NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, May 17th, 2021

Sound Transit debuts spacious new Siemens S700 light rail vehicles in revenue service

On a glo­ri­ous spring Fri­day, a lit­tle extra excite­ment was to be had aboard Link light rail last week as rid­ers com­plet­ed their rou­tine after­noon tran­sit journeys.

At eight sta­tions (SoDo, Sta­di­um, Inter­na­tion­al District/Chinatown, Pio­neer Square, Uni­ver­si­ty Street, West­lake, Capi­tol Hill, Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton) rid­ers who hap­pened to be on a plat­form at vary­ing points between 1 and 2 PM Pacif­ic were greet­ed by a three-car light rail vehi­cle (LRV) coat­ed with Sound Tran­sit’s famil­iar teal-and-navy wave liv­ery, just like any oth­er Friday.

Yet once aboard, they could see that this was a dif­fer­ent kind of Link train. It was new­er. It was roomi­er. Much brighter. There were many more bike racks.

And lots of cam­eras cap­tur­ing the moment. The first of many big upgrades to light rail ser­vice in the Puget Sound region had arrived.

Passengers on the first revenue service trip of a Siemens S700

Sound Tran­sit offi­cials, joined by mem­bers of the media and a few Link rid­ers, enjoy the first trip of a Siemens S700 in rev­enue ser­vice (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Mem­bers of the media and Sound Tran­sit offi­cials were among the pas­sen­gers that a three car con­sist of Siemens S700 light rail vehi­cles car­ried north­bound towards the cur­rent Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton terminus.

This was the first time a Siemens S700 Series 2 LRV, seen below, had been in “rev­enue ser­vice” — jar­gon for tran­sit ser­vice open to the gen­er­al public.

A closeup view of a Siemens S700

A close­up view of the Siemens S700 that was the first LRV of its type to enter rev­enue ser­vice (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Since 2009, when Link opened to the pub­lic, rid­ers have board­ed one of six­ty-two Kink­isharyo light rail vehi­cles to trans­port them to their destination.

With unprece­dent­ed sys­tem expan­sion on the hori­zon, Sound Tran­sit has ordered a total of 152 new Series 2 LRVs, to be deliv­ered over the next few years.

The Siemens rolling stock will slow­ly replace the Series 1 Kink­isharyo vehi­cles as they are deliv­ered. For now, rid­ers will be served by both types of vehicles.

With the net­work poised to expand rapid­ly in the com­ing months, the agency has unveiled its next gen­er­a­tion of vehi­cles just in time.

Electronic signage in a Siemens S700

The Siemens S700 LRVs fea­ture over­head elec­tron­ic sig­nage sim­i­lar to what rid­ers of the Seat­tle Street­car are used to, dis­play­ing the pre­vi­ous stop, the cur­rent stop, and the next two stops, as well as which side to exit from when the train is at a sta­tion (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

On Octo­ber 2nd, 2021, Link will extend from its cur­rent ter­mi­nus at Husky Sta­di­um to North­gate Mall.

And before the end of 2024, Lines 1 and 2 of the Link light rail sys­tem will con­nect Down­town Seat­tle to Lyn­nwood, Red­mond, and Fed­er­al Way.

By that point, the net­work will near­ly triple in length — which is why the agency need­ed to rough­ly triple the size of its light rail fleet.

ST Board Chair Kent Keel speaking

Sound Tran­sit Board Chair Kent Keel address­es the media before the debut of the Siemens S700 in rev­enue ser­vice (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Siemens has deliv­ered forty-one Series 2 LRVs to Sound Tran­sit already. They are stored and main­tained at the Oper­a­tions and Main­te­nance Facil­i­ty (OMF) between SoDo and Bea­con Hill sta­tions in Seattle.

A new Oper­a­tions and Main­te­nance Facil­i­ty in Belle­vue’s Spring Dis­trict is also most­ly com­plete. It has the capac­i­ty to store up to nine­ty-six LRVs, serv­ing Line 2 (Red­mond-Down­town-Lyn­nwood).

Ready to take on passengers

For its inau­gur­al ride, this Siemens S700 took on VIP pas­sen­gers at Sound Tran­sit’s Oper­a­tions and Main­te­nance Facil­i­ty, then made stops at SoDo, Sta­di­um, Inter­na­tion­al District/Chinatown, Pio­neer Square, Uni­ver­si­ty Street, West­lake, Capi­tol Hill, and Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The Siemens vehi­cles were assem­bled in Sacra­men­to, Cal­i­for­nia. They have been test­ed exten­sive­ly along exist­ing and future track­age; the first vehi­cle has accu­mu­lat­ed more than 1,000 miles since its deliv­ery in June 2019.

All aboard! Plenty of room on this train

The Siemens S700 vehi­cles are roomi­er than their Kink­isharyo coun­ter­parts, espe­cial­ly in the mid­dle seg­ment, where a rid­er’s dog was able to set­tle down com­fort­ably dur­ing the ride from West­lake to Capi­tol Hill (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

That first vehi­cle was exhib­it­ed to the press at a mini open-house in June of 2019.

Inside the cab of a Siemens S700

A dri­ver’s seat view out the front win­dow of a Siemens S700, tak­en from a LRV parked in Sound Tran­sit’s Oper­a­tions and Main­te­nance Facil­i­ty (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

The excite­ment sur­round­ing the Series 2 vehi­cles gives us a taste of what is to come. Our light rail sys­tem will triple in length.

For many com­muters, car jour­neys will become much less appeal­ing when high qual­i­ty, high capac­i­ty rail tran­sit becomes available.

Rounding the bend

After return­ing from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton, the Siemens S700 LRV car­ry­ing Sound Tran­sit offi­cials and mem­bers of the media smooth­ly rolled back to its depar­ture point at the Oper­a­tions & Main­te­nance Facil­i­ty (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

New tran­sit-ori­ent­ed devel­op­ments will enable more peo­ple to struc­ture their lives around tran­sit infra­struc­ture in a way bus ser­vice does not ade­quate­ly incentivize.

And even if your cur­rent jour­ney will not be served by light rail, every­body ben­e­fits from hav­ing less traf­fic on the roads. As our region grad­u­al­ly moves past the acute health emer­gency the pan­dem­ic has cre­at­ed, how we get around our region will be fun­da­men­tal­ly trans­formed for the bet­ter. With respect to mobil­i­ty in our region, there will be no going back to what we pre­vi­ous­ly con­sid­ered normal.

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