It's the apex of holiday time and again we're confronted with planes, trains and automobiles...and light rail. Here in Seattle, the final stop on the Link Light Rail system opened on Saturday, finally connecting the 15.7 miles between downtown and SeaTac airport. Almost.
Catching your plane via light rail isn't so simple. Somehow you've got to get to the train, and not by driving, as none of the stations have parking lots. Once on Link, you won't find luggage racks. And finally, after you reach the spanking-new SeaTac station, you debark onto a platform 60 feet in the air.
From there, you've got to schlep your luggage outdoors, unprotected from cold and wind, down a level, across a bridge, and the length of the enormous parking structure (which holds 13,000 cars, ostensibly the largest garage in the world), finally crossing over to the terminal--where you start the indoors hike to your airline. (Rental of a luggage cart is $4.)
As the Seattle Times suggests, "With its open-air walkways, chill breezes, highway and tarmac vistas, visible pipes ans jet fumes, the station seems to celebrate the maelstrom that is modern air travel." The article continues, "People-movers were not built, because those would cost millions, nor do the Port and Sound Transit keep electric carts, rental wheelchairs or pedicabs at the station."
Well, what do you expect for $2.3 billion? And that was for the first 14 miles of track that opened in July. Latest reports show that November ridership slipped to its lowest level.
This is of interest as my family prepares for travel to Hawaii (oh, yes!) where my husband will continue working and the rest of us plan to soak up a few of those 80-degree rays. We're not checking luggage, given that the first piece costs $15 each way, and we've got heavy "personal items" and must tote our Northwest coats.
Is the light rail an attractive means to reach the airport? Well, let's see: It takes longer for us to drive to the nearest station than it would to get to the airport and be dropped off right in front of our airline. The cost of gas is no more for all of us to ride in one car than the multiple fares on Light Rail would be. And with a car drop-off, there's no grappling with bags down stairs and during a lenghty (and time-consuming) outdoor walk.
Funny, I've asked several groups if anyone's tried the Link light rail, and not a single person has. Why not? Because we value our time, our convenience and our money. Greg Nickels, outgoing mayor who proudly cut the ribbon at the SeaTac station opening Saturday, is hoping that people will forego all of the above, in sync with a liberal philosophy that views cars as evil and independence as selfish.
Taxpayers who wouldn't ride light rail are forced to pay for it. Even the liberals who support mass transit in principle won't sacrifice time and effort to take Light Rail to the airport when cars are so much easier and faster. Our left-leaning government thinks it knows best how we should travel, but no one's willing to give up personal freedom and comfort. I'll be eager to see if Mayor Nickels or any other politican toasting the new station Saturday ever rides light rail again.