August is the month ot Link maintenance. Service will be reduced for five weeks from August 12th to September 16th to replace sagging tracks over weak soil at Royal Brougham Way, to replace platform tiles at Othello and Rainier Beach, to inspect high-voltage power equipment, to build track ties for East Link near International District, to replace aging rails in the downtown tunnel, and probably other things. This was the best time they could find during the short dry season between major public events, although there will still be a couple ballgames during it. Service levels will be like this:

  • Phase 1: August 12-13: The downtown tunnel is closed. A bus replacement operates between Capitol Hill and SODO Stations. Trains run every 15 minutes (instead of 10). The bus shuttle runs every 10 minutes.
  • Phase 2 & 3: August 14-20: Like the April reduction was. Link is single-tracked between Westlake and Stadium (meaning both directions use the same platform). Trains run every 15 20 minutes. All trains terminate at Pioneer Square, and all passengers transfer to the other platform to continue north or south. This time the transfer isn’t timed, so you could be waiting a long or short time. Royal Brougham Way will be open for pedestrians and bicycles but not cars.
  • Phases 4 & 5: August 21-September 3: Othello and Rainier Beach stations are single-tracked. Trains run every 12 minutes.

Update 8/15/2023: Phase 2 & 3 frequency is now 20 minutes.

Details on phases 1-3 | Seattle Times coverage ($) | Announcement on phases 1-3 | Announcement on phases 4-5 | More details on phases 1-5 (click “Link Light Rail” and read the whole section).

More below the fold.

This is at least the third time all trains have terminated at Pioneer Square. Pioneer Square Station was really not designed for forced transfers like this. You have to go up to the mezzanine, walk to the other side, and go down via the stair or elevator because there’s no down escalator. Entire trainloads will be transferring at the same time in both directions.

The best way to cope with this for shorter trips is to avoid Pioneer Square Station, and avoid transferring to/from the shuttle bus. Sound Transit published a chart of alternative bus routes in April. For instance, buses travel between Westlake and International District every minute or two on 3rd Avenue. From Capitol Hill to International District, the streetcar can take you. From Capitol Hill to Beacon Hill, the 60 can. From the U-District to Rainier Valley, the 48 can. From the U-District to downtown, the 70 or 49 can. From downtown to Tukwila International Blvd, the 124 can take you. From north-central Seattle to downtown, the E or 62 can take you. For longer trips like U-District to the airport it may still be worth taking Link (normally 45 minutes) compared to the 70+124+A (87 minutes plus two unreliable transfers). But for shorter trips like Capitol Hill to Jackson Street an alternative might save some aggravation. It would also make room for others who really need Link, like visitors who don’t know about the alternatives or are afraid of getting lost on buses.

While you’re transferring at International District, you can contemplate that it will be worse in ST3 with ultra-deep stations and the North of CID station alternative. Then you’ll have a much longer transfer walk if you’re going from Rainier Valley to Capitol Hill, or from the airport to the Eastside. But that’s not until 2038 at the earliest — fifteen years away — so no need to panic now. Just remember that alternative bus chart and the 48, 60, and future Stride 1.

The operational patterns above have changed multiple times so they may change again. Phase 3 was going to end August 19 but was extended a day. Royal Brougham was going to be closed to pedestrians but now it’s not. So expect more changes, consider alternatives, and bring a book to read.

72 Replies to “Link Month of Reductions”

  1. The transfer at Pioneer Square has always bothered me: why not just single track on the same track in the downtown transit tunnel, instead of forcing passengers to transfer in Pioneer Square? Is it something to do with the track layout? If so, does anyone have a track layout map I can look at by any chance? I tried Googling to no avail

    1. It is called “interlining”. There have been hundreds of comments on “interlining” DSTT2 in DSTT1 on this blog which is the most sophisticated on this issue, the reasons why that is a good idea, and reasons why Harrell and Constantine didn’t include interlining in the DEIS. Maybe if you search “interlining” on this blog some of those hundreds of posts will come up.

      My opinion is interlining will become a serious option when the Board is willing to publicly acknowledge WSBLE is not remotely affordable, and the original project cost estimate for DSTT2 of $2.2 billion is about $2.2 billion short when the project cost estimates for WSBLE have gone from $6 billion in 2016 to $15.2 billion today and is certain to go to $20 billion with the delays.

    2. Interlining is joining two different lines like when the 28 comes into downtown from the north and seamlessly continues as the 131 or 132 in the south. The 65/67 and 45/75 do this in the U-District. You could look at the 62 as three routes interlined (downtown-Fremont, Fremont-Roosevelt, Roosevelt-Sand Point). The current Link is normally “interlined” compared to two theoretical lines from downtown.

      Single-tracking is an extraordinary situation that can’t be compared to ST2 or ST3. When buses are interlined, they don’t have to squeeze both directions into one lane in the middle.

