From the airport to Seattle: It doesn't look like you can get there from here

The light rail system lacks one thing: an information system that works for someone who doesn't already know how to get around here.

When it comes to wayfinding design and the million details that help people make their way to, through and around the city and region, we're average at best. Mostly, we rest on "workmanlike" execution instead of achieving clear functional excellence when it comes to route-finding, visitor information and the like.

Broad brush, for sure, but here's a case in point: getting from the airport to downtown Seattle on Sound Transit's multi-billion dollar train line. Put oneself in the spot of a fresh arrival to Seattle and it appears that neither Sound Transit nor the Port of Seattle have given systemic thought to how to make the experience effortless, given the disconnected, uncoordinated and poorly designed user information experience (see slideshow). 

Returning home from a holiday trip by airline, we opted for taking the Sound Transit train from Sea-Tac to our stop in Mount Baker. It wasn't the first time so we knew the drill, but this time I put myself in the mind of someone who hadn't done it before — a tourist, visitor or local — who wanted to get from the airport to downtown quickly, cheaply and easily after staggering off a long flight.

It was ridiculously unclear.

First contact point: the signage leaving the airport terminal. You can find your baggage or a taxi or even a limo on these signs if you'd like, but there is zero indication that a "Train to Seattle" even exists. If you're an insider (perhaps you sit on Sound Transit's board of directors or already have an Orca card swimming in your pocket), then you'll know the insider code: "Link Light Rail" is our insidery way of saying "Train to Seattle." By the way, note the difference between a "Downtown Airporter" and  "Scheduled Airporters" — if you're into airporting — because the sign insists they are in different places. Is that connected to the person who will check in your luggage for you? 

Next up, leaving the skybridge to the parking garage, a friendly stick-on sign from Sound Transit. A clue! Link Light Rail goes to Seattle, indeed. How often? How much? How to decide whether to take it or something else before you leave the building? No clue. This sign does look like the Night Train — there's two different "last" times listed, both headed north, and damn, they are hours from now. When does it run during the day? How often? Did we miss that sign someplace?

Take a stab and walk down that long outdoor pathway anyway, through the parking garage. Look, a signpost up ahead ... a high-tech-looking readerboard, all amber and mission-control-y. Will it reveal more? Well, there's the time and a message... "Welcome to Sea-Tac Airport." OK. But I'm walking out of the airport, not into it, and I'm still kind of interested to know if there is a next train. And when it might be leaving. And whether I am even going toward a place that I want to be. But, that was a cool sign-thingy and I'm glad it wanted to say hello.

Persist in your path, new visitor, and you will be rewarded by a station, and some ticket machines, and some escalators to a platform — and trains! Victory is within grasp. There are two trains waiting, two tracks, and not much clue which one is leaving next. Opting for the one with more people in it seems the best bet, so pile on and peek at the map inside.

Where is Seattle? Does this thing even go downtown? The word Seattle doesn't even appear on the signs on board the trains! There appear to be canoes in a place called Tukwila and both Rainier Beach and Columbia City look to be bird refuges of some sort, according to the cutesy-to-the-point-of-random icons. Wait it out to the end of the line and perhaps you'll be closer to DOWNTOWN SEATTLE? There is a University Street — is that near the UW? Hmmm, a place called Westlake — is that by Bellevue or Lake Union? 


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 7:36 a.m. Inappropriate

This article should be required reading for all current office holders with any responsibility for direct services to the public - and anyone considering running - with a written test.

Bureaucracies excel at growing distant from those they are charged with serving; it is up to their overseers to get them back on track.

The failures of communication described here aren't just a burden on visitors; as a native I have frequently found myself baffled by Sound Transit's signage, not to mention the fact that we have five overlapping bus systems!

Thanks for the great observations and excellent recommendations.

TylerP

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 7:51 a.m. Inappropriate

I think at least part of the problem is that signage decisions are made by people who don't use the system. If they were daily users, I am sure things would be different and better. Thanks for doing this.

