Convention Place Station, not long for this world

Mark your calendars for July 21. That’s the date that Convention Place Station will close permanently, heralding the upcoming end of bus service through the downtown transit tunnel.

As we mentioned last month, buses will access the tunnel using a temporary ramp from 9th Avenue between Pine Street and Olive Way. The ramp is nearing completion and the adjacent bus stops, located on 9th Avenue on the north side of Pine Street, will be installed in the coming weeks.

After the changeover takes effect, all seven bus routes in the tunnel will use these two bus stops, eliminating the long-standing tradition of spotting the next inbound bus from the mezzanine level before rushing down the stairs to one of three bays. According to Metro’s Jeff Switzer, the new stops will appear as time points in GTFS data (including One Bus Away) in early August and on printed timetables in September, but until then we can use the 3-to-5 minute delay for peak trips spelled out by the convention center environmental review.

The revised routing for buses using the transit tunnel (King County Metro)

To reach the tunnel, peak-direction buses coming from the I-5 express lanes (routes 41 and 74) will continue further down the Pike express lane offramp and turn north onto 9th Avenue. Buses exiting the tunnel (routes 101, 102, 150, and 550) will simply turn out onto 9th Avenue before continuing two blocks south to several layover spaces on Convention Place between Pike and Union streets.

Buses using the general purpose lanes on I-5 (routes 41 and 255) will turn south from Stewart onto Boren (instead of 9th), then take a right turn onto Pine Street and another right onto 9th Avenue to reach the inbound bus stop, which involves three more turns than the existing routes. When traveling outbound, these buses will travel east onto Pine, north onto Bellevue Avenue, and then cut west across Olive Way to reach the I-5 ramp, in a manner similar to Route 545’s peak-hours Capitol Hill diversion—sans the extra stop on Bellevue Avenue.

With the ramp in place and buses moved aside, Convention Place Station will be demolished to make way for the subterranean exhibition hall that will someday host beloved megaconventions like PAX and Emerald City Comic-Con. The convention center will take full possession of the property by March 2019, assuming that it reaches a September milestone set by the county for the start of demolition. Sound Transit will take over operations of the tunnel sometime after March 2019, bringing with it a full transition to rail-only operations for the first time in the tunnel’s 28-year history.

50 Replies to “Convention Place Station Set To Close Permanently on July 21”

  1. If the 255 has to detour to Olive and Bellevue anyway, it should at least serve the bus stop like the 545 does, which could be justified as mitigation for Convention Place Station closing.

    1. I was thinking the same thing, I’d probably even use that stop, but there could be a danger in getting people used to that service pattern when it goes away in a year.

      1. If that’s the case, it doesn’t make sense to have temporary stops replacing Convention Place Station.

      2. Regardless of whether these tunnel routes use their “tunnel closed” routing or something else in 2019 they will more than likely keep a stop in the vicinity. So it wouldn’t make sense to delete this stop for the 9-12 months of transition period.

  2. Why not just have the 255 follow the 545 (and all other SR-520 routes) routing on the surface? That would restore common routing and stops. It ought to be time neutral with the convoluted routing, and faster off peak, and create a little less delay for Link to remove the 255

    1. Concur. This is pretty silly.

      And all this for just another 8 months of tunnel access? And then you’ll need to jerk the ridership base around again when the buses finally leave the DSTT? And you’ll do that about the time tolls go on the DBT and downtown melts down?

      Na, just do it once, let people get used to the new config. Get it over with.

      But bad as this is, it’s a done deal. This bus has left the station.

      1. barman, hope the Chairman hears this “Second!” loud and clear. Seem to remember drawings from the pre-DSTT days transfer stations between surface and tunnel service at each end of the Tunnel.

        And Lazarus, I have a feeling that it won’t take very long to re-adjust what’s proposed here to pretty much this system. Turn the 41 at CPS and the 550 at IDS. And restore contraflow transit lanes on Fourth and Second. And anything else that can be done fast and simple.

        Transit-only on Third might be better choice for SDOT than getting lynched.

        Transfer terminals got rejected mostly because passengers would resent having to transfer vertically to and from DSTT. Suburbanites also bridled at idea they wouldn’t get a single-seat tunnel ride. Really suspect that after a week or two with plan proposed above, nobody will mind now.

