[UPDATE by Martin: The announcement will be this Friday morning at 10:30.  I’ll try to tweet it when it happens.]

Capitol Hill Seattle Blog has a great scoop from Sound Transit on when the opening day for Airport Link will be announced: Soon.

We also talked to Bruce Gray of Sound Transit about the start of light rail airport service which is scheduled to happen ‘late in 2009’ according to the airport link project page. Gray says the announcement on the start of service will come later this week and said the trains will be continuing through to the Sea-Tac stop “in time for the holidays.” “Which holidays?” CHS asked. Just wanted to be sure. Gray said we’ll find out this week.

The big hint there is that service is expected to run in time for the holidays. Good news.

Airport Link is the extension of the current light rail line to a Seatac airport stop. Currently, riders must depart from the Tukwila terminus station and ride a free shuttle to the airport. The center-platformed Seatac stop will be the new terminus of our light rail line.

CHS Blog also notes that free Wi-Fi will be offered at Seatac airport starting today. Finally.

118 Replies to “Airport Link Opening Day to be Announced This Week”

  1. Well…I think Chinese New Year is in February this year so I’m sure he’s not referring to that. But it does look like good news – not too much longer to wait!

  2. I wonder … if future airport to downtown taxi and shuttle service users were polled as to why they aren’t using light rail to get to downtown what their top reasons would be? I would imagine many travelers would state they were unaware of the light rail line.

    As a leading transportation expert, I am personally going to go out to the airport in December and report on what kind of job Sound Transit did in advertising taking Link to downtown. If history is any guide, I imagine they did a poor job … too few signs that are too small, etc.

    I will grade the job they did.

    1. Meh, honestly? You can add signs later. Lower initial ridership is probably good to work the kinks out. :)

    2. why they aren’t using light rail to get to downtown

      I would guess –

      1) they don’t pay for the trip (business expense)

      2) want door to door service

      3) time is everything

      4) Too wealthy to travel with the masses

      1. I come into Seattle on the Clipper to go to SeaTac periodically, and 1) I had no idea there was a train, 2) it is surprisingly easy to pool people to share a cab to the airport (right from the pier)

        Butt I am curious about the train – What are the hours/frequency of this train?

      1. Honestly, sometimes when I read these comment threads, I find the tone of the regulars to be condescending assey and dickish. Woe unto any transit/planning/design professional who dares to disagree w/ anyone on this blog or in any way criticize Sound Transit.

      2. I’m cranky with everyone who has a ‘better idea’, generally, because Sound Transit seems to be the only agency getting transit done, and I don’t want to do anything to ruin their streak. :)

      3. What’s wrong with pointing out better ideas? Isn’t the point of comments on a blog to have discussion? If someone thinks they have a better idea than Sound Transit (which is entirely possible, though maybe unlikely), why shouldn’t they share it in this designated place for transit discussion? Many Sound Transit and other policy people read this blog, so who knows? If your idea is truly better, maybe posting it here could even lead to its implementation.

      4. I think Ben’s referring to second-guessing plans that have already been through the sausage machine, where criticism basically serves to obstruct getting anything done.

        We’ve had lots of threads about operational suggestions for how ST and Metro can be better.

      5. I’m a policy guy too, but I don’t know the difference between “assey” and “dickish.” ;-)

    3. As someone who lived in the Seattle area (graduated H.S.), I am very surprised with the ridership numbers in Seattle. I live in Phoenix now and have been witness to the ever increasing number of riders in low density Phoenix (especially compared to Seattle)and am absolutely dumbfounded! In Phoenix, for the month of October, we just hit another record ridership count of over 41,000 a day…Seattle is struggling to surpass 12,000. I expected Seattle to have much better numbers, maybe even Portland like numbers. Truly inexplicable and inexcusable; Seattle seems so much more transit oriented. Hopefully the dismal ridership numbers are a short-term fluke.

      1. METRO has estimated that students account for 2,000-6,000 riders on weekdays. Opponents of light rail in Phoenix where sure that ridership would be non-existent in the Summer; however, this was not the case as July was the weakest month for riders but still had over 27,000 per weekday despite no school and temperatures surpassing 100 degrees almost daily (it was estimated that 26,000 would ride the trains daily by the end of the first year of service). There have been articles written in our local papers about increased density in neighborhoods near stations, increase in one car households, and new RAPID/Express Bus service to end-of-line transit center stations from suburban transit centers.

