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The coming of ST2 and ST3 will require consideration of ‘transfer ease’ between Link lines. An ideal transfer is made by stepping off one train, crossing the platform, and boarding a train headed out in the opposite direction. This saves walking and time. What is not an ideal transfer is one where stepping off the train requires going up a set of stairs to cross over to the platform on the other side of adjacent tracks and then down another set of stairs (or slow elevators). This awkward transfer is precisely what is planned for passengers riding in on Eastlink (say Redmond or Bellevue) and going to the airport or any point south of the International District station. A central platform between the tracks would solve this problem. The space is available in the ID and other tunnel stations and it is cheap. Is there an issue with opening doors on both sides of the train? Surely people will get the hang of it and get out on the right to leave the station and on the left to transfer.
If, as I hope, the transfer from the Issaquah line (ST3) in Bellevue takes place at the S. Bellevue station, then all is good there because that station has a center platform. If the transfer is made on any other Bellevue station, it will be more difficult.

13 Replies to “Transfers between Link lines”

  1. This is an excellent idea. They could even build stairs and no escalators on the center platform to deter non transferring passengers from using it. I think ST wants to make some sort of center track at ID station to store/turn around trains, but they should definitely build center platforms at the other DSTT stations.

    1. IDS isn’t the place to have a center track. It needs to be further south. It’s easier to do train movement changes on a less frequent line, and south of the East Link junction you have half the frequency on one line or the other.

      Put it at the Stadium station. That gives the third track a platform to use, which could be very useful.

      1. But isn’t the benefit of a center track to facilitate opposite-direction line transfers? Those will occur primarily at IDS because that is where people will be transferring between East Link and South Link

        For same-direction line transfers, the platform design is basically irrelevant because a rider can step off the train, stay where he is, and then board the next train from the same spot, right?

      2. AJ: A center platform would facilitate transfers, a center track would not. What Reiner is proposing is something like 7th Ave station for the B, D, and E services of the New York City Subway. At this station, people can transfer between Bronx-bound B/D trains to a Queens-bound E trains on one platform and between Brooklyn-bound B/D trains and World Trade Center-bound E trains on the other. This is more complicated than would be needed at IDS, as Seattle-bound East Link and Lynwood-bound Central Link trains serve the same stops northbound, but the theory applies. One platform serving all Central and East Link trains, so transfers between directions don’t require traveling up and down stairs. A center track would be more like 103rd St station on the 1 service. The center here is not next to any platform so trains using it merely pass through without serving the station. That is what Glenn is saying should not be done here.

        Glenn: There is already a third track just south of Stadium station.

      3. The pocket track is ostensibly to allow reversing trains between East Link and Central Link. This will have to happen whenever a train operating from the new Bel-Red Maintenance facility needs to go to the MXaintenanceFacility or vice-versa.

      4. It’s going to be awfully expensive to do it that way.

        Think about this for a minute: the ID station is 4 cars long. In order to put a siding there long enough for a train to be able to change directions, you are going to have to extend the station walls a bit so that you can have switches at each end.

        Then, you are looking at installing a center platform anyway, because the operator doesn’t require 0 width to walk from one end of the train to the other.

        If these trains are doing this during service hours, then you minimize the amount of interferance with other train traffic by just building a complete wye at the junction and allowing the trains to operate Bellevue to SoDo as in-service trains. That’s what MAX does at the junction shown in that link: there are several trains in the timetable, if you look at it, that are blue line trains that suddenly vanish off the timetable because at the junction shown they have become yellow line trains.

        It seems to me that doing this is going to be vastly cheaper than trying to rebuild ID station so that it has enough space for switches at each end plus a siding for a four car train to change directions.

        If these trains are doing this during the period outside normal service hours, then there should be no problem running the train into the ID station and changing ends there. You just switch it over to the other track at the next opportunity.

        The problem with changing directions at the siding south of Stadium station is that it doesn’t have a platform. It’s OK for emergency storage when a train goes out of service mid-route, or for changing direction under emergency conditions. It’s not easy to have a train change direction there on a regular basis because there is no platform and it takes a lot longer for an operator to walk from one end of the train to the other when walking on ballast (the gravel around the track) than it does on a platform. Also, it is just faster to have the operator change ends while the passengers are boarding and alighting than to do this in two separate processes.

        MAX has emergency sidings like the one south of SoDo as well. Take, for example, the one just north of the main street station. However, when a green line trains changes direction at Gateway to turn into a blue line train headed to the Ruby Junction Shops (maintenance base to you), they do this on the middle track at Gateway Transit Center. Those wishing to go further west walk 10 feet across the platform and get the next blue or red line train, while those wishing to head east have the unusual convenience of just staying on the train when it changes from a green line train to an eastbound blue line train. The operator doens’t have to walk on the gravel every time the train changes direction there. Furthermore, the emergency track at main street is kept as an emergency track and not part of the regular operating scheme.

      5. “This will have to happen whenever a train operating from the new Bel-Red Maintenance facility needs to go to the MXaintenanceFacility or vice-versa.”

