1991 Orion 1.508 by Oran Viriyincy
1991 Orion 1.508 by Oran Viriyincy

This evening, I rode 4 trips of the first public revenue runs on Link. I was happy, disappointed, appalled but also understanding, which is why this post is here.

1. From a railroaders point of view, the elevated section is decent. The southbound line is much smoother than the northbound by a long shot but overall, I rate this a C in terms of ride quality. While the benefit of not having to align track is good, the noise, ride quality and such is going to be the bigger deterrent for many riders. Personally, until the segments are fixed and adjusted, I would recommend only doing 45 to 50mph. This has nothing at all to do with breaking in the track because the track will never be “broken in”. It is “anchored” down with a very, very limited amount of tolerance. I could get very technical on how this could be fixed but it would be a post within itself.

2. Waiting for buses in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel gets old..fast. Having to wait 5 to 7 minutes between Pioneer Square Station and International District Station is absolutely unacceptable by any standards. This happened on 3 of my 4 trips. At least the automatic announcement notifying why we are being held went off. That still did not help the people whom hoped for a quick round trip.

3. Pierce Transit is operating the Sea-Tac Airport shuttle service, ST Route 575 with 1999 Orion 1.508 buses. Very cool to see that pull up to Sea-Tac Airport! However, besides the lone destination sign in front of the bus, there wasn’t any other signage that states that the bus is the Tukwila Link Connector. Also, while some people were able to find out that the bus was indeed the connector from people standing at the bus stop, there was still a lot of confusion on to take the 194 or the shuttle. There were also complaints that there was no ST agent at the Airport Information Booths regarding the light rail.

4. Seattle Transit Blog was mentioned 11 times while I was on-board! Hi to those that I talked with today!

5. I am still slightly annoyed by some of the operators. Some were smooth, others were rough as hell. Kudos to those operators for making the rider experience even better.

6. The more I rode Link, the more I looked at Southcenter Mall. 70% of the people questioned why that route did not go there… as it would only add 2-5 minutes to the schedule (but add several million dollars to the project), depending on the routing, etc. A Southcenter Mall stop would have easily tripled the ridership alone…take a look at the ridership of the Route 150 for that proof.

7. The routing via MLK was probably the smartest decision Sound Transit could have made, regardless if the routing would have been faster via the Duwamish. The ridership today from the on and offs from my observations were pretty amazing.

8. The Seattle Times naturally stated that the ridership was weak and South 154th Street Park and Ride was nearly empty. I have a picture when I arrived at South 154th Street Park and Ride and counted maybe 20 open spaces remaining. The line to get tickets was nearly 40-50 deep at times. Today was a very, busy day. The morning, maybe not so much, but the numbers were most definitely there.

9. Security and Sound Transit police were present off and on throughout the day. Yes, I did get fare checked.. heck, come to think of it, I got fare checked on Sounder for the first time in almost a year.. and no, I am not joking…

10. TVM issues were minimal. If there were any issues, they were reported and fixed within an hour. That is still very, very, impressive. I was able to add money to my e-purse with my debit card in 45 seconds and it instantly added that value… no 24 hour delay that you have with orcacard.com

11. On my way back from Beacon Hill Station, we were delayed for 5-10 minutes due to a disabled train at the International District Station according to the operator. The automatic announcement came on that there was a service delay and would be underway shortly. It was a good way to talk with some people regarding how they felt about the service and such. Even with the glitches, all was well.

All in all, I was happy at some of it, really annoyed at another part of it but most importantly, the vibe was still good, despite the issues throughout the day. People were happy and glad it arrived. Some even stated they are looking at housing near Link stations. This is exactly how things should start. This is only the beginning of course. I am personally looking at some of the newly remodeled apartment a block away from South 154th.

How was your experiences? Agree/disagree? Let me know!

126 Replies to “Link Observations from Today”

  1. I rode light rail from University St. to Othello station. Took ~17 minutes! AWESOME! Try doing that on the 106! Had to take the 106 the rest of the way to Renton. That sucked. Makes me yearn for when light rail gets around to the southeast side. I SO wish they had added a Southcenter Mall stop! Oh well. My experience: This is so great!

  2. 1) I heard from some people that the track in the elevated section between Tukwila and Ranier Valley was poorly designed and thus causing a rough ride in that area. COuld this also be the culprit behind the loud screeching noises heard by the residents? Apparently a contractor with no experience about rails and trains built this section.

    3) I agree that there should at least be a spur of somekind to southcenter seeing how it is a few minutes away. The benefit (a lot of potential riders) definitely overshadows the costs. Hope this is considered in the future (maybe even a airport bypass when the line gets busy).

    A few other comments that I want to add include:

    The TRAIN BELLS ARE ANNOYING. Seriously, the bells add nothing to safety and I can’t think of any reason why they do this, especially when entering stations. Many other light rail systems as well as metro trains in other cities are entirely silent.

    The doors should have a doors opening and doors closing chime that sounds at least 1-2 seconds before the doors close, not while the doors are closing. Something like “Doors Opening” “Doors Closong” “1-2 second Chime” . Right now, the doors close almost instantly when the chimes sound.

    c) Other than that, the system is built quite well.

    1. I totally agree with the bells. THERE IS NO REASON TO SOUND THE BELL AT BHS! Seriously.. if you can’t tell that a train is coming into ANY tunnel! It is far, far to loud, especially in BHS… the DTSS I can understand for Westlake Mall and IDS for example but the others is uncalled for and should only be used if somebody is running across the station.

      The bells got real annoying, real fast and I am used to them diesel and steam engines!