      I don’t know why ST terminates all trains at Pioneer Square, whereas at Rainier Beach one direction just waits for the other. Maybe it’s because downtown has more stations so not splitting the line would cause more delays. Maybe ST get more runs and capacity in if each run experiences only half the tunnel. Maybe it’s because a delay on half the line doesn’t spread to the entire line.

      It’s odd that the split isn’t at International District or Westlake, which are more transfer stations anyway. But maybe that’s the point, to keep the split away from regular transfer stations that already have a large crowd on the platforms and escalators.

    3. Daniel is talking about having three ST3 lines in the existing tunnel rather than building a second tunnel. Some people call this “interlining”, but that’s confusing because interlining usually means something different. Several STB authors think this the single-tunnel solution is good and sound. It would eliminate the extremely bad deep transfers, so that you’d either transfer at the same platform or do the Pioneer Square do-si-do to the other platform. One operational pattern might be Everett-West Seattle, Redmond-Mariner/128th, and Tacoma Dome-Northgate. Ballard would then get a line terminating at Westlake. That means Ballardites would always transfer, but they aren’t getting a one-seat ride now, and they’re not on the main airport-UW axis.

      Another pattern would be to make Ballard-West Seattle an automated line with a smaller tunnel. An automated line could run every 2-5 minutes because it wouldn’t have the cost of drivers. That means the trains and stations would be smaller, which would lower the cost. This is how Vancouver’s Skytrain works. Maybe a smaller tunnel could get closer to the existing stations for transfers.

      Either of these would be less expensive than ST’s plan, and provide better service for passengers. But ST hasn’t been willing to consider them. It rejected a single-tunnel solution in 2016 and refuses to reconsider it.

      This has little to do with the single-tracking issue now though, because if two trains going the same direction bunch up, the second one only has to wait one minute for the first one to clear the station. If two trains going opposite directions bunch up, then the second train must wait several minutes for the first train to clear the entire single-track segment before the second train can enter it.

    4. @gargargargar,

      There is no switch at Pioneer Square Station. The closest are north of Westlake Station and south of Stadium Station.

      If single-tracking were done all the way from Stadium to Westlake, it would take at least 8 minutes for each northbound train to traverse that distance, and then at least 8 minutes for each southbound train, probably more with the mixed-direction crowds at the operational platform in each station, plus time to give the all-clear signal to the next train to go through. Realistically, the best headway in that case would be 20 minutes.

      Pioneer Square is the closest to the middle of that span. Having trains single-track on one track between Pioneer Square and Westlake, and on the other between Pioneer Square and Stadium enables two trains to be operating within the span at once.

      I’m not sure what the minimum headway on each end is in practice, but the 15-minute planned headway seems to have plenty of cushion, so long as they don’t hold the trains longer than necessary at Pioneer Square to get passengers off and those already waiting at the platform on.

      Most riders are riding between somewhere north of International District / Chinatown Station and somewhere else north of ID/CS. If ST is able to get minimum headway down to 10 minutes north of Pioneer Square during split operations, most riders won’t notice any difference from normal operations. There is no requirement that the headway on each end has to match.

      That said, when headways match at 15 minutes. then the trains can be offset so that a train pulls into Pioneer Square every 7-8 minutes, from alternating directions, giving transferring passengers an ample 7 minutes to get to the other platform.

      However, maximizing capacity on the end that needs it the most (the north end) seems a compelling reason to prioritize getting north-end headway down to 10 minutes during split operations, along with having all north-end trains be 4 cars. If that requires the transfer to be at University Street Station, ST ought to give that change in transfer point serious consideration.

      1. This makes *perfect* sense; thanks for the explanation. Do you happen to know where I can read more about link’s track layout? Is there a track diagram I can lookup somewhere?

  2. We’d be a lot better off in situations like this if Metro had built the old bus tunnel with center platforms instead of side platforms. But, alas, Metro didn’t do that.

    Hopefully we get through this quickly and Link can go back to its solid ridership growth.

    1. I couldn’t find info on why Metro built the tunnel with side platforms (though I could speculate on why, as could all of us).

      I did, however, find this little tidbit from about 22 years ago.

      The summary of the report states that the county should:

      “1. Authorize use of the DSTT by Sound Transit for buses only.

      2. Reprogram money now budgeted for Central Link light rail to expanding Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the Sound Move Plan.

      3. Work to implement a regional BRT plan that integrates ST Express and Metro bus services, and that maximizes the use of the DSTT.”

      There are a number of interesting findings, too. I’m curious if anyone wants to evaluate them with the benefit of historical hindsight, and see how well they hold up to the future that came to pass.

