Link light rail

Sound Transit
Link light rail
Sound Transit Link Light Rail logo.svg
LocaleSeattle metropolitan area
Transit typeLight rail
Number of lines2 existing
2 under construction[1]
Number of stations21 existing
13 under construction
9 approved
Daily ridership80,789 (May 2018, weekdays)[2]
Annual ridership24,159,038 (2017)[3]
Began operationTacoma Link:
August 22, 2003
Central Link:
July 18, 2009
Operator(s)Sound Transit and King County Metro
System length21.95 miles (35.33 km)
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Electrification1500 V DC, overhead lines (Central Link)
750 V DC, overhead lines (Tacoma Link)
System map

Lynnwood City Center
Mountlake Terrace
Shoreline North/185th
Shoreline South/145th
U District
University of Washington
Capitol Hill
First Hill Streetcar
Seattle Center Monorail South Lake Union Streetcar
University Street
Pioneer Square
International District/
Amtrak Sounder commuter rail First Hill Streetcar
Judkins Park
Mercer Island
South Bellevue
East Main
Bellevue Downtown
Spring District/120th
Overlake Village
Redmond Technology Center
SE Redmond (2024)
Downtown Redmond (2024)
Beacon Hill
Mount Baker
Columbia City
Rainier Beach
Tukwila International Boulevard
Seattle–Tacoma International Airport
Angle Lake
Kent/Des Moines
South 272nd Street
Federal Way Transit Center
Hilltop Extension
Hilltop Extension
St Joseph
Hilltop District
6th Avenue
Tacoma General
Stadium District
S 4th
Old City Hall
Theater District/South 9th Street
Commerce Street/South 11th Street
Convention Center/South 15th Street
Union Station/South 19th Street
South 25th Street
Tacoma Dome
Sounder commuter rail#South Line

The Link light rail is a rapid transit rail system in the Seattle metropolitan area of Washington State, being designed, built and operated by the region's mass transportation agency, Sound Transit.

Currently the system consists of two separate lines: Central Link and Tacoma Link. Central Link is a light rail line operating between the University of Washington in Seattle and the Angle Lake station in SeaTac, Washington. Tacoma Link is a streetcar line operating in downtown Tacoma. Extensions are being planned or constructed that will bring Central Link north to Lynnwood and Everett, east to Redmond and south to Kent, Des Moines, Federal Way, and the Tacoma Dome. Additional lines are planned to service Ballard, West Seattle, Issaquah and south Kirkland.

The initial system was approved and funded by voters under the "Sound Move" ballot measure passed in November 1996. Further expansion of the system was approved and funded by voters under the "Sound Transit 2" ballot measure passed in 2008, and the Sound Transit 3 program in 2016. By 2040, the system is expected to grow to over 112 miles (180 km) of track.


In November 1996, voters in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties approved increases in sales taxes and vehicle excise taxes to pay for a US$3.9 billion transit package that included $1.7 billion for a light rail system, including Central Link and Tacoma Link.[4] Over the next several years, debates raged over various issues surrounding the Central Link line.

In the late nineties and early 2000s, Sound Transit underwent a series of financial and political difficulties. The cost of the line rose significantly,[5] and the federal government threatened to withhold necessary grants.[6] In 2001, Sound Transit was forced to shorten the line from the original proposal, and growing enthusiasm for the proposed monorail brought rising opposition to the light rail from Seattle-area residents.[7]

But by the end of 2002, Sound Transit decided on a route and became more financially stable. On August 22, 2003, the Tacoma Link light rail line in Downtown Tacoma opened and quickly reached its forecast ridership.[8] On November 8, 2003, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Central Link light rail line. Central Link opened between Westlake Station and Tukwila on July 18, 2009,[9] and was extended 1.7 miles (2.7 km) to SeaTac/Airport on December 19, 2009.[10]

