SeaTac/Airport Station Bus Stop Bay 2 - from Oran

With Airport Link now two weeks old and the 194 on its deathbed, I think it’s worth talking about what transit options are good for people who do fly late at night. Yesterday an author on the Slog had a bad experience with Link on a Sunday night trip, but she didn’t have to, and I’d like to address the concerns she raised.

On Sundays, Link runs 18 hour service instead of 20 hour service – it starts an hour later and ends an hour earlier. When the Slogger made comparisons to other cities, she compared their weekday service to Link’s Sunday service. In addition, as we’ve noted before, the last northbound train on any night doesn’t go all the way to the end of the line. From the airport, it goes to Mount Baker, then goes out of service. This is typical of any system – as Linda Robson mentions in her response to the Slogger, Tokyo, Paris and London all take trains out of service in the middle of lines.

No matter what, a train has to end up at base at the end of the night, for cleaning and maintenance. A transit agency has a choice – they can end the train at the end of the line and bring it back empty, or they can go ahead and carry passengers for the partial return trip just in case someone needs to use it. Sound Transit does the more friendly thing – carrying passengers. This means that at certain points during the day, an unscheduled “extra” train runs along part of the line, and late at night, the last trip for each light rail vehicle will end near the maintenance base.

Tonight’s extra service is those same trains, normally going out of service, essentially doing one more southbound trip than they usually do.

But enough about Link – you can get home from the airport on transit until long after the last airplanes come in. The 194 has always stopped running very early – around 9pm. Before Link opened, airport travelers would take the 174 after that, and it has trips even at 1:30 and 2:30 am (and as late as 3:30 from downtown to the airport). Those trips are now split in two – but the service isn’t going anywhere!

So today, not only do you get later downtown service with Link than the 194 offered, you still get the same late-night service the 174 has always provided. The only confusion is that route 124 provides service from downtown to Link Tukwila to meet 174 buses stopping at the airport. Late at night, one bus becomes the other, so you don’t have to worry about it. Starting when the 194 is canceled in February, the buses will stop at the SeaTac/Airport Link station instead of in the terminal now as well, so you’ll always go to the same place to get transit, train or bus.

There’s one more piece here. Let’s say an airport traveler on a Sunday night accidentally takes the last Link train and gets dropped off at Mount Baker. There’s a 7 a few minutes later to get them the rest of the way downtown. They’re never stranded (although this is a good argument for visitor passes so they don’t have to pay twice).

There are, of course, ways to make this better. Signage at Mount Baker could direct users to the transit center for late-night service. The Link readerboards (when they’re operating) would be a great way to say “7 downtown, across the street, 8 minutes”. The same should happen at Airport Station, perhaps with an announcement directing passengers to the bus after Link goes out of service. And in the future, we should find a way to fund extra trains at night, much like Phoenix has – but take note, we’re not going to get 24 hour service. The systems that do that (NYC and a couple of lines in Chicago) all have more than two tracks, so they can do maintenance while operating on a reduced schedule.

As it stands, we’re a city of 600,000 with airport service comparable to cities with 6,000,000. We can make improvements, but remember that our system is brand new – it’s only going to get better.

111 Replies to “Late Night Airport Transit”

  1. Re: “This is typical of any system…”

    That’s true, but one little quirk that is different between Link and at least BART: BART advertises service till 1 a.m., which in its case seems to mean, according to the printed timetable, that you can get on anywhere by 1 a.m. and ride that train to its end, rather than the last train pulling into the yard at 1 a.m. like Link.

    I would hazard a guess that some systems offer complete service until their advertised ending time like BART, and some shut down altogether at the ending time like Link. I would advertise “complete service” or something like that from 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. – then it’s a teensy bit harder to get dropped off at Mt. Baker unwittingly.

    Oh, and why do they kick at Mt. Baker instead of Beacon Hill?

    1. better bus connections at Mt. Baker?

      If that is the case, I can understand the dumping people out at Mt. Baker for the last train … but the extra ones in service during the day should drop you off at Beacon Hill … where it is dry … since they have to pass through it anyway

      1. Couldn’t they just announce “last bus transfer” and let the Beacon Hill resident on the last train get those last few blocks?