      1. John Niles is one of the authors. He’s a big anti-rail advocate like Kemper Freeman. He commented on STB for a few years when Link first opened. So if you hire an anti-rail consultant, it’s not surprising you’d get an anti-rail report. This can’t have been “the” main or only assessment, because King County ultimately reaffirmed conversion to rail. That had been the tunnel’s long-term vision all along, a post-Forward Thrust rail network.

        If Link hadn’t been built, the 71, 72, 73, and 255 would still be slogging in traffic between the Stewart/Denny exit and Eastlake to the Convention Place entrance. The 71/72/73X would be melting down with overcrowding and bus bunching, as they were doing in 2012-2016. Shoreline and Issaquah would have only peak-hour access to the tunnel. The 550 would still be crossing surface streets to get to the Mercer Island P&R and South Bellevue P&R. A BRT network with fully new right of way lanes would approach the cost of light rail.

      2. Ah, I didn’t know his political (wrt transit) leaning, good feedback.

        I’d still be curious about the historical context of the report. As you said, the outcome was quite different. So why did KC commission it from this particular group? Were his biases not as clear then?

      3. I don’t know about the larger context of county planning. STB didn’t exist then so I didn’t know about the hearings and planning. All I knew was when something was on the ballot. Maybe somebody else can give background on the decision-making process.

      4. Bus tunnel was built with side platforms because in the 1980s, buses in the US with left side doors were extremely rare.

        The station median became a passing lane to go around disabled or delayed buses and was actively used. In the dual-mode days there was a passing wire with a switch at the entrance to each station. If you were stopping in the second bay and had followed like 4-5 first bay coaches into the station you could take the outside wire, make your stop, and go around everyone else.

      5. @ Anonymouse,

        I think a better example to compare Niles to would be Randal O’Toole. These guys are basically anti-transit ideologues who will say and do whatever they can to derail (haha!) rail transit.

        And I think Nikes claiming KC authorization was a bit of self promoting puffery.

        IIRC, KC council members have the ability to personally issue small study contracts using their office budget. I.e., without full council approval. Maggie Fimia was a KC council member then, and she was also a member of the anti-rail cabal. I believe she hired Nikes to issue a few things like this without going through full Council approval.

      6. @KH,

        That is where Metro missed the boat. You don’t buy buses with LH doors, you simply run the buses on the LH side.

        It’s a closed system with professional drivers. It shouldn’t have been a big deal. And the tunnel would have been a whole lot better, more functional, and a whole lot cheaper to build.

        But alas…..

    2. The lack of center platforms happens to open the possibility of adding a switch in one of the downtown stations.

      The side platforms happen to leave open the possibility of having platform-to-platform tunnels between two neighboring stations on different lines.

      But you are right, L. ST ought to add a center platform in one or two downtown stations.

      1. “The side platforms happen to leave open the possibility of having platform-to-platform tunnels between two neighboring stations on different lines.”

        What does this mean?

      2. “The side platforms happen to leave open the possibility of having platform-to-platform tunnels between two neighboring stations on different lines.”

        What does this mean?

        It means that if you have two parallel tunnels running at the same underground elevation, it would be possible for people to transfer from the northbound platform of Tunnel A to the southbound platform of Tunnel B by simply walking through a pedestrian tunnel between the platforms; no need to go up and over tracks. If either tunnel has center platforms, this type of quick transfer in one direction is not possible.

      3. “It means that if you have two parallel tunnels running at the same underground elevation, it would be possible for people to transfer from the northbound platform of Tunnel A to the southbound platform of Tunnel B by simply walking through a pedestrian tunnel between the platforms; no need to go up and over tracks. If either tunnel has center platforms, this type of quick transfer in one direction is not possible.”

        Isn’t this like CID N.

  3. Mistake #1: No scissor tracks in the DSTT. Solution: Install scissor tracks inside University St station and close the station (Walk to Westlake) when they must be used. Benefit: Shorter single tracking allows for higher train frequencies.

    Mistake #2: No buses in the DSTT because they can’t be reversed. Solution: purchase bi-directional battery electric buses with driver seats at either end (think streetcar on rubber tires) for emergencies. As rubber tired vehicles, they can cross tunnel sides at University Street and CID if needed. Benefit: with both tunnels used. Single tracking only needed at Westlake station (unfortunately no center platform) and buses could have a separate loading area at Stadium Station.

    Mistake #3: Lack of a track closure contingency plan for every segment in the system. Solution: Draft multiple contingency plans that recommend projects to make track closures less disruptive. Direct staff to minimize track closures to evenings and weekends where possible.

    It took about 50 hours to replace tiles at the Columbia City station last year. That easily could be done over a weekend with crews working 24 hours a day starting at 10 pm on a Friday night. Doing it over a 3-day weekend would provide 80 hours from 10 pm on a Friday to 6 am on a Tuesday morning.