In November 2006, the U.S. Federal Transit Administration approved Sound Transit's plan for University Link, a project to extend light rail 3.1 miles (5.0 km) north to the University of Washington after completion of an Environmental Impact Study. A grant was approved in November 2008, which allowed University Link to begin construction in December 2008. The line opened, including the University Link Tunnel, on March 19, 2016.[11]

Current lines[]

Central Link[]

Central Link train in Tukwila

Central Link is a light rail line running between the University of Washington, downtown Seattle (in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel), the SoDo district (home to CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field), Seattle's Rainier Valley, Tukwila, the Seattle–Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac and Angle Lake. The initial 13.9-mile (22.4 km) segment of the line was opened on July 18, 2009. The line has since been expanded three times and spans 20.35 miles (32.8 km) as of September 26, 2016.

Tacoma Link[]

Tacoma Link car in downtown Tacoma

Tacoma Link is a streetcar line running through the densest parts of Tacoma. This line connects the Tacoma Dome Station (a regional hub for local and express bus, and commuter train service) with downtown Tacoma, making stops near the city's convention center, theater district, the University of Washington's Tacoma campus and several museums. The 1.6-mile (2.6 km) line was completed in 2003.

Future extensions[]

Sound Transit's 2008 ballot measure, named Sound Transit 2, approved several light rail projects, extending Link northward to Northgate and Lynnwood by 2021 and 2024, respectively, and east to Bellevue and Overlake in 2023. It also extended the existing line one new station in Angle Lake, which opened September 26, 2016. Other improvements in the package included Sounder commuter rail improvements and expansion of Tacoma Link.

Sound Transit 3, passed in 2016, funded new extensions of Link that will open between 2024 and 2040. Several deferred or truncated projects from Sound Transit 2, including extensions to Federal Way and Downtown Redmond, were funded and accelerated by the plan.

Project Name Status Description Length Expected Opening
Northgate Link Extension[12] Under construction Extends Central Link north from University of Washington Station to the University District west of campus, the Roosevelt neighborhood and Northgate, a major transit center and shopping mall. 4.3 miles (6.9 km) 2021
Tacoma Link Extension[13] Under construction Extends Tacoma Link north and west from downtown Tacoma to the city's Stadium District and Hilltop neighborhood. 2.4 miles (3.9 km) 2022
East Link Extension[14] Under construction Extends Central Link east from downtown Seattle to the Judkins Park neighborhood, Mercer Island, Bellevue, Overlake and Microsoft's campus in Redmond. The project also includes route planning to support a later extension to downtown Redmond, which was approved in Sound Transit 3. 14 miles (23 km) 2023
Downtown Redmond Link Extension[15] Environmental Review Extends East Link north-east from Overlake to Redmond at two new stations: SE Redmond and Downtown Redmond. This project was approved in Sound Transit 3 and will be the first ST3 project to open. 3.7 miles (6.0 km) 2024
Lynnwood Link Extension[16] Final Design Extends Central Link north from Northgate in Seattle (northern terminus of the Northgate Link Extension) to North Seattle, Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood, a major transit center. 8.5 miles (13.7 km) 2024
Federal Way Link Extension[17] Environmental Review Extends Central Link south from Angle Lake (southern terminus of the South 200th Link Extension) to Highline College and downtown Federal Way. 4.8 miles (7.7 km) 2024
Tacoma Dome Link Extension[18] Preliminary design[19] Extends Central Link south from Federal Way Transit Center to Tacoma Dome Station, with stops in Federal Way, Fife, and East Tacoma. 15 miles (24 km) 2030
West Seattle Link Extension[18] Initial Planning Extends Central Link southwest from downtown Seattle to West Seattle. 4.7 miles (7.6 km) 2030
Ballard Link Extension[18] Initial Planning Extends Central Link northwest from downtown Seattle to Ballard via South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne. The project includes a new 2nd downtown transit tunnel with a stop in Midtown, that will connect at the current ID/Chinatown Station. 7.1 miles (11.4 km) 2035
Everett Link Extension[18] Planned Extends Central Link north from Lynnwood Transit Center to Everett Station via Paine Field. 15.4 miles (24.8 km) 2036
Tacoma Community College Link Extension[18] Planned Extends Tacoma Link from Downtown Tacoma to Tacoma Community College and include modifications to existing and planned Tacoma Link infrastructure. 3.5 miles (5.6 km) 2039
South Kirkland - Issaquah Link Extension[18] Planned A new line which will connect in Bellevue via East Link. This will extend light rail to downtown Issaquah, mostly following I-90, with stations in Eastgate, and Factoria. Additionally it will extend north to the South Kirkland Park and Ride, connecting with some Bellevue stations. 9 miles (14 km) (Issaquah-only portion) 2041

