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Sound Transit, yesterday:

Work to complete the construction joining new light rail to the Eastside into the existing system, known as Connect 2020, will require additional time to complete due to issues identified over the weekend. On Monday morning Link light rail will continue to operate every 15 minutes and on one track in the downtown tunnel stations.

While completing final systems testing for the project, insufficient electrical resistance readings were discovered over a segment of newly installed track. The site of the problem has now been identified, and Sound Transit is working with its contractor to solve it.

Once repairs are complete, there will be another yet-to-be-determined closure of downtown Seattle stations in order to re-test and certify the new tracks. 

As the Connect 2020 whiner-in-chief, I think this isn’t great, and a divergence from ST’s usual pattern of underpromising. But assuming that the contractor can wrap this up in the next few weeks, the Covid-19 trouble has made this a time with the least possible impact on people trying to get around. It wasn’t good luck, but it was good timing. On other hand, on March 21st route 255 riders are going to get dumped off at a Link station that may be running infrequently, or not at all.

With volumes way down, banning bikes to reduce crowding is a rule that could stand to go away.

42 Replies to “Connect 2020 not done yet”

  1. Sounds like construction was done on time, just that there was a defect in the trackbed. When you restrict safety cert and testing to a specific closure weekend, you can’t really “underpromise” per se. You have those two days for everything to go right, or you have to cycle through for another week, rinse and repeat, etc. It’s a bit different from an opening day on your usual project.

    But yeah, 14-minute service is plenty right now. The least of our worries.

    1. Fourteen minute service is plenty? There are still people who take the train. Having to wait around longer isn’t good for anyone. Neither is being more crowded when the train finally arrives.

      1. You do realize except for healthcare workers, and some other essential employees over 75 percent of the county is closed, right? Also many people have cars, and without traffic , driving is easier and safer in terms of exposure. Nurses are driving to their jobs. Transit ridership is decimated and 15 minute frequency for link is more than ok.

      2. Lyft and Uber are keeping busy. Someone may need to point out that it is hard to keep 6 feet of social distance in small vehicles, which probably covers the vast majority of “rideshare” drivers’ personal vehicles. They don’t get deep-cleaned at night, for the most part. I have no idea whether cab companies are set up for deep cleaning.

        If you board RapidRide, you can avoid passing close to the driver and choose a seat with distance, most of the time now. Perhaps Metro should put all buses on RapidRide mode and go on fare holiday. I wonder if this has occurred to ATU 587.

      3. Without good frequency, you don’t have good transit. There are still people riding the trains, and right now, the trains suck. Sure, there are fewer people that have to put up with service that sucks, but it still sucks for those people.

      4. I thought under 15 minute headway is the rule of thumb for good frequency? Anything beyond that is certainly good but mostly added for capacity reasons.

        Yes, it is worse service than normal, but having a service disruption now when most riders are gone is a silver lining. If I was ST, I’d consider switching to a full tunnel shutdown if that means Connect 2020 can be completed sooner, or at least more cheaper (less overtime, etc.). Bus bridges will work just fine when there is no downtown traffic to clog up buses and no major events to strain the network. Likely too late to change the schedule on the fly, though.

      5. 15 minutes is the biggest inflection point in terms of making transit useful, but that doesn’t mean it’s fully adequate for comprehensive transit. The reason New York and London have such high ridership from all segments of society for a wide variety of trips is the expectation that transit is always there and you’ll only have to wait 3-5 minutes or maybe up to 10 in the daytime. Transit is competing with driving, and drivers don’t wait for 15-mintue intervals to leave their driveway or parking lots. Driving is so ubiquidous in society that it sets the baseline expectations for travel time and convenience, and transit needs to be keep close to it if it’s going to be relevant. When Route 43 was reduced to peak-ohly, the proposed alternative was 48+11 and eventually 48+G. That’s a hard sell if both routes are 15 minutes because if you just miss the transfer you’ll wait the full 15 minutes. And if you make several transit trips during the day they all add up. I know people who drive because they say they can[‘t do enough in the day on transit.

