Central Link

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Central Link
Sound Transit Link Light Rail logo.svg
Sound Transit Central Link Vehicle.jpg
Sound Transit Central Link Vehicle
Type Light rail
System Link Light Rail
Termini Westlake
SeaTac Airport
Stations 13
Daily ridership 37,350 (July 2014, weekdays)[1]
Website Sound Transit
Opened July 18, 2009[2]
Owner Sound Transit
Operator(s) King County Metro
Character Underground, at grade, elevated
Line length 15.6 mi (25.1 km)[6]
No. of tracks 2
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Electrification 1,500 Volts DC,[3][4][5]
overhead catenary

Central Link is a light rail line running between downtown Seattle and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It is the initial phase of Sound Transit's Link Light Rail system. Service operates seven days a week, from 5 am to 1 am Monday through Saturday and from 6 am to midnight on Sundays. Trains are composed of two cars,[7] each with a capacity of 200 passengers—74 seated and 126 standing.[8] Opened on July 18, 2009, Central Link initially operated between downtown Seattle and Tukwila,[2] on a 13.9-mile (22.4 km) route. Service was extended by 1.7 miles (2.7 km) from Tukwila to SeaTac Airport on December 19, 2009.[9]


Central Link
Northgate Link Extension (2021)
University of Washington (2016)
Montlake Cut
Capitol Hill (2016)
First Hill Streetcar to Pioneer Square
Seattle Center Monorail
South Lake Union Streetcar
University Street
Pioneer Square
Sounder commuter rail
to Everett
to Vancouver
First Hill Streetcar to Capitol Hill
International District/Chinatown
First Hill Streetcar to Pioneer Square
Sounder commuter rail
to Lakewood via Tacoma
to Portland
East Link Extension (2023)
StadiumGreyhound Lines Greyhound
Beacon Hill
Mount Baker
Columbia City
Rainier Beach
Duwamish River
Tukwila International Blvd. Toilets unisex.svg
SeaTac/Airport Toilets unisex.svg
Angle Lake (2016)
Federal Way Link Extension (2023)
Central Link route map

The northern terminus is at Westlake Station near the intersection of Pine Street and 4th Avenue. Central Link trains operate inside the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, sharing the right-of-way with diesel-electric hybrid buses. The route serves four of the tunnel's five stations (Convention Place Station being the exception). After exiting the southern end of the tunnel at International District/Chinatown Station, the route joins the SoDo Busway (formerly 5th Avenue S.) as a traffic-separated surface route, where it has priority for all intersections. The route serves two stations on the busway and then rises to an elevated section through the SoDo neighborhood.

West portal of the Beacon Hill Tunnel

The route then enters the Beacon Hill Tunnel under Beacon Hill and makes one stop at the underground Beacon Hill Station. Exiting the tunnel, the route becomes grade-separated on an elevated bridge. It serves Mount Baker Station near Franklin High School before it becomes an at-grade surface route on Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. and serves three stations in the Rainier Valley.

Continuing south on Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., it again becomes grade-separated on an elevated guideway and runs alongside Boeing Access Road, E. Marginal Way S., Interurban Avenue S., SR 599, and I-5. Just north of SR 518, the route turns west and parallels SR 518. It stops at Tukwila International Boulevard Station before crossing International Boulevard and running in the center of the North Airport Expressway all the way to the southern terminus of SeaTac/Airport Station, an elevated station lying northeast of the parking garage, immediately west of International Boulevard.

Central Link as it descends the grade from the elevated bridge over Martin Luther King Jr. Way S.


Station Name Opening Year City/Neighborhood Location Platforms Notes
End of line; future extension (University Link)
Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel
Westlake 1990 Downtown Seattle under Pine Street, between 3rd, 4th and 5th Avenues Outside Connection to Seattle Center Monorail and South Lake Union Streetcar.
Link trains at University St station in 2010.jpg
University Street 1990 Downtown Seattle under 3rd Avenue, between University and Seneca Streets Outside
Pioneer Square 1990 Pioneer Square, Seattle under 3rd Avenue & James Street Outside Connection to Colman Dock (Washington State Ferries) and King County Water Taxi.
Link train at International District-Chinatown Station.jpg
International District/Chinatown 1990 International District / Chinatown, Seattle under Union Station at 5th Avenue S & S Jackson Street Outside Connection to First Hill Streetcar and King Street Station (Amtrak & Sounder).
Connection to future extension (East Link Extension)
Sound Transit Stadium Station.jpg
Stadium 2009 SoDo, Seattle SoDo Busway &
S Royal Brougham Way
Center Larger platform to accommodate large crowds attending events at Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field.

Connection to Greyhound.

