Two weeks ago I criticized Sound Transit’s 2021 plans for another full year of substandard Link service. Now that I’m corresponding with someone who actually still works at Sound Transit, I was able to get a reply.

I had three concerns: (1) that a high-capacity trunk line should have high frequency even if ridership is low, (2) restoring most service to the peak is perverse if the problem is lower peak ridership, and (3) fears that ST would not be flexible enough to ramp up service as people returned to work in 2021.

The first is essentially unanswerable: it’s not a data-driven argument, but ST can simply choose to meet previous expectations of its customers, and the assumptions that underpin the bus network, or not. But the data they provided does provide reassurance on the other fronts.

Data for Sep 21-29, 2020.

The takeaway from the graph above is that, at the current service levels, peak vehicle crowding remains fairly consistent throughout the day until the evening. ST targets every third seat being filled, and early results suggest they are hitting their goal.

As for flexibility, ST’s John Gallagher conveys that “Should we receive indication that ridership may significantly increase between service changes, we have some flexibility to add select trips to address overcrowding, much like we’ve done in the past for regional events (sports, parades, etc.).”

48 Replies to “An explanation of Link frequency”

  1. The response does not address your first point about waiting. The correct approach is a network one; we want riders to transfer to and from many services; short waits improve mobility (or Walker’s liberty). Capacity should not be the first or only concern. Link is part of a network.

    1. Nor does it address the third point – but, at least, I’m glad to see Martin’s second point is not a concern.

    2. And most to the point here, Eddie, is that information on connections probably tops the chart for what-all nobody on the platform seems to know. No matter how good their intentions.

      Hazardous duty , but whatever their uniform, but trained, on-the-spot passenger information is truly a matter of security in every sense of the word. And should be budgeted, staffed, and paid accordingly. Smart phones have their use, but this is about heart, not just brains.

      Mark Dublin

  2. Thanks for the ongoing effort, Martin, on all fronts. But in the face of a sudden worldwide epidemic with no end in sight, precipitating a matching economic depression, “Standard” performance could be an impossible standard to have to meet.

    As advocates, journalists, and citizens, STB and its readers face a major handicap. Both travel and personal conversations can be multiple-fatality. My last Link trip awhile ago, I cut short because it FELT empty and ill-advised to the core. And officials of long-time acquaintance…last live ST Board meeting was OUR last too.

    Now, the closer personal friend any official is, the worse of an imposition it is to bother them at the office that’s also their kitchen table.

    So what I’d like to encourage is for people to start writing in who both ride, and even more important hands-on-operate trains and buses. Because what you’re experiencing firsthand right this minute is not only transit’s reality but its fate.

    That from whatever distance is imposed on us, we’re desperate to be able to help you fix.

    Mark Dublin

  3. Expanded trips for single-day events like parades and games seem like a different beast than trying to expand service between changes. Flexibility to address one doesn’t mean the other isn’t a problem.

    I’m not a transit planner, but off the top of my head, I imagine finding operator-hours (money and bodies) and performing maintenance above and beyond scheduled amounts for any period of time would be taxing. Does ST have a mechanism to solve this that I don’t know about?

    1. I read that comment as they have a certain number of hot spares they can deploy if needed, particularly if given a few days notice (the major events planning takes place on a roughly 2 week advanced notice), which means any service plan by definition has a certain capacity to ramp up service. So the operator-hours are there, though perhaps with some overtime if it becomes an every day thing. “major events’ occurred like a dozen times a month pre-COVID, so this isn’t like needing to go all-hands-on-deck twice a year for a giant event.

      Similarly, overnight maintenance would be staffed for ‘peak’ deployment, so if that peak became an everyday thing, that would just mean the union guys actually have to work their entire shift.

      1. I hope you’re not suggesting, AJ, that one, union guys (and gals) have any problem about working their whole shift, or two, non-union men and women could do it enough cheaper it’ll make up for how bad their untrained and mis-assigned work gets done. Thought not.

        Mark Dublin

  4. Does a pre-pandemic chart look like the Sept 2020 one above, but just has more passengers per car? It’d be interesting to see a Sept 2019 chart.

