All Aboard! Get to Know Seattle’s Transit and Light Rail

Aug. 15, 2016 Moving to Seattle


Continuing our series discussing Seattle Transit for those moving or new to the Puget Sound, we introduce Link light rail. Operated by Sound Transit, the light rail travels from Sea-Tac Airport to University of Washington, with 13 stops in between. It’s similar to riding a subway, but primarily above ground (Westlake and International District stations are in Seattle Transit tunnels).

As shown in the graph above, the Link light rail has seen an increase in ridership over the last year, which is largely due to the recent openings of two new and highly-requested stations – the UW Station and the Capitol Hill Station. There is a currently a second Link light rail in Tacoma, which makes six stops through Downtown Tacoma. It’s not connected to Seattle just yet, but is planned for expansion in the next couple of decades; however, if you’re living and working down in Pierce county now, the light rail may be an option for you, too.

What is ST3 / Sound Transit 3?

With the increase in residents taking Seattle transit, the light rail expansion planning is far from over. Sound Transit is also working on expansions well into the year 2040! ST3, an expansion plan created by the Sound Transit Board, is scheduled to be on the ballot in November. To secure the proper funding, the plan must pass with flying colors. On average, the ST3 plan would cost taxpayers about $14 per month.

The plan is largely based on input from the public, and if passed in November, will include the following light rail extensions:

  • 62 miles of light rail with stations that will serve 37 additional areas in the Puget Sound
  • A speed-up of currently funded and passed extensions by 2-5 years
  • Access north to Everett (As part of previous plans, the Northgate station opens in 2021 & Lynnwood in 2023)
  • Access south to connect to Tacoma (As part of previous plans, South 200th Link opens in 2016 & Federal Way in 2023)
  • Access southwest to West Seattle with stops at the West Seattle Junction
  • Access west and northwest to Queen Anne, Wallingford, Westlake, Fremont and Ballard neighborhoods
  • Access east to the East Side as far north as Downtown Redmond and as far south as Issaquah (As part of previous plans, the East link expansion, with stations connecting Seattle, Mercer Island, Bellevue, and Microsoft’s Redmond campus will open in 2023)

For a more in-depth view of all future light rail plans, take a look at this custom Google Map. Also, for a map of all of ST3 additions (including express busses and the Sounder) check Sound Transit’s interactive map.