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Seattle's LINK Light Rail to Seatac Airport: A Real Bargain and a Sweet Ride!

Get to Seatac Airport Quickly and on the Cheap with Sound Transit's LINK Light Rail

by Paul Diamond Blow

Seattle's LINK train running on elevated tracks

After hearing a lot of good things about the Sound Transit LINK light rail system in Seattle, I finally had a chance to try it out for myself in September of 2010. I had a trip booked to Las Vegas and needed a ride to the airport so I used the LINK light rail to get me there from the Westlake Center in downtown Seattle. The last time I had to get to Seatac airport I took the Metro bus all the way, which was a long and slow two hour ride with many a stop. I am happy to report that the LINK light rail is a huge improvement over the Metro bus system and a real bargain to boot. For the low price of a $2.50 fare the LINK train got me to Seatac airport in 45 minutes and I must say it was a sweet ride.

The Sound Transit LINK light rail runs it's airport service from as far north as the Westlake Center in downtown Seattle. Monday through Saturday the trains run every 10-15 minutes (more frequently during commute hours) from 5:00 AM until 1:00 AM. Sundays the LINK trains run every 15 minutes from 5:00 AM until midnight. Between the Westlake Center and Seatac airport the LINK trains make just eleven stops: at University Street, Pioneer Square, the International District, the stadium, the SODO district, Beacon Hill, Mount Baker, Columbia City, Othello, Rainier Beach, and Tukwila. The duration of each stop is roughly one and a half minutes.

Fares for the Sound Transit LINK light rail run from $1.75 to $2.50, depending on how far along the route you are traveling. My fare from the Westlake Center to Seatac airport was $2.50, which is a real bargain. Granted, you still must take a Metro bus to get to the LINK stations (which costs an additional $2.50), but still that is a heckuva lot cheaper than taking a taxi ($50), an airport shuttle ($30-up), or driving your own car and paying for airport parking. Each LINK light rail station has kiosks where you purchase your tickets with either cash or credit cards. Oddly enough, there was no one checking tickets when I rode the train, but I do understand that fare enforcement offices do routinely board the trains to confirm passengers have tickets.

Besides being such a bargain, the real beauty of taking the LINK light rail trains to Seatac airport is that the trains get you there quickly. Besides the eleven stops along the way, there are no red lights, no stop signs, and no traffic to slow it down. The LINK trains run underground in downtown Seattle, then run on city street level through Mount Baker, but after that most of the ride is on elevated tracks which take you high above the freeway and give you a nice view to boot. Once on the elevated tracks the train travels approximately 55 miles per hour, much faster than freeway traffic during rush hour. It took just 45 minutes for my train to get to the airport from Westlake Center, and my return trip was also 45 minutes.

As far as the train itself, the cars are clean and brightly lit, the seats are comfortable with adequate leg room, and the windows are large which is nice for checking out the views. I took the train during non-commute hours so there were plenty of seats available and it was not crowded at all.

The one downside to taking the Sound Transit LINK train to Seatac airport is that you must walk about 1/4 of a mile from the Seatac LINK station to the airport terminals. Fortunately, the walk is on a covered and well-lit walkway. On my return trip from Las Vegas I did have some trouble finding directions back to the LINK station, but finally found signs leading to it near the entrance to the airport parking lot.

All in all, the Sound Transit LINK light rail service to Seatac airport is a real bargain and a sweet ride to boot. I enjoyed the ride and will definitely use it again on my next trip. If you live in the Seattle area and are looking for affordable transportation to Seatac airport this is your best deal by far.

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