    Rail transit systems around the world know how to minimize disruptions. It costs reputation and loss of fare revenue when they happen. Why can’t ST figure this out? For anyone that has lived with rail transit, they think that ST is run by a bunch of uncreative, lazy morons to default to requiring such frequent and massive service disruptions for relatively routine things.

    If ST is going to repeatedly deal with these service d’irruptions they need to look at solutions beyond horrible rider inconvenience.

    1. While I disagree with your second suggestion, I have to say that the need for contingency plans will grow more acute over time.

      The light rail system, with no bypass tracks, is very prone to the single-point-of-failure problem, with every portion of the line able to become that single point of failure.

      Indeed, as the system grows, the occurrences of failures can be expected to grow in proportion to the length of the line(s).

      1. No, according to the Times article. “But arrivals won’t be synchronized this time, so some people might wait a minute, while others wait 12-plus minutes after taking an escalator climb and mezzanine walk between boarding platforms at Pioneer Square.”

        I don’t see any mention either way in ST’s announcements. But there are also other things in the Times article that aren’t in ST’s announcements, so I don’t know what they’re based on or whether they still apply. But I assume they’ll be uncoordinated tomorrow and not wait.

        When I did the transfer last time, I had to use the elevator down because the stair was hard on my leg, and it took me several minutes to transfer because the DSTT elevators are slow and in different locations from the escalators. Even then I got on the train and waited a few more minutes before it departed. That was presumably for wheelchairs. But I could see how fast walkers up the stairs would be frustrated at an even longer wait. So that may have been why they’re uncoordinated now. Another reason may be to sneak in additional runs in the northern half without officially promising 10-minute frequency (which may be hard to keep for every run), or even higher frequency if it can manage.

  4. Did they remove the “transfer only center platform” at Pioneer Square Station? I hardly ever ride south of Westlake anymore on Link. The last time I did, I was facing the side platform and did not look. It seems like it could be useful now and in the future. It seems SoundTransit has had some unforeseen problems where this could help with ridership reliability.

    1. Yes, it’s replaced by a kind of fence to prevent people from walking across the tracks.

      “It seems like it could be useful now and in the future.”


      We’ve now had at least two cases where the tunnel needed maintenance and all trains terminate at Pioneer Square. This has become a common maintenance pattern so the center platform is really needed.

      1. Is ST still holding the trains at Pioneer Square for passengers to go up and back down the stairs to the other platform, and board the waiting train, and thereby forcing higher minimum headway?

        (I assume we won’t know until Phase 2 begins tomorrow.)

      2. If I remember correctly, the tunnel was closed and also single tracked at certain times to build this transfer only platform. Why did they remove it? Even if they never used it again, it would be easy to put a fence on it to avoid illegal crossings. They spent alot to build it and then wasted even more to remove it. It would have been free to leave it there.

      3. They removed the platform to install a ridiculous reversing track, so trains can go from the Eastside line to the south line.

        In my opinion it’s ridiculous because there are many other ways to do this. Even the new MAX junction at Gateway has been built so that trains can get to the new line from any direction on any of the old lines. They can even make a full 180 degree reverse loop from the red line southbound back onto the red line going northbound, if needed. Sure, some of the curves required are very tight, but going through them at the required speed is still faster than having the operator stop at a platform and walk the length of the train.

        The only exceptions now are things like the MAX green line trains that turn into eastbound blue line trains. They have to stop at gateway anyway, because they make this type of move as an in-service train rather than an out of service train.

        Yeah, I know. Link doesn’t have much space to work with at that space, etc etc etc. Again, TriMet built an entire new wye that connects to two westbound tracks and four platform tracks in less than 150 feet.

        I see several options for Link other than what they did:

        1. These moves between the two lines will be regularly made during service hours, in which case they might as well happen as in service trains, work them into the schedule, and turn them at one of the existing turn backs. That’s what TriMet does with the Northbound green to eastbound blue trains at Gateway.

        2. If these train movements are not regularly being made, then make them when Link is operating less often in the late evening and reverse them at either the International District or Westlake.

        3. For maximum flexibility, make it so Eastside line and South line trains can fully operate as a line if the tunnel needs to be completely closed. It would mean some crazy infrastructure, such as the full cloverleaf thing TriMet built at Gateway in 2001, but there appears to be space for such a structure. In the end it would likely save money as there would be operational flexibility and these maintenance train moves wouldn’t need to change direction.

      4. The emergency reversing track is in the middle of ID/CS Station. The temporary center platform was built in Pioneer Square Station. ST said they weren’t allowed to keep the center platform without at least installing an elevator and stairs.

      5. ST said they weren’t allowed to keep the center platform without at least installing an elevator and stairs.

        Allowed by whom? Why would such a thing be required? Seems like a nonsense requirement to me.

