should be completed soon; the cross-passages are supposed to be done by the end of 2016; how come it is supposed to take THREE YEARS to build the stations, and two more years to do testing? Hopefully the station contractors will move faster than that…

      3. Nathanael,

        Brenda would be removed from the access pit at UWS and trucked back to UDS and bore the second tunnel heading southbound. The reason for this is that all of the spoils are still being removed at the Maple leaf portal. It would not be possible to do this at UWS. For one thing, there’s a brand new station operating there; there isn’t the amount of space necessary for the conveyor lift and truck staging (with all the required cleaning apparatus so that muck doesn’t get tracked onto city streets); and the UW would never allow it.

      4. No explanation for why station construction is supposed to take two and a half years. It just seems a bit long?

    1. I wasn’t there but it sounds like Kirkland backed off some of their harsher language about opposing ST3 if rail is included. We’ll have a report on the city’s ‘compromise’ plan tomorrow.

  3. Regarding the 255 and Link. If you’d been riding that 255 from Kirkland, and that bus had been terminated at UW – chances are high that it would have spent 10 minutes in congestion at the Montlake offramp and bridge, and then you’d take the other 10 minutes crossing the triangle, Montlake Blvd, descending to the platform, and have gotten downtown on that same train. So at best a wash.

    Most of the time the 255 takes around 10 minutes from the Montlake station to Westlake. It’s only afternoons when I-5 and the Stewart/Denny intersection are gridlocked.

    1. The Montlake ramp was pretty congested, yes, but I don’t think it would have taken a full 20 minutes to get to the UW platform. Point taken, though. As I boarded, the bus driver pointed to my bike and said, “Are you sure you want to ride this bus? You’ve got a faster vehicle right there this time of day.”

      1. Even if transferring to the train is a wash for downtown passengers, the service hours that would be saved by a truncation would be big, in and of itself. This could buy a fair bit amount of frequency, especially if every single Kirkland->Seattle bus didn’t have to go all the way to Brickyard P&R.

        I think with a completed Montlake lid and southbound layover at the UW Station, the route 255 proposal in alternative 1 a few months back could work.

      2. Hehe, probably depends on the time of year a lot. ;-)

        Just don’t rush out to do it, the bike trail to UW won’t be open until the west approach bridge is finished in 2017. For now all you’ll be able to do is ride out on the bridge and back. ;-)

      3. About the same number of bikers that, today, ride the 550 or 554 over the I-90 bridge. Not zero, but a lot less than the number of bike/bus riders over 520 today.

    2. Very true. The montlake offramp needs one lane HOV striped.

      I-5 and Stewart/Denny are gridlocked every weekday afternoon, forever.
      I-5 and downtown seattle traffic are not fixable in any useful sense. Some days are much worse than only 30 minutes.

      Montlake is fixable, but that assumes WSDOT wants to do the right thing, and assumes that ST and Metro actually move the bus routes around to use UW station.

      1. It’s not quite that simple. If one of the two lanes were striped as HOV, that might cause SOV traffic to back up further, possibly spilling onto the freeway and causing a bigger mess for all traffic (including buses) further back.

        I think what they should have done is left the old off-ramp in place (or at least the part of it west of the 24th Ave. bridge) alongside the new one, but sign it as “bus only”. Thus, car drivers exiting and Montlake would get exactly the same experience as they do today, but buses would save several minutes during periods of congestion.

        In the long run, the eventual Montlake lid has an HOV exit ramp that should finally solve the problem for good (excluding the period just before Husky games).

    3. When the original service change plan for Link came out that had many buses exiting 520 and going to Montlake to transfer to link I ran the AM commute numbers. I ride either the 311/252/257 all go into downtown and go to Westlake on Stewart dropping on 5th by the exit from the mall. I assumed 11 minutes to get a train, 8 minutes to get off the freeway and walk to the platform and an average wait for a train of 3 minutes. On paper in 14 days Link was faster once.

      A few things of note though. That was during the summer, and I think things have gotten markedly worse since then, but I haven’t retimed it.

  4. During the week between U-Link opening and the bus route restructure / service change, we can expect rather severe congestion in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. I’m surprised the re-route of ST Express 550 isn’t starting next Monday, to ease the pressure on next week’s uber-tightness.

