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Comments on Sound Transit’s 2017 Service Implementation Plan are due TODAY. Sound Transit staff will then process the comments and submit the service plan to the Board later this month. Send an email to the board and to service planning now.

For maximum effect we suggest you keep your comments short and sweet. Here are what we consider the most important issues for 2017 service:

  1. Run ‘inverted peak‘ everyday. Until the new trains arrive in 2019 (we’ll have more later on how we can improve them) Sound Transit currently doesn’t have the fleet to run all 3 car trainsets. However they can run 3 car all day and then have the peak trains be two cars. Sound Transit already does this on special event days, but record setting ridership means they should operate this way everyday.
  2. Longer peak periods, especially in the morning.
  3. Later weekend service, including Sundays (Airport). With Link now connecting the two most popular nightlife destinations and serving the University late night service, especially on the weekends is needed. SeaTac/Airport station is currently serving double its projected ridership and it will only grow. Currently the last train to downtown and the UW leaves the airport at 11:19 p.m. This is unacceptable.

ST3 combined with ST2 and Sound Move means Sound Transit is building our region a world class subway system. They should start operating it like one.

51 Replies to “ACTION ALERT: Last Day to Improve Link Service”

  1. I wish we could cut down on headways to 2-3 minutes during peak…it’s a real shame that the RV portion of our line prohibits us from efficiently moving mass amounts of people with little wait periods.

    In Stockholm, from 1700-1900 they have 1 minute headways to move as many people as possible in/out of Stockholm Centralen, and it’s really nice.

    Such a shame that we’re stuck with 6 minute headways…

    1. Maybe we’d have enough to do that with 1-car consists, but doing so would still use up the whole fleet, kick all the buses out of the tunnel and onto congested downtown streets, and generate a lot more complaints about “pass ups”. Too many people feel entitled to find room on the first train that comes along, even if the next one is two minutes behind.

      The one-car consist plan would also use only a quarter of the platform, with the rest being the waiting phalanx.

    2. How about increasing all-day frequency beyond 10 minutes? For instance, by adding turnback trains from Stadium Station to UW.

    3. It’s been reported that ST could operate two lines, with the second line running only north of the Stadium Station (tail track for reversing) or SODO station (maintenance facility tracks for reversing). It appears possible to run higher frequency trains in the most crowded segment. When Northgate Link opens, it will almost be mandatory to do this.

      1. Mark, the Stockholm Tunnelbana is fantastic. Having ridden it to most destinations, I don’t recall ever being in mixed traffic or at-grade with street crossings. The trains come frequently, the interiors are efficiently laid out, and cross-platform transfers are well coordinated so that if you need to transfer from one line to another e.g. green line to red line, you just walk across the center platform and board the train on the other side of the platform. Such a great subway system.

        We need to fix the RV mess — with crossing gates or something because our system is border-line unreliable with the frequent blockages on the tracks in that area.

  2. It seems really wasteful to ask for 3-car trains to run all day, and then run enough 2-car trains during peak (the only time 3-car trains are really needed) to confuse riders into not waiting in the rearmost section of the platform for the third car. Sound Transit told me a year ago that it is wasteful, and that was why they chose the 6-minute headway for peak-of-peak, with 2-car trains, as opposed to longer headway with 3-car trains and more capacity.

    We’ve seen that third cars end up much emptier than the front two, the vast majority of the time. Indeed, they add to dwell time as some run to the third car, knowing its resemblance to a stretch limo.

    What would reduce dwell time is consistent use of 3-car trains, all day, every day.

    I now believe ST could run the peak circuit with one less train, which would still leave 8 LRVs to meet the 10% minimum spare ratio. Running all 3-car trains, all the time, and adding door markings to station floors, would spread out the waiting passengers, and reduce needed dwell time significantly.

    Right now, there is a lot of un-needed dwell time, such as the full minute my train seems to wait at Airport Station, long past the time it took riders to alight and board. This has been happening in both directions. I suspect there is padding built into the loop to enable the 19 trains to fit.

    There is also multiple minutes of dwell time caused by tunnel congestion. A primary source of dwell time is the long time it takes the last passengers to push their way onto congested trains. Spreading out the passengers would invert the dwell-time problem into a dwell-time solution.

    Maybe it couldn’t be done with 6-minute headway, but 6-7 minute headway instead (which is what we really have right now, although once in a while it is much longer than that). The payoff would be reducing travel time by multiple minutes, and significantly reducing the proportion of passengers forced to stand on the train over 20 minutes, in exchange for a few more seconds of average wait time.

