video by Robert Svercl

Connect 2020‘s first full closure of the downtown transit tunnel is behind us. Now, we settle in for 10 weeks of tighter, more crushloaded trains during peak periods, longer waiting time especially during peak, a mid-line forced transfer across a temporary center platform at Pioneer Square Station, and a ban on bikes on the train between University Street Station and International District / Chinatown Station.

For the duration of Connect 2020, all trains will be four cars, and will come roughly every 12 minutes (and hopefully less “roughly” as the days progress). This means there will be an increase in off-peak capacity, and a significant decrease in peak-hour capacity. Passengers in the downtown tunnel may also have to use a different platform than they are used to, and it may switch from time to time. Signage and staff will be on hand to point the way, along with automated announcements. Please spread out along the entire length of the platform to fill the four train cars evenly, and stay out of the priority seating area, so wheelchairs users, riders in scooters, and others who need it can board quickly.

King County Metro is helping out by adding more buses on routes 7, 36, 48, 49, and 70, as alternatives to taking Link.

Everyone on the train traveling from north of Pioneer Square Station to south of that station will have to change trains across a temporary center platform that has been installed in the station. Those trying to enter or exit that station will do so by the normal exits, except that their train may be at the opposite platform from usual. Paying attention to signage, announcements, and staff directions will help you avoid hanging out at the wrong platform.

The bike ban and the protected-bike-lane detour

Passengers bringing their bikes on the train face the largest shifts in commuting behavior, as they will not be allowed to bring their bikes on the train between University Street Station and International District / Chinatown Station.

Sound Transit, with help from the Cascade Bicycle Club, has put together a guide specifically for bikers trying to traverse downtown during the ten-week Connect 2020 period. The Seattle Bike Blog also put together a handy reference. The Seattle Department of Transportation has also put together a neat interactive map of bike routes.

The bike detour, thankfully, features two-way protected bike lanes all the way from University Street Station to ID/C Station.

  • Exit University St Station via the western tunnel from the north mezzanine. When you come out of the tunnel, you will be in the Garden of Remembrance, adjacent to which are the 2nd Ave two-way protected bike lanes.
  • Ride south on 2nd Ave ten blocks until Main St.
  • Turn left (east) on Main St into the new Main St two-way protected bike lanes, on the south side of the street.
  • Ride two blocks, and then turn right (south) into the new 5th Ave two-way protected bike lanes, on the west side of the street.
  • Ride one block, crossing the streetcar tracks perpendicularly, and you are at ID/C Station.

For those willing to stow their bikes before boarding the train and not wanting to use the various existing storage options, ST has deployed new on-demand bike lockers at Stadium, SODO, and Rainier Beach Stations. These lockers are first-come-first-serve, and require a $20 BikeLink card, which comes with $20 credit toward the 5-cents-per-hour lockers.

Check out ST’s bike storage page for full how-to, where, and available-options-by-station information.

Newly-public stairwell at Capitol Hill Station, for more efficient egress

Sound Transit has heard the calls for more capacity for getting out of Capitol Hill Station. One of the formerly emergency stairwells from the CHS platform is now a public stairwell. Please use it for egress only, as that is why it is being opened up. With crowded platforms a distinct possibility in the coming days and weeks, allowing departing passengers to have the stairs is a good idea. You don’t want to be coming down those stairs when the departing crowds are coming up.

Bruce Engelhardt assisted with this post.

50 Replies to “Cyclists to bear brunt of light rail operational changes, starting this morning”

  1. Can that bike ride between those stations be done in 12 minutes or less? That will be an important thing to know for through-riding cyclists. If you have to miss one connection then that’s annoying but not horrible. But if you have to miss the next two trains, then that’s pretty annoying.

    1. The bike ride, itself, can. But, if you include the wait time for the elevators to go up and down, it gets very close. Especially at University St. Station, where you have to wait for two elevators – one between street level and the mezinnine, another between the mezinnine and the actual platform.