      2. It’s not a better bus connection if you’re going to Beacon Hill in the first place! You’re pretty much stuck if you are dropped off at Mount Baker that late and you need to get up to the hill. That is a very steep hike.

    2. THey stop at Mt. Baker instead of Beacon Hill because if it’s the last train, they don’t want anyone getting locked inside Beacon Hill station.

      1. It’s not a matter of getting locked inside, it’s just a matter of having to clear the station before they can close it at night. An extra 15-20 minutes costs extra money, and probably would mean overtime for security, etc.

      2. That makes a lot more sense, although I suppose if they really did make it truly cage-like and provide a little food and water, they could just let you out in the morning.

      3. And every homeless person in Seattle would go there for a cheap night and meal! They kind of do that in Tokyo, letting people sleep in the mezzanines into the subways.

      4. That’s ridiculous. They have security, they can sweep the station to make sure no one’s still in it. It’s not that big and there’s nowhere, really, to go in it and get lost. Train comes, lets the last people out, security herds them out quickly and does a last minute check before locking up (which I hope they are doing anyway!). If that is the real excuse, it’s pretty bad.

      5. I think that station takes extra time to shut down at night for the security sweep, so they don’t want to leave it open for another 15-20 minutes.

      6. There’s always a way. It just costs money we don’t really have if we want our ST2 projects to be on time.

      7. I agree; we advertise service until 1:00 a.m. and if that last NB train from SeaTac/Airport Station can get to the BH station before 1:00 a.m., it should stop there and let us BH folks off. The option (transfer at MB Station to a NB 7 and then transfer at 12th & Jackson to a SB 36) is just too inconvenient.

    3. Eventually we’ll offer “complete service” at 1am, but that will take a change to the DSTT operation – which means Metro will have to be on board. It’ll be a political problem before U Link opens anyway, so it’s just a matter of a few years.

      1. Living in Chicago, I’m used to 24 hour train service on the Red Line – the backbone of the “L” system and very late night service to O’Hare on the Blue Line. While not 24 hours, its darn close.

    4. BART has more money for operations. Sound Transit is very clear about when the last end-to-end trains are. Making those times later is just a matter of money.

      1. Clear but contradictory. “15-minute” intervals between trains from 5-6 a.m. is a nice concept, but is nonexistent when the first train (from Columbia City north) is 5:34 a.m.

    1. Okay some of you are wrong about the 26/124/174 thing here. I drive the 26/124 so here is the correct info.

      26 and 124 are through-routed and almost always connect. Some, actually few trips even become a 28 rather than a 26. And unlike stated above….all 26X trips are single trips….they don’t continue as 124’s to Tukwila.
      26/124 are operated out of Central Base.

      174 is out of South Base. All 174 trips are single trips and never contect to 124, except the two round trip night owls. These night owl buses are out of Central Base, and will through-route the 124/174, but not the 26.

      But next shake-up, I saw a Saturday runcard that is a late night trip, just before the night owls that will be a 26 to a 124 to a 174 then go back to base. So currently this doesn’t happen, but starting February, this will be the only trip that does this.

      Hope that makes sense.

      1. Yes, there are two northbound night owl trips each night. The last two trips listed on the schedule. They arrive Tukwila Link Station on weekdays at 1:30a, 2:39a (Weekend times may be a few minutes difference) and these buses will continue from 174 to 124 upon arrival at Tukwila Station. And the two southbounds leaving Downtown @ 2:15a, 3:30a This is how it is now, and how it will be next shakeup.

        Hope I didn’t confuse anybody about the ONE Saturday trip next shake-up I mentioned in the last post….that is pretty much an exception to how these routes work(because it’s through-routed, but not a night owl)….I was suprised to see it on the run card……but that will be a S/B Saturday trip….the only 26/124/174 trip that exists.

  2. One thing.

    I don’t know about the cities you mentions but in Stockholm’s late night trains run the whole length of the route. When trains are being taken out of service after peak hours they are only take out of service when heading away from the CBD and take passengers to the station before the maintenance center. When trains come into service they run in service through the whole system usually starting towards the CBD.

    1. Those late night trains in Stockholm probably go to endpoint maintenance facilities, not facilities in the middle of the line. As for the after-peak, I’ve heard Sound Transit is working on that.

