Capitol Hill Station has served thousands and thousands of riders extremely well — but Monday night’s pepper spray closure and disruption of service at the peak of the evening commute was an example that there are still some improvements the station and the Sound Transit light rail system can make to be even better.
While we wait for Thursday’s release of the “final” plan for the proposed ST3 next phase of expansion and read about some of the big solutions the plan could bring to the region, here are some of the smaller issues we’ve heard about around Capitol Hill Station.
Platform communications: Somebody discharged pepper spray inside the station Monday and the result was a minor form of chaos. The station was cleared of people so the spray could be dissipated and trains were routed to skip Broadway and head straight to UW or downtown. But riders inside the station report that audio messages about the situation were not informative and hard to hear. The emergency announcement was also reportedly only broadcast in English and riders said there were nothing that would have helped inform passengers who were deaf or hard of hearing about what was happening.
The investigation into how the pepper spray was released has closed and appears to have been related to a dispute between a woman and a man inside the station. Surveillance video showed an incident in the south stairwell near Cal Anderson that apparently included a cloud of pepper spray. Sound Transit is also aware of the communication issues and a spokesperson said they are talking about how to improve:
As for the customer communications, we could have done a better job – especially with announcements on the platforms. Our folks tell me that PA announcements were made, but they could have been better. This isn’t a regular occurrence (thank goodness), so the focus at the time was on the operations side and venting the station. We’ve been debriefing about it and looking at where the communications needs improvement.
- The arrival screen bug: Weeks of an intermittent bug that causes incorrect train arrival times to display has made the information screens that are available on the platform mostly untrusted by regular riders. A Sound Transit spokesperson told CHS a fix was in the works but that bug continued to appear.
— David Seater (@dseater) May 23, 2016
- Garbage: Emptying garbage cans is a drag. And they’re a security risk. Capitol Hill Station is nearly trash receptacle free. We’ve seen plenty of riders make bad decisions on what to do with their garbage.
- Seats: We’re assuming Sound Transit’s designers were focused on keeping you moving and not presenting a lot of options for people to hang out to enjoy the tunnel wind-blown A/C. Still, more places to sit or at least lean on the platform would probably have been welcomed.
- Space on the trains: Riders now have a 1 in 3 chance of three-car train. Stretch out.
- Security: The Transit Security folks can be a little overbearing. And occasionally, they have stepped over the line. This incident frequent CHS contributor Alex Garland captured on video didn’t sit well with Sound Transit:Here’s what a Sound Transit official told us about the incident — and your photo rights inside the station:
I’ve talked to our security folks and they point out that while this officer could have done a better job explaining the general rules around photography at stations – they are trained to have friendly conversations with people shooting lots of pictures to emphasize the need to stay away from the platform edge, not block general traffic through the station and that anyone wanting to shoot for commercial purposes needs to get prior approval. They shouldn’t be intervening with anyone shooting for their personal use but they may remind folks about how to stay safe. Anyone can shoot anything that’s in a public area as long as you’re not impeding customer movements or using the photos for commercial purposes.
There are a few nits — some more nitty than others. Let us know about your ideas for making the station better in comments.