I’m sitting here after a lot of rides, letting my feet rest and thinking about all we’ve seen.

A few comments on the trips taken today: Tukwila had serious crowds. Sure, not three or four hour waits, but there was a steady wait of 20-30 minutes (some 3-400 people) through most of the day. I really like the station – the bus bays under the platform will allow for easy transfers, and I think several adjacent properties look like they could become transit oriented development.

Othello had a great little festival – there were breakdancers and live music, some local artists selling their creations, the Undriver’s License folks and Transportation Choices Coalition were there. The Station at Othello Park also had a presence – essentially the first TOD for Central Link, a six story project with about 20,000 square feet of retail and some 350 apartments will break ground shortly on the southeast corner of the intersection. The developer also wants to build something similar in the space to the northeast of the station.

Columbia City has some fantastic public space on the corners just to the east of the platform – it does feel like Sound Transit helped the city out a lot, creating plaza space that we’re going to be very thankful for in the next few decades.

Mount Baker is cool space, but definitely needs a coffee stand and a newsstand. I hope the neighborhood uses the station for gatherings, but there’s a dearth of seating. There’s also a huge TOD opportunity around this station.

I was worried that Beacon Hill would take up too much space, wasting land that could be used for density later, but I think they’ve done a good job here too. It looks like the space just to the south of the main station could be a cafe or restaurant with seating spilling over onto the station plaza. All we need is to get rid of the parking lot across the street…

I’ve taken a lot of photos, and I’ll be doing a photo post or two later on tonight when I get them off the camera.

One last note: the spoilsports trying to downplay ridership are not to be believed. Every single train I’ve been on in the last eight hours has been standing room only. If anything, I suspect Sound Transit is undercounting, given how overwhelmed the people with the counters have looked.

53 Replies to “Our Feet Are Tired”

  1. I bet your feet are tired. My bro & sis, while they enjoyed Traveling Light, were delighted to see the 230 pull into Bellevue Transit Center.

    As promised (the review of wheelchair accessibility): I liked being able to roll on without the bridge-plate (like on the Tacoma Link) and I had absolutely no problems navigating to the seating area. Everyone politely moved out of the way (well for the most part, couple of kids at Tukwila acted like 2-year old jerks until an ST person threatened to eject them from the train) and I was perfectly safe in my chair (mind you, this is my new big power-wheelchair; I’m thinking about rolling around in Old Trusty (my manual chair) to try it tomorrow).

    There was a tweet from strawberytwiter. This review above is my response to your tweet about how wheelchair service on Central Link works

  2. Jessica – Good to hear. I saw several folks with hearing/sight impairment doing well, but saw no chairs on my travels today.

    Ben – You guys must be getting a little worn out by now.

    Again, a great day for us all!

    1. This was with my new power chair. I’m going to bring out my manual (Old Trusty) and try that tomorrow. It’s been a long, but highly enjoyable, day

    2. I saw a few chairs today, including one train with two. Looks like the level boarding works as well as we hoped it would.

  3. Ridership definitely didn’t meet projections. But that’s OK–it was nice to be able to roam around freely.

    Here’s my opinion on why it was less:
    It was marketed as an “attraction.” Just like the monkeys at the zoo. What do people do to get to the zoo? They drive. They drive to go see the monkeys. Some people live close enough to walk there. And some others live close enough but far enough that they take a bus.
    But the majority of people use their cars to get around, so they just hop in, set their GPS for Mount Baker, and complain that there is no parking.

    It’s really hard to market this as a new form of transportation AND get people excited about it at the same time.

    1. And I don’t mean to say Sound Transit did a bad job. They were very well prepared. It was excellently done. It seems like they thought of everything.

    2. Are you sure about ridership didn’t meet the projections? That’s 30,500 as of 3 pm which is only 5 hours worth….it’s not even 8 pm yet. We’ll hear from them soon about the results.

      1. They were expecting 100,000. At least that’s what I heard one of the cops say, and since the amount of cops hired is directly proportional to the amount of people expected, I believe it.

      2. Also, I assume they were prepared for 100,000, not necessarily expecting 100,000. I talked to Joni Earl around the time of the 30,500 count, and she said they were on pace for what they expected.

      3. I don’t think we’ll get to 100,000 even tomorrow, but we’ll get close, at least.

      4. I think they were planning for 100K based on the recent experience of Phoenix. Who knows what was expected?

    3. To me it looked more like they were ready for huge crowds everywhere but they were largely contained at the endpoint stations (Tukwila and Westlake). They were moving a LOT of people through Westlake.

