Sound Transit Operations & Administrative Committee meeting April 5, 2018
The escalator presentation runs from 8 minutes into the video until 1:08.

Last Thursday, Sound Transit staff gave a presentation to the Board’s Operations & Administration Committee in response to the March 16 breakdown of two down escalators on the same level at UW Station, resulting in long queues to enter the station during the evening peak period.

On March 16, one escalator was broken down for over two hours before ST personnel became aware it had stopped. Once the other broke down, staff miscommunication delayed calling the contractor that maintains the escalators — KONE — to come out and repair the escalators. Then, KONE took two and a half hours to get a repair crew to the station, despite being under contract to respond within one hour.

ST’s Operations Department has already implemented staff protocol changes to make sure vertical conveyances are checked more regularly by station security personnel, and that any problems with escalators be reported immediately to the maintenance contractor before on-site ST staff attempt to re-start the escalator.

Staff are looking at allowing the usage of stopped escalators as stairs, but only when all escalators in one direction are broken and with staff on hand to assist.  Use of the emergency stairwells is also being examined. A report will be delivered at the next board meeting on April 20.

Additionally, the agency is looking at overall increases to reliability and has been upgrading components to the escalators to help reduce break downs. Some ideas under consideration include replacing some escalators entirely with stairs as well as making the emergency exits available for full-time use.

Per an email from ST spokesperson Kimberly Reason, ST does not actually allow walking on moving escalators, considering the practice “disruptive”, but has not chosen to expend resources policing the behavior.

One protocol change implemented months ago was a reduction in reversing elevator directions, which seems to have reduced breakdown rates.

For the long run, new stations will have new standards:

  • All escalators will be “transit-grade”. (Staff confirmed that UW Station was built with cheaper escalators as a cost control measure, which appears to be backfiring due to higher maintenance costs and more down time, and the possibility of having to retrofit stations.)
  • Every escalator will have an accompanying public stairwell, with one exception in U-District Station.
  • Any platform or floor needing elevators will have at least two. Some mezzanines will be skipped by the elevators.
  • New escalators will come with 5 years of included maintenance from the start of revenue service.

While UW Station may get more stairs, no plans are in the works yet to retrofit SeaTac Airport, Tukwila International Boulevard, and Mt. Baker Stations with redundant elevators.

Frank Chiachiere assisted with this post.

140 Replies to “ST Exploring New Escalator Strategies”

  1. Mt Baker needs a second set of escalators going down on each side, too. It’s nuts having to walk down 50 steps or use the single elevator.

    1. Or, better yet, an elevated walkway connecting the platform to the pedestrian bridge. It’s bad design to make everybody go up, down, and back up again.

      1. Problem is, that bridge isn’t ADA-compliant as it stands. Which really needs to be fixed at the same time as any other improvements to the station connection.

      2. Really that bridge just needs to go away as part of the larger project to fix the intersection.

      3. I think I heard the bridge will be removed in the Rainier renovation. I’m not 100% sure but it sounds familiar.

      4. For some reason, SDOT obsesses about forcing street crossings at Mt Baker Station rather than a new, better pedestrian walkway — of course while ironically noting that Rainier is too dangerous for pedestrians to cross. Can we say illogical?

        Contemplate this too: Which agency would be responsible for funding than reconstructing under the Mt Baker Station platforms by adding a mezzanine (with changes to escalator, stairs and elevator) and a new pedestrian bridge from it? Notice that agency will even admit that it’s needed, perhaps for fear that they would be responsible for it.

      5. ADA-compliant or not, it’s still a whole lot better than no bridge for the 99% of the population who doesn’t need ADA accommodations.

        Whenever I visit the Mt. Baker area, I nearly always cross Rainier at the bridge, as it’s much faster than waiting for the multiple lights (and I’m also headed up Mt. Baker Blvd. – not to the transit center).

        I’ve seen drawings of the “bow tie” plan and I really dislike it, in spite of all the greenwashing. The bridge goes away, and you now have to cross two streets, just far enough apart that if the lights are synchronized to allow cars to cross both streets in one go, pedestrians will be stuck waiting an entire cycle in the median. It could easily take 5+ minutes to cross the monstrosity on foot, depending on how badly they time the lights, and it’s all totally unnecessary – today, you can zip across over the bridge in under a minute.

      6. How did ST get away with building a non-ADA-compliant bridge in this era? Didn’t they suspect they would have to rip it out and rebuild it later?

      7. I believe the bridge over MLK was built in 1976. Sound Transit was not around and ADA codes were basically non existent. It was far nicer than the one on Aurora or Holman Road for its time.

      8. The bridge was built by Metro in the 1970s or 80s before ADA. Or at least it’s owned by Metro [1], so I assume they built it.

        [1] This from a news article that a few people are banned from the bridge due to misbehavior. The article said the MLK-Rainier bridge is owned by Metro, so they’re the ones who have authority over it. One person banned complained about the hardship of not being able to cross the street without going around, and the article talked about whether it’s right to ban people from such basic access infrastructure.

        In any case, ST’s attitude seems to be that the bridge doesn’t exist or is irrelevant to the station. The TVMs and ORCA readers are on the ground floor, so people must enter on the ground floor. Also the station is side platform, so it would require some kind of crossing or overpass to get to the southbound platform. And somehow ST is afraid of people walking across the tracks in Mt Baker and the DSTT, even though they do so at SODO and Rainier Beach. And if ST thinks the bridge won’t be around for long, it has little incentive to create s second-story entrance.

      9. Weird, I figured the bridge came with the station. I guess that’s an excuse, though a pretty flimsy one…

      10. My sister used to use that bridge in 1991 or 2. Franklin High had just been remodeled. It was the first of all high school remodels. She was bussed there.

