Thursday, August 20, 2009

Expanded mass transit in Seattle--a long time coming

Pacific Northwesterners are an interesting lot. Many are passionate about the environment and social justice, yet they have this independent, pioneering and entrepreneurial streak that holds enough suspicion about taxes to keep things in check.

Seattle is probably one of the last major cities to implement some sort of rail component to their mass transit system. My Granddad was against it, as were many Seattle area residents. I think some of them were scared off by the Seattle Center Monorail--a space age transport idea back in the 1960's that became a bit of a money pit and had low ridership.

After living in Washington D.C. and Copenhagen, and taking other rail systems as a tourist (London, Oslo, Munich, Stockholm, Edmonton, Chicago) I came to love mass transit. I appreciate minimizing parking and traffic headaches, and giving me an opportunity to read and think before I arrived to work. Is there a little less freedom on the rail? Sure, but for me the pros outweigh the cons. After many crazy drives into downtown Seattle in my lifetime, I was giddy with excitement about getting on the Central Link, dropping off the car and taking my girls and visitors on the rail ride into Seattle. My girls loved the trip and what they saw--they weren't the only ones excited--a slew of children shouted with glee over every little pass: "Wow! The Beacon Hill tunnel!" I didn't think that part was so exciting, but I was happy for them.

We got off the train, walked calmly into a restaurant, and enjoyed a nice lunch with minimal stress to begin our day in Seattle. Is Central Link a perfect set up? No--I think there should be more parking available near stops--I also miss some of the vendors near the stops as in other systems. In the end, I was pleased, and I'm looking forward to my next ride on the rail--Seattle opportunities feel that much closer and reasonable.

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