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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Seattle, Washighton -- Light Rail from SEATAC to downtown

I read many different comments about the ease of using the Light Rail to get downtown before we took this trip, so I am sharing our experience.

Here is a little information about us and our situation: We are two healthy adults used to walking. We often take brisk 4 - 6 mile walks for exercise, in addition to leisure walks for entertainment or pleasure. I am a frequent traveler used to different airports and many modes of transportation; often lugging around a laptop and luggage. I have visited all 50 US states--Alaska was the last state for me, which we visited on this trip. My husband has also experienced many of these things, and we both look forward to new experiences.

We had two roller suitcases--one large and one small, and two carry-on size bags--one laptop and another shoulder bag, which could be slid on the roller bags. I also had a small purse. Our flight was due to arrive before 11:00 AM, so we had decided that for $2.50 per person we would take the Light Rail. Our destination was the Renaissance, which is less than 1/2 mile [4 - 5 blocks] from University Station. Not far, although it was uphill, which we were aware of before making this choice.

Departing from SEA airport

We flew Delta, and our luggage arrived at baggage claim 4. The signs to the rail were well posted and highly visible (I had read that signs are not visible), and it was easy to get to. We went up the escalator right next to our baggage claim, walked the perimeter of the parking garage, and crossed a short overpass to the rail station. It would have been a very short walk directly across the parking garage; however, we opted to take the bit longer way around on the sidewalk as was intended for pedestrians.

There were three self-serve kiosks after we got to the station to purchase tickets. I observed a group of people standing near a counter north of the escalator, so there may have been additional kiosks as well. I thought the ticket purchasing instructions were easy and purchased our tickets in less than 30 seconds. Apparently, other passengers did not have the same experience, because we waited in line over 10 minutes behind 4 or 5 passengers, and one of them walked the line after he had made his purchase to give away extra tickets he ended up with. You can use cash or a credit card at the kiosk. After we had our tickets, we went up the escalator behind the kiosks to board the train.

The train ride

We rode on Saturday of Memorial weekend. Since I have never been on the Light Rail before this trip, I do not know if our experience was different because of the holiday weekend. It would have been an enjoyable ride, except that it was extremely crowded. There were no seats when we boarded. There were passengers taking up available seats with their luggage and such, so there could have been more people sitting down. At most of the stops before we got off, more people boarded, and hardly anyone got off. The ride was smooth, quiet, and passed pretty quickly. We got off at University Station.

Arrival downtown and walk to hotel

There are a couple different street exists from the station. I had looked at the street and station maps before the trip, so I knew which street corner was closest to our hotel. We were the only passengers who took the elevator up to 3rd Avenue and Seneca. Nobody collected our tickets on the train or after we got off. I don't know if the ride was free Memorial weekend, or if the train always operates on the honor system.

Yes, the walk to our hotel was uphill, and many people advised visitors NOT to walk with luggage from the train station. We did not have any difficulty, and we did not regret our decision. We did not see any taxis when we came out of the station, which surprised me. Maybe the exit we took was not the normal station exit.


I was happy with the ease and speed of the trip. It looked to me like the train ride was quicker than a car ride would have been. I think if you don't have much luggage, and know where you want to get on and off the train, taking the Light Rail is the way to go. The comments I read online before making this trip did not help me at all. If anything, they made me question whether the signs I was reading at the airport were correct, since many people had made this trip sound like a difficult task.

I thought this was an easy trip--the signs in the airport were visible and easy to understand, and the kiosk ticket purchase was easy as well. I would do it again, as long as I did not have much luggage. The only suggestion I have for travelers, is to make sure you look at the street and station maps before your trip. Here is the link to the downtown stations: