Station Codes will Replace Link Pictograms

Sound Transit slide comparing navigation by pictogram and by station codes.

Title is Station codes could assist with wayfinding.

Take the 1 line to Beacon Hill. Line diagram with stations represented by pictograms. People standing at International District Station, represented by a dragon, asking questions: Which direction? How many stops?

Take the 1 line to station 47. People standing at International District Station (number 40) count 3 stops in the down direction.

In the next Link expansion, riders will have another shorthand way of identifying stations and navigating the system. The rarely used station pictograms will be retired in favor of a system of station codes based on international best practice. Similar to bus stops, airport gates, and freeway exits, stations will have a 3-digit code consisting of the line number and a sequential station number. Sound Transit staff presented the new approach to the ST Board’s Rider Experience & Operations Committee last Thursday.

For background, please read my 2020 post where I wrote about the pictograms’ shortcomings and proposed station numbering/coding as an alternative. Although not reported at the time, ST staff took note and was in the exploratory stages of considering such a system. After extensive outreach and user testing of concepts earlier this year, staff arrived at a preferred option that will be incorporated into wayfinding for the East Link and Lynnwood Link expansions.

The Stop Codes numbering system

Here is my breakdown of the system based on materials ST has publicly released. Each stop on a line will have a three-digit code. That means stations served by more than one line will have multiple codes corresponding to each line. The first digit represents the line name. The next two digits represent the position of the station along the spine with higher numbers in the north and lower numbers in the south. You count up when traveling toward Everett and count down when traveling toward Tacoma. The numbering continues along branches from the spine.

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An encore for Symphony station at University Street

Sign marking entrance to University Street Station. Electronic sign displaying University Street name.

Sound Transit is once again considering Symphony as the new name for University Street Station in downtown Seattle. This is intended to reduce confusion with two other Link stations in the University District and University of Washington campus. This time, renaming will be done in conjunction with East Link extension work to minimize costs, about $800,000.

Last year, ST’s Board decided to rename University Street station to Union Street/Symphony only to pause the renaming two weeks later. The new name was to be implemented for Northgate Link’s opening. Board members had second thoughts and the public questioned the compromise name, an attempt to save the expense of changing the USS internal station code while satisfying the public’s preference.

In the meantime, Sound Transit is mitigating the customer experience issues through improved maps and announcements. On the new Siemens trains, an optional “stay on the train for University of Washington campus” announcement can be played. New Link 1 Line maps in stations and onboard trains more clearly indicate downtown Seattle stations and UW campus stations.

Update: It is now official. The ST Board on October 28, 2021 approved Motion M2021-61, renaming University Street Station to Symphony Station effective with East Link’s opening.

The ribbon is cut for Northgate Link

Local leaders, including King County Executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, ST Board Chair Kent Keel, and Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, participated in a ribbon cutting for Northgate Link
Sound Transit Board Chair Kent Keel cuts the ribbon for Northgate Link

On the eve of Northgate Link’s grand opening, a ceremony and preview ride kicks off a month-long celebration of the Puget Sound region’s latest expansion of rapid transit, this time 4.3 miles north to 3 new stations in the U District, Roosevelt, and Northgate. For a summary of the speeches, read STB’s live coverage of the ceremony on Twitter. On opening day Saturday, various community organizations have prepared events and activities at each station beginning at 10 am.

At Northgate Station, there will be a grand opening ceremony for the John Lewis Memorial Bridge, a pedestrian and bicycle bridge spanning I-5 to North Seattle College from 10 am to noon. For Roosevelt Station, the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association has organized an opening celebration with live music & dancing and food trucks from 10 am to 4 pm at 12th Ave NE & NE 66th St between the station entrances. The U District Station opening festival runs from 10 am to 8 pm and features a $3 food walk, live entertainment, activities for kids, and a beer garden. Sound Transit has exhibits explaining design features and public art along with photo/selfie spots at all three stations that will be up throughout October.

Decades in the making, the Northgate extension to the Link 1 Line, formerly Central Link, will transform travel within North Seattle and beyond by providing a fast, frequent, and reliable transit artery that combined with frequent buses forms a network that expands access to work, education, and leisure opportunities. Metro and Sound Transit bus service in north Seattle as well as ST and Community Transit service from Snohomish County has been restructured to take advantage of Link’s strengths.

The first train departs Northgate for Angle Lake at 4:51 am. At 5:01 am, the first train to Northgate arrives from SODO. Trains will run every 10 minutes for most of the day, every 8 during peak, and every 12-15 in the early and late hours.

For those who have not yet a chance to visit the stations, here are our first impressions from the preview ride. UPDATE: Photos from the event and more are on Flickr. Share yours in the comments below.

