RE: Will Seattle light rail extended to Snohomish County create intolerable crowding on peak period trains in King County? - Newgeography


Wed, 23 Jan 2019 23:49:08 +0000


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Dear Mr. Niles:

Agency staff have collaborated in response to your email regarding Link light rail capacity, and the following is the response. On behalf of the Sound Transit Board of Directors, I would like to thank you for your detailed comments and taking the time to engage. Your emails, in addition to your written testimony provided during public comment, have been provided to the Board.

The action you propose of delaying construction of light rail expansions due to high demand is not one Sound Transit plans to pursue. It would leave transit riders with no alternative to the buses that are already straining to meet rider demand on the busiest corridors. Each light rail train can carry the capacity of up to 10 buses. As train frequencies improve to up to every three minutes they will provide capacity for up to 16,000 riders per hour in each direction. In contrast, a freeway lane can carry a maximum of 2,000 cars per hour.

In the 1990s when the region took action to move forward with building a high-capacity regional transit system, the light rail system at the core was designed to provide substantially greater capacity than many others around the country. Each station was designed to include platforms stretching 400 feet, one third longer than a football field, and long enough to accommodate four-car light rail trains. Our system was also designed for faster speeds and higher reliability that come from a predominantly grade-separated system.

These features stand in contrast to systems like the Portland areaís, which is limited to two-car trains by station lengths and extensive at-grade sections where trains cannot extend longer than one city block.

In the future Sound Transitís light rail trains will arrive up to every three minutes. Each four-car train will offer capacity to serve approximately 800 riders, or approximately 200 riders per car, in crowded conditions. The extremely high demand the region is seeing from people who want to ride transit ó a very good thing ó means that today we are already hitting those capacities periodically onboard our current two- and three-car trains operating every six minutes during peak hours. Itís not frequent, but it will happen more often in the years ahead during peak hours. As this occurs, peopleís experiences will continue to be consistent with the workhorse role that transit plays in many other major metropolitan areasí transportation systems.

Sound Transitís planning for purchasing more train vehicles and building more maintenance base capacity to store them. In this work we are using a planning assumption of a more comfortable load of around 150 riders per car instead of 200 riders. Higher than expected light rail demand means this planning target will be exceeded more often than we predicted several years ago, but there will still be sufficient capacity to provide similar transit-riding experiences to other cities.

Sound Transit is continuing to move forward with the regionís 116-mile light rail system based on the Boardís direction that this relief for transit riders and our overarching transportation system cannot happen soon enough.