      1. Try being kicked off of trains in Beijing and Shanghai as I have! With the language barrier, it’s really a lot of fun! And when they take trains out of service in China, they really don’t say why they’re doing it…they just do it and you better get off the train!

  3. Link trains should always go out of service in the non-peak direction. It’s inappropriate that they step down service in the peak direction in the morning for in-bound trains, which causes an effective 17-20 minute wait for an in-bound train sometime after 9AM each morning at Mt. Baker. I realize that the maintenance facility is in the middle of the line, but they could take trains off-line in the non-peak direction or run them “out of service” from the CBD to the barn.

  4. The real issue is signage. The stops need clear system maps and schedule info, directions to connecting services (particularly after-hours), and clear directions and schedule information from the airport to the airport station.

    Then when the buses are kicked out of the DSTT, train service can be extended an hour or two at night so that there’s service through all points in the city through 1 AM.

    1. The stops have pretty good system maps and schedule info already. When the readerboards light up, you’ll know exactly when the next train is coming – and every station says when its last trains are.

      Directions to connecting services we do need, but from airport to airport station is obvious – more than it was with the 194. You’ll see signage improve in the next few months as the 194 goes away, too.

      Yes, we do need service everywhere through 1am.

      1. Signage on the SeaTac departures level is pretty clear (with the exception of the strange sign for ST 560/574 without any Metro info), but signage down in baggage claim is still jumbled. Signs saying “Public Transit” point riders south to the traditional stop, while the new Link signs point people north toward the station. The old signs should be updated to differentiate between bus and rail service. If someone sees the old sign first, I wouldn’t fault them for walking all the way down to the south end.

        I trust that the ambiguity will be fixed in time for the February service change.

      2. The old signs will go away entirely, yeah – it’s going to be a little annoying for two months, but hey, it’s fixed soon.

        Blame Metro for being unwilling to make a mid-shakeup change.

      3. I found that “Public Transit” sign very confusing, and if I hadn’t already taken the train to the airport that would have gotten me lost. I’m glad to hear it’s going away.

        Scheduling information at the station is fine, but it would be helpful to give some information to people before they walk over with their luggage, then have to walk back to get a cab or bus if it’s after the last train. Maybe they could have a transit kiosk with information about both buses and trains. Does something like that exist for buses now and I just haven’t noticed?

  5. CTA’s Blue-Line (Chicago O’hare Airport-Forest Park, Via the loop, 24 Hours), which runs 24 hours does not have more than two tracks. Also the Red Line (Howard-95th) only has four tracks North of the Subway that goes through the loop and to the southern half of the line.
    I live there and ride said lines often enough.

  6. I took a cab from the airport last week, and I take transit *everywhere* else. You have to walk about 10 minutes through the parking lot to get the link station, and if you miss the last train, it’s another 20 minute walk back to the bus stop. Light rail stops running early, and the bus runs once every hour. It’s just not worth it.

    Portland takes 15 minutes from downtown to the airport terminal using light rail, and their light rail runs from the airport until midnight every day. Seattle takes about an hour. We have the worst transit system of any city near our size on the west coast. It’s pretty shameful – let’s not pretend otherwise.

    1. PDX to downtown Portland takes 38 minutes on the MAX Red Line, slower than Link even though it’s 3 miles shorter. The Red Line also runs less frequently than Link.

      If you miss the last train you can take the skybridge across International Boulevard from the Airport Link Station and catch the 174. You don’t have to walk back to the old bus stop on the airport drive.

    2. Yeah, misha, I think you have some misconceptions about the comparison between Link and MAX to our respective airports. 15 minutes and an hour? Don’t be ridiculous.

      As I said in the post, in February you’ll have the bus right there at the Link station.

      And what flight do you take where you don’t get in until after the train stops running? Usually when I’m there that late the airport is totally deserted.

      1. My friend’s flight last week was supposed to arrive at 11:40pm (Alaska Airlines from LA). The last train to downtown was scheduled for 12:08pm. I knew we’d make it only if the plane arrived on time and there wasn’t a delay getting out of the cabin. The plane arrived at 12:10am so the train had already left.

