[UPDATE: New media added below.] No more getting off at Tukwila and hopping aboard a musty old connector shuttle to the airport.  SeaTac/Airport Station officially opened this morning to the cheers and applause of many.

By all accounts, the opening of Airport Link was a success.  Dignitaries, politicians, members of the press, laborers, and those involved with the project were all on hand to christen the new station this morning.  Attendees were treated to refreshments and live music from the Highline High School jazz band.  After cutting the ribbon from the East entrance at the International Blvd skybridge, a speaking ceremony was held where all the important project people had words to say about the milestone, with Mayor Nickels emceeing.

The Mayor took a brief swing at Gabriel Campanario of the Seattle Times for titling an Airport Link editorial as “Light rail reaches airport, no longer a train to nowhere,” apologetically considering Columbia City, Othello, Beacon Hill, and all the other stations from end to end.  It wasn’t without irony, though, that the Mayor followed-up by saying that the train was already going somewhere, but now it’s going “somewhere better.”

Following the speaking ceremony, the second ribbon was cut at the West entrance from the parking garage skybridge. And it goes without saying that we all agree– the walk to the terminal is nothing.  I had more trouble getting from the bus bays at the south end of the terminal to the north end.  To honor the leaders that worked on the entire Central Link project, Joni Earl unveiled two bronze plaques dedicated to the Board and other influential persons, one to be placed at SeaTac Station, and the other at Mt. Baker Station, where the dedication ceremony of the initial segment was held.

After the second ribbon cutting, everyone trooped up to the platform to witness the first inbound train, which came in to break through the third ribbon shortly after 10am.  The entire blog staff, with the exception of Brian, gathered to meet some regular commenters and pose for a quick photo op.  By luck, John was able to join us via the first revenue train coming all the way from Westlake, without knowing it until reaching Tukwila.

Here is some media from the event:

123 Replies to “Say Goodbye to the Airport Connector Shuttle”

    1. Yes, sometime between 2012 and 2014 depending on financing. ST recently applied for a TIGER grant to accelerate construction to 2012, but I don’t think the grants have been awarded yet.

      1. “Is 2014 for S 200th station opening a funded, done deal if TIGER does not come through?”

        That’s my understanding. I believe January 2014 is the target date.

      2. My records indicate that Sound Transit was awarded $5,960,000 in the PSRC TIP process this past autumn, compared to the $7 million originally requested to complete funding and meet a July, 2014 opening date. This would leave ST slightly over one million dollars short of the funding represented as needed to PSRC in order to meet the estimated date of next Link station opening.

        Does anybody have further information on what ST needs in the way of money or authority to achieve construction and opening the Link extension to S 200th before University Link is opened? For one thing, it seems to me that a Sound Transit Board approved resolution would be needed.

        No opening date is now mentioned at the ST web page for this work, at http://www.soundtransit.org/Projects-and-Plans/Project-List/Airport-Link-Extension.xml. This page does state a budget in 2007$ of $286 to $336 million. The total cost estimate represented to PSRC is $335.69 million.

        Is the $334.65 million that ST apparently has lined up sufficient to begin work on what is called “Airport Link Extension?

      3. Sort of off topic, but on the subject of TIGER grants: The PI reported King County is looking for $99 Million in TIGER grant money to replace the South Park bridge. That seems like a lot of money to replace a relatively small bridge – especially when there are relatively close alternatives (such as the 1st Ave S).

        I’m not familiar enough with traffic patterns in that area to say whether it’s a worthy project or not. However, for that kind of money it sure seems like you could put a ton of new transit service into the South Park area, using alternative routing, for a fraction of the cost of that bridge. Even if you threw in some sizable pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, it would be far less expensive.

        Am I missing something here?

      4. The north side of the bridge is in Tukwila. The south side is Seattle. City of Seattle opposes the TIGER grant for the South Park Bridge because they want that money to go to two-waying Mercer St, as part of the plan for the deep-deficit tunnel.

        Why is City of Seattle not pushing TIGER grants for transit instead?

      5. King County owns and operates the bridge.

        Out of safety concerns, I want to see that bridge replaced. The funds to replace it were included in the RTID proposal, which was rejected by voters. I’d rather have the TIGER grant go to fixing our vulnerable infrastructure. Mercer isn’t at risk of collapsing. (My personal opinion, not of my employer, City of Seattle)

        If the bridge closes, the neighborhood of South Park will be hurt and freight traffic will have no choice of bypassing the congested 1st Ave S bridge.

