Zach made a compelling argument for the new Link fleet to feature open gangways throughout the length of the train. Open gangways increase capacity without costly platform extensions by turning dead space into passenger space. Extra length low floor light rail vehicles are common in European tram systems and are slowly making their way across the Atlantic to Ottawa and suburban DC. Ottawa is a good case study for Seattle given the similarities.
I am going to call this conceptual open gangway Link vehicle Double Link. Double Link carries 11.5% more people than a 2-car Link train in the same footprint. It balances increased capacity with operational flexibility, allowing Sound Transit to run the equivalent of today’s 2- or 4-car trains.
Double Link is based on the 48 m (158 ft) long 4-segment vehicles from Alstom that Ottawa’s OC Transpo picked for its new Confederation Line. Their downtown subway platforms are 120 m (400 ft) long just like Link’s, while their surface platforms are 90 m with provision for future expansion. Likewise, the vehicles can be expanded to 59 m (194 ft) by inserting an additional segment. Siemens, the builder of Link’s new vehicles, offer comparable products outside North America. Link’s sister vehicles in New Jersey have been retrofitted with extra segments, opening the possibility for the current Kinkisharyo fleet to be lengthened as well.
Aside from its extra length, Ottawa’s vehicles feature a 100% low floor layout, as opposed to the typical 70% low floor layout. The raised areas at the ends that people are reluctant to climb up to are gone, making all seats more accessible. It may even be possible to place doors next to the cabs to eliminate dead-end aisles, improve circulation, and encourage people to use all available space.
Double Link is a 100% low floor light rail vehicle that is about 200 feet long. It can carry 438 people, 134 of which are seated. Standing capacity is 304 people at average peak crowding levels (4 people/m² ). Fourteen fewer seats creates standing room for 38 additional passengers. Two Double Link cars, equal to a 4-car Link train, can carry 876 passengers instead of 800.
Double Link features 9 double-width doors, one more than a 2-car train. There are designated spaces for eight wheelchairs, the same as the current vehicles. The open area for standees can be used for bicycles. It has a top speed of 65 mph and can navigate the same curves as existing Link vehicles.
I have seen the future of Link and it is in Ottawa. Does Sound Transit see it too? ST3 is Link’s biggest expansion yet. It deserves a vehicle to match its grand scale. Please EmailTheBoard@soundtransit.org and tell them to amend the contract with Siemens to future-proof Link’s new vehicles with open gangways and expandability.