      Unless you’re headed all the way to UW Station, getting back on the train is probably not worth it.

      1. The tunnel from 2nd Ave connects directly to the north mezzanine, so only one elevator is involved in the bike detour at University Street Station. Just be sure to go to the correct platform indicated by the signs.

  2. Trains definitely much more crowded this morning, but otherwise the train came as it usually does.

    Lots of Sound Transit staff at the platform at Columbia City – I counted 4 with their vests on to that were basically doing nothing because riders at the station seemed informed. Also STB, who is the voice of the new station announcements?

  3. Did they allow bikes during rush hour before this change?

    It seems like those who travel during rush hour will be hit the hardest. There is a big change between a train coming every six minutes, and one that comes every twelve. I’m especially thinking of people north of the ship canal, who no longer have the option of taking a bus directly downtown. I guess there is still the 74 and 76, but if memory serves, those didn’t have nearly the same number of riders as the 71/72/73 when they went downtown (via the freeway).

    Speaking of the 74, I wonder if it will be really crowded now. Last week, during rush hour, it made sense to catch a bus to Husky Stadium and transfer. The wait for the connecting bus would take seconds, and the train was very frequent. Now if I’m in the U-District, I think I will just wait for the 74, since it runs about as often as the train, and doesn’t involve a transfer. I could take the 70, but that is slow. My guess is there will be people who wait for the 74, find that it is full, then wait for the 70, and slog their way downtown. We’ll see, I guess.

    1. Yes. It’s a little over the top to suggest cyclists will bear the “brunt” of the changes… I think peak-hour commutes traveling through pioneer square are the most impacted but everyone really is.

  4. My anecdotal experience of Connect//2020 was positive. Seems encouraging considering that today is likely to be one of the worst days since the hardest to reach riders will be caught by surprise, but ST came prepared for a figurative storm and it seemed to be calmer than expected. The first train was pretty crowded, but not more than a typical crowded train. I boarded at IDS going northbound. Attendants did an excellent job of organizing riders, putting them into a northbound and a southbound queue at street level, and holding northbound passengers until the southbound train left (ensuring that no one could get on the wrong train by accident). Passengers (me included) still instinctively avoided the far front side of the platform, so when I went back there, I was the only one waiting. The train arrived about 3 minutes . On a 0-10 scale of “badness,” I’d give it a 2.

    1. Looks like I hit “stop loading” a little late to stop this. Can an admin delete this one? Thanks.

  5. My anecdotal experience of Connect//2020 was positive. Seems encouraging considering that today is likely to be one of the worst days since the hardest to reach riders will be caught by surprise, but ST came prepared for a figurative storm and it seemed to be calmer than expected. The first train was pretty crowded, but not more than a typical crowded train. I boarded at IDS going northbound. Attendants did an excellent job of organizing riders, putting them into a northbound and a southbound queue at street level, and holding northbound passengers until the southbound train left (ensuring that no one could get on the wrong train by accident). Passengers (me included) still instinctively avoided the far front side of the platform, so when I went back there, I was the only one waiting. The train arrived about 2 minutes late. Approaching PSS, the announcement to exit to the right to transfer was playing, and at the station, the announcement gave both instructions for exiting and transferring. Surprisingly, the opposite train was running about 30 seconds later than the one I was on.

    Aside from the wait, the transfer was perfect. There were actually very few people transferring, probably either scared off by the arrangement or deciding to favor Pioneer Square over a closer downtown Station. So the standing-room-only train emptied across the platform into a comfortably empty train, with many seats available. On a 0-10 scale of “badness,” I’d give it a 2 (keep in mind this is very anecdotal!). For some perspective, I found the 271 bus to Bellevue I took after getting to UW to be much more of an inconvenience (running late, very full, and spending more time in 520 construction traffic).