        Being a transit nut, I had written down the alternative schedules. 174 at 12:19 and and 1:12. Link to Mt Baker at 12:22, transfering to 7 with a 3-minute gap. The later Links did not have any bus transfers; we’d have to wait for the 7 night owl at 3am.

        This was also the time of the track work so we didn’t want to count on the train schedules. We did catch the 174 but there were three abnormalities:

        1) The bus stop sign listed completely different bus routes than what stopped there. The 174 was not listed, although its schedule was below.

        2) We missed the 12:19 bus but the schedule listed an extra one at 12:29. We caught that, and made a direct transfer at TIB to the 124. (The 12:29 is listed on the online schedule now. I’m not sure if I didn’t see it or it wasn’t there.)

        3) I checked the southbound bus stop for future reference. The route numbers it listed were also totally wrong. If I remember, it didn’t have any route numbers at all. It would also be hard for a tourist to find the stop, because a sign pointed vaguely south but you had to walk a long block next to the highway to get to it, and then the bus stop looked like you weren’t sure whether it was really used.

        Hopefully the stops will get all straightened out in February.

    3. Portland’s airport is closer than SeaTac.. and their webiste says it takes the MAx 34 mins ? i haven’t taken Portland’s before but I took Seattle’s light rail last Tuesday and timed it as 37 mins from SeaTac to Westlake.. Not saying we’re perfect but i think it’s not as bad as you think.

      1. Exactly, Ben–Wednesday morning it took me 50 minutes from Northgate to Sea-Tac on the 41/Link. At a casual walk it is 8 minutes for me to get from the international baggage carousel (the furthest south) to the platform; it is 5 minutes from the platform to the Alaska check-in counters.

    4. The PDX-Portland CBD vs. SEA-Seattle CBD light rail time discrepancy has more to do with the fact that the Seattle distance is almost two times the Portland distance than with a difference in transit service quality.

      1. There isn’t a time discrepancy. Note the other replies – Link’s actually faster.

    5. Before we beat ourselves up too much over the length of the walk at Airport Station (which does deserve a moving sidewalk someday), take a look at Los Angeles, where they managed to build five light rail lines without directly serving LAX. The Green line in LA gets relatively close to the airport, then veers away to El Segundo. It’s as if our line veered off to Burien rather than Sea-Tac. Onto a shuttle bus you go…

      San Jose failed to directly serve their airport as well with their light rail system. You end up dragging your luggage up onto a bus.

      Same with Oakland Airport. From BART, you have to transfer to AirBART… another shuttle bus. There are more examples where those came from.

      1. For what it’s worth, BART is about to build a connector to the Oakland Airport, which is generally seen as a waste of money in the Bay Area transit community. This is primarily because BART has a lot of other needs that would lead to greater ridership — infill stations, trainsets with more doors, other, smarter, extensions, etc.

  7. Dang. It’s too bad the first Link train doesn’t get to SeaTac until 6AM. If it was earlier, I could take it for my 6:30AM flight.

    Oh well, at least I can take it home for the return trip.

    1. We should definitely push for funding. Don’t leave it at “oh well” – this could be fixed with Port funds or City funds in the next two or three years, easily.

    2. My problem exactly – I fly to SFO/SJC several times a month on the early ‘nerd bird’, but it’s a 6:30am flight and you can’t get there early enough on Link, so I end up driving to Seatac and back.

      1. “Nerd Bird”, nice. Yeah, I’ll be on the same flight to SJC. It’s clearly the Silicon Valley/Seattle tech brain trust on that plane.

        If Link could get to the airport by 5AM, that would leave plenty of time for check-in, and the early morning drive to the nearest station would be a lot easier on my wife than the drop off at SeaTac.

        If it’s just a funding issue, fine, raise my taxes, I’ll pay it.

      2. What time do airport shifts start? Does the late start make it hard for airport employees who live in the RV to take Link to get to work?

  8. I got stuck at TIBS once, had to take a bus back to downtown. The surface bus actually beat the crap out of the Link’s time. 20 minutes vs. the ALWAYS 33. ST needs to be a shad more clear on the last train thing. I didn’t know about the last train to DT vs. MBS until I was stuck down there.

    Ben, thanks for the late night service info! Mmmm, drink’n’Link.

