Atomic Taco (Flickr)

Back in August we wrote about Sound Transit and Metro adding cell service to the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) by the end of 2016. Well it’s January 3rd, and there is still no service from Westlake to International District. When asked about the delay, Sound Transit gave a relatively cryptic response, indicating an unspecified delay of 1-4 months, with a new goal of “early 2017” for the DSTT and “late 2017” for Beacon Hill:

DSTT tunnel installation (Westlake to International District) is now at 95% completion; target for DSTT install completion and commissioning: early 2017. Once cellular service in the DSTT is up and running, construction for the Beacon Hill tunnels will begin, with completion and service startup at/through Beacon Hill targeted for late 2017. Note these timelines are contingent on available construction/installation resources. As the team continues making progress on installation, we’ll communicate more specific timelines to riders.

When pressed for a reason for the delay, Sound Transit then indicated that labor issues as the culprit:

We only have a couple of hours in the tunnels at time, so the length of time crews can work in the tunnel is limited. Also, IT is juggling multiple project priorities with limited staff. That said, given time and resource limitations, the team is making steady progress. (emphases mine)

Without further specifics, readers are left to speculate. The delay may be related to interagency inefficiencies, as a private vendor and a public agency (Sound Transit) are installing infrastructure in another agency’s tunnel (Metro). Perhaps this is presenting challenges relating to staffing and labor agreements? Another possibility is an unspecified technical problem that Sound Transit would rather not share publicly?

Whatever the reality, the wait isn’t expected to be too much longer (except for those at Beacon Hill). You should be able to check OneBusAway or swipe right on Tinder by the time spring rolls around.

21 Replies to “Tunnel Cell Service Delayed”

  1. the length of time crews can work in the tunnel is limited

    This isn’t a big secret. In fact it was explicitly called out in the RFP that work can only be done while the tunnel is closed, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

  2. Actually, the ID Station, being open-air, already has regular cell service. It’s only Pioneer Square and University St. Station that do not.

    1. That’s the nice thing about IDS. Calling it a “tunnel station” always seemed like a stretch.

  3. I could swear there was a time a few months back I was getting T-Mobile service in the tunnel between Pioneer Square and Westlake, but not after that. Maybe they were testing it or something.

    1. Pioneer Square station definitely has spotty T-Mobile service on the south end, at least on the mezzanine.

  4. Classic interagency “planning”: Sound Transit installs cellular service in the tunnels, while Metro provides free WiFi on the platforms. And devices won’t be able to automatically roam because of the WiFi captive portal.

    1. I hate the captive portals and question how useful they actually are. It would be perfectly reasonable to do some traffic shaping and restrict some high bandwidth protocols to make a shared resource more useful to more people.

  5. Sound Transit and KCM consistently fail on IT projects. Still no real-time Link data, OneBusAway has no service alerts, and more.

    1. Real time Link data should be super easy. Sound Transit owns the vehicles and the road here. They know exactly where every train is.

    2. It’s not just KCM. Community Transit too. Inexplicable why they still won’t let go of their data so One Bus Away can incorporate it.

  6. Once there’s cellular service in the tunnels can we drop in some OBA real-time kiosks like the ones on the street above? Seems like we’d only need wiring for power (not data) and could use the same source as the platform ORCA pylons.

  7. Maybe ST should do the Beacon Hill tunnel first. The tunnel and station is wholly owned by Sound Transit and has no interagency issues to deal with. Also, would not have an interruption going to/from the south, like you do today.

  8. Installation of the infrastructure in the tunnels, conduit, repeater antennas, power and other support can only be done during non-revenue hours that being from 1:30 am to 4 am. That leaves little time to mob a crew and hi-rail equipment to the site and get much work done.
    Tunnel liner segments only have certain areas that can be drilled into for the required anchor bolts and this requires working from a ladder or out of a hi-rail bucket truck.
    Theses sections would also have to have the overhead power taged and locked out after the last train passes and before the contractor can get to work leaving precious little time to actually perform any work.

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