[UPDATE: Mr. DeRoy corrected his original statement of when the plexiglass was installed. January, not March.]
When last we’d heard from the Port of Seattle, six years of experience with Link service to the airport had inspired the Port (and Commissioner Stephanie Bowman) to come up with a $3.5m, four-step plan to improve the experience of connecting to the station:
- enclosing the walkway to block the wind
- installing heaters
- electric carts to transport people that need it between the station and the airport skybridge
- adding a moving walkway to the airport master plan, which was expected by April 2017. The $28m project would presumably happen years in the future.
Over six months later, two of these are done, one is dead, and one hasn’t happened — yet.
The port installed the plexiglass in January
March, with decorations and other details finished in March, about 3 months after originally planned. Port Spokesman Brian DeRoy simply says that the original 3-week estimate was overoptimistic: “it took a little longer than we’d hoped.”
The four carts also started running in March. Two operate at any given time between the Sound Transit bridge and the second airport skybridge, from about 6am to midnight. Your correspondent got to ride one of these carts when travelling with small children in April, and “it was a relief,” in the words of my companion.
The heaters proved to be too difficult to install easily. There wasn’t adequate electric power, so they looked at natural gas. But, as Mr. DeRoy notes, the gas required would have exceeded the Greenhouse Gas emissions of the entire rental car shuttle fleet. The Port rejected this as inconsistent with its sustainability goals, so it shelved this plan.
People have asked for a moving walkway since the station opened in December 2009. Unfortunately, the concrete parking garage doesn’t have sufficient clearance to simply install a walkway on its surface. A mooted hotel immediately north of the garage was a potential vessel for a walkway, but that project did not materialize. In keeping with Ms. Bowman’s expectations, Mr DeRoy says the moving walkway is “likely” to be in the Sustainable Airport Master Plan. However, we will not see this plan until the end of 2017. Even then, any such project will likely occur years after release of the plan.
Critics often exaggerate the inconvenience of walking to the airport, particularly in the context of peer airports elsewhere in the world. But that’s no reason to ignore creative ways to make the experience better. It’s good of the Port to put some organizational energy into making transit to the airport work better.