        Another reason for ease of movement is that despite Phoenix’ suburban sprawl, it is relatively compact in terms of urban population (surpassing Portland). Phoenix also has the 8th densest CBD (Central business district) in the nation. Over 26% of the entire metro area work within a 3 mile diameter of downtown Phoenix and 76% of the entire metro area work within 10 miles of downtown.

        I am wondering why ST didn’t connect the denser northern and easter regions there? Is it believed that the Airport connection will increase ridership? Here in Phoenix, we have a station that is an “airport connector.” Soon we’ll have an elevated “people mover” (skyTrain) the will connect all the terminals, light rail connection station, the Consolidated Rental Car Super-structure, etc. Right now Sky Harbor is using shuttle bus service.

        BTW: I was at my 10 year reunion this August; first time back in 10 years and Seattle is looking better than ever!

      1. No more 194 because the King county Goverment and Sound Transit want everyone on Link. They need to boost the numbers somehow. I am still fighting I am writing the King County Council, the Executive-Elect, the Sound Transit board and my members of the Legislative every day. I am still hoping to end this injustice.

      2. Maybe, but I have to try. At the very least I can say I did something to fight against something I personially feel is wrong.

  3. So how exactly will it be to transfer from bus to rail at SeaTac?

    For example, trying to drag my folks into Seattle by taking the 574 to the Link (yeah, I know the 594 is faster, but I want to get a ride on Link under their belts)

    1. Don’t quote me on this but I “think” the 574 will stop at the Tukwila Link Station or the KISS and Ride location. I can’t remember the service change off the top of my head but it does sound familiar. Otherwise, they will have to work from the International Flight/Bus Area through the parking garage to the Link station.

      1. If I am not mistaken, come next February, all airport buses will be stopping at the new airport plaza station by the SeaTac Link stop. The current unappealing one will cease to exist come next February when we get the new change over of schedules.

        The 574 will therefore stop there in the future. It would then have no need to go on to Tukwila.

    2. Most buses will serve either the Link station or the current bus stop, depending on the direction of travel.

  4. That IS good news…. still frustraiting that it arrives 1,000 yards away from the terminal… It should have come inside… It is so clever when light rail comes into the terminal. Now we can continue to torture the elederly who use SeaTac… The Thousand Yard dash to the Terminal from ST Link with your luggage in tow. Right up there with the elderly cruise passengers who fly in via United and Alaska and get to walk the Thousand Yards to Door 00 at the South End with luggage in hot pursuit.

    I want the franchise for golf cart shuttles. I see a great market in tour season. Amazing with billions can buy between ST and the POS.

    1. It would be cool, but many airline terminals are much farther. Frankfurt is a real pain in the butt.

      1. My therapist told me that Amsterdam Schiphol is a pain because it is so busy, even though it is one huge terminal complex and supposedly easy for businessmen transferring from the underground station to the main complex to all of the gates.

      2. I don’t remember it being particularly painful. Then again, after Paris CDG, nothing will ever be particularly painful.

      3. I hate to reply to my own comments, but Amsterdam is typically voted the no. 1 airport in the world amongsat business travelers because of the ease of transferring everywhere. Perhaps my therapist was having a bad day! It is a very busy airport though – the third busiest for international passengers after London Heathrow and Paris I believe.

      4. Folks, I just returned from a trip to Asia and stopped in Seoul, Beijing and Shanghai. The walk to the maglev train in Shanghai is a long ways between the two terminals. Beijing’s Airport Express Train is quite a distance from the terminal and involves scanning your lugguage and a lot of tricky twists and turns. As for Seoul, it may be the closet of the three, but it’s still a few floors underneath the terminal and takes a bit to get to.

        The SeaTac Link station will be a piece of cake compared to the links to the stations!


      5. Both major airports in NYC are quite a distance from the subway. It necessitates taking a shuttle to the nearest stop:(. I think LaGuardia is closer to a subway stop.