    1. With buses down 3rd Ave. almost bumper to bumper, I wonder if many people are taking that for the shorter train leg, rather than riding Link 1-2 stops. Link moves faster, with quicker boarding and avoiding stoplights. But, buses down 3rd run every minute vs. every 12 minutes, and 3rd is at least a (mostly) bus-only street, avoiding traffic delays. If I were going from, say, 5th/Pine to Columbia City, I can easily envision the bus to Pioneer Square being faster than riding two trains.

      1. Not to mention the penalty time for descending and then coming back up at the deeper stations.

    1. Your assignment, Sam, is to take your bike on Link today, and see what staff does if you bring your bike into Pioneer Square Station, on the train.

  6. I came in from UW about 830. A nice 4-car train left on time and about 3/4 full. At Pioneer Square the transfer worked very well after a short delay at Westlake. It’s amazing how many people can cram into a 4-car train! The train heading north from Pioneer was crush loaded. Lots of staff helping direct travelers.

  7. Given today’s reports of how easy cross-platform transfers are, I hope that the concept is popular enough to impact ST future station designs. It would be great if it would be permanent feature of the SODO station when the West Seattle Link. Right now, ST wants to force a level change but a simple swapping of tracks and trains. Of course, we would need another temporary service disruption to make it happen, but the switching tracks are close enough there and only one southbound track would need to be switched rather than both, so the disruption would be much easier.

  8. Why again is this only a temporary platform? If it truly is this easy to do then they should make this temporary platform permanent!

    1. It reminds me very much of the BART MacArthur and Oakland City Center stations, which have exactly the same type of timed transfer as Connect//2020 (just with a larger, safer, ADA compliant platform that doesn’t require constant personnel to help passengers safe). Same thing with all doors opening at once. I very much want this for Link in the future. Unfortunately for East Link, the time to build this is right now, and IDS is out of the question since a turnback track is being built there. I’d really like a study of what it would take to make the Pioneer Square center platform permanent. Or a crosswalk in the middle of the station would be fine, probably a good compromise.

      1. I don’t see how “build a larger platform” is even possible. The distance between the northbound and southbound platforms is only so wide. The width of the trains is fixed. The center platform is already as wide as it can get without rebuilding a large chunk of the station and shifting over the tracks.

        Then, there’s the problem that there’s no way out of the center platform except through the train doors. If there’s an emergency fire evacuation and a train isn’t there, security personal will have to carry anybody that can’t down to the tracks and back up again. This is ok for a temporary construction situation, but you don’t want that to be permanent.

        I do think it is reasonable to keep the physical structure of the center platform intact, just in case it proves useful to use again during another construction project, but permanent use, probably not.

        “It would allow passengers to go from East Link to Seatac without changing levels.”

        Not as useful as it seems – ID Station is close to the surface, so the up/down isn’t that bad. The extra train riding to Pioneer Square Station and back would likely take longer.

      2. It could be possible to build a cross-over for a track in front of a train. A short ramp From the side platform down to track level (14 feet?) would be needed and it might interfere with stairs or escalators or elevators at the end of a platform; that may require some relocation of vertical options on the side platform.

        Gates could be added for safety. The train operator could see if anyone is in the way before pulling out. It’s not really a safety issue.

        The Judkins Park, East Main and SE Redmond stations will have these pedestrian-only track crossings — and the last two will have crossings of two tracks at once. It wouldn’t be a unique design.

    2. I agree.

      It would allow passengers to go from East Link to Seatac without changing levels.

      Even if it’s not used in daily practice, it has utility in a variety of emergency service disruptions. That includes elevator disruptions at Pioneer Square (at a 95% standard, that’s 1.5 days a month), or line disruptions that stop trains in Downtown. Many urban rail systems suffer from lack of disruption options.

    3. Because to make it permanent would require some sort of ADA compliance. At a minimum that would mean an elevator at one end and, probably, a staircase at the other.

  9. the headline is a bit misleading. if brunt means dominant share of impact, it is not true. there are relatively few cyclists on Link. the number of person minutes of delay imposed on Link and Link-bus riders is the dominant cost. there are many more of them and they all have more waiting and those traveling through PSS may have a transfer.