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 8:50 a.m. Inappropriate

I think that may be backwards. People who live here and use the system know where they are going. It would probably be best that all new signs for every transport mode be made by strangers who don't, initially at least, know the right questions. The most important part of mapquest instructions is the last one - "if you pass such-and-such, you've gone too far." Where just the compass direction is on the sign, add some destination in that direction, and vice versa. Most importantly, put the instructions up twice, one early and one that says "NOW!" or "HERE!"

Carter

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 7:59 a.m. Inappropriate

Excellent article. Completely true.

Why also don't standard Link station signs integrate Metro routes more?

And how about arriving at Westlake on the train. Seems like every time I ride it, confused tourists wonder how to get out and where they are. A little patience and good eyesight would help many of them, but we really need bigger/better signs saying "East exit, 5th & Pine," possibly adding what hotels are near what exits.

mhays

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 9:32 a.m. Inappropriate

High time someone with Matt Fikse's keen eye and sharp pen (or keyboard) wrote this! For many of us, Light Rail to the airport is such a lifeline that we're happy just to be on the train that we don't see what's missing.

Airports in many major cities have "Visitor Information" desks with free maps and actually sell tickets to "downtown" and "suburban" destinations. SeaTac should have something similar. (Are you listening, Mr. Creighton?)

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 9:46 a.m. Inappropriate

AMEN! Signage at the airport to the light rail is terrible. How about painting a "yellow brick road" for us to follow to the Link? I hope someone from Metro is reading this. We need help!!

SusanLane

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 10:16 a.m. Inappropriate

While we're on the subject, the last time I was at Sea-Tac there was absolutely no indication of how to get to the new rental car facility -- or even that there was a new rental car facility. I'm used to just walking across the skybridge and going down to 2. But the signs for the rental car floors have been removed and nothing is there to replace them. I had to ask someone. Do they think that every occasional traveler to Sea-Tac keeps up with its remodeling?

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 10:21 a.m. Inappropriate

Wow! This piece is so right. Once when I was returning to Seattle and taking the long walk to light rail, I met an older woman all confused about getting to the downtown train station. (She was heading east to visit family.)

Luckily, I was also getting off at the International District (to catch a bus), so I became her personal assistant for the duration of the ride. Since this level of support isn't always going to happen, all transit here needs to get together and find a way to assist those coming to Seattle as well as those in transit.

Another point. Not everyone who comes here is ready to climb Mt. Si. This woman was older, chubby, and would have surely benefitted from a ride to the Light Rail station. Why can't the Port let a contract for an open vehicle which would charge a couple of bucks for that ride?

I don't know the salaries of people responsible for the above miscues, but there are many people of modest means who do occasionally travel and they deserve assistance as well.

m-t-e

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 10:35 a.m. Inappropriate

I wonder if any of these agencies' "information design shops" include what in the olden days would have been called a copyediting step. Perhaps we could think of it, today, as a sanity check. There are far too many signs around here that simply don't make sense. Such a sanity check, however, is probably thought of as too expensive and a waste of precious time.

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 7:01 p.m. Inappropriate

More likely it just wasn't thought of.

Lack of thinking hurts. And costs and costs.

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 12:30 p.m. Inappropriate

"When it comes to wayfinding design and details that help people make their way to, through and around the city and region, we're average at best."

Au contrare. The Seattle Metro & Sound Transit transit system design is the nation's worst! Of the many big city regional maps I've used, Seattle is the most idiotic compilation of confusing route arrangements by far. Effective transit simplifies route arrangements, but throughout the Seattle region, so many bus routes share corridors, reading the Metro map is like reading an electronic circuit board. My favorite map in the booklet is the Link LRT Station to Airport terminal map. Imagine; a map to direct pedestrians from the station to the airport. Good grief.

Metro, Sound Transit, SDOT & Wsdot are against effective transit in order to serve automobile-related business interest Powers-that-be PIGS who view transit as competition rather than a fundamental travel mode. Modern society will depend upon transit for survival, but he who dies with the most money wins!
Extra points for poisoning the planet.

