Well, what should have been a happy day for transit hardly feels worth celebrating amid the pandemic. Work to connect the existing Sound Transit Link light rail tracks to the under-construction East Link tracks has wrapped up, and the downtown light rail stations are fully functional again. No more transferring at Pioneer Square Station and no more ban on bringing your bike on the train.
But, of course, these are not usual times. What should have been the end of a tough-but-necessary light rail crunch is instead the early days of a service major service reduction across nearly all regional transit services in light of a massive drop in ridership due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Trains will run every 14 minutes.
Speaking of service changes, King County Metro also reduced service across nearly its entire network of buses, has stopped collecting fares and is encouraging people who can to board using the back doors to give drivers more separation from passengers.
More details on the end of Connect 2020 from Sound Transit:
Link light rail will return to two-track service in downtown Seattle stations beginning Monday. The return follows the conclusion of Connect 2020, an 11-week period of major light rail service impacts while construction crews connected the existing light rail system in downtown Seattle to East Link in preparation for the 2023 extension of service to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond.
With the project’s completion, riders through Downtown Seattle will no longer need to transfer at Pioneer Square, and restrictions on bicycles will end.
With light rail ridership down nearly 70 percent as the region battles the spread of the novel coronavirus, trains will continue to run every 14 minutes under temporary service reductions announced last week. Because of these reductions, which also affect Sounder and some ST Express routes, as well as King County Metro Transit services, resources such as Google maps, One Bus Away and other apps and websites may not have accurate schedule information for all trips.
Sound Transit is 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. It remains critical for riders to continue observing the precautions that health authorities are emphasizing to help control the spread of the virus.
“We want to thank our riders for their patience during Connect 2020, and for the safety measures they are observing as they ride transit during this challenging time,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “We are committed to continue to keep our services moving for those who need them, including health care workers and others who are working to keep our communities functioning.”
With the end of the Connect 2020 disruption, the existing tunnel is now configured for East Link in preparation for 2023, when light rail expands to 10 new East King County stations. Before then, three new stations — U District, Roosevelt and Northgate — will begin service in 2021, boosting ridership and increasing the importance of completing this work now.