In preparation for the grand opening of Airport Link tomorrow, Sound Transit invited members of the press aboard Link for a quick preview ride to the airport and back. With the Certificate of Occupancy signed, crews are now working on polishing up the station for Saturday’s big event. You can read Martin’s detailed coverage last month of SeaTac Station and the opening day announcement, where Senator Murray was there to break the news, along with several other dignitaries. Oran and Brian were on hand yesterday to take video and photos, along with Cian Hayes, who Ben mentioned was officially the first passenger to board a plane from Link. You can visit our Flickr Pool with some new photos of the station, as well as the video of the preview ride above, shot by Oran.
Among the other firsts, Oran found the ORCA readers to be up and running and tapped in along with Brian, which we believe made them both the first revenue passengers to use Airport Link. More of the preview ride below the jump.
The extension from Tukwila Int’l Blvd. Station to SeaTac/Airport Station is 1.7 miles long and is all grade separated, either running elevated or along in the freeway median leading from SR-518. According to Brian’s GPS, the train briefly approached its max speed of 55mph along the guideway. Mike Lindblom, Seattle Times transportation reporter, later told me that the average speed on the stretch was 45mph, give or take. The ride itself was, for the most part, fairly smooth with the exception of some mild hunting as we came down from the elevated segment.
The preview allowed us to tour the new pedestrian bridge and walkway, which was still being worked on back during the announcement event. According to George England of the Port of Seattle, the total distance from the closest skybridge to the station mezzanine is just under 1000 feet (less than one-fifth of a mile), which is on par with the distance from the end of any of the airport concourses to the main terminal.
Brian timed the walk back to the station from the Alaska Airlines ticket counter at around 3 minutes, estimating anywhere from a 3-6 minute trek for any given person, depending on walking speed and amount of luggage carried. Considering the distance between a number of other international airports and their respective transit stations, we think this is pretty good.
The walkway follows along the very northern periphery of the garage and is separated from vehicles by a mesh fence with intermediate openings for emergency escapes and anyone compelled to use the airport garage as a park and ride. There are signs pointing the way to the ‘Link Light Rail’ station along the entire length of the walkway. Aside from maps and terminal information, the open-air construction is rather simple, having been toned down after budget cuts. At the end of the walk, we spotted one check-in kiosk outside the doors to the closest skybridge, and two more existing ones on the terminal side.
On the other side of the skybridge, we had a chance to examine wayfinding and signage for Link on the northern end of the terminal, where the walkway will lead passengers to. Many of the existing Port signs directing to ground transportation have been branded with temporary Link livery that sport the ST wave and the Dec. 19th opening date for Airport Link. We assume that the signs will be updated with the permanent Link icon sometime in the near future. The signs do an adequate job of making the station known, but more wouldn’t hurt. We did not get the opportunity to examine the south side of the terminal where the bus bays are, to see how signs might direct people to Link once the 194 disappears.
We also had a chance to ask Bruce Gray, ST spokesman, about the long-anticipated real-time arrival information, which so far has been a commitment that’s been reneged on. As expected, there is still no firm date but Bruce did tell us system integration between Airport Link and the initial segment is still being worked out, and that they were “hoping by the end of the month.” [UPDATE 10:10AM:] Bruce Gray just gave us an update and said that the system is looking at a mid to late-January target date. The system is 97% complete, but testing, tweaks, and adjustments need to be made after Airport Link opens.
Airport Link officially opens tomorrow at around 10am when the trains will continue from Tukwila for open revenue service. There will be a closed dedication ceremony at SeaTac Station prior to that time where we will be on hand to cover the festivities.