      6. The Frankfurt S-Bahn station is underground right underneath the arrivals level of Terminal 1 (the original terminal). It’s very convenient. It takes only 10-15 minutes to ride to the center of town.

        The long-distance train station (Inter-City trains) is elevated past the office building and Sheraton hotel and is a bit of a schlepp, similar to where the Seattle Link station is being constructed.

      7. Barcelona was easily a half mile walk between the terminal and then the pedestrian overpass to the train. Just enough time to brush up on my Spanish!

    2. If we could only have something like Heathrow Express (London) here. Check in at Paddington station in London, 15 minutes to the terminals at Heathrow – trains run on the quarter hour. That’s the way to travel.

      1. It’s the way to travel if you have $27 (each way!) to blow on a pretentious express service. While Heathrow Express is a great experience, Heathrow Connect or the Piccadilly Line are both much more reasonable alternatives.

      2. Additionally, the Piccadilly Line runs to places people are much more likely to be and has 3 min headways. So from many places in London, the Piccadilly Line is actually *faster* than getting to Paddington somehow, transferring, waiting an average of 7.5 min for another train, and then getting to Heathrow.

    3. Where’s 1000 yards come from? Not the distance from the station to the center of the main terminal, more like 300 yards. That might seem like a long distance, but it is significantly shorter than standing in the middle of the main terminal and walking out toward the end of Terminal A.

      Anyone who spends anytime at all at different airports won’t see the distance from the terminal to the station as a big deal at all.

    4. It would be cool if the station was directly in the terminal, but there’s only two ways to get closer to the terminal. One, build over top of the airport drives between the terminal and garage. Or two, tunnel under the terminal. Option one was flat out rejected by the port, and option two would have cost about as much as Belize’s GDP. All-in-all I think the station they built is a good compromise, it’s relatively close to the terminal, it makes it easier to expand Link down 99 and it also serves the City of Seatac.

      1. Yeah the City of SeaTac thing is important, as they are planning on building a little city center next to the station on the east side of International Blvd.

    5. Yes – by putting light rail in the airport, they could torture the elderly who live in SeaTac instead.

    6. It seems like Sea-Tac is current enough to utilize moving walkways. We have a bunch of them in the A terminal. Would it be too expensive to put through the garage?

      1. The walk through the garage TO the pedestrian bridge is shielded from the elements just slightly better than Mount Baker station. I don’t think moving walkways play well with rain.

  5. By the way, Gray Line’s Downtown Airporter will still beat Link from the Westin Hotel (nearest to Westlake) AND it drop you at one of two spots right in front on the upper departure deck (1,000 yards closer than Link can). It also beats the 194 from the Westin Hotel to the Airport consistantly by 8-10 minutes. It also costs $9 more.

    1. As Susan Hutchison pointed out, you could just spend $50 on a cab and get yourself door-to-door service.

      1. Quite so, Martin, but my parents were very excited to return to London Heathrow using Link to get them to the airport on the first leg of the trip. I didn’t really give them any other choice. We took the 550 from Mercer Island and changed at the I-District stop – couldn’t have been simpler.

    2. It’s more than $9 more – a round trip on Link is $5, a round trip on the Airporter is $18. That’s $14 more for most trips, or $9.50 more for a one way.

      And if you’ve got a pass, like me, it’s $18 more!

    3. I wouldn’t say it’s always 8-10 minutes faster. The upper drive can get quite packed, especially in the early morning hours.

  6. Friday 11/13/2009, Airport Link official opening day will be announced. Its astonishing to think the next opening day announcement will be in 5 or 6 years from now.

    1. Will the influx of Stimulus dollars combined with lower construction costs not quicken construction? Or is that just wishful thinking?

      1. Probably wishful thinking. I believe they already have $500 million from the Federal Government for University Link, but I don’t think you can get a tunnel machine to work faster than it already does.

      2. Stimulus might help us reach South 200th st sooner, but nothing can be done to speed up U Link at this point.

      3. That would help, John, as it would get us closer south to Federal Way. They’ll just continue to plough down International Blvd. I am assuming. In which case, we might get another opening day announcement before University Link opens?