    But don’t get too excited about joint ops suddenly becoming smooth on Monday, March 28. Every service change involves a few operators learning new routes and new vehicles. But the number of buses running northbound through the tunnel during the peak-of-peak hour will go down in a couple weeks, by roughly the number of 550 buses that kicked upstairs.

    1. Why would it be any worse than today’s baseline? Train frequencies aren’t increasing with U-Link, and 3-car trains won’t take up any more space than 2-car trains because by law they have to take the whole platform anyway.

      1. Almost nobody is boarding the northbound trains today. That will certainly change next week, and train dwell time will increase at all tunnel stations.

      2. But there will no longer be security sweeps at Westlake, and Link boarding time is minimal even with big crowds.

      3. It may actually decrease a few seconds in Westlake, but the other three stations will depend on having a lot fewer riders boarding 71-73 next week.

        Having some 3-car trains running during peak-of-peak next week would certainly help reduce the odds of tunnel gridlock.

      4. And regardless of whether congestion will suddenly get worse or better next week, a little extra investment in the first-day commuter experience could make a difference in how many commuters change their long-term travel patterns to use Link.

        That goes for next week and the following week.

      5. @Brent — I’m sure there are edge cases, but for a lot of people, they really will have no choice. If you are headed to the UW or the U-District, you have to take the 74 (and walk quite a ways*) or take the train (and walk quite a ways*). Folks who would prefer the 71/72/73 combo are simply out of luck. In general, I think it will take a while before people figure out what works best (just because a lot of the old options simply won’t be available). Even if things operate really smoothly I think there will be plenty of people who will be much later than they were before (until they figure it out, and even then …).

        * Or take a connecting bus.

      6. Because currently it is OK to have trains idled in the Cap Hill tunnel because of problems with joint ops. Once those trains are occupied you can’t stack them up and have them sitting in the tunnel for safety reasons. Basically some of the problems that might be invisible to the general public today become intolerable once U-Link opens and the trains are carrying passengers.

        The problem arises from problems with joint ops preventing SB LRV’s from entering the DSTT. Once those SB trains are idled they prevent more NB trains from entering the Cap Hill tunnel too. Because basically the Cap Hill tunnel is stubbed off underground, and the only place to idle trains With passengers onboard is mainly in the stations.

        So things can get bad pretty quick.

        It’s important to note three things: 1) things get better the more buses are removed from the DSTT, 2) things get better once NG-Link opens and trains can idle on the stub track at NG, 3) it was issues with DSTT joint ops that set the opening date for U-Link.

        Also note that by the time NG-Link opens buses will be long gone from the DSTT anyhow.

      7. Lazarus if that’s the case, why is it OK for trains to idle with passengers between DSTT stations now while waiting for buses to clear stations?

      8. Brent and Zach, the one piece of advice I’d like to see anybody take is to tolerate any of the malfeasance that’s been so much past practice in this facility. No, we should not face the fact that some operators will have to get used to the Tunnel.

        Nor should the East Side passengers who’ve given the DSTT such heavy ridership over the years get “kicked upstairs” at the time the Tunnel is needed most. Nowadays rush hour traffic runs two ways. Especially Friday nights there’s a game.
        Treatment of these exact passengers might depend on how long we’ll be stuck with ST 2.5.

        So the adjustment needed is for KCM and ST need to get used to seeing that nobody be allowed to go in either end without enough training to assure nothing fails to start because driver doesn’t know how. Or thinks he’s not a member of a highly coordinated team.

        If they can’t, only reason I wouldn’t suggest that operations be given to Veolia is that no firm with shareholders will touch this operation with a twenty foot barge pole.

        Doctor’s appointment today. Reason for late comments. Will say pretty much the same thing next Open Thread. Inluding what happens Saturday.

        Mark Dublin

    2. Exactly. ST has been running trains at U-Link frequency for the past couple months for testing.

      The overlap week will be a case study in how many people defect from the 71/72/73X immediately. If half of them do, Link’s faster boarding will actually decrease DSTT congestion because the buses won’t have to sit at the platform as long. New riders could complicate the picture, but again Link’s faster boarding would take them up in stride.