        I did not know until I looked it up how old it was. I also did not know it was a Metro project. It would be nice to see a better one, but if they build nothing, then just leave it there.
        They should use this logic. A broken escalator turns into stairs. A steep ramp is now a hill. Use both or choose not to use both at your own risk.

  2. Years ago, there was a ton of blog discussion of the East Link to SeaTac transfers at ID/C Station bring a big problem. Solving this has not been discussed in awhile. There will be thousands of people each day making this transfer after 2023.

    2023 is now just five years away. There are still no plans for a solution.

    Without action this year, the only option I see is a gated pedestrian crossing at one or both ends.

    Finally, this escalator design challenge needs to also look at how well existing stations will function when ridership doubles or triples for this and other DSTT stations -/ and not look only at those in design or construction.

    1. ST is still planning to build a turnback track between the existing tracks in ID/CS. Most of that discussion occurred before the second downtown Seattle light rail tunnel was proposed in ST3.

      Oran has drawn up ideas for how to deal with transfers between lines and between each set of platforms. It is a detail that is ripe for discussion that neighbors showing up to meetings simply requesting a fortune to keep light rail invisible within their neighborhood won’t think to ask about.

      (Personally, I’d love to see light rail *more* visible, so the stations locations aren’t a deep dark secret that only locals know about.)

    2. ST does not seem to see it as a problem, or at least it’s less important than the non-revenue turn track for East Link that somehow precludes center plaforms. But ST said that in ST3 it will rebuild the station and that might come with center platforms. So not by 2024 but maybe by 2036.

      1. There is still going or coming from every othe station to or from Seatac , including those from Mercer Island, South Bellevue, Spring Dustrict, Overlake and Redmond. Besides that, won’t transferring to a 405 BRT in Bellevue require going up an escalator and crossing 110th at a signal? That’s also fairly punishing to a rider with luggage. The wait to cross the street is like the wait to get an elevator.

      2. Yes, 405 BRT will be better for those not coming from Bellevue, or going to other destinations than the airport.

        During planning ST asked the community whether they wanted it to serve SeaTac or Burien. The majority said Burien because SeaTac would overlap with Link and Burien has no high-capacity access.

      3. >> From DT Bellevue to SeaTac, would I-405 BRT->TIBS be faster?

        Good question. A trip from downtown Bellevue to IDS is 19 minutes. IDS to SeaTac is 31 minutes. So basically 50 minutes using Link, not counting the transfer.

        According to Google, a trip from downtown Bellevue to TIBS is about 20 minutes (with a little bit of traffic). There will be one stop in between there (in Renton). Add 5 minutes for that stop, and you are 25 minutes faster using the bus. Traffic might eat into that time savings a bit, but not that much, assuming the HOT lanes exist. Even a ten minute slow down (which is a lot) would mean the bus would be 15 minutes faster.

        But that isn’t the only combination. There are several stops on the East Side, and several stops in Seattle. For folks on the East Side, it is unlikely they will transfer, unless they are headed to TIBS specifically. I don’t see anyone getting on the train in Redmond, getting off at Bellevue, taking the bus to TIBS, then back on the train to SeaTac (even if it actually saves them some time). That is just too much of a hassle.

        Meanwhile, you have some stops in Seattle that will be used no matter where they start east of the lake. SoDo and Beacon Hill definitely. Stadium is a bit of a toss up, as it is fairly close to IDS, and the stadiums themselves are about as far from each station. Mount Baker could have a few, but I doubt that many. Ridership right now isn’t very high, and it wouldn’t make any sense as a transfer point to a bus. You are better off getting off at Judkins Park and catching the bus from there. For the other Rainier Valley stops, it really depends on whether you are headed to MLK or Rainier Avenue.

        Overall, I see a few thousand, but not tens of thousands of transfers here. It is a significant transfer point, but nothing like Westlake. The people headed from Lower Queen Anne to the UW will probably exceed the total number of transfers at I. D.

    3. It’s probably the same, but people should have the option of using Link all the way. Subways are what we want people to primarily use, so train-to-train transfers should be the best transfers in the system.

      1. Then depends on the final design of the IDS transfer and weather people will want to make it with luggage

      2. For 2024 it will probably be the same as now because ST has not announced anything different and East Link has started construction. For 2036 a same-stop or cross-platform transfer would mean people could just wheel their luggage straight across to the other train.

      3. If ST is making design changes at the U District station (2021 opening), they can make design changes at ID/C Station to accommodate East Link (2033 opening). It’s not too late!

      4. The answer to the crappy reverse-direction transfer at IDS is to add a center platform at Pioneer Square and open both sides of the trains there.

        And yes, I understand that in 2036 or soon after airport trains will go inti the new tunnel. But isn’t ten years of easy transfers for eastsiders headed to the airport worth a platform and set if emergency stairs to escape from it. That can’t be more than $20 million in the wildest estimate.

        No escalators to the third platform. It’s for reverse-direction transfers, though people should be welcome to use it from the mezzanine.

      5. If they can put gated pedestrian crossings at Judkins Park and East Main Stations, they likely should be able put one at at least one end of the platform at ID/C Station at a pretty low cost and in a short time frame.

      6. Al, there will be (at least) twice as many trains at IDS as at either of the East Link stations.

      7. And three tracks, one of which will have trains from both directions, so a zig-zag won’t guarantee that a crosser will face an approaching train.

        Plus, it’s dark there.

        It’s considerably more hazardous than an above-ground cross-walk, at least during daylight hours.

  3. How about changing the elevator controls so that more than one elevator can be called at once – especially at Beacon Hill?