      6. Interesting point though- you could build light rail from King Street to Georgetown for under $200 million- which would seem to be a much better investment than the bridge to South Park.

        Basically, it’s just stupid for the city to build a bridge to such a small piece of Seattle south of the Duwamish. Check it out on a map.

      7. “serial catowner–you could only build light rail to Georgetown for 200 million if you didn’t have many stations and had no problems with the industrial businesses and railroads along the way. This is Seattle’s only real remaining industrially zoned area. It is not where we want to build density.”

        Eventually there will need to be a Duwamish line. If the Rainier alignment weren’t so controversial, we could do it now, but the naysayers would just say, “You should have built that in the first place and skipped Rainier.”

        Light rail isn’t just to create density every mile. It’s also for, um, transportation. So if it doesn’t stop in an industrial area, that’s fine. There’s presumably enough room that a cheap surface route with few traffic crossings could be built.

      8. If the bridge is decommissioned, South Park will have three of its four routes re-routed over the 1st Avenue Bridge, with a lot more twists and turns down narrow neighborhood streets, cloverleaf headaches, and frequent drawbridge openings.

        The 132 that currently goes over the 1st Avenue drawbridge takes about a half hour to get to South Park from downtown, and then another half hour taking the long way through Boulevard Park to get to Burien.

        In the long run, a 10-minute headway shuttle between South Park and White Center Station on the West Seattle line may be our neighborhood’s best connection to the rest of civilization. In the short run, I wish we could bend the 132 to make a beeline through Boulevard Park to Tukwila International Station, and make it a 15-minute headway route.

        Without the bridge, route 60 will be ruined, as people from west of South Park will not want to ride the maze of narrow neighborhood streets currently served by the 132. If they want to get to Beacon Hill and El Centro de la Raza, they will more likely catch the 560 to Seatac, and then Link to Beacon Hill Station (which is across the street from El Centro).

        The 131 bending over the 1st Avenue Bridge would take about 45 minutes to get to South Park. That route may as well give up the ghost if the bridge is decommissioned. Those who wish to get to Georgetown could still deboard the 132 at the west end of Georgetown, and walk a few blocks.

        Something has to be done to keep the pedestrian residents of this freeway-blighted neighborhood from being stranded in our own neighborhood. I suspect that a 132 frequent route, connecting to TIS, would be the best route we could design for the neighborhood. I don’t know for sure if it would save money over building a new bridge over a period of 30 years or so.

      9. I think in the future a river taxi going from downtown to Harbor Island, SODO, South Park, and Boeing Access Road would be cool. After going to Bangkok and riding the river taxi and canal boats there, the idea of something like that in Seattle sounds really cool. Also, combined with the cleanup of the Duwamish, maybe we could get some nice development along the river.

      10. The South Park Bridge is the link between Georgetown and South Park for 20,000 cars, a lot of freight, buses, and many pedestrians. Without it the 1st Avenue South bridge would be in gridlock most of the day. I favor more spending for transit, but there are parts of our road infrastructure that must be fixed and this is one of them.

        serial catowner–you could only build light rail to Georgetown for 200 million if you didn’t have many stations and had no problems with the industrial businesses and railroads along the way. This is Seattle’s only real remaining industrially zoned area. It is not where we want to build density.

        I think you really owe it to yourself to go eat at Loretta’s in South Park and talk to a few folks about the bridge. South Park is a great neighborhood that is one of the few affordable ones left in the city.

      11. There was a time when the South Park bridge made perfect sense. That was in 1940. The briefest look at a map will show that if that bridge is essential for something today, there is something grotesquely out-of-balance about our transportation planning.

        Opening the bridge allows access to Boeing slipways by barges- that would be South Carolina Boeing, now. I literally cannot imagine what precious cargoes will come by barge to what modern industry at the old Plant Two. Most cargo today moves in containers.

        As for not wanting density in industrial zoning, excuse me, but that’s exactly what we want. Modern manufacturing in the US involves high-value production, and the stuff that doesn’t, like RV manufacturing, should move to some of the low-density land which remains abundant on the south side of the Duwamish.

        Now, all of this is in the form of a “thought experiment” to see what happens if you strip away assumptions. One commenter thinks a $100 million bridge would be valuable to preserve bus service.

        Another appeals to the “affordability” of South Park. Naturally, if the city and county are willing to spend hundreds of millions providing services for which South Park residents aren’t charged, that seems “affordable” to South Park residents. But that won’t last forever, and the quickest way to gentrify that neighborhood will be to build a new bridge and route an even greater volume of traffic over it.