        The coronavirus situation is unprecedented and short term; there hasn’t been a general stop of work or talk of universal subsidies since WWII. So we can’t automatically apply normal frequency principles to a sudden short-term situation. But the underlying factors remain: 30-minute service makes a big dent in usability, and 60-minue service is just barely more than no transit.

      6. AJ has a good suggestion. Just shut down Link (downtown only) until the new switching is fully functional and works great! That would also give ST a time window to clean stations and vehicles, inspect and adjust escalators and all sorts of other needed prep work to handle the increased demand in 17 months when our world will hopefully return to normal.

      7. @AJ and Al S.
        Excellent suggestions. I’m in full agreement. ST and Metro should take advantage of this reduced ridership period to address these issues (assuming they can get the needed personnel to perform the work).

      8. Hey Ross,

        Get a clue. There are much bigger problems going on then having 14 minute service. Take off your transit blinders and see what is going on beyond transit.

        If there are bigger problems than transit, why are you reading a transit blog, [ah]?


        I never said there weren’t bigger problems. I was just pointing out that people are hurt when transit runs less frequently. And yes, 14 minutes is less frequent than 6 minutes, or even 10. Transit agencies increase frequency to reduce wait time, not just because of capacity. Saying a train running every 15 minutes is the same as one running every 6 minutes is ludicrous, and would be laughed at in most countries.

        People who depend on transit still have to get around. Transit was built for — and should be designed for — everyone. Not just office workers, who can work from home, but everyone. There are still people riding the buses and trains. Those people should have better service, even if you aren’t one of them.

        Oh, and how does it help the pandemic to have *more* people per train car? Or how about the people who abandon the train, and stuff themselves into a more crowded bus or use a cab (whether Uber or Yellow)? That is likely to happen, as there is a frequency-ridership spiral ( In there, Levy wrote “New York’s 10-minute off-peak frequency is so low that there is room to significantly increase ridership purely by running more service.”

        Got it? A transit expert called 10-minute off-peak frequency low, saying that ridership suffers. Yet you claim that it doesn’t matter if frequency is 14 minutes.

      9. Switching to a bus bridge could be a win-win-win. I see Link shuttles every few minutes — more frequently than 10 — so it would be better service. It would allow the construction workers to finish faster. With traffic down there’s no danger of congestion. If it’s not enough capacity peak hours, run Link peak only alongside it.

  2. I’m guessing Metro and ST will have more to say today on how social distancing will work on transit, going forward. Think, reduced passenger load limit, fare holiday, open all doors for ingress and egress on all buses. Reduce the need to touch anything with bare skin (which a fare holiday and having nobody standing helps to do), especially if many other riders will touch the same surface (which definitely happens with ORCA vending machines).

    Maybe leave the front door closed except when using the ramp/lift. Protect the drivers from having people within six feet of them as much of the time as possible. Masking-tape a line on the floor and seats. “Thou shalt stay behind this line.”

    If you don’t need to use the elevator, please don’t. You will be touching the same button that lots of other people will be touching, including riders most vulnerable to the virus.

    1. Can anyone think of any transit interactions where the 6 foot rule will be broken?Or a transit-related work scenario that is unhygienic? Here’s a few I thought of. The bus driver securing and unsecuring a wheelchair. The bus driver handing a paper transfer ticket to a passenger. A bus or train operator taking over for another operator, and sitting where that person just sat for the last 8 hours without the area being sanitized.

      Last night on Twitter, Dow Constantine said this: “It is time, right now, for people to assume that they and everyone they meet is infected.” Isn’t that a big F YOU to the person in the wheelchair and the bus driver?

      1. Metro disinfects busses every 15 days (it was 30 before the pandemic). Every Metro related scenario is by definition unhygienic.

  3. I vote for going back into full-downtown-tunnel-closure-with-bus-bridge mode immediately. That way, the trains can go back on 10-minute headway, with ample space to maximize social distancing and avoid touching the bars and straps.

