Saturday brought a surprise for Maurie and me. Our first ride on the new Central Link light rail line. We'd gone down to Pike Place to look for something, but after being in the crowds for a bit, we didn't really want to go back into a hot apartment with all the noise from the Seafair Torchlight Parade going on that evening.
We ended up going down into the transit tunnel (feels weird not calling the bus tunnel any more!) I was hoping to get a look at a Link train. But none were at the platform. Maurie says I was a bit crestfallen at that. While we were on the mezzanine, one did pull in. We looked down on it, and Maurie suggested taking the train for a ride. So, off to figure out how to do the payment and ride.
One of the Sount Transit folks told us I could just tap my ORCA card to the reader, and Maurie just needed to show her Puget Pass if asked. So, we boarded and headed south to Tukwila station.
The ride was very nice. Quite quick to get down through Seattle. We left Westlake station at about 6, I think, and the southbound train was full. No vacant seats, and a lot of people standing. As we went south, nuturally, it thinned out some. But by the time we reached Tukwila station, there were still plenty of riders.
We de-boarded at Tukwila, thinking we'd have to move over to the other track for the northbound train. There was no indication that the train we just arrived on would just reverse direction from its place in the station. So, after looking for a bathroom (and finding one open porta-potty that badly needed service), we got on what we thought was the next northbound train.
We rode back north to Columbia City where we got off the train to see a movie. The first thing we noticed when we got off the train was that in the small park next to the station was a sign listing what was nearby...restaurants, cinema, shops, a market, etc. Maurie had been commenting on the ride north that something like this would be very helpful for riders.
As we walked through Columbia City, we noticed that the business district was still fairly lively. Several folks walking the street, a few businesses still open, lots of restaurants and bars open. In nearly every window was a poster welcoming Link riders. Most every business had a special for people who show their ride ticket or ORCA card. For example, the Columbia City Cinema offers $2 off adult tickets in the evening (I can't remember what they were for matinee showings).
We dropped into the Columbia City Alehouse for an appetizer and beer and then walked the neighborhood until our 9:40 movie.
After the movie, we caught a 12:30 train back to Westlake. This train had a handful of other riders. The south-bound trains out of Seattle were more full with people leaving the city.
We really enjoyed the ride. It will make it so much easier to get to points south of downtown. A couple of observations:
- Bathrooms at the stations need to be better maintained (only porta-potties at one? what's with that?)
- Fare/payment system is confusing. Require every rider to obtain a ticket from the ticket vending machine. And fit them to read Puget Passes!
- The art work at the stops is awesome! It really makes the stops more inviting.
All in all, I'm glad we had the unplanned evening out on the train, especially since I turn in my ORCA pass on Friday at the end of my current contract.