        I liked the old bridge and used to drive over it and poke around in the South Park neighborhood in amazement at just how “affordable” it seemed to be. I’m guessing that if I went back today I would find it is only “affordable” in the context of Seattle $400k homes.

        But, hey, I’m easy. After all, what’s $100 million between friends, right?

      12. Your comment is loaded with misleading arguments. You ignore the effects on the 1st Avenue South bridge and you act as if industrial uses mean nothing to you. You obviously have never lived in the south end of West Seattle, South Park, or Georgetown. If you had you would have more empathy for others and understanding of the need for a bridge. The bridge is a very modest investment in our infrastructure–your attacks on the project are misguided. The map you keep referring to only tells you so much…

      13. [Duplicating misplaced comment above.]

        “serial catowner–you could only build light rail to Georgetown for 200 million if you didn’t have many stations and had no problems with the industrial businesses and railroads along the way. This is Seattle’s only real remaining industrially zoned area. It is not where we want to build density.”

        Eventually there will need to be a Duwamish line. If the Rainier alignment weren’t so controversial, we could do it now, but the naysayers would just say, “You should have built that in the first place and skipped Rainier.”

        Light rail isn’t just to create density every mile. It’s also for, um, transportation. So if it doesn’t stop in an industrial area, that’s fine. There’s presumably enough room that a cheap surface route with few traffic crossings could be built.

      14. For drivers, South Park is a more affordable neighborhood. For bus riders like myself, it is more expensive to live here. My cost of living went up about $200 a month when I moved here (because my employer moved).

        It’s an apartment owner’s market with very few vacancies, hence the high rent. There are no decent grocery stores in the neighborhood, and the closest QFC requires a half-hour bus ride with up to a half-hour wait. I’m having to spend a lot more on bus fare here than in the walkable neighborhood in which I used to live. That doesn’t include the value of my time just to get food.

        As for pedestrians, take a walk across the South Park Bridge some time into the pristine Boeing Forest, complete with railroad tracks and few sidewalks along a major thoroughfare. (The county fathers would probably be surprised to hear that anyone has walked that stretch of highway between South Park and Georgetown and lived to tell the tale.)

        I agree that light rail through the industrial valley is inevitable, as it will cut up to 20 minutes off the travel time to the airport and points south, and that building it through Rainier Valley first was the only way to get it through Rainier Valley at all.

        Regardless of what happens with the bridge, South Park is still a tough place for pedestrians. The bridge does a lot less for me than a rapid bus route would. Truckers and drivers have both the 1st Avenue Bridge and the Boulevard Park Bridge (a couple miles upstream from the 14th Avenue Bridge), and can easily alter their paths. Boeing also has a private bridge 1 mile upstream. Truckers would learn to cope.

        Car drivers, just like everywhere else, would alter their habits if transit became better and driving became worse.

        If the 1st Ave Bridge designated an HOV lane each way, then I think we might be able to justify a 15-minute-headway straightening of the 132, hopefully adjusted to serve Tukwila International Station.

        Yeah, without the bridge, our Mexican restaurants might be in trouble, as the Boeing lunch crowd would not have enough time to get here. But a foot bridge, with parking in the no-longer-a-street area across the Duwamish could actually make it easier for Boeing employees to patronize downtown South Park, and provide a short path toward a future South Park Station on the industrial valley bypass line.

        Those in the most need in South Park are pedestrians. I think our lives would be improved much more, at a fraction of the cost, by a serious bus route between Tukwila International Station and downtown via South Park than by replacement of the bridge.

    2. I hope so … since it will be elevated and go in a straight line, more or less … should be very fast and easy to construct.

      Additionally … does anyone know whether they will run trains to the Capitol Hill station before finishing the portion to the UW? or do we have to wait for both sections to be completed?

      1. Both stations are scheduled to open at the same time. The Capitol Hill station site is where they will be recovering the tunnel boring machines from the U District, so they can’t really start on station construction until after that.

  1. The walking distance is way overblown. I doubt anyone would think anything of it had the Times not made such a point of it. However, I hope Sound Transit will consider again putting in windows to cut down on the wind-chill.

    1. We should measure the distance from the Times office front door over to 13 Coins and see how it compares to the airport walk.

      P.S. Any hope of “tarting up” the walkway with carpet and windows??

      Maybe some plants or heat-lamps?