    2. 1) Yes. That is one of the MANY reasons why the track is crappy along the guideway. Contractor and engineers that primarily designed highways did the Link elevated portion down there.

      1. It was a joint venture with PCL Construction and RailWorks Inc.


        RailWorks is also doing the rail for M Street to Lakewood and signal/communications between Tukwila and Sea-Tac Airport.

        Speaking of Sea-Tac Airport… I noticed they were testing the elevators and escalators (unless the escalators was just me seeing things)

        Most of the glass is up around the station and Mass Electric was finishing up the OCS. I’m really, really puzzled how this won’t open until December.. it really looks like they could go for October/November at their rate.

      2. Most of the glass is up around the station and Mass Electric was finishing up the OCS. I’m really, really puzzled how this won’t open until December.. it really looks like they could go for October/November at their rate.

        I was chatting with someone from ST on Sunday (i volunteered), and he said that the tracks will all be 100% ready by mid September, and at that point they’re going to add the airport stop to the schedule. If the station isn’t ready yet, they’ll just have a longer layover at Tukwila, but once the station is 100% ready, they’ll be able to quickly extend service. He thought the airport link would be running before December.

        I noticed that there was a fair amount of wobbling in the line between Rainier Valley and the turn up the hill. I hope they can get that dialed in. In the mean time i think i’d rather bounce around a little rather than slow the train down.

      3. I sure would be a great move if they could somehow go 7×24 on the Airport Station and get it done ASAP.

      4. I wonder why they hired the contractors that have little or no experience in rail construction, hope they fine them for poor workmanship.

      5. Sound Transit should be providing oversight and inspection of the work. I wouldn’t just blame the contractors. Perhaps the schedule was a factor too?

      6. Whoa, whoa, you guys have gone from “it’s a little bumpy” to “the contractors suck and the schedule was too tight!”

        This is totally normal for direct fixation. Yeah, they can work on it, it’ll improve. It’s a brand new installation. Just give them some time!

      7. This is totally normal for direct fixation. Yeah, they can work on it, it’ll improve. It’s a brand new installation. Just give them some time!

        I agree, these problems are fixable, and I’m confident that ST and their contractors will eventually get it right, but the thing that bugs me is that they had months of testing this thing to get the track adjusted. They’ve been testing the trains for 3 months at least. Now, they’re going to have to do adjustment in the wee hours of the morning, or shut down the system while they adjust the tracks. It’s frustrating.

      8. The Beacon Hill tunnel was rushed and the ride quality was better (subjective) than the Tukwila section.

        This is why rail systems shut down every night for maintenance. Adjustments are continually made to keep the system in top share (or to bring it to shape).

      9. How is direct fixation adjusted? I know ordinary ballasted track is adjusted for height by “tamping” (a cool process) and later by “rail grinding”; for width it should never need more than minimal adjustment. Again, for width direct fixation track had better not need more than minimal adjustment. How do they adjust it for height?

  3. 3) 575? I only saw “SEA” on the rear destination sign. I agree that some more signage would be great. Perhaps they could spring the few thousand dollars to wrap them in ST colors? They could take a hint from the real Connector and incorporate the words “Link” and “Connector” into the design.

    6) You should go inside. It’s huge. I’ve only been there once since the remodel. I hit up the ATM and left. Now that I think about it, I ought to take Link down to Tukwila and walk down to the mall some time. It looks like it’s a bit of a walk, but the only viable alternative I see is taking the Connector and then the 140 or one of the other routes that serves the airport (if there are any–I don’t know the routes in that area very well).

    10) The delay only applies to buses. They only download data at pull in.

    1. I often wonder why they use old looking shuttle buses instead of borrowing a few buses from sound transit fleet.

      1. Just depends on what ST wants to pay for. The board chose to contract it out. I’m sure you could dig up their old videos and watch them talk about it.

        Honestly I don’t know why ST OK’ed the use of such crappy looking buses. For many people, it’s going to be their first experience on Link. Make it nice for them.

      2. Why not wrap those crappy buses that look like a light rail train and it would help people notice it quickly, they run every 10 minutes so I think 2 or 3 buses would be enough for that route for the day.

      3. I’d rather they just leave the buses alone. It’s only going to run for 5 months at the very longest, so I don’t think they should waste money painting the buses. If they had some that were already painted with ST livery, that would be great, but let’s not waste money painting buses for a temporary route.

        I do think they could invest a couple hundred bucks in a good big sign indicating where the Airport Link Shuttle picks up, and including the schedule.

      4. @Colin +1

        From Oran’s photo, the buses actually kinda look nice all white. A prominent, well designed sign for Airport-LINK-Downtown will be nice.

      5. “Paint” isn’t really necessary.

        For a five-month run, they could easily do a quick vinyl advertising wrap — a lot cheaper than paint, quick to put on, and when the temporary service is over, they just peel it off.

      6. Paint” isn’t really necessary.

        For a five-month run, they could easily do a quick vinyl advertising wrap — a lot cheaper than paint, quick to put on, and when the temporary service is over, they just peel it off.

        I understand it’s not necessarily paint they’d use. I’d be in favor of putting a medium sized sticker in a prominent location (maybe just behind the front door) on each bus, but if they’re spending more than $150/bus for badging would be a big waste of money IMO.

      7. all comes down to $$$. Since ST did not have extra equipment of their own to use on weekdays, this was all that was available at the time. Infact, considering that they were in dead storage for about 4 years prior to being put back into service i say they look rather good. And, It could be worse – you could see a private contractor running the service with who-knows-what for equipment, and maintenace.