    Pushing the inverted-peak strategy raises operating costs significantly, for marginal benefit. Why not try to get the full benefit if we’re going to balloon the costs?

    1. Can Seattle Subways explain their reasoning on three car trains off-peak and two peak? Empty third car is probably a matter of unfamiliarity. Some posted cardboard signs should help, as could anybody in uniform along each platform.

      So rather than fret about it, Metro and ST need to take some simple initiative. Word of mouth should soon spread the news around.


    2. You do really need the dwell time at the airport, especially inbound due to many people loading with luggage. Also, cutting the dwell time at the airport in both direction compounds a problem at the Angle Lake Terminal. If there are too many trains there, a train coming into the station may have to wait until another train leaves Angle Lake platform first to pull into the platform.

      As for weekday midday, we really do need 3 car trains. Can always do train swaps at the end of the PM peak, so 2 car peak consists would swap with 3 car all day consists, so only 2 car consists would operate weekday nights.

      You wonder if it makes sense to operate 3 car consists all weekends/holidays sometimes (especaily when there is no sporting event scheduled that day). XMAS would be a perfect day to operate 2 car consist all day (transit ridership is historically very low on Christmas day).

      1. I’ve actually found Link ridership on Christmas fairly decent, mostly people going to/from the airport. Lots of people fly in and out that day, and Christmas is one of the worst days of the year to find airport parking (I attempted it once, found the lot full, and had to drive around in circles, looking for another company’s parking lot that wasn’t full). That said, it is a level of that 2-car trains should handle. Although, switching from 3-car trains to 2-car trains one day a year won’t matter much in terms of practical budgets.

    3. The solution to rider confusion about 2 vs 3 car trains is trivial – update the station monitors to show train length and the spots at which the trains will stop. European trains do this with a diagram that looks something like this:

      A [=====\ B [=====\ C. D

      There are corresponding A through D signs on the platform. This diagram would indicate a 2-car train stopping between points A and C, so people know not to wait at D.

      No matter what the car configuration is, there is absolutely no reason ST couldn’t add this information in a matter of weeks to the overhead displays if there are concerns about efficient platform utilization.

      1. Ben, if I remember right, San Francisco MUNI Metro information readers announce arriving trains in advance, by route letter and order of arrival.

        Since the trains go to regular (stop signs and all) street rail outside the subway, they used to have a wonderful setup where three routes uncoupled outbound leaving the tunnel, and went their separate ways. Opposite for inbound.

        In keeping with everything else about a Breda, rubber tires or steel wheels, present fleet is too big to handle this feature. Maybe Brillo has a contract to pull its pads out of the grooves in the pavement, too. My transit life’s worst disappointment was expecting a 60′ Ferrari for a Tunnel fleet.

        But re: dwell times, especially on airport runs. Still think we should try third car having 100% aisle-facing seating, with more hand-holds and extra room for baggage, bikes, and wheel chairs. With large unmissable window signs, as well as platform announcements.

        If special car is always the middle one in a three-car consist, should quickly solve the empty third car problem. Idea should also get itself enough media and transit world street-cred to become the latest fad. “Musical Ride idea could help too, either by attracting passengers to the special car, or chasing them out of the other two.


      2. “The solution to rider confusion about 2 vs 3 car trains is trivial – update the station monitors”

        Unfortunately, the station monitors are designed with 1980’s technology, so the only way to do it would be to hire a sign operator at each tunnel station to manually punch in the length of each approaching train, all day long, radio’ing the train driver to inquire about the size. Which, practically speaking means – not worth it.

      3. Some of the Berlin S-Bahn stations have the old LED dot matrix display, and they were programmed to show train length. Doesn’t look like GTFS is able to deal with that yet though.

      4. That’s a lame excuse from ST, asdf2. It could just be considered a second line! ST will have to operate two lines in the DSTT by 2023 if not earlier anyway. Maybe even by 2019! Upgrading the sign equipment should already be in the work program.

    4. “Can Seattle Subways explain their reasoning on three car trains off-peak and two peak?”

      Two-car trains off-peak were getting overcrowded due to middaty spikes and weekend events. The 2-car peak runs are the extra runs, and they’re two cars only because ST doesn’t have enough cars to run them all three. The cars will come with the North Link order in a few years.

  3. Train length announcements should also be implemented. Should that also be in the Service Implementation Plan?

    1. I’d be up for accurate arrival information first. I still don’t get why we don’t have this in the tunnel (and why it is frequently inaccurate at Capitol Hill Station). It’s not like it’s a new technology.

