• Seattle LINK Light Rail / Streetcar / Trolley

  • General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by railfanofewu
The Seattle City Council will undertake a 3 month review of the proposed South Lake Union Streetcar line, which will be modeled on the Portland Streetcar. I hope it survives the review.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer article
  by Vincent
Seattle's LINK light rail system is nearing its July 18th opening date. The light rail trains are already out on the tracks operating a simulated schedule without passengers so that Sound Transit can work out any operational bugs before the grand opening date. So far there haven't been any reported snafus, other than one minor train/auto collision. The system that opens on July 18 won't include the final extension to SEA airport. The original plan was to halt the trains at the Pacific Highway station and offer a bus connection to the airport, similar to the set-up between BART and Oakland's airport, but local opposition to that plan was loud and persistent, so the construction plan was changed and an extension to SEA is being built, but it won't open until December.

Puget Sound voters created Sound Transit in a 1996 vote and we've been waiting 13 years to catch this train. The early years of ST were not very encouraging, it took several years and millions of wasted tax dollars before ST's board of director could get the light rail system planned and designed. The heavy rail Sounder trains from Tacoma and Everett were quickly opened, but at a much higher cost than planned. The trains from Tacoma have been very well patronized, the ones from Everett have struggled to meet ridership expectations. The Tacoma Streetcar line was built without major problems and it carries good loads, but it's free so there's no farebox revenue stream. The light rail LINK was a nightmare of poor management and oversight, higher than expected costs and, of course, the NIMBY forces. But eventually, the line was planned, designed and finally built, so on July 18, we'll get our first rides on the light rail trains.

It will be interesting to see what kind of ridership the LINK generates once it opens. The route runs through some of Seattle's previously less-than-desirable neighborhoods. Generally speaking, Seattle's best zip codes are north of downtown Seattle and this train runs through the south end of Seattle, mainly along MLK Way. In 1996, when ST was created, MLK was mostly post-WWII housing projects and run down neighborhoods with hardly any retail activity (of a legal nature). Today, the MLK neighborhoods have been completely rebuilt and businesses are moving into the area. Real estate values in the areas near LINK have been appreciating while the rest of the county has seen prices fall.

Last year, voters approved a plan that extends LINK north of downtown Seattle to Capitol Hill, the University of Washington and the Northgate area and adds another line to the Eastside where Microsoft and the more affluent suburbanites reside. Those trains may be running by 2016, although the Eastside line is finding that the NIMBYs are quickly organizing their opposition to the socialist evils of mass transit. We'll see how it all works out.
  by lpetrich
Sound Transit's Central Link has opened: http://www.soundtransit.org/

The 16-mi / 25-km line runs from Westlake in downtown Seattle southward to Tukwila International Blvd.

Some extensions are now being built, southward to Sea-Tac International Airport (late this year) and northward to Washington University (2016). The line runs in a tunnel between Westlake and King St, and it will run in a tunnel to that university.

There are plans to extend it further northward, and also eastward from downtown Seattle to Mercer Island, Bellevue, and Redmond. It may possibly be extended to downtown Tacoma also.

Sound Transit also has a short light-rail line in downtown Tacoma, and its Sounder commuter trains running Everett - Seattle - Tacoma. There are plans to extend the latter further southward, to Lakewood; that will require construction of a short connecting line between D and M Streets in downtown Tacoma. But if it is built, it may enable the rerouting of the Amtrak Cascades trains to that line and away from its current coastal route to the north and west of Tacoma.

So Seattle is catching up with its neighbors to the north and south, Vancouver, BC and Portland, OR.
  by Vincent
Trains were free this weekend and about 92,000 people took advantage of the opportunity to finally ride on the Link trains. I rode trains that were SRO with up to a 60 minute wait to get on. This morning (7/20) was the first day of revenue service and I went to my closest station (Beacon Hill), paid my fare ($1.75) and got a seat on a train to downtown. I was surprised at the number of paying riders on the train. At 1030 am about half the seats were full.

The trains move very smoothly and quickly thru the downtown Seattle bus tunnel, much faster than the hybrid electric/diesel buses that also use the tunnel. The trains then pass the stadiums and climb up to the Beacon Hill Tunnel. After the Mt. Baker station the route runs down the middle of MLK Jr. Blvd to the Columbia City, Othello and Rainier Beach stations. Car drivers seem to enjoy racing the LInk trains as they run down MLK. This section was the scene of 3 minor train/automobile incidents during testing. Many more are sure to come. Shortly after the RB station, Link goes back to its own dedicated ROW to Tukwila. By Christmas, the extension from Tukwila to SeaTac Intl Airport will be open.

