This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
I was having a drink with a friend and co-worker who’s a heavy business traveller, and I mentioned that I often take Link when I’m going to SeaTac. He expressed disbelief, and then asked me, “where is the airport station? It’s a ridiculous distance from the terminal, isn’t it?”
I told him no, it’s on the other side of the parking garage, and not too much further of a walk than if you park your car at the airport. He wasn’t buying it. To him, the distance between the airport link station and the terminal made it a non-starter (for the record, it’s about 1,000 feet). I was quite surprised.
This conversation came back to me yesterday as I read Yonah Freemark discussing a potential new route for the train connecting Dulles airport to the DC Metro. Instead of having the Metro take a detour to Dulles, the plan would have a people mover connect airport passengers, getting them closer to the airport, but requiring a transfer:
What would Tukwila have looked like if Sound Transit had decided to route Link to Southcenter, and provide (or get the Port of Seattle to provide) a connecting tram directly to the SeaTac terminal, let’s say via an above-ground AirTrain-like station that would have dropped you off directly on top of the check-in desks. The overall ride would surely have been longer. But the perception might have been very different.
Clearly it’s too late to re-litigate all of this, and I know the pros and cons were hashed out back in the 90s when the alignment was being decided upon. I bring it up both as a thought experiment and to echo Yonah’s general statement: sometimes it’s better for an Airport line to not go directly to the airport.