  5. I think the quote from Mr. Gallagher got cut-off. Here, I just found the whole thing:

    “Should we receive indication that ridership may significantly increase between service changes, we have some flexibility to add select trips to address overcrowding, much like we’ve done in the past for regional events (sports, parades, etc.).”

    “In the mean time, we are confident that terrible frequency in the middle of the day will do an excellent job of suppressing ridership, and thus crowding. There are only so many people who want to ride transit when service is that bad, and our main goal is to please rush-hour commuters (i. e., the folks with power). “

    1. I don’t know Mr. Gallagher or his position with the company, but praise for bad service as a policy tool could get somebody CANCELED all the way to the Sakhalinskaya – Mine Town route that is Vladivostok’s only tramway.

      Not sure if the alleged quote is one of those out-of-context career killers whose legions now swell the celebrity-wide unemployment rolls worldwide, but if I were him I would go not just Viral but Virulent to ask forgiveness.

      Show a little pity. Stranded at Angle Lake in the rain for an hour because the elevator wasn’t working could do this to anybody. And if worst comes to worst, John:

      Love the little curtains. If FHS doesn’t want them, and Connector can’t get funded, South Lake Union (T)rolley is where they belong.

      Mark Dublin

  6. I don’t remember if this was the case for ST2, but for ST3, the voter pamphlets only made promises about the peak frequency, and didn’t say anything about the off-peak. You could find the operational plans if you dug, but they weren’t trumpeted.

    I think there’s an implicit assumption that the peak frequency is what was explicitly promised to voters, whereas off-peak frequency has no such promises, so ST can do what it wants.

    1. I chose my words carefully to not imply that there’s an explicit promise or legally binding commitment. It’s simply that ST’s previous behavior was dedicated to meeting certain minimum standards even when ridership was low, and voters might reasonably have expected that it would keep doing so when ridership was low.

  7. The lousy midday frequency logic sounds like this:

    “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

    Did ST even bother to ask Metro what’s happening on parallel routes? I’m seeing lots of full buses in SE Seattle.

  8. I’m surprised that the “peak” ridership seems to be people commuting into the city at 5AM and returning home 2-4PM. I expect this is mostly service workers and perhaps some in finance that need to be in sync with the east coast markets.

    I would also like to see this chart for 2019. I suspect it would show a similar commute pattern to the airport in the morning from both business travelers and airport workers. But SEA is running at what 15-20% of pre-covid levels.

    1. It’s just northbound. From my experience riding at that time, it’s mostly Angle Lake and TIBS P&R riders, with lots of service and construction workers commuting from points further south. There’s a spike because of all the people who would get into work earlier but cannot because there isn’t an earlier train. If you are a regular P&R user, you are by definition are early riser because those spaces are gone by the time most people are up.

      1. . If you are a regular P&R user, you are by definition are early riser because those spaces are gone by the time most people are up.

        Is that still true with ridership down some 70% and peak commuting down by an even greater percentage? I would expect the traditional 100% capacity lots to have space available all day. But yeah the NB peak makes sense with service and construction workers. The peak was still there in the charts from 2017 but it wasn’t as noticeable because there was so much more off peak ridership.

  9. I was on a midday weekday trip last week and noticed ST is still blocking off the upper seating areas of both end cars. Given that ridership is increasing, the length of trains has decreased from 4 to 3 cars, and the reason for blocking upper seating is to protect Link operators for the few seconds they are passing through that area while going to or from the cab, does it really increase overall safety to have that area unusable? The other riders did what they could to space out, but it was difficult to maintain 6 feet of distance, and having that upper area available would have helped.

    1. That’s what I’m concerned about. ST says it can add runs between service changes, but will it choose to do so? What’s its threshold for adding service? If trains become a little overcrowded 2-4 pm beyond social-distancing maximums, how long will it take ST to notice? It could go on for months before ST takes action.

      That’s what’s happening with Metro. The 131/132 reach or exceed the maximum in the afternoons and people either have to sit next to each other or get turned away from boarding. To stay under the maximum without turning people away, the routes need more than 15 minute frequency between 2-6pm. But that’s not in any of Metro’s plans so it doesn’t. It adds runs to the 7 and E and a few other routes, but not others that are overcrowded.

