Five years after light rail came to King County, use of public transit by Tukwila commuters more than doubled (from 7% to 16%); at the same time, the share of Tukwila residents who drove to work alone dropped from 73% to 65%. Commute modes did not change in South King County cities that do not have light rail service. In Kent and Auburn, for example, 3 out of 4 commuters were still driving to work, and only 6% used public transit.
The recent extension of Link Light Rail to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington further increased Tukwila commuters’ use of light rail. When the new stations opened in March, MYNorthwest.com reported that Tukwila’s regular and overflow parking lots filled as early as 6:30 am, highlighting needs for nearby affordable housing plus better pedestrian, bike, and local-transit access.
What are the prospects for light rail in other South King County communities? A new station at Angle Lake, 1.6 miles south of SeaTac Airport, will open this fall, and an extension to Kent/Des Moines (near Highline College) has already been funded. Funding to complete extensions to the Star Lake park-and-ride (at South 272nd Street), and the Federal Way Transit Center are proposed as part of Sound Transit’s latest (ST3) plan.
Communities Count’s new update of commuting by mode of transportation includes interactive data visualizations on cities throughout King County. King County/Metro’s online Commute Calculator enables users to compare the costs of driving alone versus using public transit.