Skip to main content

A 'convention of transit nerds' at Bellevue-Redmond light rail opening day

caption: Corey Mae Lamont wears a jacket he designed to commemorate the opening of the Two Line connecting South Bellevue to South Redmond.
Enlarge Icon
Corey Mae Lamont wears a jacket he designed to commemorate the opening of the Two Line connecting South Bellevue to South Redmond.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Sound Transit's 2 Line, connecting Redmond to Bellevue, has opened after a years-long wait.

On Saturday's opening, many Eastsiders celebrated, optimistic that the new line would simplify their commutes.

The eight-stop route will carry passengers from South Bellevue to the Redmond Technology Station.

Anu Radha of from the Totem Lake area in Kirkland said she expects the line will give her and her husband the option to leave their cars behind when commuting to Microsoft and Amazon where they work. She brought her parents, visiting from India, to see opening day.

RELATED: Counting down to ‘All Aboard!’ East Link: And it still has that new (light rail) car smell

"I wanted to show them something new that was happening," she said. "They were thrilled."

And they weren't alone.

caption: Anu Radha and her family
Enlarge Icon
Anu Radha and her family
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The day also revealed large numbers of another kind of rider: transit nerds.

They came from communities that aren't directly served by the new line,, at least not until it connects to the 1 Line through Seattle in 2025.

Some transit nerds seemed to be seeing Bellevue with new eyes. Others were just happy to see what they consider a big transit win.

caption: Bruce Qu of Shoreline, transit fan
Enlarge Icon
Bruce Qu of Shoreline, transit fan
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

"I'm a transit fan," said Bruce Qu from Shoreline, who made his way through the crowds in order to nab a seat on the very first train. "Because this is the first train, I'm thinking I'll ride all the way to the end. And then on the way back, I'm gonna stop at each station."

RELATED: Bellevue's light rail is rolling. Will a Seattle connection arrive in time for the World Cup?

Cory Mae Lamont of Tacoma, a freelance designer, showed up wearing a custom bomber jacket he made bearing the 2 Line logo on the left chest.

"I got off at one of the stations, and somebody from Sound Transit thought I worked for Sound Transit," he said.

Lamont's fandom runs deep. He said his friends know him as someone who won't stop talking about transit. He said opening day felt like a convention of transit nerds.

RELATED: Seattle light rail is about to get heavy for those who don't pay the fare

"I don't get this every day," he said. "It's quite the thrill to be around other people who are nerds about public transit. So, it was very important for me to be here."

Sabrina Djouahra came from Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. She's a heavy user of the 1 Line there, and woke up early to bus to Bellevue. She said she was surprised by how quickly the trains moved.

"I used to work in Bellevue, and I felt like Redmond and Bellevue were so far away... from each other," she said. "But then I realized, 'Oh, it only felt far away because of the traffic!'"

caption: Alex Clark (L), Sabrina Djouahra (C), Daniel Heppner (R) of Capitol Hill
Enlarge Icon
Alex Clark (L), Sabrina Djouahra (C), Daniel Heppner (R) of Capitol Hill
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Not every transit nerd was completely impressed.

RELATED: How will your life change when Bellevue's light rail opens?

Daniel Heppner, also from Capitol Hill, said he was skeptical when the train approached the BelRed station.

"The surroundings were just parking lots, and there was a cement truck parking lot. And we were like, 'Oh, yeah, this is a really interesting area here, BelRed,'" he said in a sarcastic voice. "We were kind of making fun of it as we came into it."

Heppner's image of the area changed as the train continued past the station, though, revealing new apartments, businesses and a big "BelRed Arts District" sign.

"I don't know if the sign is the extent of the arts there, but maybe we can figure that out with the train," he said.

RELATED: After 16 years and $3 billion, Lynnwood light rail set to open this summer

Saturday's opening was just one of several new station openings coming soon to Sound Transit's expanding light rail network. In August, the 1 Line will connect to Lynnwood. In 2025, the 2 Line will connect to the 1 Line in Seattle. And in 2026, the system will extend south to Federal Way.

caption: Opening day celebrations at the Redmond Technology Station
Enlarge Icon
1 of 4 Opening day celebrations at the Redmond Technology Station
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

But this opening day was unique in scale, because it represented the biggest expansion of the system since the first light rail segment opened between downtown Seattle and Tukwila in 2009.

It was also the perfect opportunity to sow the next generation of transit fans.

Karthik Narashimhan of Sammamish brought his 4-year-old son, "because he loves riding the train," he said.

While Narashimhan's son wouldn't speak to this interviewer, his dad reported the kid was having a great time.

Why you can trust KUOW