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Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

July 21, 2009 at 3:29 PM

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Real commuters get on board the light rail

Posted by Gabriel Campanario

I wasn't able to take the light rail when it opened on Saturday. As you may know, I was busy drawing frogs and soapbox cars. But this morning I rode it from Westlake to Tukwila and back. On a real work day with real commuters --you may remember I went on a ride for the press in June.

The experience felt great. Besides the occasional family going on a fun ride with their kids, there were commuters going where they'd normally go taking the bus or driving. I saw people from all sorts of places and walks of life jumping on board. The ride felt as if mass transit has always been here, even if it's only a few days old.

Here are some of the folks I met along the way between 9:15 and 11:45 this morning.

lightrailprofessor072109m.jpg

9:21 a.m.: Michael Meyer was travelling to the airport after coming to town for a conference. As it turns out, he is a professor of transportation engineering at Georgia Tech and was on the light rail advisory panel until a couple of years ago. I talked to him as he was holding his luggage with one hand and his ticket with the other one. He was very impressed with the system. "One of the better ones I've seen around the world," he said, also pointing out that he thought the ride would cost more than just $2.50. "The cost is very reasonable," he said.

lynnwoodcommuter072109m.jpg

9:34 a.m.: Over in the next car I met Gregory Ware, of Lynnwood, who was on his way to work. He counted on his fingers all the buses he usually takes: the 101, the 301 and then the 42 to the Othello-MLK Way area. With light rail he says he's going to cut down his commute by 20 or 25 minutes. As we approached his station he told me he would still be waiting for the 42 if he had taken the bus. He is a happy light-rail commuter. "A lot of people have been looking forward to it," he said.

mercerislandcouple072109m.jpg

9:46 a.m.: As we got closer to Tukwila the train was almost empty. I stopped to chat with Eckhard Schipull and his wife Vivianne, who had taken a bus from Mercer Island to dowtown before getting on board. They wanted to test it since they plan to use it when they go to the airport. "We should have had this a long time ago," Vivianne said. A big soccer fan, Eckhard also plans to take light rail to go see the Sounders play at Qwest Field. Our conversation quickly switched to talk about Real Madrid and Barcelona after he mentioned soccer.

tukwila072109m.jpg

10:30 a.m. After getting off at Tukwila I checked out the public art outside for a few minutes --sketch coming tomorrow-- and headed back inside. The lines at the two machines to buy tickets were quickly growing as a steady flow of people arrived from the airport.

kentyoungman072109m.jpg

10:41 a.m. Back on the train I met Brandon Asuncion, from the Des Moines-Kent area. He was with his family and said they wanted to ride it for fun. Also, they had to go downtown and didn't want to have to look for a parking spot.

israeltraveller072109m.jpg

11:33 a.m. While I was in Tukwila a Sound Transit staffer had given me a brochure of the public art along the system, so I decided to get off in Columbia City to check out another piece. After doing the obligatory sketch that I will post tomorrow, I went back to the platform but had to wait longer than expected. Two trains went in the other direction but none came from Tukwila for about 20 minutes. When one finally arrived, Cody Little, of Seattle, told me they had been making long stops at previous stations. He was coming from the airport after an 18-hour flight from Israel via Philadelphia. He seemed frustrated because he said it only takes him 25 minutes to drive home and had already spent 40 minutes just to get to Columbia City. Still, he's glad for the new system and plans to use it "if it goes this fast," he said as the train was finally picking up speed.

Here are links to some of my previous light rail related blog posts:
Seattle media jumps on light rail
Countdown to light rail: 79 days
Interurban car 55, the light rail of the early 1900s
Countdown to light rail: 51 days

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