Impact Recovery Systems’ Sentinel™ barriers,
as deployed on an LA Metro platform
This afternoon, the Sound Transit Board’s Operations & Administration Committee will take up a contract proposal with Impact Recovery Systems, Inc. to install between-car barriers on the platforms of Link Light Rail stations. Impact Recovery Systems has a long resume of transit agency customers that have paid them to install various between-car barriers, including chains and other materials attached between cars, and the tightly-spaced series of poles that have become the cutting-edge technology in the field.

There have been several high-profile cases of blind riders walking off light rail and subway platforms between train cars, and then getting run over. Most recently was one in DC, resulting in DC Metro installing chains between cars. LA Metro, St. Louis MetroLink, and the “T” in Pittsburgh use the between-car platform barriers.

The barriers will be installed first in the twelve stations outside the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, as there are no operational issues in the way. That installation is expected to be complete by the end of March.

The contract includes purchase of enough barriers for the DSTT stations, but installation might not happen until the buses leave the DSTT permanently, per Kimberly Reason, Sound Transit spokesperson. A stakeholders group is working to find a way to install barriers in the DSTT without negatively impacting bus operations.

Currently, it is the job of DSTT security staff to assist vision-challenged riders. King County Metro also provides free travel training for various categories of riders with disabilities.

Sky Train platform floor arrows
While the stakeholders deliberate, platform floor arrows are planned for installation in Westlake Station, and then possibly the other 3 DSTT stations, showing where the train doors will be. The floor arrows would then be removed once joint operations ends.

I asked Reason whether shifting all the southbound buses to Bay C, the forward-most bay on the southbound platforms, could enable the barriers to work in the DSTT. Per Reason, that would risk restricting the flow of buses as well as trains in/through the DSTT.

As is the case with many features used to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are positive spin-off effects for the general population. Riders would be able to see where the break is between the second and third car, and cluster there where they are in position to board whichever car is rear-most. This would help to spread out passengers, make better use of capacity, and speed up boarding.

The ST Operations & Administration Committee meets at 1 pm in the Ruth Fisher Boardroom at Union Station.

59 Replies to “Between-Car Barriers Coming to Non-DSTT Link Stations”

  1. Wait, why will they remove the arrows in the DSTT once the buses are gone? Am I missing something?

      1. The posts and the arrows will be in different positions. Installing the posts does not necessitate removing the arrows.

  2. “The floor arrows would then be removed once joint operations ends.”

    Any idea why that is? Those would useful into perpetuity, as an addition to the between-car barriers.

    1. Agreed, especially since people here are still learning the etiquette of transit and not crowding the door is one of them which people are failing at.

      1. My best guess is that maybe they are envisioning cars with doors in differing locations? Otherwise I definitely agree. Boarding arrors very much help with queuing up, encouraging from for exiting trains, etc, etc.

  3. If only we had elongated cars, this wouldn’t be much of an issue here. Going from ~96 feet to ~200 would limit the need for this kind of safety barrier.

    But hey, who am I to judge what ST does?

  4. One effect of this is that these barriers would need to be installed accordingly for the eventual use of 4-car trains. This would reduce flexibility for the operation of 3-car trains. Instead of stopping in the center, the train would have to stop in the front or the back of the station. And passengers waiting between barriers where the fourth car would be and expecting a car there will have to frantically run to the nearest car.

    But this would be very beneficial and provide a lot of distribution of the passenger load once 4-car trains become commonplace.

    1. According to Kimberly Reason, ST can’t run 4-car trains until Northgate Station opens. I assume that means that is when they are planned for.

      If ST is only installing two barriers per platform for now, that would become a reason why ST could not run 4-car trains until the third set of barriers is installed on each platform, unless staffers are deployed to all platforms to watch the gap. I did not ask about whether barriers would be installed in front of the first car’s current position. I just assumed they would not be until the fleet grows.

      The position of the front car came out of similar stakeholder meetings with vision-challenged passengers, who wanted regularity as to where the cars would be. That position will not change until the rollout of 4-car trains.

      1. ST can’t run 4-car trains until Northgate? Why is that? I know they were previously limited to 2-car trains in the DSTT because of the length of the stub tunnel, but that is no longer the case with U-Link. Can’t a 4-car train just turn around at UW and Angle Lake like 3-car trains do now?