        The center platform is only for transfers between trains. Someone who mistakenly ends up on that platform and instead wants to exit the station will need to wait for the next train, and walk through the train to get access to a station exit. Kind of annoying for those passengers, yes, but it shouldn’t be a regulatory deal-breaker.

        Emergency egress can be accomplished by walking across the tracks to the exit. And before you say “that’s too dangerous!” remember that several of our surface stations require walking across tracks to access the platform even in non-emergency situations.

  5. Oh don’t forget that the link bus bridge won’t be working as published most of the weekend due to construction on 3rd between Seneca and Marion. So essentially all travelalt3rnatives to Link through downtown will also be effed most of the weekend. And yet metro has rhe gall to encourage you to take nonexistent transit to t mobile, lumen, and Climate pledge. Such incompetence up and down public transit. This will be the third set of rails installed in parts of the tunnel since it was built…

    1. It was ironic that two items were adjacent in Metro’s weekend email:

      * Take transit to all your events in Seattle this weekend. Metro and Link Light Rail serves riders heading to T-Mobile Park, Husky Stadium, Lumen Field and Climate Pledge Arena: [ballgames Saturday and Sunday]
      * Prepare for travel delays: Sound Transit 1 Line disruptions Aug. 12-20

      The first item says “Link Light Rail” but the second item implies Link won’t be running.

      Even more ironic is that the Link disruptions are buried in the second section of the bulletin, and that it gives no indication of the scope of the disruptions. Just “click here for some minor information”.

  6. Simply brilliant that ST removed the center platform at Pioneer Square.
    The reason(s) for terminating & reversing the trains at Pioneer Square is the lack of crossover switches between south of Stadium until east of Westlake. By reversing the trains at Pioneer they can operate shorter headways than if one train traversed the entire segment before the next train traveled in the opposite direction. In this case single tracking across Royal Brougham for the repairs means it has to single track all the way past Westlake. Adding the Pioneer Square terminating allows more frequent service along the whole line.
    It does raise the question of why they haven’t added any crossovers since this problem has occurred frequently. The suggestion to add a crossover at University Street station and close the station when the crossover is needed ought to be possible without great expense.

  7. Also simply brilliant to combine closing the SR-520 bridge, bustituting Link from Capitol Hill to Sodo, to a well-known sold-out weekend at T-Mobile Park honoring Felix Hernandez. Seems like an own-goal by WS-DOT & Sound Transit.

    And why aren’t the station repairs at Othello and Rainier Beach scheduled for the same time as the Royal Brougham work? NYC does station renovations without disrupting train service – they may close the station in one direction, but the trains just run through while they are doing the work.

    1. “Also simply brilliant to combine closing the SR-520 bridge, bustituting Link from Capitol Hill to Sodo, to a well-known sold-out weekend at T-Mobile Park honoring Felix Hernandez. Seems like an own-goal by WS-DOT & Sound Transit.”

      There’s only eight or so dry weeks per year for all the construction projects. This was the least-bad weekend ST could find.

      “why aren’t the station repairs at Othello and Rainier Beach scheduled for the same time as the Royal Brougham work?”

      Good question.

      1. This is where the 255’s stop on Mercer Island during 520 closures, offering the transfer to the 550, becomes really key. The bus driver really needs to announce that anybody headed to downtown should get off there, as the bus approaches.

        Of course, this alone doesn’t do anything about the problem that the 255 on bridge closure weekends always falls way behind schedule, so for the return trip, you have no idea when the bus will show up.

        For anyone with a car who simply doesn’t want to pay for downtown parking, the simplest workaround is to forget the 255, drive to the 550, and ride the 550.

      2. I drove across I-90 today. Traffic was not as bad as I expected. I passed a 255 in each direction – 60 foot coaches and as far as I can tell completely empty, not a single passenger. We are not going to get voter support for running stupid service. And running Kirkland to UDistrict via I-90 is stupid service and we do it too often.

      3. Anytime there’s a bus reroute, Metro generally chooses to have the new route serve the same bus stops, in the same order as the regular route, as much as possible, so that people that don’t know about the detour are at least waiting at the correct spot to board a bus that will get them where they need to go…eventually.

        There are other detour options that would be more operationally efficient, but at the cost of people not knowing about the detour wasting a lot of time waiting at the wrong place for a bus that will never show.

        Fortunately, in a couple years, this problem will solve itself, as the Montlake construction completes and bridge closures become much, much rarer than they are today.

  8. In good news, Link had record-breaking ridership ($) Taylor Swift weekend, and buses are also recovering robustly. Mike Lindblom’s article is so full of relevant facts I’ll have to quote a lot of it. Emphasis and [commentary] are mine.

    Buoyed by Taylor Swift concert fans, Sound Transit light-rail trains carried 126,000 and 136,800 passengers on July 22 and 23 respectively, smashing records from before the pandemic.

