Sound Transit is inviting anyone who rode Link during the recent 1-Line disruptions to participate in a survey. Service was reduced between August 12th and 20th to fix sagging tracks at Royal Brougham Way. 1-Line service continues to be impacted due to platform reconstruction work at Othello and Rainier Beach stations.

Service disruptions are certainly a thorn in the side of the riding public, but I commend Sound Transit for taking the step to solicit feedback. Even if disruptions can’t be avoided, they can be mitigated by a sound communications strategy.

36 Replies to “Sound Transit soliciting feedback on 1-Line disruptions”

  1. It was horrible! Serious inconvenience to have to wait so long for a train. It doubled the load. Standing room only if you could fit on. I know repairs have to be made at times, but we were forced into this from of transportation. At least the buses can reroute if needed, the train can’t, and this creates a huge problem for all riders. I ride the train five days a week normally and I like the normally quick trip that I have. I have no desire to ride a bus at this time.

    1. I travel between SODO and Ballard. Because of the disruption, I took the bus precisely for this very reason: longer commute and crowding. Normal commute is Link to #40 via Chinatown or Link to #44 via U-Dist. Took any bus along Sodo busway to Chinatown and any bus to Ballard.

      Was there a bus alternative you could’ve taken?

    2. Yeah I gave up on public transit for all of august after the 12th. I ride from rainier beach to Northgate twice a week and this month has been awful. I dislike driving to work but when there are as many planned and unplanned issues as there have been this month it makes it a lot harder to choose the train. Hopefully this level of disruption from maintenance will go down as sound transit spends less time constructing and more operating?

  2. I see two major impacts to disruptions: travel times and crowding.

    I can understand getting feedback, but it should not be the only consideration. Delays and crowding are both measurable situations that don’t require feedback to understand .

    I think ST also do a quantitative analysis of the aggregate minutes lost through delay, or the percent of people who must stand for how many minutes or how many can’t board a crowded train during the disruption and also make that analysis public. That would help ST predict how to respond when they need to address planned service disruptions in the future. They have automated counters at every car door and video cans on every platform that can be used for data sources.

    Without a supporting analytical effort, the survey is about as useful as reading social media comments. Of course, agency image may be the only objective of this effort.

  3. I believe CEO Timm is responsible for ST bothering to collect feedback on the service disruptions. Opening a suggestions box might only be for PR, but Timm understands that the rider experience includes allowing for the riding public to vent frustrations in way that they can say “we listened and learned, and we’re doing things slightly differently this time because of it”.

    There is actually a likelihood of actionable feedback – mainly in how they communicated the delays, if people really cared about the lack of schedule, etc. I’ll bet a beer that during the next service disruption, they’ll have their PIMS system running, and they’ll say “look, we listened, and we’re putting information on PIMS now!”

    1. I ride the Link light rail just about every day as well and what disruption did with me is simple it forced me on to city buses rapid ride systems and other things it is a totally inconvenience and it’s a total waste of time besides that some people like that already had to use rideshare because of this and I do believe that basically what this is all about is the fact that these disruptions cause so much damage that’s why people had to miss work in some cases some people off their jobs as well this is unacceptable unexcusable and irresponsible I think it sound transit needs to do better. And what I find a little bit horrible is having to think that single tracking the first part you go to the southbound platform then the next part you got to go through the northbound platform and have the trains basically do the opposite. However, something does need to be done about this the next time something like this happens! Because it it is not fixed at some certain point? You’re going to see people start using rideshares and that’s not going to be fun. Because I can tell you right now it sound transit things taken help us use rideshare to have us waste money they’ve got one thing coming. Because this is right. I wish there could have been some sticks taken to basically let people know about these disruptions and how bad this is. However, these wait times between 15 and 20 minutes is unexcusable. What they should do is just basically make it anywhere between 5 to 8 minutes. And this single tracking idea I don’t approve it. Single tracking is not going to solve anything it’s going to make it worse than it already is. Because if you put somebody who wants to ride the train on the southbound track and they want to go northbound that’s going to cause a whole lot of confusion. That is why I don’t like it and it should be rearranged a little bit. But if some people do have any questions they need to talk to somebody and basically it needs to be done. So this is why I think that we have a major problem with this. Because the next time it sound transit disrupts the Link light rail system including the Link light rail line one? People going to be upset and go to start doing some action it’s called ride sharing. And that costs money. Now if people want to pull out their cell phones and use rideshare well at least disruption still keep going on? Been so be it because basically we’re going to end up happening is people are going to lose their jobs over this matter. That is why I am not very fond of single tracking myself. Because that causes Mass confusion and basically this will make it very much harder for people to get around. Thanks.

  4. I took the survey and there was no box for text feedback, so there was no way to really tell them anything. I didn’t put the survey in the open thread for that reasopn.