Wells

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 12:49 p.m. Inappropriate

The critique is very accurate and needed with the possible exception that last time I arrived at the Sea-Tac platform the overhead sign did indicate which train was leaving first. Sea-Tac Airport seems to have a vested interest in parking, shuttle, rental car and taxi fees so they do what they can to maximize those travel modes.

The icons mentioned in the article that represent each station should be done away with along with the corresponding symbols at each station as they are embarrassing at best and confusing at worst. At the latest these should be deleted when signage is updated for the Capitol Hill and UW Stadium stations.

Related to Metro/Sound Transit signage, could they make downtown station entrances any harder to find for those not in the know? Stand within a block of any downtown tunnel entrance and see if you could decipher that there's a significant transit system underground (the little stylized T on post doesn't cut it).

Similarly, there are artistic, curved 3-pipe sculpture with a little train icon near each Link station entrance. It's painted gray and not lighted. If I was a visitor I might think these interwoven pipes were some kind of basket weaving club landmark but I would have no idea it meant I could catch a lift.

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 12:58 p.m. Inappropriate

Same thing happened 20 years ago when the downtown bus tunnel opened...the signage was horrendous, confusing, non-informational, and downright pathetic and misleading...I think it got a mulligan after a few months or years.

animalal

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 2:33 p.m. Inappropriate

This is a great article! I do hope that Sound Transit types will read it, take heed, and make the necessary changes to the signage so that a newcomer can find their way to that hugely expensive rail system that we all paid taxes to build.

I am reminded of a trip I took recently to Tacoma. I'd decided I did not want to drive but rather to take public transit. Fortunately, I had a friend who had made the trip before and was able to tell me which bus(ST594)to take from downtown Seattle and where to catch it. All I had to do was get to that downtown stop from where I live. No problem as I already know how to do that.

Once in Tacoma, I was prepared to take the ST594 back to Seattle but happened to see Link Light Rail running down the middle of the street. Hmmm, I said, maybe this would be a chance for me to ride the train back to Seattle so I walked over and looked at the signs. Alas, no luck. Link Light Rail only goes from downtown Tacoma to the Tacoma Dome. It does not go to Seattle. Oh well, back to the ST594. At least we have that.

nwcitizen

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 4:50 p.m. Inappropriate

What a load of poppycock! I'd like to see our wayfinding vastly improved as well, but don't riders have some responsibility to educate themselves? We don't post a map for folks heading to rent a car, do we? Why wouldn't we expect folks who wish to use public transit to have learned something about it when planning their trip?

I just spent some time this afternoon planning for a trip to Barcelona, and one onf the first things I did was research ways to get into town from the airport. Even the lodging I'm looking at provides directions for the train or bus from the airport.

Like I said, I'm all for making our system more user-friendly... but let's not go overboard.

Mickymse

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 5:56 p.m. Inappropriate

A sign that says "Trains to Seattle" is not "overboard."

louploup

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 7:04 p.m. Inappropriate

There are plenty of signs at the airport on where to rent a car, and even free shuttle buses that will drive you there. With the cost to taxpayers for the light rail, surely some decent signs could be made.

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 5:59 p.m. Inappropriate

My wife and I just did "the walk" from Link into Seatac a few days ago. Not only is it a challenging distance for anyone with a modicum of physical disability, but it's open to the wind and wet. It's a crappy way to greet visitors.

louploup

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 6:47 p.m. Inappropriate

Our region's public transit systems - and I use the plural bec/ it is so disjointed it cannot be called a true 'system' with all of the components seemingly acting independently of one another - are so cumbersome and awkward to negotiate I hesitate to offer them to a new visitor unless I can travel with them, say, from SeaTac to Whidbey Island. The interfaces are only for the physically hardy - not even a parent wielding a stroller and luggage could manage this trip with any ease, not to mention the mostly-unhelpful signage at every step of the way. I don't think there is any way possible a newbie could figure out how to make this trip! I could barely figure it out, and I've been here for decades!!

