Photo by Oran

Beginning last winter, you may have noticed platform decals in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel attempting nudge new-ish Seattle rail riders to follow the universal etiquette of not blocking the door as people exit. That experiment is over. ST spokesperson Kimberly Reason:

The decals at Westlake were temporarily installed on a six-month trial period to see if they would help separate the bus riders from the Link riders, as we were experiencing crowding and delays at the DSTT platforms from riders gathering at the forward ends of the platforms.  Our goal was to create efficiencies around boarding/alighting to ultimately improve performance.  Additionally, riders with low vision noted that the high contrast signs at the door openings may be beneficial. The trial period ended last week.

 Here’s what we found:

 ·       No real performance efficiencies in dispersing riders across the length of the platform from using the decals were observed.

·       Instead, with the roll-out of three-car Link trains, we observed riders naturally moving away from the forward platform and toward the rear for the opportunity to ride on the third car.

·       We anticipate any remaining crowding issues will be resolved when buses are removed from the DSTT and between-car Barriers are applied across all DSTT stations next year or two.

Although it’s easy to exaggerate how perfect the etiquette is in other cities, the battle to help riders speed up their own ride continues.

28 Replies to “Verdict on Platform Decals: Meh”

  1. It doesn’t help that people around here don’t seem to understand lines anymore.

    These kinds of stickers work better when:

    A) They are more clearly marked as to their purpose
    B) Anyone bothers to explain them to riders
    C) Riders have a habit of standing in orderly queues instead of just crowding in the moment a door opens.

    None of these appear to be true in Seattle. Hence these stickers were not particularly effective.

    1. C’ Seattleites habitually crowd the first two cars, assuming that the third car is a hologram.

  2. They could have markings on the ground that literally read, “Stand HERE, bitches!” That would surely get people’s attention, a would posters explaining the purpose of the arrows in terse language: “You wanna get home faster? Then get out of the damn way, let people off, then get on and get the hell out of the way so everyone behind you can board the train! It ain’t rocket science, you plebs.” A friendly reminder about not holding the doors might read thusly: “Hey, asshole! Quit holding the damn door! You’re making everyone late, and it bad for the door. Ya break it, ya pay for it! Capisce?” As a hoard, humans need curt instructions, and reminding them that being an asshole is really dickish at the same time don’t hurt.

    Of course, I have a low opinion of humanity. At least I always remember to stand to the side of the doors.

    1. Careful to pick your audience, Andrew. Remember that Star Trek episode where instead of impersonating Wyatt Earp like they usually did, Spock had to give somebody a Vulcan nerve pinch to get a radio turned down?

      How do you know all your fellow passengers are Earthlings? Much evidence to the contrary. So above declaration could get our whole planet roasted like a marshmallow when you convince the wrong visitors to share your opinion of humanity.

      So better save it for transit systems in cities where sp-word for low intelligence has two “o’s in the middle instead of a “u”. A simple, polite mention of the fact that “Ya Sister Wears Desert Boots!” will merely trigger a friendly comeback of “Oh yeah? I’ll be sure ta let my brudder know you said dat!” Before she Desert-Boots you onto the Third Rail.

      Which won’t delay the train at all.

      MD

    2. Also, “If you’re on the train, and a bunch of people get off, and a bunch of people are waiting to get on, MOVE FURTHER INTO THE [obsc ] CAR instead of forcing all those people to single-file through the goddam door and crowd next to you in the vestibule, you [obsc].”

  3. Where DSTT loaders are there, part of their duties should be to direct rear-door passengers to “Please get on and fill the aisle.” Also, considering, after years’ experience, how little violence happens in rush-hour Tunnel stations, guards should consider efficient loading a safety matter, and within their assignment.

    But shamefully and dangerously, of all the many shortfalls and defects in Metro operator training, passenger-handling in general has been the absolute, ongoing and least forgivable worst. Any driver: Were you ever instructed, with repeated drill, in using your microphone?

    Even more, with how to actually direct passengers in things like filling the aisles? Rearview inside mirrors have a lot of blind spots. But it works to stand up in your seat and look, mirror and up the aisle. Sometimes pretend to see spaces even if you can’t. Keep tone unserious as possible. Passengers will often take the cue and help.

    More important, like in any other emergency situation, the fact that someone is in charge alleviates the dreadfully dangerous animal fear among a large number of people who think they’re trapped. Even where there’s not enough room for a stampede-which kill a lot of people- all ability or inclination to think goes away.

