Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Sunday, July 19, 2009

And now for something completely different

I traveled light rail yesterday.  Seattle has finally gotten this, and maybe, just maybe, it will help eliminate traffic jams and pollution.  I hope so.  So my subject is "completely different", but as I rode, I decided to blog about it -- from a "writing" point of view.  So I hope the guests here don't mind my blathering about something other than writing, wolves, or Neandertals, for a change. 


The line begins in downtown Seattle, at the Westlake Station, where, for the last 20 years or so, people have been able to catch buses going to various parts of Seattle and surrounding areas.  Two years ago, after a long series of fights, as to whether or not se should even spend the money building such a thing, tunnels for light rail were added.  They opened for the first time at 9 a.m. yesterday, going from Westlake Station, in the heart of downtown Seattle, to a station in Tukwila, a town south of Seattle.  There was a mob waiting to get on when it first opened.  I didn't get there then.  But there was still a mob waiting to ride when I did get on, which was about 1:30 in the afternoon.  It was a cross-section of Our Fair City, but more on that later.  Once I got inside the Westlake station, there were Sound Transit people directing everybody to the roped-off area where the line quite obviously was forming.  I took my place and waited, but not very long.  The line was long, but it moved rapidly, and soon I was on the stairs, making my way to the place where you get on.  The wait for the actual light rail train wasn't too long, either


It was a day as close to what heaven might be like, as only a sunny summer day in Seattle can be.  You have to experience this to understand.  But we Seattleites did!  Because riding the light rail was like a giant party: everyone was laughing, conversing, and having a wonderful time, even though the first stage isn't quite completed yet(early next year, they will open a station near the SeaTac Airport).  And it was a smooth, nearly noiseless ride -- there were sections that were elevated, so that, to me, these parts felt, to me, much the way I feel when I'm dreaming that I'm flying.  But this was real!   The seats were a little hard and narrow, and on the way out, I was sitting sideways, beside two happily conversing teenage girls or twenty-somethings.  They appeared to be of Asian descent, probably Filipinas, for there are a lot of people originally from the Philippines in this area.  A little old lady, whose hair was grayer, and face wrinklier, than mine, also got on, and she looked like she needed a seat, so I gave it to her.  She didn't speak much English, but smiled appreciatively when I gave it to her.  I had a better view of the passing scene standing up, in any case. 


The present light rail  route goes through a part of Seattle which is home to many "minorities" and immigrants.  Many of them were on the light rail that day.  That is why I called the mob that got on a cross-section:  people of every race, color, creed, and age got on and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.   I heard several languages being spoken.  The non-English speakers seemed to be enjoying the ride, too. 


When we got to Tukwila -- a little less than 30 minutes later -- you had to go downstairs to this giant parking lot, which will presumably start functioning as a giant park and ride on Monday, I again followed the mob.  What was in the parking lot wasn't terribly interesting, except that if you wanted to, you could take a bus back into Seattle.  Hardly anybody wanted to.  I didn't.  So I decided to spend a little time wandering around, just in case, and at the end of the parking lot, I spied a booth where some nice ladies and gentlemen were urging the people of Tukwila and surrounding areas, to sign a petition to create bus links to places people really want to go, such as a  well-known shopping mall in the area, another nearby town, which has been renovated(it used to be a kind of "tacky" place, when I used to commute there), and some other destinations.  I told them I thought this was a good idea, and I was going to urge the same thing in my area.  Then I wandered back.


The wait to get back into town took longer.  Don't ask me why.  But people were pretty "cool" about it, and nobody complained.  About 20 or 25 minutes later(I didn't look at my watch), the mob boarded the bus again, and again the "party" atmosphere prevailed, but it was just fun, not at all rowdy.  I rode on a seat that faced "backwards", away from the direction the train was traveling.  That  was an interesting sensation, but everyone around me just joked about it.  I noticed there was a lot of art at each station, that I hadn't noticed before, including one "dancing woman" that people are invited to feel and/or dance with.  I'll have to go back and take a closer look, as I will at one of the "underground" stations, which commissioned a local artist to create artistic forms which are lighted from within, and look kind of like something you might see in a sci-fi film about friendly space aliens or the like.  At the "dancing woman" station, a group of hijab-clad women and girls got on.  If their general appearance was anything to go by, they were from Somalia.  There are a lot of Somalians who have made that part of Seattle their home, and they are hard-working and friendly.  I read in this morning's paper, that these women usually spend Saturdays sewing with their friends, but today the group decided to "be part of history" as they put it.  They "imbibed"  the "party" atmosphere, too.


Finally, the train came back to the Westlake Station, where the mob this time ascended the escalator.  I came out on a busy street, on a  warm summer Seattle day, and was again greeted by various people, including two who were stumping for a local political candidate I didn't know very much about. They handed me some literature and a sticker I could put on my tank top.  By this time, it was time to return home.  I can only say I was very satisfied with the trip, and will repeat it when it's less crowded(at least in order to see some of the artwork and maybe visit one of the nearby libraries).


Last, but not least, I have "memorabilia", in the form of a reusable cloth bag to carry things in, and a  commemorative to-shirt.  Now that, I love!  And this writer will look forward to more trips, on the train, though she may or may not blog about them!

Anne G


Susan Higginbotham said...

I'm jealous! I hate driving and would gladly use light rail if it were available here.

Anne Gilbert said...


Where do you live? If you don't have it in your area, maybe you can start a campaign. Of course, it took us out here in Seattle, years and years to get past the opposition. . . .

N. Gemini Sasson said...

Sounds like a truly memorable experience, Anne. I know there was a movement here in Ohio to connect some of the major cities (Cinci/Cleveland, etc.) with a rail system, but am not sure where that's at right now.

Anne Gilbert said...


It won't be "anywhere" unless somebody keeps pushing for it(or more likely, a number of somebodies). If you're truly interested in having a rail system for the Cleveland/Cincinnati area, you should "get on board" and work for it(or encourage others interested, to do likewise). That's the only way it will happen. It took years and years around here, and a lot of people bickered about it, before it happened.
Anne G

Joansz said...

Congrats on getting light rail. You're right, more cities should have it, but it won't happen without pressure from the communities.

Connecticut used to have an extensive rail system that criss-crossed the state between cities and towns. Unfortunately, this rail system fell into disrepair until finally much of it was torn up and converted to trails. I live about 15 miles north of New Haven and what used to be a rail line is now a trail that I can bicycle all the way to New Haven. It's less than a mile from my house and I walk on a portion of it nearly every day. However, it would really be great if I could take a light rail train to New Haven (and Hartford in the opposite direction) where I could then connect to other points. At least Metro North and Amtrak run through New Haven and I can take the train to NYC and Newark International Airport.

Anne Gilbert said...


It's nice you can ride a bike to New Haven, if you want to do that. You can do things like that around here, too(we have lots of trails, some of them quite long and interesting)and biking paths. But the Seattle area is so "spread out" rather than "compact", that it's hard to get anywhere without some kind of decent trasportation. And cars are increasingly being seen as "too polluting". So light rail is a first step, but there's lots of stuff that needs to be done, and probably will be. But you're right. The only way to di it is step up or keep up the community pressure. If you are interested in these sorts of issues at all, please join in the chorus and start pressuring. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and all th at.
Anne G