        An all-white bus is better than no-bus at all. And really, until light rail is extended to the airport, few if any, common tourist types will use it. Even after it is extended i doubt many will, it will be joe seattleite the business traveller using it, who already knows how to use LINK and how to get about town. Everyone else will pay $30 a head to grey line to ride some clapped out ex dallas 102A3 on the airporter.

      8. Even after it is extended i doubt many will, it will be joe seattleite the business traveller using it, who already knows how to use LINK and how to get about town. Everyone else will pay $30 a head to grey line to ride some clapped out ex dallas 102A3 on the airporter.

        When traveling I ALWAYS try to take the train into the city from the airport. It’s much easier than trying to deal with the taxi drivers: I know exactly what it will cost, where it will go, and how long it will take. And I don’t have to figure out a tip. Even when traveling for business, and everything is a reimbursable, I try and avoid the taxis. So I think LOTS of visitors will be using it.

    2. My last firm was on 152nd just off Southcenter Blvd–the line goes directly past my old window. We were so hopeful that the 140 revision would happen sooner so that we could ride not only Link but Sounder (the 140 is supposed to hit the Tukwila Sounder station as well). IMHO that revision should have been made for the June schedule changes, not months later. A frequent Burien-Tukwila Link-Southcenter-Tukwila Sounder-Renton bus service would make it very easy for both Renton and Burien residents to use rail, not to mention Southcenter patrons. The new route is good and they have reduced headways from 60 to 30 minutes–but it would be nice to get that down to 15 or even less someday.

      I used to walk around the area often at lunch. It’s about a 30 minute walk from the Link station to Southcenter (down anyway). The hill back up is beastlier than it appears!

  4. Does anyone else think the announcement system is kinda odd? There glitches about station names and some announcements are missing, i hope they polish it up more soon. And the “doors to my left/right” just seems strange.

    1. I understand the “Doors to my left/right” because of Portland MAX is the same. I was a bit bothered that it says “Now Entering, Such and Such station”… I would have preferred “Now Arriving at Such and Such station, Doors to my left/right”

      The doors to my left/right is dependent on direction of travel. You’d be surprised how many people go to the other door, thinking it is going to open…

      Link 126 had a bunch of glitching issues when it talked. A bunch of us started to actually make fun of it.. it was quite something with the shuddering, cutting out and such.

      Some operators simply disabled the announcement system and talked but it wasn’t loud enough so they were understandable. If your going to disable the system, turn up the speakers so we can actually hear where we are at =P

    2. They should announce doors east or west, not left or right.

      The east side of the train is east no matter which way you’re facing. You can say “*my* right” as much as you want, half the population will turn to *their* right anyway.

      Or they could take a cue from Seattle’s maritime history and announce doors port or starboard….

      1. The east/west distinction would not work once East Link starts up. ST was probably going for something that can be used as the system grows. Plus, it isn’t always intuitive which way is east and west, especially for tourists or people who aren’t from the area.

  5. Also, I’m working on getting all of my photos up. If you’re on Twitter, you should bug @devights as he has a lot of good stuff that he hasn’t uploaded yet.

  6. Tim,

    According to the rider alert at the airport, the route is dubbed Route 575

    I’ve been inside the new Southcenter Mall and it is AMAZING. I’ve heard the developers wanted to build a streetcar loop to serve all of the mall but backed out of it when the economy tanked. That would have been awesome cause there are some great shops away from the mall itself.

  7. Yeah the track was a little shaky in tukwilla but still smoother then a bus. Not a huge deal for me. There were some strange delays between rainier beach station and Columbia city station. I got off at mt baker and walked around. Then I got back on and the trip back to westlake took 22 minutes instead of 15. 22 minutes isn’t bad but it’s not what they adverised. I’m pretty happy with my experience today and think these issues will be fixed in the next few weeks or months. I really liked how the orca card worked too.

  8. As far as your observation of the Tukwila parking lot. While I agree the parking lot on the station side of the street was nearly full, the lot across the street had only five cars in it in the middle of the day. Heck, I got a parking spot about 20 paces from the station!!

  9. In response to #1, rail can be broken in. The rail profile changes very quickly. Just because its bolted in doesn’t mean it can’t shift. Things come lose, heat, cracking, vibrations, etc. And the Link USED to run much more smoothly, but since it’s been broken in, and the guideway has settled (this is normal!), its gotten much worse. ST has been trying very hard to correct it. There are other issues as well that are plaguing ride quality as well.

    Ballasted track is much smoother, easier to adjust, easier and cheaper to maintain, and provides much better cushioning and sound dampening. With ballasted track, a big vibrating machine (tamper) comes in and fixes it in a matter of seconds. Direct fixation really bites. Once its there and screwed down, its a real bitch to change. Very labour intensive.

    1. Mike,

      Thanks, I should have corrected myself in that regard. I know it is adjustable but the level of adjustment is much, much more difficult than concrete ties and a ballasted ROW.

      I am still really confused on why ST opted not to do the concrete ties… if they were worried about ballast falling from the guideway, it isn’t like they could have put in a wall to prevent that from happening. Hopefully this is a lesson learned but unfortunately the hard way regarding this problem.

  10. Ha! I totally forgot that there was a side lot across the street. I was wondering why AM/PM had such a huge parking lot to be honest since it is basically connected.