    Let alone cooperate. But the most critically needed passenger-handling measure is Seattle’s most neglected: Right-of-way where the buses only stop at bus stops. While a standing streetcar load is always more bearable, the heavier the load, the more important that the vehicle be moving. The faster and smoother the better.

    A smoothly-handled moving bus is also a driver’s best defense against an assault.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I’ve found that when the driver plays the “please move to the rear of the bus to allow others to board” message, people are generally very good about doing so (at least on my route). This despite not managing to figure it out before the message is played. A train announcement as people are boarding at each station, at least during peak, should suffice despite the train car design being so horrible the center area is more like a tiny corridor than an area to stand in. And keep bikes out of the door areas during peak hours!

      We could have done better with the new cars and obviated the problem by giving a wide and continuous area for people to naturally disperse throughout the train, but as far as I can tell from the plans the space in that center area is only slightly improved.

      1. If the same announcement drones on every time you board a train, people will quickly tune it out. The bus announcement likely works because it is used less frequently, so when it plays they know it’s actually needed.

      2. It’s better than nothing. Even tourists in London “mind the gap,” which is also played at each train arrival. Herd behavior means that if only one person hears/heeds it, others may follow. Again, better than nothing even if it only helps a bit.

        I’m for anything that helps educate people, even when the vehicles they selected are not conducive to ease of passenger distribution.

  4. Also: from here on, no articulated bus should have less than three doors. Idiotic that ’til recently, DSTT hybrids have only had two. Exponentially worsened by fare-box mandate.

    Fastest and safest is to load via front door and leave by the rear, so moving passengers never have to get in each other’s way in the aisles. In many places, buses have “Exit to the Rear” signs at front of the coach.

    But accountants need to calculate that slow loading costs loses more money than whole coach-loads of lost fares. When fare collection makes packed buses late, by The Book paper-towels should be rubber banded over the farebox.

    Certain Metro Councilmembers who nixed fare inspection and put farebox-work in the Tunnel: Treat you to a Friday PM rush hour to Safeco Field. You know who you are!

    Mark

    1. South end and East side commuter routes will being seeing new artics coming fall quarter. 8100-8199, namely, will have two doors (as opposed to three on 8000-8084), but will be targeted towards suburban commuter routes where downtown riders are less likely to use them to thoroughfare. Three-door 8200-8299, later, will be used on Seattle urban routes.

    2. I love the three-door coaches – the second door is close enough to the front door that most people towards the front will exit there rather than trying to go up to the front. Loading seems quicker with these because of that. I also find them more pleasant in general.

      The “exit to the rear” signage was a good idea in general, except that they are placed on the ceiling almost all the way to the front of most coaches and are difficult to read from any distance even if you do see them – the ceiling is rarely a place you would ever think to look for information about anything. I can’t think of a less-likely area for anyone to spot them in – and, if they do, in most cases they are all the way at the front already and aren’t going to turn around and go back.

  5. from here on, no articulated bus should have less than three doors.

    After buying 250+ articulated buses with 3-doors over the last 8 years… Metro’s newest batch of articulated buses will go back to having 2 doors. But it will only be 100 buses that *should* only be assigned to suburban routes.

    After that Metro plans to buy another 122 articulated buses with 3-doors for urban routes.

    In many places, buses have “Exit to the Rear” signs at front of the coach.

    Metro has those signs signs too, although they could be bigger and more plentiful.

  6. I do notice that at the Westlake Station in particular passengers waiting for the #550 do line up in a row from the bus stop sign towards the north entrance of the transit tunnel. So there are people who do know how to line in a queue. I have also noticed the same thing at some of the other stops in the tunnel for the #550 although more at Westlake.

    But like others have posted I wish the drivers would enforce people to exit the bus by the rear door. It really is frustrating on the #372 on the UW Campus where people wait until passengers are ready to get on and then decide to want to get off and come to the front door and they usually come from the middle of the bus where the rear door is just as close.

    I did see one driver force a passenger to go to the rear door. I was on the #44 heading toward Ballard when the bus stopped and passengers were already getting on when a woman wanted to get off and the driver told her to use the back door. She wasn’t happy but I thought it was great.

    1. It doesn’t help any that when we enter, we are trained to wait for the bus driver to let us on. That pause is often an invitation for people leaving the bus to leave by front door.

