First day passengers pay for Seattle light rail

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by By KING Staff and Associated Press

NWCN.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:36 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 24 at 12:35 PM

Video: Link light rail hauls first commuters

SEATTLE - After 92,000 passengers tried out Seattle's new light rail line over the weekend for free, the first fare-paying commuters boarded trains Monday on the 14-mile line between downtown Seattle and Tukwila.

After a very light morning commute, the afternoon trains were mostly full. Many of the southbound passengers were heading to Sea-Tac Airport.

"Saw it on the news the last couple of days so we figured we'd take it and try it out," said one man, rolling his suitcase down the walkway.

Two women from Las Vegas saw the trains on test runs when they first arrived in Seattle.

"We saw it going the other way and we asked what that was and they said it was a new thing that's going to start Monday. So we decided we're going to take it because it's history!" said one of them.

Video

The 14-mile system from Westlake Mall to Tukwila stops just shy of Sea-Tac Airport, but a free shuttle bus takes passengers into the airport for now. Come December, trains will go directly into the terminal.

"I've been waiting about 25 years (for this)," says Sue Ledbetter. "So I'm happy to see they finally got a link to the airport."

Fares range from $1.75 to $2.50. Riders buy tickets at vending machines or use pre-paid Orca smart cards. Bus passes and transfer slips are also recognized.

The first train left just after 5 a.m.

The $2.4 billion transit system officially opened Saturday. More than 51,000 people road the rails in the 10-hour service. On Sunday, there were 41,000 boardings in 8 hours.

Light rail carries riders 14 miles between Seattle and Tukwila, with several stops in between.

The opening of the line follows more than four decades of political and financial struggles over rail transit in Seattle.

Riders we spoke with are elated it's finally a reality.

"I think it definitely makes Seattle a world-class city... look forward to it actually expanding," said Jason Oliver.

Construction of the city's new mass transit system took five years and cost $2.3 billion. By the end of the year Sound Transit says light rail will reach Sea-Tac Airport.

By 2016, a $1.9 billion tunnel will reach the University of Washington. And voters have already approved spending $18 billion to extend lines to suburban stops in Lynnwood, Federal Way and Redmond.

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