Editor’s note: Sound Transit is responding to the July 9 ‘Island Forum’ piece by Islander Lisa Belden about services for disabled riders and those with special needs.
Making sure light rail and bus services are accessible and convenient for everyone, including people with disabilities, is a top priority for Sound Transit.
Many environments can pose challenges for wheelchair users, and we cannot claim public transit is completely exempt. However, Link light rail was designed with people in wheelchairs in mind, including elevators or ramps wherever there are stairs or escalators and platforms that allow users to roll right on at any train door. Here are a few responses and travel trips following concerns raised by Lisa Belden in an Island Forum about traveling to and from the airport on Link.
The first step is planning your trip. Use the online trip planner at soundtransit.org to enter your start and end points. If you have a disability that requires an accessible trip, please select that option under the Advanced Search menu. You can also call 888-889-6368, TTY Relay 711, anytime between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on business days.
To get to a Link station, you can be dropped off or take local and regional buses, which all have wheelchair lifts and trained operators to help you get on and off. Mercer Island residents can travel to or from downtown Seattle’s International District Station in about 10 minutes on ST Express Route 550, which runs every 10 to 15 minutes during the day and every half hour at night and in the early morning. Use the online trip planner to explore other options.
Once at the station, buy your ticket from a vending machine if you don’t have an ORCA card. Make your way to the platform, using an elevator if necessary. When you board the train, you’ll find designated areas for riders with disabilities. Store luggage in areas marked for luggage and bicycles.
When you arrive at the airport station, take the elevator to the mezzanine, where a pedestrian bridge leads to a path through the fourth floor of the airport parking garage.
Many people have asked why the light rail station is about 1,000 feet away from the airport terminal. There are two main reasons: tearing up existing airport roadways was ruled out by limited taxpayer dollars, and an extensive, costly reconstruction would have greatly impacted thousands of travelers every day for a long time. Offering a moving walkway through the parking garage was not realistic, both due to the inability to open up the concrete floor to install and maintain equipment and the fact there is not enough overhead clearance for a raised walkway.
Wheelchair users or anyone else who needs assistance can call 396-5275 to request staff and golf carts provided by the Port of Seattle. Based upon investigation, we believe the problems the author of the column encountered were isolated in nature. We were assured that the Port of Seattle’s vendor, Huntleigh Security, is committed to staffing the hotline and providing assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can find more information about airport accessibility services at www.portseattle.org/Sea-Tac/Passenger-Services/Pages/Accessibility.aspx.
Transit service for Mercer Island residents will dramatically improve when the East Link light rail extension opens in 2023. This voter-approved project will connect Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond residents to the regional light rail system that Sound Transit is on target to expand from 16 miles to 50 miles.
As Sound Transit works to finish the design for East Link, you’re invited to a joint public meeting with King County Metro Transit about plans for smooth bus-rail connections on Mercer Island and in South Bellevue. The meeting is from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 12, at the Issaquah Hilton Garden Inn, 1800 N.W. Gilman Blvd. Find more information at soundtransit.org/eastlink.
Sound Transit is committed to addressing the diverse needs of all its customers. While we can’t take away every inconvenience, there are many reasons Link ridership keeps growing, including a leap of more than 20 percent in the last year. Please come find out for yourself, and contact us if there’s anything we can do to help plan your trip or fix a problem.
Customer Service Manager