Added trains are an attempt to deal with a quicker-than-expected ridership surge on Sound Transit light rail since the opening of the University of Washington and Capitol Hill stations last weekend.
Three-car trains will alternate with the usual two-car trains, spokesman Bruce Gray said Wednesday.
The agency opened a new $1.8 billion tunnel from Westlake Station to UW and Capitol Hill on Saturday. Passengers are finding full platforms and trains at peak times, and sometimes waiting for the next train, Gray said.
And that’s happening while UW is on spring break, and Seattle Central College in exam week.
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Greater demand is expected Monday when UW classes resume. In addition, route changes by King County Metro Transit will feed some bus passengers into UW Station, to complete their commutes downtown.
Roughly 57,000 passengers used the 19-mile light-rail corridor from UW to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Tuesday, Gray said. That followed 67,000 people on opening day, 35,000 on Sunday and 47,000 on Monday. Previous weekday ridership was around 35,000 boardings.
So the counts are already as high as Sound Transit projected for next year — with not only these two stations, but the Angle Lake Station beyond the airport scheduled to open in September, with 1,050 park-and-ride stalls.
Sound Transit aims to carry nearly — but not more than — 150 people in each railcar, or 450 in a three-car train. That sort of volume means about half are seated, half standing, and people can readily enter or exit. Similar-sized trains in Asia might hold 200 people per railcar, considered a crush load here.
Gray said public-education ads and train announcements are coming. Put your backpack under your seat or between your legs. Don’t block the doorways. Move to the ends of the trains.
And there’s been an issue with managing expectations, as some people are used to always finding a seat, he said. Standing-room-only crowds are familiar to RapidRide bus riders, and those on certain crosstown Metro routes.
“During the peak of rush hours, people shouldn’t always expect to have a seat their entire ride,” Gray said.
The most-used rail segment remains between Pioneer Square and the International District/Chinatown Stations, he said — but long-term, the Capitol Hill-Westlake stretch is expected to be the busiest.