      Will Link be the same? Especially with the upper levels on those end cars blocked off if that’s still happening. The driver is in an isolated compartment. When s/he walks out of the compartment, it takes far less than 15 minutes to walk through the upper section, more like 15 seconds. And at least 80% of people are wearing masks based on my last few trips. How about instead of a cordon, a sign saying masks are extra necessary in the upper section to protect the driver?

  10. The Urbanist argued in a recent article that there should be no cuts to services at all, because citizens need more services during a pandemic/recession, not less, despite declining revenue.

    Of course that is why prudent cities and agencies build up contingency funds, address infrastructure during the good economic times, and EXPECT an economic downturn, the antithesis of Seattle and ST.

    I suppose one could argue airlines should maintain pre-Covid frequency, at least for trunk routes, except they are privately owned. These posts have a recurring theme: someone posts that frequency, route or mode should not be cut, or should increase despite the downturn in ridership and general fund revenue (but not that fares should rise or other reasons for the decline in general fund revenue should be discussed), which leads to a post about how feeder routes must then increase or be maintained, which then leads to posts about how to pay for that since the OP neglected that part, which leads to posts on gas taxes, wealth taxes, head taxes and politics of wealth, etc. which are marked OT and deleted.

    What I get from Mr. Gallagher’s reply (other than frequency has been cut because of declining revenue from declining ridership) is he doubts ridership will ever return, even post Covid, at least commuters on link. ST will have plenty of time to ramp up frequency if commuters return because any vaccine allocation will go first to those most vulnerable, which are usually elderly and retired, and so younger workers who commute by transit will trickle back, if they return at all. I think Mr. Gallagher is really trying to say this is/may be the new frequency, for a very long time.

    The Seattle Times has a front page article today: “Plans for Rainier Ave. RapidRide put on hold”. The 7 which runs from downtown to Rainier Beach has maintained 50% ridership during the pandemic because its riders have to take transit, despite the risk, which is why I agree returning more service to peak times makes little sense, at least until everyone is vaccinated. IMO in the future transit will have to return to this core public service, mobility for less economic individuals at the lowest per rider cost as possible, despite declining commuters and revenue and the sales pitch to the eastside for ST 3. Since these riders can’t afford higher fares raising fares is not possible, and the other fact is few of these riders are taking the 7 to Link.

    The problem is Link is really built around the high volume high revenue work commuter. There is a world of difference between East Link (or the 550) and the 7. ST will never give up that dream, because as noted above by RossB
    commuters from outside Seattle have most of the power, and fares, and they probably won’t be returning. ST is hoping more frequency during peak hours will lower riders per car, which will encourage more commuters to take transit. But people are working from home because they are afraid of getting Covid-19 at the office too, so even an empty train isn’t safe. Plus I think a lot of workers are getting very comfortable working from home, and never liked the commuter into Seattle in the first place. Plus it saves businesses a lot of money on office space, transit subsidies to workers (which can’t be written off anymore) and allows the worker to take the home office deduction. All in all a win/win/win. Except for transit and Seattle.

    If you want more frequency, routes or mode show me the money in the budget, considering the Times yesterday noted bridges need an immediate $34 million, roads and bridges over the next 20 years need $2 billion, and the mayor wants to raid the head tax before it even begins for $100 million communities of color despite a projected $300 million deficit in the new two-year budget.

    If transit is more important than money for vague policies for communities of color (which I think it is since transit is probably the most important public good for these communities except housing, and that is a ticking tomb bomb when the eviction moratoria finally end and will really strain budgets) argue that the $100 million should go towards greater off-peak link service. Or find the money someplace else in the budget.

    We all want greater transit frequency, even if to lower riders per bus/train for health risks. But it takes money. ST is increasing frequency on peak hours because it hopes that money returns, because if it doesn’t that will require some very tough decisions for all of transit no one wants to consider right now.

    1. It’s a Seattle problem, not an ST problem. ST entered the recession with nearly $1B of cash on hand, all reserves fully funded, and the ST2 project portfolio continues to move forward with no financial constraints. The cost of running a few extra trains is immaterial to ST’s finances, so ST’s willingness to boost frequency is a function of what they think is the appropriate level of service to match demand, not a function of finances.

      SDOT and KCM, however, are cutting both O&M and Capital expenditures to match their new financial reality.