      1. The only defectors will be those that work at UWMC or near the stadium. I know I won’t abandoned the 74 (71,72,73 will be same for 1 week) because I get a 1 seat ride to my residence with no transfer penalties. The only time I don’t ride straight through is if I need to hit U-Village and link won’t offer me a ride there until another week.

      2. People going to the central or northern U-District or further north are harder to predict. But 60-75% of the riders get on at 43rd or further south, and many are coming from campus locations where it’s not much further to walk to UW Station rather than an Ave bus stop. I used to live at 56th & University Way so I’d be a prime example of one who would benefit most by staying on the bus, but I would waver for two reasons. One, it’s a train, and I’ve been waiting decades for it. Two, the 71/72/73X are prone to congestion and slowdowns, so I’d rather take my chances on the 48 to UW Station, or 43/44/271 if I’m starting from south of 45th. The congestion on 15th and Pacific Street is less than the horror stories suggest, especially after Metro improved the bus stops a couple years ago.

      3. Also, if you reverse commute as I do now, the “express” part of rhte 71/72/73X is not worth much. Northbound it’s good between 6 and 7:30am when it goes on regular I-5, then from 7:30-9 it’s bad because Eastlake is most congested, then from 9-11 it’s tentatively good again because it goes back to I-5 and rush hour has cleared (although there can be bottlenecks before 520), then when the express lanes open in the afternoon it’s good again. Southbound it’s bad all day because in the morning even the express lanes get caught in traffic around Mercer, and the rest of the time it’s always on Eastlake. The bus is around 10 minutes on I-5 without traffic, 20 minutes on Eastlake on a good day, and 25-45 minutes on Eastlake on a bad day. Link is 8 minutes consistently, assuming they keep on top of DSTT congestion, and that leads to a not-much-slower total trip, and a lot less stressful one.

      4. People keep saying the 71/72/73 are prone to congestion. They are similar to the 74 and I’ve been riding it for a year now and not once have I experienced congestion interference. It has always been a sweet ride to and from downtown. The only issue is lack of buses. I also have been anticipating the arrival of link but after the novelty wears I think I would revert back to my 1 seat ride after a long hard day in the office.

      5. The reverse commute is worse than the traditional commute because you can’t use the express lanes, and midday on Eastlake is not slow but it’s not fast either. The 74 doesn’t have reverse runs or midday service so you don’t see it. When I lived at 56th and worked at Harborview, even mornings southbound in the express lanes had congestion between 7:30 and 8am, although that was several years ago so it might have gotten better since.

      6. There will be nothing to defect to. The 71/72/73 runs to downtown will only exist for a week. The 74 won’t serve the Ave (serving Roosevelt instead). During that week, you should expect people to transition, just because they know they soon will have to and it might be fun. Then again, if it is 10:00 AM and I am standing on the Ave, I will probably ride the bus one last time.

        As someone who rides the 41, I concur with Mike about the reverse commute. That is arguably the best thing about Link getting to Northgate. There are issues with capacity (it is a pretty full bus in the morning) but the regular morning commute isn’t that bad. The bus runs slower than it should sometimes, but in general is still pretty fast (slowdowns on the freeway are often not that bad — going 20 MPH seems really slow). It is folks who try to get from Northgate downtown in the evening that are out of luck (the surface streets are really slow). I don’t know how Eastlake compares, but it at least has the advantage of not being that far. Things along Eastlake will improve once Roosevelt BRT is implemented by the city (even if it is done on the cheap).

        I don’t know the timing, but since the U-District station is five years away, there may be a period where the BRT pulls riders from Link. If you are on the Ave, do you take a bus down to Link, or just walk a couple blocks and take the BRT. I think it depends on where you are going (Eastlake, South Lake Union, north downtown versus anywhere Link goes). When they both exist, then Link riders will see a huge jump (although again, depending on where you are and where you are going, the BRT might be faster).

      7. For the first week, a lot of the 71/72/73 vs. Link decisions, at least in the northbound direction, may ultimately boil down to which vehicle comes first. During the period when Link and the 194 operated simultaneously between downtown and the airport, I just took whatever came first, regardless of mode. More often than not, the first vehicle to arrive was Link.

