Sound Transit has a series of ads and art wraps out on Link Light Rail trains reminding passengers not to hog space in various ways.

When someone takes up two seats, either by putting their belongings on the adjoining seat (if the stuff could have fit under the seat or on their lap), or taking an inner seat next to a vacant outer seat, they probably know they are being rude. But this is happening less and less.

Sound Transit spokesperson Bruce Gray proclaims, “Folks have really responded well to this latest [ad] campaign.”

Blocking doorways as riders are trying to get in and out is problematic, but often a result of the train being packed, and somebody blocking the aisle leading to the center articulation zone or the stairwell to the raised end area. Stairwell blockers, consider this: Ten riders could be standing on that raised area. All too often, nobody is standing there, and the entryways are full of standing passengers. Please, let them by, or move to the end of the raised area. This stairwell blocking behavior is the equivalent of taking an inner seat, and putting one’s stuff all over ten other seats. The same thing happens on buses, resulting in riders being passed up.


Gray added that, “We are looking into adding some marking on the platforms to encourage folks to stand aside where the doors open and give those deboarding a clear path off and away from the trains before people start boarding.”

Something else that could help in the downtown transit tunnel is moving all the buses to the front quarter of the platforms. This has already happened on the northbound side, with the elimination of Bay B and consolidation of King County Metro routes 41, 74, and 255 at Bay A. It could happen on the southbound side, now that Metro route 106 will be re-routed out of the tunnel in September. There could potentially be enough space for ST Express route 550 at Bay C, joining less-crushloaded Metro routes 101, 102, and 150. That would get route 550’s long passenger queues out of the way of those trying to deboard and board the train.

62 Replies to “Blocking the Train Stairwell is Rude x 10”

  1. Regular rider here. These ideas could work, at least a little, in not-so-crowded trains. But the reality is that Link trains are becoming more and more crowded, and it’s not always possible for riders to distribute themselves optimally.

    If I’m riding only a few stops, I don’t want to be standing on the raised portion of the car where I’ll have to elbow my way to the door. I’ll be standing in the vestibule where I can alight more easily. Sometimes riders have no choice but to stand in the doorway because it’s the only standing room available to them.

    Often luggage is too large to fit under a seat, or the underseat area is consumed by utility boxes.

    1. Yes, I stand by the door if I’m only going one or two stations. But it’s not clear that everyone standing by the door is getting off soon.

  2. When traveling to or from the airport on a bus with large suitcases, there is often no practical place to put it except on an adjacent seat. In the past, I have generally dealt with these types of situations by intentionally choosing buses that I expected to be less crowded, but depending on where one lives, that may or may not be an option. To say that one can’t put luggage on an adjacent seat that is too big to fit anywhere else except an adjacent seat is to effectively say that you shouldn’t be riding transit at all with the luggage, but should be driving instead.

    1. I painted wheels on the side of my large suitcase, then just put it on the bike rack with a bungee.
      Pro Tip: Make sure the wheels face the driver.

    2. That was my first concern but Brent did add, “if the stuff could have fit under the seat or on their lap)”.

      People have to be able to take luggage to the airport, groceries a few days a week, laundry to the laundromat, and other occasional things they’re transporting, or it’s impossible for people to have a carless transit-oriented life like we supposedly want them to.

      1. The usual issue isn’t with large luggage/bags/packages but with people doing things like setting a purse or bookbag on the seat next to them.

      2. I once had a guy fixing his deck and we put the 8′ trek boards under several seats. He was smart enough to shop off-peak.

  3. The rudest thing passengers do is sit in a already occupied by someone. Too many can’t figure out how to squeeze into the tiny seats so they cause the person next to them to be squished. This causes me a lot of back pain so I block the seat next to me to stay out of that pain, especially if there are open seats elsewhere. I’ve had way too people act like their name is on a specific seat.

    1. The typical issue isn’t with large luggage/bags/packages but with people doing things like setting a purse or bookbag on the seat next to them.