      1. Well, the carpet would have to wait until it was more enclosed, as some moisture gets in there right now.

  2. I’m a huge fan of light rail – I woke up early on my day off to get down to the ceremony this morning. You’re right, the walk is to the terminal is nothing, as far as distance goes. I do foresee one complaint: the exposure to weather. The walk seems very cold, drafty, and uninviting.

    1. Zach Shaner and I were on the first train into the Airport Station, to be greeted by Ben’s and Oran’s cameras at the door of our train.

      Some kind of “screening” might be nice along the north, exposed side of the walkway – it’ll bitterly cold in a wintertime north wind, but the walk is nothing – there were real passengers with real kids and real baggage on the first train and they seemed to have no difficulties.

    2. I underestimated how cold it was going to be today and shivered in the station until I had some free coffee and pastries. The restrooms are heated which is very nice. The heated window seats on the trains are good, too.

      1. I’ve been wondering about those seats… I was wondering if they were heated or if I was having a warm ass problem.

    3. I’m delighted that light rail has finally arraived at the airport, but I wouldn’t say that the walk from the station to the terminal is ‘nothing’. Being used to walk from the International Terminal to the 194 right outside the door, I found the walk rather long and chilly, even on a relatively mild day like today. A moving walkway would be great. I wanted to check the link out sans luggage before I use it for my next trip.

      For old time’s sake, I decided to take the 194 back to Seattle, and noticed that the Tukwila link bus sitting at the bus stop. My first thought was that the ST folks had forgotten to tell the drivers about the change, but the driver I spoke with said that they would be there today only for those folks who weren’t yet aware that the airport link was completed. There were also some ST ambassadors to help with questions, and unfortunately this was also for today only. It would be nice if they could be there during the whole holiday travel season.

      Airport signage needs to change. Directional signs inside the airport now point to the bus stop only. I remember how simple things were when I moved to Seattle twenty years ago, all public transportation was at one place, where the bus stop now is: Shuttle Express, taxies, airport express buses. With the scattered locations these now occupy in the terminal, better signage should be top priority for the Port people.

      1. ST should have kept limited bus service from the Airport bus area to LINK/Tukwilla station until feb. when all services are rerouted to serve the terminal at int. blvd. Also, it was suggested that the buses are retained and ran inbetween Tukwilla Sounder/Amtrak station and Tukwilla Station/Airport for Amtrak and Sounder connections. At most you would need 4 buses during the peak, but than just one to handle mid-day service. Since the 4 buses are in good operating shape (aside from needing a tune-up), i dont see any reason to dispose of them when they could be put to work filling a gap in service (of course who would pay?)

  3. I sure hope the Hotels on the other side of the station (Hilton, Clarion, Holiday Inn, and my fave, the Jet Motel) realize that they are now effectively connected to the airport. The Hilton is now just as attached to SEA as its corporate-siblings at ORD and BOS. If only the walkway was a bit nicer, hint, hint!

    1. The Hilton at Logan Airport is barely connected – mainly to the parking garages. There is no good walk to the Blue line, and terminals B and C are really not walkable unless you want to walk through two parking garages.

      1. Tip to BOS Hilton users in Terminals C or B:

        Walk over to Terminal A, there is a new set of skybridges that connect both the USAir and the AA/Chapel/Tower sides of B to A and then walk to the Hilton from A.

        Or take the shuttle.

        Or wait for the connection from C to E to be built and go that way.

  4. I hope everyone also realizes that the rental car of your dreams is now just a LINK ride away.

    Need a mini-van to haul the cousins or a Town Car to impress the ‘rents? Off to Sea-Tac via light rail and then take the elevator to the basement of the garage.

    1. Huh? Why would you pay the surcharge that is typically attached to rentals from the airport? Typically when I rent a car in another city, I specifically *avoid* renting them at the airport. Example:

      A week-long rental of a “Standard” size Fusion at Avis is $392 at the airport in January. The same car for the same week out of the Avis in downtown Seattle is only $214. These numbers depend on the supply and demand of any given city but I’ve always found the airport rental location to be the most expensive.

      This means you can use Link to save a lot of money on car rentals if you’re coming to Seattle. Of course, once you’re in downtown, do you really need a car anyway?

      1. OK, you are correct, and there is also ZipCar, but…

        The airport locales are open 24/7, so getting a car at Oh-Dark-30 is not a prob.

        But please do continue to support your local rental car office!

      2. Being car-free, the gf and I regularly rent in the spring/summer/fall for camping trips. It is not at all unusual for rates at the airport to be the lowest in the area, surcharge or no. We’re both glad to have a more convenient way to get to those cars.

