One drag about having a non-transit related job is that it’s hard to attend Sound Transit Board Meetings and such.  Luckily, Andrew Austin has a transit-related job and he liveblogged today’s meeting at the TCC blog.

There’s all kinds of good stuff, more than usual.  A lot of it is PSRC 2040 related, and there’s red meat for the Sounder-to-Olympia folks.

Share whatever strikes you in the comments.

24 Replies to “Sound Transit Board Meeting Liveblog”

    1. I’m a bit confused as to which markets would be better served by Amtrak Cascades and which ones would be better served by Sounder. I guess it doesn’t matter as long as there’s a train involved, who cares what colour it’s painted.

      If we’re planning Sounder service to Olympia, then why not all the way to Mount Vernon? Or Bellingham? Ridership on the County Connector buses up north proves that there’s a clear demand for more transit through the entire I-5 corridor.

      1. Barman,

        I don’t see it as an either/or dilemma. Markets should be served both by local trains and ‘express’ trains. From Olympia to Tacoma or Seattle, Cascades will make fewer stops and be the preferred option. For Olympia to Kent, Puyallup, Ballard etc…, for example, Sounder service is appropriate. The idea is to have frequent trains offering diverse levels of service.

      2. Sounder would also help provide more frequent service on the corridor overall, even if it’s slower than cascades.

      3. Even if we did have to do an either/or, County Connector ridership is much, much lower than IT Tacoma-Olympia ridership.

      4. My hunch is the reason is in the Seattle to Olympia Corridor you would pick up people going ever which way. The commuting patterns in this corridor have demand in all directions. This is because a significant amount of people commute from Seattle to Olympia, Olympia to Seattle, Olympia to Tacoma, Tacoma to Olympia, Lakewood to Olympia, Lakewood to Tacoma…etc. The North Sound Commuting is more oriented around a very long commute to Seattle with a some people stopping in Everett.

        The biggest traffic problem in Pierce County right now on the freeways is the large amount of soldiers coming to Ft. Lewis. Hopefully a Dupont station would alleviate some of that pressure and the Federal government could contract shuttles from DuPont to the fort with Pierce Transit. If anything a Sounder extension to Olympia would provide an awesome diversion for folks trying to get between Olympia and Tacoma during rush out (which right now easily takes an hour, it is worse than traffic between Tacoma and Seattle. Not having HOV lanes for the buses doesn’t help of course.

      5. I don’t know, I’ve ridden the County Connector a few times between MV and Bellingham and it’s usually standing room only. You’d be surprised how many Western students save money by living with the family in Skagit county.

        The MV to Everett line is also really successful, so much so that service was recently expanded to 10 roundtrips a day (though you’ve still got to line up for a seat). Interesting, especially because it’s Skagit Station direct to Everett Station – one major train station to another. If there was a train running that route often enough, a lot of people would ride it. (Except, of course, the bus costs $2 while Amtrak currently costs significantly more).

      6. A problem with using Amtrak over a supersized version of Sounder is that you can’t get a monthly pass. The single exception is the 2 trips from Everett to Seattle. Amtrak is also more expensive. I wonder how much Sounder from Olympia to Seattle would cost? I really wish there was a Sounder run from and to Everett to Tacoma.

      7. You can transfer from the first Everett to Seattle morning run to the second Seattle to Tacoma run quite easily with little delay. Reverse works also, obviously.

        Eventually I hope all the runs go through Seattle to the other direction instead of stopping at King Street, especially if Broad Street Station is built. Commuters from Tacoma should be able to get to Broad Street without transfering. Also, does anyone know the feasability of a Sounder stop at Westlake? It runs right underneath.

    1. Weekend service never should have been a topic for discussion; it should have been a given from the beginning. Mid-day, evening and weekend services are an integral part of any respectable transport system. Have a look at the Caltrain services between San Francisco, Palo Alto and San Jose for an example of what our sounder service ought to look like, hopefully in the not too distant future.

      1. They’re getting there. Obviously if it were up to ST, they’d be running trains every hour every day. The problem is party BNSF – the rail lines are supposedly at capacity until further improvements are made.

        Slowly but surely we’ll get there. ST is working on it.

      2. I may be wrong, but isn’t ST adding more off-peak Sounder trips on the Seattle to Tacoma line because of the passage of ST2? In affect, that would make it more of a passenger/commuter line instead of just commuter line. Is there a date when this new service will be implemented? I believe they were going to institute something closer to hourly service. More service on the Everett line would be nice too.

        Regularly scheduled weekend service would be great as well, at least a couple trips both ways and not just on game and concert days. Though it does seem like there’s weekend Sounder service more frequently lately, possibly because of the Sounders FC games being served? Would also be nice to have Sounder service for the Storm games, with a promotion for a free Monorail roundtrip.

        One other point I’d like to make about Sounder, is there any idea if a Boeing Field station will ever be built (along with a Link station)? In addition, didn’t ST2 fund Belltown, Ballard and Shoreline stations or just a study for them? Adding these stations (including Boeing Field) would see a serious increase in ridership for the line as well as hourly service and weekend service.

      3. The new round trips should start in 2012, along with slightly longer trains. We’ll see if that’s delayed due to lower tax collections, though. That’s Pierce Subarea, and they’re hit pretty hard (worse than North King).

      4. The plan is one midday round trip going both ways which was funded by ST 2, if its not delayed.

        Ben, do you know when they are going to bring back all of the trains from Virgina that they leased out?

        The big problem with the Everett line is the capacity issues, there is a part of the track along the water which is a single track and there isn’t really room to expand. Although if they can get the Snoqualmie pass tunnel freight project done someday then freight trains could go over by I-90 instead of by SR 2, which would make more sense and may free up capacity for more passenger service on the North Corridor.

      5. Yeah, the difference between CalTrain and Sounder is that CalTrain owns and maintains the tracks that it runs on so they have more flexibility. I believe they don’t share tracks with freight while ST is at the mercy of BNSF and heavy freight traffic.

      6. Also they own the track from Tacoma the the Pierce-Thurston County Line which is a good step in the right direction. Also if they wanted to get into downtown Olympia ever they would essentially have to build the tracks, which then they would own.

      7. Sigh, and note how Caltrain runs once an hour during off-peak times (every two hours on Sunday), while BART runs every 5-15 minutes. That’s why it really sucks to live on the Penninsula or Silicon Valley compared to the East Bay.

        The issue is not what color the trains are painted but how frequently they run. When I hear Link I think “15 minutes or better”. When I hear Sounder I think “peak hours only”. When I hear Amtrak I think “three times a day, several hours apart”. I have ridden Sounder exactly once because usually when I’m going to Tacoma or Kent it isn’t running. So extending Sounder to Olympia would be nice but would it still run only at peak hours?

  1. A Lakewood to Olympia Sounder line would be tough to make attractive since the most direct rail corridor via Lacey is being converted into a bike path. The trains would likely have to go via the Olympia Amtrak station and then wind around via Tumwater Valley into downtown. It would probably take an hour to get from downtown Tacoma to downtown Olympia. However that might still be better than traveling I-5 via DuPont/Fort Lewis which is horrible.

  2. Thanks everyone for the information in regards to ST sharing the tracks to BNSF. I do hope the Sounder will soon run on the weekend. I bet there will be a lot of people taking the sounder rather than driving to downtown Seattle. Wouldn’t that help to build a greener environment? Well, I look forward to the weekend Sounder service hopefully in the near future.

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