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 6:51 p.m. Inappropriate

Timely article, vivid and pointed criticism.

The K.I.S.S. method doesn't seem to work for any of the mass transit organization bureaucrats.

Pretty sign, but really, unintelligible.

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 6:53 p.m. Inappropriate

I wonder if the tourists see the sign and think,

"Gee, this seems like a really nice place. Look honey, they have courtesy vehicles!"

Just what is a courtesy vehicle?

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 7:32 p.m. Inappropriate

Dear Matt--
Thank you for writing about this little problem. If you need some interesting solutions to the problem, my tech communication students have been creating mobile device oriented primers for overseas visitors to follow on their way to the "Central Link Light Rail," as it is called on the websites. We have been studying the problem since July 2012, from the point of view of an native Japanese speaker who is coming to Seattle for a conference. My North Seattle CC students have observed all sorts of problems, but tend to think that long, dark, slog to the rail station is the most egregious problem of them all. If you fly in at night, the lighting is also very low out there and the print on that "Last Train" notice is fiendishly microscopic.

I want to also add that as much as someone prepares for an overseas trip, once the traveler has spent ten to fifteen hours in transit, crossing time zones and entering a new country, the negotiation of local transit can be a nightmare. Seatac's signage for the light rail station and the walk itself borders on Boris Karloff territory.

Sincerely,
Karen Teal

KKTeal

Posted Wed, Jan 9, 11:02 p.m. Inappropriate

Signage can always be better. But this sounds like a little bit of Seattle navel gazing. You're being a little too hard on yourselves. The author should have included whether the people who worked at the airport were of any assistance. Part of travelling is asking for directions generally.

If you think Seattle signage is bad, you'd really hate JFK airport. All you're greeted by are massive AIRTRAIN signs. There are 2 airtrains that you must ride to the subway stations. One subway station is called Jamaica. The other is Lefferts Boulevard. So there is no mention of NYC anywhere. Once you get off the Airtrain you have to walk a similar distance as you do in Seattle to get to the subway station, which includes outdoor walking and an elevator ride.

You can also take the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) to New York City. But you have to already know that. Here you can read some of the signs.

http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/airtrain-jfk-jamaica-2?select=qOxvVWSM4i5swJjHr5ot4A#qOxvVWSM4i5swJjHr5ot4A

Personally, I agree with Mickymse. I don't think the signage is that bad. I think explaining everything in detail with lots more signage would be more annoying.

Any transit user knows enough to do some research to make sure their station stop is near their destination. That's just a given when you use public transport.

What I find most annoying at the Seattle airport is the annoying recorded announcement, which says, "Don't not accept packages from strangers" or something to that effect. Seattle is one of the few airports that runs that message and they repeat it alot. There is no escaping it either!! How about that as a topic for the next article? I'd really like to know the origins of those recordings. Who actually decided what to say and how often to run it? I want to know who thinks air travelers are so impossibly stupid as to accept packages from total strangers and put them into their luggage.

Posted Thu, Jan 10, 11:41 a.m. Inappropriate

Seems to me there is considerable difference between navel gazing and being hard on oneself— the former often resulting in the necessity of the latter. Can't say though where the "a little too" would fit. Just a thought.

afreeman

Posted Thu, Jan 17, 6:56 p.m. Inappropriate

The patron of Seattle is some Salvidor Dali exitentialist.
"Look at the signs, man, like whatevah"
Seattle infrastructure lacks a sense of context.
Big plans engulf little minds.

Wells

Posted Thu, Jan 10, 12:07 p.m. Inappropriate

As one drives friends and relations to Sea-Tac's departure hubbub, one mentally compares in car minutes the long distance under scant cover from the huge Link Station to the actual hubbub. "What could they have been thinking? Well forget that" is one's sad conclusion.