      3. Airport car rental locations are usually subject to tourist taxes, which is why they are often the most expensive places to rent…

      4. Of course. But the point in my OP above was that we price all the other rental agencies that are reasonably close to Seattle and the airport is still often the cheapest in the spring/summer/fall. If the market dictates that rates elsewhere are uniformly high in warm months that just means renting a car is expensive that time of year. But it is not a “rip-off” any more than flying over the holidays or spring break is a rip-off.

      5. I’ve seen this too, in spite of the extra fees involved in airport rentals. Maybe since airport stations are more tied to business travel they have higher vacancy on the weekends (when I tend to rent)?

      6. Pretty sad that they’re building a 4000+ rental car garage so close to the world’s biggest parking garage. The Port says this will open up 3000 or so more spots in the main garage for public use. Pretty sad. If anything they should save the half billion dollars by reducing the number public spots and dedicating more of the garage to rental cars.

      7. Until the funding for the airport changes, the port has a huge incentive to make it car friendly. A long time ago, when I did the numbers, the port got 1/3 of the revenue from the airport from parking garage fees. Which totally explains why they built more parking garage space and would want to move the rental cars out.

      8. Not all the rental cars are in the main garage. They are building the new facility to combine on site and off site parking so the rental companies can maintain office, maintenance and inventory in a central location rather than have people spending all day shuttling cars around. They’ll probably be able to move the ticket counters out of the main terminal as well.

      9. “A long time ago, when I did the numbers, the port got 1/3 of the revenue from the airport from parking garage fees”

        I totally understand why the Port wants to build more parking spaces. I’ve never understood why anybody would pay so much to use them.

        When I was little, my parents would leave a car in one of the lots for a week’s trip. Now they take shuttles, and I ride transit. Last time, my mom took a $50 taxi to Bellevue in the middle of the night. That was still the same or cheaper than using the Port garage.

      10. The main garage is very expensive compared to off premise parking. But it’s not a big dollar amount for a one or two day trip which constitutes a lot of business travel. The parking is often offset by “red eye” flights when the convenience of driving can be a big deal. Then there’s a lot of people who don’t know about how off site parking works or just don’t care about the expense. A fair amount of the parking is also short term where folks are dropping off or picking up people and the convenience is the driving factor (i.e. don’t want to make grandma and grampa ride the shuttle bus after flying up from Florida).

    2. Until they move to the Rental Car facility which is currently under construction. It will be intresting to note that Sea-Tac Airport will be running buses inbetween the airport terminal and the rental car facility (3/4th of the way to Tukwilla/Intl blvd station). Mabye ST/P.O.S. could work an arrangement out to have the bus loop through the station to provide enhanced connectivity between the airport and local bus services (plus jobs at the R.C.F.)

  5. couple of things I noticed.

    the trains really fly down the airport roadway trackage …

    the airport station … they have un-synched audio warnings to step behind the yellow strip until the BUS comes to a complete stop. Sounds really retarded when the train is pulling in and it sound awful since the audio isn’t synched for whatever reason

    I saw plenty of LINK Connector busses going back and forth to Tukwila station and the airport … maybe they hadn’t gotten the memo (this was around noonish)

    I also noticed that they keep the doors to the trains shut at the airport station. you need to push the button to open them. On my way back, there were tons of people standing on the platform waiting … so I just walked up and opened the doors … they had a doh! look on their faces after that.

    Lastly, both directions to and from Westlake … the trains were full, literally, of people coming and going to the airport … that is a great sign for day 1.

    on the way back … the train cars were already 70% full from the airport … and we still picked up tons of people at Tukwila. Also … many people were remarking that this was their first ride … and that the drop-off area east of int’l boulevard will be an excellent way for them to go to see the Mariners games next season … they don’t have to worry about driving … and their wives/girl friends can pick them up at the airport.

    1. I saw plenty of LINK Connector busses going back and forth to Tukwila station and the airport … maybe they hadn’t gotten the memo (this was around noonish)

      They said on the radio that this is the last day for the buses. I guess they wanted to make sure people had a back-up if the looky-lou crowds to the airport overwhelmed the system or just in case something went south besides the train ;-)

      1. The buses were on contract through the end of the day. So if you want a ride on an Orion 1 (last ones in regular service in the Northwest U.S. (Next ones are in west vancouver, B.C.) better head up there now. Of course, There are pictures of them on http://www.busdude.com and on YouTube as well including several full “rides” of the line from the Tukwilla/Intl blvd station to the airport.

