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Sound Transit is marketing a slate of service impacts from 2-Line (East Link) construction and 1-Line maintenance as a “Future Ready” program. Starting next month and stretching into Q1 of 2023, existing 1-Line service will undergo intermittent periods of reduced longer headways and shuttle service. From the press release:

Time periodsTravel impact
Monday, July 11 to Sunday, July 24Monday, Aug. 22 to Sunday, Sept. 4In order to replace tile at the Columbia City Station, train frequencies will be reduced to 20 minutes in each direction during all operating hours during the closure of one track, requiring all trains to use a single track between Mount Baker and Tukwila.
Friday, Oct. 21 to Sunday, Oct. 23Friday, Nov. 11 to Sunday, Nov. 13As a result of work on the overhead catenary system in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT), train frequencies will be reduced to 20 minutes in each direction until 11 p.m. From 11 p.m. until end of revenue service, a Link bus shuttle will be available to connect passengers between Capitol Hill Station and SODO Station.
A period of five days in late Q3 2022In order to repair and replace the overhead catenary system, Link will be shut down between Rainier Beach and Tukwila International Blvd. stations with a Link bus shuttle connecting passengers between these two stations.
A period of at least three weeks in Q4 2022Trains will be single tracked through the DSTT and train frequencies will be reduced to 20 minutes.
Q1 2023This work is needed to complete connections between the current 1-Line service and new 2-Line tracks that will link riders to the Eastside. Impacts are still to be determined.

Some of the work is par-for-the-course as it concerns completing connections to the 2-Line, which will branch off of the main trunk south of International District Station. Some other work is a bit more puzzling: the replacement of platform tiles at Columbia City, for example, demands a closer look as to whether this was a contractor misstep or some other root cause.

While this is all happening, Sound Transit is also continuing to work on escalator replacement in the DSTT. This is a long time coming and a big source of consternation, as our friends at The Urbanist point out.

55 Replies to “Link work to impact service through early next year”

  1. The question I have about single-tracking for the Columbia City tile work: Why not just close the platform but leave the service intact? Then the riders wanting to use that platform are told to go to the next station and change to a train that runs back in the other direction.

    Another solution is to do the work late in the evening or overnight but take more days to complete the work. Maybe just not allowing riders to board a train car or two, or closing one of the entrances is all that would be needed.

    I’m not aware of the project details, but closing a platform seems much less disruptive.m than 20-minute service. I could see the service reduction for work on tracks or switches or signals or catenary wires, but tiles?

    1. If I had to guess, they will need to access the track area to do the platform work.

    2. The platforms are too close to the moving trains for them to do work safely without single tracking (This is the whole platform surface all the way to the edge). They did a similar replacement at Stadium while the center track was added at ID and the workers were right up the edge and in the trackway.. Not sure why it is necessary to go to 20 minute headways though. There is a switch between Mount Baker and Columbia City and there is a switch between CC and Othello (just south of Graham Street). I don’t think It takes a train 10 minutes to traverse between those switches, so the 20 minutes seems excessive. seems like 10 minutes or even 16 minute headways should be reasonable. that would mean a train stops at the non-closed platform at Columbia City every 5 or 8 minutes, alternating between north and southbound.

      1. Single-tracking delays have seemed interminable when I’ve experienced them along the MLK corridor. Certainly at or near 10 minutes sitting at the station waiting for an opposite-ditection train to pass.

        So that would go a long way toward explaining 20 minute headways.

  2. Why reduce service for the entire line? Why not have every other train turn back just before Columbia City?

    I find bus shuttles annoying. Going from North King to the airport now is 522–>Link. Not too bad. The bus shuttle makes it 522–>Link–>shuttle–>Link which is substantially more annoying with luggage.

    1. Trains can only reverse where there’s a turnback. Otherwise they’re like a car driving on the wrong side of the road, colliding with trains going the other direction to serve their regular stops.

      1. There is a switch between CC and Mount Baker, so this seems like a reasonable question.

      2. Trains can reverse at the Maintenance Facility by going around the outer loop. They can also reverse just south of Stadium, though that requires “walking the train”.

