June 21, 2009

Train tracks, warning tracks and tracking chips

The Seattle area has lots of good public transportation options. There are several bus systems covering the Puget Sound area, Sound Transit trains bring additional commuters to downtown Seattle from Everett in the north and Tacoma in the south, and of course there is the ferry system for folks across the water. And beginning July 18th, link-light rail will be running between Seattle and the airport, picking up travelers and commuters from Tukwila, Rainier Beach and Beacon Hill. Future lines will head to the University of Washington then north to Lynnwood, and another will cross the lake to reach Bellevue and Redmond.

Ridership is up significantly with the one-two punch of rising gas prices last year, and this year's recession making people look more closely at reducing their commuting costs. Riding the bus into work has been great. The park and ride is only a mile away, and the express bus drops me off across the street from my office.

Seattle Metro's website has a great trip planner that is easy as Mapquest. Simply type in your starting and ending point, the time you want to leave or arrive, and how far you are willing to walk. The planner will give you several trip options detailing the bus lines, schedules and fares. I've used it to get to the dealership to pick up my car, and it will get me to the marathon expo on Friday.

And now it is even easier. There is the new ORCA card, which stands for "One Regional Card for All". The card is a regional pass that ties together seven public transportation systems including: bus systems in four counties, Sound Transit trains, Link-Light rail, and the ferry system. The card has a radio frequency chip that identifies you and your account. Simply wave the card by the reader as you enter or exit, and the fares are calculated and deducted. You no longer need to ask for a transfer because the system records your trip on your card. You can load it with cash like a gift card as well as having monthly passes connected to it. Transposing the letters, and with a nod to Lord of the Rings, it could be called "One Card to Rule them All", but then the logo would probably be more menacing than a Killer Whale.

My brother bought Mariner tickets for my parents for Mother's/Father's Day, and he had an extra ticket for me. Rather than drive in, fight traffic, and pay $20 for parking, I hopped on the game-day Sound Transit train. The train drops you off at King Street Station (about a 10 minute walk to the stadium), and the return train takes off 35 minutes after the game ends. It was standing room only, so fortunately I didn't need to stand in line for a ticket and simply swiped my ORCA card as I entered and exited.

The train route runs mostly along the water front of Puget Sound. We passed by beaches and parks with families walking, kid splashing in the waves, and dogs running free. People turned from the water to wave at the train as it rolled by. I don't know what it is about trains that make folks smile and wave, but it happened all along the route.

It was a great afternoon at Safeco Field. Felix Hernandez pitched well before giving up a two run homer in the 7th. The Mariners picked him up by tying it up in the bottom of the inning. In the 8th inning, Ken Griffey Jr was put in as a pinch hitter. The fans stood and clapped through his at-bat as camera flashes flickered throughout the stadium. He hit the ball deep, but the storybook finish was not to be as the ball was caught at the warning track.

The game was still tied in the ninth inning. The Mariners had the crowd on their feet again by loading the bases with two outs. They came away with the win, not on a clutch hit, but rather a throwing error by Arizona. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.


matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
matt said...

Yeah, but does your ORCA card give you access to the SLUT? (I deleted my earlier comment where I mis-spelled "Access" as "Assess" b/c that would just be wrong . . .


Holly Linden said...

OH my Pops. Thinking about you on this marathon weekend!!! Heal well, and hats off to you Man.

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