Okay, Happy belated birthday. Photo by Oran.

Yesterday, Link Light Rail had its first birthday, one year after revenue service was inaugurated on July 20, 2010.  One year has passed by extraordinarily quickly, and while the past 365 days have not gone by perfectly, I think most of us can conclude that this was a good inaugural year.  I’m not one of the lucky thousands that get to commute by Link daily, but I often spot the trains in the downtown tunnel, and every day they get fuller and fuller.  Whenever I am on the trains, the atmosphere is generally bubbly.  People are chatting.  Kids are gazing out the windows.  And you always have someone enjoying a book. People are glad that there’s finally some form of rapid transit here in Seattle.

The people I talk to are eager to see Link built out to the U-District, then to Northgate, south to Federal Way, and to the Eastside.  I often say that our younger generations have a greater stake in this region’s future than anyone else.  This isn’t age bias– it’s a fact.  Link isn’t just for us to use at the tail-end of our lives.  It’s for the whole lives of the babies and will-be babies of 2030, 2060, and further in the future.  By the time North, South, and East Links are completed, we’ll all be a little bit older and perhaps wiser, but I don’t think any of us will change our minds about how building Link was a good thing. Hopefully we can all say, “I’m glad we finally got this done.”

Link has had its share of critics.  Make no mistake about it.  They’re still around and they’ll be around for a while.  They’ll be poring over documents and EISes, conducting peer reviews and studies, and will spend their whole lives proving something that people no longer care about.  But 2008 was living proof that voters across this region are seeing mass transit as a real alternative.  Critics alleged that Sound Transit falsely advertised the ST2 plan with bloated facts and figures.  Come 2030 and ask any transit rider: will they really care?

Looking back at the pile of posts we had on opening weekend, it’s clear that this is something we were and continue to be excited about.  When we’re all old and frail, and Union Station is lined with portraits of Link’s conception, wouldn’t it be worth it to say, “I was there.  I saw it happen.  I helped make it happen.”?  Happy first birthday, Link.

Post your personal Link experiences below.  We’ll be sharing them for the rest of our lives.

34 Replies to “Happy Birthday, Link”

  1. I have enjoyed Riding Link on weekends from Seattle South after my bike rides to the city from Kent, this last Sunday, Links Year Mark of Passenger Service (including the free opening weekend) I took a video form University Street to the Tukwila Hill portion, and sped it up for a fast run at Link.
    ITs a bit meh, as it was taken with a phone with no tripod or anything, but its neat all the same:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5GkTdnNvQE

    Link actually is what propelled me to bike all the way to Seattle the first time, as I was going along, I set my first goal as S. 180th St. (5 or 6 miles from home) Then I got there, and realized If I made it another 12 miles into Seattle I could ride Link halfway back, and that was motive enough to push me all the way into Seattle on a one speed bike. (My longest previous Bike Ride was 6 Miles)

  2. Happy birthday Link – I will always remember it because opening day was my bithday.

    I think that Link has essentially been a great success but my main concern has been the poor track speeds and reliability of trains that I have taken and it does sometimes feel that the trains are slower each time I take them and their reliability diminishes – especially along MLK. The train are often not that fast on the elevated sections either – a sort of Amtrakization of the whole experience.

    Overall though, the presence of Link in Seattle has been great and I await the rejuvenation of MLK with great interest. It is good that there are already signs of this happening.

  3. The guy in the middle of Oran’s pic is definitely thinking “OK – who farted?”

    1. Bearded dude on the right is the likely culprit. Look how he is having to bite his lip to keep from smirking.

  4. Ummmmm… Come 2030, YES, they should care. The “end justifying the means” will never make for good government. That would surely have some other disastrous consequences.

    That said, I can only give anecdotal evidence for a similar situation up in Richmond, BC where my parents live near the end station of the new Canada Line.

    My Mom is exactly the stereotype of a person who thinks public buses are crowded, uncomfortable to ride, a hassle, etc. for long trips. Now, she loves how convenient it is to hop on the trains into Downtown to go to a restaurant or a show. No traffic. No worries about looking for a parking space. It costs the same or much less than paying for parking. Etc.

    Trains get more people to use transit. And now my parents will even use a short bus ride when they don’t want to walk to the station!

    1. Yeah, that part could have been phrased better. I don’t think Sherwin is justifying ST misleading anyone — but he’s saying that since they didn’t, the old arguments will sound pretty petulant in 2030 when we have a well-built-out system.

  5. Unless my leave gets cancelled b/c of new deployment, August 14 I will ride on Link for the first time. Is it sad that this is one of the highlites of my trip home?

  6. HBD LINK – I can’t wait until the system is expanded, even though I’ll be in the second half of my life by the time that occurs. Better late than never! Seattle will eventually get the backbone needed for a good public transit system. There are a lot of people working very hard to ensure the system expansion is done as right as politically feasible. I personally know some of these people, and I applaud them and hope they had their own well-deserved celebration.

