By John Gallagher, Sound Transit | Press Release
New schedules reflect greatly reduced demand and anticipated staffing shortages
March 19, 2020 – As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, starting Monday, March 23, Sound Transit will respond to its greatly reduced ridership by temporarily reducing service on Link light rail and Sounder trains. ST Express routes operated by King County Metro will also see a reduction in service.
ST Express buses operated by Community Transit and Pierce Transit, as well as service on Tacoma Link service will remain unchanged for the time being. However, service could be reduced in the future based on reduced ridership and/or staffing impacts.
“The changes that we are implementing respond to our dramatically reduced ridership while still preserving reliable service and maintaining ample flexibility for social distancing by riders,” said Peter Rogoff, CEO of Sound Transit. “In this challenging time we will continue to treat transit as a lifeline for people who need to travel, including people caring for relatives, first responders, health care workers and other essential personnel.”
The changes in service reflect significant declines in ridership since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency. As of the beginning of this week, system total ridership was down approximately 69 percent. The new service levels also reflect the fact that the outbreak has led to operations and maintenance staff staying home in higher numbers, making it difficult to maintain existing service.
While implementing service reductions, Sound Transit remains committed to serving the public and will continue to meet the needs of transit-dependent riders as well as services for low-income, minority and limited-English-proficiency populations. We will continue to run trains and buses at our earliest and latest service hours. However, staffing availability, further ridership reductions and/or government directives related to COVID-19 could impact service further as the regional response continues.
Link light rail
Closures of Downtown Seattle Link stations will begin Friday evening and extend through the weekend as crews wrap up the Connect 2020 construction process, through which Sound Transit has connected East King County tracks to the system in preparation for the 2023 opening of East Link. Upon the scheduled Monday reopening of service, Sound Transit will respond to greatly reduced rider demand by retaining the 14-minute train frequencies that have been in place during the construction period, which provide ample capacity for current ridership while maintaining space for social distancing. With the conclusion of Connect 2020, passengers will no longer need to transfer at Pioneer Square and bicycle restrictions will be lifted.
During the weekend closure shuttle buses will connect riders for travel between downtown stations and Capitol Hill and SODO stations. Shuttle buses will operate every 17-10 minutes. Fares will not be required for train or shuttle bus passengers.
Starting with the Monday afternoon commute, Sounder South weekday service will be reduced from 13 round trips to eight round trips. The northbound trips being canceled are the 1502, 1506 and 1508 departures from Lakewood, and the 1516 and 1522 departures from Tacoma. The southbound trips being canceled are the 1503, 1509, 1517, 1519, and 1523 departures from Seattle.
Also starting with the Monday afternoon commute, Sounder North weekday service will be reduced from four round trips to two round trips, with cancellation of the 1701 and 1705 departures from Everett and the 1700 and 1704 departures from Seattle.
Sound Transit is taking extra measures to have redundant capacity in the event of a mechanical breakdown in order to ensure reliability while frequencies are reduced.
ST Express buses operated by King County Metro
ST Express buses operated by King County Metro (Routes 522, 541, 542, 545, 550, 554, 555 and 556) will see an overall reduction in service of 15 percent. Riders will find more information on the specific trips cancelled at www.soundtransit.org and via rider alerts, which they can sign up to receive electronically.
During the COVID-19 response riders should take into account that electronic resources such as Google maps, One Bus Away and other applications and websites won’t have accurate information for all trips, including service reductions affecting other agencies. Riders should sign up for rider alerts to ensure that they receive up-to-date information about service changes, or visit www.soundtransit.org.