  11. I don’t see why they couldn’t still build a spur to Southcenter on its way to Renton and ultimately up 405. Either that or a streetcar loop serving the whole mall as was said above :-)

    1. I like that streetcar idea. It would do wonders for traffic around the mall, as it’s not uncommon at all to make short hops. If it ever does, I wanna see big empty cars similar to what are used in people movers (like the underground tram at SeaTac). Lots of open space so you can carry your stuff. Although the last time I was at Southcenter, I bought a window AC unit–which is not something I’d want to lug on.

    2. Because if you sent every other train on a spur, you’d only have a train to the airport every 15 minutes – peak. Off peak it’d be every half hour. East Link is already going to be a spur, we can’t add another.

      1. That would be a separate corridor that would not go downtown via the existing track. It might get downtown via West Seattle.

      2. Renton-Southcenter-Tukwila-Burien-White Center-West Seattle-SODO-Downtown-Uptown-Interbay-Ballard-Greenwood-Northgate, heck, Lake City-Lake Forest Park-Kenmore-Bothell-Wineries-Totem Lake-Kirkland-Bellevue-Newcastle-Renton would be an awesome Link route. Yeah!

      3. Well, in theory Burien to Seattle or even Renton to Seattle trains would be possible depending on how the track is configured if a Burien to Renton line is built. One of the options for this line is sharing the track along 518.

        On the other hand what exactly Sound Transit decides to do operationally is another matter.

  12. When I walked all the way from Tukwila station to Southcenter which took us about 40 minutes tops…I noticed the elevated trackway is banked so I don’t think they would be able to build a station there at the corner and plus there’s an empty lot in that area, too.

  13. My experience with light rail today was fantastic! I love light rail so much that I got out of my bus in the DSTT at Westlake and took the just down to DSTT at Pioneer Square. I was smiling every second and I think others were too (though secretly). During rush our, I took the light rail back to Westlake and then down to Stadium Station and then back to Westlake where I caught my bus back home.

    Overall, I had a fantastic time on light rail on its first commuter day and I hope the best for it in the future!

    Just as a suggestion about future stations (kind of off topic, sorry): I’m not sure if the North, East, and South extensions will have this, but I think that there should be bus shuttles from stations to local schools. These days, I know people who live in South Seattle but go to Roosevelt High School. If there was some sort of instant shuttle for student commuters, I’m sure that light would see a lot of usage in the future. I love how Mt. Baker Station is right next to Franklin High School, because students can get to the light rail and they will have a stop right next to their school.

    1. I think that’s one of the reasons why we have school buses. It would be interesting to see if Seattle adds some stops on some of their bus routes that are near Link stations.

      Although if you live out of your high school’s service area, I kinda think your transportation is up to you. I knew a guy that went to my high school that lived on Mercer Island, and the school is in the Auburn/Federal Way area.

      1. As I understand the system, high school students are provided with a pass valid on King County Metro for their transportation if outside of the service area for a school. It would be interesting to see what would happen if students from schools near Link were given passes valid on Link as a test (from both the student’s point of view and that of the other riders).

      2. Seattle School District no longer provides bus service for high school students. Under the current student assignment plan I believe the service area for all Seattle High Schools is the entire District.

      3. The assignment plan is changing very, very soon to weighting neighborhood schools more highly. Some high schools use Metro – i.e., the students ride normal revenue service buses with the rest of us – and other high schools use yellow (First Student) buses. There has been a trend toward more high schools using Metro pases. Students, regardless of assignment area, are given PugetPasses if they live more than 2.5 miles from school – state law mandates that students who live outside this distance be provided transportation. I think the distance is 1 mile for elementary; they all use yellow buses. Some school districts opt to provide transportation for students living closer.

        The main reason that high schools have switched from First Student to Metro is school start times. A vast amount of research shows that starting school at a time like 7:45 a.m. is detrimental to a teenager’s ability to learn due to physiological factors, so high schools, starting with Nathan Hale, moved start times later. First Student is unwilling/unable to accommodate such changes, so high schools that move their start times from 7:45 lose yellow buses.

        Next year all high schools will start, I think, around 8:15 as Seattle Public Schools tries to find efficiencies. There may be exceptions. The PugetPasses are valid on Sound Transit, but as of now there hasn’t been a fare higher than Metro’s one-zone youth fare – that is, I don’t know if the students will have to pay for a pass upgrade to ride Link or if they’ll get more valuable passes. It kind of sucks that there’s a larger disparity between Metro and Link youth fares than between the adult fares.

      4. A vast amount of research shows that starting school at a time like 7:45 a.m. is detrimental to a teenager’s ability to learn due to physiological factors, so high schools, starting with Nathan Hale, moved start times later. First Student is unwilling/unable to accommodate such changes,
        No wonder Seattle Public Schools are having trouble. All Northshore HS start at 7:10AM (six o’clock if they opt for a zero period class). The reason is because then the yellow buses have time to loop back and pick up the Jr High and then make a third trip for the elementary kids. The other thing an early start does is allow an early 1:40PM dismissal making it easier to work a part time job or participate in after school activities and still get home at a reasonable hour. Bellevue starts all HS at 7:30 and they contract with Metro. Lake Washington staggers HS start times from 7:30 to 8:00 to make their transportation (yellow buses) work. Moving HS start times in the city deeper into the heart of the morning commute seems silly from a transportation standpoint.

  14. “While the benefit of not having to align track is good, the noise, ride quality and such is going to be the bigger deterrent for many riders.”

    We had a very loud and wobbly ride back from Tukwila today. Much worse than the ride down. There were these thumping and squeaking noises, and quite a side to side wobble. I didn’t get the train number, but it seemed as if it might be an issue with this particular train. Jason mentioned that it hadn’t been like that on Sunday when he rode back from Tukwila, probably on a different train.