      1. That’s why the comment is such BS. Are they actively discouraging transit use? Is that the idea? If so, then kudos — well done.

        Look at that quote again:

        “Should we receive indication that ridership may significantly increase between service changes, we have some flexibility to add select trips to address overcrowding, much like we’ve done in the past for regional events (sports, parades, etc.).”

        There is nothing in there about improving frequency to increase ridership. Quite the opposite. He wrote that he would add “select trips” to address “overcrowding”. In other words, if service sucks, but it isn’t too crowded, then it will continue to suck, even when the pandemic is over.

        While Metro’s cuts are just as brutal, at least Metro seems to recognize this. Metro is cutting back because they are low on money. They know this sucks, but there is little they can do.

        ST is doing the same thing, but they don’t even recognize it as a problem. As long as there isn’t crowding, everything is just peachy. Who knows, maybe to avoid crowding in the middle of the day they’ll just blast the Meow Mix jingle — that ought to keep the crowds down.

    2. It’s hard to imagine “preparing” for a downturn when transit is lucky to get the scraps during the “good times.” At least at the City of Seattle/SDOT and King County level. For example: much of the watering down of Move Seattle has occurred during booming times, right? Indeed — the trend during the Covid Recession has been to continue with the most expensive road projects full steam ahead and not even dip into the reserve fund the City did have–let alone dip in to it for essential workers’ transit!

      As AJ pointed out, on the part of ST, they are moving “full steam ahead” with finishing the ST2 projects (with ST3 pushed back a few years), and the decision not to run more trains appears to be more about willingness to run more, shorter trains vs. financial capability to do so.

      1. “with ST3 pushed back a few years”

        That decision has not been made yet. The five-year across-the-board delay is just an initial alternative before the board deliberates whether to postpone some projects more than others. That will be a huge battle with every subarea arguing not to postpone its projects because they’re uniquely important. A final decision will probably take several months to go through the bureaucracy and hearings. It doesn’t need to be decided today; ST has cash for now. It’s about reaching the debt ceiling in the late 2020s for a few years, and being unable to spend as much as planned during that time. What has happened so far is a pause on some projects, but that’s just a couple months so far, not definitely a few years.

    3. “one could argue airlines should maintain pre-Covid frequency”

      People do not take airplanes every day for work, shopping, the library, to refill prescriptions, to care for disabled relatives, etc. Truncated bus routes do not depend on airlines’ frequency. Transit is an every day need. Airplanes are a couple times a year need. Most multi-state travel is not so urgent it can’t be suspended for several months. That’s not so of the every day trips people use Link and other transit for.

      Seattle had a rainy day fund, but it can’t predict or save up for all the needs of the biggest pandemic in a century. It couldn’t foresee that the federal government would just wash its hands of it and thus prolong the pandemic for months longer than expected or than other countries have taken to contain the virus

      .ST hasn’t said it can’t afford to run more service; it’s just choosing not to. It could easily postpone some of its dozens of capital projects if it needs to to keep up frequency. Otherwise we’re in the position of foregoing service now for the sake of service in twenty years. Why is service in twenty years more important than service now? And ST supposedly wants us to social distance on trains. Having more trains would make it more feasible to social distance.

      1. ST hasn’t said it can’t afford to run more service; it’s just choosing not to.

        Exactly. There seems to be no acknowledgement that service now is horrible.

        Worse yet, there seems to be no plan for improving it within this time frame, even if conditions change. Let’s say we have a vaccine relatively early next year and by summer we have heard immunity. There would still be no change in service. Frequency would still be terrible in the middle of the day — although there might be an occasional extra train to deal with crowding. Keep in mind these are four car trains and Sound Transit has *never* had a problem with crowding, at any point during the day. This poor service also suppresses ridership (which also reduces the chances of crowding). Basically Sound Transit either doesn’t understand the problem, or is just ignoring it.

        There is, of course, another possibility, which is that they aren’t being honest, and this is all being done because they are short of money. No matter how you cut it, it is not acceptable.

  11. Note how the 8:00 and 18:00 hours have less crowding than in the middle of the day in the graph? That really suggests than more midday trains are in order.