      And it is funny that often there are different traditions per bus route, even per stop. You noticed the neat lineup on the #550. Unlikely that will happen with the #41, although I’ve noticed the ID #41 riders are starting to.

    2. I first saw lining up at Bellevue Transit Center a couple years ago, both for the 550 and 535 and maybe another ST route. I haven’t see in it anywhere else. It may have evolved because some of those runs get an entire busful of people at once. Or maybe a critical mass of foreign workers who are accustomed to queuing for buses started the trend. I usually take the 550 on weekends, and sometimes I see a short line and sit on the bench and read a book, and when the bus comes the line has gotten longer and I can no longer get a seat.

      1. At DSTT Pioneer Square, I took the 106 heading south to Georgetown on a Friday, saw the line at the south-most stop, lined up, and asked the next in line how it worked. The rules were a pretty clever way to line up for multiple buses, as long as the buses pulled up one at a time. You Lined Up. If it wasn’t your bus, you stepped back one step, allowing the riders who are taking that bus to remain in line and enter. The bus leaves, you step forward again and coalesce the line.

      2. Express busses to/from Tacoma (590/594) will frequently have lines as well. I think it’s a direct result of the fact that a full(ish) load is boarding all at once instead of a few people at a time here and there throughout the city. It’s not surprising that it shows up on the routes with very limited stops: 550, 590, etc.

      3. Hang around Tacoma Dome Station some day a few hours before a Mariners game. Queues, queues, queues for the bus to Seattle. This is partly due to the fact that the buses don’t hold the entire group (they will often arrive mostly full from Lakewood or Commerce) so it is important to see who got there first. If I’m heading to Safeco I always get to the Dome early because I will probably have to wait for a full bus or two to go by.

      4. Bellevue’s TC has long, orderly lines during rush hour. It helps that the major routes are separated, so the line for, say, the 560 doesn’t interfere with the line for the 550.

        I’ve boarded the 550 at the TC and stops elsewhere and Bellevue and have always had an orderly line whenever there is more than 2 or 3 people.

  7. I still see crowds huddle behind the light rail marker sign (which is useful to the operator but confuses everyone else). Take that marker away, and the floor arrows could be more effective.

    The floor arrows are further back from the platform than I’ve seen anywhere else they are used. This might actually be a good thing, given the volume of riders who think they are supposed to stand and wait on the arrows pointing away from the platform.

    It might not be clear to riders that these markers are for train doors, not bus doors.

    Regardless of the arrows, there are three things I hope happen soon:

    (1) Deploy between-car barriers where they don’t interfere with bus ingress/egress. If even that rear-most barrier is deployed on all the DSTT platforms, it could make a difference in spreading crowds out better, and maybe, just possibly, save someone’s life.

    (2) Adjust how buses stop so that they don’t compete for platform space with the places the between-car barriers would go.

    (3) If the problem is the chaos of bus and train crowds waiting in the same space, move the bus crowds all the way forward. Yes, keep moving. Yeah, up to the front of the platform. Now you can stop, and every inch of platform is being used optimally. In other words, eliminate Bay B.

    1. The marker is meant to help the operator ‘get it right’ each time. It’s not merely “convenient” for the operator. I don’t think ST would be too happy with the idea of taking them out.

      1. Perhaps ST should put them in a more concealed location, like the boards that NYC subway conductors point at to confirm the train is stopped in the right position. Most passengers wouldn’t see them but those in the know would.

  8. Articulated buses with just two doors sound horrible. All urban and most suburban articulated buses in my medium sized European home town (~ 120,000 people in the city) have 4 doors. And I was just in Prague where I’ve seen articulated buses with 5 doors, although the front door only had a single wing instead of the usual double wing doors.

  9. Three words: ribbed tactile paving. Passengers use these basically to guarantee there’s a door each time. But that’s exactly one downside to just putting them wherever there will be a door. We go in-and-out with 2-and-3 car trains. If that guarantee is not met, it’s basically game-over for the passenger (and I mean, in a God-forbidden way). Know what I mean? Anyway, this is also why it’s a good idea to put that rear-most barrier on tunnel platforms, and get rid of Bay B.

  10. Light rail sign-posts are hazards. More than once instance of somebody running down the platform either chasing a train or waving to a friend, and hitting the post full-speed, right alongside a moving railcar or bus.