        I think the problem is that most of the remaining ridership is on the south end where the single-tracking will occur, so reversing north end trains would end up just as bad for those riders.

        That said, the north end bus service will be badly impacted, since so much of it depends on Link transfers.

      3. MH, you can’t reverse trains with a cross-over unless they are double-cabbed. The operator would have to step out of the train, walk to the other end, record, and activate the cab at that end while the train sits on the track for the opposite direction. The dis ruption would require a similar reduction of frequency as single-tracking. However, using the closer cross-overs as Al suggested in order to minimize the single-track section seems like an obvious improvement.

      4. “ Trains can only reverse where there’s a turnback. Otherwise they’re like a car driving on the wrong side of the road, colliding with trains going the other direction to serve their regular stops.”

        It depends on how things are set up. It’s quite rare for a line to be designed as exclusive single direction. On MAX, there are signals and even speed limit signs specifically set up for situations where they may have to operate in the reverse of standard direction.

    2. If 2 Line was running at least to Judkins Park from Northgate, it would seem to be easier to create a bus bridge between there and Othello. There is a cross-over track north of Othello just south of Holly Street. So trains appear reversible southward from this point.

      Surely, ST considered using 2 Line as another disruption service option. The fact that this work was instead scheduled this year suggests to me that either the CC situation is urgent and/or that the East Link opening date is going to be significantly pushed beck quite awhile and/or the true closure cause includes fixing an additional problem that ST staff is keeping secret.

      1. Very good suggestion, Al. Line 1 runs to a single-platform stub at Beacon Hill, using the cross-overs at the MF or just loops at the MF, and the bus bridge is between Judkins Park and Othello, with two temporary stops at Columbia City and Mt. Baker.

        You could also run a very fast bus bridge between SoDo and Othello via I-5, Albro, Swift and Myrtle, the old 107 speed route to Renton. That would be as fast as Link all the way, even with the transfers.

  3. Sherwin: in your text, you meant longer headway and not reduced headway.

    ST: when the work is on MLK stations, could a turnback variant operate from the South Forest Street base, so headway could be maintained north of SODO station?

    1. Yes. There’s even an operator replacement pad there. If the operator doesn’t need replacement it would take about five minutes to leave SoDo southbound before returning northbound.

      The biggest potential problem is that the switch to the yard throat is thrown by the controllers, not by the train itself. That’s why there was a “split” derailment under a train leaving service in the early days of operations. The controller re-lined the switch for the through movement before the train leaving service cleared the turnout.

      1. Or maybe just use the pocket track and switches south of Stadium station to run Northgate-Stadium trains?

      2. g, that would probably be fine for the weekend interruptions. But there are two for two full weeks each. Given that the operators have to be on the ground to walk the train while traffic is moving through the area, it is somewhat hazardous.

  4. 20… min.. frequency..?! There’s going to be major overcrowding. ST, CT and MT will need to implement temporary routes from the north end to UW and downtown Seattle. There’s no way in h#ll everyone is going to fit on one train every 20 minutes.

    1. Yep. ST is going to learn that it’s a transit agency now, not just a profit-feast for the concrete and steel monopolies.

    2. Hopefully they will at least run longer trains, especially peak hours and during events.

      1. They already run 4 car trains pretty much all the time, which is the max length.

  5. How is reducing service on the whole line for a whole month considered a reasonable thing to do to facilitate maintenance at one station? Such a degradation of service should be considered an absolute last-resort option. Are there no tile setters who can work at night? Is it impossible to phase the work so the parts occurring right next to the tracks can take less than two weeks per side? Between this and the constantly broken escalators it’s clear that Sound Transit just doesn’t really care about putting their riders first.

  6. It doesn’t seem to me that the closures or reductions in frequency to complete the repairs are very long. Parts — or all — of I-5 or I-90 are closed all the time for maintenance and repair, and each carries many times the number of people and freight. Usually these are scheduled in the summer to help concrete cure, and during off hours.

    I doubt this reflects longer delays in opening East Link or hidden but more significant repairs. Actually I don’t think 20 minute frequencies will create major crowding these days because the peak commute is gone. Busing is a hassle, but only for a few weeks. Some on this blog think transfers are not big deal.

