Video by Flickr user Reverend Kommisar
I live two blocks from the Beacon Hill station and I use it as part of my commute each day, and the first week of Link has been an eye-opening experience.  Of course, I’ve seen the usual things: confused TVM users, intermittent outages*, etc., but it really hasn’t been at all what I expected, though not necessarily in a bad way. I’ve got a couple of observations to share, and I’m really interested in hearing about other Link Commuters experiences have. If you take Link to work or school, please share your experiences in the comments.

Each morning a couple of dozen people are waiting for the 36 bus at the stop in front of my house as I walk to the Beacon Hill station. I find this really surprising as Beacon Hill station is two blocks away: no more than 150 yards. Thursday morning I even counted more people at the stop in front of my house (23) than I counted boarding Link (13) with me four minutes later.

I don’t know exactly what’s going on here. These bus riders probably aren’t transferring from Link, as there’s a stop right in front of the station, so they aren’t Link riders at all. Some of these bus riders may be going places other than downtown (Amazon or Little Saigon are really the only possibilities). Still, it’s hard to imagine that of the dozens of people waiting at 8:30 am for a bus whose primary destination is downtown, none are going downtown. I think you can assume many of the would-be-Link-riders are either scared of Link or unaware (hard to believe, but they exist), but it seems to me that the Southeast Seattle Metro revisions can’t come soon enough. Clearly many of my neighbours need a little push to change their commutes to the more efficient option, and frankly, isn’t light rail a waste of money without riders?

The reverse of this phenomenon is present as well. In my (very) unscientific survey, I’ve found that 18 of the 34 commuters (53%) I’ve asked on the Beacon Hill platform or in the elevators didn’t previously use the bus as their daily commute option. There’s no way to say whether this will hold up, and obviously my sample set is terrible, but fewer bus riders on Link and more new riders coming from cars in concert show that-at least a week in-Link isn’t just cannibalising former bus riders.

Some random thoughts below the fold.

  • The trains seem more empty than I would have guessed at peak commute hours, but I’m not disappointed. My stop is the last residential neighborhood station before the get-off-for-work stations start and could have found a seat each morning at 8:30 am. Still, there’s probably 80~100 people on my morning train and most people are standing comfortably. Try either of those tricks with a bus!
  • Stadium station is not the closest station to Qwest field, the ID station is, as I learned Saturday before the Sounders match. I really should have known better, but everyone else got off there as well. I guess that’s why the station is called “stadium”, and not “stadia”.
  • I get a little queezy each morning riding the elevator down to the platform at Beacon Hill station. My breakfast doesn’t like the drop. Hopefully that feeling goes away over time…
  • There was a guy selling bottled water out of a cooler in front of the Beacon Hill station Saturday afternoon after the Sounders match. That gentleman saw an obvious business opportunity, so why not a permanent espresso stand?
  • To people who say Seattle’s now a real city because of real rail transit, I say Seattle won’t be a real city until people stop sparking up conversations with unwilling strangers on the train.  But, hey! I was conducting a survey…
  • The young guy with golf clubs who asked me Sunday which station was closest to Jefferson Golf Course had a long walk ahead of him.
  • Overheard on the train Sunday morning.
    Little Boy to Dad: “Why is it ‘light rail’ and not a ‘train’?”
    Dad: “Because people in Seattle always need to feel special.”

*not surprising but still annoying!

166 Replies to “Light Rail Commute Observations”

  1. There must be tremendous travel time savings for anyone coming from Beacon Hill over the 36. How much is it? Travel time is the number one consideration in getting new riders.

    1. Below someone says it’s 13 vs 21 minutes to Westlake, though that’s assuming the bus is on time and doesn’t get delayed in traffic. However, with the bus you also don’t need to go down to station and back up again.

      There’s also possibly a social aspect. If your neighbor is heading to Amazon and you’ve been riding the bus together for years you are pretty unlikely to switch.

      Some of the larger MAX stations in Portland (like Sunset) have espresso/convenience shops that are only open during commute hours. No idea how the deal works, though, like if it’s a contractor or private business or what. Actually, I guess Northgate Transit Center has one here in Seattle, too.

    2. They could also be getting off the bus at Little Saigon and walking to something like Seattle U or hospital, or transferring to a bus northbound and avoiding downtown.

  2. I had that frisson that I was in a real city–the small town of Seattle has finally become a Real Boy?–when riding the light rail over the weekend. Beacon Hill is a great station, and I can’t wait for the retail around it to change to reflect that. Maybe I was missing something, but there’s no obvious food or drugstore or anything right there, which is typically in other cities around all the rail stops.

    1. Glenn,
      You didn’t see the Red Apple market across the street from the station?

      1. No! You are kidding me! Ah, well. I’ve only been to Beacon Hill a few times before despite 16 years in Seattle. I had friends in the neighborhood at one point. I didn’t really have a point of reference, though I did have an iPhone with a compass–the library is a bit hard to spot because its design fits so nicely in with the neighborhood. (I asked a passerby with a kid!)

        In my defense of cluelessness, I had two small children by the hands (2 and nearly 5), so I was focused on keeping them happy and safe. Still, I can’t believe I didn’t spot the store! We walked around the station block, even.

        What’s going in on the transit block? Parking? A garden? Retail?

      2. The station block development remains an unknown. Unlike other property used for construction purposes, ST didn’t buy these lots, but instead leased them from their owners. There used to be a Chinese restaurant on the corner of Beacon and McClellan (Perry Ko’s South China), whereas the lots that front on 17th Ave were single family homes.

        My understanding is that there are currently two owners of the various lots (the Lee and Tucci families). ST is in the process of finalizing their lease, so the property will turn back over to these owners. It would be great if they were open to suggestions for what could happen on those lots.

      3. The library has a giant bird/boat sculpture on the roof which helps make it hard to miss, too. :)

        It is kind of impressive that you missed the Red Apple! It’s a typical grocery store, with a parking lot in front, and big signs with the store name, and an electronic sign with time/temp/latest sales. And it’s directly across from the elevators at the station. The bamboo at the station must have magical parking lot-hiding properties.

    2. There are a surprisingly large number of liquor stores right around the station. If you walk down Beacon Ave south a couple of blocks, there’s a ton of little shops and restaurants. Northward there’s really only one that I can think of. I haven’t lived here that long tho.

      1. I don’t see any Washington State Liquor Stores anywhere near Beacon Hill Station.

        I suspect you are referring to what I call a “convenience store” since Washington has a state monopoly on retail sales of hard liquor.

      2. Nearest WA St Liquor Store is probably the one between Stadium and SODO stations on Fourth Ave S.

        But Red Apple has wine and beer, and there are other little convenience stores and ethnic stores in the area, so that must be what Andrew meant.

  3. Haha, your sample is very unscientific, but gives hope just the same! Assuming that this is the same group of people that always commutes at this hour (and that no one lied to you), qualitatively this might be a pretty decent representative population. So, while we can’t say with any certainty what kind of quantity we’re looking at insofar as how many switched from car to light rail, we can say that there *are* people doing it, and probably more than we’d expect.

    Also, kids say the darndest things (and so do their parents).

  4. It’s amusing to watch how far people step back from the edge of the platform when the train’s coming in, as if they’re afraid that the train’s going to jump the track or something. That will change as commute habits develop…

    1. I thought that was funny too. Though it may simply be a reaction to the driver who keeps ringing the bell, as if to say “keep back, you’re too close, step back again.”

      1. An earlier thread has a comment from a train operator who says they’ve been trained to use the bell or even the horn if people are “too close” to the yellow stripe.