    Those were only two of 12 days last month exceeding 100,000 passengers, as the overall post-pandemic return of commuters and tourists has steadily grown this summer, in addition to the draw of some big events.

    Public transit not only carried Swifties until the late hours after two concerts but also attendees of sold-out Mariners games against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Capitol Hill Block Party and the Bite of Seattle on the same weekend. Several days earlier, 115,600 people boarded light rail on the day of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 11, sinking the previous record of 108,500 on Oct. 3, 2019.

    These volumes are as high as freeway traffic counts. Full trains show travelers and taxpayers getting a return for the Puget Sound region’s massive transit investment — some $5 billion in local and federal funds from 2003-2021 to create the 24-mile 1 Line from Northgate to downtown and Angle Lake.

    King County Metro Transit buses hauled an unusually high 498,000 people that same weekend, including special concert shuttles, the county announced Friday.

    It’s not just event crowds but everyday clientele filling the railcars, said Sound Transit spokesperson John Gallagher.

    Amazon called people back to offices three days per week in May, while other employers have reestablished downtown work. In recent weeks, several RapidRide trips from West Seattle served 75 riders at peak times [i.e., they were full], slowed by growing car traffic. Light rail is typically standing room only from Northgate Station to U District Station [I’ve seen this weekday afternoons between 12 and 7, although not every day], Gallagher said.

    Tourism is booming. [Crowds are thick at Pike Place Market, and Pine Street sidewalks around 5th and 6th have middle-class crowds again.] And the opening of three north Seattle stations on Oct. 2, 2021, made the line practical for more riders, especially students and staff at the University of Washington.

    Light rail exceeded 119,000 riders on Friday, July 21. Normal volumes are around 80,000, which declined by half during the pandemic.

    Since this March, total boardings grew 2% to 5% per month to reach 81,375 average daily trips in June, with July sure to be higher.

    Information about fare income wasn’t immediately available. Passenger counts are based on light scanners inside buses and trains, providing data that’s independent of ORCA card taps, pass sales or farebox money.

    The likely next light-rail routes to open are a limited Bellevue starter line in spring 2024, followed by the Northgate-to-Lynnwood extension in fall 2024.

    1. I’ll ask my question again re: Lindblom’s article:

      Did Northgate Link to Angle Lake only cost $5 billion as Lindblom writes?

      1. I would also like to compare ST’s ridership estimates from the “light scanners” (which is weird in itself since ST has Orca readers) with Orca card payment, which conveniently ST didn’t disclose.

        My guess is there a significant gap between the two. Whether that is due to “optimistic” “light scanner” ridership estimates or a large number of non-fare paying riders is another fair question, one I would have expected the transit reporter from the Times to ask.

        As I noted in a prior post when discussing Lindblom’s piece, the most critical data is the 80,000 average daily riders on Link including Northgate Link in June, which is about 1/3 short of ST’s estimates pre-pandemic after adding the highest ridership section of Link from Northgate.

      2. The automated passenger counters (light scanners) are a built-in train component. They and the ORCA readers are a check on each other’s data. The counters are presumably more accurate since the ORCA readers don’t know about people who buy paper tickets, are under 18 so they ride frer, people who forget to tap, reader malfunctions and outages, as well as people who intentionally don’t pay.

      3. “Did Northgate Link to Angle Lake only cost $5 billion as Lindblom writes?”

        I don’t care because you can’t ride budget numbers, only service on the ground. Somebody else might research it.

      4. Feel free to sum the total cost of Northgate-UW (2021), UW-Westlake (2016), Westlake-Tukwila (2009) and Tukwila-Angle Lake (2009) yourself.

      5. That’s right, I forgot Angle Lake wasn’t open until 2016.

        What do you mean by “Tukwila-TIB”?

      6. Westlake-TIB, sorry. The initial segment was Westlake-SeaTac. But the post-9/11 FAA wouldn’t allow a station closer to the terminal so it had to be relocated, and it wasn’t finished until nine months after Westlake-TIB opened. Angle Lake was part of a second phase along with UW.

    2. This does not surprise me. Our past leaders wisely put most major regional destinations — the Stadiums, Downtown (except SLU and Harborview), Seatac, UW, Northgate — on the 1 Line. ST2 adds regional minor destinations in Redmond and Bellevue so it will also get non-commute use.

      Except for Seattle Center and SLU, ST3 stations don’t seem worthy as regional destinations unless there is an annual street event. It may cost twice as much but ST3-funded station (excluding ST2 stations here) ridership added together probably won’t add as many new boardings as much as these totals today.

