Along with fireworks, another Fourth of July tradition is the annual traffic jam after the show. You may have thought about taking light rail, but it turns out, Sound Transit was on a holiday schedule.
In observation of Independence day, Sound Transit scaled back to its Sunday schedule, which means the last train to leave downtown Seattle was at 11:37 p.m. That’s just about one hour after the end of the show, and some people say it took more than an hour to get out of the crowds.
A.J. Worley was working at Lake Union on the Fourth and took a bus back to Westlake Center. But by then, it was 1 a.m. and the tunnel was closed. “I had no choice, I had to catch a cab,” he said.
In San Francisco, BART, the Bay-area train system, advertised special event trains and ran until 12:30 in the morning. In Portland, Tri-met ran on a Saturday schedule, then added extra service until 2:30 a.m.
But Sound Transit says Seattle is a bit different. There isn’t a light rail station right next to the fireworks show; it’s a long walk or a trolley ride to the downtown station.
“Traditionally, the Fourth hasn’t been a big ridership night for us, it’s not up there with Torchlight or New Years Eve, or some of the other events downtown,” said Bruce Gray, Sound Transit spokesman.
Some transit users wonder if it might have been a missed opportunity to introduce new riders to light rail, perhaps even offering them a free trip. But Sound Transit says with most business closed on the fourth, its ridership is typically down about 10,000 on the holiday.
The agency also points out that it’s really Metro in charge of the tunnel and Metro’s call to close it at midnight on holidays. Metro said Sound Transit would likely have to pay to keep the tunnel open later.
“If we were seeing crushloads, and a huge cry for more service, for fireworks at Lake Union, I’m sure it’s something we’d look into a little more,” said Gray.