Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Signal failures temporarily keep Link trains out of Downtown Transit Tunnel

Only a few days after inaugurating service on its new Central Link line, Sound Transit is still working diligently to tackle technical glitches that threaten to disrupt service. Yesterday the agency alerted riders and the media that signaling problems had forced trains to be taken out of service in the Downtown Transit Tunnel for the time being. The outage went on for most of the day, until finally, late last night, Sound Transit announced that the problems had been solved:
Sound Transit has now run five light rail trains through the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel with proper functioning of the signal system. Trains are carrying passengers in the tunnel again. So far the system is working fine.
The service disruption was only limited to the tunnel; Sound Transit trains continued to operate between Tukwila International Boulevard Station and Stadium Station in South Downtown during the outage.

Some critics of light rail have gleefully embraced this news as evidence that Central Link is somehow flawed or was built improperly. That's not the case. There's nothing wrong with the trains. The issue is the signaling system:
The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel is the only tunnel in the world with transit stations served by both trains and buses. The tunnel’s unique joint operations framework depends on a control and signal system that is integrated with fire safety equipment and can be operated remotely. Safety is Sound Transit and King County Metro Transit’s top priority, and transit service is subject to disruption if the system is not functioning properly.
Sound Transit did the proper thing by taking trains out of service.

If they hadn't and there had been a collision or mishap as a result, critics would be howling about that, trumpeting it as loudly as possible.

Whenever a brand new piece of infrastructure comes online, there are inevitably bugs and glitches somewhere - even if they are minor - that have to be worked out. Light rail is still new to us. Given time, the system's reliability will become obvious, and communities that don't have it will clamor for it.

ALSO: Ben Schiendelman has a great post at Seattle Transit Blog about little things he'd like to see from Link. Can't argue with his list.


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