In preparation for ‘mega-event’ service expected to be needed on Friday, September 30th – when both UW football and Mariner baseball converge on a weekday afternoon peak  – tomorrow (Wednesday) Sound Transit will test ‘inverted peak’ service for the first time. With Friday typically being the highest ridership day of the week and Angle Lake newly open to suburban sports fans, September 30th could be a record-breaking day for Link.

A typical weekday sees a base of 2-car trains supplemented during peak by 3-car trains. Wednesday’s service level will invert that, with a base of 3-car trains supplemented during peak by 2-car trains. That’s an 8% boost in capacity for the same service frequency. Sound Transit’s Bruce Gray said that an additional two trains will be held in reserve to clear crowds if necessary.

Tomorrow is a good test run because a Wednesday Mariners matinee against Toronto will end around the beginning of the evening commute (with lots of Canadians making the trek down boosting attendance further). It’s also a good test for mid-day Sounder, with the new 10:18-11:31am train available for Mariners fans, with the regular choice of weekday evening trains home.

Enjoy the extra capacity tomorrow.

31 Replies to “Sound Transit to Test “Inverted Peak” Trains Wednesday: More 3 Car Trains”

    1. I support light rail where density and demand warrant it. I do not support lighr rail to the suburbs and exurbs. I support BRT, HOV lanes carpools and car shares. I support off board payment and signal priority. Joe, i know your a fan of rail. I support commuter and high speed inter city rail.

      I am not the bad guy here.


      1. Joe you aren’t helping your cause. It’s entirely valid to critique how ST spends their money. Besides aren’t you in Skagit County? You don’t even pay ST tax.

      2. This is getting to the point of offensive – and I agree with a lot of what Joe wants in general. Personal attacks should never be warranted on this forum. Reasonable people can disagree on things and have valid reasons to do so. Fil has every right to bring his opinions to this forum and not be attacked for it. I personally have changed my mind on topics where other commenters had different ideas; I perhaps have had the same effect on others. It wasn’t through bad puns and name-calling.

  1. I don’t seem to remember Sound Transit experimenting with train lengths at all prior to U-Link, even though there were some huge events. Was Link originally one-car trains until capacity warranted it, or was it two-car trains since day one? Also, did they run three-car trains for the Super Bowl XLVIII victory parade, especially given that Link ran at a lower peak frequency back then?

    1. Before the ULink tunnels were available, two-car was the max the DSTT could handle. They occasionally ran 3 or 4car trains but only from Stadium southward.

    2. The Pine Street Stubtunnel (where trains turned around before U-Link opened) only had room for a 2 car train. So any train going into the tunnel was limited to 2 cars. For some special events, like the Super Bowl Parade ST ran 4 car trains from Airport to Stadium.

      Link started off running 2 car trains then for about a year or 18 months experimented with 1 car trains at night and in the early morning, but strong growth necessitated going back to 2 cars.

    3. Like Seattleite says – Launched with all 2-car trains, after a short time was dropped to 1-car trains on nights & weekends, then was later bumped back up to 2-car trains.

    4. I believe there was a three car train for launch day. Before part of the stub tunnel had to be set aside for ULink construction.

      As the rest of the folks said here though, after that cars were limited to two maximum for lack of space to turn around.

      1. You are correct. ST had the ability to run 3-car trains up until the start of U-Link construction, but rarely did because demand didn’t warrent it. Once U-Link construction actually started the hard limit dropped to 2-car trains, but that limit was only temporary.

  2. How would Link help Canadian baseball fans get back to Canada? Do you think they fly here from Toronto? My impression is that almost all of them just drive down from Vancouver. The Blue Jays are the only MLB team in Canada now, and they have fans all over Canada, including Vancouver, B.C.

    And, I would expect that any fans who did fly down here from Toronto — or any Canadian city — would not necessarily be going to SeaTac airport right after the game. They might stay an extra night in Seattle, or at least go out to dinner after the game before flying back to Canada.

    I just find that a curious comment. Do you mean you think Canadian fans at the the M’s game Wednesday would head to SeaTac airport right after the game? Or, what?

      1. Most of the Canadian fans come from British Columbia and drive down as it probable faster then flying in. They do have to go through immigration both ways at the border but not go through the security process at the airports and not have to be at the airports 2 hours prior to departure. So it doubtful that many of the Canadian fans would be using Light Rail.

      2. Oh no Jeff. There been many Blue Jay fans riding LINK light rail (yep, they are wearing team attire) . Most of them have been boarding either in the downtown area or Sea-Tac Airport station. You are right, that some of them drove down from BC (Vancouver), but some of them probably flew down too.

      3. I’ve ridden a bus to visit Vancouver a couple of times, so it’s entirely conceivable that someone living in Vancouver might do the same to visit Seattle. It’s certainly the cheapest way to travel.

      4. Jeff:

        Just because someone drives into an urban area doesn’t mean that is their best transportation once in the urban area. Even if they park at the stadium for $20, they still may need to get to restaurant or other places.

