Seattle’s New Light Rail

I Rode Light Rail sticker

Seattle’s new Link Light Rail opened to the public today with free rides all weekend.  SoundTransit stickerI drove down to the Tukwila International station at the south end of the line.   It wasn’t too surprising that parking was very tight, but I was pleasantly suprised by how organized they were.  There were people in yellow shirts all over the place, starting with blocking off the parking lots at the station to allow only the number of cars in each lot that there was space for.  This meant it took a bit of time to get allowed into the parking lot, but once in, finding that one open spot was no hassle.

The planning didn’t end there.  From one end to the other, the event was planned and executed like a Disneyland ride, right down to the sign at the beginning of the line saying “wait is 30 minutes from this point” and plenty of water and porta-potties for those waiting.  They also managed the number of people allowed on each train such that they were full, but not uncomfortably packed.

The light rail stations seem to be well designed, with plenty of room for even the huge crowds of the opening day event.  I didn’t get off at any of the intermediate stops on the trip north, but all of those stations seemed well designed and attractive, but not extravagent.

The biggest complaint I had with the whole system is that the tracks were apparently not aligned very well, because we bounced around quite a bit, particularly on the long high-speed run between Tukwila and Raineer Beach stations.  On the return trip, the guy sitting next to me said he had worked on freight trains for 20 years and the ride was about the same.  Not a good recommendation for the contractor who laid this stretch of commuter light rail.   The trains themselves are pretty well laid out, except for the fact that there are only racks for two bicycles (hung by one wheel) on each car…  it could get pretty frustrating if more than a few cyclists want to extend their commuting range…

LinkBeaconHill1Light Rail arriving at Beacon Hill station On the way back south, I decided to get off at the Beacon Hill station, since it is 160 feet underground!  As with the other stations, this one is laid out with plenty of room and four elevators to the surface.  The elevators are roomy, smooth, and quick.  Each station has some sort of artwork; on the left you can see some of the fun stuff at Beacon Hill.

So, what’s my bottom like evaluation?  I’ll give Sound Transit an A for the opening day presentation, but a B for the system due to the bumpy track and limited bicycle provisions.

Before I sign off, a couple other items of note.  On the fun side, a family travelling next to me on the way north turned out to own a small apartment complex two blocks from the Tukwila station and they were getting some free advertising by wearing signs on their backs and leaving flyers in the schedule slots on the train 🙂  On a sad note, when I looked out the window at one of the downtown stops in the bus tunnel, paramedics were performing CPR on someone.  Prayers for whoever that was…

Anyone else reading this who made it to the opening day/weekend?