    People were complaining and moving forward in the train to try to get away from the noise. But they were all pretty cheerful about it.

    “The more I rode Link, the more I looked at Southcenter Mall.”

    Yup… you get that nice view of it to taunt you as you go by.

    “The Seattle Times naturally stated that the ridership was weak and South 154th Street Park and Ride was nearly empty. I have a picture when I arrived at South 154th Street Park and Ride and counted maybe 20 open spaces remaining.”

    Interestingly, we were there at 7:30 in the evening tonight, when I would have expected the parking lot to be nearly empty — and the closer lot was more than half-full.

    “Yes, I did get fare checked..”

    No fare checks for either me or Jason yet.

    My concern about Orca at the moment is that it was hard to tell what it was doing with my card sometimes. Sometimes it beeped once, sometimes twice — and sometimes the confirmation message went by so fast that I couldn’t read it.

    I logged in to the web site and it looks as if the balance is what it should be, so I guess all is well, but while I was out there riding I thought I might have been double-charged or something.

    Also, it is darned easy to forget to tap out. I had to go back and tap out at Tukwila.

    And why do the ORCA readers say “TAG” instead of “TAP”?

    “The doors should have a doors opening and doors closing chime that sounds at least 1-2 seconds before the doors close, not while the doors are closing.”


    One nice thing — the trains are cool and comfortable, not horribly hot like the London Underground trains. Very nice. Hopefully they will keep the air-conditioning well-maintained.

    1. “The more I rode Link, the more I looked at Southcenter Mall.”

      Yup… you get that nice view of it to taunt you as you go by.


      One nice thing — the trains are cool and comfortable, not horribly hot like the London Underground trains. Very nice. Hopefully they will keep the air-conditioning well-maintained.

      And hopefully they keep it off once it gets below 70. I’ve never understood why people set their thermostats below 68 when the weather’s above that temperature…

      And you’ve got some really nice photos in the pool!

    2. I went back to look at my wife’s Orca card transactions for her round trip from Beacon Hill to Westlake and there was a total of 7 line items for this trip and it overcharged her $.50 on the return trip. When she tapped out at BHS it correctly refunded her money and then added one more line charge (the extra $.50).

      I didn’t watch her do it so it could be user error but it seems strange that it would charge $.50 since there is no route for that price. Have others had incorrect charges on their Orca?

      1. Yes, and ORCA will not process refunds. The best you can hope for is a free ride ticket from the agency (Sound Transit or Metro) which will be a long time coming. ORCA will happily forward your request to the agency on the eighth or ninth phone call or email. Not a happy process!

      2. To bad they can’t do the refund for you like on the bus. I am a metro driver and I have the ability with the ORCA machine to refund back your transaction up to a certain amount of time. I drive on the eastside and I have a ton of people that use the cards. Weird she got charged again. Once you tap it then it becomes your transfer for 2 hours.

        Also with the beeping twice I see that when your balance is getting a little low or you have a pass connected to it and it’s getting ready to expire. Only times I really hear that.

      3. A few days before grand opening, the readers at IDS were online. I tried tapping it and it charged me 50¢ even though I had a valid $2.50 PugetPass.

  15. Am I able to physically board those old relics (or are they missing a wheelchair lift)?

  16. Brian, I was surprised that the Link passengers looked nothing like the passengers on the route 42 and 174. A typical route 42 route say, at about Alaska street, would be more than half African American. On my one Link round trip, I saw only two African Americans two whole time, a couple of asians, the the rest where white people, who seemed to be riding the train to experience it. It felt like an amusement park ride for white people who want to see where minorities live. I was expecting the cars to be filled with a better mix of Rainier Valley residents. I wonder why they aren’t riding Link in larger numbers.

    1. I kinda hate to admit it but I somewhat agree with you, though later in the day, more African Americans were riding to check it out. A family actually commented that it does kick the 42’s but hands down, even if they had to wait an extra 5 minutes for the delay.

      It’ll take time and be a growing period. There was a wide mix of people on the train in the late afternoon/evening hours. The biggest and most noticable will come in September.

    2. What you’re seeing is because the buses haven’t changed. People of any color who are used to doing something one way will keep doing it that way. When the service change happens in a couple of months you’ll see more people who actually live there riding.

      1. People of any color who are used to doing something one way will keep doing it that way.

        Seriously? That’s unique to people of color? Or is it unique to people in general, as I would believe it is.

        I believe there is a lot of confusion about fares. Youth fares are also double what they are by bus. And also, when I rode during the evening commuting hours, at least half of the car was people of color.

        Perhaps the people who actually live in the neighborhood are waiting for the hype to die down.

        Lastly, I’ve talked to a lot of people who live closer to Rainier than MLK, and they said that the train is anywhere between 5-10 minutes longer than taking the 7.

      2. Sorry, I misread your comment… I really thought you had said only people of color and hit the roof.

        My apologies.

      3. Lastly, I’ve talked to a lot of people who live closer to Rainier than MLK, and they said that the train is anywhere between 5-10 minutes longer than taking the 7.

        Are they really sure? I rode the 7 bus long time ago they make a lot of stops and I doubt it’s faster than the light rail train.

    3. One more data point: this morning, I saw a 42X with about 20 people, all of whom were minority. This route previously carried a good percentage of white riders. I saw two african americans waiting for the 42 at Alaska and MLK (!!!). I didn’t have time to chat because my train was pulling into the station.

