Link light rail train exiting tunnel
A Link light rail train exits a tunnel, entering the Capitol Hill Station (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Hap­py New Year, Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate readers!

Since it is now 2020, we can offi­cial­ly say that Sound Tran­sit’s North­gate Link exten­tion will be open­ing next year, which is very excit­ing news.

To pre­pare for North­gate Link and East Link, the first Link exten­sion open­ings since 2016, there will be reduced Link ser­vice from the week­end of Jan­u­ary 4th-5th until the week­end of March 14th-15th. There are a few impor­tant things to know about this project, dubbed Con­nect 2020 by the agency.

This con­struc­tion ini­tia­tive will con­nect the new East Link tracks intend­ed to car­ry trains to and from Jud­kins Park sta­tion and the East­side with the exist­ing main­line tracks that run from Angle Lake in SeaT­ac to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Washington.

Even though East Link won’t be open for ser­vice until 2023, the tracks are large­ly com­plete between the East­side and down­town Seat­tle and the project is ready for this next step. Sound Tran­sit wish­es to get the dis­rup­tion the project will cause over with before North­gate Link opens in 2021. Since rid­er­ship tends to be low­est in the win­ter, now is the right time to pro­ceed with Con­nect 2020.

To cre­ate the new con­nec­tion to the main­line, Sound Tran­sit must lim­it ser­vice to a sin­gle track dur­ing each phase of con­struc­tion through down­town Seattle.

Both north­bound and south­bound trains will be shar­ing the same rails until Con­nect 2020 is com­plet­ed, so ser­vice capac­i­ty will be reduced.

Sound Tran­sit made some handy videos visu­al­iz­ing the con­struc­tion phas­es. I high­ly rec­om­mend you check them out if you want to learn more.

The end result will be Cen­tral and East Link trains run­ning simul­ta­ne­ous­ly through the Down­town Seat­tle Tran­sit Tun­nel, con­nect­ing down­town with North­gate, SeaT­ac Inter­na­tion­al Air­port, and the East­side by 2023.

Dur­ing Con­nect 2020, here is what you can expect:

  • Trains will run every 12 min­utes in each direc­tion, even dur­ing peak hours. This reduced ser­vice will impact the entire corridor.
  • To mit­i­gate over­crowd­ing, four-car trains will be oper­at­ed as the stan­dard con­fig­u­ra­tion, instead of the usu­al three-car trains.
  • Ser­vices will run between the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton and Pio­neer Square, as well as Angle Lake and Pio­neer Square. All pas­sen­gers trav­el­ling through Pio­neer Square sta­tion will have to make a trans­fer through the tem­po­rary island plat­forms in the mid­dle of the station.
  • Link will shut down com­plete­ly between Capi­tol Hill and SoDo sta­tions the week­ends of Jan­u­ary 4th-5th, Feb­ru­ary 8th-9th, and March 14th-15th. Free shut­tle bus replace­ment ser­vices will run dur­ing that time.

More infor­ma­tion about Con­nect 2020 can be found at this web­site, includ­ing rec­om­men­da­tions for trans­porta­tion alter­na­tives from the agencies.

Yes­ter­day, at a press con­fer­ence in Pio­neer Square Sta­tion, Sound Tran­sit, Seat­tle Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion (SDOT), and King Coun­ty Metro rep­re­sen­ta­tives met with the media to dis­cuss the inter-agency effort to help peo­ple get around Down­town Seat­tle and beyond dur­ing this ten week period.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Sound Tran­sit, SDOT, and King Coun­ty Metro hold­ing a press con­fer­ence on the Yesler Way mez­za­nine at Pio­neer Square sta­tion, Jan­u­ary 2020. (Pho­to: Bob­by Aiyer/Northwest Pro­gres­sive Institute)

To help rid­ers, Sound Tran­sit will be deploy­ing ambas­sadors at sta­tions through­out the net­work to help rid­ers find their way.

These are actu­al­ly Sound Tran­sit employ­ee vol­un­teers who are deployed dur­ing major ser­vice dis­rup­tions. Here’s an inter­est­ing fea­ture arti­cle from the agency about the ambas­sador program.

To help through rid­ers con­nect safe­ly through Pio­neer Square sta­tion, trains will be held at a stop for much longer than usu­al. Dwell times will be around two min­utes instead of the usu­al 20–30 sec­onds at through stations.

A view of Pioneer Square Link station with a southbound train stopped. The center platform is visible to the right of the train: that is where through passengers will be expected to wait for up to 12 minutes for a connecting train during Connect 2020
A view of Pio­neer Square Link sta­tion with a south­bound train stopped. The cen­ter plat­form is vis­i­ble to the right of the train: that is where through pas­sen­gers will be expect­ed to wait for up to 12 min­utes for a con­nect­ing train dur­ing Con­nect 2020. (Pho­to: Bob­by Aiyer/Northwest Pro­gres­sive Institute)

The cen­tral plat­form appears rather nar­row con­sid­er­ing the through traf­fic that will accu­mu­late on the plat­form. There are also lim­it­ed guard rails or seat­ing spaces since this is a tem­po­rary plat­form, but it is inter­est­ing that it is impos­si­ble for rid­ers on the mid­dle plat­form to reach the out­side plat­forms and the sta­tion exits when there are no trains at the sta­tion. I can imag­ine these plat­forms becom­ing quite crowd­ed dur­ing peak trav­el times.

There is also sig­nage in sta­tions warn­ing rid­ers about Con­nect 2020.

I’d imag­ine that they will be sup­plant­ed with stand­alone signs point­ing rid­ers in the direc­tion of their plat­forms once works begin.

A Con­nect 2020 Rid­er Alert at Pio­neer Square Sta­tion (Pho­to: Bob­by Aiyer/Northwest Pro­gres­sive Institute)

SDOT is prepar­ing for more peo­ple to walk, ride bus­es along sur­face streets, and use ride-share apps dur­ing the con­struc­tion. SDOT also announced that Jump bike share would be offer­ing a 20% reduc­tion on their prices through mid-March to help peo­ple com­mute through down­town more easily.

Metro has com­mit­ted to increas­ing fre­quen­cies on high-demand bus routes through down­town and else­where, includ­ing routes 7, 36, 48, 49, and 70. Metro will also be run­ning the Link replace­ment bus ser­vices from SoDo sta­tion to Capi­tol Hill in part­ner­ship with Sound Tran­sit, which is much appreciated.

A few ways you can improve your journeys:

  • Sign up for Sound Tran­sit rid­er alerts to be noti­fied of ser­vice changes
  • Don’t dri­ve if you don’t have to
  • Try out new trans­porta­tion options dur­ing the Con­nect 2020 project and give your­self extra time to com­plete your trips
  • Use the King Coun­ty Metro Trip Plan­ner (which recent­ly got a great facelift!) to help you get where you need to go

Have a great first week­end of 2020!

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