        If that’s so, doesn’t it really mean they need a wider yellow stripe, rather than repeatedly causing hearing damage to customers?

    2. maybe its because guest services people at the opening were screaming at people to stand entirely behind the yellow strip. i got lectured to about standing behind the yellow (thanx, but i’ve riden a few trains before)

  5. Speaking of habits – I’d bet a lot of those #36 riders continue to do so from habit. Once a friend or neighbour rides the train, that’ll start to change. The travel time to Westlake by train must be less than half that of the #36…

  6. Last Monday I took Link for the first time. I got off at Othello street for lunch. And as I suggested others on this blog do, I walked up to the bus stop and asked the only woman there waiting for the route 42 what her thoughts on Link was. I already wrote in a previous comment what she said, so I won’t repeat it here, but I really would like to see others here do that, and report back here what people at bus stops who are choosing buses over Link are saying/thinking. Maybe even ask them if you can video them, and post the video here. I think that would be very interesting. I’d be willing to do it again. Anyone else?

    1. Ah, volunteer ad hoc contextual interviewing by transit nerds because this is the kind of thing they’d do for free anyway? Gotta love Seattle. ;)

      If I commuted anywhere near South Seattle, I’d help, but I don’t. Matter of fact, except for working at the Costco in SoDo for a few years, I’ve never been to any neighborhood that can be described as “South Seattle”. I should correct that.

  7. The Metro bus route revisions probably won’t change the number of people outside that bus stop. The only change to the 36 is along the southern terminus, where it will go down Myrtle to connect to the Othello station. As far as the time advantage, it depends on where one catches the bus. According to the published schedules, the 36 takes about 21 minutes to get from 15th and Beacon to 3rd and Pike whereas Link takes 13 minutes from Beacon Hill station to Westlake. But if one is perhaps 6 or 7 blocks north of the station, the time advantage starts to evaporate. Of course, Link is somewhat more frequent and definitely more reliable, so over time I think the folks you’re talking about at that stop will switch. But it will be because they become more comfortable with Link, not because of the Metro revisions.

      1. Nope. There may actually be more runs on the weekend in 2010, depending on the budget situation. Link doesn’t really justify reducing service on the 36 like it does for, say, the 42. It has too many riders who don’t get a time-advantage from Link because they’re going to little saigon or are too far from the station.

      2. And furthermore, the 36 is actually a “feeder” route to Link both at BH and at Othello.

  8. Espresso stands at the stations are a wonderful idea, and the need should have been anticipated and the stations designed with them in mind. However, to have a portable espresso stand, or to sell whatever street food Seattle is currently allowing, the operator has to meet a couple of key requirements (PDF), along with having all of the proper permits:
    5.34.030 Mobile food units – Additional requirements. …
    The health officer may allow a person to operate a food establishment with a limited menu in a movable building without permanent plumbing under applicable provisions of this section. In addition the following provisions must be met:
    (a) Toilet facilities must be within 200 feet of the establishment and available at all times that the establishment is operating.
    (b) Facilities for cleaning and sanitizing must meet the provisions of this title and be located within 200 feet of the establishment and available at all times that the establishment is operating. [This means a 3-section sink, plus everything else normally required.]

    These requirements aren’t necessarily as easy to meet as they appear (and the facilities would admittedly have been quite costly to build into the stations). In addition, a 240 V receptacle is required, access to water is a pretty good idea, and the stand operator needs convenient access to storage for critical items such as coffee beans, extra bottles of flavorings, extra condiments, cups, lids, napkins, etc. (unless they’re driving a van that can be parked a few steps away). Finally, the operator has to have a secure place to store the entire (expensive and heavy) cart when not in use.

    1. Espresso stands selling only to-go as far as I know don’t have to have access to full cleaning and sanitizing facilities. However you have to have access to a handwashing sink with hot water within 200 ft (at least I’m told that is the big one the health department gets really picky about).

    2. I called the health department to clarify this, and talked to a couple of folks in the “restaurant services” division. The restroom definitely has to be within 200 feet. Absolutely no exceptions. The cart is required to have a hand sink with hot water built into the cart. The commissary, as it turns out, doesn’t have to be within 200 feet. Technically, it just has to be within King County. But the cart operator has to have access to a full-service commissary with 3-section sink to wash and sanitize the equipment. No exceptions.

      The commissary doesn’t have to be dedicated; the health department allows cart operators to make arrangements with already approved facilities such as restaurants and grocery stores. But a lot of these businesses don’t want the competition, and an operator who contracts with a business and loses access has to find a new commissary immediately.

      The point I was trying to make, and didn’t go a very good job of, was that setting up an espresso cart is a complicated business. It doesn’t matter how great a location is for the business and the customers, or how much demand there is for the service, there are a lot of hoops to jump through (PDF) – primarily with the health department. This being Seattle, though, I feel Sound Transit should have known there would be a demand for such services, and included the necessary facilities at the stations. Carts are probably doable at some of the stations; I just wish Sound Transit had reached out to operators and had the carts up and running when the stations opened. I think it probably makes the most sense for a grocer or restaurant near a station to do the honors; perhaps there will be more interest once ridership figures are released.

      1. Thanks for the clarification. I know the health department is picky (with good reason) on hand washing facilities, and I also knew there were more than a few food or drink carts, stands, or trucks here with no 3 section sinks or commercial dishwashers anywhere nearby.

        I actually think the restroom requirement is harder to meet than the one for a commissary. There are a number of commercial kitchens available for rent around the area and even if not you just need a commercial space somewhere with enough room for some storage and the health department required equipment. Besides anyone currently running a restaurant, coffee shop, or espresso stand likely has access to the necessary commissary facilities.

        I do wonder about the hot dog carts you see some nights on Capitol Hill, in Belltown, Downtown, and Pioneer Square. I’m pretty sure some of these operations aren’t meeting the full requirements for food carts. But since they mostly do their thing late at night I suspect they are able to operate somewhat under the radar.

    3. I looked this morning when I boarded my train inbound from Mt Baker station. The plaza below the train platform seems to have a covered power outlet at each of the columns, and some had a hose connection as well. This may have been designed just with maintenance in mind, but at least it would allow for future cart vendors to hook up.

      1. I checked out the stations from the ID to Tukwila (except Stadium and SODO) for possible food cart or concession locations, and it’s not looking good for the espresso cart aficionados.

        My take is that street food at the stations isn’t going to happen, and that private businesses in the area will step up if and when they see a demand. Beacon Hill is a possible exception, and that would depend on whether there are facilities in place under the escalators where ST also has office space (meaning a restroom, plus plumbing and electrical for a commissary at least roughed in), and where there appears to be plenty of room to store a cart and supplies. The other stations have neither restrooms nor appropriate power nor water, not to mention neither storage nor secure alcoves to temporarily house waste and recycling. The power substation plazas that are across the street from several of the stations appear to have 240/250 V receptacles, but no restrooms, etc. The ID station plaza allegedly had an espresso cart at one time (supposedly installed at the same time as the Convention Place cart), but I don’t remember it. There was a possible spot on the south side of the plaza where there are currently information boards and a TVM, but I didn’t spot any restrooms nearby.

        I suspect this “planning was quite deliberate on Sound Transit’s part. But it’s Seattle, so what was ST thinking? Well, ST may have considered the funds needed for cleaning up sticky messes left on the trains, and decided to discourage food and beverages as much as possible, as noted in ST’s “passenger conduct” policies – “carry food and drinks in closed containers,” “no eating”.

