The Imperial College in London is right on the Circle Line a tube route that, as the name implies, is a circle around Central London and Westminster. I studied at Imperial College for a quarter, and after school would take the reading assignment or a newspaper and sit for a while, and when I came to a good stopping point in the reading would get off the train and explore whatever part of the city was around the next stop. I still remember a chip shop where one of the locals I talked to complained that you have to bring your own vinegar because they don’t provide it in this part of town anymore and some gloriously spicy Indian food.
Well today, on the first day of light rail service, I went out and explored Othello, a neighborhood that previously might have been Mars for how infrequently I got down there.
The station is great. Beautiful itself and right across from King Plaza, a two story strip mall that was doing a brisk business on this weekend day. Beyond that, past a couple blocks of London plane trees was a very nice little park (I’m not sure it was a city park; I didn’t notice any signage), a perfect place to sit under a gigantic willow and read with a scent of lavender planted nearby mingled with that of some burgers a family was grilling.
I walked back to, and then down MLK, parallel to the tracks. A few businesses that may benefit from having light rail eventually were pretty empty when I looked into the windows. I stopped in and had a late lunch at a Thai place a few blocks from the station. It was empty except for me at about 2:30, and a bit fuller when I left, but hopefully it and places like it will get more business as people see what’s out from the stations.
After lunch back at the station, Sound Transit did a great job with a little fair. There was music and some booths. I got my undriver’s license and took in some music, and then back home to downtown.
The line wasn’t as bad as I had feared but it was about a half hour before the ST people let me on a train (going there from University Street Station there was almost no line at all).
The point of this (admittedly overindulgent) post is that light rail opens up a piece of the city for those of us without roots there and who make most of our trips without a car. Sure, this is something I could do yesterday if I’d wanted to. But it’s much easier to just get on a train than it is to figure out the bus schedule or to find parking if I’d wanted to drive. And I know exactly how to get home: hop on one of the trains that come every few minutes.
In the coming weeks, I hope to explore other neighborhoods that I normally wouldn’t get to. I’ll probably wander around another station tomorrow. Perhaps after work some time before it starts getting dark early, I’ll take a bike to one of the stations and ride it home. Given that the trains were stuffed, I doubt I’ll be the only one.