Public Interest Transportation Forum -

Opening Day for Seattle's light rail, July 18, 2009


Waiting for southbound train at the north terminus, Westlake Station, noon, opening day

Aboard the train after loading at Westlake Station, 12:04 p.m., opening day

Platform at the Beacon Hill tunnel station, 2:14 p.m. opening day

Mt. Baker Station ground level, 1:36 p.m. opening day

Mt. Baker Station Platform, 1:50 p.m. opening day

Waiting for northbound train at south terminus, Tukwila Station, 12:39 p.m. opening day

A friend of Public Interest Transportation Forum rode on the Link Light Rail on opening day starting at Westlake, and snapped the photos on this page.

This light rail line covers some but not all of the segment that was originally planned to be opened in July of 2006. A comparison of what service was pledged consistently through January 2001 to be open three years ago, and what actually has been delivered to date was recently summarized by television station KING Channel 5.

Sound Transit has reported 51,000 train boardings on opening day. Our friend who took these photos accounted for four of these boardings, because during the day he left the train to observe the art work and people at two other stations on the way back to his origination point at Westlake after he made a return boarding at Tukwila.

Leaving the train to look at the most dramatic (and expensive!) of the stations was a common practice on opening day.

In summary, our friend entered the train at Westlake, Tukwila, Mt. Baker, and Beacon Hill.  If we assume the average first day light rail rider boarded the train only three times, the 51,000 boardings amount to 17,000 different people riding on opening day. Surely the average customer boarded at least twice, in order to have a round trip. That would mean 51,000 boardings translate to 25,500 different people on opening day.

Both 17 thousand and 26 thousand are much lighter than the 100,000 -- boardings or customers was never clear -- Sound Transit said the past few months that it was preparing for.

Here is an observation our photographer friend wrote to us: "Inside the light rail car just after it left the Westlake Station,  I counted approximately 55 standees. That would make the total number of riders on this car 129 -- nowhere near the 175 ST claimed they were going to put on each car, or the 200 Sound Transit claims is the capacity of each car."

At 175 passengers per rail car, the two-car trains used by Sound Transit on this line could carry 350 people each.  On opening day, the schedule was to have eight trains per hour departing each station in the one or two directions it is possible to go at each station. That's a one-way train capacity per hour of 2,800 customers.

Since the 17,000 to 25,500 customers on opening day were spread throughout the 12 stations of the system in two directions and throughout the 10 hours of train operation, the ultimate capacity of Link was certainly not challenged on opening day.


Route Map of Link light rail: Entertainment at most stations except Sodo and Stadium Station, ribbon cutting at Mt. Baker Station. Link Offers easy connections to trains, buses and other transit options.
Map image from Sound Transit web site at (July 18, 2009)


Following video is by Oran Viriyincy taken in November 2009 following the July opening. This video is over the operator's shoulder out the front of the train from the Westlake Station to the SODO Station.


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Last modified: December 24, 2012