      1. My guess is it’s mostly inaccurate at CHS because of the DSTT. Mixing with buses doesn’t do Link any favors.

    2. +1 Seems like this could be automated, and announcements could also include real-time arrival. Could be a near-term solution. Are there long term plans to improve customer information at ST stations?!

  4. How about some extra budget / attention on working with SDOT to improve the signalling mess that is Rainier Valley? I can’t remember the last train I rode through that *didn’t* have to stop at multiple signals (cascading failure), and where I live in Columbia City I always see trains stopping unnecessarily at signals.

    I tweeted ST last time I rode to the airport because we stopped at every southbound signal along MLK – they suggest emergency vehicle interruptions messed up the sequencing and it takes time to get back in sync. I call BS.

    1. Brett, it might be better to call your City and County Council Members, and your ST Board Members, and let them know you’re watching the trains. And make a list of car numbers and times. And keep calling them back until you see some results.

      If their signal system is interfering with trains, enough phone calls could persuade them to find a way to raise the priority of fixing it. Since officials have trouble with this item of accounting, find out what a single LINK operating minute costs, tell them. And also that you’re keeping track.


  5. Damn Seattle Subway, wish I saw this a lot earlier. I would have incorporated this into my commentary.

    That said, very happy to see you guys put out a reminder for folks to comment. When Skagit Transit puts docs out for comment, only one guy with the first name of Joe normally comments (sigh).

    1. Joe, maybe you’d get more respect in the Skagit by showing up at meetings wearing a flat tin helmet, a blue and white striped “hickory shirt”, suspenders, pants cut off at the seam so they don’t get snagged on branches, and boots with steel porcupines for soles. Chainsaw optional, but no Freddie Kruger mask.

      “Cork boots”, since those spikes that let you walk on freshly peeled logs are really “Caulks”, will definitely get the Board’s attention because wood floors and rugs cost money. Would recommend twin-rotor “Chinook” helicopters for a transit fleet, since they not only look like buses, but can also gain revenue by bringing a large log off a mountain on a cable.

      Sikorski Skycranes are easier to see coming, but those 100′ diameter rotors not only throw a blizzard full of gravel shrapnel as they hover over a bus zone, but make every recycle bin in the county violate littering laws. Uh oh…I guess that WAS your grandfather’s Skagit Valley!


      1. Why stop there. Plenty of old Steam Loco’s to make the trip north of Everett. At least residents would recognize it as a real train, and not a lost bus stuck on the tracks.

  6. 3-car consists as the norm means that riders will start filling the 3rd car. They will come to expect it to be there.

    1. Just wondering if being in the third car puts people visibly farther from the exit they want? Next time I’m in town, I’ll check. But still say we haven’t been running loads like this long enough for people to get the hang of them. Remember that passengers, like voters, are most comfortable when they can get where they’re going by reflex.


  7. “Sound Transit is building our region a world class subway system. ”

    I really wish there were some agency building our *city* a world class subway system.

    1. Mars;

      [Grade B ah] yesterday I took the light rail from Westlake to Angle Lake to watch SeaTac until ST Security politely asked me to leave (no loitering in the parking garage), then took light rail back up to Mount Baker Station to pick up a Wendy’s lunch, then went next door to pick up from the QFC a bouquet + ballon for some quarterback we STB revere, then ate lunch and train spotted until I boarded a 2-car ST train to International District and then gave my presents to my hero who is quarterbacking light rail to Paine Field and Everett Station. So the subway for your city is awesome, ok?

      You know something, [Grade B ah], I want you to take a look at the King County Metro website and see just how much transit you got & earned. Then I want you to see MY Skagit anemic Transit:

      Count your blessings Mars, ok? I count mine that I’m lucky I can delete several paragraphs of Grade A+ “Ad Hominem” fumigation before I can hit “POST COMMENT”.



      1. What’s a “Grade B ah”? Is “Grade A” more extreme or less extreme? If more extreme, how low does the grading system reach? Is there a “Grade F”? [and would that be a ridiculously lame attempt at an “ah”?]

        How severe does an “ah” have to be to get graded “A”, and is is possible to get an “A+”?

        Inquiring minds want to know.

      2. “Awesome overall transit service compared to Skagit County” is not an impressive claim. Of *course* Seattle has better bus and rail service than a remote, lightly populated, largely agricultural county – how embarrassing would it be if we didn’t?

        “World class subway system” is a much higher standard. Seattle’s anemic single-line subway comes nowhere close to that bar, and the moderately more extensive network Seattle can expect to have 25 years from now won’t do much better – not by today’s standard, and certainly not by the higher standard which will inevitably have come to exist by then.

