Light rail

Riding that Train

Love Sound Transit or loath it, you gotta enjoy the ride on the slick new Link line.

By Eric Scigliano July 23, 2009

I didn’t get to ride our new light rail line during its two-day coming-out party last weekend. I tried, but though I was on time, I wasn’t on time enough. (More on Sound Transit’s scheduling follies in a post to come.) I gave it a pass on Monday, the first day of normal service, and missed the computer burp that reportedly crashed the system. (Better that than another car crash.) On Tuesday I finally rode the Link, and I gotta say…. whatever you think of the politics, policies, overrun costs, or opportunity costs behind it, it’s a great ride. To glide along MLK Way with scarcely a stop, then soar above Tukwila’s industrial flats, highway spaghetti, and backlot forests is exhilarating, even vertiginous when you seem to float above the freeway. The shiny new train with its picture windows is so slick I felt like I was in Tokyo or Madrid. Yes, it does shake more along the overhead (i.e. Tukwila) portion of the route, as several commenters on a previous post eloquently noted. I didn’t find it unsettling or excessive, but then again I also like roller coasters.

The other passengers—the two-car (i.e. half-size) train was half-full at 7:30pm—clearly dug it too. A few were sightseers like me, but many had already adopted this as their means of transport. They were still learning the ticketing drill, however; three of the four nearest me got busted when the transit cops came through checking fares. (One had a Metro coupon book—no good, unlike bus transfers—and one an expired transfer, and one tried to pay in cash.) The cops let them off graciously—and warned that the fine next time would be $124.

Was light rail getting these folks out of their cars? I spoke to one, Gloria, who’d formerly walked four blocks from her apartment in Tukwila to the bus that took her to her job downtown. Now she said she was driving six blocks to the free park-and-ride at the Link station.

She loved the ride. Have you taken the train yet? How did you like it?

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