  17. This will probably be deleted for being off-topic, but I just want to take a moment to thank myself for my comments here. I don’t often agree with everyone here, and that takes a lot of courage on my part to go against the grain.

    I admire me.

    1. …I’m actually leaving this because it’s so preposterous. Martin, you too, leave this one for the humor. :)

    2. Well I enjoy having you here. Your posts are often hilarious. And every once and a while you bring up a good point.

  18. There are already a lot of comments and I skimmed most of them, so I apologize if someone else had already mentioned this, but with everything else that has been said so far, one other thing that I found annoying during my round trip to the airport and back was that when boarding at the Tukwila station, people can board at both platforms. Why is this a problem? There were people downstairs assisting with how to use the fare machines, but didn’t tell anyone which platform to go up for the next train leaving. On many occasions, I witnessed people go up to one platform, just to see that they choose the wrong one. There needs to be better communication from the rail managers at that station to those below the main platform to direct people. What a bad first-time experience for those coming from SeaTac.

    1. That’s just because Tukwila isn’t meant to be an endpoint. Airport Station is center platform, so it won’t matter. Also, when the next train signs are working in a few weeks, you’ll know where to go.

      1. @Ben. I completely understand that, but it will still be several months until the Airport station is in operation. This is just a temporary fix that can easily be done to assist riders on finding the next train to downtown.

      2. @ Mike: I just wanted to agree with you. I’ve ridden Link twice so far, both times from the Tukwila station, and this was my only real complaint.

        They need to get some temporary signage up alerting riders that trains depart from alternating platforms. I’m also surprised that there are only 2 ticket kiosks at the station (although it looks like they have space to expand to four) Since the airport stations are going to handle the highest number of infrequent/inexperienced riders and those without passes or ORCA cards. And they come in large waves as planes/shuttle buses unload.

        My experience at Tukwila was this: fairly long lines for tickets (each kiosk was about 30 deep, at 11:30am, and I waited 20mins to purchase my ticket) Most of these people were already stressed from dealing with the airport and the shuttle bus confusion before even getting to the station. Then they’d carry their luggage up to one platform only to see the train show up at the other one. To make matters worse, there was a ST employee standing at the platform who didn’t bother to tell anyone, so the crowd figured it out for themselves. Then there was a bit of a rush, as people felt the need to run over to the next train to catch it before it departed.

        It’s a temporary problem that will go away after the Airport station is open (and hopefully it will have more kiosks) but in the meantime it created a bad first impression for a lot of people. You could sense the frustration in the air, and it was understandable. Just one extra employee in the main concourse directing people to the correct platform would’ve solved the problem. And little things like this are going to make a huge difference in public perception.

        Other than that experience, I thought everything about the system was great. This has certainly been a long time coming, but such a thrill to see it finally arrive!

    2. that’s why center-island platforms are always better for terminal stations … then you don’t have to worry about this kind of thing. A good analog to this is the 42nd street Shuttle in NYC … they have signs indicating which platform the next train will depart on so that you don’t pick the wrong one

  19. If Southcenter were smart, they’d have a free shuttle between the Tukwila station and the mall, particularly during the holidays. I won’t go anywhere near that madhouse, even on a slow day, but if I could take the train, and have a short shuttle ride….

    1. The 140 will serve Tukwila station when the Metro service change happens.

  20. How do you transfer to the SLUT? I didn’t ride it today, but walked past the end station on westlake and could not find the orca card tagger?

    1. yes, no ORCA.

      Per http://www.seattlestreetcar.org/about/docs/SeattleStreetcarFactSheetFAQ.pdf

      “Streetcar riders pay a cash fare or use their METRO transit pass, Pugetpass or a bus transfer to ride the Seattle Streetcar. Select METRO and Pugetpass passes are available online at seattlestreetcar.org, metrokc.gov or at more than 120 locations throughout Seattle and King County. Advanced-purchase tickets, day passes and multi-day passes are also sold through area hotels, retailers and event sponsors.

      Streetcar fares are as follows:
      Adult fare: $2.00
      Children ages 5 and under are free
      Youth fare (ages 6-17): 70¢
      Senior citizens (ages 65 and over)/Medicare cardholders: 50¢
      Bicycles are allowed in the center section of the Seattle Streetcar vehicles.”

      1. Yeah I used my metro monthly disabled pass sticker to ride the streetcar, no problems.

    2. I commented on this a while back where I tried to Ride the SLUT using my then-new ORCA (I also had my Microsoft ID handy, and I’m glad I did)

      The 98 really needs to get with the times since it is Metro operated

  21. wtf? ok thats my new test issue for the primary.

    i’m also assuming the monorail doesn’t take orca?

    i also hate the orca card web site. seems like every other link is a pdf for no good reason. if i wanted a collection of pdfs, i’d go to the library and get a bunch of brochures.

    but i love the train. i wish i lived 3-4 blocks closer so it didn’t take as long to walk to the station as it did to get downtown.

    1. the monorail doesn’t take ORCA, or Metro or ST transfers…. it’s a tourist attraction not transit I guess.

      1. Many people believe that the monorail is owned, managed and operated by the City of Seattle. However, unlike Metro, Sound Transit and the trolley , the monorail is a privately run business with independent leadership and staff. Not only is the monorail not government, subsidized, but in fact, it makes money for the city.

      2. I’m not really sure if the Monorail is still making money for the city. The city has spent many millions of dollars in the past few years maintaining / repairing trains and installing a new signaling system after the crash.