  4. I have to agree with other commenters this system isn’t built for internal mobility when at capacity. I wouldn’t want to be on the raised platform part if I’m getting off at the next stop, and I won’t. If they want better circulation, get better designed, or wider coaches.

  5. Did you mean “taking an outer seat next to a vacant inner seat”? I can’t see why, if there are two front-facing seats open, it would be more rude to take the inner seat than to sit in the outer seat and force someone to either wait for you to move over, or else make them crawl over you to get to the seat. If you take the inner seat, another person can just sit down next to you in the outer seat.

    Maybe there’s something I’m not seeing?

    1. By inner seat, I mean the one closest to the center of the vehicle. By outer seat, I mean window seat.

      I really only bring this one up for comparative purposes, to highlight how impactful stairwell blocking is. I don’t think of seats as being more important than standing spaces. I think of seats as being in the way of multiple standing spaces.

      That’s why I like to stand next to the folded up fold-down seat, until someone asks me to move. And then I move, even in a crushload the fold-down sitter just made worse. Yeah, I’m a wimp who doesn’t like to argue geometry with a stranger who is thinking about anything but the other riders just trying to get on the train.

      I hope future light-rail vehicle floor plans have a lot fewer seats, and none of them fold-down.

      1. That makes sense! I was thinking “inner” meant “farther from the aisle” rather than “farther from the window”.

        Yes, fewer seats mean more room, but don’t forget that some people do need to sit, especially for longer light rail trips. For the shorter trips, probably not as many, since the trips are much quicker than bus trips.

      2. Consider the chronology of a light rail commute trip. Outbound in the PM, lots of people have to stand. As the train clears out station by station, more people get to sit. Rarely does anyone have to stand more than 20 minutes on the train.

        Inbound in the AM, those traveling furthest get the seats (and some choose to stand). Those having to stand boarded within 20 minutes of downtown.

        The commuters get the added feature of having to stand and wait for the train for an average of two minutes less than during off-peak. Regular commuters seeking a seat also know not to get on the front car.

      3. Also, allowing more housing units to be built in the central city reduces the amount of time riders would have to stand on the train. Blame the NIMBYs for long standing times.

  6. Learning proper doorway behavior is also important. Many riders are not used to stepping out of a train onto a platform momentarily to let others off if they are standing in the doorway.

    1. I’m torn on this. On the 1 hand, it’s common decency to step off the bus/train to let people off. On the other hand, on 1 occasion, the bus drove off before I was able to step back on.

      1. I understand your frustration, Larry. I omitted that I was discussing rail doors (with platforms) and not bus doors.

  7. Seems like the narrow layout of the trains is to blame. It’s laid out too much like a bus, and not easy enough for people to move around inside. They should probably get rid of some chairs and have people sit center facing like most subways are organized…
    And get rid of the stairwell. It’s just one more obstacle

    1. Some of the seating could be reworked, such that the lower portion of the car has central facing seats only. But the only way to remove the stairs are to buy new cars. The design of the Kinkisharyo’s requires the raised portions near the cab ends due to the axel design.

    2. This is the problem with light rail vehicles over heavy-rail/metro style vehicles. They are narrower and due to their low floor design, they can’t fit as many people because they need stairs.

      We have the opportunity with ST3 to invest in better technology for portions of the line, but ST seems seems to want to triple down on a bad technology.

      1. There are 100% low-floor LRVs now with no stairs. See the Alstom cars for Toronto.

      2. Ottawa. Alstom Citadis good for 65 mph.

        Toronto is getting Bombardier Flexity cars good for 45mph or so on the city streets, and I think Crosstown is getting a version geared for 52 mph or so.

        In any event, 100% low floor is definitely the way to go now that someone has a car that does this at higher speeds.

        Many places are ordering longer cars too. There are a couple places that have cars in the 230 foot long range, which eliminates the coupling and cab space consumption.