    1. The BHS elevators also dwell at the midway point. Great if it’s the only one or a 30 ft trip, but it adds 20 seconds to calling an elevator. There’s no reason there aren’t two elevators waiting at the top and two at the bottom any time they aren’t in active use

      1. Even better would be if the Beacon Hill elevators could join the 21st century and automatically reposition themselves at the platform level when a train is approaching. When no train is approaching, the elevators should dwell at the top until a request comes in, as people will be going down continuously, but the upward movement happens only immediately following the arrival of a train.

      2. A midway dwell? That’s just plain stupid! even the the Space Needle elevators don’t have a midway dwell — and they opened in a pre-computer 1962.

      3. None of the beacon hill elevators dwell at any other location than platform or surface. Only one will open at a time to encourage fuller loads and less wear.
        I am a rail controller and am sitting 2 feet from the elevator status panel.

    2. YES! Holy moly, every single time I have to go to Beacon Hill it takes so much longer than necessary for the throng of disembarking passengers to disperse upwards, as we have to fill one elevator, wait for its doors to close, hit the button to request another elevator, fill it, wait for its doors to close…It’s been like this for 11 years! How in the world has this not been noticed / fixed yet?

  4. And this is rich “Per an email from ST spokesperson Kimberly Reason, ST does not actually allow walking on moving escalators, considering the practice “disruptive”, but has not chosen to expend resources policing the behavior.”

    Thanks for tracking that particular bit of hypocrisy down, I’ve been wondering about that for a while.

    Why don’t they have staff at the escalators everyday to help us navigate these baffling contraptions?

    1. Disruptive to who? Are other passengers offended if some people walk on stopped escalators? I have a hard time putting it in the same category as turning a ghetto blaster up loud or blocking the way or aggressive panhandling.

      1. Loud radios and panhandlers don’t add wear and tear to the escalator. So, definitely not the same category.

      2. Feet are more disruptive than moving through gears? In any case, this is only a couple hours a week, not all day every day. And the escalators are already worn and torn or they wouldn’t be stopping, and if they’re going to be replaced soon anyway…

      3. That’s moving escalators, not stopped escalators. Which, I take means you are technically supposed to stand on the escalator all the way up and down. Which would result in the escalator rides at UW and Westlake Stations actually taking more time than the train ride between them.

        Obviously, people who are physically capable can and do walk up/down the escalators to speed up the trip – especially in the downhill direction – unless crowding prohibits it.

      4. It could be based on that study from London that found two columns of people side-by-side on an escalator actually moves more people from one level to another per unit time. The issue is that there are a lot of people who *don’t* want to walk, so if the perception is that the left-hand side is for “walking only” and the right-hand side is for “standing only,” a lot of people will queue up for the right-hand side (b/c they don’t want to walk). And the left-hand side with people walking apparently doesn’t make up the difference. The net effect is more platform crowding.

        My personal take on this is two-fold: 1) great, that’s London, with super-packed stations. We don’t even come close. and 2) if *everyone* walked, we’d move more people than if people just stood. Seriously, for 99% of people, it shouldn’t be an issue to walk up moving stairs.

      5. and 2) if *everyone* walked, we’d move more people than if people just stood. Seriously, for 99% of people, it shouldn’t be an issue to walk up moving stairs.

        I believe this is actually not true in practice—if you’re walking, you occupy significantly more horizontal space on the escalator (roughly twice as much, as a baseline), because of following distances, and apparently the extra velocity of that stream of people doesn’t compensate for the lower density (similarly, freeway lanes have higher capacity past a single point at lower speeds). My recollection is that this is actually the experiment they were doing in the study you mention—if you have enough walkers and enough standers (and a London tube station definitely has enough of each) you can keep both sides fed to capacity regardless of the relative desirability of the walking side versus the standing side, so you can fairly easily test the throughput of the all-standing and stand/walk models.

    2. Actually, ST should see it that it’s the stopped escalators themselves that are disruptive, and walking on them is the natural mitigation.

    3. Following up on the absurdity of “Per an email from ST spokesperson Kimberly Reason, ST does not actually allow walking on moving escalators, considering the practice “disruptive”, but has not chosen to expend resources policing the behavior.” What the hell does that even mean? Does ST forbid it? If not, it’s allowed. That’s how rules work. If they do forbid it, is this little nugget of information available to the public? Either way, what’s the point of forbidding it, and making literally no attempt to enforce it? Not that they should enforce it, but this whole thing seems silly.

      Let me make this easy for you, ST: maintain your escalators for a high percentage of in-service time. When they’re out-of-service, and not being actively worked on, let them function as stairs. I get it, they’re slightly steeper, and there are the weird stump steps at the start and end. Most of us can figure this out and navigate them. For those who can’t for whatever reason, there are elevators. Just get out of people’s way!

    4. Not allowing is the same as forbidding. Not enforcing it is like when the police don’t ticket people for going 4 mph over the speed limit. In practice, regardless of what ST’s official position is, the escalators are sometimes stopped but open. Around a month ago ST decided to get aggressive and have security guards hold people back from using stopped escalators or ordering them off them and putting up more barriers. Almost immediately after that the UW Station meltdown happened, and then after a couple Times articles publicized it ST reversed course.

      1. I’d like to agree with you, but my suspicion is that someone at ST is taking a little liberty here. If it’s actually forbidden, someone should be able to point to a published policy to that effect. If they can’t, it’s not forbidden, it’s allowed, and that’s all there is to it. ST may prefer customers not walk on the escalator, but no one needs to care about that.

    5. Wooooo! I am a disruptive, evil person because I like to walk up escalators! I’m so bad!

      I’m so grateful ST security doesn’t ticket me! I guess I’m too white?

    6. Dardanelles, thank you for letting me put this comment in slightly different order this morning. This isn’t a matter of routine navigation of complicated equipment. Or about bad choice of machinery.