  7. My daughter was 10 months old when I took her to ride Link on opening day. She won’t remember it, but I’ll remind her. Link will reach Lynnwood before she graduates high school. It will probably reach Everett and Tacoma before she graduates college and starts a career. I’m counting on that so I don’t have to buy her a car.

    1. Am I the only one who thinks that the Link should not go all the way up to Everett and beyond? This would be better suited with the regional line AKA Sounder. While the Link is getting a lot of work done, we shouldn’t forget about the Sounder and also expanding its reaches and service.

      1. Why not both? When I lived in Germany there were multiple types of rail to get around on.

      2. Both the Link and Sounder? That’s my point. There should be different modes of transportation depending on the SLA. I grew up in Philly and NYC, so in my mind the Link = subway, Sounder = the regional rail lines (heavy rail) reaching further out into the suburbs. Wouldn’t it be great if the Sounder operated all day, in both directions? Wouldn’t it be great if it did more than a north/south route?

        Think about it. If we had the Link run all the way from Everett to Seattle and still continue to want a 7 minute headway, how many trains would be needed to support such a proposal? There comes a point where there will be diminishing returns and it will be losing far too much money to operate. This isn’t to say that there couldn’t be Red, Blue, Orange, Yellow, Green, etc., lines for the Link, but to just have one line be all of that is questionable.

      3. No, I’m saying why not have Link and Sounder up to Everett? Link would be slower, but it would make more stops.

        And you wouldn’t have to have every Link train go all the way up and down.

        I agree though that Sounder needs to be fleshed out into a more regular train line. Hopefully with all the money being pumped into HSR, we’ll get more track and tracktime for Sounder.

      4. A lot of people share your concerns. Keep in mind, that even if the tracks go north to Everett it doesn’t mean that trains that begin at the airport will terminate at Everett. You could interline trains to form different routes.

      5. Ok, I see your points. Not sure why I didn’t interpret it as such initially.

      6. When Everett builds out its’ downtown it will warrant both Link and Sounder. They do different things on different routes. Sounder is for a very specific group of commuters, it doesn’t really connect with a lot of people due to limited stops and half the walk radius at 2 stations being underwater. While I would love a reverse trip as was promised, we need to overcome the hurdle of this being the only rail freight route in the region since the tunnel in Bellevue was destroyed. BNSF won’t give up any more track slots until double track is finished and maybe not even then. If they do, is your priority Sounder or HSR to BC? We need more employment in Everett to generate demand for reverse trips and also stops at Ballard and Pike Place, even still, with such limited stops the trip is impractical for most people in the region. Sounder may continue to serve commuters, but honestly the ST buses do a better job at that. I take sounder to meetings in Seattle for the awesome views, but usually bus back because it’s faster and the bus stop location is more convenient than hiking all the way back to King St. Station. Having Link in Everett will offer the same or better connections to the whole region as the ST buses currently do but with greater reliability. It may only be 15 minute service if there is a branch split off to serve the Boeing/Paine Field employment area… with combined headway ~7min south of that. Or there may be some interline with a 405 Link route to the eastside – that planning is still a few years away.

      7. Link on that corridor all the way up to Everett would be good because it would enable people from Everett to get to Lynnwood, Northgate, the UW, and Downtown all the time. Sounder serves more of a commuter market, as there can never be all that many trains per day along that track between Seattle and Everett, and it goes around along the coast so it can’t be all that fast. We should think of Link as like BART, acting as both an urban rapid transit system and a regional rail system.

      8. Yeah, but we should build Link to be more cost-effective than BART. Specifically, we should lean on the subarea equity policy to ensure we continue to improve the system in the urban core, unlike BART, which keeps extending farther into the burbs without providing service to some of the densest residential areas on the west coast.

      9. Yeah, and already we’re doing better than BART in that respect, with the central artery of the system that will have the highest frequencies extending from International District to Northgate in Seattle city limits, already probably longer than the length of BART in San Francisco, along with two less frequent branches, Central Link and East Link, that have stops in Seattle. Plus, we’re already planning for more light rail in Seattle, while extending BART in a second Transbay Tube up along Geary seems to be merely a dream of SF transit advocates.

      10. Sub-area equity means that if ST3/ST4/…/STn happen Seattle will get something out of the deal. Extensions to Tacoma, Everett, and Redmond, an Issaquah spur, and a Burien/Renton line won’t be cheap and will need to be offset with projects serving Seattle. In addition Seattle may very well have some of it’s own money to throw in the pot, though I’d rather see that spent toward streetcars and improved bus service.

  8. This is a beginning of a quiet revolution in the Seattle area that will extend for generations to come. The Puget Sound will not have amazing mass transit like Seoul, Tokyo, London or even DC overnight or even in the next 30 years, but with the beginning of Link, we most certainly will at some time in the future. Link also makes us question…do I drive or can I walk, take a bus or take a train? Here’s the beginning to true mass transit here in Seattle and a lot more healthy people.