      3. If it makes so much money, why can’t they hire someone trained in the use of commas to work on their website?

  22. Some enterprising restaurant near a station outside of downtown could entice downtown workers to come eat at their place (and explore the train) during an extra long lunch break…

    1. Not just one enterprising restaurant, but many, and other businesses, too. Columbia City is having a Light Rail Sale until September 7 – I already saw Harry Potter for $6 because of this, and it got me into Lottie’s Lounge, but I have to admit that instead of the “Derailer” cocktail, I just ended up having a few Rainiers.

  23. Brian: Thanks for the link info. Well written and positive. Question– Do you get a receipt when using orca or debit card? If not, how do the inspecter verify you paid? And if you forget to tap (tag) out I wonder what the fee is?

    1. I was curious about this as well. If I have an ORCA card how do they verify how/if I used it?

      1. The inspectors carry portable card readers, and can see when and where you last tapped into the system.

      2. On Sounder I’ve yet to encounter a fare inspector with a portable reader — they just ask me if I remembered to tag the card before boarding.

        (Just had a fare inspection this morning on the way north — listening to him move through, there were three other ORCA users on the lower level of my car, up from just me the last time they came through.)

  24. I’ve been thinking how easy it is for me to get from Pioneer Square to Columbia City and Maki & Yaki which I love. I have only ever driven there for dinner. But now that Link is up and running, and it’s just a block down from the station, I figure I could do a long lunch break. Or maybe call ahead before I leave my office.

    Anyone Downtown want to join me some afternoon? :-)

  25. Hi Brian —

    I stopped at Tukwila Station four times from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. — the inner lot was two-thirds full by then, the outer lot still nearly empty, so “just over half” is accurate as we wrote. Lots of the riders at the station Monday were still people coming out from Seattle just to try Link, then making a turnback at Tukwila — as contrasted with park-and-ride commuters filling the lot.

    Also, there’s long been a hidden market of transit riders from Tukwila/SeaTac area who walk instead of drive to the bus or now Link, the from the countless apartments a half-mile or more away. That’s not obvious to casual observers, given the strip-mall uses immediately next to the site. Anyway, Tukwila has a great location that’s often underestimated by local pundits.

    As we said in the print paper, one positive trend is the bicycle use. Even in trains that were nearly empty, you had two or three bikes, which as STB readers know, expand the reach of each station.

    — Mike Lindblom, Seattle Times reporter.

    1. Mike,

      Thanks for the correction! I’ll upload that photo that I took of the park and ride. I forgot that there was that sub lot across the street.

  26. I rode from SeaTac to transfer downtown last night. I decided that if the shuttle showed before the 194 I would take Link, and that was a mistake. It arrived downtown 20 minutes later than the 194, so I had an unnecessary 35 minute wait for my connecting bus. Here’s why it was so slow:

    1) The shuttle trip itself is over 10 minutes.
    2) The shuttle didn’t “meet the train” as advertised; a train left the station just as the shuttle pulled in and we waited an additional 12 minutes for the next train to arrive. I knew Link was a bad choice for a non-sightseer when the 8:15 route 194 merged onto Hwy 518 right on schedule at 8:19 and I got to gaze at it longingly from a train-free platform. The view from the platform is nice though.
    3) After boarding, the train waited 7 minutes in the station while the operator changed ends and chatted.

    Link seemed less than well-orchestrated because we were passed by four southbound trains with two minute headways. I wish that packing would have happened prior to my arrival at Tukwila station. I have to admit I was ready to give the inspector a bit of guff and an earful about the schedule but nobody came around. The views from the elevated sections are nice, and the low speeds should make for trouble-free photography, at least as long as the windows aren’t marred by graffiti.

    Are the seats equally uncomfortable on Tacoma Link? They might be fine for 10 mintues but they become really uncomfortable on a 35 minute ride.

    1. “Link seemed less than well-orchestrated because we were passed by four southbound trains with two minute headways. I wish that packing would have happened prior to my arrival at Tukwila station. I have to admit I was ready to give the inspector a bit of guff and an earful about the schedule but nobody came around. ”

      Heh. I wonder if this was near the time we were at the Mount Baker Station last night and we saw three trains go by southbound while we were waiting for our northbound train. We waited 15 minutes, which I think might be what is expected after 9 pm, but I’m not sure — but they were coming by southbound all the time, and that was frustrating. That shouldn’t be happening, right?

      1. I noticed a lot of bunching on the line last night as well.

        I hope ST does a better job of keeping to the advertised headways in the future.

        Also they need to make it easier for those transferring to a bus. At the very least they need to publish a list of travel times between various stations, say something like the fare matrix. An actual schedule for times when the headways are more than 10 minutes would be handy as well.

      2. Yeah, I noticed that during the opening weekend….there was like 2 or 3 minutes headways between 2 trains at Westlake Center…and some at Tukwila station. I think the train operators aren’t keeping at distance or some operators are driving faster and others driving slower…..I’m not sure what’s going on with that. Remember, that most of the train operators are ex Metro bus drivers that have been driving for decades.

      3. Galen,

        I can agree that some operators aren’t doing the speed limit. The trusty GPS showed 29-33mph along MLK on 2 of the trains that I rode. That isn’t a big deal though as they made up that time on the elevated.

      4. Btw, the bunching you saw was some of the trains ending at BHS or Stadium Station to return back to the O&M. We slowed down and watched a train sneak down into the O&M… pretty cool but man that’ll be a confusing area to be in!

      5. Hmmm, interesting. It’s gonna take a while for Seattleites to get used to light rail in our city. I know Sound Transit has operations center for traffic control to keep trains at a distance for the whole 14 mile line.