      When we were at Columbia City it was also very hot standing in the sun. We had hats and water but I can imagine the heat keeping some people inside.

      The trains were very comfortable for being so packed with bodies, by the way.

    4. The funny thing is all the fuss about no parking, no parking… but the RPZ restrictions aren’t in place on weekends, so people could have come out and parked around the stations on the street if they wanted to!

  4. Had a great time with friends that just moved to Columbia City. One question: today several trains passed up the station even though we had very few people waiting, I assume to save time for the busy endpoint stations. Is that going to be standard practice? I could imagine if some big conference comes to town (or after holidays) that the Link will be packed straight from the airport nearly all day… if that meant an extra hour wait in Rainer Valley I’d be pissed! Maybe there’s no way around the problem if the system is unexpectedly at capacity though.

    1. Today and tomorrow are exceptions in terms of operating procedures. That should never happen in regular revenue service, though if it were to happen, there’d be another train along in 7-15 minutes, NOT an hour.
      All the transport agencies, hotels, downtown shopping centers and department stores, etc know from the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau when those big conferences are happening and plan accordingly. Anyone downtown last weekend might have noticed the 10000 or so veterinarians in town – they were no surprise to those of us who work in any customer service related business in the Downtown area.

  5. We almost didn’t go this morning as we didn’t want to fight the crouds and I was thinking of taking the family next weekend.

    I had about a 30min wait to get on in Tukwilla this morning and the wait to return was a little shorter. On both trips the cars that were standing room only from start to finish.

  6. I went down to the Stadium Station about 9:45 and walked out on the platform – had a nice chat with a Sound Transit person and then boarded for Tukwilla. As the train headed south I glanced at my watch — it was about 9:58 so I was aboard as the count down clock ran down to zero!
    Tukwilla only took about 30 minutes to re-board and head back.
    Overall impression — a good sound job (forgive the pun) — a little unsmooth approaching Tukwilla (felt like the trucks were “hunting”) but otherwise a good ride.
    Bottom line — an moderately flawed plan that has been well executed.
    BTW — had serious discussion with ORCA people about transfers in the tunnel to the train (tap the card when you get on the bus, tap it in the tunnel when you transfer, and tap again when you get off — or so the project manager THINKS — I’ll test it Monday.)

    Finally — thanks to all who maintain this blog — its a super source of information and comment about Seattle area transportation.

    1. There is hunting along 599 and 5 before the turn up to Tukwila. I’ve mentioned it to Sound Transit staff a few times, it will probably smooth out some as the track wears, but it also seems to be dependent on how many people are on the train. With a light load, it barely happens, but with a packed train it does more.

  7. I know this question may seem sacrilegious, but did anyone notice how well the parking situation held up at the Tukwila station? As a southender, I have heard a lot of people talk about using that station for downtown forays, but don’t have a sense about how well those 600 or so spots will hold up during a typical commute or pre-Mariner/Sounder/Seahawks game type event.

    Thanks for the cool coverage. This is pretty exciting stuff for our little village.

    1. It was more or less full all day, but
      1) It was opening weekend, demand was (probably) higher than a normal day
      2) Everyone still has the car mindset and doesn’t understand how to use Link without driving
      3) There were an excess of ST vehicles, many tents, and some large plastic urine collectors scattered throughout the lot taking up a ton of those spaces.

  8. Great time on the rails today – My only complaint: the guy wearing the “we said monorail” shirt snipping and bitching about every little thing to his little kid! Talk about sour grapes – he was making up complaints out of whole cloth such as ‘its going so slow so it doesn’t run down little ones like you.’

    1. In 4 hours volunteering at Westlake, I had one complaint–a woman from somewhere in Snohomish County mad at the lack of parking lots around stations. She drives to work downtown, presumably alone. Taking a bus from Everett would be too slow. I tried to explain that the greenhouse emissions are basically the same until you go over about 30 miles (although it does reduce congestion to get more cars off the roads). She asked why park and rides are necessary for buses, and I tried to explain that rail facilitates development buses don’t. That the idea is to put a lot of jobs and homes around each station so people can walk, bike, or bus to Link. I finally used a point we did in DC; that even if you’re driving, rail benefits you by taking lots of other cars off the road so congestion is relieved and travel speeds improve, and we all benefit from cleaner air. She kept interrupting me and I quickly realized had already made up her mind and wasn’t going to listen.