  5. Question

    My wife and I have Orca cards but if we want to bring our kids, who are over 6, do I just do cash fares? We will be taking a bus and then transferring to Link. My understanding is to get a kids orca, you have to apply in person

    1. You can also get a youth card by mail. Cash fares are an option but be aware that you’ll need to pay twice for the kids if you do this.

    2. On Link, paying “cash” involves getting a ticket at a TVM, and you can choose single-ride or all-day. Obviously the all-day would be more economical if you’ll ride it more than once; just make sure to get a station span the longest that you might need (e.g., UW to Columbia City).

      On buses you can pay for multiple people on one ORCA by asking the driver, although sometimes the driver doesn’t know how to do it or can’t get it to work. On Link you may be able to get a multi-person ticket at a TVM while paying by one ORCA; I’m not sure.

    3. Forgot to mention, I don’t know if those cash methods honor the youth fare or if you’d have to pay adult fares.

      Getting a youth card by mail by Friday is probably not possible. You can get one in person in the daytime at the locations in the above link.

    4. If you are planning to ride this Saturday, you can print out a free day pass, covering six people, here. Drop by our all-ages party 3-5 pm at Charlie’s on Broadway.

      For the long term, the only place open in King County to walk in and get a youth ORCA this week is 201 S. Jackson St, just west of King St Station. The Westlake Customer Shop will be open the week after next. (If you qualify for the ORCA LIFT, then Public Health provides free youth ORCA cards for your kids. Fare and passes are not included.)

    5. Agree with others – definitely get your kids their own cards so they have the automatic 2-hr transfer between all modes and systems in the region. Plus they’ll think it’s cool. If you do go in person to get their ORCA cards, they do NOT have to be with you. Just bring their proof of age. Then be sure to mark all the cards in the family for which card belongs to whom (a sharpie works for a while, then fades). They’re the same blue cards as standard adult cards, but each kid’s card contains that kid’s date of birth. On the day that kid turns 19 the card will start deducting the adult fare! (If your kids are quite young we probably won’t have ORCA by then, so that last statement might apply to other readers here). One more thing: You said you & your spouse have cards. The only way your cards could work for other people on the same trip is if they are loaded with E-purse that can be deducted. Passes can’t be used for more than 1 rider on a trip. If your card was issued by your employer, then almost certainly holds a pass and no e-purse (and was issued to you only, not for sharing). If your card has e-purse, a bus driver can deduct multiple fares if s/he knows how and if you tell him/her before tapping. If you’re at a machine and your card has a e-purse, you can use value from the e-purse to buy a ticket. That’s also fyi. Just get your kids their own cards! :-)

  6. Bummer about the 550 moving upstairs…I’ve been looking forward to the easy in-tunnel transfer from downtown Bellevue to Link to Capitol Hill.

    1. It is just 3-6 pm-ish on weekdays. Getting off the bus at ID Station and walking down the stairs (or taking the elevator) will hopefully not be an undue burden.

      1. Since the first downtown stop for EB I-90 buses is farside 5th Ave S at S Jackson, there are also two street crossings involved. That slows you down more than the walk down the stairs.

      2. BTW, Brent and Zach, my first sentence about patience should read is that patience with bad operations is the last thing anyone should have. And sloppy editing first of the list. But I thing Veolia will tolerate me even less. Shareholders will put on 1929 high collar suits and jump off the Smith Tower.

        Mark

    2. The 550 is the bus which should *not* move upstairs. That’s the route which is going to turn into East Link, right?

      Move all the other buses upstairs. All of them! But keep the 550 in the tunnel. Get people’s habits lined up with how things will operate in the future.

      1. It’s less important where a bus arrives at at the end if its run than where you wait for it at the beginning. For departures you have to know where to wait and you want protection from the rain and wind. For arrivals you just need to not be lost when you get off, and maybe “Fourth Avenue” is close enough to “Third Avenue” for people to find their way. In any case, the 550’s move is a temporary experiment.

  7. Why the heck are the southbound signs labeled “Seattle & SeaTac/Airport”? Did ST forget that UW is in Seattle?

    1. It seems to be an attempt to guide visitors to downtown. The same reason the station has been called “Westlake/Seattle” on some signs. A large chunk of riders don’t care where the city limits are, but they do want the name of the city near the principle downtown station so they know where to get off, or at least if they do get off there when another downtown station would have been closer, they’re not that far from their destination.