    1. You’re welcome. :)

      I think in the future, it’ll be more clear, because readerboards for the next train will just say “Westlake” and “Mount Baker” for the next couple of trains.

  9. Downtown to the airport has never struck me as the problematic part of a late night/early morning flight; it’s downtown to anywhere else in the city that is trouble. Between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. all you’ve got is the two nightowl runs, so most every early morning/late night trip to/from SeaTac is a huge hassle.

    For example, if I wanted to get from Ballard to SeaTac at 4:30 (for a 6 a.m. flight), CT’s trip planner tells me to start my trip at 11:34 and hang out at the airport for an extra two hours (if I ask to get there at 5 a.m., it tells me the trip isn’t possible). No thanks.

    1. I’m surprised it didn’t give an 81-124-174 option. I hope you sent a comment to the Trip Planner database administrator (where it says “Send Feedback on These Results”).

      Depart 15th NW & NW Market – 2:46 AM on Route 81
      Arrive Union & 4th – 3:03 AM

      Leave Union & 4th – 3:30 AM on Route 124
      Continue through Tukwila International Blvd Station on Route 174
      Arrive International Blvd & S 182nd – 4:13 AM

      One other option would be to try to get to Mount Baker Station by 4:35 to get on the first train arriving at the airport by about 5:10. I wonder what the cab fare difference is between Ballard and the airport versus Ballard and Mount Baker Station?

  10. This is only tangentially related, but does anyone know how Metro decides where to put those cool new bus stop signs, like in that picture? None of the stops on the 44 have been updated, and at least one stop (45th and I-5 westbound) doesn’t have a single bus listed, so it could certainly use an update.

    1. I assume it’s part of the regular changeout schedule. As signs get older, they’re supposed to be replaced every few years. I’ve seen a lot of new ones down south, but mostly in areas where there’s lots of changes happening (Burien, Sea-tac, etc.).

  11. Didn’t the 194 only run until about 7pm ten years ago? And then it did not run on Sundays, IIRC.

    You babies have it so easy!

    I do not get why Gray Line Airport Express has cut their schedule back to having the last departure from Sea-Tac at 9pm. They used to have a last bus at 11:30pm IIRC. There are a bunch of later flight itineraries from the East Coast that get to Seattle at 11pm-ish.

    /Ridden the 174 many times
    //On the dank and dark MAN Artics
    ///With a leaky “tail-pipe”
    ////Except the tail-pipe” was in the middle of the mid-engined MAN Artics.

  12. So are the elevated stations, or at least SeaTac/Airport, open between 1am and 5am? Cause if you get dropped off at the Int’l Blvd entrance to the Aiport Station and you can’t walk through the station, that would be a problem.

    1. I do not get why Gray Line Airport Express has cut their schedule back to having the last departure from Sea-Tac at 9pm.

      Seasonal demand. Grayline can’t turn a profit unless those buses are as close to capacity as possible, although why they wouldn’t want to run some of the smaller vans they use as “connectors” to the smaller hotels is unknown. May be a licensing/contract issue that allows large passenger buses to offer the service but not smaller ones that aren’t scheduled in advance like Shuttle Express.

      1. You still have to pay the driver. Overhead for dispatch and maintenance of the vehicle aren’t much cheaper. Plus they’re going head to head with Shuttle Express and cabs.

  13. I’d really like to see 20-hour Link service on Sunday and holidays during the extremely busy Christmas/New Years times (say, second two weeks of December and first two of January). This was always a problem with the 194 as well. People fly on weekends and it was more passengers, less service. I know this would make the schedule a little more complicated.

    Also, a friend of mine swears by transit to the airport, cab home. On the way you’ve often got time to space, but on the way back you just want to get in.

    1. I’d have to agree with the “cab home” advice. After a long flight and a late evening arrival, I’ll happily take Shuttle or a cab home, especially since the bus from Westlake to my neighborhood is only hourly after 9:00 PM. Once I ran into a friend on the plane to SEA and he gave me a ride home – bliss!

  14. The signage within the airport is not clear but hopefully it will be improved. When I was there a few days ago I heard more than several people ask other people “Is this the right way to Link?” There are some little subtle signs but it’s not clear at all. In an ideal world there would be a painted stripe on the ground from all the terminal skybridges through the parking lot and to the station.

