Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Jerry Jones
Gazette Editor 

Taking a train to the Apple Cup


December 26, 2019

The light rail trains on the south end of the run offer scenic views of SeaTac and south Seattle before they go underground.

Contrasts between the east and west sides of Washington State can be identified in many shapes and forms. This one deals with modes for going to a football game, and probably other games.

November's Apple Cup game this year was at Husky Stadium, the hallowed ground on Montlake Boulevard which runs along the eastern side of the University of Washington campus.

During years when the Apple Cup is at Husky Stadium, Cougar fans face the challenge of getting to the stadium and getting back from the stadium after the game. Veteran fans follow their solutions from odd year to odd year, but a not-so-new option was introduced to me this year: Taking a train to the game.

The approach calls for a commute north from Olympia on Interstate 5, an exit south of Seatac Airport, parking at a place called Angle Lake and boarding the Sound Transit Train which runs all the way to front entrances of Husky Stadium.

The train is the major part of Sound Transit's light rail system and it has been in operation to the stadium since 2016. The approach takes about 33 minutes and includes 16 stops along the way. It actually operates like a subway with passengers boarding and exiting through side doors along the way.

Way back when, going to the game by rail was a standard practice favored by WSU fans who lived in Spokane and rolled to Pullman on the rails which still run along Highway 27. The railroad mode to a WSC game faded with the automobile option.

Many Cougar fans now use the RV approach, which is a mode that provides self-contained lodging and possible variations for social interchange.

First challenge for the new mode UW train is finding a place to park the car at the train station, or stations.

Angle Lake offers a six-story parking garage which serves as a key for commuters who ride the train to work on weekdays.

The Angle Lake parking garage features six levels and a total of 1,160 parking spaces. Husky fans arriving on a Saturday roll up a spiraling incline of the parking garage with the hope and wish that they will find a parking slot before they reach the top level and see a vehicle parked in space 1,160.

The uphill search encounters downhill vehicles who could be departing because the place was full. But that wasn't the case. At about two hours before game time we parked in a slot numbered over 1,000. A quick look showed possibly the last 20 slots quickly disappearing.

Angle Lake parking levels are named after mountains. We were on the top, Rainier.

Angle Lake parking garage anxiety could compare with the RV parking space anxiety at Pullman in the wake of this year's shutdown of Walmart RV parking at the outer perimeter of its parking lot off Bishop Blvd.

Next move calls for a descent down to ground level to board the trains. The attendants at the fare station happily told us that football fans could ride for free. Normal fee for the Angle Lake-UW ride was in the $3 range.

Passengers filed through the sliding doors of the train car and smoothly rolled north. Among stops charted on a map over the window were Seatac, Tukwila, Mount Baker, Stadium, Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill and the University of Washington.

Somewhere along the north end of the run the train goes into a tunnel, and it doesn't come out. The Capitol Hill station does not offer a view of Lake Union because it is down deep under Capitol Hill. There is no hint of the approach to campus.

The line was extended to UW after the University Link Tunnel went into operation in March of 2016.

The tunnel actually goes under the hallowed Montlake Cut, the channel which borders the south side of the campus and connects Lake Union with Lake Washington.

Fans riding in the Link train actually go beneath other fans who are aboard yachts which are cruising along the Montlake Cut to anchorages on the Lake Washington end of the stadium.

The lake view from Husky Stadium is one of the bragging points UW likes to describe as part of the "the most unique setting" in college football.

The train station deep beneath the other end of the stadium is clean, but offers no view.

Fans scrambling out of the trains face an elevator, escalator or stairway options to get to daylight. The stairway flights are numbered. They total seven.

On Apple Cup day, the skies of Husky Stadium were clear, and fans emerging from the depths of the station openly welcomed the daylight and the pre-game bustle.

After the game the only option is to return to the depths. Fans enter the station and descend, down, down, down.

Most opted for escalators which seemed to extend for the same length as a downtown city block in Colfax. Security guards are stationed at the bottom of the escalators to direct fans around a long corner to get on another escalator. Down. Down.

Two trains, the first of a series, were ready and waiting on each side of the station platform and quickly filled. Each car on the train supposedly can carry 194 passengers, and the Apple Cup trains were made up of possibly five cars.

Fans packed into the train and some voiced commentary on possible key aspects of the Apple Cup battle that just finished. Others dozed.

Gradually, as the trains head southbound, as fans exit at the stops more seats become available. The trip beneath the Montlake channel and under Capitol Hill is reversed as the trains head south.

Fans departing via train after the Apple Cup, or other Husky games descend on these long escalators to get down the the tunnel which carries them under the Montlake Cut and Capitol Hill.

Construction of the University link to the Sound Transit line, a 3.1 mile extension, began in 2008 after federal funding was approved by the Federal Transit Administration in 2006.

One internet posting on Sound Transit said they plan to add 40 more miles of rail and 20 more stations over the next five years. This seems like a lot compared to the time it took to build the present system.

Work started on the the first segment, from Westlake to Tukwila, in late 2003, and it opened in July of 2009.

Work is said to be 95 percent complete on the new Roosevelt Station which is north of the UW station by about 20 blocks.

The history of the system dates back to 1996 when voters in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties approved a hike in sales taxes and vehicle excise taxes to help pay the costs. The $3.9 billion transportation package included $1.7 billion for light rail.


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