Vocabulary

Highway engineers, railroads, transit planners, and monorail people all use certain words with meanings especially for their profession. We'll try to cut through some of that jargon. I will also include some names and acronyms used in the Seattle Area, especially since this web site is open to visitors all over the world and most will have no idea of what some of the local names refer to. There is also confusion outside the U.S.A. between the State of Washington and Washington, D.C.

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at grade - Refers to operations along the surface of the ground. Most streets, roads, and railroads are at grade.
 
CenturyLink Field - A large stadium just south of Downtown Seattle and just north of Safeco Field. CenturyLink Field is the home of the Seattle Seahawks football team. In this case “football” refers to American football. The stadium is used by the Seattle Sounders soccer team. Soccer is the game called “football” in most other countries.
 
destination - A place to which people go. For example: Safeco Field is a major destination for baseball fans.
 
dwell time - The length of time a train or other transit vehicle waits at a station after arriving and until leaving.
 
Elliott Bay - A roughly semi-circular bay of Puget Sound. Downtown Seattle is located on Elliott Bay.
 
grade - 1. The surface of the ground. 2. The steepness of a slope. The train has to go up a 2% grade.
 
grade-separated - Operating at a level above or below surface traffic, such as subways, an elevated highway, an elevated railway (such as Vancouver, B.C.'s Sky Train), or a monorail.
 
headway - The amount of time between the arrival of trains or other transit vehicles. i.e. a headway of five minutes means that a train arrives every five minutes. This could also be defined as the time between departures, or is commonly referred to the time between trains.
 
Key Arena - A large roofed sports arena located at the west side of the Seattle Center. It is the home of the Seattle Supersonics basketball team and the Seattle Storm women’s basketball team. Various other events are also held in Key Arena.
 
King County - A political subdivision of Washington State. King County includes the large city of Seattle and several smaller cities including Shoreline, Renton, Tukwila, Kent, Auburn, Seatac, Federal Way, Burien, Woodinville, Bothell, Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, and Issaquah.
 
link - 1. In a transportation network, a connection between two nodes. 2. The name that Sound Transit chose to give to their light rail system (see Link Light Rail).
 
Link Light Rail - The name Sound Transit has given to its proposed light rail system. A short Link Light Rail line is under construction in Tacoma, and a much longer line is proposed for Seattle but is currently delayed by various problems.
 
node - A point of origin or destination in a transportation system. Usually there is a station or stop at a node.
 
origin - A place from which people leave. For example: Downtown Seattle is a major origin of passenger traffic at the end of the work day.
 
Pierce County - A political subdivision of the State of Washington. Pierce County is the next county south of King County and includes the large city of Tacoma and several smaller cities such as Puyallup, Graham, Orting, Lakewood, and Gig Harbor.
 
Puget Sound - A large body of water, long north and south and fairly narrow east and west, but highly irregular, that connects with the Pacific Ocean and extends into the interior of the State of Washington. The Seattle area is on the east shore of Puget Sound.
 
Safeco Field - A major-league baseball stadium just south of Downtown Seattle. The home of the Seattle Mariners baseball team.
 
Seattle Center - A large complex of buildings, amusement rides, fountains, and other attractions located just north of Downtown Seattle. The Seattle Center is approximately 1/3 mile (500 meters) on each side.
 
Snohomish County - A political subdivision of the State of Washington; the next county north of King County. Cities in Snohomish County include Everett, Marysville, Mukilteo, Monroe, Snohomish, Arlington, Mill Creek, Lynnwood, Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace, and part of Bothell.
 
Sound Transit - A governmental agency designing and operating a regional rapid transit system for Snohomish, King, and Pierce Counties.
 
switch - A device that moves the rails of a railway or the beams of a monorail in such a way that a train can move from one track or guideway to another.
 
Washington, D.C. - A large city on the east coast of the United States. It is the capital of the U.S., and is where the President, Congress, and many government offices are located. It is not the same as the Washington where Seattle is located. It is very far from Seattle. D.C. stands for District of Columbia, a district set aside for the capital of the United States.
 
Washington State, or State of Washington - One of the 50 states that make up the United States of America. It is located in the northwest corner of the United States by the Pacific Ocean. It is just south of the Canadian province of British Columbia. Seattle is the largest city in the State of Washington. In this web site, the name “Washington” is used alone (without “State”) when it not likely to be confused with Washington, D.C.
 

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© 2002 by Robert M. Fleming Jr.

This page was last updated 8 May 2016.

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