      It’s about not one individual on payroll of either Sound Transit or its security contractor ready, willing, or able to take personal charge of a major service interruption of two hours’ duration.

      And also several hundred people majority with working cell-phones without the basic reflex to fall police or fire if transit information had none to give. And pass answer along to everybody else. Worst the responders would tell us would be either “Thanks, we’re on it.” Or “Thanks for letting us know.”

      Demands and complaints? That’s what Public Comment at Board meetings is for. On our way home from talks with our city, county, and State representatives. Because if we care about Sound Transit either as advocates or taxpayers, it’s time we personally appear as a group and Comment to Board-members, sheriff’s department, and habitual perpetrator that we’ll testify in court regarding next abusive disruption

      Constitutional or not, I think one meeting’s comments from ten of us in a row will finally get the Board and one poor deputy a well-deserved break. And massively improved operations…and PASSENGER EXPERIENCE! for a reward.


    7. A couple times exiting Capitol Hill station I have seen the escalator filling up with people standing on the left and right, and then another passenger yells upward for people to walk on the left. Might have been the same guy both times actually. It worked, they started walking or squeezed rightward. This could perhaps be considered a minor disruption although personally I appreciated his action (though I wouldn’t myself).

      1. Jonathan, and Richard, I think everybody connected with Seattle Transit Blog has grown up with a set of manners that don’t let conflicts do a lot of either disruption or physical damage.



      2. Mark, I’m sorry, but I don’t “get” this particular historical post.

  5. The new escalators need to be faster too. The current ones seem slower than those at a mall.

    1. US law apparently. Escalators and elevators in other countries are faster. Must be an ADA thing.

      1. Wheelchairs and walkers don’t work with escalators. Make them faster and fewer people will take the elevators. That will benefit the folks who who have to use the elevators.

        While I agree that when people are injured they should be compensated, the fact that half the lawyers in the world serve seven percent of the world’s population smells like a corrupt cabal.

      2. Subway escalators in London and Moscow are two or three times faster than ours are. I assume the reason is that somebody might miss the top or bottom and get injured, so it boils down to the same rationale for preventing walking on stopped escalators. Meanwhile people in other countries can get to transit quicker, and that’s at least a small factor in their transit’s high ridership and popularity. As Jarrett says, people don’t take transit just to be on a moving vehicle (or escalator), but to get to a destination as quickly as possible.

      3. The elevators at Husky station are way way too small for the use of bikes, wheel chairs, and travelers with lots of luggage—plus the able-bodied folks who also prefer to ride them since the platform is so far down.

  6. Being able to walk up and down moving escalators is an essential part of moving people in out of the station quickly. This is the norm at UW Husky Stadium station. Standers to the right. Walkers on the left.

    Being able walk up a stalled escalator is also essential. Access to use the “emergency” stairs makes sense as well. We all want to get out of the station quickly and move on with our commute. Not in the station every day to appreciate the art.

    1. Counter-intuitively, a London study (posted on this site a while back) showed that crowded escalators have higher throughput when people are forbidden from walking up them, since standees pack more efficiently than walkers.

      But good on ST for realizing the obvious, that people should have the option to use stopped escalators as stairs.

      1. My understanding is that it had more to do with the fact that the “standing” area was always full, while the “walking” area was not. It is like a “5 items or less” checkout line at the grocery store. It is easy to have a long line in the regular checkout line, and nobody in the “5 items or less” line.

        In this case, if everyone walked, it would be the same. From what I can tell, it really doesn’t matter what happens once you get on the escalator, as long as you fill it. Here is the way I look at it:

        A new stair arrives from underneath. People step on that stair. At that point, those people are no longer on the platform (they are on the escalator). If they both immediately start running up the stairs, it really doesn’t make the next stair appear any faster. Nor does anyone give those people more room if they are walking or standing. When the next stair appears, people get on it.

        Unless, of course, people have been taught that it is polite to stand to one side, and walk on the other (and you have a lot of one group). The lesson is basically that it makes sense to be polite, and stand to the side unless the station area is extremely crowded. Then it makes sense for everyone to fill up the escalators as much as possible, even if that means that two people will stand next to each other.

        I think that sort of crowding is rare, if not unheard of in our system, so being polite (and stepping to the right if you are planning on standing) makes sense. Either way, if you get on at the left side, it is reasonable to walk up (if you can).

      2. Ross, your thought experiment is apparently contradicted by measured throughput. Walkers each require an extra step ahead into which to stride. That means that the percentage of stairs which can be occupied on the left side is considerably lower than on the right. It may be in the 30% range, depending how fast people do walk.

        So, when there are few folks on the escalator, feel free to walk left, but when there are lines at the entrance to an escalator, ignore that guy at Capitol Hill yelling for you to walk and stand left as well.

    2. BART found that “stand to the right” causes uneven mechanical wear on the machinery and actually contributes to escalator breakdowns.

      1. That’s some real high-modernist nonsense right there: it’s the people observing reasonable human behavior as they do at transit stations all over the world that contribute to failure of the perfect, symmetric machines — not the responsibility of system operators to design and maintain their systems for human use.

        Good to see BART staying committed to its original ideologies as well as to its original rolling stock, stations, and graphic design, no matter how much worse they all look with the passage of time.

      2. Maybe they should incorporate stand-to-the-right into their model for when to do preventative maintenance? It’s not like people are riding skateboards down them – standing and walking are basic, accepted uses of the equipment so this is just regular wear-and-tear.

    3. The escalator is so slow, there is no way I’m standing all the way up and down it, as long as there is physically room to get by.