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East Link restructure: Bothell, Duvall, Kirkland, Redmond, Woodinville

Map showing proposed changes to specific routes in the Kenmore, Bothell, Woodinville, Duvall, Kirkland, Redmond areas to connect with Link light rail
Map of proposed bus route changes in the north Eastside area

Although the north Eastside’s primary regional transit corridors are I-405 and SR 522, which have their own Stride bus rapid transit projects in the works, Metro identified several opportunities to optimize service in this area when the Link 2 Line to Redmond Technology (Overlake) opens in 2023 and extends to downtown Redmond in 2024.

Woodinville, Duvall, and Redmond Ridge will be one bus away all-day from Link. Peak-only service to Seattle will make stops in South Lake Union and no longer travel on local streets in Kingsgate. Peak-only service to Bellevue and Overlake is replaced by all-day service to Link.

That’s the gist of Metro’s proposal in this part of the Eastside. You can reference a map of current Eastside service with the proposal map above. Here are the details:

Continue reading “East Link restructure: Bothell, Duvall, Kirkland, Redmond, Woodinville”

Next Generation ORCA Begins Next Year

Customer-facing launch phases for next generation ORCA
Current ORCA, today
New website and mobile app, early 2022, new app and website
More payment options, Late 2022, new card, tap to pay with phone, new vending machines, readers, and retailers
Retire current card, 2023 or later
Sound Transit Rider Experience & Operations Committee, 5/9/21

Sound Transit announced that the long awaited upgrade to ORCA, the Puget Sound’s regional fare collection system, will launch in phases beginning in early 2022.

The next generation system will introduce many new conveniences. Card reloads will be instantaneous. There will be more than double the retail locations to buy and reload cards, a much improved website with better account management, and a new mobile app that will allow tap-to-pay using a phone.

The first phase is the launch of a new website,, and a new myORCA mobile app for managing accounts in early 2022. Existing cards and equipment will continue to function as normal.

Accounts on the old site will not transfer over to the new site so registered cardholders will have to create a new account. The launch of the new website marks the switchover to the next generation backend system, which means new or replacement adult cards will drop in price from $5 to $3.

By late 2022, the next generation ORCA card will be available through the usual channel, including an expanded retail network, and mobile app users can skip the physical card and tap their smartphone to pay.

Next generation ORCA card being tapped on a reader with new logo
Dennis Budell/Sound Transit

Next generation ORCA also introduces a fresh new look for the brand, designed in house at Sound Transit by Dennis Budell. The colors selected “represent the natural colors of an orca as well as the vibe of Puget Sound”. The new card design is orca black with splashes of seafoam green, misty blue, yellow, and orange, replacing the blue with rainbow ribbons of the old card. The ORCA logo itself is streamlined with rounder text and a more stylized fin that looks like a curved arrow tracing the path of a leaping orca.

Installation of new card readers is underway, with mounts for the new readers appearing on buses, some even at the back door of RapidRide coaches. New ticket machines are also being delivered. Old cards and equipment will be retired after 2023 as they reach the end of their life.

Weekend open thread: Welcome Northgate, Roosevelt and U District

Sound Transit launched a colorful and playful new website introducing the Northgate Link extension in advance of its October 2 opening. Featured are “local gems” or unique activities that each of the three new stations offer.

No details of the festivities on Opening Day are available, yet, but there’s no doubt that transit fans from all around the region and maybe even the country will join in.

Link’s Series 2 Train Doors Light Up

Open door on new Series 2 Link train. Light strips beside the door windows are lit up green. The closed door on the opposite side is lit up blue

One of the distinctive features on the new Link “Series 2” trains are the light strips on the doors. Not only do they add a colorful flair to your ride, they serve the purpose of indicating the state of the doors. With one tweak they could be more informative for a speedy exit.

In their normal state, the Series 2’s door lights glow blue. They flash green when they open and stay a solid green while they are fully open. As the doors close, they flash red. The lights return to blue after the doors close.

My first impression of the door lights was they reminded me of a similar feature on Montreal’s Azur trains which got me excited. But something was missing. The Series 2’s lights do not tell you which doors will open at the next stop.

Lights beside the doors on the left are lit in green to indicate they will open at the next station. The doors on the right side of the train are lit in white.
Montreal Metro’s Azur trains highlight the doors that will open at the next stop.

So let’s use these lights to their full potential. When a train approaches a station, the doors opening at the next stop should change from blue to green. Then a voice announces “Now Entering [Some] Station. Exit to my [left/right]” and the new information screens display an Exit symbol with an arrow pointing toward the exit (more on the screens in a future post). All these done in sync reinforces the message.

This simple visual cue helps riders get ready to exit the train without using a single word, just in a glance.