      1. Sadly I have to agree. Rather than keeping things consistent and logical by not renaming things, ST is focusing on making sure people realize they’re going into “Seattle.”

        Problem is that this just doesn’t scale — but naming the stations consistently and using proper wording to indicate train direction definitely does scale. ST is going to have to realize that not everyone is riding Link just to get off the train in the middle of downtown.

    2. The “SeaTac/Airport” part is a sticker; I assume it says “Angle Lake” or possibly a combination of the two underneath the sticker. Since the southern terminus is so far outside Seattle, perhaps this is the way to guide people to the other stops in Seattle?

      1. That’s the sign stickers; I thought we were talking about the TV displays. The maps have “SeaTac/Airport” in bold and are keeping that when Angle Lake opens (unless they change the maps). That may indicate that SeaTac/Airport will always be bold as the network expands, and the same for “Westlake/Seattle”.

        Some cities put a rectangle around the downtown stations in their map. That could be something ST could move to.

  8. The “Departs to Seattle…” signage is odd. The stations are already *in* Seattle. Signs should read Departs to Downtown Seattle…, or just Departs to Downtown…

    1. The word “Departs” has to go, or at least be in smaller type above. And “Departure” or “Departures” would be more transit-like. The third-person singular ‘s’ without a subject looks unprofessional, and is incorrect if multiple runs are showing.

      The “Bus Arrivals” thing may not turn out right because this is not an airport or a train station. In a transit station, everything is “Departing” even if it’s not really (i.e., if it’s terminating there). It needs to show the times the buses leave the stops, not the time they get to them.

    2. Yeah their convention for indicating train direction seems overly complicated … I’m not sure why it can’t use the standard convention of “Train direction: SeaTac/Airport” or “Train direction: University of Washington” since those are the current terminus stations. Once Angle Lake opens, it can simply be “Train direction: Angle Lake” possibly with a small indicator of the airport being on that route (think of how BART does it).

      If people are confused, proper maps and station info need to be shown at the stations. For a system that currently only has one line, this shouldn’t be so difficult.

      Every metro system I’ve been on has no issue properly conveying which direction/line each train is headed on … ST seems to be pretty bad at it, though.

      1. Maybe they could use that innovative directional terminology — North and South.

        I was hoping that ST might use the ULink launch to improve wayfinding. But I guess that will have to wait for…I don’t know what.

      2. @RDPence

        I totally understand the desire to use simple North/South, but that would again be a reinventing of the wheel … every other metro system uses the terminus stations at either end of the line to indicate which direction you’re going. Sure there’s a little extra annoyance in redoing all of the signs as more stations come on line, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to how much the whole line is costing us.

        Then I also think about the few situations where you’re not actually heading North or South when getting on the train … such as boarding at Westlake to go to Capitol Hill — you’re going East (and vice versa, West). I’m nitpicking to prove a point, obviously — the real way to solve this is simply saying the terminus station which the train is headed toward.

      3. And if you get on I-5 in downtown Tacoma to go to Fife, you’re going east, but the signs still say north, because WSDOT believes you have the intelligence to understand the big picture. Actually, highways give directions and major destinations, which probably makes the most sense.

      4. One major exception: the London Underground uses N/S/E/W-bound instead of terminus stations to identify platforms. In certain cases, key destinations are indicated in smaller type below the compass points or a line diagram of stations served from that platform is provided.

      5. And then there’s the Northern Line on London Underground, which has such a complicated branching system that the signs at Camden Town are very confusing.

      6. I was hoping that ST might use the ULink launch to improve wayfinding. But I guess that will have to wait for…

        …a second line.

  9. Awesome look! Excited to ride for myself this weekend. It’s so refreshing to see two new stations that are rail-only with a central platform.

    The real-time departure info for trains with proper screens on each side of the platform at the new stations is wonderful. Like you I still think the screen design could use some work (still tons of wasted space … and why is the current time so small?) but it’s already a huge improvement over historically not having screens.

    I’ve noticed the increase in signage at current stations, which is badly needed (especially at Westlake) since there was basically zero signage before … do we know if ST plans to bring the full-on real-time screens to current stations like what’s installed at UW Station now? Or would that be most likely to take place once buses are out of the tunnel entirely?

