Zee Shaner, writing on the Sound Transit blog:

Shortly after the Northgate, Roosevelt and U District stations opened in October, riders quickly noticed that next train information had disappeared from 1 Line platform digital signs. Passengers wondered why it was ‘broken’ and when we could ‘get it working again’.  

We want to clarify that the system is working just as it always has, but we made the deliberate decision to turn it off until its replacement arrives in the spring.   

Why would we turn it off? 

A well-written piece that answers a lot of questions readers have been asking on Twitter and here on the comment threads.

21 Replies to “Real-time info will get better next year”

  1. So the system is working “just as it always has” but it’s “not up to standards”. Interesting way to phrase it.

    But it’s not “broken” it just isn’t “up to standards”. That’s some nice marketing/PR-speak.

    Person #1: “Hey, what time is it?”
    Person #2: “I don’t know.”
    Person #1: “Why not? I see you’re wearing a watch… why can’t you tell me the time?”
    Person #2: “Because the watch doesn’t tell time up to my standards.”
    Person #1: “So… “it’s broken”, right?
    Person #2: “No, it works perfectly fine. It just can’t tell time to the accuracy that I’d like.”
    “Uh… okay.

    1. Person #1: “Hey, what’s your current heart rate?”
      Person #2: “I don’t know.”
      Person #1: “Why not? I see you’re wearing a watch – why can’t you tell me your heartrate?”
      Person #2: “Because the watch was made 40 years ago and that technology didn’t exist back then”
      Person #1: “So, it’s broken, right?”
      Person #2: “No, it’s perfectly fine. It tells the time, which is exactly what it was designed to do. It just can’t tell me my heartrate because watches couldn’t do that back then.”

      This is not a difficult concept, folks.

      1. Except Link wasn’t built 40 years ago. Construction began 18 years ago, and there absolutely were accurate real-time arrival systems available at the time – I encountered them in other cities. I realize signs in the downtown tunnel are a particular issue that predates Link, but it was also closed for two full years of link construction when those upgrades/replacements could have been made. I have yet to see a reasonable explanation from ST on why we haven’t had accurate real-time info from day one.

      2. Thanks for stating the obvious, NickBob. Real-time urban train arrival systems have been around for at least 30-40 years. Maybe they were less automated but they have long existed.

        A core challenge with STB is that some assume ST is wonderful or truthful because they have not lived and ridden elsewhere. Those that have can more easily see what’s good and bad with ST. I suspect the issue is that the managers at the time didn’t think it was important enough to procure.

  2. Great news, but I’ll believe it when I see it. There have been too many promises of better next-train information for years and it always fails. RapidRide B had similar problems in its first couple years. The First Hill Streetcar is having problems with next-train times and inaccurate onboard station announcements. Several Metro next-arrival signs are turned off, including the most important transfer points around 3rd & Pine, the UW Station Pacific Street bus bays, and some others. Meanwhile the ones on Ballard Market street are running fine, as is the one at 3rd & Pike southbound (27/120/124/131/132), so it’s not systemwide, just certain displays. The pattern is that the white colored displays are off while some of the yellow displays are on. But the Pacific Street ones are yellow and at least the northbound one is off.

  3. For me personally, I only ride transit a few times a year now that my employer has permanently has moved to full time remote, but I can see how this is problematic for those that have to commute daily. Which, btw, what is an office?

    1. Based on my personal experience for the last six months, an office is a place you can go on weekdays when you’re tired of sitting at home. :)

  4. I know you guys will get to this sooner or later to read into the politics behind this – Mayor-elect Harrell just sacked SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe. From the statement from Harrell. I get the vibe that he wants to strike a stronger balance between cars and public transportation as opposed to stressing more public transportation.

    “Today, I am announcing that when I take office in January, I will be making a change in Seattle Department of Transportation leadership. We will embark on a robust national search for a new director who is aligned with my vision for this critical department. As we embark on that search, I will appoint SDOT Chief of Staff Kristen Simpson to serve as interim director. Kristen has let me know that she will not be applying for the permanent position.

    “Going forward, my vision is for a Seattle Department of Transportation that centers equity throughout our transportation network across every street and sidewalk, in every neighborhood and community. We must create a balanced transportation ecosystem – increasing safety and decreasing travel times by bolstering transit, improving sidewalks, protecting bike lanes, and recognizing the role of cars and new electric vehicles.

