All involved regret Friday’s rather long link break After the Apple Cup. After a big sporting event and shortly after opening new stations, there were probably quite a few new riders who said “never again”, which is sad.
A light rail of a link was shut down in a tunnel heading north between Washington University Station and the U District Station after disconnecting the electronic cable connecting the first caravan to the three trailers. As a result, the train stopped immediately.
When the disconnected cable prevented the operator from communicating on the intercom with passengers in the three trailer cars, an unsafe incident developed when passengers decided to use emergency exits to get off the train.
Sound Transit immediately complied with its safety practices by suspending service in both tunnels to protect passengers until they could be safely removed using a rescue train. There were no casualties.
Maintenance issues occur. I’m not sure if Sound Transit has a lot of them, or is it just a matter of Twitter letting us know about each of them. I can not say how ST can improve maintenance procedures.
What I can say, with bitter experience, is that ST does a poor job of conveying useful information during disruptions. Sydney Bronston reports ($) Left with a busy train Over 30 minutes No communication thanks to the disconnected cable. Instead of finding a way to “ensure that passengers stay on board the train,” ST should have systems that will provide passengers with useful information.
Let’s start with a simpler scenario. ST will often post on stations – and on Twitter – that there is a “service disruption”. But there is no information that allows the rider to make an informed decision. Details almost never appear until the service is renewed. Will it be a few minutes of delay, or a few hours? Should you take a much slower bus, or wait for the train to resume? As Sound Transit develops experience with these breaks, I hope they can implement some guidelines that produce magnitude assessments and tips on whether to get stuck tight or make alternate arrangements.
Taking out the gospel on a train with a disconnected cable is a more difficult problem. Unnecessary systems may help, but in unexpected situations there is no substitute for improvisation, flexibility and a commitment to updating people. The driver could get out of his cab and simply turn to any car, explain the situation and provide instructions to stay. Or just put something on Twitter! A group that feels abandoned will take matters into their own hands, so the first necessity is not to make them feel abandoned.