    1. ST has had a project to bring real-time information throughout the network. I think it will be coming soonish to the DSTT stations, probably this year or next year.

  10. I’m thinking that maybe I’ll head from my home in Tacoma to Sea-Tac so I can ride the whole damn thing to UW.

  11. The UW station seems nice. It’s a shame that Metro is screwing up so badly informing riders of the changes. There are so many inaccurate or confusing statements on the “rider alert” signs which Metro didn’t bother to post until recently.

    For instance, on the alert sign at Stevens Way and Okanogan Lane at UW, Metro writes “northwest” when they really mean “south”. And they write “east” when they technically mean “north” or even better “the bus stop directly across the street that you can see from here”. And to top it off, they misspelled the word “bus”. Why don’t the rider alert signs include actual walking directions rather than as-the-crow-flies compass directions?

    I know I rant about this a lot, but it is incredibly frustrating just how bad Metro is at communicating effectively. I’ve missed buses during construction re-routes because the alert sign told me to go to the wrong place. How hard would it be to create some sort of civilian oversight board for Metro whose job would be to check over anything Metro is writing for the public to make sure it’s correct and understandable by an average person?

    1. Do you trust any group of two or more Seattleites to agree about naming anything in this town?

      “Board buses (‘busses’, ‘coaches’) to South Lake Union (‘Denny Regrade’, ‘Cascade’) on the northeast (Denny grid direction; compass direction east) corner, caddy-corner (‘kitty-corner’) from this stop (‘bus zone’).”

      1. Well then the solution is to minimize words and maximize graphics. Metro should post a map on all rider alert signs giving directions for where to go to catch the bus.

  12. “We can’t wait to use this station that was built for us. Have fun Prontoing over to Kane Hall. Suckers.”

    – Wealthy UW Football Boosters

  13. Look at that shiny down escalator to the platform!

    Now, how do we get that in the existing stations that need one?

    1. It’s rather annoying that there aren’t up and down escalators at each area of the tunnel stations … but is it such a big deal that we need to consider spending (knowing this is the government, way too much) money to add them to existing stations?

      Anyone who needs to avoid the stairs for mobility/safety/luggage reasons has an elevator available at the stations, and for the most part there are escalators to take you up from platforms. Of all the issues in our current tunnel stations, I put escalators wayyyyy down the list.

      1. Would you happen to suffer from arthritis, push a stroller, use a cane, or carry luggage from any bus or a future East Link train to travel to the airport, Andrew? There are many kinds of people like these who would find a down escalator important, especially since some elevators have been out of service for weeks on end.

      2. Haven’t you noticed, Al? Everybody here rides their bikes up Mount Rainier; and think that living “only” two miles from a grocery store is no big deal to walk or ride every time you need something (apparently we are also all single, and never travel with anyone who may not be as fit as we are). /snark, sort of

        Seriously, though, the elevator out of service thing is a huge deal in stations that do not have down escalators–fixing these any time they break down should be immediate priorities over any other non-life threatening work in the system. I would venture to say that many people fit your definition and it is just a bit condescending to blow off the fact that not everybody is as young, fit, or unencumbered as some of our posters–even if we’d really like to be.

      3. Of course, anyone who is actually seriously into outdoor recreation will have had at least one injury requiring at least six weeks in a wheelchair.

        Anyone who hasn’t is just putzing about.

        /Snark

        I’ve seen more bike riders and young women in tight skirts use elevators at transit stations than I have wheelchair users. Having them out of service is a significant problem.

  14. I’m as excited about this opening as I was about the original Link opening. There is going to be a huge transformation in how the subway is perceived in Seattle once people get used to the new stops.

    1. There are always lots of good photographers at these events, but that’s not my talent. Alex Garland at Capitol Hill Seattle is very good, and when Bruce E. from STB staff attends events like this he’s very good as well. But yea, an iPhone is the best I’ve got right now.

    2. I generally don’t put high grade images on the web. This is especially true since I got email from a novelty company asking why I couldn’t put better quality images on a certain web site, as they needed to steal them to put on coffee mugs for a certain client.

