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Light rail prepares for new line numbers, names, and colors

The inside of the Northgate light rail station. (Sound Transit)

With light rail service to Northgate starting in just over a month, Sound Transit is about to change the names and designations of its rail and bus lines.

We hope you’re ready for a lot of new numbers, letters, and colors.

We’ve been calling it Link light rail since the service started, but that name is going away as the service continues to expand, especially with trains that can go to different destinations. When the line to Northgate opens Oct. 2, what we have come to know as the north-south link between Angle Lake and now Northgate will become the Number-1 Line, and its color will be green.

“We will generally no longer use names like Link or Tacoma Link to refer to service lines,” Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff told the board last week.

It’s all part of a maturing rail network.

“The new names and associated colors do follow global best practices that will allow our system to scale in the coming years,” Rogoff said. “This is absolutely necessary when you consider the fact that we’re tripling the size of the mileage of the light rail network and doubling the number of stations just in the next three-and-a-half years.”

This new branding also extends to Sounder service, bus rapid transit, and other light rail extensions as they come on line.

“South Sounder and Sounder North are becoming the S and N Lines, respectfully, and East Link will launch as the Number-2 Line in 2023,” Rogoff said.

The Number-2 Line will have the color blue.

Why do all this now when trains to the Eastside won’t start until 2023?

It’s all for riders to start getting used to the numbers and the colors so when more destinations are available, they won’t be getting on the wrong trains.

“Southbound riders are going to need to make a decision,” Rogoff said about deciding which train to catch in the future. “This is what it means to actually graduate into network status. You can board the wrong train if you don’t pay attention to this, depending on where you’re going.”

For example, if you’re catching a ride from Northgate to Bellevue, you had better be on the Number-2 Line or the Blue Line, or you might end up at the airport.

Sound Transit charts its path ahead facing $6.5 billion budget hole

Rogoff shared some other news with the board: Changes to the ORCA card are coming, along with a mobile app and web application that will allow you to add money in real-time. Currently, it can take up to 24 hours for added funds to make it to your account.

South Sounder, or the new S Line, will add another daily trip in September and will return to pre-pandemic service levels.

As far as construction updates, the East Link — or the new Blue Line — to Bellevue is 92% complete. The Lynnwood extension of the Green Line is 50% complete. Federal Way, which is also part of the Green Line, is 36% complete. Redmond is 33% complete.

The Tacoma Hilltop expansion, soon to be known as the T Line, is set to open in 2022.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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