  7. Escalators need to be maintained on a more regular basis so we do not have so many breakdown occurrences. I see other places that regularly have escalator maintenance on a weekly basis.

    1. ST’s standard is that a vertical conveyance has to be working at least 95% of the time. The conveyances have been collectively meeting that standard.

      However, if there are two elevators between the ground and a platform, that standard means there should end up being at least one elevator working 99.75% of the time. In practice, it should be even better, due to the contract calling for timely repair. Sadly, the elevators seem to take much longer to repair than the escalator, sometimes several weeks, judging by the length of time that we hear the detour announcements at the stations.

      The biggest ongoing failure for station access remains lack of sufficient vertical conveyance redundancy, or public stairs as an alternative.

      1. It does seem naive to have a blanket 95 percent standard. That means that it’s ok to have an escalator or elevator out of service 1.67 days a month! If it goes eithoit for 2 months, it can be out for 4 days during a third without violating the standard!

        The elementary nature of a single easily met standard for every situation is quite telling how the staff and board have yet to wake up to the situation

        Higher standards should exist generally, and ithey should be higher in situations where no duplicative alternative (like a second escalator) exists.

      2. Sorry, bad math! A 95 percent standard would be 1.5 days over a month. Multiplying this standard by 3 months is saying that it’s acceptable to have an escalator out for 4.5 days in a row!

      3. Ninety-five percent is WAY too low for an escalator which is out of service roughly six hours per day and, at least for the upward ones, spends much of the time carrying no one.

        Penny wise, pound foolish must be at play here, either in the choice of vendor or the class of equipment purchased.

  8. “Staff confirmed that UW Station was built with cheaper escalators as a cost control measure”

    When did we find this out? (of course not counting most of us who probably suspected it simply by trying to use them)

    This is a big deal. They cheaped out on a station that we’re now looking at truncating all 520 routes at. Not cool. If they have an extra $10,000,000 to make Mercer Island shut up, there’s no excuse for cheaping out on station access.

    1. It has been clear for months. The parts that are breaking down in one year were rated to last thirty years. ST took the lowest bid and got shoddy escalators from an apparently fly-by-night company.

      1. The elevator/escalator industry is dominated by a handful of multi-national corporations that control virtually all the world’s escalators and elevators. It’s kind of like the rail vehicle industry–a small number of companies are providing virtually all the products worldwide. KONE offers 3 types of escalators: TravelMaster 110, TransitMaster 120 and the TransitMaster 140. Apparently ST didn’t buy the 140 and elected to buy either the 110 or the 120 to save money.

        The KONE website lists the specs for the different escalator types:

      2. I think there should be the chief focus of ire against ST then. Because that is totally unacceptable for a station that essentially has two mezzanines, requiring six escalators to move people in both directions. And especially since (as far as I know) one of the elevators is still broken.

      3. Department store escalators hardly ever break down, and they never install an up escalator and leave the downward direction as stairs, because customers wouldn’t tolerate it.

    2. “If they have an extra $10,000,000 to make Mercer Island shut up,…”

      You don’t even have to “go” to the Mercer Island example. You have one right there at the UW station’s backyard as the the University was also paid $10,000,000 by ST in mitigation for temporary and permanent lost parking spaces in the final MIA between the two parties.

      >>>4.3.3. Parking. The University accepts the responsibility to mitigate the loss of a maximum of 600 parking spaces that will be lost on a temporary basis as a result of Sound Transit’s construction in the C-12, E-11 and E-12 Parking Lots. The University also accepts the responsibility to mitigate up to a maximum of 100, of the 600, parking spaces thought to
      be permanently lost as a result of Sound Transit’s long term facilities associated with the University of Washington Station. In return Sound
      Transit will pay to the University Ten Million Dollars ($10,000,000) upon execution of this Agreement.<<<

      1. Yeah, University of Washington seemed to want to gouge Link, especially considering how much usage it gets from their students and staff. They don’t seem to work well with the city either.

      2. If only that $10M went to escalators! Would UW have ever gifted that back to their students, faculty and staff in more and better escalators? Maybe upcoming mitigation compensation agreements can include this approach for future stations!

      3. Why is it that the university considers a light rail station to be so much of a problem that it needs a mitigation? Doesn’t the university pay construction companies to build parking? I would think that the UW of all things would think of student access to the university as a good thing and worth investing in. The UW, in its own interest, should really be lobbying and funding a third station at UW if good access is a priority for them for people who don’t drive.

      4. They’re worried that their physics lab will get shaken. They don’t want that.

        In that case, how about “stirred”?

    3. But hey, it came in “under budget.” Makes you wonder what sorts of bases decisions are being made on. “Well, we can buy the right escalators for the job, but then we won’t be able to claim we came in under budget by as much as we could if we buy cheap.” … “Ok, buy cheap.”

    4. So now we can add unreliable escalators to the list of unforced errors at UW Station, a list that includes insufficient elevator capacity and bus stops that require crossing two major arterials at-grade in the weather.

      Thankfully it looks like there is finally funding and political will to move bus stops to Montlake Blvd. close by the station (in the recently announced One Center City near-term action plan.) The unreliable, penny-wise pound-foolish escalators can be replaced. I worry more about the de facto inaccessibility that will result from long lines at the two already-oversubscribed elevators once ridership builds even more.

      I suspect both the SR 520 and future Link phases will result in higher ridership at UW station, even when it’s no longer a terminus, and that station access is going to become an issue there. I hope we can address that somehow. At the very least we should be learning lessons for the lines that are being planned now.