If ignoring this fatal shortcoming in terms of the whole point of the region's mass transit expenditure—encouraging significant ridership—is what Richard means by naval gazing, he is most definitely correct. Signs would help, but as others imply, fixing a planning shortcoming is cheap on the drawing board, but no longer.

afreeman

Posted Thu, Jan 10, 7:24 p.m. Inappropriate

to borrow a term from the 60's. Far out, solid, and right on.

Geezer

Posted Thu, Jan 10, 9:15 p.m. Inappropriate

Signage in Seattle stinks, agreed.

My beef is with putting the light rail station over a quarter of a mile from the far north end of the airport. This decision alone indicates to visitors that public transportation is the ugly stepchild of mobility in our region (I guess we should be thankful that there is a station at the airport at all - the bus from Takuwila station was a worse idea). No moving sidewalk to assist those who have mobility issues and/or are carrying their luggage; being required to walking through an ugly carpark, exposed to the elements - pure evil genius.

DavidA

Posted Fri, Jan 11, 1:01 a.m. Inappropriate

I was just in Vienna and Athens over the holidays, and they provide a compare and contrast to this exact same problem.

In Vienna, they have a "City Airport Train" goes between the airport and downtown. The entire airport is plastered with giant green signs the size of parking spots with giant arrows pointing you in the direction of the train station, which is in the arrival terminal. The signs all clearly say it leaves at :26 and :56 each hour. From the same platform, you can also catch cheaper S-Bahn trains to the center, and these are double labeled in English and German clearly in several locations.

Athens's Metro and suburban rail also go between the airport and the center. When you come out of the airport, there are signs in Greek and so-so translated Gringlish pointing you to the "Metro." When you get there, half the ticket machines are out of order. There are two escalators going down to the train platform with ticket readers on each one, both in the direction of "Greek-sounding name." Is that the center? I was worried they went to different platforms where we couldn't access the right train. We picked a platform at random. It was the right one, but two trains were sitting there. One must be a bit of a transit expert, knowing what style of rolling stock is used for what purpose to guess which one is the Metro and which is the suburban rail because at this point all the signs have lambdas and thetas in them. Once on the train, many announcements will tell you in English to "Mind your belongings" but none will tell you that "this is the train to downtown Athens."

Jon Sayer

Posted Fri, Jan 11, 9:44 a.m. Inappropriate

The problem here has little to do with Sound Transit and everything to do with the Port of Seattle. The port simply does not assign a high priority on integrating mass transit of any kind in getting to and from Sea-Tac.

9/11 forced a last-minute do over in the final link from the Tukwilla station to the airport. Homeland Security required Sound Transit to reroute the tracks from right next to the fence to where they are now, resulting in the Sea-Tac Link stop being quite a hike from the front door. This wouldn't be a problem in itself if the port implemented a moving sidewalk with all deliberate haste, but clearly the port doesn't think that's an issue.

If the port won't put something in that makes Link accessabilty available to more than those who want a daily hike, they aren't going to get too excited about something as mundane as proper signs.

The Port of Seattle still thinks of itself as something that facilitates moving airplanes, not people.

Goforride

Posted Fri, Jan 11, 6:44 p.m. Inappropriate

You hit it exactly GoforRide. As I recall the Link Light Rail had a preetty sweet connection to the main terminal until the Feds came in and screwed it all up. 9/11. 9/11. 9/11. DC to the rescue again. This is a great example of the absolute stupidity of the Federal Government.

There are thousands of cars and trucks and buses that roll right in front of the terminal every day. BUT, somehow a Light Rail train was viewed as a terrorist danger because, you know, terrorists ride light rail every day. They're constantly leaving bombs on light rail cars every day... NOT.

There are car bombs blowing up every day but that is not flagged as a danger. When was the last time someone planted a light rail bomb?