    Note that southbound has 20 riders per car at 14:00 and under 10 at 18:00. If there were twice the number of midday trains and demand was like last week, these hours would be similar. A simple 50 percent more trains (going from 15 to 10 minute frequency) during the midday appears to produce a more level set of lines (this more fair across the day) than the current service plan does.

  12. The eastside ST subarea is an anomaly because it has so much excess cash, just under ST 2 (East Link), even after East Link is completed, and that revenue must be spent in the subarea. The other subareas I am not so sure about long term, especially the North King Co. (Seattle) subarea. Some depends on sales taxes, and some on the restoration of car tab fees, and of course riders and fares.

    Many promises in ST 3 will have to be reconsidered depending on each subarea’s revenue. Here is an article on nine projects ST plans to unpause, and seven paused until next year.

    I do think that if commuters don’t return in the numbers hoped for, and general fund revenue in Seattle drops and KCM has revenue issues, some kind of discussion will have to be had about which goal for transit is more important: mobility for economically disadvantaged communities, which are often communities of color; or traffic congestion and mobility during the work commute to more affluent areas, which I think is beginning over the demands for more park and ride stalls which is the only first/last mile access for many less dense areas (like Angle Lake).

    1. “ The eastside ST subarea is an anomaly because it has so much excess cash…”

      The Eastside subarea also has a much lower percent of the population who are lower income or without a vehicle. It’s akin to having a posh school district who can better afford to build nicer things for its local residents — while a nearby less wealthy school district struggles.

      1. Al S. That was my point. But subarea equity is a fact of life.

        East King Co. will have so much money it doesn’t know what to do with it after ST 3 (even after ST 2 it will have $5.5 billion left over –after paying $1 billion for the east-west buses). Spending $4.5 billion on a line from Issaquah to S. Bellevue seems crazy to me, but the eastside subarea has to spend it someplace (and Issaquah’s mayor sits on the ST board). Of course I have my doubts about running light rail to Snohomish Co. As more businesses move east, and more former commuters work from home on the eastside, this revenue divide will only increase. It still has to be used for transit in the eastside subarea, but where do you spend $20 or $30 billion from ST 2 and 3?

        The rate of car ownership on the eastside, or greater affluence (although several neighborhoods in Seattle are quite posh) doesn’t have anything to do with subarea equity.

        Do I think subarea equity will end. Not if Bellevue and the eastside have a say. Do I think Metro and ST should have this discussion: expensive rail projects for commuters coming into Seattle when those commuters might not be coming back; or better and less expensive mobility for those who have to ride transit if revenue is limited? Link frequency vs. making the 7 RapidRide? Yes.

        But that discussion will be among the North King and South King Co. subareas only. (Too bad the line to Snohomish Co. wasn’t run along 405 because the eastside subarea has the money for it, and I would not be surprised if in 5-10 years both Tacoma and Everett wished their lines ran directly into Bellevue and not Seattle). I would list some of the mistakes I think Seattle is making that will result in a future decline of transit ridership, commuters, tourists, businesses and so on, and general fund revenues in the future, but that would be off topic, and speculative. It could be post-Covid everything returns to how it was before.

      2. Spending $4.5 billion on a line from Issaquah to S. Bellevue seems crazy to me, but the eastside subarea has to spend it someplace (and Issaquah’s mayor sits on the ST board).

        While I complain about bus service in Seattle (especially after these cutbacks) it is clear that bus service on the East Side is much, much worse. East Link will help, but for only a relative handful of people. The vast majority of people on the East Side will endure very poor transit for the foreseeable future. If the East Side agency is as flush with cash as you suggest, the obvious answer is not a train line from Issaquah to Bellevue, but a decent bus system for the region.

      3. The “line to Snohomish County” is under construction already, and making strong progress. Once it’s completed to Lynnwood the North King Subarea only needs to fund its 60% of the new tunnel and the lines to Ballard and West Seattle. None of those has anything to do with commuters from any other subarea. Well, yes, the folks coming from South King and Pierce would use the new tunnel.

        But if things are going to be as catastrophic as you say in downtown Seattle, there will certainly be no need for a second tunnel or the West Seattle spur. In a collapsed downtown Seattle with bus lanes on every north-south street in order to poke the few brave suburbanites willing to hazard the stupendous risks of working there right in the eye, there will be plenty of room for buses from West Seattle.

