Seattle Light Rail

Discussion in 'Other U.S. Destinations' started by NYBanker, Oct 21, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    From someone who rarely takes mass transit (except in NYC), Seattle's new Light Rail system was a very easy and economic way to get from SeaTac to downtown. I will take this train again!

    I have a small train-ride report on my website.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    Glad you enjoyed it! My two big complaints are (1) the walk can be a bit far while you're outside in the cold, and (2) many locals honestly forget to tap their transit passes on the readers before boarding, which can get you a $120 fine. If they could enclose the walkway and put the readers on the door to the train (or on the platform upstairs at least) it would be much improved.
     
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  3. ducster
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    I'll be transiting through Seattle in a couple of months with a 6-hour layover, so this is very helpful indeed.
     
  4. Toula
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    Toula Gold Member

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    We visited Seattle last month and used the Light Rail system to get from the airport to the Seattle Hilton. Have to say we thought it was an excellent system and the price can't be beaten. We arrived at 5 p.m. on a Friday and the trains seemed to be leaving every 5 minutes or so. We thought they were clean and not at all crowded.

    Scottrick, a question on scanning your pass. We purchased the one way tixs. Were we supposed to scan these tixs or is it not necessary for the individual tixs? What we found interesting was it was a totally automated system, no attended tix window for those who could not work out what they were doing.
     
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  5. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    The paper tickets you buy from the ticket vending machines don't need to be scanned. If you buy a round trip ticket it is a day pass for light rail (not buses), you can hop and off as often as you want. There is also an RFID card called ORCA which can be either a monthly pass or a stored-value (ePurse) card and you have to tap that as you reach the platform. Using ORCA gives a transfer to buses.

    My biggest complaint about Link light rail is that it shuts down at 11:05pm on Sundays. (Mon-Sat last train is at 12:10am). Also that the first train is pretty late on Sunday mornings.

    Otherwise it is great, frequent and clean. Can't be beat to almost all downtown Seattle hotel locations.
     
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  6. NYBanker
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    I hadn't thought of it for this - but yes, if you wanted to go downtown to see some of the attractions there, this would be a great - and easily predictable - way to do it. Space Needle, EMP, the first Starbucks (depending on what is interesting to you) among many other things are all within walking distance of the Westlake stop.
     
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  7. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    Seacarl is right, it's only an issue for locals with the ORCA transit pass. Assuming you remember to buy a paper ticket you'll be fine. I mentioned it because my girlfriend consistently forgets. She's escaped detection twice, but the transit police are making much more frequent patrols these days. She's gotten fined once, and hopefully that's all it takes. It used to be more of an issue at the downtown tunnel stations, where the pass readers were originally located upstairs upon entering the station, and she didn't usually remember until the train was arriving... running upstairs again would mean missing the train.
     
  8. mattsteg
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    I'll need to keep this in mind next time I am in Seattle, sounds like a viable option.
     
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  9. sfo1
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    The light rail is not as good as the Metro bus was. It took less time on the bus, it was an express after it left downtown, did not cost as much and provided a very good service, wish it was back.
     
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  10. ducster
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    Since we'll be there from 9-3, we'll probably head in for a nice espresso (Vivace?) and pastry, walk around a bit, then head back to Sea-Tac. Thanks!
     
  11. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    My favorite place for pastry is Le Panier at Pike Place Market. Get a chocolatine. Personally I think Caffe Vita has better coffee, but I'm after drip, not espresso, so you may have your own preference.
     
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  12. Scottrick
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    Scottrick Gold Member

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    Yes, but the first time I took the Metro on the way back, it was dark and I was still new to the city. I was very worried for a while as we drove up International Boulevard. I still think the light rail has the bus beat as far as being able to wait inside a train at the station before it departs.
     
  13. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    I disagree completely. The 194 (the express) ended around 8:30 on weekdays and earlier on weekends; it only ran every 30 minutes on weekends, and on weekdays after about 3pm to the airport and after about 5pm from the airport, it was often 10-15 minutes late leaving the airport, sometimes taking 10 minutes just to load passengers. There was no room for luggage. If there was an accident on I-5 it could take an hour. The light rail, running every 8-15 minutes, with ample room for luggage is totally superior, and the few extra minutes running time are totally recovered by the better frequency.

    After the 194 stopped running in the evenings, there was the local, the 174, but it was much slower, only every 30 mins and off-schedule, and some of the passengers on it were downright scary.

    I also experienced a 194 where the wheelchair lift broke and it required a cab fare to get to the airport.
     