      1. Tacoma Dome is deeply offended by your take. 20K people for a concert is a major regional event.

        Also, for major events (and unlike regular trips), people are will to travel much longer on transit, particularly to avoid parking and/or driving. Everett or Tacoma to Seattle on Link is too slow for most commuters, but reasonable if trying to get in/out of the city for a major event. The ST3 parking garages are also very useful when serving these irregular transit riders who otherwise have poor access to the every-day transit network.

        An expanding network will be both less productive and serve more riders.

    3. On Thursday, I rode Link just from UW station to Capitol Hill, but all 4 cars were completely crushloaded. I barely managed to even get on the train. To be able to carry crowds like that while maintaining a schedule is something that only trains can do, and buses simply can’t.

    4. I’ll have to be contrarian regarding the recovery being fully upon us. (even as COVID variant EG.5 is surging).

      Metro was averaging ca. 400K riders a day pre-pandemic. Taylor Swift weekend averaged 250K.

      Link Light Rail is finally breaking (well in the case of the Swift and Bluejays fans, destroying) ridership records. It might have something to do with those three new stations that opened during the pandemic. I expect that Sunday Taylor Swift etc record will stand at least until the 2 Line parts the Blue Sea.

      1. Commuters need to return to hit those pre-COVID numbers. Seattle still lags the rest of the world (and most of the US outside of SF & NYC) in Return to Office metrics.

    5. Anecdote:
      A friend who attended the Saturday concert told me that the train she boarded to go to the concert was crush-loaded at Northgate, and stopped taking passengers after U-District. She also said that there was a moment in the U-Link tunnel where the train shut off for a short period of time, and then when the train started up again, the operator announced that the train was too heavy with passengers and could only go ~25 mph in the tunnel.

      She said it ended up taking her over an hour to get to the CID station (where she got off) from Northgate. Her boyfriend was in the CID after the show, so she had him drive her home to avoid the super crush after the show.

      1. And here is a video of the massive crowd waiting for Link at CID after the concert. The station crowd is at the @7:30 mark. The video is called “58 hours in Seattle, WA using only the Seattle Link Light Rail.” It seems like they took a plane from Calgary to Vancouver to SeaTac, then took Link to Seattle.

  9. Today the 8 was almost crushloaded between SLU and Capitol Hill Station. Could it be people finding an alternative to the downtown shuttle, or an event at Seattle Center? I also saw two or three “To Terminal” buses one after the other going the same way. Shuttle buses? They were Metro buses, not ST.

    1. It was the Day In Day Out music festival at the Seattle Center with some artists with national name recognition playing.

      Beyoncé is coming September 14th so expect another busy day of people out and about.

    2. I think people are finding alternatives to the shuttle buses. Amtrak service between King Street and Everett show some trips at 90% booked for Monday. A few are at 40%.

  10. “Amtrak service between King Street and Everett show some trips at 90% booked for Monday.”

    During the April reduction my friend in north Lynnwood came back from a trip to Longview. She didn’t know about the reduction. She went to Intl Dist station and said she was told to get on a train that ended up going southbound and ended up at Stadium, where she had to wait some twenty minutes for a train going north, and then transfer at Pioneer Square. I don’t know whether an agent really told her that or she was just confused. But it shows the problems that people who don’t understand the situation can have. She said there was nobody at Stadium to ask.

    After that when I monitored Pioneer Square, I saw a few agents on the platforms telling people which direction the trains were going and how to transfer. Yesterday at Capitol Hill I saw that for the shuttle: the agent saying southbound was closed but Northgate was open. So I have confidence ST will have agents shouting and answering questions. But maybe it has some lapses sometimes. And maybe it needs more agents at Stadium.

    So I phoned her yesterday to tell her about the reduction because she’s in Longview again. She’s coming back Monday. I suggested she walk from the Amtrak station to Pioneer Square to avoid the transfer. She said she’ll take the 415 instead because she has a suitcase and it’s a one-seat ride. I said I didn’t think the 415 would be running when she arrived, but she said it’s in the PM peak so it would be. That’s a solution this time, but it won’t be when the 415 is truncated next year with Lynnwood Link. I assume Pioneer Square transfers will keep happening once or twice a year, so ST should think more long-term about mitigation.

    I didn’t know the 415 even went that far south. And I assumed it just had a couple runs between 4:30 and 5:30pm. But looking at the schedule, it has a long afternoon span from 2:30pm to 5:35pm, so CT is emphasizing it more than I thought.

    1. ST is horrible at warning people ahead of time. They have a few tiny 8×11 Rider Alerts posted at inconvenient spots at each station where no one will notice. Large A-frame boards have been placed near the entrances but they don’t get riders’ attention and are so wordy that it’ll make a marketing designer go crazy. It’s only the day-of when ST will dispatch station agents and interact with riders.

      CT had the same problem (and still does in some ways) where their Rider Alerts were multi-paragraph-long novels filled with transit verbiage no one understood. They did a fantastic job at simplifying them and are much better.