      Everyone else was very positive. Lots of questions, lots of wanting to know when it comes to my suburb/neighborhood, rave reviews from people who’d ridden it.

      1. Joe, one of the aspects of that particular ride that I enjoyed the most was that every time someone thought out loud and had a question such as “is this automated?” monorail shirt guy of course was at the ready with a reply that basically said “light rail = bad, monorail is what we should have built.” Getting back to what I enjoyed about this: everyone seemed totally un-phased by this bitterness. It was a link car packed full of very happy people, less one person still living in 2003.

    2. Heh. I was thinking about wearing my “We Said Monorail” shirt too, but not for the same reasons as that guy… I am too happy about the train to have any sour grapes at the moment.

      1. I did wear my old “Let’s Monorail” green button, just in commemoration of my original, lamented plan, which was to take the monorail from Morgan Junction to opening day of Link. But not in any spirit of dissing light rail! I’m pleased with Link, mostly. I’m just really sad at not having the monorail to complement it. And I heard exactly that sentiment from several other people, even without my button. (We took the Water Taxi, instead.) Most monorail supporters I know don’t think “light rail = bad”; they think it’s good! They just think we should have built the monorail, also.

      2. Bingo. Yes, I have been frustrated at the anti-monorail opinions around here sometime, because I supported the monorail (every single time it was up for election) and the light rail as well. It’s not so much that I prefer the technology or anything (though I have certainly enjoyed the three monorail systems I’ve ridden so far) but that Seattle needs the grade-separated transit. West Seattle and Ballard really need it, honestly.

  9. i’m a transit fan, but the 2 trains i saw when i took my partner to cc station to buy an orca card were not std room only. approx 7pm

    wtf, cash only for fares. no instructions on where to buy an orca card according to my partner. (mine was provided by work so i only vaguely remember maybe only at the “big” stations are orca’s available….) lame

    still i’m excited for the future even if the crosswalk at alaska & mlk is unreliable

      1. I was able to purchase an Orca card today at Tukwila Intl Blvd, and it prompted me to pay by a credit or debit card if I wanted (I used cash).

    1. Tell me about that crosswalk. I’m on the Pedestrian Advisory Board. Our annual walking tour is coming up, and we want to tour a station area.

      1. for the croswalk she was on the se corner headed to link then back.

        outbound it didn’t turn to walk when it was green for traffic. my partner jaywalked right in front of the cop.

        then on her return, it only turned to walk after the left turns were done. (from alaska to mlk so they wouldn’t have crossed her lanes). that amount of time is annoying, assuming the signal had worked for the outbound trip it would have been the difference between making the link that just arrived or not.

      2. We were down there a few days ago and found the wait time to cross to be very, very long. There are going to be jaywalkers there — I guarantee it.

        Now, yesterday, we were making a left turn onto MLK from Alaska (unfortunately we had an out of town event to attend so we didn’t get to ride the train — we drove along the tracks on the way out of town, though), Link was stopped at the CC station, and some moron in front of us was so busy ogling the train and the station slowly while making the left turn, that we were afraid we were going to get stuck on the tracks. Yikes. (The left-turn signal turned yellow after we entered the intersection, but the driver in front of us just slowed down and inched forward for some reason. No traffic blockage or anything — he/she was just rubbernecking, I think.)

    2. Any TVM will sell you an ORCA, as Joshua mentions. I put some money on the e-purse on mine just to see how it works – the TVMs are slow and I’ve seen a couple of them crash, but I think things will smooth out.

      I actually tried some of the crosswalks – they’re not bad. There are times when waits get pretty high, but I’ve waited longer to cross Alaskan Way, and *certainly* longer to cross Aurora or Lake City Way.

      By 7 things were definitely clearing out. People wanted to go both ways on the train, the buses weren’t really that compelling.