    Or getting compressed off the platform, maybe in front of trains. Markers for drivers can be either on wall or platform edge. For boarding guides, might try simple lines on platform floor with route numbers and vehicle modes printed on them. Works at Tacoma Dome.

    Every former child instinctively flashes back to school halls and gym.
    Even without savage fifth-grade blonde monitors in Highland plaid skirts and whie knee socks named Evelyn.

    One reason 550 passengers generally wait in line is that all of them are waiting for the same bus. Every other route, multiple routes use the same platform, but almost always in different order. Not the only DSTT problem easily solvable by actively dispatching buses from portals in given order.

    Route 41 has other problems fixable same way. Northbound bus starts route at stop near Central Base, Sixth south of Royal Brougham. Next stop IDS- after right turn onto northbound LINK tracks. Often if not usually, bus turns just before train leaves Stadium.

    Bus-first means a train with 30 second loading time following a bus with minimum twice that. Even without wheelchair boarding or fare discussion. Meaning 1.3 mile delay for dozens of vehicles. Behind every single 41. and 41’s bunching so badly they’d work better coupled. With passengers hundred percent jamming first bus ’til driver won’t move it, leaving follower behind it empty.

    Remedies? Let inbound train hold street signal ’til it enters IDS. Shorter train boarding time should result in no delay in DSTT for buses at all. And above all, for every reason, make bus fare-boxes turn off entering Tunnel. Fare inspection always intended, and always works on LINK. Do it, you County Councilmembers, or we’ll run Bob Hasegawa for all your seats! Nothing to lose.

    And waiting passengers will always follow the polite advice of our fare inspectors, whose uniform style indicates they’ve got their phasers set on “Fare Inspect”, “Warn”, or “Cite.” Pointed ears only needed for their supervisors, to instruct Route 41 drivers in the logic of just shutting doors and departing. And passengers, to wait for the next one, half a minute behind. “Live Long and Thanks For Riding!”

    Mark

    Light rail sign-posts are hazards. More than once instance of somebody running down the platform either chasing a train or waving to a friend, and hitting the post full-speed, right alongside a moving railcar or bus.
    Or getting compressed off the platform, maybe in front of trains. Markers for drivers can be either on wall or platform edge. For boarding guides, might try simple lines on platform floor with route numbers and vehicle modes printed on them. Works at Tacoma Dome. Every former child instinctively flashes back to school halls and gym.
    Even without savage fifth-grade blonde monitors in plaid skirts named Evelyn.
    One reason 550 passengers generally wait in line is that all of them are waiting for the same bus. Every other route, multiple routes use the same platform, but almost always in different order. Not the only DSTT problem easily solvable by actively dispatching buses from portals in given order.
    Route 41 has other problems fixable same way. Northbound bus starts route at stop near Central Base, Sixth south of Royal Brougham. Next stop IDS- after right turn onto northbound LINK tracks. Often if not usually, bus turns just before train leaves Stadium.
    Bus-first means a train with 30 second loading time following a bus with minimum twice that. Even without wheelchair boarding or fare discussion. Meaning 1.3 mile delay for dozens of vehicles. Behind every single 41. and 41’s bunching so badly they’d work better coupled. With passengers hundred percent jamming first bus ’til driver won’t move it, leaving follower behind it empty.
    Remedies? Let inbound train hold street signal ’til it enters IDS. Shorter train boarding time should result in no delay in DSTT for buses at all. And above all, for every reason, make bus fare-boxes turn off entering Tunnel. Fare inspection always intended, and always works on LINK. Do it, you County Councilmembers, or we’ll run Bob Hasegawa for all your seats! Nothing to lose.

    And waiting passengers will always follow the polite advice of our fare inspectors, whose uniform style indicates they’ve got their phasers set on “Fare Inspect”, “Warn”, or “Cite.” Pointed ears only needed for their supervisors, to instruct Route 41 drivers in the logic of just shutting doors and departing. And passengers, to wait for the next one, half a minute behind. “Live Long and Thanks For Riding!”
    Mark

  11. Standing at Westlake one afternoon a few weeks back (when the markers were still on the floor) the train came, doors opened, and most people on the platform moved to board the train blocking the doors as people tried to exit. I see this a lot of course. What was unusual about this particular day was that one of the several people trying to exit was none other than Peter Rogoff! That was probably the end of the signs. :-)

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