  11. ““58 hours in Seattle, WA using only the Seattle Link Light Rail.” (video link above in Sam’s comment)

    Seattle is actually pretty good for a typical tourist. Link from the airport. Several walkable attractions downtown, including a pre-WWII market. The waterfront renovation will be finished soon. Monorail to Seattle Center. A hostel two blocks from Intl Dist, in a pan-Asian neighborhood. My friend from Australia who had worked for several years throughout Asia, was amazed at Uwajimaya. Link to the beautiful UW campus, first-in-the-country bike trail (or almost first), many Ave restaurants. Link to Capitol Hill for an urban neighborhood and nightlife, and to Rainier Valley for an integrated multi-ethnic neighborhood. Frequent bus to the Nordic Museum. Peripheral parks that aren’t as transit-accessible as they could be (or as Chicago’s outlying attractions are), but a few like Ravenna Park and Greenlake are on Link and/or frequent bus routes. (Now we just need frequent routes to Alki, Discovery Park, and Seward Park.)

    I’ve known many people that have visited Seattle without a car and had a good experience. A couple of them — people who drive everywhere — I encouraged them to take the bus or Link while they’re here, or they went with me on transit, and they were surprised at how easy and convenient it was. One came from the airport to my house on 56th (this was before Link). Another took Link from the airport to her son’s in Rainier Valley. Another was staying downtown and wanted to go to a BJJ school in Ballard; I looked it up and told him the D and 40 stop a block from there. He was reluctant and wanted to take Uber, but I convinced him to take the bus, and after that he took the bus every time he went there.

    Another person lived a couple blocks from me on Summit. I’d been going to the Ballard farmer’s market on Sundays. (This was when the Broadway one was seasonal and small.) We started both going there. He insisted on driving; he wouldn’t hear of the bus. I got frustrated as he circled for parking. I started paying for parking in a pay lot so we could avoid circling. I kept suggesting we take the bus to the market. One day he agreed to take the bus (8+18). He found it convenient, and after that we always too the bus to it. He still drove everywhere else, but he knew another way was possible, and someday he might take it more.

    As residents we know that many jobs, stores, parks, and events are hard or impossible to get to on transit. That many areas have only half-hourly or hourly buses. That some routes are 5-15 minutes late every day. That some buses get canceled at the last minute. But these are irrelevant to typical visitors, who spend their time between the airport and downtown, and maybe the U-District or Capitol Hill or Ballard. It’s like my roommate on 56th who was a prep cook at a pub across the street and went to other bars around. He said, “There’s nowhere that’s not between the U-District and downtown that I want to go to.”

  12. So the oit and out closure is done and we’re left with single tracking in the tunnel. Buuuut the single track being used is not even consistent. Bravo st planners!

    1. The single-tracking is switched after three days to work on the other track. I didn’t get into this because which track is used is the least of passengers’ concerns. ST is experimenting with the timing and coordination of trains to address previous complaints. That’s what it should do if it can’t move or avoid the transfer. Of course, the best thing it could do would be to pursue a long-term center platform, or the idea of adding a crossover at University Street. University Street and Pioneer Square are the least-used downtown stations, so University Street has to close during maintenance periods to use the crossover, that’s better than the current situation.

  13. Took the Link to Cap Hill from the airport last night. Well, actually took it to SODO and there was no bus shuttle so I took Lyft from SODO to Cap Hill. Admittedly it was late (after midnight) but it hadn’t even occurred to me that the bus shuttle might stop running before the trains did.

    1. A few weeks ago, I raised my concern that the last train to run north of Stadium leaves SeaTac Airport station at 11:45 pm. The absence of a shuttle bus is probably because of that rather than some problem arising in this current service disruption.

    2. There’s no excuse for this. ST advertised that as shuttle would replace Link, and said nothing about the shuttle ending before the last train. ST knows when the last northbound train is scheduled to reach SODO, and thus when the last shuttle run needs to be. How are people supposed to get from the southern Link segment to the northern Link segment without the shuttle?

      The 124 is a night owl, so you could take it from 6th & Holgate to downtown, and transfer to the 11 or 49, which are also night owls. But Link riders shouldn’t have to know this: that’s why the shuttle exists (along with providing capacity).

      ST, fix it next time. Or even better, fix it in the next few days.

    3. Even during normal operation, Link doesn’t continue further north past Stadium station after 12:34 a.m., and light rail riders are left to figure out for themselves how to continue on using other transit. So, it would make sense that trains stopping at SODO yesterday wouldn’t have a bus bridge after the 12:34 train. Still, there should have been an announcement on the train that the bus bridge shuttle has ended for the night.

  14. The decision to build a light rail system void of quality and consistency only incentivizes people to get back in their cars. Surely, sinking rails and broken down escalators could have been avoided.

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