Transformative transportation: U-Link opens to thousands

Transformative transportation: U-Link opens to thousands

Transformative transportation: U-Link opens to thousands

More than 30,000 people rode University Link light rail during its first day in service on Saturday, March 19, which included an opening celebration between the University of Washington and Capitol Hill.

While locals waited for the 10 a.m. public opening, a pre-funk event took place underground at the UW Station open to government officials, transit workers, the media and a select number of “Golden Ticket” contest winners, who were granted special passes good for free rides the next two weeks that came with a commemorative ORCA transit card.

“For me, it’s just exciting to see the opening festivities, even if it’s just an hour before the public,” said Andreas Piller, who won a Golden Ticket with Anne Massey. The Queen Anne couple plans to get a lot of mileage out of their tickets.

King County Executive Dow Constantine spoke to a crowd on the platform of the UW Station about U-Link’s impact on the city’s transportation system — six months ahead of schedule and $200 million under budget — and how more improvements could be possible if voters approve the Sound Transit 3 (ST3) funding measure in November. Sound Transit expects to have a working plan soon for ST3 ready for the public’s review.

“We’re giving ourselves the high-capacity transit system we have always needed,” Constantine said on Saturday. “So, from now on, you won’t have to sit through traffic on the Ship Canal Bridge. From now on, you won’t have to build an extra half-hour into your day, just in case there’s a traffic jam. From now on, you will be able to get to where you want to be on time, every time. That is the change that is coming to Seattle, King County and our region.” 

Constantine was joined by student representatives from UW in signaling U-Link’s launch by pressing a large button with a red arrow, turning it green and drawing in light rail trains for the inaugural 3.15-mile ride to Capitol Hill. Many throughout the day timed the trip — advertised as four minutes — coming in either on time or often faster.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray was joined by First Man Michael Shiosaki in pulling the ceremonial cord to open the Capitol Hill Station, but not before first clarifying he did not choose the music playing. That turned out to be “Celebration,” by Kool & The Gang.

“Today, we celebrate, and tomorrow, we go to work and we pass Sound Transit 3, so we can get on the station in Capitol Hill and go to West Seattle or Ballard,” Murray said.

Murray noted that U-Link took seven years for union laborers to complete and without any serious injuries.

Since the opening on Saturday, commuters have been expressing their excitement about having U-Link as a new option for getting to and from work. King County Metro will make a series of bus changes on Saturday, March 26, that are expected to better pair with light rail service.

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