The arrival of light rail service on Capitol Hill has, indeed, been like magic that puts Broadway within minutes of every stop on the line. But this week has been a rough one for Sound Transit service with a major disruption Wednesday and a series of smaller snafus that followed Thursday.
Sound Transit says don’t give up on the magic of Capitol Hill Station just yet — the week’s problems have been a coincidence of bad luck and a few holes in the system that are being actively — if not a little slowly — patched. With more hot days in Seattle to come, here is what Sound Transit says happened.
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Wednesday’s huge delays were especially unlucky. On the hottest June 12th in Seattle history, some pieces of infrastructure gave in:
… a piece of equipment that keeps the tension in our overhead wires between the Mt. Baker and Columbia City Stations expanded due to the heat. That led to the wire sagging, which in turn led to two of our trains becoming disabled. For several hours, we had to single-track trains through the area, slowing service while we identified and fixed the issue.
By afternoon, a bad day for transit got worse due to what ST says was an unrelated “outage” in the train operating system:
About an hour later, the entire Link system came to a halt when our train operating system suffered an unexpected outage. This issue was unrelated to the previous one, but it compounded the difficult commute. For about 35 minutes, no trains were able to run. Making matters even worse, the outage affected our platform signage and public address system, which meant that we couldn’t effectively inform passengers on the platforms of what was happening. We did send rider alerts and tweet updates (sign up at this link.)
Thursday, many riders worried that the system was again headed for problems as delays rippled through the system after what a spokesperson says was a train breakdown in Pioneer Square.
“We identified the issue that caused that failure and took the necessary steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” the spokesperson says of Wednesday’s major outage.
As for the platform signage and public address system failure, many riders mistook those problems as business as usual for the system’s troubled arrival screens. In spring of 2018, we reported on Sound Transit’s start of a multi-year project to make the display signs at Capitol Hill Station and across the rest of the system work.
The full-system replacement won’t be ready until 2023, the Sound Transit representative said but they “hope to have some improvements to the current system in the near future.”
Meanwhile, the other smaller but louder rider complaint from the week when the on-board announcement system was utilized? Sound Transit says its sometimes crazy loud announcement volumes on the trains is a “known issue.”
Light rail from Capitol Hill with all these problems and nuisances? That remains magic.