      2. those Orion 1 busses are terrible. It looks like they pulled them out of retirement in order to underbid KCM for the contract

      3. I personally hated riding them. Quite a few times the wheelchair lift jammed both while I was on board a bus (oh what fun: I have no use of my legs at all) and when I wanted to board a bus.

      4. They were placed in reserve in 2005, retired in 2007, sat around until being put back in service in 2009… Actually in terms of old buses, these are in very good shape. It could have been some private contractor who would have used god-knows-what-pos-with-god-knows-who-as-a-driver.

        And for the record, Metro declined to operate the service becuase they did not have the resources to, so ST offered it to PT with the route 599 contract and PT took it. Without it there would have been some drivers layed off until the expanded ST work comes in feb.

      5. I think Jefferson Transit still has some Orion 1 buses (at least they did when I was up in Pt. Townsend last year… I can’t remember if I saw any when I was up there earlier this year).

      6. Right, Alex remarked on the buses still running, and I told him, “I don’t think Pierce Transit signs contracts that end at 10am.”

      7. The contract is actually a lot longer than that. After today, those personnel won’t drive buses anymore, they’ll be tasked with helping people get where they’re going, as station attendants.

    2. I gotta get back and get a recording of that messed up announcement. Somehow it thinks it’s in the downtown tunnel. On Thursday, those signs said “A Power failure has occured. Please evacuate…”

      1. saturday the announicator system at Sea-Tac was reminding everyone to stay behind the yellow line until the bus comes to a complete stop… and it was out of sync as well (it would sound on one side, than on the other, than both about a second apart…

      2. Something similar seemed to happen in the downtown tunnel where the message would scroll part way and then restart scrolling again. The audio message would play twice but not overlap.

    3. It’s good that they keep the doors shut, as it keeps the trains warm inside. We don’t need to pay Sound Transit to heat the platform! =)

      1. I agree … people just need to be educated as to how the button works … people are sheep … so if one waits … usually others will too.

      2. Heh, I do that before class sometimes when the room is empty.

        Or the reverse is fun too–when the room is full and someone asks “are they still in there?” I’ll answer with “No, we’re just chilling out here” and watch them open the door to a room full of people.

        I’m just glad we finally have a terminal that was meant to be a terminal so we can have center platforms.

    4. Quote: I also noticed that they keep the doors to the trains shut at the airport station. you need to push the button to open them. On my way back, there were tons of people standing on the platform waiting … so I just walked up and opened the doors … they had a doh! look on their faces after that. Unquote

      Later in the afternoon I arrived at the platform from the mezzanine to find myself alone. A train was parked, but the doors would NOT open, even after pushing the button. By the time the next train arrived, others had gathered and we entered that train as others were exiting. After three or four minutes, an operator came onboard to tell us to switch to the first train, whose doors were now opened. I know it was only Day 1, but hopefully signage like that previously at Tukwila will direct pax to the correct train, on whatever track.

      1. From what I saw, it looks like the plan is that the next leaving train will display “Downtown Seattle/Westlake Station” outside and “This is the train to Westlake Station” inside, with door buttons activated, while the other train will display “Sound Transit” and the doors won’t open if you press the button.

  6. oh yea … on the bridge across int’l boulevard … are the red spinning things on the ceiling part of the stations’ art?

  7. Somehow, I never get to see you guys at these events – I took the first train leaving the International District Station at 10.00am, assuming that this would be the first train to arrive at the airport, and not the fourth or so, but it was obvious that I was 30 minutes too late and everyone was packing up – did not see any STB Board members but I looked for everyone, assuming that at least one of you would be there. Maybe a good idea to post get togethers in advance, rather than dealing with them existentially as they happen.

    Anyway, I timed the walk from the International Arrivals, Baggage Handling No. 1 area – where my parents would emerge from in bound from London Heathrow (LHR) and it was 12 minutes without baggage to get to the mezzanine level of the airport station. Not a huge inconvenience for those used to massive airports around the world. My parents felt that LHR is a lot worse in terms of the amount of walking involved to get to a train station over there. I think she was just being polite though because there is no doubt that the walk will seem long (whatever the reality) to those coming off a long international flight, tired and irritable and wanting to sit down.

    As I suspected would be the case, signage within the airport ranged somewhere between poor and non-existent, vague and uncertain. I kind of new it would be thus, with neither Sound Transit nor the Port of Seattle looking as if they have put any money at all into the concept – stickers as part of the existing small signs for the parking garages doesn’t make the grade for me.

