As the first stage of the project to connect the East Link track to the existing line, Sound Transit planned three weekend closures to build a temporary center platform at Pioneer Square. ST needs it to continue operations during a 10-week project to actually build the track switch, from January to March 2020.

The second of these weekend closures finished the platform, so that ST could cancel the third closure yesterday. The closure would have been November 9-10.

Each closure involved a bus bridge serving stations from Sodo to Capitol Hill. Usually a feature of unplanned service disruptions, the bridge will return for three complete closures next year. They were supposed to run in pairs every 7 minutes.

Sound Transit

I had bus alternatives (and, in one pinch, a car) and didn’t miss Link much on a quiet weekend. How did others think ST and Metro did with the bridge? How was signage, frequency, crowding, and reliability?

15 Replies to “We get a weekend of Link back”

  1. I used the bus bridge to get from Stadium to the airport the first Sunday. There were three things that were less than optimal. The southbound stop was on 6th Avenue rather than at the bus way, which is closer to the closed stadium station and would have allowed also riding routes 101 or 150. I waited close to ten minutes for the shuttle. The bus went down 6th, then turned at Holgate and entered the bus way, so it could easily have used royal brougham to enter the busway and serve the regular stop. The shuttle dropped off at the far southwest corner of busway & lander. That meant we had to wait for a traffic light cycle and then cross two streets to reach the station. The bus should have dropped us off at the northwest corner instead, saving time and street crossings. There was a train in the station as we were crossing the streets. That train closed its doors and pulled out as we were walking to the platform. Altogether it added twenty minutes to the travel time as compared to catching the train at stadium. It would have been just as fast to walk 20 minutes to Sodo.

  2. You mention three complete closures next year that will also use the bus bridge. Can you link to information about these closures?

  3. I used the shuttle to connect to Columbia City on Saturday evening. I saw signage and staff pointing people to the shuttle at the east entrance to the Capitol Hill station. Connections both directions were immediate. I expected to be greatly delayed because of traffic but it took only about 20 min longer including the transfer.

  4. I feel like there could be more signage directing people to use route 48, which is probably the fastest option to get to UW Station from Mount Baker and south of there. On good days, route 48 is slower than Link, but not by a lot (certainly better than taking two transfers). It’s also geographically more direct (nearly a straight line). The only downside is the 15 minute frequency on Sundays (as opposed to 10 on Saturdays). But an announcement at Mt. Baker to passengers that taking route 48 from here is the fastest way to UW Station would be helpful.

    1. Good point about Route 48. Route 60 is a way to get to Capitol Hill from Beacon Hill Station too.

  5. I didn’t take the bus bridge but I’ve always had one gripe about them: there needs to be express shuttles targeting the most popular corridors to lessen travel time. In the case of this specific closure, an express shuttle should’ve operated nonstop between Cap Hill & Stadium so that airport/south end riders wouldn’t have an extra 20-30 min added onto their commute. I believe there’s a big enough ridership that boards/exits at UW & Cap Hill and travels to SeaTac.

    1. If two shuttles were enough for each train, making one express to the other end of Link ought to work, depending on ridership to intermediate destination pairings.

      However, the express stop on the south end doesn’t have to be SODO (which had a terrible drop location). Beacon Hill and Mt Baker are both good options for the express connection. Getting to SODO involves slogging through downtown, and it is lowest or second-lowest in boardings.

      Route 60 is too painfully circuitous to substitute for an express shuttle.

      Beacon Hill is probably the easiest station for being able to drop off next to the station on the festival street, let the bus lay over on the festival street, and circle the block to pick up at the regular northbound bus stop next to the station. (Hopefully, none of the three right turns are difficult.) I believe it also involves the fewest traffic bottlenecks between there and Capitol Hill.

      For the local shuttle, I wish it would use regular bus stops that head to similar destinations. That means using the route 10 bus stop on Pike St, so riders could catch whichever comes first, and staying on the Busway in the SODO area. Circling around and laying over can happen south of SODO Station.

  6. Used the system to go from Angle Lake to Westlake on Saturday early afternoon. Added about 20 minutes to the trip with the shuttle from SODO. There were many “helpers” directing riders to the shuttle, so no problem there. The unexpected issue was the lack of stop announcements on the shuttle itself. Many, many travelers from the airport were aboard (with their luggage), and they were greatly puzzled by the lack of information. Us “locals” did our best to assist, but we were uncertain about stops until the doors opened. The shuttle back to SODO did announce stops, so perhaps just an issue with this particular driver.

    1. Like I just told Jordan, Pat, send a request for stop announcements to YOUR elected reps. If shuttle drivers aren’t given run cards, they should be.

      Over the years, I’ve noticed that the system responds better to orders from their elected bosses than to requests and suggestions through “channels.”


  7. I rode both ways through both weekend closures. They were still painting the Olive Way bus lanes in Elmo the first weekend which made the buses slow to a crawl through Westlake, but this past weekend the buses sailed through without an issue.

    The most effort and best results came from the signage/assistance at the SODO and Capitol Hill ends was really well done, and folks had minimal confusion. The buses came frequent and had enough capacity for people to not feel cramped at all.

    However, all of the issues occurred between SODO and Capitol Hill. The first issue was that most light rail riders do not generally know where the bus stops are located outside each station (i.e., there’s no big “Pioneer Square” sign to see when your bus gets to Pioneer Square) or for which direction, and at least one rider boarded and then had to ask the driver which direction we were headed. A second issue was that station announcements were not consistent, as not all of the bus drivers announced their stops. A third issue was that riders did not know whether they were supposed to pull the cord to request a stop or if the buses were going to stop at every station (again, another situation that light rail riders don’t have to encounter).

    In general, it was a mixed bag, but considering how chaotic it could have been, I’d probably give them a C+ for general rider experience.

  8. On Sunday I walked into the Benaroya Hall tunnel under university street station, completely forgetting about the closure but I found the bus easily and it was a nice ride. Annoying having to transfer but there were ST people everywhere telling riders which way to go which was nice.

  9. I was transferring from route 5 to the Seattle center monorail and I found a confused user who wasn’t sure where to catch the train and I didn’t see any security at wesrlake so I directed the individual to third avenue and showed him where to catch a bus (you see that bus stopped there? You want that bus but you missed it. It’s ok, another will be there very shortly).

  10. I haven’t ridden the shuttles but I see several of them while waiting for a bus on 3rd, so they seem to be robust.

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