Fabulous at five: Link light rail celebrates fifth anniversary Friday

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Double-digit annual ridership growth highlights five years of service

Sound Transit's Link light rail service in Seattle celebrates its fifth anniversary of the start of service tomorrow amid continued double-digit annual ridership growth.

"I want to thank the millions of riders who have embraced Link Light rail and made it a success," said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. "Link has served as model for reliable light rail, and - thanks to its popularity - will help us expand services across the region."

Link light rail has seen continued double-digit annual ridership growth since opening. Link averaged 33,600 weekday boardings in May, a 20 percent increase over May, 2013. 

Sound Transit "High Five" teams, including the agency mascot "Zap Gridlock," will be on board trains Friday morning thanking riders for their continued patronage. 

Link light rail trains began operating between downtown Seattle and Tukwila on July 18, 2009. The final section to SeaTac and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport opened six months later on December 19th.

Link serves 13 stations between downtown and the airport including stops at the major Seattle sports stadiums, Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley neighborhoods. 

Link by the numbers:

  • 36.6 million:  Estimated total ridership through May (the last month of available data)
  • 33,600: Average weekday ridership for May>
  • 71,500: Highest ridership day of regular service: on Feb, 2, 2014 for Seahawks Super Bowl Parade Celebration
  • 800,000: Estimated round trips between downtown Seattle and SeaTac International Airport since opening

A 3.15-mile underground light rail extension to the University of Washington with two stations is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2016, six to nine months ahead of its original construction schedule and about $150 million under budget. 

Another 4.3-mile extension to the Northgate neighborhood is scheduled to open in 2021 with three new stations. 

In 2016 Sound Transit will launch East Link light rail construction from downtown Seattle to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond's Overlake area. Planning and environmental work are moving forward to establish alignments for extending light rail from Northgate to Lynnwood and from South 200th Street to the Kent/Des Moines area. Following the 2023 opening of all the voter-approved Sound Transit 2 extensions, Link trains are projected to carry more than 280,000 riders each weekday by 2030. The projects are playing a major role in the region's ongoing recession recovery, creating a projected 100,000 direct and indirect jobs.