        Especially if you put some street food and espresso carts on the plaza at IDS, and if any more similar needed, around CPS too. Because, Lazarus, with changes planned, one problem you won’t have is with any bus having left the station.

        Mark Dublin

    2. Has any research been done on what the riders want to do? It seems to me that riders should be weighing in using a survey distributed on the buses.

      It would have been valuable to know if they view this literally “loopy” temporary routing as good or bad.

      More generally, it points to how average transit riders (and drivers) are not included in these committee discussions — even through mere survey input. Riders and drivers could be giving insightful feedback, beyond posting to the STB or giving occasional unsolicited complaints or comments to an operator who doesn’t share them.

      1. @Al.S,

        I bet that for the cost of this temporary ramp and all the changes to 9th they could have just painted 3rd Ave red from one end of downtown to the other and actually accomplished something positive and long lasting. You know, made an actual improvement that riders would benefit from for decades.

    3. Live report from the train: just paid the ‘busses in the tunnel’ tax for 3 minutes along with a few hundred fellow passengers. It’s pretty sweaty in here. The next train is right behind us, what a surprise.

      1. @(Another Tom),

        Yes, hate it. But you won’t have to pay that tax long. Just 9 months or so and out come the buses.

        In retrospect, trying to make the two modes play well together was a mistake. You’re just don’t build a blue chip system like Link and then slave it to your least reliable, most variable mode.

        But just 9 months to go and all will be right with the world. Keep repeating it. Just 9 months or so to go. Pray that they have float and don’t use it.

    4. >> Just kick the buses out already

      No, it sucks enough that the buses will be kicked out well before they need to be — all to support a dubious public works project serving a handful of tourists. The tunnel still serves plenty of bus riders. In 2016 over 40,000 riders took trips involving those buses (there are probably more riders now). Some of those trips didn’t involve the tunnel (obviously) but that is the case with Link, where about 12,000 boarded the bus northbound in the tunnel, and about 15,000 southbound. Thus bus ridership in the tunnel still represents a substantial amount of the trips. Besides, kicking the buses out early would achieve nothing. ST is not prepared to run the trains more often. The trains are nowhere near capacity, while the buses are.

      Making those riders suffer prematurely would be stupid. It is bad enough that we are shooting ourselves in the foot, but to shoot ourselves even earlier would be crazy.

      1. I’m with both you guys- though isn’t LINK air-conditioned? But my call right now would be to start getting the streets set up for buses, and putting the buses in them. For a lot of years, I was pretty adamant about keeping joint ops ’til LINK was all built out.

        But my own point wasn’t about mode split, but a system I’d helped invent being given a chance to prove itself, given the control, communications, and training it was always expected to have. Since September 15, 1990. Wish-list in one hand, illegal opioid prescription in the other.

        And which was always expected to yield to rail-only operation not solely when rail was completely finished, but also when the buses were finally incurably in the way of the trains. Which I think they are now. Of many problems with buses for joint ops, here are two.

        One, even with personnel assisting loading, you can’t secure wheelchair aboard a ever a low floor bus as fast as on a train. Or even handle able bodied loading anywhere close to what a train can handle.

        And two, since buses cannot be coupled, every mile per hour of speed necessitates more empty air where a train would have seats. So I think that now, effort to maximize the bus component- which needs plenty- should happen on the streets. If it makes Mariner fans eat mustard and like it, because they only got to the game thanks to all that ketchup in the bus lane.

        But also- the whole combined-vehicle approach we used has a lot of lessons about ingenuity and flexiblity that’ll get us through next thirty years, which will probably make last thirty look like a rich six year old playing with a Lionel train set with buses with little fake poles on the roof.

        Also…the sooner the end, the better the chance to have last word about joint ops be positive. Every additional minute before final handover will be one ever louder infuriated yell of relief and gratitude that’ll leave Seattle CBD a glassless steel skeleton when the last hybrids clear CPS and IDS respectively. And last cloud of confetti will suspiciously resemble output of that shredder at the steel mill in the Harbor Island subarea.


      2. I couldn’t agree more, Ross. Except that you forgot a “per day” in there. :)

        Sure, it sucks when your train has to wait, but it sucks more and for more people to put the buses on the surface prematurely. And I can’t figure out for the life of me how the CC expansion is supposed to actually benefit the public.

