Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Longing for the Subway

on October 25, 2010
Light rail vehicle, East (northbound) platform...

Image via Wikipedia

I never thought I would miss the New York City Subway.  I spent four years standing on the smelly platforms in often sweltering heat or freezing cold, squishing into overcrowded cars, and dealing with guys who felt the need to sprawl (trust me guys, there is nothing down there requires you to spread your legs out across two seats. You aren’t fooling anyone.)  However, three years out of the city and I find myself longing for the time when public transportation was easy.

When I was a child in the early 80s, Seattle and Portland (Oregon) seriously studied the idea of light rail and other ways of moving people in and out of the downtown areas. They looked at other cities’ systems, drew up plans, and got community input. Portland went ahead and built their MAX, an ever expanding system of light rail trains that reach well into the suburbs and opened in the mid 80s.  Seattle continued to “study” the issue.

Flash-forward nearly 30 years.  Seattle finally celebrates the opening of their first Link Light Rail line which goes from near the airport to downtown (the completed part to the airport would take another year).  I’ve been on the train a few times and it’s nice. However, with such a limited run, most people never use it.

During that time, Seattle also decided to build a bus tunnel underneath the city. It opened in 1990.  I always questioned this decision. I mean really, was it a good idea to build a big tunnel underneath the downtown section of one of the most earthquake prone cities in the world? The idea was to decrease surface traffic, but I think all that happened was they added more buses. In 2005, the closed the tunnel to retrofit it for the forthcoming light rail trains. It reopened in Sept. 2007 and the trains started in July 2009.

However, this is all fine and dandy if you live within the downtown area. Outside that small area, you are left to buses.  The city buses aren’t too bad – there are plenty of routes and a good number of buses.  I live about twenty miles north, though, and the options are significantly less. There are a few buses downtown and a few to the University. When I was in grad school, I had to go down to school three hours early because that was the last southbound bus for the day.

Long term plans include extending the light rail trains to the East Side and to the North. There is a few commuter trains to the south and one to the north, and that may expand in the future.  I never thought I would find myself missing the NYC subway, but the convenience and relative reliability were actually quite nice.


One response to “Longing for the Subway

  1. […] know I’ve discussed this before, but Seattle has horrid transportation. It’s only been in the last year or so that I have […]

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