Here’s what the light rail means for these north Seattle commuters

Three new light rail stations open this Saturday in North Seattle at Northgate, Roosevelt and University District.

This is an important moment for Seattle. For the first time, Seattle’s north and south will be truly connected by light rail, a dream that’s at least 25 years old.

We asked people what this moment meant to them.

At the Northgate Transit Center, bus commuters congregate at the curb. Every few minutes, a bus stops and takes them away.

Across a parking lot, the new Northgate light rail station catches the morning sun.

Jamie Holter plans to take full advantage of it when it opens. As she waited for a slow bus, she told me about her commute. Sometimes his bus gets stuck in traffic jams. But when the new station opens, its trip to the University of Washington Tower will only take five minutes.

“I went to the U-District station where they were putting the finishing touches, and got a selfie,” she says. “And I was like, I’m so excited. Because nobody wants to drive up to the U-District – it’s a total nightmare.

She also says it will be much easier when friends ask for a ride to the airport. “Now you can say ‘Yes, I will. I’ll take you to Northgate. And that’s all I’ll go, baby, “she said.

The ride from Northgate to Sea-Tac Airport takes 49 minutes.

At this particular bus stop, not all commuters were so excited. I met a lot of commuters who were going to First Hill, where there are several hospitals in town.

There is no light rail station on First Hill. “So in my case it will have very little practical effect,” says commuter Steven Gaynor. “There is no way in the world that taking the train is any better.”

His answer evokes a bit of history. When King County voters first approved LRT in 1996, plans at the time called for a station on First Hill. But it cost too much, because the ground is unstable there, and the agency scuttled it. Instead, he built a streetcar from First Hill to the Capitol Hill light rail station. It was a consolation prize.

For some of those commuters waiting for a bus at the Northgate Transit Center, the arrival of the light rail is already influencing how and where they choose to live.

Mireylle Muhoza is currently making the hour-long shuttle bus ride to work. She’s looking for a new apartment, maybe around Roosevelt station. “One of the things I thought about a lot is how close the light rail station would be to my house, so that it could be easy for me to get around,” she says.

There are thousands of apartments under construction – or soon under construction – around each of the three new stations. And of course, there will be even more housing to choose from when the light rail arrives in Bellevue and Redmond in 2023, or Lynnwood and Federal Way in 2024.

On this particular rainy morning, more commuters expressed their enthusiasm for the light rail than their skepticism. Sound Transit expects these three new stations to attract between 40 and 50,000 new passengers per day, which is 50% more passengers than the system carried in 2019.

Regarding these projections, let’s address the elephant in the room: Could the pandemic result in fewer light rail passengers than experts predict?

It is possible, especially in the short term when many people are still working remotely.

But some commuters suggest the pandemic hasn’t actually crushed our need to explore the city. Instead, they say the urge to explore has just stifled and these new stations could unleash that energy into the world.

Paul Mullin, for example, who was waiting for a Northgate bus, actually lives closer to Roosevelt station. He is excited about the difference this new station could make for his two teenage sons. “I just think they’re going to be more mobile,” he says. “And I think it’s great. You know, especially since the pandemic, when everyone is so islander, I’d just like to see my boys go out and love, talk to people, try different foods, and just experiment – be. out of the house, frankly. “

And now they might be heading to the U-District, which is full of great restaurants.

There is an ice cream shop right outside the station called Sweet Alchemy. Owner Lois Ko says she has waited years for this station to open. “I think Sound Transit estimates that 10,000 people will be using this exit every day, and I can’t wait,” she said. “I’m so excited, especially heading into 2020 where I had to look for clients, and then contact them, then deliver to them…” she interrupts. “So after going through this struggle, I can’t wait.” She can’t wait to be busy again and to extend the hours of her store.

She blended in a special ice cream flavor to celebrate the grand opening of the U-District: Blueberry Lavender and UW Honey. It’s purple and gold of course.

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