Seattle’s new Link Light (light rail)

In 1996, a ballot measure set in motion a regional light-rail transportation system. On December 19—last Saturday—the portion connecting SeaTac airport with downtown Seattle opened up. Just in time for my sister to suggest that my daughter and I try it out.

The system is new enough that at the SeaTac end there are staff members on the platform helping riders figure the system out, including the need to buy a ticket from a kiosk on the floor below.


And the train was fairly empty at that end of the run.


As we moved toward the center of the city, and the more established rapid transportation routes, the passenger load increased.


There are bike racks, and additional spaces that accommodate bikes, in each car. This one’s hanging in one of the racks.


The access door closest to the hanging bike rack has a bike decal on it. Even when the bike racks are full, there’s space for bikes.


There’s a great diversity of riders.


I’m from a part of the country where mass rapid transit is still a dream.

My daughter and I got distracted by the typeface used on the stations in the new part of the route. (The stations in the central part of the city have different typography, as do most of the Link Light materials.) We thought it was unusually graceful, as well as clear.


So we took a number of photos (to give ourselves a variety of characters with which to identify it).

By happenstance, the four of us who ended up eating at the card table in my sister’s study for dinner last night all like type, so we got to talk about it at length! (Daughter, niece, me, and the graphic artist who is a neighbor of my sister and brother-in-law.) When you say a font is a “semi serif,” that’s a vague classification, although it’s the one that applies in this case: it’s neither a sans serif nor a traditional serif font. I learned, from my niece, about Typedia, a new-to-me resource that I look forward to exploring. My daughter, who designs websites, learned about Typekit, which I’d known about in theory but not practice.

Summary: Seattle’s Link Light connection between SeaTac and downtown—easy, comfortable, and inexpensive.

Plus far more interesting type than is usual in wayfinding signage.

The signs above were all shot through the open doors while we were at the stops. This one was caught through the glass:


Later, cousins who haven’t seen each other since last year spent some time getting reacquainted.


The cousin in the middle was using Photoshop to straighten and resize the snapshot of the Rainier Beach sign so we could work on identifying it. Font identification tools tend to expect that the mystery font will be a classic serif or sans serif face, or a display face. Semi-serif fonts tend to fall through the cracks of the systems. We fed it into WhatTheFont first. We couldn’t get an i.d. there, and left the “submit it to humans for input” option as a backup if we couldn’t put a name on it by another method. By going through the letters’ idiosyncracies on Identifont, we did locate something close enough—Rotis Semi Serif Regular—which led us to the real thing: Rotis Semi Serif Bold.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate that holiday in any form, and happy upcoming new year to all.


9 thoughts on “Seattle’s new Link Light (light rail)”

  1. YEAH! The world needs more light rail systems. Phoenix now has one after decades of battles and many years of being turned down by voters. I don’t live in PHX so have never used this light rail but I am very glad it is now in existence.

    We had many wonderful opportunities to use the light rail system while in Germany this past summer. It was fabulous: inexpensive, convenient and everyone used it. The trains were always full: we talked to many interesting people every time we took a train, we saw more of the German countryside than we would have seen from a passenger car, and none of us on this trip had to drive. Wunderbar!

    Lindy (AZ)

  2. What a fun photo of the cousins and their computers ‘talking’ to one another. 🙂

    Things are very quiet here, but your photos of Seattle reminded me of wonderful vacations and yes, beautiful type! 🙂 Thanks for the post.

  3. I live in a state where we deeply believe that everyone should have their own car. This city had 4 auto factories for generations.

    We will never have rail in Lansing, at least in my life. Detroit has “people mover” but it takes tourists between highlights, and takes absolutely nobody to work. Expensive and useless, though I’ve ridden it to say I have.

    I collect “subways” and the best one was in Cairo. That city is cluttered, overcrowded, dusty. the subway was clean, air conditioned, lovely, and super cheap. Loved it.

    Have not been to Seattle yet. Would love it, I’m sure.

    And the font is wonderful. Wish I knew more about typefaces. Grandpa was a printer/newspaper owner. He knew what could be known in the 40’s and 50’s. Dad learned to type while setting metal type for Christmas Cards, about age 6.

    Sounds like a good trip! We’re not going much of anywhere. Liking that, as well.

  4. We have less population density, although I suspect that there are several mass-transportation options that would make economic and environmental sense along the main travel corridors. No, I don't want to give up my car. I love road trips, and I enjoy everyday driving. But I want more choices. For example, my bike, for around town (I'm antsy for the ice to melt off our street so I can ride it again, and I've been muttering, sometimes out loud, about a mountain bike with grippy, maybe even studded, tires). I would *love* to be able to knit or read instead of driving when I'm going to Denver! It's a boring stretch of highway.

  5. Deb, you are my kind of geek. 🙂

    and YAY! light rail! they are talking about it here in central IL. hope something happens.

  6. Yea! Seattle lightrail! I live a block from a downtown station and, since I have a pass anyway, just get on to go for a ride and knit.

    I got rid of my car, and while I sometimes miss my little red Subaru like a lost pet, I’ve been happy with my decision. I rent a car occasionally to go out of town and use when bus or cab won’t do around town. I consider myself very lucky to live where it’s possible to be carless. For most people it would impossible or a major sacrifice of convenience.

    By the way, is there any plan to teach your UK Knit Camp classes closer to home? I could swing a trip in the US, but Scotland it out of the question. Bummer.

  7. Congratulations on living near the light rail! I saw a couple of Zipcars while I was driving around Seattle. Being carless here in Colorado is not very feasible. I have had friends who have not had cars, but even with extreme self-sufficiency they end up being in some parts of their lives dependent on friends who do have cars.

    Good question about the UK Knit Camp courses being taught at other locations. I love teaching this stuff. I can't travel a whole lot and still get the other necessary work done.

    I think I will be teaching something related to the wools at the Spinning Loft in Michigan in the fall of 2010 ( )–November?

    Otherwise I don't know. I've actually been thinking about ways to maybe teach online . . . for starters, I've been taking Stephanie Japel's course on teaching online, which has given me some idea of what the possibilities are. The trick is to manage something as tactile as fibers that way, but I think it might be possible. If enough people might be interested in an online version.

Comments are closed.