    The walkway itself – disparaged in Lindblom’s recent negative piece on the station for the Seattle Times (this guy just doesn’t like or get Light Rail, does he?) – was nicely shielded from the rest of the parking garage, although I agree with commenters that it is not the most aesthetic or warm of experiences. Yes, some plants would help.

    I think the most disappointing on an albeit damp morning was the actual station itself. For my tastes, way too utilitarian to be a marvel, no more than the merely functional. It will achieve nothing more than its objective – to funnel passengers from the terminal to the train with the minimum of distractive distractions. As is well known to most of you, I am not a huge fan of concrete monstrosities and I fear that in the years to come, once the euphoria has worn off that some – if not most of us – will want to do something to improve the aesthetics of both the Tukwila and SeaTac Airport Stations. Something more glamorous needs to be in place at SeaTac in particular to give folks a sense of being missed when they leave and welcomed home when they return. A cold, windy station is not going to achieve either! Admittedly, I will probably feel different in the summertime, but something needs to be done to make the experience less jarring.

    I think that the public will also ask for a moving walkway at some point, but for now, let us just celebrate the fact that the station is finally in operation and functional for the hopeful hoards wanting to go to the airport.

      1. If you don’t mind me asking, why can’t you use a moving walkway? I recently lost the use of my legs about 6 months ago and am in a manual chair. I figured that I would be able to just roll up onto a moving walkway, is there anything that I need to look out for? I successfully rode an escalator in my chair for the first time last week, shouldn’t be much different.

      2. Got yelled at one time at PDX by security saying I’m taking up the whole width of the walkway

        I rolled onto the walkway, put my brakes on, and rested my tired arms. At first, security thought it was an airport chair. Other people on the walkway didn’t care (they saw how tired I was)

        Who was in the right? Me being tired and using the walkway or security saying I was hogging the space?

      3. PDX security can go get a life. You are in the right. There is no god given right for people to not use as much required space as they need. If you happened to be 6ft and 400lbs, you might also take up the whole aisle, would they yell at you then? Not if you happened to be a linebacker for the Hawks that’s for sure.

    1. I can vouch for your parents’ comment about the walk at LHR. Earlier this year, following a flight into LHR from SEA, I walked from terminal three to the Heathrow Central Underground station. You walk through a network of dank musty pedestrian tunnels connecting T1, T2 & T3 to the tube – not very pleasant (there used to be surface walkways last time I was there). As for SEA, the walk from the transit stops, through the baggage claim areas, then up to ticketing at the south end of the terminal was considerably shorter – and the additional walk over to Link wouldn’t be much longer, right? As an east-sider I take the 560 to SEA… but I would love to use Link. Perhaps ST can come up with an acceleration of EastLink at least over to Mercer Island, where perhaps they could have shuttle buses connecting from Issaquah, Overlake & Bellevue TC. Just a thought, the RoW across I-90 is already in place.

    2. “I think she was just being polite though because there is no doubt that the walk will seem long (whatever the reality) to those coming off a long international flight, tired and irritable and wanting to sit down.”

      Usually when I’ve been sitting down for the better part of 9 hours I enjoy a nice walk. It gets the blood moving. :)

      1. Yes I personally agree but my parents are elderly…. I think for the young, fit and otherwise healthy the walk will be fine.

      2. it might also be good for them as well. But I totally understand. My aunt has terrible arthritis and uses a walker. A moving sidewalk would make it possible for her to avoid having a wheelchair for the trip.

    3. I thought the wayfinding at the airport was sufficient for the first day. No better than for Public Transit at the very least. They’ll need to integrate that into more permanent fixtures later.

      ST Link stickers were plastered over wayfinding signs everywhere. If you came from the gates to baggage claim, you’ll see the signs to Link. If you went up to the Skybridge level you’ll see the signs with Link Light Rail as one of the ground transportation choices. Then when you arrive in the garage from any skybridge there are overhead signs pointing to the station.

      Some of the terminal maps (like in baggage claim) show Link, where it goes (Downtown Seattle) and how to access it.

  8. If the restaurants inside the airport were accessible without a plane ticket, a trip on Link plus lunch watching airplanes take off and land while eating lunch would be the perfect preschool kids weekend outing.

      1. …or the good ‘new’ YVR

        The top of the parking garage seems to be the most Link-accessible airport spotting location at Sea-Tac.

      2. United Cargo’s parking lot. That is where you go to spot planes … you have to take the airport shuttle and get off at the Control Tower … if you want to spot planes and take LINK

    1. Yes, I concur – I’d love to be able to watch the planes from the market area and restaurants – that was of course the original intention until 9/11 screwed up everything remotely civilized. You could visit loved ones at the gate in the olden days.

