Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Travel Light... Reactions to light rail opening

Ten hours ago, the people of Seattle and greater Puget Sound finally got the opportunity to experience Link light rail for themselves firsthand.

Sound Transit is reporting that some 45,000 riders tried out the system on its very first day, which the agency considers very solid turnout.

So what do people think?

Based on conversations I've had with riders today, and reporting by the traditional media, there's a clear consensus: Link light rail is a sweet and much needed improvement to our region's transportation system.

Link train seen from below the Mount Baker Station
Above: A northbound Link train coming from Columbia City pulls into the Mount Baker Station on elevated tracks.

Just reading the reactions of people surveyed by the local press makes me smile. Here's a quick series of excerpts from several of the stories that have been filed about the opening of Central Link, beginning with KOMO:
Sean Parghi was one of the early riders on the train. He said he took it to get to Seattle for the Sounders game at Qwest Field.

"This is history," he said. "We're super-excited, definitely. I love public transit, and this is great."

Arlene Cooper, a mother of two, said the light rail will give her and her family "another option."

"We'll walk down here (to the station) and take trips downtown," she said. "We save money on parking, and we have bus passes, which we can use on the light rail - so it works out perfectly."

Vu Han of Everett, who said he has never ridden light rail before, described the train as "very convenient."

Many other riders described the train as clean and easy to use.
KING also had no trouble finding pleased riders:
The Clemmons' made a family day out of it.

"We're riding it for fun, because it's brand new and very exciting," said Delijah Clemmons.

Onboard their packed rail cars, riders enjoyed competing with motorists outside, but without the worry of a traffic jam.

"It's so fast. I didn't know we were out of downtown, and its five minutes and we're already in south Seattle," said DeMarco Grant.


"It's really clean, really nice compared to a lot of the other public transits we have around here. It's also a lot smoother and quieter than a lot of the t-stations you'll find around," said Isabella Pelegero.
Even The Associated Press featured positive responses in its wire story:
Passengers were upbeat.

Daniel Gonzalez cheered and clapped when a train arrived at a station.

"It's about time we had one of these," Gonzalez told The Seattle Times. "It's quiet and efficient — the wave of the future."

New York resident Maxwell Simon liked Seattle's new mass transit line better than the Big Apple's.

"New York doesn't have anything as nice as this," the 87-year-old Simon said. "I want to be part of Seattle history. I think New York is going to learn a lot from Seattle."
Finally, here's a sampling of Link-related tweets from Twitter:
SU_Spectator: Rode the light rail from Beacon Hill to Westlake. Very smooth, very fast. Better than buses.

abosco: Rode the light rail! Awesome - only a short wait for return trip.can't wait until 2016, when it will leave from our doorstep.

GreatWallofChin: Decided I'm a fan of light rail; it's money for Sounders FC, Hawks and Mariners games moving forward

aghman: Just got back from riding the light rail. I love that I can get to Columbia City without having to drive

iangilman: It's a sweet ride!

sherwinhlee: Not too many folks using the shuttle; everyone wants to take the train back

mattsbasement: handed out tons of light rail stickers. rode the train to beacon hill and back it is amazing. build lots more!
Building more light rail is what Sound Transit 2 is all about. But judging by the obstacles that had to be overcome to get Central Link constructed, we've still got a lot of work ahead of us. There are critics and naysayers out there who view the completion of this line and the passage of Prop 1 as nothing more than setbacks.

A view of the bus bays below the Tukwila train platform
Above: Two buses wait to pick up passengers in the bus bays below the train platform at Tukwila International Boulevard Station.

We're going to have to be on guard against attempts to sabotage the expansion the voters approved, especially when it comes to East Link.

But for now, this glorious weekend, we rejoice and celebrate. Reliable rapid transit has finally come to Seattle for good.


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