    I do have a question though: from a prior post my understanding is East Link can be “turned back” at Mercer Island. Can it be turned back at Judkins Park? I ask this because I do think bridge maintenance is going to close the bridge to East Link more often than some think, and there is a lot of talk on the eastside of terminating East Link on Mercer Island if ST refuses to screen riders and implement some kind of fare enforcement, although I think it is just talk at this point.

    1. You obviously haven’t been riding much if you think that peak hour commuting on Link light rail is “gone.”

      1. According to ST Link ridership is at 83% of pre-pandemic levels although it doesn’t break that down for peak.

        Is it accurate? Who knows. Does that include ridership from Northgate Link? There is no data given for the statement. But this comment from the June 1, 2022 release is not good:

        “The Sound Transit board decision [to resume fare enforcement] comes in response to concerns over decreased ridership and revenue from fares. According to a spokesperson for the transit agency, Sound Transit earned $97 million in fares in 2019, which made up about 30 percent of the system-wide operations cost. In 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, fare revenue dropped to just $30.6 million.”

        20 minute frequency is not ideal even for a few weeks, but this data suggests it may be the new normal if farebox recovery is so much lower than the assumptions used in the levies.

        From what I have read recently 33% of Seattle office workers have returned to the office, and I would imagine that is the bulk of peak commuting on Link. This article from Dan in 2020 lists pre-pandemic 2019 ridership before Northgate Link.

        Drivers put up with lane and road closures or lane diets all the time and seem to live. There are usually alternatives, and the period of reduced frequency does not seem unbearable. Light rail trains might be more crowded but that was the vision before the pandemic. Everyone would take Link, albeit at better frequencies than 20 minutes. If ridership — especially peak ridership — on Link ever does match up with estimates this is the type of crowding to be expected like in other cities, but at higher frequencies.

        I just don’t see this as the end of the world although probably frustrating. Wait until maintenance closes East Link across the bridge span and East Link trains can’t get to Seattle and frequency plummets.

      2. Frequency isn’t just about capacity, it’s about how long you have to wait. It’s about 10 extra minutes per trip per direction when this is in effect. It’s not trivial. It also impacts bus transfers. When everything is frequent, transfers are not a big deal. Last weekend, in Vancouver, I made a bus->train transfer trip which took under 20 minutes, door to door, inclusive of all walking and waiting. When the services aren’t frequent and reliable, experiences like that are not possible, and people start demanding one seat rides, which leads to worse frequency, and everything spirals downward.

        Obviously, the maintenance work needs to happen, but Sound Transit needs to make more of an effort to minimize the impact to the traveling public. For instance, some of the daytime work could be moved to night. Different projects can be completed at the same time, during a single reduced service period. Etc.

        And, also, peak hour commuting on Link is not dead. I’ve ridden Link a few times in recent months. During peak hours, it is actually fairly full. Daytime weekend ridership is also robust. It is evening ridership (e.g. 9-10 PM) that appears, anecdotally, way down from what it was pre-COVID.

      3. Daniel, are you predicting that when Link can’t cross the bridge frequency will “plummet” on the Seattle side north line? If so, you’re wrong. That’s the reason for the pocket track just west of the Judkins Park station.

        If you’ll notice, the pocket is assymetrically placed between the in-service tracks; it’s a bit north of the center line. That allows operators to “walk-the-train” on a reversal. It’s rather unusual to have a tail track “upstream” of the station at which a reversal is to be made, but the tunnels start just east of the platforms, so that’s where it has to be.

        So Line 2 will continue to run between its northern terminus (changing a few times over the next two decades) and Judkins Park when the bridge is closed. Similarly east side trains can use the double cross-overs just west of the MI platform to reverse, because there will be no cross-lake traffic to worry about when the operator walks the train. That’s why it would be reversing.

      4. Thanks Tom, I was not aware that East Link/Link would have enough trains to run on the eastside and in Seattle if the bridge were closed. If East Link trains were essentially split between Seattle and the eastside while the bridge was closed what would the frequency be on the eastside, which is 8 minutes max anyway? Same?