    1. The survey changes based on whether or not you rode Link during the disruption. If you say you did use Link, they have text boxes to respond to the following prompts:

      1) “Please add any additional feedback you would like to share to help us improve our use of temporary signs during service disruptions.”

      2) “Please share any additional feedback you have about how Sound Transit can improve your experience the next time there is a Link disruption.

    2. Oh great, I didn’t use Link because it was infrequent, but ST doesn’t want to hear about that. And respondents have to know which option gives a text box. Way to go, Sound Transit.

      I’m curious what ridership was during the disruptions.

  5. If ST really wants to take a scientific approach to impacts, it can go to the ORCA data to see how popular each trip pairing is.

    1. This only works if riders are actually tapping off. I’ve noticed most riders aren’t tapping off when finishing their Link trips. I think this is due to poor education & ORCA marketing by ST/ORCA, influx of new riders (new to Seattle or new to Link) and pass holders who think it’s not necessary to tap off. Take notice next time you ride…

      1. And forgetting. When you exit a station the readers aren’t always in front of you, so if you’re thinking of something else you might forget. This has happened to me at the Beacon Hill and Westlake elevators and at Kent Sounder Station. I’ll be on the next bus and remember I didn’t tap off, but by then it’s too late.

      2. My observation is many people forget to tap on and off currently, so ORCA data may be incomplete.

      3. “ This only works if riders are actually tapping off. I’ve noticed most riders aren’t tapping off when finishing their Link trips. I think this is due to poor education & ORCA marketing by ST/ORCA, ”

        I agrée that there is no reminders to tap off. I have explained to riders a few times that tapping off saves money but I’m not sure if it changed their behavior. I know ST likes getting more revenue per rider so it could be deliberate.

        Still, I am convinced that between boarding counters on every train door and tap ons along with the less reliable tap offs, ST could derive estimated ridership pretty closely by applying factors to the data. I’m just not sure if they do. I’ve never seen an ST report on trip pairs and I’ve never seen a report with boardings by hour either.

      4. What about those cameras ST used to measure ridership during the All Star game and TS concerts. ST had no problem estimating ridership then.

      5. This is the best argument I’ve heard for distance-based fares:

        ST needs the overcharge revenue from everyone who fails to tap off.

      6. I have noticed card readers on the King County Rapid Ride busses, it seems like it would make more sense for sound transit to follow suit.

  6. ST needs better options than a simple bus bridge that serves all stops. During complete closures of the downtown tunnel, there should be groups of shuttle buses based on destinations. For example: an express shuttle between Cap Hill and Stadium & Sodo every 10-15 minutes to carry event goers and south-end riders. Then a 2nd shuttle that serves all stops between Cap Hill and Stadium & Sodo. every 10 minutes.

  7. At a minimum, Sound Transit needs to set things up so that single tracking in one part of the line does not reduce frequency along the entire line. As Link expands further and further, the issue will only get bigger. It would be awful if Link ends up getting reduced to every 15 minutes in the middle of Seattle to accommodate some track work out in Everett.

    Also, I think Sound Transit could have done a better job having crews work around the clock to keep the duration of the service disruption to an absolute minimum. The highway equivalent – reducing I-5 down to one lane for a whole month while crews work only weekday business hours – would simply never happen.

    1. Good point about the highway work. This is tile replacement and I wondered if work was being done at night. ST should’ve atleast provided 10 min frequency between Northgate and Stadium. I recall they did that the last time… I wonder what changed…

  8. Note bus bridges must overcome the operator shortage.

    I wonder whether ST could provide more Link service outside the area of disruption through Link turnback trains. Where are there suitable crossovers? Could a turnback have been operated between Northgate and UW stadium stations? Could a turnback have been operated between Angle Lake and South Forest Street serving Beacon Hill station.

    1. They did that for a portion of the work last year, having trains turn back at Stadium. Not sure that didn’t happen this year. But it makes more sense to have 10 minute frequency at the most heavily used portion of the route rather than reducing the entire line.

  9. If ST persists in not occupying the center bus lane with “reversing” platforms at Westlake and Pioneer Square, at least use the space for cross-overs! The stations are long enough that every one could have a pair, one facing point and one trailing point set per station. Put a pair of scissors at each side of every station on the at-grade section along Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard.

    It’s not so easy to add them to elevated sections, which is why EVERY new station should have a pair upstream and downstream so that station issues force single-tracking only at the other platform of that station, and between-station issues only for the section between stations. Occasionally two stations might have to be same-platformed, but it would be quite rare.

    Pay a bit more to have “movable frogs” so that the default operation is to straight-rail through the turnouts without any gap at the frog.

    1. Oh, and if they DO put center platforms at Westlake and Pioneer Square, then at least put cross-overs in University-Seneca Street.

      I recognize that any train using the cross-over can’t use the station in which the cross-over occurs, at least, in the direction that is crossing over. But removing service to one-half of the USSS, which is reasonably close to both PSS and Westlake, would be relatively benign.