    2. There are “plans” to let the general non-traveling public through security on non-peak times (Friday? Saturday?–I can’t remember exactly), but I think the hang up is not enough staffing. In any event, when I retire I plan to volunteer at SeaTac, which will allow me through security and I’ll be able to plane-watch.

      1. Even back in 03 there was talk about getting the TSA to start a pilot program to allow non ticketed people into the terminal. Went and found an old article, but not a whole lot else. Hopefully before too long we can get back to that.

        http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1129&dat=20031101&id=7YkNAAAAIBAJ&sjid=g3ADAAAAIBAJ&pg=3331,168526

        The worse part it, it’s all just a scam designed to make people FEEL safer, without actually accomplishing anything. Airport Security is a freaking joke, a hugely annoying joke, but still a joke. But it keeps the sheeple happy, and is relatively cheap (both economically, and more importantly politically) so why not?

      2. it is ridiculous isn’t it that they don’t let non passengers in the “secure” area? I mean if you are screened before you enter the terminal area, you aren’t carrying anything remotely lethal. And if you were actually planning on storming a plane by sheer force of numbers, you’d just buy tickets…

        The id check is also dumb for the same reason. If you are an illegal alien does it really make the rest of us more secure that you have to show an id?

      3. They security lines would be much longer (causing people to miss flights) or they’d have to spend twice as much on equipment and personnel to to screen everybody that wants to come wave goodbye to the airplane. I’m really happy now that you can actual get a seat while waiting at the gate instead of being pushed out by the family of five taking up ten chairs.

    1. In February, the 140 will switch to TIBS (effectively creating duplicate service with 150 to SouthCenter). The 180 will merely take the approach 140 does now (via Terminal Rd) to the airport.

      1. The 180 will stop on International Blvd at S 176th after February. It won’t serve the terminal anymore (no Metro service will).

    2. I have the same question about the 140–I know where it will stop in February but if I take it tonight, will it drop me off at the Link station or down at the old bus stop?

  9. Took a ride down to the Airport in my Old Trusty (manual wheelchair) and here’s the verdict:

    took about 5 minutes 3 seconds for my brother Adam to push me (disclaimer: he was tired from a bike ride earlier today). Took me 4 minutes 24 seconds for me to wheel myself.

    Even in a wheelchair, it’s nothing to complain about, I’m happy to report

    1. Thanks! It was surprising to see the door we were standing at open right next to you and Ben with your cameras ready.

  10. One question about the S. 200th link extension: Is it expected to add many more riders. On the map it seems extremely close to the airport station but I’m unfamiliar with the area. Was this just the case of building as much as the money would allow?
    Thanks
    Ben

    1. It adds another park and ride, and of course more space for future development. It would definitely pick up riders.

      1. Hmmm, speaking of adding park and rides and the airport station opening up, is there any worry that LINK will be like MARTA, used by a good segment of the population only to avoid traffic and high parking prices when going to the Airport? Free parking and a few minute ride on LINK sounds like a pretty good deal… oh wait, forgot about that horrible torturous slog to get from the station to the airport.. :p

      2. TIB station has been very popular since day 1 for people going downtown, moreso than the stations in between I think. There’s no reason to think the P&R at 200th wouldn’t be just as popular.

    2. I think the EIS for S. 200th predicted around 4500 boardings per day in 2030. They plan on rezoning the area around the station for high-density development, so I imagine one day in the future it could be a busy station.

    3. What does the walk circle around the station have? And how convenient would it be to transfer from there to Highline Community College?

      1. “What does the walk circle around the station have? ”

        Pizza Time, a trailer park, a federal prison, a self storage lot, a few motels and lots of parking.

        200th is about 2 miles north of Highline, so it should be a convenient transfer point, especially once Rapid Ride is running.

      2. Hey, was Highline the region (and Community College) named for the interurban that used to run through there? That idea only just now occurred to me. Funny that we’re restoring a highline to Highline, then.

    4. I was talking to a ST official opening day at Sea-Tac. He was of the opinion, that the extension to S. 200th Street might NOT happen separately from the full route to Federal Way as voted in ST2. He said the entire route would be elevated and, from a cost per mile perspective, it wouldn’t be “worth it” to build the relatively shorter extension to S. 200 alone, but would make more “dollars and cents [sense]” to hold off and build the entire extension later at one time.

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