        Still, what I think ST should have done was either build facilities into the street-level portions of the stations, or, preferably, build separate kiosks or small pavilions. Such businesses also serve riders deboarding the trains, plus neighborhood residents and workers. A dedicated location would allow an extended menu of items such as freshly squeezed lemonade, Hawaiian ice, freshly baked cinnamon rolls, Liège waffles, gougères, Australian meat pies, prepackaged salads and sandwiches, etc. to be sold. The pavilion housing the coffee bar in the Westlake Center plaza is an excellent example, although somewhat larger than what I’m thinking of. Fortunately, there are an endless number of successful examples around the world to model future projects on.

        I have two suggestions:
        1) First, that an entrepreneur outfit a small fleet of coffee trucks to service the current Link stations.
        2) For future stations, riders need to demand the facilities they want during the design phase. Easier said than done, I know, but the facilities necessary to support even a simple espresso cart – not to mention a coffee bar – are nearly impossible to add once a station is designed and built. Once a concessions building is built, and plumbing and electrical roughed in (and that would mean ST working with a competent coffee bar designer from the beginning), the concession contract should go to a smart, creative, independent operator with a serious business plan.

        I did discover an interesting clause in the 20-year lease between ST and the City of Issaquah for the Issaquah Transit Center:

        6.8 Sound Transit shall endeavor, to the extent practical, to preserve opportunities at the Project for the future development of incidental or accessory uses. Although the Parties agree that it is not appropriate to include incidental or accessory uses in the Project at this time, the Parties shall work together to identify areas for future incidental or accessory uses such as espresso carts, bike station, other retail or services uses.

        So it would appear it’s up to the local jurisdiction to insist that these types of facilities and the necessary infrastructure be included when a ST project is designed and built.

      2. Oops. That was supposed to be “Mt. Baker” in paragraph 2, not “Beacon Hill.”

    4. I’ll check out the electrical and water connections later this week, and see if they’re suitable for carts, or if they’re just they’re for maintenance and/or to satisfy the building code. I’ll also look for restroom and commissary facilities in the vicinity.

    5. Why isn’t the newsstand/espresso kiosk at Convention Place still operating? Anyone know the history of it? I just discovered it a few months ago realizing that the blue metal curtain and sign that read “ATM access” meant there was previously an ATM AND a business at that location.

      1. I believe Island Espresso closed when the bus tunnel shut down for renovations in 2005, although I though I read at the time that the operators hoped to reopen. I searched the websites of the Secretary of State, the Department of Licensing, and the Department of Revenue, but there are so many businesses listed under that name there’s no way to know if any of them were the Seattle operation. There isn’t an Island Espresso currently listed as operating in Seattle, and the staff at the Paramount Theatre didn’t have any information, either. Despite past intentions, Metro’s concessions project manager is long gone, and her phone number reassigned to a different department, which could be a hint about what happened. For example, when the Aurora Village Transit Center closed in October 2001, Metro promised it would reopen with a concessions building, but it looks like Metro changed its mind by the time the transit center reopened in April, 2002.

  9. It would also be worth noting that some of the riders of the 36 may be going through downtown since many 36’s turn into 1’s downtown and continue to Queen Anne.

    1. And that should make them prime candidates for switching to Link because the train goes to Westlake, from which they can transfer to the 1. If they were going to Queen Anne you’d think they would pick the faster and more reliable train over the slow, odiferous 36 bus.

      1. Agreed. I’d definately take Link and transfer at Westlake. However, not everyone thinks like that… and some people hate transfering.

      2. Basic convenience + time efficiency. Going from BH to Seattle Center, it’s much easier and more efficient time-wise to just hop on the 36 then hop off at Key Arena. Much simpler than dealing with two stations, waiting for a train, making your way upstairs (and blinking in the sunlight) and waiting at Pike St. for a bus with all the wonderful folks there at that stop (right outside the Money Tree).

        I can definitely understand why people wouldn’t go out of their way to take the Link from BH to Seattle Center or QA.

  10. This might be a little off-topic, but do they have any plans for extending service hours on Fridays and Saturdays? It’d be nice to have *some* form of public transportation open after the bars close in this city . . .

    1. They’re called taxis. Should the transit agency really plan itself around you getting drunk?

      1. Around me getting drunk? No.

        Around a sizeable portion of the populace getting drunk and therefore providing lots of sales taxes that partially fund things like, say, public transit? One train at 2:30 seems like a small ask.

      2. You really want drunks stumbling around the tracks, puking on the trains, etc.?

        Lots of good arguments for expanding service, not sure that accomodating binge drinkers is one of them.

      3. wow pragmatic, have you ever been out late at night? Seattle’s bar areas can get extremely crowded on Friday and Saturday nights, especially in the summer. I am not sure how many of those people would be on the Central Link line, but I am sure that one 2:30 train would be well-used. Are transit fans anti-party or something?

      4. I should also add that taxis are great in-city, and quite cheap since Seattle is not all that big. However, it’s pretty impractical to take one home to Tukwila for instance.

      5. Yeah, and you could use the 30 minute Link ride to sober up for the Park and Ride. Ha. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune ran a story about why there weren’t late-night Hiawatha Line Light Rail runs, and all the people they interviewed were completely wasted and headed to their cars along the line.

      6. Late trains on Friday and Saturday nights only seem like a good idea. Remember that it’s not only drinking going on – Seattle has a music scene, too. Track maintenance and repair need to happen at night, but my guess is that the vast majority of non-emergency maintenance and repairs would not be done on those two nights.

        Maybe someone in government wants to pay for this out of some anti-drunk driving money.

      7. Yes, good point about concerts as well. The music scene is very vibrant here, and late night weekend trains could help those along the line have better access to good new music in Seattle. I attend many shows every month, but I live in-city so it’s a bit easier.

      8. How many shows really stop at 2? I’ve played literally thousands of live music performances in Seattle, at dozens of venues and I don’t ever recall loading up after the bar’s closed.

      9. Andrew, you surely remember times loading up after 12:30 though. And that’s really when you’d need to bone out in hopes of catching the last train.

      10. If I’m loading up that means I’m done, and you’ve already gone home. (You don’t load up a drum set onto a light rail train).

        I can’t remember a single show I’ve played that I haven’t been able to go to a bar after loading up, which means I was completely finished loading by at latest 1 am, and thus I was finished playing at latest 12:30.

        That’s a side point anyway.

      11. In my musician days (which admittedly were a while ago) we frequently played four sets, until about 1:30. And after shows, people liked to go for late night food and such.

        Currently the last train doesn’t leave Westlake at 1am, it’s more like 12:34. And that really is too early if you want to see a club show and then hang out and chat with your friends about it for a while.

      12. People work at bars and clubs too. Not everyone is out on a Friday night to get drunk. You should change your username to pessimistic. The pragmatic solution would be to have an extra train or two on the weekend.

      13. Indeed. I am a non-drinker myself, but I have been at plenty of bars until closing time — because of music. Both as a fan and as a performing musician. So the moral judgements expressed by some in this thread seem a little out of line, IMHO.

      14. Well,,, in San Fran the BART runs throughout the night even on the weekends..

        Hopefully soon this system will do the same…

      15. That’s incorrect. The absolute last BART train is at 1 am most nights, and the last East Bay bound train from the city is at 12:40 am.

