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Monday, June 26, 2006

Adventures in Urban Transporation

Posted by on June 26 at 13:23 PM

Last week I traveled to the fine city of Minneapolis, home of Prince, two-for-one beers, and light rail.

The light rail line, called the Hiawatha Line, runs from the Warehouse District in downtown Minneapolis, out past both of the area’s airports, and finally deadends, fittingly enough, at the Mall of America. It’s a simple line with 17 stations, but it’s not a hassle and works great (just $1.50 and 25 minutes to the airports). My only complaint: A wretched, high-pitched shriek of an alarm that pierces the ear drums whenever a car’s door is closing. At 5:30 a.m., it’s not the most pleasant sound to experience 14 times.

Still, I’ll take hearing loss over my experience when trying to get back into Seattle from Sea-Tac, when bus 194—pretty much my only option unless I felt like forking over something close to $60 for a cab ride—broke down near Safeco Field.

Thankfully, as our afflicted bus made its way out of Sea-Tac we passed major construction on our very own light rail line, under which a massive banner promised: “Ride the Rail to the Airport in 2009!”

It may be long overdue—and will no doubt be way over budget by the time it’s done—but if our light rail works as well as the one in Minneapolis, all will be forgiven. Just keep the ear drum piercing to a minimum, okay Sound Transit?

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Although it's not comparable to light rail, there is Airport Express, which will run you around $20. Certainly cheaper than a cab ride.

Not making an absolutist statement saying that "cab ride = good" or anything, but as someone who lives in Seattle and who takes a cab home from the airport, it usually costs me around $32 + tip. Not cheap, but not no sixty gol-damned dollars, neither.

Just sayin'.

Hey Yogi, you're probably right. $60 was based on my past experiences, each of which most likely involved I-5 being a parking lot.


I take cabs too and from the airport. It usually costs $40, with tip. Which means... $80, to and from, for one trip—compared to under $5, to and from, if you live in a city with real transit.

Oh, and Airport Express? Good if you want to leave for the airport six or seven hours before you need to be there. You drive around, for hours, picking other folks up. You'll save money, but... Christ! Who has the time?

Pretty sure I read recently that the light rail construction is under budget at present.

Sadly, the schedules posted on Sound Transit's web site show the light rail line getting from downtown to the airport in about the same amount of time as the 194 bus - a little over half an hour. It will help at those times when the highway is a parking lot, though, which can be expected to happen more often as the city continues to grow faster than transit infrastructure, and young professionals with single-occupancy cars move into all these new condos.

But remember: Light rail was overbudget before it was underbudget—by billions of dollars. Take it away, Josh!

Exciting indeed to see the columns going up. As the construction and subsequent phase staging continues to progress on light rail, you see nearly done stations along the busway downtown, the ramp up from Forest St. to the tunnel being dug through Beacon Hill, heavy machinery rail-laying along MLK (new condos - apparently - already lining the new route), and the elevated track bed sections scattered around below the columns near completion that cross I-5 at the Boeing Access Rd. (Damn you, I-5.) Hurry up, let's go!

From our house the cab is about $50 with tip, which is still a heck of a lot less than paying for airport parking. The 194 doesn't go anywhere near here. And best of all, cab drivers are frequently reckless and insane, which makes for a 12 minute trip from Woodlake Ridge.

As governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura had to fight Republicans in the state legislature to get that light rail line built.

Seattle *needs* this. And when I say Seattle, I don't just mean the Island itself (as the Monorail project did), I mean Seattle in the truly relevant sense; that of everyone in all the surrounding communities that have a stake in the city.

Real Mass Transit is coming, Seattle, and it started -- no shit -- in freaking Tacoma. Metro 1, Island 0.

Go to Portland or Van, ride the MAX or the SkyTrain, then come back to Seattle for a bit, and tell me you don't miss them. Just a little.

Regarding comparisons to the 194, note also that the train will run way more often than the 194 does currently. (I believe it'll be every 6-15 minutes including nights and weekends vs. every 15-35 minutes on a more limited schedule for the 194.)

A few years ago, I waited up to about 25 minutes past the posted arrival time for the 194 at sea-tac on a sunday evening before deciding to pay $30 plus bucks for a cab back to seattle. In some ways, seattle really sucks(:(:.

so does anyone have any idea why Shuttle Express here in Seattle is, in my experience, the most expensive airport shuttle service in the US? Sometimes triple what other shuttles in other cities charge for longer distances.

I travel a lot and am consistently amazed at how much Shuttle Express charges. Right now, they've got a fuel surchrage, which places their price higher than a cab from SEA to Ballard.

Shuttle Express is expensive because they can get away with it. The line of thinking is: if shuttle express costs that much, I don't even want to KNOW what a cab would cost.

Best deal for downtowners/cap hillers/queen anners? Take the Airporter from Sea/Tac to the closest downtown hotel. I think it's $14 or something like that.

Better the 194 than the 174, at least...

I've taken the 194 several dozen times, have never had it break down, and usually avoids bad traffic as it spins off to the bus-only road in south Seattle.

Part of why I enjoy 194 is the journey through all the tagged murals on the bus-only road.

Can't beat that for two bucks (or a buck twenty-five whenever the driver forgets it's a two-zone deal, which is often.)

Hearing all the people above who actually pay for Shuttle Express, which is WORSE than a cab because you have to wait for all the slow-pokes to get themselves on the shuttle before getting you to the airport just before your flight leaves, no wonder people complain about public transportation here. People here are too lazy to do any research on where King County Metro or Sound Transit will take them. It's just a search engine query, folks. It's not rocket science.

I've probably saved $700 on transit to and from SeaTac from Seattle overall thanks to the 194 (or, if need be, the 174) bus. Sometimes, patience has its virtues.

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