        That train reversal is exactly what passengers will have to do between Bellevue and SeaTac! That should be a hint to ST that just as trains need a good way to reverse direction, passengers need it too, and that going up to the surface and back down is really substandard for one of the major transfer stations.

  2. With the way they are maintaining their stairs and escalators, I think we should put ST in side-platform timeout. Side platforms usually have only 1 elevator per platform and fewer escalators per platform than center stations, so they need to be able to be maintained to make the system usable. With ST insisting on so many side-platform stations, then we must demand at least a C- level of maintenance and quick repair.

  3. “If, as I hope, the transfer from the Issaquah line (ST3) in Bellevue takes place at the S. Bellevue station, then all is good there because that station has a center platform. If the transfer is made on any other Bellevue station, it will be more difficult.”

    Judkins Park and Mercer station’s latest designs are all center island platform. The most recent mock-ups for East Main and Wilburton aren’t clear, but I don’t see why those couldn’t be center island also? The side-platform station are all ST1 stations, correct?

    Regardless, East Main is at-grade. There are no stairs or elevators to begin with, so switching platforms will simply require crossing the tracks.

    ID is a totally different story, and I think your comments are spot on. Given the huge volume of transfers at ID, the “Spanish solution” might be spot on. “”

  4. First of all, there needs to be some public shaming about ST not thinking ahead about transfer difficulty a few years ago. A strategy to improve IDS should have been initiated in 2009, as ST2 was approved in 2008. There have been a few articles on the STB about it, but that doesn’t seem to get much pressure for a resolution at the ST Board level. I do expect some Eastside elected officials to push the idea more now that an opening is eminent. Unfortunately, ST generally thinks of things way too late in the process (like asking why isn’t there a wye unction near the U-District or South Bellevue stations, or why weren’t the original DSTT tracks installed correctly).

    The IDS transfers will be a complex topic. They should at least have escalators that go both up and down, as transfers will begin there in 2023. I think the best way to probably do this is to put in new switchback stairs on either platform first, then close the existing stairs and switch them to an up escalator. Otherwise, you are looking at some pretty disruptive reconstruction.

    See the new Loughead Towne Center Station to see how they handle transfers between the Millennium and Expo lines. The westbound trains use the same platform, and riders can exit out of either side to one of the eastbound trains right across the platform.

    Ideally, there would be timed transfer points for both opposite direction and same direction trains on the Eastside. A two-platform, four track solution at Wilburton (inbound on one level and outbound on another level, for example), would enable timed transfers between Redmond and Kirkland trains. Another thought would be for southbound trains to be in the middle, with a northbound train for Kirkland on one side for Redmond on the other (like Loughead).

    A solution for reverse direction trains would be best at wherever the transfer would occur — and I think that before it’s all said and done, ST may have to move the transfer station from East Main to South Bellevue because the construction of a transfer platform as well as transfer tracks will be plenty challenging both technically and politically..

    Of course, one other way to reduce transfer difficulty is to offer a mix-match solution to some of the lines. Several have been envisioned by STB posters, but there isn’t any discussion from ST on that yet — as the need to have that won’t come about until at least 2030. Discussions on some schemes are here:
    In these cases, IDS still will need to be fixed, as there is no direct line between the Eastside and SeaTac in any of these schemes. As long as the MLK segment is the only way to get between SeaTac and points north, the airport will almost always have to have a transfer associated with it. I don’t think that it’s sunk in yet that the current configuration would not only require transfers from Eastside riders heading to/from SeaTac, but a transfer will be required from Capitol Hill/UW/North Seattle/Snohomish riders going to SeaTac too.

    1. I should insert clarification about ST3 in that last paragraph:

      “… the current ST3 planned configuration…”

    2. “but a transfer will be required from Capitol Hill/UW/North Seattle/Snohomish riders going to SeaTac too.”

      For ST2, no, every other train coming from Lynnwood should be airport-bound. For ST3, yes, but it will be a ‘same’ direction transfer so may be easier.

      The ST3 budget includes a complete rebuild of IDS, so the ‘not looking forward’ concern is really only applicable to the ST2 system plan.

      1. It’s time for ST to immediate initiate designing a phasing plan for IDS for post 2023 (ST2 completion) and post 2035 (post new Downtown tunnel completion). We can speculate on what the station will look like, but station design requires dealing with a number of issues and many of these aren’t understand by us armchair observers.

        I don’t think that there is any major regulatory barrier for ST to begin to do the early redesign of the station. That’s really what we need to be advocating at this point.

        Even if it is just ST2, I also personally feel that the investment of two down escalator at IDS is completely worth it. At worst, it gets removed several years after they start working upon a station redesign. The overall cost of installing it is pretty low though — if the replacement stairs are built first and the new escalator is added where the current stairs are. Then, the escalator could either be moved or taken out and reused.

        The cost of rebuilding the IDS station appears to be included in the price tag of the second Downtown tunnel. $100m in the ST budget called the System Access Program should go to other existing Link, Sounder and Express access solutions because the $100m (obviously a placeholder amount) won’t buy us a suitably rebuilt IDS station.

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