    2. You know, you could always stop drinking at 12 or 1 or whatever. Like they do in Tokyo, Stockholm, London, etc.

      1. Absolutely true, and that is the culture in most foreign countries. However, that is not what the culture is here in the states for the most part. Whatever one’s drinking or concert-going habits may or may not be, the question was simply whether one late-night train on weekends would be feasible.

      2. That kind of seems similar to saying that Metro can make peak hour service cuts, and people can just work 32-hour weeks like they do in France.

      3. Give me a break, that’s not a similar argument at all. It’s like saying public transit won’t work for you if you stay out really late. Not that public transit won’t work for you if you use public transit precisely when it’s most efficient.

      4. This has nothing to do with drinking, and everything to do with needing to move large crowds of people efficiently at peak travel times. Stop dismissing my idea out of hand just because you disapprove of people’s lifestyle choices. Smart, science-based logic is not based on what you like, it’s based on transit demand.

        2am is state law. And if we correct the imbalance by moving closing time to 12:30am, that’s fine with me. But like others pointed out, Seattle has a huge music scene, and there are quite a few hopping venues within reach of stations on the current line and future lines. There are many many times where I’ve gone to shows at Showbox SoDo, for instance, and have left the concert at well passed 1:30.

        I’m just saying, the point of public transit is to help people get around, especially at peak hours, and late-night Friday and Saturday are definitely peak hours for transportation, and buses and light rail are definitely the safest way to get home for most folk.

        FYI, whether or not this gets implemented makes no difference to me; I bike everywhere and even then rarely have to leave my neighborhood for a drink at a good bar, and I likely won’t be able to ride light rail anywhere on a regular basis until 2020. I just think it’d be a good public service that would actually have a positive economic benefit.

      5. Who disapproves of what lifestyle? I stay out late all the time, but you know what? I stay out in my neighborhood, or take a cab, or ride a bike, or drive.

        1 am sounds like a good time. 2:30 is just too late, too many drunken problems are possible.

      6. Hey, I’ve been known to turn water into wine, and I walk everywhere–even when crossing water.

      7. That actually wasn’t aimed at you (despite the use of the 2nd-person pronoun), but everyone that rejected the idea out of hand. But now that you’re here, I hate to say it Andrew, that sentiment sounds eerily like the same arguments made by LINK detractors back when we were still funding this thing. “We don’t need Light Rail. You can just do X, Y, or Z.”

        And my answer is essentially the same. What one person chooses to do is entirely irrelevant to transit planning for the city as a whole and that counts double for what said person thinks *other* people ought to do.

      8. As long as the money comes from somewhere that’s not funding regular-hours service, and not preventing needed maintenance, a few late night runs a couple nights a week seem like a good idea if people would be on them. Obviously an actual study of demand would be necessary. A problem in Pioneer Square and Belltown is that everyone gets out of the bars at the same time with no quick way out. It seems like it could be politically expedient for a state legislator or city politician to bring this up as an add-on to existing service, at least once governments’ revenues improve.

      9. “Everyone” didn’t reject it out of hand. We had an extensive discussion of this recently. If the service is free, everyone’s for it; the question is what we’d have to give up to get it.

      10. Zelbinian, if the ridership were there to justify the costs, they would look into it. Right now it isn’t. Whether my argument sounds “eerily” like some other argument isn’t really interesting to me.

        There’s no traffic at 2 am, there’s not a lot of riders at 2 am, there’s high-cost union operator hours at 2 am and there’s high cost security services for drunks. That’s why there’s no train running that late. It’s got nothing to do with moralizing or whatever.

      11. How do you know that there are no riders or no demand at 2 a.m. given that Link has only been running for a week? ST obviously thinks that there is demand for service until 1 a.m. during the week, it wouldn’t be that big of a stretch to imagine that there would be demand for service a little later on the weekend.

      12. Maybe I am missing something but I’m not sure why everyone is quoting 1am. The schedule shows the last train leaving Westlake at 12:34am and 12:36am, Fridays and Saturdays. That would mean that to get from a downtown bar or music venue to the Westlake stop, you’d need to leave by probably 12:15am. That is not a very late night. Just sayin’

      13. Of course the service we lose has to be part of the conversation. For me personally, a sacrifice of early Saturday or late Sunday service hours (for example) justifies a few more trains on Friday and Saturday nights.

        The ridership certainly doesn’t justify a 5am Saturday train run, so I dislike that metric. (Ridership justifications at this point seem more like an appeal to authority than anything real — we have no ridership numbers yet!) The mere existence of off-peak transit service indicates to me that we are providing a baseline alternative that does more than just relieve congestion-heavy hours. I think late night service — perhaps trains running just an hour later both Friday and Saturday nights — qualifies as providing this alternative for plenty of people.

        Undoubtedly decisions like this play into politics. Just like getting Link to the airport and building a stadium station were important moves politically that amortize over time (with future elections), potentially late night service can provide the same benefit, i.e. serving a market that isn’t transit dependent and doesn’t commute with transit in the hopes of galvanizing support for “our train.”

      14. I think you missed the point, John. Obviously Sound Transit made the decision to stop before 2am at some point. Almost certainly that was at least based on cost. It’s not ridership numbers as much as cost per service hour. I tried to describe why it costs more at 2am than other times to operate light rail.

        There’s a reason bars and clubs have bouncers: drunk people can be trouble. Don’t pretend even for a split second that 5 am Saturday riders cost the same as 2 am saturday riders.

      15. “Whether my argument sounds “eerily” like some other argument isn’t really interesting to me.”

        Not to say that I’m never a hypocrite myself, but you’re being a hypocrite here, and that is interesting to me. So I thought I’d point it out.

        ““Everyone” didn’t reject it out of hand.”

        The first 2-3 responses to my simple little inquiry presented no facts, made no attempt to explain it might be a bad idea in the opinion of the poster, cited no sources, and did not confront my argument from a transit perspective at all. Rather, they suggested that the people that would benefit from the service change their ways so that the suggestion wouldn’t be necessary in the first place. That’s where I draw my conclusion that it was rejected out of hand.

        In fact, the message was straight-up “You should stay out drinking less.” I mean, look at the first post by “pragmatic”. He doesn’t quite call me an alcoholic, but he definitely insinuates that I tend to drink with reckless abandon and just want a cheap, easy way to deal with the consequences.

        “We had an extensive discussion of this recently. If the service is free, everyone’s for it; the question is what we’d have to give up to get it.”

        a) No one’s gonna read the old thread if I post to it now because you don’t have a thread-monitoring service.

        b) There’s always fresh ideas to be found – why are you so annoyed about further discussion, other than the fact that you obviously disagree with my position?

      16. We do have Comment RSS.

        I’m annoyed because there aren’t any fresh ideas in this sub-thread. We’ve hashed it over in much more detail elsewhere.

        In spite of your assumption, I’m totally agnostic about late-night service until I know what it costs (ie, what we’d have to give up, if anything.)

      17. Zelbinian, chill a little bit. I’m an “associate editor” here and agree with your position, in fact… To the point where I’ve directly asked Sound Transit about it. Plenty of people are on your side.

        We just don’t want to repeat the same discussions over and over. Hopefully we’ll explore this topic more in the future with a blog entry answering some of the questions about direct cost that Martin alluded to and implied cost that Andrew alluded to.

      18. I have the same discussion over and over with lots of people in real life. Thinking about comments on here is interesting. You have an open comments policy; we can comment without registering. Re-hashing of old conversations is the biggest problem – and check out the comments sections of places where people do register (i.e., the Seattle Times)! They have bigger commenting problems, I would say.

      19. Our policy (linked at right) does prohibit thread-hijacking; if this post had been more narrowly focused in the first place, this whole thread would have probably been deleted.