Posted Sun, Jan 13, 12:02 a.m. Inappropriate

A few comments on light rail at Seattle's Airport:

1. After arriving at SeaTac on a flight back in September 2010, I discovered first hand that the signage for locating Link light rail was very deficient. I actually knew which corner of the parking garage had the light rail boarding point, but I couldn't find a well-marked path to the right part of the garage from baggage claim. I had a long phone chat with the Sound Transit light rail director the next day, and from the report above, some improvements were apparently made. Arriving passenger new to Seattle at least now have some signs helping them get to light rail that will take them somewhere.

2. The parking garage came before light rail, and it was not built with enough headroom to accommodate a moving sidewalk, at least as explained by Sound Transit in the past. In the near future, mobility between the station and the terminal could perhaps be handled economically with driver-less electric shuttle carts like seen at http://z6mag.com/featured/self-driving-shuttle-coming-to-a-location-near-you-robot-revolution-1617343.html

3. The number of train riders to and from the airport is one of the two main ridership success stories for light rail so far. The airport station gets more than 5,000 boardings per day, roughly 2,000 more than expected. By way of comparison, an average of about 45,000 passengers arrive daily on flights. Lots or airport and airline employees ride light rail, too. The other popular light rail destination is the SODO ball parks. The majority of Seattle light rail stations are below the forecast growth curve, but the Airport and Stadium Stations are doing well against initial expectations.

4. Suggested reading for Richard Borkowski: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_terrorist_incidents_involving_railway_systems

jniles

Posted Sun, Jan 13, 9:37 a.m. Inappropriate

Nice take-out on the local official mania for sleek-looking but useless wayfinding aids. Don't forget the Koolhaas library, whose lack of signage at opening seemed calculated to make the building seem even more headspinning. (The library administration subsequently filled some of that deficit, and opened a staff stairwell to the public so people could actually get from floor to floor.)
Jniles: "The number of train riders to and from the airport is one of the two main ridership success stories for light rail so far." What would that ridership be if Link had to compete with the old 194 express from downtown (and if that bus got as much publicity and directional signage, however inept, as the train has)? The MT194 stopped at the terminal rather than the far side of the parking garage, accepted transfers from other buses, took five minutes less than Link, and, in my experience, ran more reliably. And, of course, got cancelled when the trains started running, giving Link a captive market.
Rail to the airport is a boon for some of us in SE Seattle, who can now get there directly. But it's not surprising ridership has otherwise lagged on the line. With spotty bus connections, no parking (blame the city, I know), and stations spaced up to 1.8 miles apart along MLK Way (versus 1/2 mile in similar density along Portland's Max), it's a system designed to fail.

Posted Thu, Jan 17, 9:51 p.m. Inappropriate

What would ridership be if Link had to compete with the 194 express from downtown? What would it be with as much publicity and direction signage as has Link? The MT194 stopped at the terminal rather than the parking garage farr side, it accepted transfers from other buses, took 5-minutes less than Link and in my experience ran more reliably. But of course was cancelled when Link trains started running, handing Link a captive market.

And to reply:
Bus rearrangements however can work more ideally With Rail than Bus only. Achievement standards are higher on many key points that favor adding rail to bus only systems. Why not do a trolleybus study to more frequently address stupidly steep downtown hillclimbs? I can't see how ANYONE would oppose the Waterfront streetcar. Yet, the favored 1st-4th-5th Ave Streetcar slippery lines on hills that indeed pose significant dangers with speeding high traffic skids, sideswipes, victims/pedestrian fatality rate. My forecast of Mercer West is dreadful: more accidents, higher harm severity rates. Streetcar fans had better hope The Broadway Experiment works.

You just better think about it. )^:

Wells

Posted Sun, Jan 13, 1:39 p.m. Inappropriate

Terrorist Incidents involving railway systems
1970s - 3
1980s - 3
1990s - 6
2000s - 12

So in 40 years, there were 24 incidents of 'terrorism' involving railway systems, none of which were in the United States. You prove my point exactly Mr. Niles. We don't live in Egypt or India or Russia or Sri Lanka or Angola. We live in the United States.

