After 13 years, Sound Transit’s Sounder Commuter Rail service made its first run into South Tacoma and Lakewood. The train, greeted by media and dignitaries, completes the last piece of the original Sounder plan in Sound Move, an 81.8-mile corridor between Everett and Lakewood.
Testing now ramps up. Starting this week, a 7-car Sounder trainset will be making runs between Freighthouse Square in Tacoma and Lakewood Station at initial speeds between 10mph to 20mph. The following week will ramp up speeds to 40mph and eventually the maximum speed of 60mph. The testing will include emergency drills, including stop/slide testing on the hill between M Street and D Street; adhesion testing between M Street and D Street to ensure the train can start safely with maximum loading of passengers; crossing malfunctions, which may include an occasional blow of the horn at times; and certification of the right of way for passenger use. These tests will happen between 8am and 4pm, every 30 to 60 minutes, Monday-Friday. However, please expect ANY TRAIN at ANY TIME and do not trespass!
Freight trains that currently use the line will be permitted at 40mph between Lakewood Station and M Street. However, trains will still only have a maximum speed of 10mph south of Lakewood, due to the condition of the track. Reports that Tacoma Rail is running on the connector is not officially confirmed at this time, but during the testing phases I saw a Tacoma Rail train on the hill.
The start of service is currently slated for October but an exact date has yet to be determined. Simulated runs will happen 2 to 4 weeks before service starts. That is, trains that normally terminate at Freighthouse Square will continue onward to Lakewood Station without passengers. Each train will be “swept” to ensure to passengers are off the train at Freighthouse Square. When service does start, fares for passengers traveling between Lakewood and Seattle will be $5.50 one way with a total travel time of an hour and 10 minutes, 75 cents and 11 minutes more than the current end point at FHS. Sounder is in a boom right now with nearly a 20 percent increase in ridership and continues to keep that growth up with additional trains coming soon over the next few years. Expect a schedule change that will align the departures with a “clock-facing” departures to make it easier to remember. There will only be 5 round trips that initially will go to Lakewood:
AM Trains #1500, 1502, 1504, 1506, and 1510
PM Trains #1509, 1513, 1515, 1517, and 1519
The 8th and 9th peak-direction roundtrips to Tacoma start in 2013 and 2016 respectively. A third reverse-peak round trip also starts in 2016, and the next year ST will add an off-peak round trip. It is unclear which of these will terminate in Lakewood.
This has been a long time coming and looking forward to riding the train. My excitement for this has been growing and hopefully ST will keep extending the train South. More information on the project is available here, here, and here.