      3. @RossB I’m mostly just being ornery. I agree that it makes sense to keep the buses in the tunnel at this point I just really do not want to see the period extended beyond Mar19. Even with the bus-induced delays Link is running plenty well enough that I don’t see us losing riders over the issue or anything.

        However, Link IS running near (current) capacity during peak commute. I have witnessed people unable or unwilling to get on a packed train many times during peak hours. It really stinks when the 5pm train waits behind a slow-loading bus and it’s only two cars long so that second car is really, really packed because we are trying to get a train and a half’s frequency worth of two cars of passengers into one car. When’s that new rolling stock supposed to be here again, ha!

      4. Ah, if they’d only chosen a design that eliminated or greatly reduced the chokepoints at the middle of the cars, and at the stairs at each end, so that people would be more likely to further move away from the doors… oh, yes, and if they had selected new cars where the assembly allowed free movement between cars so that people naturally dispersed into less crowded areas. But no, the system is designed and operated as a suburban bus route where the important thing is seats for a fortunate few and lack of space – or the perception thereof, which is the same thing – for everybody else. This will artificially limit capacity until some distant time where a third order of cars is made and we can hopefully correct this failing.

        I’m trying (and failing) to think of a worse interior design than the Kinkisharyo cars have in any of the myriad systems I’ve used across the globe. I’m sure this is less a failing of Kinkisharyo than the specifications given them by an agency who is trying to run commuter trains and urban trains at the exact same time.

      5. The convention center doesn’t really serve tourists – the real beneficiaries and supporters are the real estate developers and owners, hotel owners, restaurant owners, construction unions and some service employee unions – those are the ones that create the political capital to support what are financially dubious projects like tax-subsidized convention centers. Ultimately it’s not really great for hotels and restaurants because the demand it creates is highly sporadic, leading to lots of times when things are empty. Generally tax subsidized projects are ones that don’t pencil out otherwise, and you had better be sure that the social good generated is worth it. That can be true for transportation investments. I don’t think it’s true for the Convention Center. Nor quite a few of the Port of Seattle projects which have a similar set of political supporters (construction industry and unions.) My favorite example of a wasteful project is the $600 million Rental Car center, built without a train connection, promoted as reducing congestion, which has completely FUBAR’d the Seatac airport arrivals drive, where they cordoned off like 1/3 of the curb space and created massive roadway congestion for every user. Thank god for Link – which the Port tried to keep as far away from the airport as they could and invested as little in as they could. That was a gift to them.

      6. The convention center project is not the only reason buses are getting the boot from the tunnel. The Link expansion to Bellevue and related work will soon also require the buses to be evicted and control transferred to Sound Transit. Buses aren’t gonna be there forever.

  3. Why would they route the NB 255 and 41 to Bellevue Ave, making 4 left turns in general purpose traffic, when it could turn right after exiting the temporary ramp and turn directly onto Olive and make just one left? Is it really just so they can use the same two bus stops?

    Even setting aside the benefits of choosing a faster route over a slower one (which is a good idea if everyone is already being slowed down by a station closure), if all northbound buses go to the same stop, won’t that potentially cause long backups of buses queuing into the tunnel and on the northbound light rail tracks? This will devastate Link reliability at peak of this happens regularly, especially if it happens earlier at rush hour.

      1. Because exiting northbound buses could be backed up in the tunnel between Westlake Station and Convention Place, right before the bus path (to CPS) diverges from the light rail path (to U-Link) due to the new choke point created with the temporary configuration.

      2. Nothing in that area is changing. All the changes are outside, where the bus bays are/used to be and in the layover lanes.

      3. Until they start demo’ing the CPS infrastructure. Plus most of the bays and layover areas are difficult to get to from the turn onto the new ramp being built.

      1. Not knowing how the temp overpass is being designed, that would still be a tight turn and then making another one to be able to hit the zone at the far side of 9th and Olive.

      2. Also, it’s being converted to two-way the whole street or just long enough for the buses to make the turn into CPS?

      3. The ramp is pretty wide.

        The press release doesn’t specify how much of the road is being reconfigured, just that “buses will operate two-way on Ninth Avenue, thanks to efforts to reconfigure the street”. Since route 41 will be accessing the tunnel via the southbound express lanes I’d say that the two-wayification would extend all the way to the Pike offramp but probably not all the way to Pike, which I think is what the map is trying to show without labels.