      4. Sound Transit is working really hard to get S. 200th open by 2012, so that will likely be the next grand opening to look forward to. Then U-Link in 2016 and, hopefully, Northgate in 2018.

      5. Correction above: The station will actually be on 28th Ave S a block west of Intl Blvd.

        More information on S 200th:

        • It is 2 miles south of SeaTac/Airport Station
        • The tracks and station is elevated (ST2 assumes continuing elevated down SR 99)
        • It includes a transit center, kiss-and-ride facility, and a 630-stall parking garage.
        • Bike lanes along S 200th
        • 39 minutes travel time from S 200th to Westlake Station
        • 4,500 boardings/day by 2030
        • $335M estimated cost for the tracks and station
        • Target opening date mid 2014.

        Info from ST’s application for federal funds from PSRC

      6. Four years to build two miles of track and related work! That seems way too long to me, but if Zed is correct on 2012, that seems more reasonable.

        By the way, they have long since restarted work on the car rental mega structure at the airport. That too is scheduled to open in 2011/12.

      7. Even though nothing can be done to speed up the U Link dig, can work north of University District begin soon on an accelerated schedule so everything up to Northgate opens at once (or at least sooner than currently anticipated)?

      8. There is a huge varible people here seem to forget. The UW will NOT let ST bore under their campus until ST proves its vibration and EMI mitigations work in the SB ULink tunnel. If they don’t work,then the NLink project is delayed. ST will bring the SB tunnel from CHS to PSST on line as fast as they can so they an get the necessary data. So until the data comes in I doubt any construction will happen as its risky.

      9. Also, I think they don’t like to have crews working on a bunch of different sections at once and then all of a sudden everyone’s out of a job.

      10. Well… since it is Stimulus dollars that would allow us to move ahead of plan, massive public works projects are pretty much the definition of Keynesian Stimulus. I mean, if ever the construction industry needed a shot in the arm, right now is the time. And it is not like once these projects are finished we are going to say ‘Jolly Good! You can go home now!’ The idea is for the momentum to build on itself and even more projects be built in the future… or at least that would be my hope.

      11. I hadn’t thought of that, alexjonlin…although between Lynwood, Federal Way, and Redmond (not to mention West Seattle) it would seem we have enough work to keep crews busy for a good while.

      12. That’s not really the concern… The issue is money. Right now ST is dealing with less sales tax income because of the recession. The Stimulus provided some money for transit, but none of that is guaranteed to come to ST yet, so they’re leery of spending money too quickly. 2018 is a fairly quick schedule, considering it’s going to take 8 years to do U-Link, another 2 years on top of that to get N link done isn’t too bad. It would be really great if we could get guaranteed federal money for North link and accelerate it a little, so North and U links opened 6 months apart from each other or something like that. I live about 7 blocks from the Roosevelt station, and i’d love to use it to get downtown.

      13. There should have been no federal money for this. It is stealing from the 49 other states.

      14. Yes, that’s why I get back .80 out of every dollar I send to the Federal government as a Washington resident, and here in South Carolina (where I am currently), I get $1.21 back. Seems like we might want to clean up that disparity first. I figure the Feds owe us a bit.

  7. Let’s hope they’re talking about the Jewish holidays, cause Hanukkah this year starts on December 11th.

    1. Thanks for reminding me – I have to get something for my daughter in Los Angeles for then

      1. Are they already testing trains on the airport spur? I haven’t been down there for a while. If they are, Thanksgiving may not be a bad guess, but I think it is more likely to be around mid-December. Perhaps another free weekend the weekend before Christmas would work for all of us?

        I am sure we’ll be out there with our stop watches to measure how long it takes to walk from the platform to the terminal?

        I’ll take on the walk from the International gates if you like and let everyone know.

      1. What would they say? “It’s already open! Those trains you see running on those tracks? Yeah, they’re not testing, they’re open for service!”

      2. I think K-Lo was joking! Or maybe you were being funny in response – it is hard to tell sometimes what a writer’s mood is!

      3. Yes, it is Washington State’s 120th birthday today – November 11th – as I write! Happy birthday Washington State!

  8. We are getting closer to losing the best option for hundreds of people to get to and from work every day. i am ofcorse talking about route 194. When you work nights like I do you have less options. They are taking away the best option.

