We saw new light rail maps this week! The signs have a new stop added to each end of the existing route, and they change “the only light rail line in Seattle” to the Red Line, a piece of a bigger, more effective system. Light rail will keep expanding over the coming years, and these new signs mean the first steps of this expansion are happening soon. Within-the-year soon.
This is good news for all us who regularly spend time stuck in traffic. 58,000 new people have moved to Seattle in the past five years, and hundreds of thousands will join them over the next 25 years. We all hate the traffic now, but it’s only getting worse.
That’s why we’re so excited about light rail. It’s a transportation savior, and it’s good for the environment, too. It also levels the playing field when we’re talking about economic divides, and it solves parking problems, and it’s—we could go on and on.
So what ARE these new light rail expansions?
1) University Station
University Link will connect the University of Washington and Capitol Hill to existing light rail service from downtown Seattle to the airport. You’ll be able to ride from University of Washington to downtown in eight minutes and on to the airport in less than an hour.
Length: 3.15 miles connects downtown Seattle to UW (Husky Stadium)
Rider projection: University Link will add 71,000 riders to the system by 2030, bringing the system-wide total to 114,000.
Budget: $1.9 billion
Funding partners: sales tax, MVET tax, federal grants
Opening: Early 2016
Construction has begun to extend Link light rail from the current Sea-Tac Airport station to South 200th Street in the City of SeaTac. When completed, riders will enjoy frequent, reliable service from the elevated Angle Lake Station to the airport, downtown Seattle and the University of Washington
Length: 1.6 miles connect Sea-Tac Airport to South 200th Street
Rider projection: 5,400 daily riders coming and going from Angle Lake Station by 2018
Budget: $383 million
Funding partners: FTA, TIGER III grant funding, PSRC, WSDOT
Parking: 1,050 parking spots are planned for the parking garage at Angle Lake Station. This will relieve the constantly overflowing Tukwila park-and-ride.
3) East Link
East Link Extension will give riders a fast, frequent and reliable connection from the Eastside’s biggest population and employment centers to downtown Seattle, Sea-Tac Airport and the University of Washington. Ten stations will serve Seattle, Mercer Island, Bellevue, Bel-Red and Overlake in Redmond.
Length: 14 miles
Ride times: Mercer Island to University of Washington: 20 minutes
South Bellevue to Sea-Tac Airport: 50 minutes
Overlake Transit Center to Bellevue Transit Center: 10 minutes
Rider projection: About 50,000 riders will use East Link every day by 2030.
Budget: $2.8 billion
The elevated Northgate Station will be located east of 1st Ave NE, spanning NE 103rd Street. Station entrances will be on the Northgate Mall property north of NE 103rd Street and near the Northgate Transit Center south of NE 103rd Street. This station will provide access to Northgate Mall, bus transfers at the transit center, adjacent park-and-ride facilities, North Seattle Community College and nearby homes and businesses.
Ride time: Northgate to downtown Seattle in 14 minutes
Rider projection: Approximately 15,000 daily riders will board the train at Northgate Station by 2030
Funding: Federal grants, motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) and local sales tax
This is the option we’re really excited about, but even if the voters approve it, we’re not thrilled with the timeline and we certainly aren’t expecting everything to work out peachy (call us jaded, but Bertha has left a sour taste).
This full-fledged system would connect the Tacoma Dome, downtown Renton, West Seattle, Issaquah, Kirkland, Woodinville, Everett, Fremont, Ballard—you name it, and this plan gives it light rail. THIS is a dreamed-for solution to our traffic woes, and it would put Seattle in a league with Chicago, New York, and London.
The downsides: cost and a thirty-year completion date. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Seattle’s transportation won’t get fixed in a few years.
With all these planned and proposed expansions, when would YOU start to use light rail instead of your car? Let us know as a comment!