  10. Waited about 35 minutes at the ID station around 4:30. Got off at Beacon Hill to visit with a couple of volunteers and grab a bite to eat. Reboarded without a wait around 6, and headed down to Tukwila—which was quiet enough by then that they let us stay on same train for the trip back north. A few general thoughts:

    1) Love that so many of the seats have room for bags and smaller luggage underneath
    2) Thought the seats were a little small (and yes, I’m height-weight proportionate)
    3) Would really like some good signs highlighting direction and distance for neighborhood attractions (perhaps neighborhood chambers could chip in?)
    4) Hope they modify the bike hooks
    5) Stunning views heading out of downtown
    6) Still think there should be a couple more stops on this line
    7) Beacon Hill pay-station monitors need some kind of awning or glare-retardant: they’re all but impossible to read on a sunny day
    8) Favorite quote of the day (from an older woman who clearly doesn’t spend much time in the city proper): “Oooooh, so THIS is where SoDo is! I always wondered.”

    1. 3) Yes, I think the city is going to be looking at that. Have you seen the red signs downtown, with arrows pointing to attractions? Hopefully we’ll get those at Link stations as well.

      4) Really? I talked to about a dozen cyclists yesterday, and none had any issue. I think the Stranger was just whining. I may take my bike today.

      5) Mount Rainier!

      6) Graham Street and S. 133rd someday!

      7) Yes, but I wonder if it’ll be better as the bamboo grows.

  11. A great day; time for a little nit-picking. Just two complaints about the festive opening day:
    1) Overzealous staff lady at Rainier Beach Station yelled at family “no eating on the platform” – however, no such rule exists; at least, no signage to that effect exists.
    2) Disallowing exiting via normal tunnel station exits was quite inconvenient and unnecessary given small crowds. Specifically no exit to 2nd Ave (north end of station) at University Street and no exit to Third (west end of station) at Westlake. They should have made provisions for light crowds and been more flexible. Regular users expect to be able to exit at any exit.

    1. 1) Yeah, what’s up with that? Eric had ice cream on the platform at Othello and we didn’t have any trouble.

    2. 1. I saw someone eating on the train on my second ride of the day (leaving Westlake around 10:20). Come on people, at least give it a month before you sully it.
      2. Yeah, I got bitten by that. I wanted to leave Pioneer Square station using the north exit and they wouldn’t let me. I was going up hill to 6th, so I wanted any escalator advantage I could get.

    3. 2) they did seem a bit set on rigidly applying the plans they had come up with in case of 3-4 hour waits. For instance at Tukwila they were directing everyone down the escalators just to turn around and come back up, even after being told that there was no longer anyone waiting at the bottom.

      In fairness, though, a lot of the people directing the crowds were inexperienced volunteers–for instance I had a nice chat with a lady whose husband works for ST, and wanted to help out with his big day–and in that position doing everything strictly by one’s written instructions can feel like the only way to be safe from screwing something up with the best of intentions.

  12. Great to finally meet you in person.

    And a Here, Here! to “our feet are tired”. But better our feet than our tires. :) I’m going to Rainier Beach with a friend tomorrow where we can walk or bus to Kubota Gardens, which before today was too long a trip to do.

    1. You too! I’ve got one of those magnets on my fridge now, as well.

      Thank you so much for reminding me about Kubota! I may try to go down there today as well.

  13. (i would bike to kubota from link, not walk. maybe walk in the fall or winter, its too hot)

    1. It’s uphill, though, isn’t it? Riding a bike uphill in this weather is pretty darned hot, too. I haven’t been to Kubota, though, so maybe it’s not uphill where I think it is.

      At any rate, I think I’ll go on a nice 70-degree day. :)

    2. I rode the Chief Sealth trail from RB station and that hill’s really steep.

      If you take Renton Ave, it’s uphill from Henderson, drops a bit, and then another uphill from 51st Ave S. The street is pretty wide but beware of seams and potholes.

      Or you could take the 106 from Othello which drops you off in front of Kubota and bike back.

      It’s not too far for a walk, just a mile from RB station.

  14. Got back less than an hour ago and my feet are sore. Walked from my house to the South Everett Freeway Station. Should’ve rode my bike.

    Very impressed. Sound Transit and the volunteers did a go job of crowd control. A lot of people but everything went smooth.

    The Link took the surface route through Rainer Valley way better than I expected. We’ll proably still see a few knuckleheads here and there who will try and race the train and lose.

    Only real downside I saw was the inclined approach to the Tukwila Station. Looks like it could be trickey on a winter day if the tracks freeze over.

    1. The trains have sand which should improve traction. If you look closely under the seats in the high floor section near the cab you’ll see the sand tanks. In icy conditions I’m concerned about frozen switches. On the lunch bus tour, they explained that they’ll consider installing them after they see how operations fare in the winter.

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