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  14. sfo1
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    You do have a point, but I myself would take the bus over the train, to bad it could not have just run from downtown to the airport and back, but guess politics got in the way. Would have been great to have an express train.
     
  15. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    There is a Grayline-type hotel "Airport Express" bus which runs express to the airport. I'm not sure of the fare, probably $12-15 or so. I bet it eats up all the time savings in the downtown area by stopping at 5 or 6 hotels. I think it runs only every 40-45 minutes. But it's a bus if that's what you want.

    It's not politics, but that the light rail was designed to be more than just an airport express - it serves the local communities along the way, and of course is expected to be a catalyst for development and density along the MLK corridor. I think it's faster from downtown than BART from San Francisco, or at least fairly comparable in time, and BART makes at least as many stops along the way, with no expresses. At least the Seattle light rail is $2.75 instead of $8 or whatever BART charges, with a "soak the traveler" surcharge for using the airport station! The Milbrae fare is like half the SFO fare.
     
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  16. sfo1
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    Your right on the fares, SF BART is a rip off, and even the Canada Line from YVR to downtown, adds on another $5.00 to the 2 zone fare, so I believe it is over $7.00, it also is a rip off. The thing about the Canada Line as well as the other rapid transit in Vancouver, even if you get a ticket for non payment, there is no way for the system to collect on it, thats why after all these years, they are finally going to turnstyle gates. As far as Sound Transit is concerned, I ride as a senior so I get a great break on the fares,and being retired from the transit system in Vancouver I ride for free.
     
  17. Scottrick
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    I took the Grayline on my first trip to Seattle, and I wouldn't recommend it. Downtown is small enough that you can easily find your way to the hotel from the downtown light rail stations. I agree that the light rail seems to take forever, but it's more comfortable and about the same time as the bus. SEA has lots of options overall. On those rare cases where I need private transportation to get to/from the airport quickly, some planning usually gets me a town car for the same price as a taxi.
     
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  18. NYBanker
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    You describe these rail lines as "rip offs." How do you reach that conclusion?

    Most railroads - including the SeaTac line - don't even cover operating costs from the fare box, let alone the capital costs of building the line. How do you concluded that a heavily subsidized offering is a rip off? Should it be $0.25?

    To compare, at LHR, one-way rail for about the same distance on the HEX is GBP16.50!
     
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  19. Seacarl
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    Seacarl Gold Member

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    When the fare from city center to a nearby station on the same system is half that of the airport fare, then air travelers are being singled out from other travelers on the system to pay substantially more than other riders. BART to SFO and Canada Line to YVR fit that description - the same trains serve other stops nearby without a big airport surcharge. It's another instance of the same phenomenon that has targeted rental car taxes and hotel taxes, except it also hits locals who might choose to use transit. The BART surcharge is high enough given the distance that if there are 3 travelers you may as well take a cab.

    LHR is a different case in that there is dedicated express service, but the underground is also a (slower) option without a surcharge.
     
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  20. cova

    cova Gold Member

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    BART takes exactly 30 minutes from airport to Powell St. Seattle Light rail takes 45 minutes from airport to Westlake. Seattle is cheap and convenient - but slow. It is really a street car (hence light rail) versus the heavy rail of BART.
     
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  21. Seacarl
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    Seattle Light Rail takes 31 minutes from International District (King St Station) to Seatac airport. It takes 38 minutes from Westlake Station to Seatac airport. It may seem longer to you.

    It technically can travel faster, particularly along the long surface section on MLK, but the operators have decided to maintain 35 mph along that section so as not to encourage the auto traffic to speed since the auto speed limit is 35 mph along there.
     
  22. sfo1
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    You are absolutely correct in your post. Just like the Govt. taxing the hell out of air travellers but not adding the same type of taxes to Amtrak or Intercity bus lines. It is a selective thing.
     
  23. sfo1
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    And there in lies the problem, had it been elevated all the way, it could be considered rapid transit, now it is nothing more than a glorified streetcar, stopping at red lights for cross traffic and traffic wanting to turn left crossing the tracks, and not going faster than 35mph, the ride is certainly worth no more than what they are now charging.
     
  24. Seacarl
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    Actually the traffic signals at all road crossings are controlled by the light rail signals, and light rail has priority. In normal operation the light rail doesn't have to make any stops other than at stations.
     
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  25. Seacarl
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    PS: The cost to make it fully elevated would have been significantly higher, and I think the elevated structure would be far more harmful to the MLK street feel than the surface route. I doubt it would have saved more than 2 or 3 minutes travel time.
     

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