        Of course the Seattle Subway writer wasn’t actually referring to Seattle’s subway at all, but to Sound Transit’s sprawling three-county suburban-spine “subway”, of which the Seattle portion will become an increasingly small part as they build out ST3. Maybe the ST3 system really will qualify as “world class”, compared to other regional transit networks around the globe, or maybe that was just a bit of hyperbole; regional transit is not relevant to my concerns, so I really can’t say.

        What I can say is that the regional compromise shows every sign of continuing to be a serious obstacle, and I see little hope that Seattle will ever be able to develop the world class subway system it desperately needs so long as we have to keep dragging the unwilling suburbs into the future along with us.

      3. Mars;

        I want to begin by saying I sincerely appreciate both the tone and the substance of your answer. I just wish you would be more grateful for the transit system you’ve got.

        What I would encourage you to do is continue to champion & support Seattle Subway. If you believe, “What I can say is that the regional compromise shows every sign of continuing to be a serious obstacle, and I see little hope that Seattle will ever be able to develop the world class subway system it desperately needs so long as we have to keep dragging the unwilling suburbs into the future along with us”, then join with Seattle Subway.

        Also understand that I am a huge advocate of long before we get to ST4 letting subareas set their own tax rate. Now we don’t know exactly where the new Pierce County Executive-elect stands, but if he were to push a #ST3exit for Pierce, then letting subareas set their own tax rates to fund only the Sound Transit they seek may be in the cards sooner than we think.

        I too want Seattle to have more light rail. But we have to get high quality, grade separated transit to Everett & Snohomish County – and that then opens up shutting Sounder North down, that is far to my North by Northwesteners who’ve waited so long, and that was part of the deal to get Seattle what is rightfully Seattle’s.

        You have to remember: Sound Transit was created by state legislators in the 1990s. Back then, there was no Seattle Transit Blog. Transit planners didn’t expect to be equated to Dave Krieg or Ken Griffey, Jr. It was and remains important that Seattle transit advocates have strong allies outside of Seattle. Keep in mind, the Washington State Constitution makes clear all counties & municipalities are a creation of the state government and can only be endowed with certain powers.



      4. Relax, Joe, You have to realize that while it’s only in Forks that North Carolinians have vampires sleeping on the couch in their basements because their daughters think their teeth are cute, or teenage werewolves watering the tires on their pickups (“One more time and I’m gonna melt Grandma’s spoons for buckshot!) Skagit Transit has quietly had to introduce special passes for “haints”. (They haunt people and logging towns, after bars close.)

        So whichever side of the line Basil Lynn Hooper is on by now (he’s my age, or was) you still can never be the champion amateur boxer in Sedro Woolley. He was dangerous enough when you could still see him. Sweet kid, though, great logger- those bar fights were really just local unofficial Golden Gloves matches.

        You have to focus on the unknown fact (Uh-oh, now people know) that if the rails are still in place as far as Concrete, where those old passenger cars used to sit, Skagit is already on its way past world-class to time-saving warp speed. Just wire Amtrak to Mount Vernon, and then swing line and wire east out Highway 20.

        When you get to the dams up past Marblemount at Newhalem, you’ll probably still find those contraptions where the cars roll onto platforms flat to the side of a cliff, and get hoisted to the top of a mountain. While it’s still debatable how far FHS cars can go with “pans” down, downgrade from Cascade Crest will make Spokane easy without a volt. Maybe even Coeur d’Alene.

        So even when the Chinese go express from the top of Everest, you’ll still be in the class of the same world. And don’t ever let anybody provoke you into the [ah] habit. Because I don’t think there’s anybody on the Sound Transit Board with enough Saturday night in Sedro Woolley (not, as I expected, named after a famous old prospector )experience not to be traumatized.


      5. Mark;

        I’ve thought about activating the east-west rails in Skagit for transit. Problem is both Trimet & Sound Transit have tried just that play – massive subsidy per rider, no way. We got a lot more pressing needs up here…


      6. Skagit County doesn’t even have as good a transit system as it had a few years ago, thanks to Island Transit cutbacks in state supported connector service.

        Skagit Transit is A subject for tomorrow’s likely open thread maybe?

      7. Joe, I think you and I will likely always struggle to find common ground on transit questions, but it’s still worth the effort. I appreciate the fact that you feel just as strongly about the projects you’re interested in as I do about the ones that are important to me. Apathy is the real problem, not passionate disagreement.