      5. I really can’t predict that. I really don’t know.

        Since East Link won’t open before the Wilburton Maintenance Facility does, I expect that they could use reserve cars to cover the east end. If they KNOW that there’s going to be a closure, like the Blue Angels, I would expect that they’d have a train in the pocket at Judkins Park and one in the pocket at Stadium when the closure happens, in order to add a couple of trains to make up for the extra time consumed in reversing at an odd point.

        If a disruption is unexpected — a sudden windstorm, a derailment, a suicide by train — there might be some disruption for a little while until they can get a couple of extra trains in service on both sides. But notwithstanding ST’s cluelessness about SO many things, I expect that both Forest Street and Wilburton will have at least one train of reserve cars even at peaks, should they return. You have to have a reserve for breakdowns if nothing else.

      6. When the existing line is split, frequency remains the same. Maybe it’s harder to do peak hours when there are fewer spare trains. Since the maintenance time is known in advance they can make sure there are trains in both sections. When the Eastern maintenance base comes online they can pull trains from there.

  7. You would think Sound Transit would at least be able to perform the tile work and the catenary work at the same time, to minimize the amount of service disruption.

    1. The entire plan represents laziness and a lack of respect for the impact of severe service reductions on riders. In Zurich they rebuilt the entire tramway infrastructure in front of the Hauptbahnhof in a weekend – every switch and track.

      No way should the tile repairs at Columbia City require reduced frequency on the entire line. Frankly should be done only at night or on a non-sports weekend. Or done at the same time as other work like the switches and catenary.

      We truncated bus routes to force transfers to Link, and then not to operate Link like a critical service is just plain ridiculous. It’s like there are no adults in charge at ST who prioritize service to riders. Just like the insane continuing vertical conveyance problems. Are we a third world country? Why is this still a problem after years?

      1. Are we a third world country?

        Um, yeah! If you had to ask the question, the answer is obvious.

        Mix two cups of obsession with process, a tablespoon of parsimony, and a quart of blame and you have Cruel-Ade, a favorite suburban Northwest drink.

      2. “ It’s like there are no adults in charge at ST who prioritize service to riders. Just like the insane continuing vertical conveyance problems. Are we a third world country? Why is this still a problem after years?”

        This is exactly what’s fundamentally wrong with ST culture in my mind . It’s an unspoken belief that ST is supposed to plan a system; not operate a system. It pervades everything from early planning (the stakeholders are property owners and developer interests) to construction (rider conveniences like escalators are the first things axed) to operations (closing or reducing service as the go-to solution for any contractor or employee inconvenience) to safety (lax enforcement and no physical changes at dangerous crossings so people get killed).

        What’s the solution? It has to come from activism. Riders need to make it an issue and not just “take it”. That means first choosing elected officials who care about riders and not just show up and brag for ribbon cuttings. That may mean changing how the Biard is chosen. That means that riders need to infiltrate every neighborhood group and understand that rider experience is paramount.

        A good step would be to change this blog from Seattle Transit Blog to Seattle Transit Rider’s Blog. It may seem cosmetic but the emphasis on the rider should be the blog’s main focus —because no one else seems to cover it well. Even the Transit Riders Union seems sidetracked on other issues.

      3. Even third-world countries have better transit than the US does.

        Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and East Asia tend to have comprehensive transit, with extensive metro rail, regional rail, national rail, and a full slew of bus routes so you don’t need a car and can go anywhere throughout the country. Seattle-sized cities have 5-15 minute frequency, outer suburbs are 15-30 minutes, rural towns are 30-60 minutes. Many Seattle-sized cities have high-speed rail to surrounding cities.

        The UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, lag somewhat behind those, but still much better than the US. The UK has excellent transit the southeast (London’s commuter belt), several high-speed lines across the country, but in small cities and rural towns its frequency is less than other European countries and it has erased several former rail lines. Ireland and Northern Ireland are somewhat less in Dublin and Belfast, and somewhat more in rural towns. Canada has less transit than the UK. Australia and New Zealand probably have less than Canada. But all of them have more than the US and it’s easier to get around without a car.