      1. ST should have a priority project to improve the emergency stairs esthetically and open them to full-time use. Like speeding up the escalators, doing so will attract usage by fit people in a hurry when there are lines at the powered facilities. This will improve ingress and egress for everyone

  9. “only when all escalators in one direction are broken”

    Does that mean one side of UW Station or both sides? Sometimes the middle excalator is stopped and ST makes you walk to the other side. That drives me up the wall because if I’d known that at the top I would have gone to the other side in the first place and it would be a shorter walk. The times when both sides are down are a small fraction of when one side is down, so if they insist that both sides have to be down, that only helps a little bit.

    1. Basically, ST does not want to allow walking on a single broken escalator while it is waiting for maintenance. However, if two are broken, going the same direction between the same levels (and ignoring the weird split specialty scenario at UW), it is considering allowing one to be used as stairs while the other is being maintained.

  10. Why don’t the escalators report out wirelessly to the LCC or to KONE when they’ve stopped?

    1. That will be $2 million dollars please. Do you want the DSTT displays to show train arrivals too? That will be another million.

      1. It wouldn’t have been $2 million had they done it when the station was under construction. Surely there is a telephone drop into the station; if there is not why not? And who made such a stupid decision or allowed such an oversight.

        Sound Transit gets an “F” for foresightedness.

      2. Have you hard of other escalators that have this wireless reporting? Or would it be a custom feature?

      3. I guess you’re right; I checked and found nobody who offers “phone home” capability. I guess they depend on the fact that their products are so crucial for the operation of their customers’ businesses that those customers will not let an escalator stop without noticing it.

        I find it hard to believe that none of the vendors has added this capability; what a selling point!

    2. Shhhh. Run and patent the concept before someone develops the technology to do that, so that transit agencies all over the world don’t have to pay off the patent troll law firms in the Netherlands.

    3. Right? That’s what I was wondering. I find it totally baffling that these things aren’t proactively monitored, and that the best we can get is a member of staff actually physically going there to check if it’s working.

      Monitoring would be really trivial, depending on the level of access that ST has to the actual workings of the escalator. Really all it would take is a network-connected motion sensor mounted somewhere within the gear house. There is already network connectivity, wireless or otherwise, in all the stations that most devices already connect to, so it’s just a matter of tripping the motion to send an email at the very least when it stops recording gear motion. Totally jury rigged, but better than we’ve got now.

      1. It is really much simpler than that. ST could have a webpage listing vertical conveyances that are currently out of order, and mentioning alternatives, like “Use the other escalator”.

        Plenty of people with smart phones could look at that webpage when they encounter an escalator that is not running, and send a text to ST’s Link Ops hub. Link Ops would inform ST ground staff and KONE, and then post the notice on ST’s vertical conveyances status page that that particular escalator is out of service.

        DIrect monitoring without a ground staff check is also straightforward. I believe the technical name for the devices is “cameras”.

    4. The escalators DO report running status to the LCC.
      They do not generate an audible alarm, as those are reserved for fire/life/safety events.
      The security on site is supposed to report stoppage to the control center, but current procedures delay that communication through 3 steps, and not a direct call.

  11. Rogoff comments at about 1:00:00 that the escalators at Capitol Hill Station were purchased from a different company (designed to the same technical standard as the Husky Stadium escalators), but ST isn’t having reliability problems with the CHS escalators.

    1. The Capitol Hill escalators have had an unusual number of stoppages too, mostly the southern platform ones. But it’s only like 5% of UW Station’s stoppages. Maybe it’s because those escalators are short, have lower passenger volume, and are few in number.

  12. Would someone please answer me, yes or no. Were there people in that station who absolutely could not get out?

    Mark Dublin

    1. So no, nobody was stuck on the platform as far as I know. At least one and maybe both up escalators were working when I saw it. Since ST can reverse escalators, it may have done so so that people wouldn’t be stuck inside.

  13. This escalator malarkey is almost as infuriating as standing on a crowded platform at 9am while an empty OUT OF SERVICE train with a glazed-eyed operator pulls in for a long stop without opening the doors before pulling away again.

    Who is in charge of operations? We need to fire those people and get someone more competent on the job.

    1. So … you’re jealous you don’t get to board the train and tag along back to the operating base? Because that train definitely won’t take you to where you want to go.

      Trains don’t end revenue service and magically disappear back to the operating base.

      1. Trains shouldn’t be ending revenue service at 9am. That’s my point. Why are we paying an operator to drive an empty train three-quarters of the way down the line past a bunch of paying customers? How many OUT OF SERVICE trains exactly do run up and down the tracks during the day? The first train I encounter is OUT OF SERVICE about 3/5 days/wk, that is not an exaggeration. Am I that unlucky? I don’t even arrive at the station at a consistent time.

        They certainly don’t mind inconveniencing passengers with a (quick but rarely-announced) operator change stop on the way home so that can’t be the issue. They apparently need 8 hours, 7 days a week of out of service maintenance time at night (the stated reason we can’t get Fri/Sat night owl service) so why are we still in a situation where we are sending OUT OF SERVICE trains up and down the tracks when the trains before and after are standing room only?

        Or how about when the train pulls into Mt Baker station, the doors open, and then we just sit. I assume we are waiting to time the light cycle on MLK but who knows? The operator never bothers to let the passengers know what’s up. You can see the suitcase-clutching folks glancing anxiously at their watches.

        Moslty I’m just cranky today but It is little, easy to rectify frustrations like this that turn people off transit.

      2. Maybe it’s a PEAK ONLY run. That’s the most likely explanation for 9am. I’ve never seen a train be out of service like that. But as I said below, you’d have to look at the entire scheduling process to figure out why that train stops like that. Intuitively I’d expect trains to keep making normal stops to SODO or Beacon Hill and then have everybody leave the train, but who knows what scheduling or deadheading needs may arise at the transition between peak and off-peak.