    This will also make the working conditions on the track crew a little easier. The sooner they are done, the sooner they can distance themselves from each other, and the sooner light rail can deploy the full fleet to enable much better social distancing.

    Time is of the essence.

    1. As I said above, I agree. It would also give ST time to thoroughly clean stations and vehicles, and perform comprehensive maintenance to escalators and other things — preparing for the Northgate ridership surge in 17 months when this apocalypse is probably over.

      There are now thousands of instantly unemployed service workers that could be temporarily hired (and appropriately outfitted) who would gladly take the work.

      1. I think that makes sense, but the cleaning will be an ongoing thing. A surface (like a handrail) can be completely sterile in the morning, and full of germs by the afternoon. That doesn’t mean the cleaning has no value — quite the contrary — but it means that you have to do it repeatedly.

      2. There’s not a good range of words for cleaning. I was thinking about more occasional cleaning things like leaves that get stuck underneath elevators or rubber soot particles around the escalator belts and step cracks, or things like applying new water sealant to prevent future leakage.

      3. Good point. In general this would be a good time to do major maintenance work (like a deep clean). It is much tougher when the crowds get here, and there is a lot more round-the-clock demand.

  4. Speaking of the North Eastside restructure, is STB planning on running a “what have the results been and what do people think of it” article after takes place?

  5. Hey Martin, you’re the Connect 2020 complainer-in-chief and uniquely qualified to answer this question. I remember reading there was some controversy over ST’s Eastlink plan to connect track at ID because it eliminated the possibility of a center platform for transfers. Was this ever corrected?

    1. Nope, and with the center of IDS now having a turnback track as we speak, that ship has sailed. There was a good effort to change ST’s mind, but now it’s time to move on.

  6. “…and a divergence from ST’s usual pattern of underpromising.”

    Hahaha. That’s a good one. I needed that laugh today as I read/heard the news about the worsening Covid-19 pandemic (including the current administration’s irresponsible and bungled response to it), as well as the terrible news on the economic and financial market(s) fronts.

    1. What Sound Transit will do now is say that they will have the work done by July. Then, when it is done in June, tell everyone they did it early. Ta Da!

    2. I know you don’t want to let go of predictions made in 1996, but these maintenance jobs have tended to finish early.

      1. Now that’s even funnier than your earlier assertion. Maintenance jobs? That’s what you want to compare this to? (RQ) And there’s no need to go all the way back to 1996; ST has over promised and under performed in so many other instances (in all sorts of areas) in just the last five years alone. For a recent example, take a look at the agency’s 2019 Q4 report card, i.e., their financials for year end, and you’ll see more evidence of the organization’s continued pattern of OVER promising and UNDER delivering on capital projects.

      2. Those Q4 contain the bad news that ST staff won’t talk about: Link ridership had markedly slowed.

        Link grew from 24.47M to 25.08M in 2019. That’s a 2.5 percent growth in boardings for 2019.

        The report blames the loss on ridership that “did not materialize” when buses got evicted from the DSTT.

        With Connect 2020 and this awful virus era, 2020 will almost assuredly be lower.

      3. “Link grew from 24.47M to 25.08M in 2019. That’s a 2.5 percent growth in boardings for 2019.”

        Yup. And they missed their budget targets by over 3 million boardings on Link and over 4 million on all modes.

        And that has absolutely nothing to do with 1996 predictions. Lol.

  7. Let’s cut our transit system, and ourselves as its workers and advocates, a break.

    A worldwide outbreak of an unknown disease takes a lot different treatment than a bunch of short-term mistakes or a plethora of bad habits on a regional system. Between our local plate tectonics and our country’s last couple decades overseas, let’s just leave Current Events at “Could Have Been A lot Worse.”

    Whether it’s good luck or good company, my own “take” on my country-men and -women when the fan-blades go brown with appropriate sound effects is that we self-organize and get into positive action….without Order One. Think Boston Marathon bombing.

