There have been several high-profile cases of blind riders walking off light rail and subway platforms between train cars, and then getting run over. Most recently was one in DC, resulting in DC Metro installing chains between cars. LA Metro, St. Louis MetroLink, and the “T” in Pittsburgh use the between-car platform barriers.
The barriers will be installed first in the twelve stations outside the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, as there are no operational issues in the way. That installation is expected to be complete by the end of March.
The contract includes purchase of enough barriers for the DSTT stations, but installation might not happen until the buses leave the DSTT permanently, per Kimberly Reason, Sound Transit spokesperson. A stakeholders group is working to find a way to install barriers in the DSTT without negatively impacting bus operations.
Currently, it is the job of DSTT security staff to assist vision-challenged riders. King County Metro also provides free travel training for various categories of riders with disabilities.While the stakeholders deliberate, platform floor arrows are planned for installation in Westlake Station, and then possibly the other 3 DSTT stations, showing where the train doors will be. The floor arrows would then be removed once joint operations ends.
I asked Reason whether shifting all the southbound buses to Bay C, the forward-most bay on the southbound platforms, could enable the barriers to work in the DSTT. Per Reason, that would risk restricting the flow of buses as well as trains in/through the DSTT.
As is the case with many features used to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are positive spin-off effects for the general population. Riders would be able to see where the break is between the second and third car, and cluster there where they are in position to board whichever car is rear-most. This would help to spread out passengers, make better use of capacity, and speed up boarding.
The ST Operations & Administration Committee meets at 1 pm in the Ruth Fisher Boardroom at Union Station.