      20. historically what time did transit service shut down at nights back in the private transit era? was it later or earlier? i dont sense that people were the night owls then that they are now.

      21. Checking my Metropolitan timetable from 1972:

        Last bus to Everett: 8:00, 9:30 and 12:45 (except on Sundays and Mondays)
        Last bus to Edmonds: 5:10 (service ran weekdays only)

        Checking my Metropolitan timetable from 1965:
        Last bus to Everett: 8:00, 9:30, and 12:45 (daily on all trips)

        Checking my Suburban Transportation System timetable from 1944:
        Last bus to Edmonds: 12:15 via Aurora and 12:45 via Aurora serving Greenwood between N 105th and N 145th on Sundays and Holidays. 11:30 on weekdays. I believe this would also include Saturday as there is no Saturday schedule. By 1958, the last bus to Edmonds was 9:30 via Mountlake Terrace.

        I can’t find my 1944 Overlake Transit service schedule to Bellevue at the moment.

        Switching to Seattle Transit (not privately operated) from 1954:
        Night owls operated to
        Queen Anne District departing 1st/Pike at 2:28 and 3:38
        Phinney District departing 2nd S/S Main at 2:15 and 3:25
        Green Lake District departing 2nd/Columbia at 2:02, 3:00 and 3:59
        Rainier District departing 3rd/Stewart at 2:17 and 3:17
        23 South Seattle departing 4th/Pike St at 2:12
        East Madison District departing 1st/Pike at 1:50, 3:00 and 4:10
        Interbay-Ballard District departing 1st/Marion at 2:06, 3:06 and 4:06
        West Seattle District departing 1st/Pike at 2:02, 3:02 and 4:03
        35th SW/White Center departing 1st/Pine at 2:10 and 3:30 (alternates direction similar to current West Seattle night owl)
        Fremont/Ballard District departing 1st S/S Washington at 2:38 and 3:50

        Sorry for

      22. I’m for at least an extended night owl bus service, for sure. You think people in London and Stolkholm stop drinking at 1am? That’s the complete opposite of my experience whenever I’m there. Most clubs in Europe close around 5 or 6 am – coinciding with the Sunday morning transit opening hours. Clubs in Seattle generally close with the bars at 2am (But somehow a few stay open until 3 on Capitol Hill).

        I think the real problem is the ridiculous nanny-state liquor laws we have more than a ‘transit doesn’t run late enough’ problem.

      23. This is Washington State we’re talking about. We have a whole industry of professional scolds who exist to ensure that we don’t have fun where alcohol is involved. That’s why our strip clubs don’t sell booze.

        This mindset would object to late night transit just because someone might use it to get home from a bar in lieu of driving.

      1. Are we filling up comment storage space on a server? It doesn’t seem like the 7/10 thread put this issue to bed. Har har.

      2. Has STB ever thought of starting a forum. Since post/comments tend to get lost after about a week it would provide a consolidated location for many discussions. I think that a lot discussions in the comment section may have happened 2, 3 or maybe more.

      3. Yes, we have.

        The comments aren’t “lost”, they’re in searchable archives. If you want to open a subject you shouldn’t be hijacking a thread anyway.

        A forum would take some effort to operate, and it’s not energy we want to take away from generating content from the blog.

        If someone out there wants to step up and do the work to set up and run a forum, we’re totally willing to discuss lending our brand to it.

      4. And meta threads are, of course, always useful. ;) I say, be happy for the traffic and the interest. We’re not hurting anything.

      5. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a bit tiresome to read the exact same argument all over again.

  11. I ride link everyday from Columbia City. Some of my observations:

    * One of my biggest annoyances is getting to and from the station — that is, crossing MLK and then Alaska Street. It’s painful to watch the train in the station, but be stuck behind a light (or two lights). In addition, east/west traffic on Alaska street gets pretty bad during peak periods. I worry that these hot spots will get worse over time as more residents move into the area.

    One small idea for the Alaska/MLK intersection would be to ban left hand turns from Alaska onto MLK. It is not uncommon to see 25 cars going straight and 1 or 2 going left. Converting the left turn line into a thru lane would increase throughput on this important east/west corridor. This would indirectly help Link and pedestrians, since neither one can cross during left hand turns. The 39 bus would also improve.

    * I continue to be surprised by the inactivity at Mt. Baker station, even with its famous pay parking lot. I don’t think it is realistic to expect a lot of bus connections here or at Beacon Hill in the short term. Even the infamous route 7 requires only 14 minutes from Mt Baker to the International District. (The 7 is notoriously unreliable, but this doesn’t apply to connecting passengers who are already on the bus). The importance of these stations for connections will only emerge after the University Link.

    * Stadium station is useful for Mariners games and not much else. I wonder if Metro would ever consider relocating Ryerson base if the property values get high enough?

    * The MLK stretch seems to be operating smoothly — especially in comparison to the transit tunnel. I am curious about signal timing/preemption. For example, why did my train (with 150 mariners fans) stop at tiny little Dakota street for some dude turning left?

    * I had the opposite reaction from Andrew Smith — I think peak-period trains are surprisingly full (not all Andrews think alike!). There are consistently 20 people boarding every peak-period train at Columbia City. Keep in mind that this station didn’t replace some big transit hub . Very few of these commuters rode the 42 bus. It is impressive to see how many people changed their commute virtually overnight.

    1. The annoyance of getting from the sidewalk to the Columbia City Station is shared. The wait for the walk signal is crazy long, and with 1/3 mile sightlines in both directions, it’s hard for someone to convince me it’s dangerous to jaywalk. On Saturday night at like 9:45 p.m., a bunch of sheriff’s deputies were parked just to the west of the station on Edmunds. My partner asked me what I thought they were doing there. “Preventing us from jaywalking,” I said. A guy standing with his partner and their kid said, “I was just saying the same thing like ten seconds ago.”

    2. I agree with your comment on Stadium Station. It would be nice if there was more development on that side of the stadiums to greet fans coming to the ballpark.

    3. * I agree, the times to cross MLK as a pedestrian to get to any of the surface stations are ridiculous. It reminds me of trying to cross the street in Downtown Bellevue. I’ve ended up jaywalking across MLK most of the time when trying to get to or from a station. The buttons for pedestrian signals need to trigger faster cycling of the light (though I wouldn’t have them screw up the light timing for link). Also consider letting the signal trip if there are no cars or trains coming.

      * This is already a bit of a transit hub, though mostly midday or in the evening. The coming service changes will make it even more of one. For example the 14 will now turn around in front of the station. A number of people have noted that taking the 48 to Mt. Baker from the North is faster than the East/West routes over First and Capitol Hill, I suspect more riders will be transferring as this is discovered, especially with the addition of the 14 and frequent service on North MLK via the 8. The start of school will increase the ridership at Mt. Baker as well.

      As an aside the 4 should be extended to Mt. Baker station, it seems silly to have it turn around only a few blocks North.

      * It looks like people might be using Stadium to transfer to/from buses on busway, but it is hard to tell. There seems to be more ridership here at non-game times than I would expect. It is also useful for keeping Link running when the tunnel is closed, such as the incident last week. I think other property within 1/4 mile of the station will be developed long before metro even thinks of selling any of the 3 base properties nearby. There might be a possibility of building something over the current bases while still having a bus base underneath.

      1. “The start of school will increase the ridership at Mt. Baker as well.”