  15. Why did the northbound trip take 34 seconds longer? Is it more uphill or something? Or was it just an anomaly with the press event? Otherwise I don’t understand why it would take any more time to travel the line in one direction than in the other direction.

  16. It is somewhat worrisome that the 550 westbound is moving to the surface. 4th Avenue traffic has become a gridlock nightmare within the last year. There are more and more commutes where’s traffic is practically not moving on 4th Avenue and then on Olive Way. I’m concerned that this will delay outbound 550 trips.

    1. What would you think about kicking it out of the downtown core completely and having it intersect the tunnel traffic at the stadium station? That way it doesn’t get impacted by downtown traffic at all.

  17. Can someone explain to me why ST decided not to use fare gates for Link? I honestly don’t know and am accustomed to DC Metro’s SmarTrip system…

    1. They cost money to maintain, and mean having staff on hand at each station once something goes wrong with them.

      It’s cheaper to have a few fare enforcement inspectors roving the system.

    2. Well the current issue is that the downtown Seattle tunnel has buses as well as Link trains running in it. The buses take payment as you board, while the trains don’t, so there wouldn’t be any logical way to have fare gates right now.

      So even though there are lots of stations (including the new ones) that are rail-only, until the buses are out of the tunnel and every stop is rail-only it wouldn’t make sense to have fare gates.

      I’m not entirely sure if ST is ever considering fare gates even when the buses are gone, though, as most of the non-tunnel stations aren’t really designed in a way that would prevent people from skipping the fare anyway. Most are open platforms that would basically just be on the honor system (plus fare enforcement officers, of course) even if you had fare gates … so why spend all the money installing and maintaining them?

      I personally would prefer to just have fare gates versus fare enforcement officers and lots of people that I know don’t pay to ride, but understanding the amount of time and money it’d require to build them out at this point with so many stations already created, I don’t think I could push for that to happen.

      1. Ever notice how many people it takes to run a fare gate system? The ferries always have someone at the faregates. SkyTrain seems hit or miss.

        Faregates aren’t necessarily infallable either. I read someplace that they think NYC subway is in the 0.5% fare evasion rate or so, but certainly not zero. No matter the system, someone figures out a way to game it – though in the land where bus transfers have no date stamp I would have a few other priorities.

    3. ST calculated that the cost of fare evasion the inspectors don’t catch is less than the cost of fare gates.

      1. I could easily see that being the case. Obviously anecdotal, but I feel like I see fare enforcement officers way more often on Link now as well.

    4. Fare gates don’t work in the DSTT which is shared with pay-at-the-door buses. And they don’t work with most surface stations where riders can readily access platforms via other means.

    5. The DSTT was designed for off-board payment but it wasn’t very well designed for fare gates. You’d have to put the gates at the top of the escalators, but the elevators are often on a different wall and would bypass them, and do you put additional gates in front of every elevator? Cities with fare gates usually have one point where you go through the gates and then all the escalators and elevators are behind that, but the DSTT stations aren’t designed that way: the TVMs and entrances and escalators and elevators and stairs are scattered all over the place.

  18. Three sets of escalators to get from surface to platform level? How long does that take? Are the elevators reasonably high-speed, or are they slow, clunky hydraulic elevators like in the DSTT?

  19. Truthfully, I’m scared. The 66 and 25 going away is going to crush the 70. I can barely get on a northbound 70 in north SLU as it is. The amount of people that get on and off the 66/X in SLU and Eastlake is also staggering. I feel for the people that are going to be blindsided as there is literally no signage on most buses about the changes.

    Then they are going to redo the Fairview bridge. Wow, the 70 is going to be an unmitigated disaster.

    1. The new schedule does add some trips to the 70 during the busiest times. Currently, the southbound #70 is about every 12 minutes from 7:30-9:30 AM. In the new schedule, the #70 runs every 10 minutes from 7 AM-10 AM.

      Some existing #66 riders will take the 63 instead. The 25, today, carries so few riders anyway, I doubt its going away will have much of an impact.

  20. Is it still the case that SB trains departing Cap Hill can’t leave until buses have cleared out of the short stretch of tunnel between Westlake and CPS? And that NB buses at Westlake have to wait for the train from Cap Hill to arrive at Westlake before proceeding to CPS?

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