  8. 1. Make DSTT platforms Proof of Payment, post inspectors at top of stairs, and much delay will just go ‘way. Still waiting for cost estimate of a minute’s operating delay, bus and train. Good chance free ride on any DSTT bus at rush would more than pay for itself.

    2. The 550 could stop exactly where it now does if MC Metro weren’t too lazy (c’mon, Metro, defend yourself and gimme the real reason!) to dispatch buses at Tunnel portals to arrive at the four (count them!) remaining stations in correct order.

    3. Any 550 driver who won’t hold ’til front bay coaches clear Convention Place is welcome to pick any route without the problem, like the 7. Or the 4. For surface ops, we used to be taught Safety over Schedule. Inside DSTT, order should be Safety followed by Efficiency. Followed by exclamation point.

    4. Four buses at front bay will work. If buses space themselves so platform isn’t so packed nobody can move. And also if rule is that, unlike the street, no bus has to stop twice. Would work even better if either platoon order or information readout could tell passengers where to wait.

    5. Decal an adorable furry animal on each LINK cab door saying: “Don’t Let the Lemur Get Lonesome!” Not kidding. Also teaches what a lemur is. Though could be conflict with warning to keep driver’s door clear. Problem could be temporary, since trains carry now carry larger loads, more of whom have never ridden trains at all. Also, request could replace at least one existing PA warning. DSTT was designed to not need delay apologies.

    6. If there’s not enough room on an airport train for luggage, fit one car with folding seats only and hand-holds, and also bike and luggage securements. Most rush hour trains will already carry standing loads from here on. So baggage car could have more standing room. Right now, I’ve found that wheeled luggage is most secure when passengers sit on the folding benches and hold their luggage in front of them. Usually allows aisle to stay clear.

    Mark Dublin

    1. honestly, imo once you get past one (small-medium sized) bag you will check + carry-on, you need to not take the Link…it’s harsh yes, but sound transit should be honest, they are not a cargo carrier. I get annoyed with large checked-sized bags on the link it is ridiculous…

      1. On my visit to Seattle last week, I noticed a huge percentage of the passengers had large luggage. I think this is a problem with having a single line serving the airport. If you have, say, 1% of the passengers headed to the airport luggage isn’t such a issue compared to 20%.

    2. More lemurs, please!

      At Westlake in peak afternoon hours, the platform staff seems pretty good at calling out what bus has just entered the west end of the station so that everybody at the east end (waiting for their bus) at least has an idea that theirs may be second or third in line, and can go there. Despite best efforts they can be a bit hard to hear and perhaps should have some sort of small amplifier. Beats the “Next train…northbound…is arriving in…two minutes,” which is rarely accurate anyway. Also, tell the people running to the 41 that there’s another one within 5 minutes (often less), and the bus isn’t going to wait.

      It does seem like there is less emphasis on scanning ORCAs at the rear doors than there was at first, although that’s strictly anecdotal evidence on my part (I ride the train, so I’m just watching).

      Of course the best solution for informing passengers would be the one they showed on the station renderings in the mid-1980’s EIS, which was an electronic board listing buses in order of arrival. Put these at platform and mezzanine levels and everybody will know a) when their next bus is and b) what order it will be in, between trains. Oh, that’s right–we can’t do that here. :(

  9. Blocking doorways as riders are trying to get in and out is problematic, but often a result of the train being packed

    If only there were a way to make trains longer or more spacious…

  10. This is a valiant effort but the real solution is as many 3+ car trains as maintenance need allow now now and procuring open format bike/luggage/wheelchair/stroller friendly cars in our next buy to add to each train.

    1. Interesting tidbit from the Wikipedia entry for trams in Berlin:

      In July 2006, the cost of energy per vehicle-kilometer was:
      tram €0.33
      coupled set €0.45
      bus €0.42

      Link isn’t exactly a tram operation, but these are very close to light rail cars in terms of size and shape. It takes very little energy to operate with s double length train.

      That number made me realize why TriMet has decided to run pretty much all MAX trains as two car trains and abandon the coupling and uncoupling process at Ruby Junction.