    1. Right. But what Alex was suggesting is that the 41 and 255 turn right out of the temp overpass onto 9th avenue and then right again onto Olive to get to I5. If 9th isn’t two-way right there, then that isn’t possible. If it is two-way, I’m saying it’ll still be two tight turns to be able to make a stop on Olive.

      1. I forgot that 9th is one way. It seems like it may be worthwhile in the short term to make a very short northbound contraflow bus late on 9th from the temporary ramp just so that the 41 and 255 can make that pair of right turns to get to Olive.

  4. I’ve wondered this:

    If for some reason there is a major emergency closure of light rail, could buses be run in the reconfigured DSTT to provide an emergency transit alternative?

    1. Short term, can’t see why they absolutely couldn’t. But for anything short of a month, might be easier just to leave the buses on the streets. Where they’re a lot easier to control and manage than (based on three decades’ experience) in the Tunnel.

      And if SDOT won’t cooperate about emergency bus-lanes and signals, threaten to put it viral that train problems are their fault too. Especially if they really are.

      But a lot easier to imagine emergencies where the trains are the only wheeled things running in whole service area. Except for MLK, whole track-map completely under LINK control.


      1. Seems to me they’ll have to leave the joint ops signalling system in, so that vehicles can still drive in the train ROW for maintenance and emergencies.

      2. They won’t need joint ops signaling for maintenance. The entire line closes every night for maintenance, but most of it doesn’t have joint operations. You don’t need the same full blown signaling system when it’s not operating.

        In an emergency, (I assume) normal operations don’t apply at all. If a train collides with a car on MLK, they close the road and park emergency vehicles on the tracks sometimes. Technically, that vehicle is in the same block as the train, but it’s stopped.

        I assume if there’s a fire in the DSTT, then a firetruck will just drive in there, unless changes are made to the DSTT entrance or track that make it impossible for trucks to access.

  5. End of an era (as STB has said before). It didn’t work for every trip, but man, was it good for commuters from the north end. Get on the 41, then the express lanes, then right to the tunnel. For traditional downtown commuters the light rail will be slower more often than not.

    But the train will, eventually, make getting from Northgate to Roosevelt, the UW and Capitol Hill much faster. It will also be much faster for reverse peak trips. Northgate to downtown in the evening is terrible (until you hit the bus tunnel). But it will take years before we actually get those improvements that the train will bring. In the meantime we lose one of the nicest bits of transit infrastructure ever built, all for a public boondoggle. Meanwhile, we don’t even have an NBA team — what we choose to subsidize and not subsidize in this town is just ridiculous.

    1. I used to love it for the 77 for that reason. Sadly, the 77 (and 76) were some of the buses that were kicked out last round. I still think long-term this is a win, of course, but I do hate to lose the tunnel to buses early.

    2. And in the end this really screws the Convention Center too. They could have figured out a way to incorporate a transit station right into their basement. That possibility will now be gone for good.

      1. I’m not sure how. Link missed the station long ago (cost prohibitive to serve the station and still be able to make it under I-5) and with Link planning to have much tighter headways some time around when the convention center expansion opens meaning buses would be completely out of the question.

      2. What matters is the overall mobility of the city, not just the Convention Center. It’s not one of the most-traveled destination in the region like UW, and it does not bring billyuns of people all at once like the stadiums. There should be a station within walking distance for regional mobility, visitors’ convenience, and the good impression it gives of Seattle’s transit system. But that station is Westlake, just three flat blocks away. Convention Place is in an awkward location for a station; it’s not on the way to anywhere without requiring tight turns. We shouldn’t hamper the network long-term simply to put a Convention Center station in, much less simply because there’s a legacy station there. The original station was located there because it’s adjacent to the I-5 express lanes. That doesn’t matter for Link which doesn’t use the express lanes and shoudn’t have to beg for hand-me-down automobile infrastructure.

  6. Is there much public art in this station? It’s probably the only tunnel station I’ve not used, and only been through it maybe twice.

  7. I’d like to thank Metro for staying in the tunnel as long as they did. They have and will provide 300,000 to 500,000 customers daily. They were very accomodating during the over 20 years it took Sound Transit to get their shit together. Every time Sound Transit underdeivers, I still have a bus to take. I will miss them in the tunnel.

  8. Went by for my final visit today, and saw that all five escalators are shut down. They don’t fool around. If the place is being shut down anyway they make sure there are no surprise escalator outages.

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