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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

LIVE from Link: Testing, testing!

I'm liveblogging once again from aboard Sound Transit's new Central Link light rail system, for what must be my sixth or seventh opportunity to actually go inside a train. We boarded at Columbia City and have traveled south to Tukwila International Station, which until the end of this year will be the terminus of the line. (The other terminus is at Westlake Center in Seattle).

Link train in Columbia City
Above: A northbound Link light rail train crosses Edmunds Street at Martin Luther King Jr. Way, just south of the Columbia City Station.

This test train is intended to emphasize accessibility and safety. To that end, several bicycles were brought aboard, and Sound Transit board members, including Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, Councilmember Larry Phillips, and Councilmember Dow Constantine, have each talked about how the system has been designed for easy boarding by people on foot as well as those with wheelchairs or bicycles.

Sign reminding people to look both ways
Above: One of the signs reminding pedestrians and bicyclists to look both ways before attempting to cross train tracks.

Initially when we came aboard it was a bit stuffy inside, but this problem was quickly addressed by turning on the train's air conditioning system. The trains are well ventilated, so riding should be comfortable on the hottest days (as well as the coldest... the trains also have heating, of course).

Aboard the train, to demonstrate how easy it is to ride, were a mother with a small child and stroller, a visually impaired man with a guide dog, and two commuters with bicycles. A gaggle of media were on hand to record the experience, including reporters from most of the major local television and radio stations.

Mother with a child and stroller aboard Link
Above: A mother with a child in a stroller prepares to detrain.

Some of the plans for the grand opening in a few weeks were also disclosed. The inaugural train going south will carry Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, and the inaugural train going north with carry Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton. They will meet at the Mount Baker Station and get off for a brief ceremony, then reboard and continue in their respective directions to the end of the line before coming back.

An ORCA reader
Above: An ORCA card reader. ORCA stands for One Regional Card for All. It will work on every public transportation system in Puget Sound.

Each station will host a Welcome Portal for riders, and all train rides will be free during Opening Weekend. Crowds are expected to be heavy on Saturday, July 18th, so think ahead if you're planning on showing up for one of the biggest events in the history of Seattle-area mass transit.

(That means, for instance, taking the bus to get to light rail - Sound Transit Express Routes 545 or 550 are good choices for those coming from the Eastside).

UPDATE: I've uploaded a few of the photos I took during and after the train ride. I picked some shots that are unlike what we've published before.

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