      1. Electricity is just one cost. Running up mileage and shortening the lifespan of the fleet is another consideration.

        At $4 million per LRV, depreciation may be the larger cost.

        There is a limit to how many LRVs can be in service at once. 15% of the 62-car fleet has to be held out for maintenance, leaving 52 LRVs for peak times. With 19 trainsets running at peak once Angle Lake Station opens, that means running at least five 2-car trains in the peak circuit. But I suspect that 19 number is for budgeting, set for last year’s Service Implementation Plan, and that if it turns out only 18 are needed once the Angle-Lake-UW service pattern has matured, we could conceivably end up with only two 2-car trains during peak on the busiest days.

        If more capacity is regularly needed outside of peak, extending peak hours may be a cheaper solution.

      2. Its its pretty likely we’ll never be consistently running one car trains anymore, what about removing the cab and adding seating/storage? Sure its not a lot of space but its some.

        I’d guess we’d probably have to keep a few dual cabbed trains for ice trains and whatnot.

        Also, for coupling/decoupling, I’m not sure if they could use the cab at the opposite end, or perhaps there could be a controller that plugs in and allows the operator to operate the train while standing/sitting in a passenger seat. (Mind you, the train would out of service for this option, so there wouldn’t be any passenger interference.)

      3. It makes sense to consider options like this for the LRV acquisition currently underway. It probably doesn’t make sense to modify the already delivered LRVs.

      4. @Brent: So at what point do you think it is time to add three car trains? At 17% growth rate of risership, it won’t be long before what is there is at capacity. More frequency is good, but that’s not an option on Link thanks to the ML King restriction.

      5. I’m not sure what 17% growth figure you are referring to. Year-on-year ridership growth has been about 80% since U-Link opened.

        If it could be done now, I’d run all 3-car trains, all the time, and gather a full year’s data before any right-sizing reductions, just like how ST ran 2-car trains all the time for the first year before dropping down to 1-car consists on slow weekends and slow evenings.

        But with only 52 LRVs out of the 62-LRV fleet available, while at least 10 have to be held for maintenance, ST would have to figure a way to do the peak loop with 17 trains. The algorithm would be really tight, and could mess with operators’ breaks. At 6-minute headway, the trains could only handle a round-trip of a maximum of 102 minutes. Expect the revenue portion of a one-way trip between UW Station and Angle Lake Station to be scheduled as requiring 48 minutes.

        I’m optimistic that the 19 trains to be used in Angle Lake testing are a budget number, and that it will drop down to 18 once testing shows 19 won’t fit with the limited dwell space at each end. Having a couple peak 2-car trains timed not to come through the downtown tunnel at the peak of peak would not be the end of the world.

  11. Good luck with that. People like to stand by the doors. NYC has subway cars with no stairs and it has a major issue with door area crowding.

    One underlying cause of the door-crowding is that most riders don’t make any effort to be aware of exiting passengers and make way for them. If I knew my fellow passengers would let me get by when I needed to exit, I’d be much more willing to move to a less convenient location. Unfortunately, most pay no attention. That places all the burden on the passenger exiting to somehow make their way to the door before the train leaves while not being accused of touching anyone inappropriately or getting in an altercation with a rider who is unwilling to move (I’ve seen both such scenarios on buses here and subways elsewhere).

  12. The worst are the ones with bikes who (for example) get on at UWS and are too lazy to put their bicycle on the hanger (“I’m only going one stop”), so they just hold onto it with the front wheel inserted into the rack box while blocking access to the middle section of the car. It’s weird how some people can be totally oblivious to those around them.

  13. Not only is “corking” aka blocking the stairwell rude on a train, it is rude on a bus. There was an instance on a 312 bus 8 months ago where I had a blocker at the rear exit blocking the stairwell up on the bus. What made it two orders of magnitude rude was that there was an EMPTY seat up the stairwell.

