Downtown tunnel work means no light rail service between Capitol Hill and SoDo over Veterans Day weekend

Capitol Hill to Northgate this weekend? No problem (Image: Sound Transit)

Work in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel will mean no light rail service over the Veterans Day weekend between Capitol Hill and SoDo.

Sound Transit says the service disruption will take place Friday, November 11th through Sunday, November 13th with trains expected to return to this portion of the line by Monday morning.

Officials say riders should allow up to an additional 30 minutes for their trips if they plan to make use of the shuttle buses that will be in place: Continue reading

Sound Transit’s new plan maintains 10-minute frequencies at Capitol Hill Station during summer maintenance projects

Link light rail to Lynnwood, Shoreline and Mountlake Terrace is also slated to open in 2024 (Image: Sound Transit)

Sound Transit has backed off plans to drop service frequencies across its light rail system as it undertakes a roster of summer maintenance projects to prepare for upcoming expansions.

The decision means light rail trains are planned to maintain 10-minute frequencies serving stations north of the stadiums including Capitol Hill.

But the new plan means 20-minute train frequencies “that were previously announced to be systemwide” during the upcoming planned work will “now only apply between Stadium and Angle Lake stations. Continue reading

The boops are staying, but, starting in May, Capitol Hill Station riders will finally have an ORCA card system that works

(Image: Sound Transit)

The card thousands of riders use to tap in and out of Capitol Hill Station every day is finally getting a much needed upgrade. Next month, Sound Transit will begin rolling out changes to the ORCA card that will add functionality that it’s difficult to believe the light rail system has lived without plus open the door to important upgrades including tap payment by smartphone in 2023.

For riders who already have ORCA cards, Sound Transit’s message is simple: Keep using it. But you’ll also have some work to do. Starting May 16th, riders need to set up an account on the new or with the new myORCA app to unlock the new features and move existing cards into the new system. Existing account funds and new cards will work in the meantime.

Rollout will bring a weekend of free rides. Fares will not be collected between 3:00 AM Saturday, May 14th and Monday, May 16th 2:29 AM on most area transit while ORCA transitions to a new system.

Sound Transit and provider INIT have plenty of work to deliver on the near-$100 million program to overhaul the system. There are 6,000 pieces of payment equipment to deploy and upgrade and some 5 million accounts to transition, officials told media at a press conference Monday. Continue reading

Sound Transit overhauls fare enforcement policies to address economic and racial equity — and thousands of riders it says do not pay

The Sound Transit board of directors including Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell have approved long awaited changes to the system’s fare enforcement policies.

Thursday, the board approved changes that will revise policies for its light rail trains and buses to increase warnings and reduce fines, and, importantly, move enforcement from security officers in efforts intended to address concerns over equity and racial disparity.

CHS reported in 2020 on the Sound Transit board’s fare enforcement reform efforts after complaints about police-like enforcement officers and findings that showed the fare policies disproportionately impacted people of color “and individuals with little or no income.”  Surveys showed Black passengers were cited and punished disproportionately by the process. Continue reading

New schedule for Judkins Park Station light rail opening? Winter 2024

The Seattle Times reports that the opening of Sound Transit’s expansion to the Eastside including the new Judkins Park Station in the Central District will likely be delayed — but only by a matter of months, not years.

The Times says the concrete strike, construction problems, and supply chain issues are likely to push the opening of the line back to winter 2024. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Station’s escalator problems apparently here to stay


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By Elizabeth Turnbull

Before a new and deeper subway tunnel opens in Seattle in the coming decade, maintenance issues at Capitol Hill Station and across the current light rail system are making riders wary of relying on a consistent escalator system for deeper transit rides in the future.

Sound Transit officials say they are monitoring the escalator problems at the station which marked its sixth year of service this month.

“We are aware of some of the issues that we’ve had with existing escalators in our stations,” said Rachelle Cunningham, a public information officer at Sound Transit. “And that’s something that we would definitely take into consideration as we’re planning for future stations.”

The escalator breakdowns make the stations less useful, frustrating riders as Sound Transit has been blaming issues like “farebox recovery” for its flagging numbers.