    1. Agreed, but the fights not over. We need more people standing up against our massive road lobby.

  9. I am a daily Link commuter. Before Link, I rode the bus and I didn’t mind it. Now, though, I don’t miss the bus at all. Even though I’ve added a 10-minute walk to my commute, I’ve cut 10 minutes off the total trip time. And the Link revolution has liberated me from the tyranny of the schedule!!! Even though I like the cleanliness of the train, and the speed and smoothness of the ride, and the rapid boarding that comes with multiple doors and off-board payment, for me, short headways are the thing that makes Link rock.

    My complaints are minor: I’d like to see increased reliability of escalators and ORCA readers and more useful “next train” information.

    Believe me, I realize how fortunate I am to live within a 10-minute walk of a station on Seattle’s first light rail line. I hope TOD comes soon and brings amenities that my neighborhood has long needed. As the system grows, its usefulness to me will grow and I look forward to that, too. Happy Birthday, indeed, and many many more!

  10. Thanks for giving us space to share personal Link stories.

    I was on one of the inaugural trains. My wife and I assumed that parking near the Mount Baker Station would be crazy (it wasn’t), so we walked pretty far to get there, rode to Tukwila, rode back to Westlake, took the Monorail to the Bite of Seattle, then missed the last Link train (they only ran till 5pm on opening weekend!) and took the 7 home. A year later, we walked from home in Seward Park to International District, Linked to Westlake, walked to the Bite, then Monorailed and Linked it home.

    Oran’s photo reminds me of another time I was on Link. I think it was early December on a weekday evening commute, and it was at least as crowded as the picture – in fact, the most crowded I’ve ever seen it without a special event. A couple who were obviously high were arguing loudly with each other, and they kept moving around the train the whole time. Mostly they were about 30 feet apart, so they were shouting across many people to argue with one another.

    A woman standing nearby – well, nearby doesn’t describe it since she was basically in the guy’s armpit as he held on to handrail and shouted at his significant other – soon identified herself as the type of person I call the “Transit Engager.” (When someone’s acting odd on the bus or train and everyone else is trying to act like nothing’s going on, leave it to Transit Engager! My mom is one.)

    Anyway, as we pulled into Beacon Hill Station, she said to him, “Maybe she and you could sit closer together, because it’s very loud listening to you shout.”

    He said – shouted, really, “You just paid for your tickets, now you’re about to see the show!”

    The Transit Engager scurried off the train at Beacon Hill. I should add that I’ve since added the now-classic line about paying for tickets and seeing the show into my daily life.

    I’m in the middle of buying a house in Berkeley, California about an eight-minute walk from the Ashby BART station. As great as Link is, and as convenient as it has made commuting in southeast Seattle, I am so ready to be in the middle of such a mature and reliable transit system as BART, which will whisk me to what East Bay residents surprisingly provincially refer to as “The City.”

    Thanks, Link, and happy birthday!

  11. Although we don’t need to use it for a daily commute, for us it has made getting to-and-from the airport such a breeze. We also use it before and after Sounders and Mariners games (sometimes to grab celebratory beers in Columbia City afterward), and have had a lot of fun exploring the neighborhoods around the stations on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

    While the recession has pushed back our home-buying plans by a couple of years, thanks to light rail we will definitely be looking closely at RV when the time comes. Happy birthday, Link.

    1. Same here. My wife was dead set on either Capitol Hill or Belltown in Seattle. If we couldn’t buy there, then she wanted to live Eastside when we move back. Now, even though we haven’t ridden it yet just having rapid transit in the RV to the rest of the city has gotten her to consider buying there (by the time we move back U Link will only be a couple years off).

  12. I remember my first Link ride. Brought my family out west and my brother stayed and went to UW. Taught Adam to hate the 520 Bridge ;) Got numerous apologies from Sound Transit from being told to use an escalator to enter Westlake Station, how can I forget?

    While on the subject, when SeaTac/Airport opened, I went two days in a row to test the travel distance in my old manual wheelchair (Old Trusty) which I still prefer to my power scooter unless I’m going to Downtown Seattle.

  13. I rode Link last year on opening weekend and was impressed by so many things: the capacity, the quick boarding and alighting, the smooth ride (even as a standing passenger), and the gentle surge of power.

    Over the past year I’ve been taking trips on Link that I never would have taken by bus or car. Columbia City, in particular, seems to have a strong and growing array of restaurants and cultural attractions. In my free time, I sometimes browse real estate listings for houses near Columbia City station; I’m not in a position to buy, but I can dream! Sometimes I also take Link to/from the airport, even when someone offers to give me a ride. ORCA payments/transfers are effortless. Above all, the short headways make Link _feel_ faster, more comfortable, and more reliable than a bus. Air conditioning is a nice bonus.

    Additionally, I’m quite fond of Link’s seats. I have back problems, but Link’s firm, low-back seats really feel great for my back and shoulders.

  14. Funny, I was sure that the first trips (revenue service) were on 7/18/09, so the birthday should have been on Sunday right?

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