  5. I’m surprised that such majkeshift-looking posts are considered cutting edge. They look like a band-aid. Put up rectangles with art on them.

    1. Cutting edge as far as costs go maybe? Seems like they borrowed some bike lane gear to quickly throw together some cheap platform walls.

    2. How about putting the “Welcome to …” message on the posts and get that silly restatement of the obvious message on the LED signs. They could extinguish the “Sound Transit Link Light Rail” message as well, since that’s also a restatement of the obvious.

      With redundant messages off of the LED signs, that would leave ample space to put real time train arrival messages in — like those that are on many Rainier Metro bus stops today.

  6. So if I’m reading this right, $350,000 for 72 sets of plastic posts? Is there a defensible reason those should cost $4,800 a piece?

    1. There is this from the background material: “Impact Recovery System’s between car barriers pass the flame/smoke/toxicity requirements for the Sound Transit light rail tunnel stations.” Consider that the contractor also has to have liability insurance.

      Impact Recovery Systems’ bid was the only bid, and therefore the low bid. Pronto was welcome to bid.

    2. And we wonder why transit projects cost 10 times what they cost in Europe. Lots of bureaucratic overpriced American bullshit.

  7. What problem do we currently have that these barriers will solve? Most subway/light rail systems around the world don’t need these… why does ST need to spend half a million to install them?

    Additionally, I’m personally opposed to anything that might lock us in to the train design we have today (see the recent posts about open gangway vehicles, eliminating cab cars, etc.).

    Instead of focusing on these non-issues, ST should be focused on things that matter, like getting the arrival signs working, cell service in the tunnels, and procuring better vehicles for ST2/ST3.

    1. It’s the law. Perhaps a stupid and inelegant law, but the law. Other systems will be getting them too.

    2. It’s a new regulation apparently. If Trump goes regulation-slashing and guts the ADA, then maybe it will be gone. In that case it might end up being retroactively wise to buy cheap plastic posts.

    3. Let me copy and paste a paragraph from the article for you.

      “There have been several high-profile cases of blind riders walking off light rail and subway platforms between train cars, and then getting run over. Most recently was one in DC, resulting in DC Metro installing chains between cars. LA Metro, St. Louis MetroLink, and the “T” in Pittsburgh use the between-car platform barriers.”

      First, it’s the right thing to do – we should provide transit that is safe and accessible for all. Second, even with the absurd price tag this will be an absolute bargain compared to the inevitable litigation when someone gets hurt or killed and ST is found negligent.

      1. Thank you, Another. Too often a few here write/react before they think/consider context and big picture. Yours is a good reminder for us all to slow down and ponder before lashing out on our devices to something that on the surface may seem silly. We live in one of the most litigious societies on the face of the planet.

      2. I guess I’m just skeptical why, once again, the US needs these types of things and they don’t in other countries that have much more investment in public transit than we do.

        Said differently, why is this the “right thing to do” only in the US, when Canada, Europe, Asia are much more forward-looking societies in many respects and seem to be able to manage just fine without these types of silly regulations.

      3. You don’t need between car barriers on systems without a gap between cars – which you don’t have if you have gone to open gangways – which gets back to your point. Many other systems elsewhere are solving the issue, weather they intend to solve it or not, by having open gangways in their high platform cars. This results in no open gap between the cars in the first place.

      4. Some other systems also dock the trains at doors built-in to the platform so there is no way to fall into the track. Elevator door style. The Sea-Tac trams have that sort of door here.

  8. Big problem I see with doing it this way is the inflexibility of having longer cars. You might one day want a door there. Or, you might one day need to stop the train in a different position than normal on the platform.

    It seems to me that the best option is a barrier on the cars themselves. That way, if longer cars with doors in different positions ever become a reality, there isn’t this limitation on door location imposed by the platform barriers.

    1. LA Metro started out by installing between-car chains. It added the barriers later. The chains may have helped someone realize they had made a mistake as they fell, but the barriers should prevent the fall.

      1. On-car barriers such as pictured in the third photo of the FTA clarification letter seem like they would be more wall-like and even less likely to cause problems as a cane won’t go between any posts.

        Barriers like these don’t necessarily completely eliminate issues.

  9. Why in the world would they remove the arrows? Ever since Link opened I’ve been saying they need arrows. Other transit systems use them and they are great. They teach/nudge people to wait on either side of the door while passengers exit before rushing in…something that is not common practice now.