Earlier this month, two escalators were not working in the Capitol Hill station, one with a handrail issue that was fixed, and another which was not set to be fully repaired until April 1, according to John Gallagher, a public information officer at Sound Transit. Continue reading

After stranded light rail riders hiked out of tunnel, Sound Transit says, next time, wait for the ‘rescue train’

(Image: @Danielhep)

Sound Transit says it is reviewing safety and emergency procedures after a breakdown in the light rail tunnel between the University of Washington Station and the new U District Station left a train full of riders stranded with many opting to hike out of the subway on foot during the Friday night incident.

“A Link light rail train became disabled in the northbound tunnel between University of Washington Station and U District Station after the electronic cable linking the first car and the trailing three cars was severed. As a result, the train came to an immediate stop,” Sound Transit said in its statement on the breakdown that came around 8:25 PM as crowds were leaving the Apple Cup game at Husky Stadium.

Sound Transit says the severed cable prevented the train’s operator from communicating by intercom with passengers in the trailing three cars, and “an unsafe incident developed when passengers decided to use emergency exits to leave the train.” Continue reading

Celebrate three new light rail stops and 4.3 new miles of connection to Capitol Hill Station

(Image: Sound Transit)

Starting very early Saturday morning, Capitol Hill light rail riders will have another 4.3 miles of track to explore. October 2nd brings the opening of three new light rail stations stretching beyond the University of Washington on the new Northgate Link.

Sound Transit says the first trains will begin service on the $1.9 billion line early Saturday. Bring your mask.

The North Link openings come as Capitol Hill Station marked five years of service earlier this year, a milestone partly obscured by a plunge in ridership due to the ongoing pandemic. Like on Capitol Hill where construction of the station also brought carnage and rapid transformation for the immediate area’s businesses and neighbors, hopes of redevelopment and growth are also following the light rail line north. Capitol Hill Station’s development mix of affordable and market rate housing has been opening to new residents over the past year and its commercial tenants are still planning their openings after pandemic delays.

After nine years of construction on the new line, hopes of economic growth and an improved streetscape will be celebrated at the closest new stop to Capitol Hill. The U District Station celebration Saturday will include a “$3 food walk,” festival streets, and a beer garden. Continue reading

With prime directive to inform not enforce, Sound Transit testing light rail ‘fare ambassadors’

(Image: Sound Transit)

As Sound Transit prepares to add 4.3 miles of service to its light rail lines, you’ll also find new “fare ambassadors” on trains starting this week. It’s an effort to address concerns about equity and heavy handed fare enforcement.

The new pilot program started Monday with fare ambassadors checking with riders for proof of payment and providing help and information about the transit service.

“We want all passengers to feel comfortable asking Fare Ambassadors for assistance, whether they need help getting to their destination, or they’re having trouble purchasing fare,” Sound Transit chief passenger experience and innovation officer Russ Arnold said in an announcement on the start of the new program. “Fare Ambassadors are here to provide help.” Continue reading

Emerging from COVID crisis, some bus routes across Capitol Hill will add trips while others lose them

The Route 60 is the Capitol Hill route that will see the most trips added with October’s service change. (Image: Ryan Packer/CHS)

By Ryan Packer

October 2nd will likely be most memorable as the first day you’ll be able to take light rail from Capitol Hill Station to Northgate, Roosevelt, and the heart of the U District.

But bus riders across the city will likely see changes to their routes starting then as King County Metro works to restore bus service to levels that are closer to where they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. Metro is adding about 200,000 hours of bus service back county wide, bringing the system to approximately 90% of what it was in early 2020.

Even as Metro brings routes back and adds trips, some of Capitol Hill’s most frequent buses will lose trips. That’s because even after Seattle voters approved an increase in the city’s sales tax to fund transit, it wasn’t enough to match the amount being funded by the old $60 car tab combined with the slightly lower sales tax. The City Council has opted to use half of the now-$40 car tab fee to use for physical street improvements instead of funding bus service hours.

The routes seeing reductions around Capitol Hill will be the 10, 11, 12 and 48. First Hill’s routes 3 & 4 will also see trips reduced. Most of the trips going away will be on weekdays, with Saturday and Sunday frequencies staying much closer to normal. The only change to Capitol Hill’s workhorse 49 will be a change of routing in the U District to directly serve the new light rail station entrance on NE 43rd Street. The Route 48 will also change to run a bit further north, to N 50th Street. Continue reading