King County Metro and Seattle Streetcars will be allowing riders to ride for free from 7 pm on New Year’s Eve, 2019, to 4 am on New Year’s Day, 2020. This is just for King County Metro (including Via to Transit, Community Van, Community Ride, and Access) and the streetcars, not other agencies, nor for the King County water taxis. In particular, ST Express, Link Light Rail, Sounder, the ferries, and the monorail will be charging fare. However, the monorail now accepts ORCA, and honors ORCA transfers and passes.

Independently, Thurston County Intercity Transit goes fare-free as of January 1 for five years.

If any other transportation company is offering free rides, feel free to mention them in the Comments.

New Year’s Eve service extensions and reductions

Metro will be adding more runs to its night routes to get crowds home after the fireworks.

Link Light Rail will run until ca. 2 am. In past years, the actual schedule was published.

The Seattle Center Monorail will operate until 1 am, but will be out of service ca. 10:45 to 12:20 due to fire regulations, since the Space Needle is the epicenter of a majorly popular midnight fireworks show. Did we mention the monorail now takes ORCA?

The Seattle Streetcars will be operating until ca. 1 am.

Metro’s Via to Transit program will be taking requests until 2 am.

The Tacoma Link streetcar will run until ca. 1 am.

During the day, Metro will be running on its Reduced Weekday schedule used mostly for minor holidays, and the reduced schedule for UW routes 167, 271, and 277 is still in effect until UW’s winter quarter starts.

Community Transit will be cancelling most of its commuter service on New Year’s Eve.

Sounder trains will run on a reduced schedule.

New Year’s Day service reductions

Most of the major transit agencies in the region will be running on Sunday schedules on Wednesday, January 1. This includes King County Metro, Sound Transit (so no Sounder service), Seattle Streetcars, Community Transit, Pierce Transit, and Everett Transit.

The monorail will be open 10 am to 9 pm.

Sounder, the King County water taxis, Intercity Transit, and Kitsap Transit do not operate on January 1.

For Washington State Ferries, check your specific route.

Connect 2020 Link Light Rail service disconnects and frequency reductions

Link Light Rail will be closed between SODO Station and Capitol Hill Station for three weekends: January 4-5, February 8-9, and March 14-15. Shuttle service will connect between those two stations, serving bus stops near the downtown stations in between.

Starting Monday, January 6, Link Light Rail trains will start coming every 12 minutes, instead of the usual 10. Passengers will also have to transfer across a center platform in Pioneer Square Station. Entrances at various stations will change up, but signage and ST personnel will provide warnings for specific station changes as they come up.

Bikes will be forbidden in Pioneer Square Station for the duration of Connect 2020. More bike lockers will be available at some stations. Bikers wanting to transport their bikes from University Street Station or other stations north of there to International District / Chinatown Station or other stations south of there will have to do so by some mode other than light rail.

Passenger capacity will actually be greater during Connect 2020 during off-peak hours, as four-car trains will be deployed into revenue service for the first time. Nevertheless, peak capacity may shrink roughly 30%. Spreading out along the length of the entire platform will be key to keeping the trains moving and getting everyone on board, as there continues to be unused space on third cars since riders still crowds the first car, and then the second. Sound Transit requests enhanced respect for those who need the priority seating area, and has deployed more visable large green signage on-board for that purpose.

The regular service pattern is expected to return March 16, but hopefully with no more two-car trains causing most riders not to use the third car.

Happy New Year!

20 Replies to “Free Metro rides New Years Eve / Holiday service changes / long-term Link pain”

  1. I noticed several new Siemens cars for Link in the yard along Airport Way. I guess they will start rolling in March after Connect 2020?

  2. Any interest in another STB Meetup? Perhaps in the spring, we can all get together and talk about how we survived Connect 2020?

    1. An extra minute of wait time on average, or three minutes during peak…
      The state’s best-timed and fastest transfer, across a center platform…
      How will we ever survive?

      If ST is concerned about conflict between bikes and other mobility aids, I wonder why they can’t just designate the southernmost or northernmost car as the only car bikes can use between University Street and ID/C Station, and encourage wheelchairs and scooters to board one of the other three cars.

      1. It does sound pretty nasty for peak trips, though. Going from 6 minute frequency to 12 minutes changes the whole perspective of the trip. I wonder how many people will switch back to buses, or otherwise abandon Link. I know someone who commutes from the Ravenna neighborhood into downtown. He can take the 76, or he can take the 372 and transfer to Link. He basically stands at the corner of NE 65th and 25th, and takes the first bus that comes. The 76 saves him a fair amount of time, but the 372 runs more often, so he usually takes that. Going the other way, he always takes Link. Again, it isn’t about total time, it is about lack of waiting. But now, the 76 will be more or less as frequent as Link — I wonder if he will just change up his routine.

        Not exactly a life and death scenario, but a pretty big hit to our transit infrastructure. I’m guessing there are a lot of trips that change. Riders in the U-District switch to the 49, since it is just as frequent (and doesn’t require a transfer). Capitol Hill riders doing the same, to get downtown. Riders further abandoning Link as a means to get from one end of downtown to the other. I think it is quite possible that the crowding concerns won’t be an issue, as lots of people adjust to using buses again (for a while).

        I hope they gather and release data on the change, as it may show how important frequency is.

      2. It does seem like they should have been able to run trains every 6 minutes, at least from UW Station to Westlake station, with every other train continuing to Pioneer Square. That’s enough to satisfy the bulk of the north end Link ridership.

        Maybe doing so wouldn’t leave enough train cars for 4 car trains through downtown?