      3. I have seen trains northbound that say “Beacon Hill Station” only. That’s what ought to happen. Deadhead should only occur between SODO and the rail yard (southbound) and Beacon Hill and the rail yard (northbound).

        And hey, while I’m on this rant, what will it take for operators to start changing out at passenger stations? Why is it so impossible to have relieving operators drive to SODO and change out there instead of making an extra, non-service stop over the rail yard?

      4. While my preference for northbound stations heading back to the base is for them to be open for service to Beacon Hill Station (especially since Beacon Hill Station is nearly always the last station I go to before catching my 60 the rest of the way home), I realize that the market for going anywhere short of downtown is limited. The last three northbound trains of the night go in service to Beacon Hill only.

        Southbound trains are another matter. Most of the southbound ridership gets off the train by SODO Station. Keeping those in service, “to SODO only” would improve the Passenger Experience for many. That goes doubly so after the SR 520 bus restructure.

        Guessing from the schedule, I believe there is one train, after the 12:36 that goes to Angle Lake, that goes back to base from UW out of service. It would be nice to have that train in service, to extend span of service, but it would probably mean ST paying Metro more to keep the DSTT open to the public later. Once ST takes possession of the DSTT, I hope the early night owl runs from UW will be in service “to SODO only”.

        What would be really cool is if the section of track north of base could stay open even later while the southern track section is being maintained.

      5. (Another)Tom: whew do you get the “They apparently need 8 hours, 7 days a week of out of service maintenance time at night”?
        Service runs from 4:15 am to 1 am.

      6. That’s not necessarily true. Someone might just want to ride to PHS from Westlake, or even to SoDo, “This train is going out of service at SoDo station” announcements could be made at each stop.

    2. You’d have to look at the whole scheduling system and driver breaks and shifts and traffic ahead and all that stuff because it all fits together. I’ve never seen a train do that but I doubt it’s the driver taking an unauthorized rest to play pokemon or wanting to put customers in their place like the joke about Soviet shopkeepers whose primary words are “nyet” (no), “zakrit” (closed), and “zaprescheno” (forbidden).

      1. I imagine they do that so they can keep a proper distance between trains (they can’t bunch trains closely together like buses)

        As for out of service trains, sometimes they have deadheading in trains in revenue service (that’s why some trips start or end at SODO or Beacon Hill Station), but I think that tends to be confusing for riders. Here they also have to do a sweep of the train to make sure everyone is off before continuing to the maintenance base, which takes more time the train is stopped on the tracks, so I’m guessing that’s why not every train can take passengers on the way to the base (you cannot walk through every car on the train when the next one is six minutes behind you).

    3. This. At night trains headed for the MF go out of service at Beacon Hill or SoDo. That should be the operating practice for any train in serviceable condition since the signal system requires them to stop and request clearance into the next track segment.

      Heavy rail trains are able just to roll through stations when they’re out of service because the signal systems accommodate express trains.

  14. OK. Source I trust tells me that no one was in danger by reason of being trapped underground in the station. But let’s stay on the subject of what the transit system could have done, or should have done, and didn’t.

    Know the answer to whether supervision initiated a “Bus Bridge.” 43 wire still there- had this situation in mind when I asked to keep the 43. Or just told the people waiting outside about choice of other routes? Route 7 stop short walk across campus.

    Because what’s missing both in the video of the meeting, and here this morning, is any discussion not of machinery failure but of people actually organizing themselves and doing something. Let’s talk about that.


  15. In Germany, some of the stations have escalators that turn on and off based on if there is anyone there or not. Presumably this reduces unnecessary wear and tear and thus maintenance.

    1. That’s a good idea. Still Germany probably doesn’t build only one escalator in one direction when they do that.

    2. Also in some Germany subway stations were there isn’t room for two escalators and stairs, they’ll just provide a single reversible escalator and stairs. A location where this is quite common along the S-Bahn spine in Munich. A reversible escalator stops running if no one has been on it for a short time (<1 minute) and will then operate in the direction of the next user that approaches it. This is useful for serving the peak direction of station users and also for users with difficulty with stairs (or with luggage/strollers/etc) who will wait for it to change direction.

  16. Sound Transit “considers” walking on the escalators “disruptive”? Maybe sone bluenoses on the staff need to have their relationships with Sound Transit “disrupted” permanently.

    1. Richard, if you’re talking about standard operations and not this last long blockage, there’s some thinking that the larger the number of escalator passengers, the less anybody gains by not just stepping on and riding.

      Also, I think both of us have enough courtesy, common decency, and lack of practice in fist fights to scope out when it’s better to leave the disrupting to somebody else. I also think that ST might be helping social services by giving jobs to recovering bluenoses.

      Remember how long it’s been since they were last able to take an axe to a saloon. All the ones in Pioneer Square already have lines around the block waiting to be seated.


  17. I realize its still Metro, though future Sound Transit, but at Westlake Station the north escalator from the platform to mezzanine has been broken for at least 4 weeks!!!

  18. How does ST evacuate the folks who happen to be on an escalator when it stops running?

    1. Many of the comments are not on the topic of escalators. But the Comment Policy Enforcement Team is being lenient.

      People do like to Monday-morning quarterback how stations are built, and nitpick operational plans. I’m one of the guilty parties.

  19. After going to dc and La I realize most actual newer rapid transit systems would have 3-4 escalators at stations like uw… Why sound transit thinks it can go cheap on the key part to getting to these deep stations is beyond me….