Transit systems are being screwed up by the Homeland security people for a threat that doesn't exist in the United States. The whole notion of 'terrorist-proofing' a transportation system seems so ludicrous to me anyway. Our infrastructure is vulnerable. It will always be vulnerable.

Posted Tue, Jan 15, 12:46 a.m. Inappropriate

Seems to me that the Port considers the airport to be a cash cow that exists to fund ass-kissing the maritime industry. As for Sound Transit, apparently Joni Earl is satisfied with what is apparently an unfettered tap on the pocketbooks of the local citizenry for forever, so why should she give a crap what we think about her imperial ways.

As for the signs themselves, perhaps the signage designers are refugees from WSDOT, because main road signs are, IMHO, the most wanting that I have seen while living in New York, New Jersey, Texas, California and now WA. As observed, you may be able to figure it out if you understand the general "lay of the land", but for a newcomer... sheesh!

kmeyer

Posted Tue, Jan 15, 9:37 a.m. Inappropriate

I am an occasional user of the light rail from Westlake to Airport. Living downtown, it is bar-none, the best deal in getting from city to airport - but as the article points out there are some big issues in communication. Here is the text I sent after a recent trip that caught me off guard:

Hello,
I live [downtown] and have found the connectivity to places like the airport extremely useful via the light rail system. I cannot wait to see the extension to the U District completed. I travel for work on occasion and find that the cleanliness, ease of access and price are great reasons for traveling with the light rail.

Unfortunately last night I feel like I was caught up in a snafu you should be aware of. I bought my ticket at SEATAC around 11:30 [PM] or so - with the expectation that I would arrive at Westlake Station some 30-40 minutes later. Not the case. I - or any of the other 6 or 7 people hoping to get to downtown - did not get the memo that there is no service to Westlake Station at that hour of the night. Our ride stopped in Beacon Hill. Not exactly the middle of nowhere, but on a cold, stormy night, not exactly bursting with activity...or connectivity. I waited for the 36 Bus and decided to split a taxi with another traveler - who I should mention, was equally perplexed.

I feel that this issue could have been resolved quite simply by a) not selling a ticket to Westlake past a certain time - maybe include a message as to why...or, b) make sure that the inspector [who was] walking around the train (or the conductor, before leaving the SAETAC station) made sure people know that if they are hoping to get to downtown, they're in for another ticket purchase (better hope you have cash), on another transit system in order to complete the as-advertised trip.

Then again, I guess it would be MOST helpful, if there was a sign or PA messaging in the Terminal advising people when the next train is scheduled to leave and that some stops are not attainable BEFORE making the long slog from terminal to train (I don't mind the slog, but on a blustery rainy night after about 15 hours of travel, it's not exactly icing on the cake ;-).

So there you have it. I took it for granted that the late train goes every day - my bad for not double checking. A bit frustrating, and I gather not an atypical situation (Sunday nights = no late train like other days). I'm probably more annoyed because of the weather, but do feel that at minimum it should be made clearer BEFORE getting to the train station, buying a ticket, etc. that things are not as they seem.

If you need help with some environmental design solutions (signage, PA, wayfinding, etc.), feel free to contact me - I feel I can help.

I did receive a reply that they were working on it...

Thank you for contacting Sound Transit,

We appreciate your taking the time in letting us know your concerns with Link end of service scheduling prior to reaching the platform. I also want to apologize to you for the delay in responding.

Rider satisfaction is a high priority for Sound Transit, and we can certainly understand the frustration after a long flight and the urgency of wanting to get home.

The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) which is owned and operated by King County Metro is open to both trains and buses between 5 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 6 a.m. and 12 midnight on Sunday’s.