Land-use impacts[]

An expressed purpose in building the Link light rail system has been to support a "smart growth" approach to handling the region's population growth and development.[20][21] By concentrating new development along light rail lines (a practice known as "transit-oriented development"), more people can live more densely without the increases in automotive commuting traffic that might otherwise be expected. In addition, the concentration of residents near stations helps maintain ridership and revenue.[22] Climate change activists also point out that compact development around light rail lines has been shown to result in reductions in residents' CO2 emissions, compared to more conventional suburban automotive commutes.[23]

Environmentalists, transportation groups and some affordable housing advocates have sought greater government regulatory support for transit-oriented development along Link light rail, and in 2009 a bill was introduced in the Washington State Legislature that would have raised allowable densities (as well as lowering parking requirements and easing some other regulations on development) in station areas.[22] The bill did not pass, but supporters vowed to bring it back in 2010.[24][needs update]

See also[]


  1. ^ "Projects & Plans - Find a Project". Sound Transit. Retrieved March 20, 2016.
  2. ^ "May 2017 Service Performance Report" (PDF). Sound Transit. July 19, 2018. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  3. ^ "2017 Q4 Service Delivery Quarterly Performance Report" (PDF). Sound Transit. February 22, 2018. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  4. ^ David Schaefer (November 8, 1996). "Voters Back Transit Plan On Fourth Try". The Seattle Times. Retrieved February 26, 2007.
  5. ^ "Light-rail cost soars $1 billion". The Seattle Times. December 13, 2000. Retrieved February 28, 2007.
  6. ^ Andrew Garber (March 30, 2001). "Federal aid in jeopardy for light rail". The Seattle Times. Retrieved April 21, 2007.
  7. ^ Grass, Michael (March 23, 2016). "With Seattle's Long-Awaited Transit Expansion Now Reality, It's Full Steam Ahead". Route Fifty. Atlantic Media. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  8. ^ "Sound Transit:Tacoma Link". Archived from the original on October 24, 2008. Retrieved January 6, 2009.
  9. ^ "Countdown to a new era: all aboard Link light rail starting July 18" (Press release). Sound Transit. April 20, 2009. Retrieved March 20, 2016.
  10. ^ "Countdown to airport connection: Link light rail to Sea-Tac Airport starts Dec. 19" (Press release). Sound Transit. November 13, 2009. Retrieved March 20, 2016.
  11. ^ Yardley, William (April 4, 2016). "Seattle continues quest to get greener as it grows with 'transformative' light-rail expansion". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 12, 2016.
  12. ^ "Downtown Redmond Link Extension". Sound Transit. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  13. ^ a b c d e f "Sound Transit 3 Draft System Plan" (PDF).
  14. ^ Dunkelberger, Steven (22 December 2017). "Sound Transit moves forward with Tacoma Dome light rail project". Tacoma Weekly News. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  15. ^ "Project Summary: LINK Light Rail". King County Department of Transportation. September 17, 2003. Archived from the original on October 13, 2006.
  16. ^ Regional View Newsletter. Puget Sound Regional Council. July 2001. Archived December 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ a b Transit Oriented Development
  18. ^ Online TDM Encyclopedia - Transit Oriented Development
  19. ^ Futurewise - Transportation Archived May 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[]

Route map:

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