    1. The service provided by the 194 south of the airport isn’t going away, it’s being replaced by Sound Transit routes 574, 577 and 578, and eventually Rapid Ride line A.

      1. The 574 does not go to Seattle. the 577 and 578 will not be running when I need them.

      2. Because the 574 doesn’t have to go to Seattle (you know why). If you had to get to work in Seattle after 11 pm the 194 was never a choice anyway as the last 194 arrives downtown shortly before 10 pm. The last 574 arrives at the Airport at 10:50 pm and the train departs every 15 minutes until around midnight. The 194 will never run that late.

      3. I start work at 10pm. I get the 194 at the Kent/Des Moines freeway ramp. It usuially gets me down toen by 9:15pm. I walk the rest of the way. It takes me between 15 and 20 minutes. That gets me to work about 9:35pm. Just enough time to ensure that I get a proper trnover and the person I relieve gets to go home on time. One straight shot. If I take Link I will have to catch a bus to the airport. Ride Link until I get to the International District. Take a bus to convention place. See faster and easier with the 194. I am going to have to start my day earlier and I will get home later with the 194 ending. But, this is a moot point. If the 194 is going to end, and I am still fighting for it not to, I am writing to all the King county council, the sound transit board, the executive-elect, and my legeslators every day trying to convince them to help, I will not ride link. It would be easier and faster to take a 166 to kent and take a 150. that is until they decide to get rid of the 150.

      4. You start work at 10 pm. Other people start work at 11 or midnight or 1:30 am, those people benefit from Link.

        You don’t know how good you have it down there with transit compared to the Eastside. You have light rail that runs late, you have the 124/174 night owl service and you’ll soon have RapidRide. You have multiple options to get to work. If they decide to keep the 194, it’ll be at the expense of someone else’s bus. Someone else who might not have the many options you have.

      5. “the 577 and 578 will not be running when I need them.”

        In February when the service change happens the 577/578 will be running later than the 194 does now. With a quick Google search you could have figured that out in less time than you’ve spent posting adolescent complaints about the 194.

      6. Well Zed you were right. I got the 577/578 confused with another route. it does run later. It does not, however, stop in Kent/Des Moines where I live. it does me no good. I’ll keep up the fight for the 194.

      7. You should then advocate for having the 577/578 serve the Kent/Des Moines Freeway stop during off-peak hours. You’ll have much more luck getting that to happen then you will getting Metro to keep the 194. You should email fastride@soundtransit.org with your suggestion.

  9. Maybe Susan Hutchinson would like to be on the first train that reaches the airport:)

    The airport stop is exciting generally and will do a lot to add value and purpose and functionality to Central Link. We should all welcome this announcement.

    I hope the walkway through the existing parking garage will have been designed to look suitably welcoming and appealing. Does anyone know if the Port and Sound Transit have made many aesthetic modifications to walking through the garage.

    Signage is also important of course to guide travelers to Link once they are in ‘arrivals’, but as I think I pointed out in a previous posting, Link’s position at the north end of the airport is primarily of benefit to both United and Alaska passengers as they use the gates closest to that end of the airport. International travelers will have the furthest to walk from the international gates and arrivals area, but as some readers have mentioned, SeaTac is a comparatively compact airport and so most of the inconveniences I hope will not stress people too much.

      1. Thanks Oran as always (and to your camera). It looks quite nice! Perhaps they will have display boards letting us know the times of the next train?

        I am glad to see that the walkway will be partitioned off from the rest of the garage – I was envisaging people having to wait for oncoming cars!

      2. You were at the airport recently, Tim. How’s wayfinding for Link? Inside the terminal (baggage claim specifically), would it be obvious for travelers that there’s a nice shiny rail station sitting behind the parking garage?

    1. “Maybe Susan Hutchinson would like to be on the first train that reaches the airport”

      I think we should pack the inaugural train with all of the local rail skeptical leaders. Those of us on this blog could take up a collection to pay for a special charter flight to take them on a vacation to Alaska. There is a risk that we might not raise enough money for the return trip, however.

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