Light rail riders frustrated by broken escalators, elevators at stations

SEATTLE — Frustrated Link light rail riders say they have had it with escalators and elevators at light rail stations that don’t work.

Even Sound Transit admits it is having trouble keeping up with the problems throughout downtown Seattle.

Sound Transit says a more permanent fix is on the way. But that is not easing the frustration of its Link light rail riders.

At least six light rail stations currently have elevators or escalators not working. In some cases, both conveyances are out of service.

It is a big issue for those who use light rail.

Molly Graeber spends three workdays in her Des Moines home office. She takes Link light rail when she has to go into her Seattle office.

“Two days a week, I get to do this,” Graeber said. “So, oftentimes, the elevators and the escalators are broken. So I don’t know what happens if someone with a disability comes in.

The Pioneer Square station is her stop. And we saw someone unable to walk without assistance — struggling to find a way up from the platform below.

Graeber says the alternatives don’t feel safe here either.

“I have to go up several flights of stairs, and it’s really secluded,” she said. “It’s dark, and there’s people down there. They can do drugs. Or they can sleep. They can be passed out. I mean, you really don’t know; you just say, excuse me.”

Sound Transit’s latest outage inventory shows three elevators out, and seven escalators are on the fritz, with three at Westlake station alone.

“We’re working hard to keep those operating as much as we can,” said Sound Transit’s John Gallagher.

He says the nearly 60 conveyances in the downtown corridor are more than three decades old. So, getting parts is difficult, and supply chain issues can hold up even those that are available.

But what’s a passenger to do in the meantime?

“We try to make sure that there are alternatives within the station so that people have other ways of getting to the street or to the platform,” Gallagher said.

He says the company that does the repairs responds quickly, within two hours of a report. So, he says the broken equipment is being repaired faster than ever.

Moreover, Sound Transit has a multi-million dollar program in the works to replace these aging escalators and elevators.

As for safety, he says they are hiring more security and installing station agents. That should be happening in the spring.

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