    1. Exactly! While a bicyclist may feel overly inconvenienced, there are many surface options from the Second Avenue cycle tracks most of the way as well as Third Avenue buses. Further, the “brunt” implies a majority of the impact, and is an aggregate inconvenience multiplying the magnitude of the inconvenience multiplied by the number of riders affected.

      Headlines like this hurts the image of bicycling advocacy, frankly. There are many more serious bicycling needs — and this headline makes bicyclists appear to being unreasonably dramatic and that hurts the overall image.

    2. The headline is wrong but it won’t make a difference in terms of attitudes toward bikes. It’s not a bike blog being myopic, it’s a transit blog with a reputation for technocratism making a mistake. 80% of the public don’t even know STB exists, much less what its headlines are.

      The real losers are those dreading a 12-minute wait, or not able to get on overcrowded trains, or taking a slower bus alternative. From southwest Capitol Hill it doesn’t make much difference because you have to walk/bus to Link anyway, the 49 is closer at both ends, and it takes only 10 minutes more than Link to the U-District (25 minutes vs 15). I hadn’t thought how it would affect people north of 55th Street that RossB mentioned: they face a possible 60-minute trip to downtown (30 minutes to the U-District, 30 minutes on the 70). The 74 and 76 are popular but they run only peak and shoulder hours.

      For a minute I thought about reinstating a 70 express with those two extra buses. But it would be so infrequent it wouldn’t be worth it. Many people who used to ride the 71/72/73X switched to the 70 local (I can’t believe it but ridership says the did) and are already used to the slower route. Boardings along Eastlake probably wouldn’t increase, so the extra 70s may be able to skip a few stops anyway even without a formal express.

      1. While the 70 ridership has increased, it is hard to pin the end of the 71/72/73x’s disappearance as the source of the increase. A lot of it may come from the South Lake Union job boom.

    3. Absolutely — I’m with Al and Eddie. This is not that big of a deal for cyclists, because very few cyclists actually take their bike on the train. Doing so is a weird thing, frankly, much as putting your bike on a bus is weird. I realize people do it, but it doesn’t scale. Neither do bikes on subway trains — many agencies ban them during rush hour, or ban them all day. Bike to the station, take the train. Take another bike at the other end. That scales. But taking a bike on a subway train — it just doesn’t make sense (which is why very few people do it).

      This is why it is barely even a story on Seattle Bike Blog. It was a combo story (about a month ago — https://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2019/12/04/bikes-will-be-kicked-off-light-rail-downtown-during-early-2020-crush-5%C2%A2-per-hour-bike-lockers-coming-to-more-transit-stations/) and most of the discussion was about the bike lockers (as well it should be). Meanwhile, there isn’t even an update — bikers have much bigger fish to fry.

      Meanwhile, the very large number of people who take the train during rush hour have to deal with headways being doubled. That is a big deal.

  10. There’s no reason to ban bikes outside of peak hours. I will keep my bike off trains during peak hours, as I already do, but I will not otherwise be observing this ban.

    1. An opinion that frustrates non-bike people which is that rules and laws apply to everyone else except those who ride bikes. It just goes along with some bicyclists who run red lights, ride the wrong way on one way streets and break other traffic laws. Please note I said some and not all but it is that kind of attitude of those some that make other people mad.

      1. Did you miss the part where I said I would observe the rule during peak hours, in order to avoid inconveniencing other riders? Or does that part just not matter to you?

      2. Right, because pedestrians and motor vehicle operators follow the rules. Most drivers go well over the speed limit, both on interstates and on surface streets, which creates massive danger for pedestrians. Most drivers roll through stop signs, or otherwise fail to stop AT the stop sign, making it dangerous to cross streets. Many drivers fail to stop at marked crosswalks for pedestrians. And pedestrians will often cross against lights, or cross mid-block.

