The 13.9-mile Central Link light rail that runs from Westlake Station to Tukwila International Boulevard Station opened for service last week on July 18, giving out free rides during its inauguration. Sound Transit is planning an extension of the service all the way to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which will open in December. Though it doesn’t have many riders yet, Sound Transit anticipates 21,000 daily riders by the end of this year.
The light rail will be significant to the Asian American community. During its inaugural run, there were many Asian Americans on board. We see it enhancing business in the International District. Last weekend, people visited Uwajimaya because of its proximity to the light rail station in the ID. There were many people who have not visited the ID before, and they took the opportunity to explore after they got off the rail.
One person was overheard saying, “Uwajimaya has added apartments.” This struck us because Uwajimaya added apartments to its grocery story about 10 years ago. It has evidently been a while since some people have been in the ID.
The light rail is making it easier to visit these places. It is good because it will elevate the district’s status as an attraction, a must-see part of the city. We think the light rail is a long-awaited (and much needed) alternative to hours in traffic, not to mention it’s also more environmentally friendly than driving cars everywhere. Seattle has been behind in comparison to other large cities in terms of public transportation. Though it took a while to come to fruition, we are glad that to finally see some changes.
It was great that Sound Transit employees came out to volunteer to make sure everything was smooth. The rides were organized and we hope it is a sign of things to come.
We do have a few observations. Our rail is not as beautiful as many of the ones in Asian cities. You might ask, “Who cares about how pretty it is if it works well?” Well, there was not very much information on the train, inside or outside. Perhaps this will come later?
Arrival times of light rails aren’t yet posted at the stations. Instead, some Sound Transit employees did not know about arrival times. Real time updates would be nice in the future. There is also a for us concern in regards to safety. Despite signs that tell riders to stay off the tracks, some might still disregard the danger because it is easy to walk cross to the opposite tracks.
It’s very nice that the ID was included as a stop. The location is convenient, close to Pioneer Square and SoDo. But in other places, it’s quite a walk to get to a light rail station, such as Beacon Hill.
With the stop on Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Rainier Avenue, it’s a lengthy walk to get to the hub of the area. This is a concern of many community organizations that serve Asians, especially since many of these organizations’ clients are elderly and may not be able to take advantage of the light rail because of the distance.
These are things that the city needs to think about for the future. ♦