    One thing I’m really looking forward to watching, and maybe taking part in (STB Comments Count), is the process of trying different approaches, and finding what’ll work…Now. I think the Leadership we need- is just getting ready to emerge with its hands showing blisters.

    Don’t think there’s anything “Pollyanna” in thinking that our National politics are in a lot different condition than when a Corona was still a cigar.

    So I think that there’s more than a chance that the people who get our transit straightened out will attract to themselves the chance to do the same for the United States. Mike Orr, you’ve been in action forever.

    Mark Dublin

  8. A poster swore at me twice and his comments stay but my two posts where I didn’t swear are deleted. Interesting.

    By the way just saw on the Seattle Times website that King county will not have the transit tax issue on the ballot this fall because of the virus. You can check it out.

    1. Probably just as well, considering that, in an August ballot, it would have likely failed anyway, and it allows the city of Seattle to unambiguously pursue a city-only measure to at least preserve service there.

      That said, even after the coronavirus recedes, the economic recession it induces could impact sales tax revenues for some time to come. I remember what it was like during the last recession – every service change, routes would compete against each other for productivity, and whichever route was at the bottom would lose trips.

    2. Jeff, know this is ‘way after-the-fact, but I want to apologize for the rough treatment.

      Considering the general condition of transit-building in this region right now, it’s only human that our own best impulses can bring out the worst in our manners toward each other.

      But best remedy I can think of: Just think of the exact individual who most loves watching us tear ourselves to shreds.

      “8:41 pm, Mar. 14, 2020
      Flouting coronavirus restrictions, Tim Eyman promotes 250-plus gathering to ‘stick our finger in the eye of Jay Inslee’

      Tim Eyman, the initiative promoter leading early polls to be the Republican candidate for governor this fall, spent Saturday rooting for a political rally of 250+ people to “stick our finger in the eye of Jay Inslee.”

      In an email blast to supporters, Eyman flouted public health restrictions and advice on slowing the spread of coronavirus, saying “251 is the # of patriots I hope will join me @ Oak Harbor today. I’m bringing a 6-pack of Corona!”

      As with some other of Eyman’s publicity gags, it was more bluster than reality. In a phone interview Saturday, he said actual turnout at the event was “about 60.”

      Using emergency powers, Gov. Inslee this week expanded a ban on social gatherings of more than 250 people to cover the entire state. He had initially ordered the ban in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, which have been at the epicenter of the coronavirus spread locally.

      The move was in line with social distancing policies recommended by public health experts to combat the virus known to have killed at least 40 people in Washington as of Saturday. President Donald Trump this week declared a national emergency over what the World Health Organization has labeled a pandemic.

      Eyman said he wanted to provoke a debate about government authority in a time of crisis. “I am very concerned that during situations like this or 9/11 or other fear-intensive events that the government infringes on basic constitutional rights without sufficient questioning,” he said in a text message, adding the media was failing to adequately challenge such restrictions.

      While Eyman was promoting his fantasy Oak Harbor crowd, the Island County Republican Party has taken a more cautious stance. Citing coronavirus concerns, the party recently postponed its annual Lincoln Day Dinner, which also had been set for Saturday — and which was to feature Eyman and other GOP candidates.

      Eyman, one of five Republican candidates for governor who were set to appear at the dinner, was found by a Thurston County judge last month to have violated Washington campaign laws for the previous seven years, by concealing nearly $800,000 in political contributions. He was also in the news last year for swiping a chair from a Lacey Office Depot.

      —Jim Brunner”

      The pro-transit cause really does owe Tim Eyman a debt of gratitude for being the one who shakes enough hands to personally prove that this whole epidemic business is nothing but a Link-Loving Lie. One human being to another, would personally give a lot to find out he’s telling the truth about this one.

      Mark Dublin

  9. @Mark Dublin

    Thank you for your post as it is appreciated and yes Tim Eyman. There are no words to describe him other then a one man wrecking crew.

  10. I’ve stopped using link to get from Cap Hill to Westlake during this whole service cut so the sooner it’s over the better. 14 min is too long to wait.

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