        Agreed, but I wonder how Seattle Public Schools will handle this. In the past, they’ve given students $0.75 PugetPasses – I can’t imagine the district’s transportation department will suddenly find a generous corner of their heart and give students PugetPasses that will cover Link fare ($1.25 minimum).

      2. I’m sure some kids will just pay the extra $0.50, not everyone to be sure, but enough to likely be noticeable. Perhaps the District can be convinced to give kids who either live in SE Seattle or who attend high-school there $1.50 Puget Passes rather than the $0.75 ones. Even at the higher rate it still makes sense for all of the reasons they switched the high-school students to Metro in the first place.

      3. I agree, but with regards to transportation, the term “makes sense” rarely applies in SPS. Honestly, I’d be shocked if the difference in fares is even on the school board’s radar. Maybe I should contact them.

      4. As an SPS teacher, I have to say I love the way Matt that you paint everything in SPS with a wonderfully broad brush, just like those against Sound Transit and Link paint everything ST does with the same negative brush.

        Let me remind everyone: Until recently, it was easier for a Sound Transit tax to pass, than for a school levy to pass. Yet ST didn’t exactly have sound financial management for the first several years.

        Currently, SPS is in the middle of restructuring the way students are assigned to schools – shifting to a neighborhood school model (including middle and high schools). The goal is to lower transportation costs while increasing predictability for families and students. Transportation is a part of the new plan.

        I will point out that so far Metro student fares are lower. Why didn’t Sound Transit coordinate their student fares with Metro’s cost structure? Didn’t they consider the impact their higher price would have on the families of Rainier Valley?

        Perhaps you should contact Sound Transit and ask them if they have initiated contact with SPS so students can use Link at a reasonable fare without overtaxing a public school district that is trying to cut transportation costs because they have been criticized for spending too much money transporting students.

        Please stop the the broad brush BS and stick with facts.

      5. I haven’t painted everything in SPS with a broad brush at all, just the transportation office and the board in this instance. I haven’t tried to, anyhow. I’m a teacher, too. I’ve had bad experiences with the transportation department personally, my school has had bad experiences with the board trying to sustain a proven-successful start time, and with ST trying to get a stop added near our school that would have basically eliminated chronic tardiness for about 10 students. Most of them ended up transferring after 9th grade due to transportation difficulty.

        The teachers at SPS are by and large great. The schools mostly rule. The students are the best of all. I will paint one place mostly with a broad brush, however, and stand by it, and it’s near the SODO station, in case you’re wondering. It’s agonizing to have my friends and colleagues laid off and not see more administrative cuts, particularly given the unresponsiveness to important issues and basically “no” to student-centered learning from downtown. I will spare, however, some helpful people in HR and the staff of the printing center there.

        But quite honestly and no matter how my opinion differs from others’, getting students on Link for free (free to the students, not to us taxpayers) is an issue that’s dear to my heart. What would be the best approach to get the students on Link for $0.75? The school district? Sound Transit? The media? Pay off the fare checkers?

      6. It’s highly unlikely that students will catch link.

        1. Link doesn’t go to any of the big middle schools or high schools, Franklin being the exception.

        2. As previously noted, many riders from Rainier are not finding faster times on link than the 7.

        3. Transferring isn’t fun, particularly at 7am. Riders to Washington Middle School or Garfield will catch the 8 instead of the 48, and avoid light rail.

        4. Cost.

        In order for light rail to be effective for students, the train needs to go somewhere the students attend school.

      7. It goes to Rainier Beach, too. Plus under the current (soon to be changed) student assignment plan, students who live in the south end could use Link to access north end schools. There’s already around 50 (by my rough count) students from Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley who transfer to the 71, 72, 73, 74 for Roosevelt and 72 for Nathan Hale. I guess I’m not really that into this as an issue for a large number of students, but one of great importance for a handful of students.

      8. Rainier Beach’s population is small and scattered. It could work for a few of their students, but it definitely doesn’t meet the bulk of south Seattle students. In order to argue that students will be filling the cars come September, one has to consider their final destination. With that in mind, busing is the answer.

        I live one block away from the Columbia City station, and my sophomore daughter has already decided that the 8 is the new best way for her to get to school since the 48 (her favorite-ist bus EVAH!) will end at McClellan in September.

        It simply isn’t worth it for other students to bus to rail > catch rail > catch another bus to their final destination.

        Furthermore, with the new student assignment plan, there will be fewer students busing up north, not more. But since this isn’t an education blog, I’ll spare you my ten page rant on that policy.

      9. I know all of that. It just sucks for the, let’s say, 20-50 students who Link could help go north.

        Also, back when I was in high school, a lot of north end students went to Franklin – that’s not happening anymore, of course.

        Under the new assignment plant, students will be able to choose a school other than their assigned neighborhood school, but with a huge rigmarole. Therefore, fewer students on all forms of transit and more walking.

      10. As an addendum, I wonder if it makes sense for some students to catch Link on the way home but not on the way to school. That will be my commute, and one student shares my exact commute.

    4. Mt. Baker Station is a pretty long walk from most housing, which is why I guess there’s lower activity.

      I wasn’t saying that the trains weren’t surprisingly full, I was saying the trains weren’t packed. There were still seats and comfortable standing room.

      1. My understanding was that the Mt. Baker station wasn’t meant to attract immediate residents, but that it would serve as a transfer node as evidenced by the significant bus improvements and changes made at Rainier and McClellan.

        It’ll be interesting to see if Mt. Baker ridership increases when the 48 stops running down MLK.

        I am a UW student, and am trying to take rail to the 70 series. It’s hit or miss on whether it’s faster than the 48.

  12. I’ve been talked to randomly by strangers wanting to strike up conversations on trains in Chicago, New York, Vienna, and Karlsruhe, Germany. Seattle definitely has Karlsruhe beat in the “real city” contest, about half the riders on Vienna’s transit system seem to be local railfans, and people talking to me in Chicago were, I think, from Seattle. Leaving NYC, where the subway system is complex enough that lots of folks seem to ask each other which trains to transfer to to get to such-and-such. So maybe people don’t talk randomly in real cities.

    1. Only crazy people talk to strangers randomly in real cities. In seattle everyone talks to everyone all the time.

      1. As someone who will talk to any one, I have noticed that the majority of people in Seattle are not interested in casual conversation. They rather keep to themselves. I have had quite the opposite experience in New York and San Francisco.

      2. Yeah, this is actually Seattle’s reputation, sort of — being a little stand-offish. It’s a cultural thing. So it’s interesting to see that people are saying that everyone is talking to strangers here.

        Some of it, I think, is shared “omg we have a new train and it’s so COOL!” excitement.

  13. I have a friend that works in SoDo and I was able to convince him to get on Link because unlike the buses, it was clean and shiny. He loves it and is now considering getting rid of his car. The problem that he is encountering is that when he takes it home in the afternoon (we live in downtown and Westlake is our home link station) he says that he is waiting forever for the buses to get out of the way in the tunnel. That really sounds like a huge inconvenience. Do you think that maybe there is a reason that we are the only city that has buses sharing a tunnel with rail? Maybe because, it makes things a lot more inefficient? Any ones thoughts on how ST will deal with this?

    1. There is certainly a bit of waiting, but has there been any comparison of times through downtown on surface streets vs. in the tunnel? How long would it take your friend to catch a bus on the Busway and up 3rd? Link has got to average a faster speed through downtown Seattle than the MAX in downtown Portland. Also, until Link actually makes it to the U District, the same-platform transfer from train to bus is really genius. Relative to public expectation, this might be a disappointment, but I can’t imagine the train delays in the tunnel are the unmitigated disaster some people think they are.