    1. It was the politicians and voters who insisted ST keep its ST1/2/3 budgets to a minimum because they were afraid that a higher level would cause more people to vote no. But as time goes on people gradually start demanding a higher level of service and are willing to pay for it. The initial outline for Link was on I-5 between downtown to 45th, and the original alignment for ST1 was surface from Mt Baker to SeaTac. Rainier Valley got surface, but every segment designed after that is elevated or underground (or surface without level crossings where possible). At one point ST2 was entirely grade-separated, until Bellevue begged ST to find money for its downtown tunnel and a couple segments in Bel-Red and Redmond were reduced to surface. But in general there are no more level crossings. Likewise, UW bitched about losing parking or having a station in central campus, and the result was all the UW Station layout problems. But now UW is relenting a bit on bus stops in front of the station. Likewise, ST went cheap on escalators to assuage the people who said it must be thrifty. But now the quality of station access is becoming a higher priority in the public’s minds so ST is able to upgrade the escalators and plan for more better ones in future stations. The future will probably continue to get better, but in the meantime we have to go through all these compromises until a critical mass of politicians and voters is willing to go bigger.

      1. I dont buy that $54 billion is one of the largest local measures on the ballot in the US. The problem is with transit we are expected to pay a lot for a little and so our money doesnt go far.

      2. No, I’m pretty sure that L. A. had the biggest local transit measure in recent years (adjusted for inflation) and probably had the biggest in absolute dollars. They may actually be the biggest in both. But the ST3 project was the second biggest in the last election, and was probably top five in the last 20 years, if not ever. In terms of cost per capita, it also has to be one of the biggest.

        It is tough to track this down, of course. When I do a search, I just find results from the last general election (which has L. A.’s $120 billion dollar proposal and ours dominating). Looking at the history of transit in this country, I can’t imagine there were many proposals even close to that kind of money. Way back when, there were private companies operating transit. Those eventually got taken over by local public agencies. Since then, money mostly came from the feds or was raised locally, without a vote. BART is an exception, and would probably rank very high historically as far as local transit initiatives go. Most of the other projects through the years have been relatively small — either for a few miles of track (often on the surface) or money for buses.

        I would assume that the order, in terms of allocated expenditure, adjusted for inflation is:

        1) L. A. (2016)
        2) BART (1962)
        3) ST3 (2016)
        4) DART (1984)

        It wouldn’t surprise me if the first two and the last two are swapped. I also might be forgetting someone. But I doubt there are enough proposals to push ST3 out of the top five, let alone top 10 in the U. S.. Given the timeline here (forever), it is quite striking.

      3. ST3 may seem large, but it’s the budget cap that’s hindering a Ballard tunnel, West Seattle tunnel, more stations if anyone wants them, etc.

  20. Has anyone that makes decisions at Sound Transit ever actually relied on mass transit for anything important? It kind of doesn’t sound like it.

    Because ST’s planners are overwhelmingly worried about a possible disaster of people falling on an escalator that wasn’t designed to be walked down, most of all for people not physically able to handle the rather long descent down large steps. While anyone that has relied on mass transit for anything important looked at the queues outside UW station and said that was a definite disaster for a lot of people, most of all for people unable, physically or economically, to make the trip otherwise.

    1. “Has anyone that makes decisions at Sound Transit ever actually relied on mass transit for anything important? It kind of doesn’t sound like it.”

      It’s better to ask them than to blindly accuse them of not doing so.

      ST is following a risk management practice of minimizing the possibility of lawsuits from injured people. But public pressure is starting to make it change its mind, and realize that there’s a larger public issue that goes to the heart of transit being an essential service, and some risks may be worth in the overall picture. It will therefore have to reserve some money for such lawsuits.

      1. Anyone that’s actually relied on transit to go anywhere would be talking about what happened at UW station as an unacceptable disaster with urgency. Instead there’s this hemming and hawing, “Oh, we’d hate to get sued.” ST quotes escalator manuals and design standards to justify it but people that walk places and take transit know the physical reality and would appreciate not being talked-down to. Everyone stuck in that line should sue. Everyone stuck in that line full of people, half of whom have probably gone on a tougher hike than that in the last month.

        Seattle is going to be stuck with car culture forever unless we break our habit of enforcing and following the stupidest rules. We had some kind of chain of command where someone made a call to break UW Station during afternoon rush hour and that was followed down the chain while everyone watched it fail and did nothing. This is a major transfer station now and for a long time into the future and we’re watching ST set policies that enshrine what happened that day as the correct response to inevitable escalator failures.

  21. Just a side note on opening up emergency stairwells to the public:

    This is something that makes obvious sense during the lead-up to events that draw large crowds to one station, with crowds backing up at the vertical conveyances, to get out of the stations. It should have happened at Capitol Hill Station before the Womyn’s March. It ought to be a contingency for the March for Science. There is no excuse for unnecessarily creating a risk of overcrowding a platform.

    I would not suggest making the emergency stairwells available to help people get into the station during a crushload.

    Any policy for keeping stairwells open to the public during all operating hours needs to keep in mind the emergency evacuation scenarios. Unfortunately, this may mean reserving the emergency stairwells for emergency and crushload egress only.

    1. There may also be concerns about crime. If the stairways are open to the public, but seldom actually used, people might lurk there to rob or attack unsuspecting travelers.

      Virtually all of the Link stations seem carefully designed to avoid anything remotely resembling a dark corner – every inch of space is either highly visible, or locked up.

    2. Seriously? You think that the relatively small minority of people who would use the stairs regularly for exercise or because it’s faster would be an impediment to an egress emergency? They’d just turn around and climb out with the crowd.

      The criminality objection has merit

  22. Yeah, no kidding. Paint a wavy line down the middle of the treads that will make a nice pattern as the escalator moves, install a webcam to watch and voila. Bonus points and a business model if the problem is put forth as a hackathon.

  23. Yeah, no kidding. Paint a wavy line down the middle of the treads that will make a nice pattern as the escalator moves, install a webcam to watch and voila.

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