        I felt more enthusiastic about Seattle Subway when they were advocates for a Seattle subway. I’m not sure what changed, but these days they just seem to be cheerleaders for Sound Transit’s regional plan, and it’s harder to see what value they’re adding. If they’re planning to work on a project to increase subarea autonomy, though, that would be worth getting behind. I can’t see any way that it would be bad for anyone if we all had more flexibility in funding and planning individual projects.

    2. Question, Mars. Considering general condition of our planet and its people right now, do we really want to use its current classification as our standard?,

      The way it generally works with transit, especially with surface running room so scarce and so much to excavate, elevate, and bridge, is that the whole region has to get populous enough that people can barely move by any means including walking.

      Like New York in early 1900’s when they build first subway in four years’ time, because they had people jams at rush hour like a driverless I-5. (Bet me empty left seat will make it faster!) And even more than un-airconditioned discomfort, it takes that amount of people to pay the taxes for the system.

      So accurate assessment needs to know how well our transit is doing considering this region’s size and number of people. To me, most encouraging sign for the future is how many people can’t get seats. Two to three car standing loads promise ten car standing loads sooner and sooner.

      Hate to break this, but what NYC found out was that the longer and better subways got, the more passengers they carried, spaced out about like Broadway upstairs, most of whom were standing. Which the speed at which they were moving made bearable.


      1. The current standard is entirely inadequate given the scale of the climate change disaster we’re facing. There is no more time: we have to stop burning fossil fuels and we have to stop *now*. If we continue to leave this problem for the next generation then we are effectively choosing not to solve it at all, because we are already – today, right now – riding up the slope of irreversible climate change.

        Electric cars won’t solve the problem because we can’t produce enough energy to power all those trips without falling back on fossil fuels. A long-distance regional transit network won’t solve the problem because we can’t possibly fill it in enough to serve as a supplement to what will still be a fundamentally car-dependent lifestyle.

        We need to attack this problem from both sides: we need a legal restructuring that encourages people to roll back the suburban fringe and cluster back together in cities, thereby reducing demand for the long, energy-intensive trips which are an unavoidable feature of non-urban life, and we need to radically increase our level of investment in urban transit networks so that nearly everyone living in cities will be able to satisfy all of their needs without having to travel by car at all. We need to make car ownership the exception, not the rule, and we need to accomplish that across the entire population.

        That’s the scale of the problem and there is no getting around it. Our current level of transit planning is stuck in the 20th century. It is past time to acknowledge the crisis we’re facing and get busy with the ambitious changes we need to make if we’re going to avoid catastrophe.

        Of course Seattle is not unique in this – every city needs to be doing the same! – but Seattle is where I live, so Seattle is where I am focusing my attention.

      2. Sorry – “we can’t possibly fill it in enough to serve as a supplement” should have been “we can’t possibly fill it in enough to serve as ANYTHING MORE THAN a supplement”.

    3. While the north subarea (Seattle + Shoreline) is paying for light rail to Ballard and West Seattle, Sound Transit, as a whole, is paying to build the second transit tunnel under downtown Seattle.

  8. So the last train from the airport to downtown/UW leaves at 11.19pm on SUNDAY. Last train to Beacon Hill doesn’t leave until 11.45pm.

    On weeknights and Saturdays, the last downtown train leaves at 12.04am and the last Beacon Hill train leaves at 12.45am.

    Southbound, the last trains are 12.36am, or 11.36pm on Sundays.

    Is this so early? Is there a compelling reason the night owl bus can’t handle this so the Link systems peeps have some downtime?

    1. Big problem is that the trip becomes quite a bit more complicated for those who are not familiar with the city or its transit systems.

      “Well, you need to take the train, but you can only get as far as Beacon Hill that time of night, and then you need to pay another fare to a different operator so you can take a bus the rest of the way.”

      Or any number of assorted alternative explanations.

    2. I agree, there needs to be some maintenance time. Sunday night is usually good since most retail stores at malls, big boxes, etc. shut down early that day. The only sporting event would be Sunday Night Football or Sunday Night Baseball which starts at 5 due to accommodating East Coast viewers. Airport passengers can be served with bus shadows.

  9. My read of the current Link schedules is that it takes 17-19 trains to run the peak loop, depending on whether each train lays over 3 or 9 minutes at each terminus. It is nice to allow the 9 minutes, and let the operator stick with her/his train. But if ST moved to train-swapping during peak, and saved an additional trainset due to lowered headway via all-3-car trains, the peak loop could conceivably be done with just 16 trains.

    That’s just three LRVs more than the current algorithm, and two fewer than Seattle Subway’s proposal.

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