Sound Transit SODO Station.jpg
SODO 2009 SoDo, Seattle SoDo Busway & S Lander Street Outside
Beacon Hill Tunnel
Sound Transit Beacon Hill Tunnel.jpg Beacon Hill 2009 Beacon Hill, Seattle under Beacon Avenue S & S Lander Street Center
Sound Transit Central Link Mount Baker Station.jpg
Mount Baker 2009 Mount Baker, Seattle Martin Luther King Jr. Way S & Rainier Avenue S Outside
Surface (Martin Luther King Jr. Way)
Platform View Columbia City Station View.jpg
Columbia City 2009 Columbia City, Seattle MLK Jr. Way S between
S Edmunds & S Alaska Streets
Othello Station.jpg
Othello 2009 New Holly, Seattle MLK Jr. Way S between
S Othello & S Myrtle Streets
Rainier beach stn.jpg
Rainier Beach 2009 Rainier Valley, Seattle MLK Jr. Way S & S Henderson Street Center
Path to Station.jpg
Tukwila International Blvd 2009 Tukwila SR 518 & Tukwila International Blvd Outside 600-space park & ride lot
SeaTac Airport station wide cropped.jpg
SeaTac/Airport 2009 SeaTac East of airport parking garage Center Pedestrian bridges to main terminal and kiss-and-ride center at International Blvd
End of line; future extension (South Link)


Light rail train testing in SoDo.

The fares for Link are distance-based: $2.25 base fare plus 5 cents per mile, rounded to the nearest 25 cents.[10] The maximum cost of a one-way ticket is $3.00, for a trip between Downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport.

Adult fares for Link are as follows:[10][11]

$2.25 University Street
$2.25 $2.25 Pioneer Square
$2.25 $2.25 $2.25 International District/Chinatown
$2.25 $2.25 $2.25 $2.25 Stadium
$2.25 $2.25 $2.25 $2.25 $2.25 SODO
$2.25 $2.25 $2.25 $2.25 $2.25 $2.25 Beacon Hill
$2.50 $2.50 $2.50 $2.50 $2.25 $2.25 $2.25 Mount Baker
$2.50 $2.50 $2.50 $2.50 $2.25 $2.25 $2.25 $2.25 Columbia City
$2.50 $2.50 $2.50 $2.50 $2.50 $2.50 $2.50 $2.25 $2.25 Othello
$2.50 $2.50 $2.50 $2.50 $2.50 $2.50 $2.50 $2.50 $2.25 $2.25 Rainier Beach
$3.00 $3.00 $3.00 $3.00 $2.75 $2.75 $2.75 $2.75 $2.50 $2.50 $2.50 Tukwila International Blvd
$3.00 $3.00 $3.00 $3.00 $3.00 $2.75 $2.75 $2.75 $2.75 $2.75 $2.50 $2.25 SeaTac/Airport

Seniors (65+) and the disabled may obtain a permit allowing them to ride for a reduced flat fare of $1.00 per trip.[12] Youth (6–18) can ride for a flat fare of $1.50 per trip.[13]


Users of the ORCA Card have their transfer fares calculated automatically. Users of cash and paper tickets can't obtain transfer credit. Their tickets are valid for one ride only unless a Link Round Trip Ticket is purchased, which allows unlimited travel between the stations on the ticket for that service day.

Central Link to Bus or Vice Versa

Only ORCA Cards can be used without having to pay another fare between Central Link and buses in the following agencies: ST Express, King County Metro, Community Transit or Pierce Transit.


Central Link operates on the following schedule:[14]

Time Headway
5:00 am – 6:00 am 15
6:00 am – 8:30 am 6
8:30 am – 3:00 pm 10
3:00 pm – 6:30 pm 6
6:30 pm – 9:00 pm 10
9:00 pm – 1:00 am 15
Saturday 5:00 am – 8:00 am 15
8:00 am – 10:00 pm 10
10:00 pm – 1:00 am 15
Sunday 6:00 am – 8:00 am 15
8:00 am – 10:00 pm 10
10:00 pm – 12:00 am 15

Travel times[edit]

The vehicles operates with an end-to-end travel time of 36 minutes over the 15.6-mile (25.1 km) route between Westlake and SeaTac/Airport.[15] Travel times are as follows;[15] all times measured in minutes.

2 University Street
4 2 Pioneer Square
6 4 2 International District/Chinatown
8 6 4 2 Stadium
10 7 6 4 2 SODO
13 11 9 7 5 2 Beacon Hill
14 12 10 8 6 5 3 Mount Baker
17 15 13 11 9 8 5 3 Columbia City
22 19 18 16 14 12 9 8 5 Othello
25 23 21 19 17 16 13 11 8 4 Rainier Beach
34 32 30 28 26 24 21 20 17 12 9 Tukwila International Blvd
36 34 32 30 28 27 24 22 19 15 11 2 SeaTac/Airport