      1. I foresee the transfers to East link all as being disasters. I get off at ID, then have to go up stairs and back downstairs to get on a Eastside bound train?

        I’d already have to do that if I had to transfer to the 550 if I worked in DT bellevue.

        Center platform is better.

      2. Center platform seems better to me, too – but remember that the tunnel was built in 1989 for buses, with doors on my right.

      3. By the time East Link opens there won’t be buses in the tunnel anymore, so they could build center platforms in the DSTT for transferring.

        You should go to Paris and try transferring at Chatelet-Les Halles, some of the transfers between lines require a walk up to almost a kilometer. Going up and over the platform doesn’t seem too bad after that.

      4. If they built center platforms and there were two trains in the station, you could walk all the way across the station through the trains! Cool!

      5. Kind of like the Beaverton Transit Center MAX platforms where doors on both sides of the Blue line train open to allow transfers to the Red line on the center platform.

      6. With regard to the lengthy transfer in Paris at Chatelet-Les-Halles, Zed, that also reminds me of Munich, Germany, in their system (I was stationed in Germany in the early 80’s).
        At the Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) there are several U-Bahn (Underground) as well as S-Bahn (Urban Rail) lines and sometimes the area to cover to make your transfer is about a km there, as well, with almost all stations being attached to a huge, underground shopping mall.

      7. The Gateway station on MAX does this as well between the Red and Blue lines. Don’t know how/if this will change once the green line begins servicing that station as well.

      8. Wouldn’t building center platforms in the tunnel require closing the tunnel during construction? We already did that once!

      9. They could just put one center platform in International District. I bet it could be done at night like highway construction, although the 1 a.m.-5 a.m. shift is pretty short.

      10. You will only have to do that if you are coming from the South to go East. Other rail transit systems have transfer points that require changing platforms so I don’t see it as a huge deal.

        Besides once the buses are out of the tunnel there is room to put in a center transfer platform in the tunnel stations. Not sure if that is terribly practical though.

      11. Actually my friend will not take a bus. Not yet at least. We are both ex suburbanites from Sacramento where transit was not a viable option. Hes older and conservative and tends to have lots of misconceptions about things. So, normally he would walk to home after work to avoid paying for parking on the street downtown. He works two blocks from the link sodo station and loves the train. He’s thus far, not willing to get on a bus. I think, it mostly because he doesn’t know how to use it. I’m trying to get him to take them with me whenever we need to get to an outer neighborhood, say Fremont or greenlake. Car culture is a hard thing to break with someone who has a had a car for a decade longer than i have been alive.

      12. Joe,

        You must have been in one of the suburbs that the Blue or Gold line did not serve. Sacramento has a nearly perfect climate for rail transit (well, maybe not in July and August, but 10 outta 12 ain’t bad) so it’s sad to hear that you were unable to use it there.

        If you live near Westlake it’s a quick one-hop ride to Greenlake or Fremont with little traffic congestion and almost no walk to the bus. You’re in a great location for a transit lifestyle.

    2. I have to agree that the trains seem to end up waiting a lot to enter the DSTT Northbound. I haven’t seen similar problems with buses entering from Convention Place or with trains exiting the tunnel Southbound.

      Have there been any problems with buses entering or leaving the tunnel at ID? I don’t ride those routes often so I can’t really tell.

      That said other than the issue with Northbound trains joint operation is working much better than I expected, even during peak hour.

  14. I’m loving the light rail. I have started riding my bike to the Mt. Baker station and the rail to the end, then from Westlake to work a few blocks away. And, today especially, I love the air conditioning and the woosh of cool air when a train is approaching in the (Tim Burton-esque) Beacon Hill station is refreshing and fun. I did think that the Mt. Baker station would be more active, but maybe it’s just not that central to many residences? Maybe there’s just not enough reason to be at the station, like I thought there would be? I thought there’d be bagel delis, coffee shops, newsstands, etc, but you have to cross Rainier just to get to a Starbucks. So I’m hoping that will improve over time.

    The only complaint I have is that today was the second time I was kicked off the train before arriving at my destination. The first time was because of the electrical disruption in the tunnel and the second time, today, there was no explanation for our bus suddenly “going out of service” at Beacon Hill. And since I’ve only ridden twice, that makes 2 for 2.

    1. I’m considering biking to Mt Baker as well. Currently I walk down the hill from 23rd on Beacon Hill, take the train to Westlake, and walk about a mile to my office in the Cascade neighborhood of SLU. It would be much more convenient, and faster, to bike that mile.

      What has been your experience in finding an available hook for your bike when getting on at Mt Baker? I would assume that the return trip would be fairly easy since you get on at the beginning of the line.

      1. I’ve only ridden twice, and I ride outside of normal commuting hours (downtown by 10am rather than 9am), but i’ve never had any problem. Just walk right on and get a hook. Sometimes the seat right there is taken, but I can either stand or sit a little further away.

      2. I take the train from the Beacon Hill station & walk to Cascade, as well. It’s a toss-up whether to wait for the 70 or walk to work. Biking would be faster, but I can’t think of a great bike route from Westlake to Cascade–and hauling a bike up from the station seems like it could get old.

        Do you load your bike into the elevator, or carry it up the stairs? I’d be worried about wacking people and/or otherwise causing a fuss.

  15. I love the Light Rail.. but it does nothing at this time to reduce traffic or any type of congestion.. the system needs to grow…It needs to expand.. especially outside of King County.. then congestion will be reduced and you will see the trains filling up… Link to Lynwwod. Everett, Tacoma, even Olympia… The light Rail system needs to grow… Downtown Seattle already have many options. Residents of Downtown Seattle through Tukwila does not have a “need” to switch… I typically buy a 1 month bus fare card. I’m gonna use it up by end of August.. maybe then I ‘ll decide if I want to pay more to ride the light rail or pay my $.35 cents per day riding the bus like I always have.

    1. You don’t understand, rail in this region isn’t supposed to get people out of their cars or reduce congestion. It’s meant to revitalize poorer neighborhoods and help give Seattle a more cosmopolitan feel.

      1. We’re already building a tremendous light rail network, Sam. What do you want?

      2. I was responded to Lee who was complaining that our light rail system does nothing to reduce traffic or congestion. Your beef is with him, not me. I was merely explaining to him that our rail system isn’t about reducing congestion.

      3. You need to explain your comment. The minute that rail reaches Lynnwood and Federal Way does this initial line morph into one that is “about reducing congestion”? What poorer neighborhoods does ST2 “morph”?

        No transit is specifically about reducing congestion. That is not what transit does. People will always use roads capacity during peak hours, and if extra capacity exists folks will sprawl to fill it. What transit does is offer an alternative to congestion. That alternative does provide additional capacity which can bring down future congestion — meaning we don’t have invest billions into expanding I-5 if we have rail serving that corridor. Would I rather that alternative serve population centers or be an express line to the airport and the suburbs? You can probably tell what I favor.

        Really, Lee presented a false premise based on perhaps the wrong expectations. So we can either talk about what the expectations should be and inform him, or we can argue about a debate that was settled years ago.

      4. Sam,

        Cynical comments do not contribute to a good discussion. You should focus on criticizing ideas and not people.

        Your comment suggests that you believe Sound Transit does not care about reducing traffic in the Puget Sound area. This is a very strong accusation. You should be careful when impugning the motives of an organization that is clearly working hard to improve transit in this area.