  10. Just be thankful I’d say it’s at least not as bad as the months long interruption here in Denver. As they’re doing a summer long construction project on the SE Denver Rail section between Broadway and Lincoln stations to do upkeep and rail replacement. Trains are operating at 30 minute intervals and can still take a long time as a lot of it is single tracked. Trains may end up waiting upwards of 5-10+ minutes for the incoming train to come in so they can pass.

    1. The problem with the comparison is that these station platform fixes Sound Transit is implementing are relatively easy compared to the ones in Denver. When Sound Transit also has to say fix retaining walls etc… are they going to shutdown the system for 3/4+ months?

      1. When Sound Transit also has to say fix retaining walls etc… are they going to shutdown the system for 3/4+ months?

        Probably, but then again, I would hope that ST’s contractors (who are charging an upcharge for working with ST) are able to build for a design life of more than a couple decades.

  11. Service just got worse on Light Rail as I just received an email from ST that trains will run every 30 minutes for the rest of service for today because of mechanical issues.

    1. It seems like these days there’s basically daily “mechanical” and “signal” problems that cause significant disruptions. Are there any reports that detail the nature and magnitude of the problems over time? At least from the volume of emails to my inbox, it seems like it has gotten much, much worse over the last year, but I would love to be proved wrong with actual data.

      For this particular problem, why is ST not putting into place a bus bridge? Even up until a few months ago, it seemed like they would do that very shortly after a disruption, even if it was only required for an hour or two.

  12. And another email from ST that the mechanical problem has been resolved and service is now back to every 15 minutes.

    So these days it seems that with light rail you don’t know what the service will be from day to day and seemingly from hour to hour.

  13. The thing that I find hard to believe, is that every time schedules are adjusted in any way, the system that notifies when the next train will arrive completely fails, when it’s needed most. They returned to “Trains are arriving every 15 minutes” which is essentially useless because it’s often not accurate. I waited well over 15 minutes during this recent slowdown.
    As a software engineer, it’s difficult to even imagine how anyone could come up with such a horribly designed system, and how Sound Transit could be convinced to pay for such a system. The excuses are nonsense. Every other big city transit system I have used (and I’ve used many), handles it accurately with more underground tunnels. I suspect the motives at ST are other than serving the public.

  14. The single track system thing doesn’t work it makes trains more crowded and it’s like being shoved into a cattle car. At the very least encourage people to use the bus. Or have metro run a special shuttle. During these closures I went out of my way not to take the train and encourage my friends and family to do the same.

  15. Given the multi-billion dollar capital investment in our light rail system, given the bus service restructures that depend on the light rail system, it is absolutely insane how cavalier ST is about shutting parts of the system down, or degrading service along the entire system for work on short segments.

    The NY subway routinely does complete station renovations that may shut a platform while maintaining train service during construction. The platform may not be in service, so the trains run through without stopping, but they don’t shut down the line.

    We already shut the system every night between about 1am to 5am, 1am to 6am Sat nights, midnight to 5am Sunday nights. So there are work windows every single night without train service.

    For anything that isn’t a safety emergency there ought to be a process that encourages that work to be done during the overnight periods, and for anything that requires disruption during operating hours, that ought to be as rare as possible and should be concentrated so that all such disruptions occur during one or two periods per year and are done as fast as possible.

    It almost feels like it’s a badge of honor for every project manager to get to schedule their own operational disruption without coordinating it with anyone. Julie Timm should be doing deep dive review of every potential disruption, question them, and force them to consolidate them.

    For any long-term degradation with service headways at more than 12 minutes, ST should publish a schedule so that riders can plan.

  16. How about feedback that cirrently
    there is a signal service disruption multiple times a week? Will these Disruptions delay completion of the tile replacement?

  17. The saddest thing is that Sound Transit “cornered the market” in many places by eliminating the competition via cajoling competing transit agencies to stop offering competing service. Best example: King County Metro’s #194 express from downtown Seattle to Sea-Tac Airport, which tested as 2 minutes faster than Link. Another example: buses going northbound from downtown to Snohomish County, particularly after events. The other night, crowds were gathering at International Station after a Seahawks’ preseason game, having to wait 30 minutes for a train…ST planners not having the sense to add ST express bus service at the surface, e.g., 4th & Jackson. At least the station was well lit, but still, that late at night, who wants to be hanging out at a subterranean train station? This does not happen in other populated areas in the country, i.e., places where they didn’t go “on the cheap” as what happened here with our light rail that doesn’t go as fast as the Tampa Bay airport’s trains do, from recent personal experience.

    1. Community Transit still operates several routes to downtown Seattle: 410, 413, 415, 435, etc. If they found it worthwhile or if their constituents demanded to operate more, they’d do so.

      Keep in mind doing so means a reduction in service elsewhere.

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