    I did what I had to do, ducked under the arm of the blocker, went up the stairs, and took that seat. I got the total stinkeye from the blocker, but geez.

  14. Good to point out good behavior here – and better to do so at the time, and at the spot – and politely, of course.. “Move back folks, please, there are 10 people behind me trying to get on” works more often than not, in my experience. The people who need the nudge are not reading this blog.

  15. the number 1 thing that pissed me off on the link: Riders blocking the escalators(if you are going stand there move to the ******* right dude)… especially at the airport but I also experience this in cap hill and uw stations. Sound Transit really should make it a ticketable offense (and enforce it with warnings)

    1. I agree that this really annoying. Especially when people block the escalators with luggage. Not to long ago I missed a train by seconds because a couple had made a wall with luggage and I could not get up to the platform in time.

  16. Yeah, anything that bothers MIchael P. should be forbidden – with stern punishments administered.

  17. I visited San Francisco three weeks ago. The MUNI metro stations have markings painted on the platform floor marking areas either side of the door for boarding passenger with a space in between for alighting passengers. Seem to work well. Here it would be a good training/culture building device for rail transit newbies. Reducing dwell times benefits everyone. I’m concerned with the increasing passenger loads and crowding that ST will run out of cars before 2019. Reducing dwell time reduces the end to end travel time and can allow some additional runs (increase frequency) or longer length trains. ST should likewise consider reducing the dwell time at all the stations, they seems ridiculous long, for the same reason.

  18. Solutions:

    Remove/limit vertical panels. Compare Link LRVs with Valley Metro Rail (Phoenix) LRVs. Same vehicle, different layout. Valley Metro Rail does not have panels and there is much more room in the low floor section. I would argue the crush load is substantially higher in Phoenix.

    Bikes: The bicycle hanger location and vertical panel for Link does not work well. Nor does do the bicycle hangers work well in the middle articulation for Valley Metro Rail. However, at least with the latter there is more room in the low floor section of the vehicle by the doors.

    As many have said, the solution is 3 car trains. It’s ridiculous to invest in the capital cost for these systems but go short on fleet.

    Per comment on inner/outer seat. Many taller folks cannot physically fit in the the window seat therefore must sit in the aisle sit so they can sit at an angle.

    1. Thanks for the observations.

      See my comment upthread about ST’s fleet size, and how that limits availability of 3-car trains.

  19. There is quite a bit of low-hanging fruit w.r.t. bicycles:

    1) The hook is, inexplicably, about six inches further out from the wall than necessary for a bicycle with 700C (29″) wheels. With full-size bikes (average six-foot-tall rider) this makes the seat and often the handlebars jut out further into the aisle than necessary.

    2) With better design and two hooks, you could hang two bicycles in the space currently reserved for one.

    3) If folks without bicycles would allow bicyclists to enter the station elevators first you could stack them against the back wall and there would be more room for everyone else. It’s also in the non-bicyclists interest as they would be the first ones out, thus saving time. The scrum around the elevators at UW station is ridiculous. Mention this aloud and you just get dirty looks or shrugged shoulders. (Of course it could be argued that to use the elevator without a mobility challenge or a bicycle is rude in the first place.)

    1. Another low hanging fruit: luggage racks above the seats. Nobody does that, but nobody else in the USA has so much airport traffic on their light rail line.

      Might as well use the space provided by that low floor for something.

      1. I’ve been thinking the exact same thing for awhile. the low floor areas where the seats are would be perfect for that.

      2. The racks would have been great during the time passengers could leisurely gather all their luggage, instead of having 20 seconds to flounder off the train. Now, passengers will be afraid of their luggage riding off to Angle Lake Station, to end up in the darkness of some Lost and Found office that will take numerous calls to locate when they get back from their vacation.

        Bikes, vacationers, and peak commuters share a common need for lots more standing space on the Link Horizontal Elevator.

  20. I really like the nobunny needs to hear your music sign. That is something I would really like to somehow, see stronger enforcement of.

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