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caption: Seattle commuters transfer trains on the first workday of the new year on Monday, January 6th, 2020.
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Seattle commuters transfer trains on the first workday of the new year on Monday, January 6th, 2020.
Credit: KUOW Photo/ Casey Martin

Light rail gets a man's voice, so that riders pay attention

Monday was the first morning commute during a work week as Seattle entered 10 weeks of interrupted light rail service. Riders navigated a new middle platform at Pioneer Square and waited twice as long for their rides.

There will be 10 weeks of construction that will cause riders to transfer at Pioneer Square station. The other big change is departure times: trains arrive every 12 minutes instead of six as they used to.

This can be a little confusing for travelers so Sound Transit is airing special announcements on overhead speakers. The voice of those announcements used to be a quiet, automated female voice.

Now the PSAs are a bit louder -- and male.

Sound Transit said this was an intentional choice to get riders' attention. The agency plans to go back to the female voice when construction concludes in spring.

store/f5732a9d8533d7d9980a13dee18debf7_mp4-thumb-00001.png Video Icon 10 secs
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Transferring trains at Pioneer Square station causes a backup on the temporary, middle platform on Monday, January 6th, 2020.
Credit: KUOW Video/ Casey Martin

Sound Transit said that aside from some early-morning delays, trains were running on time and at capacity through Seattle on Monday.

Changing trains is new for Seattle-area light rail riders. Before, travelers could move from Angle Lake station all the way north to the University of Washington’s Husky Stadium without leaving their seats.

Now, every 12 minutes, both the northbound and southbound trains arrive at Pioneer Square station at the same time. A mob of riders flood the temporary, middle platform where Sound Transit “ambassadors” direct traffic by pointing and hollering. In two minutes, both trains depart opposite directions and the platform is deserted except for the dozen or so Sound Transit employees awaiting the next surge.

Daily riders said Monday’s commute wasn’t too bad and trains were as full as they usually are for a workday. Sound Transit had warned of packed rides and added a fourth car to their trains in preparation.

Janelle Smith-Dozier, who rides to work from Beacon Hill, said she forgot about the changes until she got down onto the platform.

“No problems at all,” Smith-Dozier said. “Got in, got a seat, standing room wasn’t bad.”

caption: Francisco and Judy Veramendi, visiting from Illinois, were worried delayed trains would mean a late arrival at SeaTac Airport on Monday, January 6th, 2020.
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Francisco and Judy Veramendi, visiting from Illinois, were worried delayed trains would mean a late arrival at SeaTac Airport on Monday, January 6th, 2020.
Credit: KUOW Photo/ Casey Martin

One rider looking a little lost was Judy Veramendi, on her way to the airport after visiting her son over the holidays. Veramendi said she and her husband ride local light rail about once a year when they’re in town and love it. She didn’t know about Monday’s changes until checking travel times the night before on Sound Transit’s website.

“Our son just looked to see how long it would take and then he said, 'Oh my gosh, it's a mess!' Otherwise we would have been stuck at Westlake Station and we would have missed our plane,” Veramendi said.

Sound Transit said at any given time during the day this week there are about 60 ambassadors at light rail stations throughout Seattle. The agency said that number will go down as passengers get used to the new flow of operations.