      6. Sound Transit’s travel time between stations matrix:

        The matrix doesn’t appear to be available online as a PDF, or perhaps in a useful wallet card-type format with the rest of the basic information (I’m thinking Mariner’s schedules, etc.). There might be something at one of Metro’s customer service offices.

        Seattle Time’s “frequency” schedule:

    2. Yikes, Ron must be a “Debbie Downer” rail hater. Just from your tone, it appears you were predisposed not to like it. And, depending on what time of day you’re riding, the 194 is not some kind of glowing monument to reliability. For each of your Link “horror” stories, I can provide plenty of 194 fiascoes. At least with Link it’s pretty much a sure bet time wise…the bus can be a gamble.

      1. No way! I prefer rail when it’s done right. I could be described as a Debbie Downer bus hater, if it’s behind schedule. I don’t have to ride public trasportation anywhere, but I do it to keep my SOV off the road. Everyone in the office gives me an “Are you mentally imbalanced?” look when I tell them I ride the bus.

        If I was certain ahead of time that I wasn’t going to like Link, why would I even try it? I was relaying an experience that I thought was worth fewer than $1.9 billion, and it is my sincere hope that ST can get the glitches fixed before Metro does away with the 194. That’s a bus route that costs 30% less to ride off-peak, and for the time being may be a 30% shorter trip end-to-end than Link, depending on the traffic and the time you happen to arrive at the airport or the transit tunnel. Obviously Link has the advantage of not dealing with traffic except on MLK, and only then when drivers aren’t paying attention.

        What I left out was that I paid for a trip on Link’s first revenue day, and with an ORCA e-purse no less. I’m more of an early adopter than a rail hater.

      2. I think it’s a little harsh to judge it on overall performance during the first week of revenue service. Every complex system has bugs to be ironed out. Why don’t you try it again when the actual airport station opens? There is no way that when Link is running smoothly and the airport station is open the 194 will beat it for overall trip time.

      3. When the airport station opens I’ll start complaining about the super long walk through the parking garage. :-)

    3. The airport connector is unreliable, for now. I might even stick with 194 until the SeaTac link opens up. It’s temporary, at best.

      But ST MUST do something about keeping regular headways. Bunching CANNOT go on any longer.

  27. You know the worse part of the weekend—they ran out of Light Rail Golden Ale at the Columbia City Ale House Sunday. BUMMER!

  28. I haven’t taken a ride on the Link yet, but I do have these comments, from what I have read here:

    So there is an announcement telling which doors to use to exit the train, and it says “left” or “right,” and some people find that confusing. I can see how that might be confusing, and I don’t think changing it to “east” and “west” would help. If the doors on one side of the train were blue, and the doors on the other side were red, the announcement could say, “Exit via the blue doors on the left,” and only the profoundly color-blind could be confused. Using color and shape to reinforce, or instead of, words is good human factors practice.

    I mentioned this in the comments some time ago, but I will say it again: The decision not to route the line to Southcenter was done one purpose, not for reasons of cost, but because ST board member Paul Schell would not support a routing that served Southcenter. He would only support a train that took shoppers and their money to downtown Seattle. Link does not go to Southcenter ON PURPOSE, so you won’t shop there.

    1. Then why is it going to Northgate? Tax revenue still in the city limits is ok, even if Downtown rots out?

      And it would have cost more to get to Southcenter and it would have taken longer. And I know that the city of Tukwilia tried to play hardball to get it there.

  29. Interesting experience today. I detoured from my bus ride home to check out the Mount Baker station (as I had Beacon Hill yesterday). On the the return to downtown, the train stopped dead in its tracks on the flyover at the O&M complex, the driver announcing an operator change. After three or so minutes, we got going again. I hope they don’t make a habit of gabbing for a long minute as the South Lake Union streetcar operators do when they shift. As we pulled out, the first operator was in a little booth trackside. It seemed odd, but I suppose it is the logical place for such a crew move.

    1. It drives me nuts when the streetcar operators do that. It’s very unprofessional to make everyone wait while you shoot the breeze. It seems like it would be more courteous to the passengers to change operators at the end of the line.

    2. I had this happen to me on Monday. It is pretty egregious that they can’t shuttle people over to Sodo to take over. Also, although I’m sure there’s a union issue, shift changes right after 5pm seem pretty asinine.

  30. It sure would be nice if the tunnel stations had toilets. Even if they would cost an arm and a leg to use, like they do in Europe, it would be worth it. Especially hard when you’re travelling with small children who ‘can’t wait…’

    1. Few public transit facilities in the US have toilets. The ones that do either have someone on site to watch them and clean them, or are so filthy they give gas station bathrooms a good name.

  31. Take the 194. I showed up at 11:00 Monday night and took the shuttle to light rail. The 174 was scheduled to beat us downtown by 15 minutes. The train stopped for traffic lights twice.

    1. The last 194 out of the airport is at 9:14 pm. The 174 will get split at Tukwila Intl Blvd station this September with the Tukwila-Seattle section renumbered as the 124. Then the 194 will go away next February. Both routes run every 30 minutes in the evening vs Link’s more frequent service. By then the Airport station would’ve opened.

  32. I also experienced odd delays and ‘bunching’ on the 21st when I was riding with an out of town relative, atypical of the opening weekend experience, and on the 22nd a similar trip without the 21st experience. I am willing to be the 21st had some unusual problems we just aren’t hearing about.

    Don’t know what the problem is though I did hear a volunteer talking about seeing a dead rabbit being pulled out of the tracks.

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