The 36-minute travel time from Westlake Station to SeaTac/Airport Station was similar to the 32-minute scheduled travel time of the now cancelled King County Metro Route 194 bus from Convention Place Station to the airport.[16] Wait times are shorter and access is better, as light rail runs more frequently and during more hours of the day than Route 194 did, and serves more stops between downtown and the airport. Since light rail operates on its own right of way, it is not subject to delays due to traffic congestion.[8] King County Metro discontinued route 194 on February 6, 2010.[17] Riders who boarded Route 194 at the Kent/Des Moines or Star Lake (272nd) freeway stations and are destined north of the airport now have to board ST Route 574 and transfer to light rail at SeaTac/Airport Station. Expanded service on Sound Transit routes 577 and 578 now provide a direct connection between the Federal Way Transit Center and Downtown Seattle. Unlike the former route 194, routes 577 and 578 do not serve the Federal Way Park & Ride,[18] but shorten the trip between Downtown and Federal Way by 26 minutes.[16][18]


Ridership has significantly risen since the line opened in July 2009 and saw 12,000 boardings per weekday. The completion of the line to its ultimate destination, the airport, subsequent passengers from closing Route 194, and shifting of bus routes to feed into the light rail contributed to the increase. Average weekday ridership reached 21,774 by May 2010 and 32,000 by June 2013.[19][20]

Sound Transit measures ridership by using the infrared sensors built into the doorways.[21]


Operations and Maintenance Facility

Kinkisharyo-Mitsui was chosen to design and manufacture low-floor light rail vehicles (LRVs) and provide additional equipment and support. Thirty-five light rail cars were delivered between November 2006 and September 2008. Each vehicle is 95 ft (29.0 m) long, 8.7 ft (2.7 m) wide, accommodate 200 people each (74 seated), and double-ended to allow travel in either direction. Two-car trains will be used initially, but as ridership increases, trains can be up to four cars long. Until University Link construction is completed, only two-car trains can be used, due to the length of the stub tracks at the north end interlocking. The maximum speed of the light rail vehicle is 65 mph (105 km/h).

An additional 27 LRVs have been delivered to Sound Transit by Kinkisharyo at a rate of one a month, beginning in August 2010.[22] The current plan is for 180 total units for the system by 2030.[23]

The overhead catenary that supplies electricity to the LRVs is fed (from substations) at 1,500 Volts DC,[3] a departure from the normal voltage for U.S. light rail systems, 750 V,[4] with Central Link being the first light rail system in North America to use 1,500 V.[5] Sound Transit's other light rail line, the 2003-opened Tacoma Link, uses 750 V.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "July 2014 Service Performance Report" (pdf). Sound Transit. Retrieved 2014-09-15. 
  2. ^ a b "Sound Transit: Countdown to a new era: all aboard Link light rail starting July 18". Sound Transit. April 20, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-20. 
  3. ^ a b "Adopted 2009 Budget" (pdf). Sound Transit. December 2008. p. 53 (Central Link Operations Overview). Retrieved 2012-11-28. 
  4. ^ a b Taplin, Michael (October 2009). "Miraculous in Seattle" (feature article on Central Link at the time of its opening). Tramways & Urban Transit magazine, pp. 380–381. UK: LRTA Publishing. ISSN 1460-8324.
  5. ^ a b Middleton, William D. (April 2006). "Sound Transit Builds for LRT". Railway Age: 43–45. Retrieved 2012-11-28. 
  6. ^ "Link Light Rail fact sheet, March 2009" (pdf). Sound Transit. Retrieved 2009-08-01. 
  7. ^ "Draft 2009 Service Implementation Plan" (pdf). Sound Transit. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  8. ^ a b "Link Light Rail Train Specifications". Sound Transit. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  9. ^ Lindblom, Mike (December 19, 2009). "Early holiday arrival: light rail to airport". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-12-19. 
  10. ^ a b "SoundTransit - Link light rail fares - Adult Fares". Sound Transit. Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  11. ^ "Board adopts fares for Link light rail; adult trips will range from $1.75 to $2.50". Sound Transit. March 26, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-19. 
  12. ^ SoundTransit :: Link light rail fares :: Adult Fares
  13. ^ SoundTransit :: Link light rail fares :: Youth Fares
  14. ^ "Central Link light rail schedule". Sound Transit. September 26, 2015. Retrieved November 1, 2015. 
  15. ^ a b "Link light rail". King County Metro. Retrieved 2009-06-09. 
  16. ^ a b "Metro Route 194". King County Metro. Archived from the original on December 16, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-14. 
  17. ^ "Metro Schedule and Route Revisions September 2009 & February 2010". King County Metro. Retrieved 2009-06-09. 
  18. ^ a b "Sound Transit: 577 Seattle - Federal Way / 578 Seattle - Puyallup Weekday Bus Schedule". September 19, 2009. Archived from the original on October 22, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 
  19. ^ "May Link Ridership Another Record", Seattle Transit Blog, June 22, 2010
  20. ^ "Link light rail celebrates fourth anniversary amid big crowds". Sound Transit. July 11, 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-19. 
  21. ^ "Light Rail Averaging 12,000 Riders per Weekday So Far", Seattle Times, July 31, 2009
  22. ^ http://www.kinkisharyo-usa.com/successstories-soundtransit.html
  23. ^ "Link LRT: Maintenance Bases, Vehicles and Operations for ST2 Expansion" (pdf). Sound Transit. 

External links[edit]