        But South Lake Union still needs to be served by subway, even if Jeff empties the Amazon Towers and equips his minions’ computers with AI-enabled shackles that hold them at the bonus-room machine for the “optimum” time period each day to get the fullest value from his payroll. Those buildings will be converted to condo blocks if they aren’t offices. But of course JUST building a stub from Westlake north doesn’t cut it without some external connection to the larger system. There is no plan or location for an MF — even a small one — north of SoDo on the Green Line.

        And you know what? There is room enough between the existing tracks just east of the Westlake platforms to dig a plunging single-track “service connection” that loops back to connect to a segment of tunnel between Ballard — or even just Expedia — and the lower Westlake platforms. If Pierce and Snohomish want to secede, I say let them go. South King will still be the poor kid on the block, but it’s only on the hook for the extension from Angle Lake to Federal Way and two intervening stations. Oh yeah, and an MF somewhere down there. If exurban commuters are going to be abandoning downtown Seattle, there’s no need for further enhancements to South Sounder either.

        Call it “ST2½” and call it good.

        But Ross and Mike are right: to make the entire system work ST has to run trains frequently all the time, 0600-2400. That’s what transit spines do.

  13. Ya, so now that we actually have some data it would appear that the current scheme of 7.5/15/30 is pretty darn close to what is actually needed to meet demand.

    One might make the case that the evening peak of 7.5 service should start at 12:00 or 13:00 instead of 14:00, but it sounds like ST has the flexibility and the commitment to add trains if crowding ever becomes a problem, so I fail to see any sort of real problem here.

    As per integrating with buses, the unreliability of buses per their schedule is the main issue. Frequent LR would make the bus-to-LR easier, but it would do almost nothing to improve the LR-to-bus transfer. The transfer to a late bus is going to be just as long and painful no matter when LR gets you to the bus stop.

    But again, at peak we have frequent transit. And things should improve when we get out from under the CV-19 cloud. I fail to see the problem here.

    1. ” it would do almost nothing to improve the LR-to-bus transfer”

      Not true. Many bus routes begin at the Link Station, so they are reliable there, even if delays accumulate further along the route. Not all of the bus routes are super frequent.

      Even if the bus is frequent and serves the station in the middle not the route, when everything’s frequent, you’re not committed to a specific trip. If the 2:00 bus isn’t arriving until 2:10, maybe you can still catch the 1:50 bus, delayed until 2:03. So, frequency still matters.

      Also, some trips require a bus on both ends of the Link trip, so any connection delay gets multiplied by two. Frequency body that middle leg really matters

    2. ST has the flexibility and the commitment to add trains if crowding ever becomes a problem, so I fail to see any sort of real problem here.

      Right. That’s a bit disappointing, but at the end of the day, it isn’t really important whether you understand the problem or not. What is important is whether ST recognizes there is a problem. From everything I’ve read, they don’t.

      The focus on crowding — and only crowding — is a really bad sign. The problem isn’t crowding. It has never been about crowding.

      The problem is that waiting 15 minutes for a train in the middle of the day sucks! I can’t explain it any simpler. It sucks whether it is your only trip, or whether it is part of a transfer. It sucks so bad that people will find other ways of getting around. We know that. There are a bunch of studies confirming that. It isn’t that complicated an idea (

      It would be bad enough if a transit agency has little concern for the quality of their product (I’m reminded of the line from the old Lily Tomlin bit: “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”). But a transit company that is disinterested in the quality of their product has ripple effects everywhere. It makes it extremely difficult for Metro to do their job. You can’t expect people to transfer to a train if the train is less frequent than many buses. This means that ridership on Metro buses will suffer as well.

      Yet apparently, even *after* the pandemic is over, there is no commitment by Sound Transit to do anything about it. Their only response is that if *crowding* occurs, they may do something about it. But by keeping the service so bad now, they suppress ridership, and thus crowding. This represents an agency that is ignoring the interests of the public — or at least the vast majority of the public that uses transit for something other than rush-hour commuting.

    3. Buses which serve train stations are typically shorter and travel on less-congested roads, so the train-to-bus transfer should not be unreliable except perhaps at UWS where it is already.