    I don’t mind the “long” walk to the station, but I do mind that it’s only a long walk because we’re forced to walk AROUND parked cars (I was walking from terminal bridge #1). It’s actually a bit offensive.

    Also, when I got up to the station there were two trains, both with open doors. Was there a sign that indicated which would be leaving? Right when I noticed which train had people (or more people?) the doors were closing but I managed to hop in anyhow. They then reopened the doors and we sat there for several minutes. During that time I watched more people come up to the platform and start heading towards the other train (open doors I think) until people directed them to the train I was on.

      1. I meant walking around the parking lot as a whole, not walking around a single car or two that was parked in the walking path. Look at a map and make a direct line from the terminal skybridge 1 and the station. It’s a lot shorter than walking the perimeter of a lot filled with SUVs and whatnot.

      2. I have gone from the airport to Link. There is a separater between skybridge 6 or so and the start of the station area, but there really isn’t a separater earlier on in the path. I began from terminal skybridge 1.

        (I rode Link towards the airport on the last day of the connector bus service. Terrible experience. Took 85 minutes between hopping on Link at Westlake and arriving at seatac via the Connector. But that’s a whole other story…)

  15. Heh, we could be Dallas:

    DFW Airport Remote South Shuttle Bus
    Three shuttle bus routes link the CentrePort/DFW Airport Station and the airlines — by way of the Remote South Parking Lot.

    Weekdays and Saturdays
    # Shuttles run approximately every 15 minutes

    # No TRE Service

    I wonder if there will be any Sunday DART service when it gets to DFW in 2013.

  16. I took some pictures of the long line at the Metro shop this afternoon. Presumably this is all the people wanting their ORCA cards and passes. I was disappointed that Metro didn’t supply the needed resources to service these people in a timely fashion. They could have had additional people at tables to sell pre-loaded cards or tell people to go to the vending machines.

    I created a panoramic view of this line. Sorry that its slightly warped and some of the tiles don’t quite match up. But you get the idea…


    1. Wow. It might have been quicker to take the bus to Lynnwood to CT’s ride store than to wait in line at Westlake.

  17. The 194 is not dead yet. It is on life support. I am not giving up. I will keep fighting the decision to try and force herd as many 194 riders on to Link so Sound Transit can make its numbers look better. I was in the navy and I cannot help but remember the words of America’s first great Captain John Paul Jones (Yes there was a John Paul jones before the bassist for Led Zepplin was around). He said “Surrender, I’ve not yet begun to Fight.”

      1. I recall that part of the proposed changes was to add a route 196 (number may be off) that would essentially run as between the airport and downtown during the off periods. I think it had a proposed 1 hour or so headway. Anyone know what happened to it?

      2. Actually, yeah, I heard the same thing. I suspect it died with Metro cuts, and instead they’re just making 174 trips go through as 124s (without a transfer) after Link’s closed.

      3. by the way it is going to be the 574 to pick up that spot so i will be 30mins min and more D4500 to help with that and the new 578

      1. From earlier posts, Matthew wants to keep his one-seat ride from Kent-Des Moines to downtown Seattle.

      2. I do not take the 194 anymore. I stopped taking it 2 months ago. I now live in the Kent Valley and take 2 buses. This has never been about me. It is about all the people who are going to be hurt by this decision. People who cannot afford to take Link. People who’s only option are a longer commute. Less time to spend with there families.

  18. Before the 174 bus was truncated, the 174 provided direct service from Seatac to downtown Seattle once the 194 stopped running. The 174 ran every 30 minutes or so until around 1am, and then almost hourly through the night.

    It is not clear from the 174 schedule which 174 trips have coordinated transfers to the 124, nor whether the 124 will wait if the 174 is late.

    While the issue of keeping the DSTT open needs to be addressed, the current Link span of service is definitely inadequate to serve the airport for either employees or travelers. First flights depart around 5:45am, so employees and travelers need to be able to arrive by 4:30am. Metro & ST recognize that on MT 180 and ST 574 schedules. In the long run, Link should do the same. In the meantime, the 124 & 174 should be through-routed whenever Link is not running – I hope that can continue when the 174 is converted to Rapid Ride brand.