The KinkiSharyo trains are nice looking and they ride smoothly. The stations are also very nice--some people say too nice--as each station had 1% of its budget dedicated to artistic enhancements. The only gripes I have with the system so far is that the fare structure and integration with Metro (the local transit operator) is confusing. I have guests arriving from Germany next month, we'll see how they manage to figure out the system. Also, all station announcements are in English only, which is strange considering that much of the population along the route is ESL (English as a Second Language). The TVMs were difficult to use because of glare, but today and yesterday had unusual weather--it was sunny. Station directional signage is also sparse, hopefully better information will be coming. Workers were still installing ADA/Braille signage at Beacon Hill this morning.
  by jtbell
Vincent wrote:Trains were free this weekend and about 92,000 people took advantage of the opportunity to finally ride on the Link trains. I rode trains that were SRO with up to a 60 minute wait to get on.
This seems to be the usual experience with opening day on new systems lately. When Charlotte's line opened a year and a half ago, they had to set up shuttle buses between the endpoints so people wouldn't have to wait forever to get on a return train. And I think Phoenix's opening day last winter was also pretty hectic.
The only gripes I have with the system so far is that the fare structure and integration with Metro (the local transit operator) is confusing. I have guests arriving from Germany next month, we'll see how they manage to figure out the system.
I can sympathize with that, having returned from a trip to Germany a couple of weeks ago. Fare and ticket integration among all local transit operators in an urban area, is the general practice there. A ticket (usually from a vending machine) is valid on most any local transit vehicle you need to use to get to your destination: bus, streetcar, light rail, subway, commuter rail (S-Bahn), even local and regional services on the national railroad system. The only exceptions are intercity express trains.
  by Vincent
Link had its first major glitch today when the signaling system in the Downtown Seattle Bus Tunnel failed just after morning rush hour and all trains were turned back at the Stadium Station. Sound Transit still hasn't figured out the problem as of the evening rush hour. Bus routes that operate in the tunnel are still running, so there are numerous bus routes that can shuttle passengers from the tunnel to the Stadium Station. Riders that are knowledgeable about the local public transportation systems will only be slightly inconvenienced, but tourists and first-time riders might be somewhat lost.
  by GulfRail
As a native to the Sea-Tac area, I'm glad to hear that Seattle has a light rail system to call its own. :)
  by orangeline
In about 2 months I'll be flying into SEA and am looking forward to taking the light rail into downtown Seattle!
  by orangeline
Yesterday I flew into SEA and took the light rail from the airport to Westlake Station; i.e. I rode the entire line. I have several observations:
1. For $2.50 it is a real bargain!
2. The trek from the airport terminal to the SEA-TAC light rail station is exactly that -- a trek. Figure 1/4 mile, maybe more. And the whole way you're exposed to the elements and yesterday ~ 1:00 PM it was COLD!
3. Many stations are quite far apart allowing for the cars to FLY. There's a stretch where the cars run along I-5 and it seemed we were going at least 60-65 mph.
4. Patronage was excellent. Perhaps instead of one-car trains Sound Transit will consider 2-car trains, even on weekends?
5. I liked the mix of elevated, surface and subway right-of-way.
6. There were some really tight curves. As a Chicagoland resident I appreciate that, but doubt even the relatively short CTA L cars could manage some of these turns!
I fly home Tuesday and can't wait to take Sound Transit back to SEA!
  by orangeline
This morning I took a walk along 6 Ave toward the Seattle Center and noted rails in Westlake Ave. Just past 6 Ave (in direction of Wetlake Ctr) the inbound track merged into the outbound, i.e. two tracks into one. I also noted overhead wires that looked different from those used by electric buses. Is Seattle planning to start surface LRT?
  by wigwagfan

Yes, Seattle has a Streetcar line that is overlooked compared to its southern cousin the Portland Streetcar. Same equipment - same Inkeon 10T streetcar, same arrangement - owned by the city but operated by the local transit concern.
  by orangeline
I saw the Seattle Streetcar on Tuesday afternoon (day after snow/ice storm) and took a couple of pictures. I was surprised it uses only two trucks (I would have thought 3 for double articulation), but maybe it can get away with it because the cars are pretty short at maybe 60 feet. I didn't realize until then the service was running because of the construction at Westlake near 5th. Why wasn't the service extended into the transit tunnel like the airport line? Is the current 1-line system planned to grow to multiple routes?
  by #5 - Dyre Ave
They do have plans to build a First Hill Streetcar as a concession to the First Hill neighborhood for the lack of a light rail stop in the neighborhood. Initially, the University extension of LINK was supposed to include a stop there, but it was deemed to be too expensive, so they decided to build a streetcar there.
  by Pensyfan19
Any word on the expansion of this system? Specifically with the Central City Connector connecting the two existing lines?