      5. “No transit is specifically about reducing congestion”

        I should have said, “reducing congestion… on roads.” Or maybe, even, “getting rid of congestion on roads.” Obviously what I said was a little generalized, but you can imagine that no 14 mile line built anywhere in the state would have massively reduced congestion during the first week of service.

      6. There’s nothing really to discuss. You view of what light rail should be has won.

        I’m not an anti-rail guy. I like the idea of light rail in our region. I don’t like the fact that we were sold one thing, and got another. Sure, I’m not crazy about our first line. I’m also not crazy about East Link. I think they were built where they could be built, not where they should be built. North Link looks good. But I’m rooting for Central Link.

      7. The region approved a line that ran through the Rainer Valley in ’96, but okay.

      8. Sorry John, but if you are denying that the people of this region were misled, I think that most people would disagree with you (no, not people on this blog), and that’s about the kindest thing I can say.

      9. On the substance of the particular argument you’re making, voters approved a line through the Rainer Valley. If you want to change the subject that is your right, but you’re doing so for obvious reasons.

      10. Sam, are you going to prove that the voters of the region were misled? Or are you just going to keep saying it in the hopes that it miraculously becomes true? I remember what I voted on in 1996, and I don’t feel like I was misled by anybody. And why do you have such an obsession with reducing congestion on I-5? Are people who knowingly choose to commute on I-5 the only ones who deserve transit service? And would you also like to prove for us that Sound Transit’s efforts have not reduced congestion or gotten “cars off the freeway.” You keep repeating that they haven’t, yet you never offer any proof.

      11. “I should have said, ‘reducing congestion… on roads.'”

        Yeah, because Link totally increased the congestion on the sidewalk of S Edmunds Street.

    2. Lee,

      I’m sorry, but you have the wrong technology. This isn’t a BART train running 75 miles an hour. Link makes too many stops in the MLK belly to be a regional backbone, and it should. To serve Tacoma and Olympia the Sounder service plus express buses are sufficient for any reasonable future.

      The northend line is planned with wider station spacing than the new line to Tukwila, and it looks as if it is going to be essentially heavy rail with catenary, rather than genuine light rail. That is, it’s going to be on grade separated right of way without cross traffic. At least, that’s the plan as far as Alderwood Mall. So as planned it could serve as the primary Seattle to Everett trunk.

      But the south end line will not be fast enough to replace express buses for trips to and from Tacoma, and Olympia is out of the question. It could be improved if an express “cut-off” were built between the base just south of Lander and Boeing Access Road, because there are fewer stations planned south of the Airport. But then Link just starts duplicating Sounder.

      It makes more sense to me to build only to downtown Federal Way in the south, adding a couple of stations between those already planned (say 220th and 260th) to create development clusters. North of Northgate use the SR99 right of way rather than I-5. There is already enormous development along SR99 and with the LRT line a lot of residential development would fill in around all the commercial stuff. There is no need to go farther north than Alderwood Mall.

      In other words, let Light Rail be Light Rail instead of trying to do two things at once with it.

  16. What is the best summary to give to people asking why there is no Southcenter stop? I heard people blame all the entities involved, but instead of going into a lengthy history of the politics of the stops, what can/should people be told to this common question?

    1. It’s just a big blunder. You can dress-up the reason using fancy transit jargon, but basically it’s just a big old mistake.

      1. The Airport handles 100,000 passengers a day and provides a fast, reliable, and frequent link for tourists and business travelers to Seattle as well as Bellevue and potentially Redmond, not to mention those who live in those areas as well.

    2. Say “The people running Southcenter weren’t willing to fight to have a stop there, some other people didn’t want a stop there, and the people building Link didn’t think it was worth fighting for a Southcenter stop if Southcenter wasn’t willing to fight for it.”

      Sort of a precis.

    3. There was no money for a longer route that served Southcenter mall. Plain and simple. The route to Southcenter would have cost 2 to 2.5 times as much as the route that they ended up building.

    4. Tukwila fought REALLY hard for a station at southcenter. Blame the ST politicians in Snoho and Pierce counties that voted against it because of the added 5-7 minute trip time for their suburban commuters, and the added $$$.

      1. Fight is the operable word here. They thought that they could force ST into a stop at Southcenter by holding up permits and denying their approval to the FTA instead of working with ST to find the additional money for a route to Southcenter. I agreed with serving Southcenter at the time, but after I saw how the City of Tukwila was going to play ball I quit supporting it. Everyone knew at the time that ST was strapped for cash, and South King County was already getting the lion’s share of transit improvements. It’s funny that now that Central Link is open everyone is wondering why it doesn’t go here or there, but while they were building it everyone complained about the price and forced ST to make the cuts. Maybe now that there is a tangible product for people to see the penny-pinching will subside.

    5. Transfer Person,

      The quickest answer is “topograpy”. You simply can not serve both Sea-Tac and Southcenter on the same rail line, at least not without an extremely expensive tunnel through the hill between them.

      Some time drive across 170th/Military/178th from the airport to SouthCenter. It’s pretty exciting — to say the least — to go down that 14% grade on 178th.

      A light rail line would have required a tunnel similar to the one in Portland through the West Hills, though admittedly not as long. But steeper; much steeper.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Tukwila to Southcenter shuttle very soon, though. The engineering has already been done for the Burien-Renton Link line considered and rejected for ST2. I expect that the Southcenter people are already wondering how to pay for it.

  17. Andrew…Andrew…Andrew!! I only waded through about a couple dozen of the comments but nobody seems to pick up that just about every other 36 (virtually all the trolleys) turns into a 1 downtown and takes me all the way to Queen Anne on the same bus!! Why would I want to take an 8 minute walk to the BH Link Station and then transfer downtown along with the disgusting hordes of smelly humanity? Sure, I love the Link because I don’t have to deal with the daily 36ers who are drinking in the back of the bus, making dope deals, etc. (plus Link is always a/c) but it’s just not…practical. I apologize if the intelligence of my remarks causes any offense!

  18. Someone from other forum complained that LINK was going at around walking pace from SODO to Rainier Valley and other one took 50 minutes from Westlake to Rainier Valley. Have anyone ended up with that sort of experience?

    1. Yes, but only between SODO and Beacon Hill, and I wasn’t walking next to it, so I’m not sure, but it seemed awful slow.

    2. It definitely slows down between SoDo and Rainier. I noticed it was going about 10mph as we entered the hole in the side of Beacon Hill, but if you’ve ever ridden the 7 from 5th and Jackson to Genesee you know that it’s a major improvement over that.

  19. Sounds like false advertising. They need to promise riders that it can do that in 34 minutes, not 1 hour or whatever. It’s not a bus and it’s a train, come on they can do better.

    1. If you’re still saying that in six months or a year, I’d be worried. But one week in? Nah. Not worth it. They have to sort out real ridership with everything else.

      But for the love of the pedestrian, PLEASE do something about the 5 minute waits to cross MLK!

      1. If anything they will make the wait times longer. There are sections of tacoma link, most notably at 10th and Commerce (The main transit hub in downtown tacoma) where if there is a train in the station at theatre district, the mid-block ped signal will not change until the train has passed the point going the other direction. the ped signals at 11th and 9th that are tied to the traffic signal operate with the traffice singal wheather or not theres a train in the block at the time. I’m not sure if this has been resolved or not, but this was the standard for several years after opening of the line.

  20. The 36 most runs continues on as the #1 to Uptown, the Seattle Center (where lots of stuff is going on) and West Queen Ann/Kinnear.

    Could some of these new folks you’ve seen be headed there?

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