    1. Carl, upthread there’s some discussion – the latest two 174s go through as 124s to downtown, and it sounds like that ‘through’ service will get a little earlier when the February shakeup happens, so that once Link stops, you have a direct bus.

      1. We need a 124 departure from downtown around 4:15am that continues at least to Seatac Link station, even if it doesn’t go all the way to Federal Way.

    2. The 124 is through-routed with the 26, so that would be a long run from East Green Lake to Federal Way.

  19. For those early flights, you might consider using the Metro 85 (depart Union & 4th 3:30 a.m.) to Morgan & California (arrives 4:07 a.m.), then take the Sound Transit 560 (departs Morgan around 4:15 a.m.) to Sea-Tac Bay 2 (arrives 4:54 a.m.)
    This puts you in the terminal @ 5:00 a.m.
    The ST560 goes thru Burien Transit Center, so from Seattle, a MT120 to Burien for a transfer to the ST560 might work too.

    I like the ST560. It’s always clean, comfy and almost always on schedule.
    Any delays are almost always in the return from Sea-Tac.

    1. If you’re already going to leave downtown at 3:30, there’s a 124 that takes you all the way to the airport by about 4:15.

    2. If I’m catching the Alaska 6:40am nerd bird for a long day in San Jose, am I really going to get up at 2:45 to catch a 3:30am Metro from downtown? Or I am going to just sleep until 4:15am then get in my car at 5am and get there before 5:30?

      The earliest Link gets to Seatac from downtown is 6am, which is too tight for any flight before 7am by the time you get into the terminal, get through security and get to your gate.

      A 90 minute bus ride at that time of the morning mean a very long day. It’s just easier to drive.

      1. I live in the city, and the cost of parking at Seatac is not my objection to driving (my company pays for it).

        I’m unlikely to park my car in a cheap lot on MLK all day just so I can have the privilege of riding Link at 5am.

  20. Nice post Ben. I tried to find out this information using metro’s trip planner earlier this week and got a lot fewer options. It would be nice if you could count on the trip planner to give you all of your options.

  21. Sound Transit does the more friendly thing – carrying passengers.How much extra time on the clock would it be for the operator to take the train all the way into downtown and then deadhead back to the yard? I’m guessing the amount of deadhead time would be about the same. I think that would be the more friendly thing to do.

    1. All you’re saying is “why not do one more round trip?”

      I’m saying, after that last trip all the way to the end of the line, the operator can either deadhead back, or he can take passengers while he’s on his way back.

      The last trip doesn’t go to Westlake because the tunnel is the expensive part to operate, and because the demand is outbound at night, not inbound.

      1. Basically yes. They’re doing 90% of a round trip already. I guess I’m not convinced that keeping the tunnel open an extra 30 minutes is such a deal breaker. Grocery stores stay open 24 hours by having people double up doing stocking and checking. Seems like custodial work could be done during the last 1/2 hour. Maybe the end-O-liners don’t stop at every station. Sure the major demand is outbound but the demand for the folks inbound is much more likely to end well DT than at Mt Baker.

  22. Now that apparently MT 195 has been cut (before having ever started), it is unacceptable that the first service from downtown Seattle to Seatac airport doesn’t arrive until 6am (7am on Sundays).

    Airline departures start at 5:45 am and passengers and employees need to be able to arrive by 5am.

    With MT 194 there was an arrival around 5am, seven days a week.

    Link won’t arrive until 6am Mon-Sat and 7am Sun.

    MT195 was supposed to bridge this but was cut. MT 124/174 doesn’t arrive any earlier than Link – other than a single 3:33 am departure from downtown, then nothing until Link around 5:30am. That’s not sufficient.

  23. Ben, I’m quite sure Jen on Slog was comparing Sunday service to Sunday service in other cities. Most cities run reduced Sunday frequencies, and start slightly later in the AM, but closing 1 whole hour earlier is highly unusual.

    And since airport travel is one of Link’s main functions at this point, and many, many people fly in on Sundays after 10:00 (plus a few minutes rolling to the gate, plus waiting for checked luggage) having Sunday service end so prematurely is just bad form.

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