NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

FYI: Sound Transit’s Connect 2020 project will interrupt normal Link light rail service

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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