    1. I work nights and I’m downtown transferring from the 512 to the 62 around 11:00-11:30. There have been TONS of Blue Jays fans walking around 3rd and Pine, quite a few waiting to catch buses. Lots of them on the 62 heading north. If I’m running into this many of them that far from the stadiums, I’m positive there are plenty more using Link to get to/from the games.

    2. There were folks from nearly every province in town for the Jays series, as always happens. Yes, the vast majority were from BC, but we met folks form Alberta (LOTS from Calgary, barely a 2 hour flight away), Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick yesterday where I work. Happens every year – have a look at the 2017 Ms schedule to see when the invasion happens next year, unless a wall is built along our northern frontier by some crackpot.

    3. If I was coming from Vancouver BC, I’d be on the Bolt bus myself. Stops/starts in the ID with a one-seat ride. :)

    4. Call me a pedant and I’ll say “guilty as charged”. But anyone flying from Toronto to Seattle is actually going “up”, as in “north”. Obviously west, too, but Toronto is south of Seattle. And Portland, for that matter. True fact!

  3. This is a good modest step.
    With 62 car fleet and Angle Lake, maximum peak capacity would be through three car trains on seven minute headway. the loading on mixture of two and three car trains is probably uneven. a side advantage of seven minute headway would faster flow of both trains and buses in the DSTT, as the friction is reciprocal. ST has additional cars coming in 2019, correct?

  4. Currently there is 12 trains base and 7 trains peak. I kind of hope that this stays permanent, thus providing 3 car trains midday (just see how many riders board at SeaTac Station with luggage weekday midday). For this experiment tomorrow, I got a feeling that trains will be swapping at terminals (the peak trains will be swapping out with the base trains) after the PM peak period, thus 2 car trains at nights. Obviously, there will no post game trains for tomorrow.

    However, for next Friday. 3 car trains will operate all day long, since the M’s and Husky games will going into the night. Expect to see extra trains post game to clear out traffic faster.

  5. I remain skeptical that the third cars are getting good ridership, sans signage at stations announcing that 3-car trains are running all day.

    That said, there will get good 3rd-car ridership post-Huskies because the trains are just sitting there and staff is pointing people where to board (but not noticing when a group of people is corking a door or stairwell, so 20 riders unnecessarily have to wait for the next train). I hope staffers are trained this time to scan the length of the train for corking. I saw three empty seats near me, and room for at least a dozen more people to stand, on a post-Husky train last week that staff thought were full, thanks to a group blocking the door. At least a couple dozen riders I saw outside got redirected to the next train.

    There will also be good 3rd-car ridership post-Mariners, assuming the wildcard chase is still on, because the third car is closest to the station entrance.

    But in general, the ability of third cars to relieve crushloading on the first two is all about getting information out to riders, some way, some how, knowing most of them don’t get ST’s text alerts all day, and most don’t read this blog.

    My hope is that we start with 3-car Fridays, every Friday, and relax the peak headway so that we can have all 3-car trains during peak, with commuters learning to expect them even without signage.

    I know we can’t do that right now because the Times will portray such a smart move as a “broken promise”, in it’s lonely effort to stop the public’s love-fest with high-capacity grade-separated transit that is faster than driving.

  6. At this stage of LINK operations, the system should be experimenting with things like train-length. Opening of UW Station marked the beginning of many years of expansion. Meaning constantly finding out what happens when LINK does what.

    Since many transit officials either read STB or have a staff member do it, based on last several months’ comments, I’m pretty sure that they’d rather the next day’s complaints be about too many cars than too few. Third and fourth cars will start carrying their standing share by word of mouth.

    As in: “Hey, there’s seats back here!” Hope the world doesn’t find out about them from Twitter when some terrorist announces the War on 3 and 4. But thankfully, probably already happening as fifteen year old girls discover how cute light rail advocates are and send us Viral.

    Which will be really rad when they get BRT fanatics in their iPhones and let the world see the sooooooo pre-2009 truth. With Wayne Newton playing in the background. After last Sounder ride, pretty sure one of those beady-eyed little weasels across the laptop table has me set virally to YouTube’s oldest Buddy Holly.

    So everybody reading this can get Cars 3 and 4 into the minds, and cord-missing new smart phones, of passengers who either fear, love, or are zombies. Only drawback is no more seats anywhere on the train, meaning only choice is to learn from Mumbai regional transit and ride on the roof.

    Since King County already has a morgue, they won’t have to build another one for LINK. Like Mumbai has. So aim that phone someplace else, Peggy Sue, or That’ll Be The Day It Gets Run Over by a Train.


  7. It’s interesting that the highest ridership day on ST is Friday. Aren’t there a significant amount of people working 4/40 or 9/80 shifts, like in other metropolitan areas?

  8. Anecdotes not being the plural of data, but my bus is always considerably emptier on Fridays (particularly Friday mornings).

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