The last train which departs at 11:05 p.m. from the airport reaches Westlake Station (in the DSTT) at 11:43 p.m. At which time, it then turns heading back south towards our holding yard. All trains and buses must be out of the DSTT prior to its closing at midnight. If we were to run any trains from the airport past the 11:00 o’clock hour, the transit tunnel would be closed and trains would only going as far as Stadium Station, where at that hour any bus connections could potentially be lost, leaving riders stranded before reaching the Downtown core.

Since the start of Link service, we continue to work with the Port of Seattle on Link schedule information and signage. Ultimately, it is the Ports decision on placement of any and all signage within the airport itself. However, riders will find schedule and service information at the airport station near the Ticket Vending Machine’s (TVM’s) – Link schedule is posted with last train information. This includes both sets of TVM’s. Also, as you enter the pedestrian walkway from the airport to the Link platform, there’s Link schedule information including last train departure times and destinations posted on standalone sign.

Last train information is programmed to run on the PA and VMS messaging at the station. Because you mentioned that did not happen I am forwarding your comment to appropriate staff to investigate and take appropriate action.

Please know, it is comments such as this which provides us with the necessary information to make service enhancements that will benefit our riders in the future.

Sincerely,

So they kinda don't get the point that when you spend a bazillion dollars designing and putting in place a great piece of public infrastructure, you don't hand off the last piece to another organization (POS) and to chance. That's the big issue here. A thorough design of wayfinding and messaging, etc. that gets one from the farthest reaches of SEATAC to the city you expect to visit (Seattle) or points in between needs to be addressed clearly and with impact. It takes a firm resolve to cut through the clutter that is a hand off.

nico

Posted Tue, Jan 15, 7:35 p.m. Inappropriate

No wonder I never go to Seattle. I find it a chore to get somewhere even from the freeway. Yes, every government employee who makes signs should read this article. Any signs. I recently bought a new smart phone(first one) and computer geeks should read it too.

Posted Tue, Jan 15, 9:22 p.m. Inappropriate

Nico -

As a software designer, let me comment on your comment:

"I feel that this issue could have been resolved quite simply by a) not selling a ticket to Westlake past a certain time.."

There is simply no way a ticket vendor could program their software to accommodate all of the scheduling options. Even if you could, you'd have to reprogram all of the machines each time a schedule was changed. It's asking alot. Certainly what COULD be done is to change the sign that says "Welcome To Seatac Airport" to read, "Last Train to Westlake station is 8pm" or whatever the time is. That is only 1 sign and after all, that's the purpose of those electronic signs... to CHANGE THEM!!

I'm flying to Seattle in the near future so I'll make sure I take lots of photos and let's make this a project and see if we can get it implemented.

Posted Thu, Jan 17, 10:01 p.m. Inappropriate

What would ridership be if Link had to compete with the 194 express from downtown? What would it be with as much publicity and direction signage as has Link? The MT194 stopped at the terminal rather than the parking garage farr side, it accepted transfers from other buses, took 5-minutes less than Link and in my experience ran more reliably. But of course was cancelled when Link trains started running, handing Link a captive market.

That's a reworded question posed earlier and what follows is my reply:

Bus rearrangements can work more ideally With Rail than Bus only. Achievement standards are higher on many key points that favor adding rail to bus only systems.

Why not do a trolleybus study to more frequently address stupidly steep downtown hillclimbs?

I can't see how ANYONE would oppose the Waterfront streetcar. Yet, the favored 1st-4th-5th Ave Streetcar lines on-hills pose significant danger with high traffic skids, sideswipes, accidents, fatalities.
My forecast for the proposed Mercer West is dreadful: more accidents, higher harm severity rates. S
treetcar fans had better hope The Broadway Experiment works.

Wells

Posted Sat, Jan 19, 2:44 a.m. Inappropriate

File this under Future Link Signage Confusion. Has anyone at Sound Transit noticed that as light rail extends northward, there will be three- count 'em- three stations named "University": University Street, University of Washington, and University District. Two of those will be back to back on the map. Suggestion: start *now* about thinking to rename the downtown "University" station. Maybe something as simple as "University Street-Downtown Seattle".

JGP

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