    “From Vision Zero to net zero, we will prioritize climate resilience and lead at the intersections of accessibility, reliability, safety, and sustainability.

    “I want to thank Director Zimbabwe for his service and dedication to the City of Seattle. His leadership and quick action closing the West Seattle Bridge no doubt saved lives and has put the bridge on track to open in mid-2022. His response to the pandemic – thoughtful and meaningful efforts like Stay Healthy Streets and outdoor dining permits – should be celebrated. I wish him all the best in the future.”

    1. So, what exactly is Harrell’s problem with Zimbabwe? Based on the speech, I couldn’t really tell. Is it just standard practice that every new mayor fires the old SDOT director? Is this intended to be a reward position for a big campaign donor?

      1. Durkan hired Zimbabwe from D.C. in 2019 and by all accounts he was very experienced. So I don’t think Harrell or any mayor looks at this job as a political gift, like Inslee’s appointment of the dir. of the employment security dept. that did not turn out well.

        My guess is Harrell has strong objections to Zimbabwe’s vision, or his management. Otherwise he wouldn’t have made such a loud announcement before becoming mayor, making sure to announce the interim dir. is not in the running either.

        I would probably look to the downtown business community for this sudden change, although I don’t know what changes in vision the downtown business community wants. Harrell’s public statement was pretty cryptic, and covered all the “Seattle” bases.

    2. Harrell was the one who was big on making data publicly available to figure out wht we need, and consulting with the public to figure it out, as if we don’t already know. The city has transit master plans and bike master plans, it just needs to follow through on them, and it certainly knows which roads need maintenance. So I have no idea what Harrell’s transportation vision is or what was wrong with Zimbabwe if anything. Harrell says he’s a longtime major transit activist, and if I’d been in different circles maybe I’d have heard of him. Can anybody confirm that he is or isn’t?

      The Downtown Seattle Association published a vision of reducing Third Avenue to 2.5 lanes; two for buses and some third lane segments for passing. The rest of the space would be used for wider sidewalks, bus stops, vegetation, etc. I haven’t heard anything else about transportation from them.

      Is Harrell singling out SDOT or is he doing this with every agency?

    3. Wow! Equity is a concern!

      I guess that means that transit will finally rate above the bicycle lanes used mostly by young white males.

      1. If this was true, shouldn’t we focus more on increasing minority bike usage and eliminating any barriers thereto, such as the cost of bikes or adding more useful bike lanes in their neighborhoods, rather than just deprioritizing bikes as a “young white male” thing? Bikes are extensively used by all parts of society in The Netherlands and formerly in China.

        Some environmentalists/urbanists are advocating free e-bikes for everybody who wants one. I’m not quite there yet, but it’s worth considering.

      2. Given the recent thread complaining about slower e-bikes, I’m not so sure that some bicycle advocates want a surge in bicycle ridership. Imagine the frustration if those used to flying on their speedy manual bikes have to frequently encounter lots more bicyclists moving slower than them!

    4. Sounds Kubly 2.0. Maybe Seattle needs a paddle board share program so people can get around when all the bridges fail. Harrell must have another relative and/or campaign staff he needs to pay off. With all the challenges he’s facing I can’t think of any reason he’d announce this move now. If you want to move closer to Vision Zero fix the damn street lights and channelization markings. Oh, and maybe if there was still anyone home at SPD some speed limit enforcement on MLK. 25mph my @ss. I was doing 30-35mph last night in the rain and everyone was weaving and blowing past me like I was doing 45 on the freeway.

      1. Politicians are in abject fear of the Driving Mafia. If this were not so there would be hundreds of automated radar enforcement installations around the State. Most would pay for themselves within six months and then spin off a nice nut for the State.

        About the “but I wasn’t driving” excuse, the obvious answer is to have another licensed driver attest that he or she was the guilty party, not the registered owner.

        How hard is that?

      2. Continued…

        The insurance companies would LOVE that requirement. It would steeply reduce the incidence of a low-premium safe driver lending his or her car to a less-skilled or unsafe driver. It would become SOP to get a pledge from the borrower to fess up to any automated ticket.

        No pledge, no keys.

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