    On a related note, we need markings on escalators that inform people that the right side is for waiting and the left side of for walking…come on people!

    1. Escalators… there is so many problems with the ST approach to escalators that I hardly know where to begin. Missing down escalators at the non-wealthy stations (why does Mercer Island get down escalators but not Judkins Park?); escalators wide enough to pass on; escalator maintenance issues in the first year of opening; escalator signage (missing “NO ESCALATOR DOWN” signs for first-time users that I see wandering around mezzanines looking for one)

      With ST3 secured and containing dedicated money for existing stations, doing stations “on the cheap” is no longer necessary.

      1. “why does Mercer Island get down escalators but not Judkins Park?”

        Longer distance between levels? More passenger volume because of the P&R?

      2. There will be about the same number of steps at Judkins Park and Mercer Island. When I’ve counted them on diagrams in ST presentations (noting the fuzzy step definitions in the slide quality), it appears that Mercer Island and Judkins Park (down from 23rd or down to Rainier) each will have between 50 and 60 steps. That’s about what Mt. Baker has — and going down those steps are a big hassle!

        I have not seen ST current station activity volumes published. I note that the studies were done before the most recent bus restructuring and bus restructuring to either station is not really finalized.

        To get both the escalators and stairs in, Mercer Island vaults the stairs over the escalators. It looks like something like that could easily work for Judkins Park.

        There doesn’t seem to be any logic to the inconsistency of missing down escalators except perhaps that the public involvement process or stakeholder involvement process brought up the issue for Mercer Island but not Judkins Park. While the intent does not appear discriminatory, the effect appears to be.

    1. I think you might be correct. The ones in Bangkok are the ones I am most familiar with. The Bangkok system is also called the Skytrain though.

      1. Bangkok’s system doesn’t just have the same name, it is the same system. Same technology, same suppliers. I only pointed it out because it is usual in this neighbourhood to think “Skytrain” means Vancouver. New York’s train to JFK is also the same system, but they mixed up the name, appropriately, and called it the Airtrain.

      2. No. Bangkok’s Skytrain is a conventional metro system with rolling stock and systems provided by Siemens originally.

        It is not the same as Vancouver’s Skytrain, which uses Bombardier’s automated light metro / linear induction motors. Early proposals for Bangkok’s Skytrain were to use it (see Lavalin Skytrain) but was dropped. Kuala Lumpur’s LRT does use the same technology as Vancouver.

        But yes, those arrows are from Bangkok.

  10. So let’s see if I understand this correctly: 1) These are a required safety upgrade, 2) All stations will be getting them, except 3) DSTT stations will not be getting them, because, you know, joint ops (aka, buses).

    Stated another way, we have to live with a safety deficiency in the DSTT because of buses.

    Seems like we really should just get the buses out of the DSTT. Drive a stake through the heart of joint ops once and for all.

    1. These are not necessarily required. A number of different methods exist, and the FTA clarification letter (see link in a different response, above) suggests rhere is some sort of motion sensor method, as well as on-car barriers.

      Chicago used chains.

      The other thing is: these are required for “light rail trains operating in a high platform mode” and the clarification letter really doesn’t help that much. Link is 100% low platforms. From the letter it sounds like all light rail trains without a step up are now considered “high platform” as they have level boarding.

  11. What would it require for Link to get platform edge doors in the underground or otherwise-feasible stations?

    1. Probably about ten times the amount of money this would cost, plus more maintenance.

  12. It seems like the train would have to pull forward to a very precise position, every time, in order for these things to work. Can this be done without excruciatingly slow approaches to each and every station?

    1. Probably not for ST, which often has excruciatingly slow approaches and excessively long dwell times already.

    2. This would be even slower, if the train has to move forward and back to align itself with the posts. The St Petersburg Metro does that to align with the platform doors, and they don’t open until it’s in alignment.

    3. The train already stops in the same exact/precise spot each time. I know exactly which crack to stand on and the doors open in the same spot every time.

  13. If they had open gangway trains this wouldn’t be an issue and these barriers wouldn’t be needed.

  14. One thing to contemplate:

    The one death TriMet has had that comes immediately to mind where someone went between cars was not something these would have prevented. That particular incident happened while the train had just stated moving, and thus the gap wasn’t where a barrier like this would have prevented the accident.

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