  14. There seems to be some disconnect between transit advocates and Sound Transit. Transit advocates say it’s obvious. Link should have greater frequency. Can someone briefly tell me why Sound Transit doesn’t want to do what transit advocates say is an obvious no-brainer? It’s it just about the cost? Something else?

    Sam, commenting from a historically underserved community.

    1. We don’t know because ST won’t tell us. It had a commitment to 10-minute freuquency for ten years and now suddenly it doesn’t, or at least it’s acting like it doesn’t. There’s a transit-best-practices argument for having minimum 10 minute frequency. ST hasn’t told us which part of this it disagrees with, or what its minimum frequency is and why. So we can’t answer your question.

  15. The Times article today about deferring RapidRide R (Rainier) also says Metro is postponing a new bus base in South King County. Between 2017 and March 2020 Metro had insufficient buses for all the service Seattle’s TBD was going to buy or for additional peak runs. It started searching for space for another base so that it would be able to meet the demands by the late 2020s. If that base is postponed, it means will have the same problem of a bus ceiling throughout the 2020s and potentially into the 2030s. It’s like housing construction. Inslee allowed housing construction to continue during the lockdown because otherwise we’ll be even further behind in housing when the pandemic ends and prices might accelerate even faster. That’s the same with a bus base: if you postpone it, then when the recovery comes and the population has increased, there will be an even more severe bus shortage until the base finally opens several years late.

    1. Perhaps. But the opening of East Link and and then Stride bus base will move most of the ST buses out of KCM bus bases, which will create significant capacity for KCM. So KCM will still be able to deploy more buses in 2025 than today even without an bus base expansion, plus I believe the South base annex is still moving forward.

      KCM should continue to plan for an additional base and grab land if it come available, but I don’t see the capital expense for a new base + fleet expansion occurring without an entirely new funding source, so it makes sense to ‘defer’ for now.

  16. Martin, I’m wondering if Mike’s point is that, given STB’s unwavering support for Sound Transit over however many years Link’s been here, you’re owed a better explanation. Advocacy like yours generally requires a much bigger budget.

    And though I doubt John Gallagher is facing any serious competition for his job, it could be fair to wonder if that applies to any of John’s elected bosses. Though would YOU want any of THEIR jobs?

    But when all’s said and done, I doubt that anybody on the Board that’s been getting it wrong will be on the Board that gets it right. Not talking demographics and car-ownership. Talking time in grade. And also on Earth.

    But my own real message for today is that across the board, until we’ve worked out an accommodation acceptable to COVID-19, we have to use the skills and qualities we have to do whatever, given our station in life, comes next.

    And also that including Sound Transit’s customer information, the hands that’ll be taking over have good hearts and minds at their own control-board.

    Mark Dublin

  17. If ST is planning to operate 3-4 car trains for the foreseeable future, they could potentially increase capacity by removing mid-train operator cabs entirely, replacing them with articulations.

    I’m not sure how technically feasible that would be with either of the existing sub-fleets (Kinkisharyo vs Siemens), though.

    1. The KI and Siemens car are physically interoperable, but not electronically. Basically, that means a KI or Siemens car can tow a car of the opposite type if it is out of service/disabled, but they cannot run a mixed train set in revenue service.

      ST doesn’t want to take out the mid-train operator cabs because it dramatically reduces operational flexibility. It’s a common gripe on the blog but I’m with ST staff on this one, at least until we are 4-cars all day. More likely, we could see series III vehicles that are much longer.

    2. ST had that opportunity when it bought the ST2 fleet but it didn’t. I don’t know if they can be retroftted but it’s hard to see ST paying the large cost to do so when it didn’t do it when it made the order and it would have been cheaper. ST’s stated reason for keeping the interior cabs is flexibility: it can add or remove cars or switch them out for maintenance at any time without worrying about whether it’s an “end” car or an “interior” car and having the right kind of spare ready.

    3. Based on the comments by Sound Transit, the last thing we want is more capacity. Everything about the response is based on that.

      Imagine if we had 12-car trains. Sound Transit would run the trains every hour. Ridership would go way down, and there would be plenty of room. Mission accomplished.

      Capacity isn’t the problem. It has never been the problem. The problem is an agency that things running trains every 15 minutes is OK.

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