Sound Transit’s light rail trains arrived early Saturday to take passengers from Northgate to the airport, take families downtown from Roosevelt Station, and take college students from U District Station to weekend jobs.
John Williams, a student at the University of Washington studying biology and physiology, said the new U District station will allow him to sleep in another half an hour before heading off to work in Chipotle near the Westlake Center .
He called the new tram extension a “game changer” and said this new shuttle service will be “much more convenient”.
The commissioning of the 1.9 billion
The first train left Northgate Station at the scheduled time from 4:51 a.m. to Cheers from the passengers on the platform. Above 150 people boarded the first train according to Sound Transit. The train wagons will run every 10 minutes at the normal weekend rhythm, except in the early morning and late at night.
Trains will arrive every eight minutes during rush hour. In a time without a pandemic, the ideal capacity would be a little more than 600 passengers per four-car train.
A few dozen people per train boarded at Northgate Station early Saturday when traffic heading south on Interstate 5 became congested during the locks in Sodo for deck repairs.
Jeff Foster of Lake Forest Park took the light rail from Northgate to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for a lecture tour in Dallas. His family dropped him off at Northgate instead of Husky Stadium Station, which saved him 15 to 20 minutes each way on his journey.
Foster applauded the new transit but railed about the price of the project.
“I think it’s a ridiculous amount we spent on it,” he said, “but almost every great city – Chicago, DC, Paris, Shanghai, New York – all have great transportation systems. We’re running late, but it’s going to be really great for the region. “
At Northgate Station, a new pedestrian bridge over Interstate 5 was inaugurated as the John Lewis Memorial Bridge in honor of the late Atlanta civil rights leader and congressman.
Saturday drivers can also stop on University Way Northeast next to the new U District Station for music and food until 8:00 PM
The three stations were predicted a decade ago to add about 45,000 daily passengers to the 80,000 boardings south of the U District station. Homes and offices are being built faster than expected than passenger numbers were forecast, but COVID-19 and the trends towards working from home could reduce transit demand.
Many bus routes are being changed to end at light rail stations, so many passengers will take both a bus and a train to get to their destination. Some bus routes will be eliminated, notably the Route 41 freeway in north Seattle.
Sound Transit recently replaced its fare controllers with “tariff ambassadors” who help non-paying passengers obtain ORCA tariff cards.
Concrete tracks and pillars will be built far north of Northgate Station, but the 8.5-mile segment to Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood won’t open until 2024.
On the way to class, Caitlin O’Morchoe, a graduate of the University of Washington, said she was “excited” about the new light rail line. She lives in Maple Leaf and got on at Northgate Station. She said the transfer from bus to train was “that easy”.
Opening day had some early morning problems.
Escalators have closed in the U District station near the entrance along Brooklyn Avenue Northeast, a common problem at stations throughout the system.
Travis Buck, 37, complained that the Sound Transit announcement in the U District Station could be heard from his apartment in University Manor.
In general, he looks forward to taking the train from the metro district to the airport, but said the noise from the station every four minutes is annoying.