        Mid-level developing countries like Mexico and Brazil have metro or BRT in their major cities, but the rest of the country is more bus-based than in Europe. Some didn’t develop national rail lines between cities; instead the few rail lines went to colonial export ports. But bus transit is pretty comprehensive so you can get anywhere in the country without waiting a long time. This is especially important because fewer people can afford cars.

        Poorer countries in Africa tend to have little traditional transit, but instead have tons of private routed taxi vans that leave whenever they fill up, so you may be waiting an arbitrary 15-20 minutes.

        Mideast oil sheikdoms like Saudi Arabia and Dubai have hardly any transit because they’re even more car-centric than the US, and they’re delirious with their gushes of oil and government-subsidized cheap gas. Iran may be more like Latin America, although I don’t know for sure.

        So we can be like Saudia Arabia, or we can be like the rest of the industrialized world and Latin America.

  8. I hope there’s a better plan for sporting events. They currently run extra trains for a ~5 minute frequency to clear out the crowds post-game. 20 minutes isn’t adequate for existing all-day ridership, let alone post-game crushes!

  9. Wouldn’t it be better to shut down link entirely for a few days, instead of the reduced headways. Shut down the entire line for a week for repairs. Provide some limited bus service to help the CarLess.

  10. To me, this situation just demonstrates that ST has much to learn about keeping a rail system successfully running.

    1. Why go to such long frequencies for an entire line when work occurs at one station?
    2. Why can’t work be done only after 7 pm to give them an extra 6 hours each day?
    3. Where are there needs to install switches to avoid ever having to go worse than 15 minutes when dingle tracking?

    The ST board better wake up and realize that disruptions and maintenance will be more impactful and frequent as opposed to the occasional ribbon cutting. Maintenance and disruptions are the agency’s PR future.

    I’m expecting the 1/2 Line signaling and announcements as the next problem to be faced. I hope I’m wrong — but if Connect 2020 didn’t address some of these things and even new escalator failures are occurring in North Seattle. I’m expecting more problems.

    1. “dingle tracking”.

      I get that it was a “typo”, but what an elegant description of ST’s methods. Love it!!!

    1. There is no “best way” because the “Listening” charade covering all ST operations for the remainder of the third decade of the Twenty-First Century concluded last month.

      1. Is there an email address to contact the ST board or leadership?

    2. The board is appointed by the county executives, so contact your county executive.

      1. I also wrote Alex Pedersen (, who’s the Transportation Committee chair for the city council and my council member. I’m not the biggest fan of him but figure he probably has some sway if not any way to directly influence the process, and generally seems to care about “good governance” (at least from his perspective, whether or not it helps anyone else).

  11. How much disruption will there be conplete the later finishing touches on the Seattle 130th Street Station? I’m sure it will have new tile also. At least I hope so. Installed for the first time. There are many other things that need to be finished to complete that station 1-2 years later than Lynwood Link opening. As new extensions or infill stations open up, this may be the norm. Hope not.

    1. Wow, lets hope they pave the platform before Lynnwood Link opens, for this very reason. The pedestals are already there and it seems like the tiles could be put down now or at any rate, some time before testing starts.

    2. At least there seems to be an implied commitment to complete a future NE 130th Station written on maps. Not so much in the South End where a station only, even without parking, seems to be heading off the books more likely than a commitment to be honored at MLK/Graham.

  12. I’m glad to see ST doing maintenance. Better to have limited service for a defined, short period of time now, than to not do it and have no service at all for who-knows-how-long…

  13. This work is needed to complete connections between the current 1-Line service and new 2-Line tracks that will link riders to the Eastside.

    What is being done here? I had thought that this work was completed during the Connect 2020 project that finished more than two years ago.

  14. During last year’s MAX closure, it seemed like they were able to operate both blue and green line at 15 minute headways, or 7.5 minute headways combined. That’s what they are able to do with the blue line at peak frequency.

    So, I’m not seeing a reason for 20 minutes. Obviously I don’t know their track layout details, but it seems an excessive cutback compared to what TriMet does with this type of thing.

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