Pacific Northwest Transit Adventures

The Long Walk to Link Light Rail into Seattle to an Afternoon Ferry Ride Included on my ORCA Day Pass (A 2 day old Fare Product)

This post is part three of Spring Skiing Spring Break


Tuesday night before my trip I’m visiting the Sound Transit website and notice an alert that through September (the website says they began on April first, but when I check later the website says starting April 9th) the region is piloting an ORCA Day Pass with unlimited rides on all operators valued up to $4 costing $9. My goal for my weekday afternoon/evening is to ride the Sounder Light rail extension to Lakewood. The only issue is that the fare product hasn’t been programmed into the TVMs yet, and can be only added at service centers. There isn’t one at the airport. I luckily have an ORCA card from previous visits. I log into my account and am unsuccessful. It’s outside of business hours. The next morning, two days ago I call and a friendly agent says yes “It appears” he can add the product (I later realize I’m calling the day their introduced!) but warns me it takes 48 hours to register (and be sent to the tap readers to be activated). I say that’s fine since I’m calling before 11am in the west, the time I’m arriving. I give him my ORCA number and credit card number, I check online and Day Pass appears as a pending product and I hope for the best. Armed with a day pass I start checking out other places I can go and learn that my ORCA Day Pass is valid on the King County Water Taxi, (fare is $4) a passenger only ferry to West Seattle, that runs 7 days a week. You can use ORCA on Washington State Ferries  but they only accept ePurse, and don’t have unified passes. What I find really neat though is ORCA ePruse can even be used to pay vehicle fares on the car ferries!

The Long Trip into Seattle:

I leave the United Club near the end of the A Concourse at 11:15am. I start following the signs to baggage claim. I leave security. Then I see a Link Logo that tells me to go downstairs and cross a bridge to the parking garage. A map alerts me to just how far I have to walk around in the non-climate controlled parking garage to get to the Link Light Rail.

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I walk past the rest of the Skybridges and the walk to the Airport Link Station(8 Photos) continues. A scrim means were not seeing cars, but I see some ads from the airport telling drivers to consider parking in the garage and then taking the LINK to events in downtown, Tuckwila International Blvd has free parking. Sound Transit’s website doesn’t indorse this option.

Then its time to head across the pedestrian bridge and finally reach the light rail at 11:33, over a 15 minute walk, its nearly 12 minutes after leaving the secure area. A little long, and I’m walking quickly. Someone not fit and used to walking would have had a hard time. I tap my ORCA card on a reader and it says $9.00 One Day Pass Added before I tap again and it says Day Pass Validated Expires 4/11/14. It worked!


I head upstairs and get on the light rail. We leave at 11:36 and I enjoy a nice easy ride into downtown Seattle. I arrive into Westland(1 Photo) at 12:18, more than a quarter of my trip was walking through the parking garage.

I head out and walk the ½ mile to a new hostel I’m trying, the Seattle City Center Hostel. My plan is to leave my luggage but I’m told my room (bed) is ready and head upstairs.

I stash my stuff and make my bed and head out again to catch the 1:30pm ferry. I walk down to the Soundfront and see construction for the stalled TBM that is supposed to be building a new tunnel to replace the Alaska Way Viaduct. It’s a project that’s a total boondoggle.

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I have to navigate it to find the water taxi pier with walkways closed. In Seattle using the term Water Taxi is important since ferries in the Pudget Sound Region are operated by the State of Washington and accept cars connecting the islands and Penninuslas of Pudget Sound. Seattle has the largest ferry system in the country.


I soon board and fare payment is interesting to say the least. There is an old fashioned, non electronic fare box, and a modern hand-held target reader that is normally used to check POP validity. I hold my ORCA card up to the reader and the deckhand says “Wait is that one of those new day passes?” I say yes it is. I guess I’m the first person to ride the water taxi with one. They were only introduced two days before. We leave on time at 1:30 for a nice ride across Pudget Sound.

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It’s a quick 12is minute trip across the sound aboard the Spirit of Kingston. The schedule says its a 10 minute trip during rush hours, 15 minutes during middays.

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There isn’t much around at the West Seattle dock but their is a restaurant. I take a quick 10 minute walk and then I re-board the ferry, tapping my day pass, telling the deckhand that the only reason I decided to take the ferry was when I realized it would be free with the day pass I was already planning to buy.

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I have one more errand to run before getting on Sounder to head down to Lakewood. It’s buying a Seattle Mariners ticket for tomorrows night game. To do this I decide its time for a pointless Link Ride but why not? I have a day pass. I head up to International District Chinatown and ride one stop to Stadium–(6 Photos).


I then have a nice walk of the Amtrak and Sounder tracks (that lead to the main Amtrak yard) crossing beneath the roof structure of Safeco Field. I go to the box office buy my usual ticket, upper deck near homeplate, its only $25 and have a nice walk back to King Street Station to do the main goal of the afternoon, riding Sounder down to Lakewood.