      3. It’s like Link outages. I haven’t ridden Link yet when the DSTT is closed because I’ve always found a better substitute than the shuttle: 7, 14, 36, 39, 48, 126, 128, etc. However, I don’t think I’d take the 124+A to the airport because the 124 is slow, its 3rd & Pike stop is depressing, and the shuttle is probably more frequent.

        The bicycle ban is probably because the trains will be packed. There’s no way they can hold everybody at 12-minute frequency peak, so it’s not the time for bikes. And explaining to people which car to use northbound and southbound; that’s too complicated. A car can only hold 2-3 bikes without them standing in the aisle, and there’s surely more than three bikes per 500 passengers.

        Bicyclists could also — gasp — ride their bikes between University Street and Intl Dist. 5th Avenue was my favorite choice going from north or east to Chinatown. Coming back I used 4th which I hated because it felt like the most dangerous street in the city, but there is the 2nd Avenue cycletrack now. Maybe it will actually get busy for once.

      4. I’m lucky enough to work from home and I live near the convention center. I seldom take Link – really only to the uvillage. When I travel to the airport, I take an Uber because it’s faster than link service.

      5. Doesn’t Uber get stuck in the traffic jam on the highway approaching the airport terminal stop?

      6. ALEX, thank you very much for your disquisition on your preferred itineraries. How do you go to Ballard and Market? Inquiring minds want to know.

      7. Ha, Tom – I don’t go to Ballard. I haven’t been that way in years, pretty much stay in town. I fly out of town at least ten to 12 times a year for work and to visit family – So don’t head to Ballard.

      8. Brent, no not really. My flights are typically before 7am and I’m in an Uber at 5am. It usually takes me 20 minutes from apartment door to terminal. It would take me at least eight minutes to just get out of the station and walk through the maze of parking garages! I only take Link if I land between 3 and 5pm. When I get back to town, it’s usually after 9pm.

      9. Another possibility if you’re going from SODO to north Seattle is to take the 131/132, which through-route with the 26/28, and transfer in north Seattle instead of downtown (to the 31, 32, 44, 45, or 40, depending on where you’re going). That would avoid waiting downtown and a possibly longer trip on the 70, 49, etc.

        “I don’t go to Ballard.”

        I tend to avoid Ballard too — and that’s the problem with the current transit network in a nutshell. It’s a 30-45 minute overhead each way to get from Ballard to the regional network (Westlake or U-District), with only the E closer (if you’re going north). I worked in Ballard for four years and lived there for one year, and one of the reasons I left is the overhead of getting to Ballard from most of my destinations. In contrast, living in or going to Capitol Hill, Fremont, the U-District, or Beacon Hill is easier. Ballard needs something better than the current transit to fully participate in the urban village network as much as its size would suggest, and to make people less insistent on cars and garages. Ballard Link is one solution that’s decades off, Ballard-UW Link is another idea, and really speeding up the 44 is another. Ballard-Fremont is the biggest urban village not on ST2 Link. Metro addressed the Fremont issue by saturating it with ultra-frequency: south on the 40 and 62, east on the 31/32. Ballard hasn’t gotten anything comparable.

  3. Metro will be running … the reduced schedule for UW routes 167, 271, and 277 until UW’s winter quarter starts.

    I sure with Metro would stop doing that. The UW is more than just a university. It is a major transit hub — the biggest one outside of downtown Seattle. Besides, even when school is out of session, there are a ton of reasons why someone would take the bus to the UW. Their are a ton of restaurants and stores in the U-District, places like Meany Theater still have shows, etc. It is crazy to think that the only reason to take a bus like the 271 is because you are going to class.

    1. I agree! Even without students, there’s still thousands of faculty and staff that still work on campus, as only a small part of UW is focused on undergraduate education.

    2. It’s a budget limitation; you’d have to take it out of an all-day route or coverage route somewhere. Seattle’s TBD is paying to avoid those drops in Seattle. The suburbs aren’t. And it really only affects one or two relief runs per day and the most esoteric peak-express routes. If your 271 normally runs every 15 minutes, it still runs every 15 minutes, but one extra run in the morning will be deleted. The 167 loses the first PM trip. The 277 loses the last two AM and first two PM trips (after 7:30am and before 3pm). In the past entire routes were canceled but that seems less widespread now.

      1. The problem is that the 271 is a workhorse for commuting into downtown Bellevue just as much as commuting to UW now, and companies in Bellevue don’t shut down on school schedules. And some of the canceled runs are the best for connecting to other NE Seattle routes, like the 71 or certain runs of the 45. Furthermore, Bellevue commuters don’t usually keep track of the UW schedule so invariably you have a ton of people waiting for the next run after a canceled one, and that propagates throughout the morning commute. Evening seems better, at least at the time I used to ride the 271 back into the city.

      2. Yeah, of course there is a budget hit. But the system, as a whole should just take it. The current situation likely causes all sorts of headaches, which in turn hurt overall ridership. If suddenly the bus you take to the U-District comes less often — for no discernible reason — you just assume that Metro sucks. If Metro sucks, then you give up on it, and decide it is time to drive. Not just this time, all the time.

        Holiday schedules are one thing — even when they bother you — it isn’t hard to remember or at the very least, understand. But school schedules? My guess is most riders have no idea why there bus suddenly doesn’t show up.

    3. I agree with this as well. If you are from out of town it isn’t necessarily immediately obvious that UW schedules impact what bus service is operating. At least with mobile devices so common it is easier to find out if the UW is in session.

      Do any of you who come to Portland check to see if PSU classes are in season?

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