Here are some questions and answers about the new light-rail line opening Oct. 2 between Husky Stadium and Northgate.
What’s the route?
The light-rail corridor will now reach underground stations in the University District and Roosevelt neighborhoods, and aboveground at Northgate, stretching the Seattle-SeaTac line to 24 miles.
When does it open?
The first southbound train will leave Northgate at 4:51 a.m. Saturday. Opening-day service follows the weekend schedule of trips every 12 minutes early mornings, 10 minutes during the day, and 15 minutes late nights. Weekday trains will arrive as often as every eight minutes in peak hours.
Where’s the party?
Unlike grand openings in 2009 and 2016, Sound Transit won’t hold a Northgate Station plaza party and ceremonial first ride. Spokesperson John Gallagher said that’s because it would wreak havoc with normal Saturday bus and train trips.
The U District Partnership will sponsor an opening-day festival with music and food on University Way Northeast, and a smaller event is in the works at Roosevelt Station. At Northgate, a 10 a.m. ceremony is planned to name the walk-bike bridge over Interstate 5 for the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., champion of voting rights and Black equality.
What’s the fare?
The new top fare is $3.50 from Northgate Station to SeaTac/Airport or Angle Lake stations. Other adult fares vary by distance, from $2.25 to $3.25 each way. Riders who forget to tap their fare cards getting off the train will pay the full fare.
Many discounts exist, including zero-fare ORCA cards for income-eligible Seattle public middle school and all Seattle public high school students, a $1 fare for senior or disabled passholders, and $1.50 for low-income adults who use an ORCALift card.
Sound Transit this month launched an experimental “fare ambassador” system in which staff will check passengers’ passes and trip tickets, but issue advice instead of citations to nonpayers. They’ll hand out 5,000 ORCA cards preloaded with $10 of fare opening week, and register people for ORCALift at Northgate and Roosevelt stations Oct. 6-7.
What’s the route number?
Sound Transit has begun to label its Link light-rail corridor from Angle Lake to Northgate as the “1 Line,” with a white numeral over a green circle.
For many years, officials planned to call it the Red Line, followed by a Blue Line to the Eastside in 2023. But advocacy groups objected that “Red Line” evokes “redlining,” the 20th-century practice of excluding people of color from homeownership through banking and insurance discrimination, and even whites-only sales covenants in many Seattle neighborhoods.
“Though dozens of agencies worldwide use a Red Line in their systems, we agree that in English and in North America, the term Red Line unavoidably carries the weight of that racist legacy. We can do without it, so we will,” staffer Zee Shaner wrote in an update last spring.
How much did the new line cost?
Sound Transit is finishing $52 million under its $1.9 billion budget to build from University of Washington Station (Husky Stadium) to Northgate, said Ron Lewis, executive director of design, engineering and construction management. Leftover money can help fund future projects in Seattle and Shoreline. Transit-board members scrapped a voter-approved First Hill Station, but the university wound up getting two stations.
The agency currently charges residents and businesses an annual property tax of $25 per $100,000 of assessed value; car-tab tax of $110 per $10,000 of value, based on a state matrix that inflates a newer vehicle’s worth; sales tax of 14 cents per $10 purchase; and car-rental tax of 80 cents per $100 rent.
What’s the ridership?
The three new stations are projected to add 41,000-49,000 passengers per day to 80,000 daily boardings at the 16 other stops pre-COVID-19. But pandemic jitters and telework are expected to deter transit commuters worldwide. Low demand might be offset by new station-area housing, U District housing and office towers, and the Kraken Community Iceplex at Northgate.
How quick are trains?
From Northgate Station, travelers can reach the U District in five minutes and International District/Chinatown Station in 18 minutes. Trips to the airport take 49 minutes.
How many people can fit?
The original Kinkisharyo rail cars provide 74 seats, while the new Siemens railcars, which display blue lights on the sides, contain 70 seats. But the Siemens railcars are roomier in the midsection, so 10 to 12 more people can ride comfortably.
Ideal capacity is considered 150 per rail car, where half the people stand but don’t jostle. (Sound Transit’s official max load is about 200 people, which crowds experience leaving a sports event.)
Sound Transit will operate four rail cars per train, for ideal capacity of 600 people, or 4,500 riders per hour per direction, at peak eight-minute frequency. If demand grows and more rail cars arrive, capacity can be doubled by sending trains every four minutes.
Is there park-and-ride?
Sound Transit’s Northgate Station Garage provides 447 free stalls just north of the train stop, including nine wheelchair-accessible spaces. Another 1,078 stalls are located at nearby Northgate Mall Garage, a Metro surface park-and-ride lot and the Thornton Place retail garage.
What’s happening to my bus?
Dozens of routes will change Saturday to deliver riders to the train stations, or to rescue commuter buses from downtown, U District and I-5 gridlock.
The biggest shifts affect Snohomish County commuters. Community Transit’s 800-series buses to UW, and Sound Transit’s 511, 512 and 513 to downtown Seattle, will terminate at Northgate Station, where travelers will finish their trips by light rail.
People wanting a one-seat trip can choose Community Transit’s 400 series or ST Express 510 that will stay on I-5 to downtown.
Ten Metro lines will stop at U District Station, including busy Route 44 from Ballard. Seattle DOT will convert one eastbound lane on Northeast 45th Street into a red bus lane by mid-October — a new reason for motorists to steer clear of traffic snarls in the U District.