Seattle’s Link Light Rail – The Start of Something Big
Right now, Seattle is making as serious a commitment to transit as any city in the nation. Recently, Streetfilms got to take a tour of the newest addition to the city's network -- the 13-station Link Light Rail, which opened in mid-2009.
The route is beautiful, swift, and has great multi-modal connections. Service is frequent, with headways as short as 7 minutes during rush hour, and never longer than 15 minutes. And like many of the newest American light rail systems, the stations feature copious art.
Seattle has a lot of car commuters, but in a sign that many are looking for more efficient and environmentally friendly ways of getting to work, the new light rail line will be followed by several more additions to the city's transit network. As Seattle's Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl told us:
[Voters] in November 2008, by 57 percent -- which was a thrill in a recession economy -- voted to expand our light rail system, our commuter rail system, and our buses... to add another 36 miles of light rail in the region. And to add 65 percent more capacity to our commuter rail system.
We'd like to thank everyone who talked to us for this shoot, especially Bruce Gray from Sound Transit, and Andrew Schmid for arranging it all. And of course a big shout out to the intrepid scribes over at Seattle Transit Blog, who cover the local transportation scene with zeal and gusto.
Bruce Gray: [0:24] We're here in Seattle touring the new Link Light Rail line that just opened up in July. It's about 15 Ã?Ã?Â½ miles long. It's got 13 stations. Two point four billion dollar project that's been about four years in the making.
Bruce Gray: [0:36] It's a long time coming but I'm really happy that it's finally here. I actually moved to be closer to the Light Rail in anticipation of it opening. [0:44] What separates Sound Transit Link from other American light rail systems is the quality of the grade separation. There's significant stretches of link that are in tunnels or elevated so that you actually get higher operating speeds than you might see in, say, Portland.
Bruce Gray: [0:59] So far things have been going really well for us. We've been hit, just like everybody else, with some of the down economy, but our ridership is about 15 and a half thousand on weekdays, which is just below what we thought it would be by the end of 2009.
Joni Earl: [1:14] Our voters in this region in November 2008 by 57% voted to expand our light rail system and our commuter rail system and buses. So we have a long-range plan and then we now have a voter-approved funded plan to add another 36 miles of light rail in the region.
Bruce Gray: [1:33] Part of the main planning for this whole line is designing better ways to get to and from the stations than driving your car. We don't have parking at any of our stations in Seattle. So we've designed it and worked with the city on access to the stations and also working with the bus lines on having better bus access.
John Mauro: [1:49] Most of Seattle is car oriented. You know, buildings and large parking lots, especially out in the suburbs. Better lane use makes things more walkable and makes transit more accessible.
Joni Earl: [1:59] We've got to show people you can get on a train or a bus and it's stress-free. You can multi-task in ways that you can't as you drive. And I just think the connection is ease of use and reliability.
Bruce Gray: [2:12] I'm a big fan of the frequency. Starting at seven 1/2 minutes on a new line is great. Everybody I meet, who has tried it, is surprised at how much more they liked it than they thought they would. People here really haven't had this experience. They've been riding buses for their whole lives and this is kind of a game changer.
Bruce Gray: [2:29] Bike access to all of our stations was an important part of the planning. We've got bike parking whether that's racks -- all the racks are covered -- or, it's bike lockers at our stations.
Joni Earl: [2:38] You look at Sound Transit, our regional transportation authorities, there's biking and walking is in that culture. It's embedded in it.
John Mauro: [2:46] Sound Transit, when they were doing their light rail, reached out to us. We feed into the process and we give design recommendations. We work on policy.
Bruce Gray: [2:54] Policy wise, you can put four bikes on each car. Every train has two cars. So we've got hooks for two bikes on each car. Then you can stand with two more bikes.
Tessa Greegor: [3:03] I think it was fundamental to have the bicycling community involved in these decisions. People that are out there every day, that use the system, and are able to speak for and can really say what the concerns are and what the needs are. [bell ringing]
Bruce Gray: [3:19] What we've seen so far is just the beginning here in Seattle. [3:22] This is the downtown Seattle bus tunnel. We've got a line under construction now that'll go from here to Capitol Hill and University of Washington. Three miles worth of tunnel that'll add about 100, 000 riders with train service that'll run basically every three minutes once we get that line up and running.
Joni Earl: [3:36] We hope to be in continual construction of multi-modal transit service in this region for the next 30 years if possible. So we've got a public here that really has embraced transit. [ music]
Jennifer Babuca: [3:53] Artwork really makes stations accessible. It's the right thing to do in these types of major works. When we build mass transit systems, we're building stations in people's backyards in places that they go, where their business are. And it really is up to us to make sure that the stations are welcoming, that they're beautiful. [ music]