        Everyone breaks the rules, however, only one group’s actions present a massive public health crises. I’ll give you a hint: it’s the people driving 4,000lb steel boxes around at high speeds. 40,000+ dead every year, mostly because drivers can’t follow the rules. How many people do cyclists kill?

    2. Kevin, I understand where you’re coming from. I drive my car in the bus-only lanes during off-peak hours. I also park my car in the bike lane to pick up my takeout. But not during peak hours!

      1. Many bus lanes are peak-only, actually, because planners recognize that dedicated capacity is only necessary during times of high usage. The first scenario you describe isn’t even breaking the rules, in many cases.

        If it’s 11pm and the train is nearly empty and it’s pouring rain outside, do you really want cyclists to disembark, get completely drenched while taking the Second Ave surface route, then re-embark on a (different) nearly empty train? Just because rules?

  11. @Kevin,

    Obviously you didn’t read the information from ST about bikes which didn’t say just peak hours but the entire time that Connect2020 is taking place. [ad hom, trolling]

    1. It doesn’t apply to anyone. Earlier today, I asked several Sound Transit security people what action would be taken against cyclists who violate the ban, and was told that none was planned.

      :)

    2. You really like “othering” groups and making sweeping generalizations about people you don’t like, for some reason. Did a cyclist kill your family, or something?

  12. Your posts prove that you are one of those bicyclist who feels that rules and laws don’t apply to them.

    Case closed.

  13. I left Sea-Tac Monday morning @ 5:31 AM and we stopped for 5-10 minutes at Mt. Baker, Beacon Hill and SODO station for train spacing. I hope they got the spacing down better as the day went on.

  14. I’m a bit annoyed how a story about a major 10-week disruption that will impact tens of thousands of transit riders per day morphed into a story about bikes…

    1. There have been multiple stories about this disruption. This one is focusing on the impacts to one group of riders.

      Of course, any article about cycling tends to bring the anti-cycling fundamentalists out of the woodwork, for some reason. It’s a weird response to a group of people who make our cities better every day by reducing auto emissions and keeping more dollars in our local economy.

    2. The slow-downs are an inconvenience for 40,000 riders. But their safety getting to work is the same as it has been. They are still getting the safest travel mode available to get to work.

      I wanted to make sure no biker would unnecessarily be hurt as a result of having to detour around the bike ban. Sure, the number of people who will take the detour may be much fewer than 1000 per day, but if one life is saved as a result of getting the word out about the safest way to make the detour, I will be happy with the (volunteer) job I’ve done.

      I’m not a cyclist. I am embarrassed that fellow non-cyclists want to cancel the existence of cycling out of a blog post that also covered what rest of the 40,000 train riders should know to have the smoothest commute possible. This blog has covered the heck out of Connect 2020. Then we offer a story that is half about bikes, and the hate comes out. Get a grip.

      In the parlance of the professional trolls: Sorry. Not sorry.

      Just so you know, meta discussion about whether we should even broach a topic is off topic for this post. This post is about operational changes during Connect 2020. If you have something to add to the information train riders should know feel free to provide such information. Thank you for your attention to our commenting rules.

  15. Brent – your goal is great, that just didn’t come across to me in the post. The title feels like its trivializing the impact to a huge number of transit riders and elevating the impact to through-riding cyclist (which I bet is a minority of people with bikes). That’s what annoys me. If the title was “How to get around during Connect 2020” I wouldn’t have had the same reaction.

  16. Thank you Brent for tackling the comment thread and moderating (if that’s indeed you), it’s good work that is appreciated.

    To bring it back to operations, I do think (my own opinion, not advocating any rule breaking) that the bike restriction is unnecessary off-peak, and to a degree probably a little much during peak as well (at the very least, you’d think bikes could ride to Pioneer Square, exit to the main platform, walk the long way around and get on the next train).

    1. +1 on what AlexKven says here. Completely agree.

      At the very least let folk with bicycles transfer the same as everyone else when it’s not busy.

      Allowing bikes to go the far way around Pioneer station seems better than requiring the bike between University and International.

Comments are closed.