[UPDATE: To clear up some confusion in the comments, whatever net costs exist are borne by Sound Transit.  As spokesman Bruce Gray explained:

The teams have never paid extra for this service. It’s part of our job to serve major events. Since the first Seahawks train, we’ve had great response to these services and have found it to be a great way to introduce Sound Transit to some who would never otherwise use transit.

Consider this a marketing or PR cost if you like.]

Sound Transit is expanding their special sporting event service on Sounder to cover all weekend day games of both the Mariners and the Sounders this year.

As I’ve observed before, sporting event service is a nice combo for rail transit: expensive parking, high congestion that traps most buses, focused arrival and departure times, and an opportunity to serve a constituency that may not have the occasion to use your service otherwise.

92 Replies to “More Weekend Sounder Specials”

  1. Has there been any motion on the regulations keeping Metro from running Mariner service?

      1. I thought I remembered hearing that. Have we heard anything from Metro about their plans? Here’s hoping they bring back the Flyers, they were awesome!

      2. The Metro bus service last time it was allowed worked well. The police cleared a path for the buses so they were not stopped in traffic, and like you mention for rail, the buses served a constituency that normally does not use buses.

    1. Yes, from what I have heard from our Special Event Coordinator, Metro will get Seahwaks and Mariners back. We will also be doing something for Sounders (although, not sure if will be Special Service like Mariners and Seahawks or if it will just be overload buses put on certain routes)

  2. And when will Sounder start to offer regular weekend service, like the world-class cities of Albequerque and South Bend do?

      1. Maybe a teenager, but those that oppose it on news-site soundoffs still are going by outdated info. I know SOUNDER-North is not exactly bursting at it’s seems, but it is carrying much more than 6 riders.(Something somebody said on the KIRO-FM news story this morning about clearing the tracks that were hit by the mudslide). SOUNDER-SOUTH definitely is full. I had a chance to see it last fall when I had a temp job in Kent and I was taking the reverse-SOUNDER to get there.

      2. Weekend riders aren’t concentrated like peak riders. Give it a few years, especially as the ST2 trips come online, and you might end up with enough.

    1. South Bend, well they have had that for a long time, and the South Shore line’s trains do really fill up on a couple Saturday’s in the fall.(Notre Dame Football Games).

      As for Albuquerque, wonder if those weekend trains carry any Isotope fans!

      1. I get it(I think). Although I sometimes wonder if the Albuquerque AAA Baseball team got the idea from the Simpsons, or from the Nuclear Research labs in New Mexico. They used to have the Dukes, but they are now the Portland Beavers. Much more situated for transit access than the Tacoma Raniers. It helps that PGE Park is astride the Red and Blue lines.

      2. according to wikipedia they got the name from the simpsons and it fit well for them because of the proximity to los alamos and other nuclear sites.

    2. And Salt Lake City and Minneapolis-St. Paul, both along with Albuquerque recent start ups. Baby steps? These three grew up really fast. I have been told that Sounder is a commuter line, such as in Monday through Friday. The Twon Cities Northstar touts itself as a commuter line, but nonetheless offers weekend service. I’d love to take a regularly scheduled Sounder on the weekends to go to Tacoma and intermediate points, but it doesn’t look like it will happen.

      1. A huge difference is Sounder is using the same tracks as a VERY busy freight line that is also shared with several Amtrak trips every day. Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, and Albuquerque are using a mix of new built ROW, surplus ROW, and lightly used ROW.

        In fact other than LA and Chicago I really can’t think of any other commuter operations that have lines shared with as many freight movements as Sounder.

      2. PATH in NY/NJ is also called a commuter line but it runs 24 hours. Different people have different ideas about what constitutes “commuting” and when transit should be available.

      3. PATH is typically classified by the FTA as a heavy-rail metro system alongside the NYC subway, Chicago El, and Washington Metro.

        NJT commuter trains to NY Penn, Hoboken, and Newark; Metro North, and LIRR are all classified as “commuter rail” though they have some frequent EMU service that is more like a metro system than classic commuter rail. I guess the S-Bahn and RER are similar to the frequent EMU services on some commuter lines in North America.

      4. Whatever it’s officially named, I’ve heard residents call PATH “commuter trains”. That surprised me because commuter trains generally run only peak hours and maybe middays. But PATH is more like a subway. So instead of defining commuters as 9-to-5 workers, they define it as anybody going into or out of the city for any reason. And the full-time trains create a huge amount of commerce and cultural activities that would otherwise not be feasable if people couldn’t get to them easily. I do follow the “Build it and they will come” philosophy, but trying to get other cities to see the benefit of full-time commuter trains generally falls on deaf ears.

    3. …and Minneapolis, which has a 10pm train leaving downtown on Saturdays.

      We do have Amtrak here in Seattle on weekends, which is admittedly more expensive and doesn’t serve all of the Sounder stations.

      1. As much as I agree that Northstar and RailRunner have ‘grown up more quickly’, I wouldn’t trade our full portfolio of rail services for theirs at all. Minneapolis is dying for more rail service…they have the highest annual ridership of any city that only has a mere 1 daily Amtrak train. Albuquerque has only the Southwest Chief, no local light rail. The best things about RailRunner are its interurban character and its new, exclusive ROW alongside I-25.

        So yes, Sounder is stunted and all-day and weekend service is overdue, but let’s count our blessings and remember the ways in which Erik G’s facetious “world class cities” fall far short of our growing portfolio: limited commuter rail, a growing Link system, comfy Talgos, 5 SEA-PDX trains, 2 long-distance trains, 2 transborder trains, etc…

      2. Also, Railrunner is in position to be the Intercity Rail Connection for the SOuthwest Chief if the the unthinkable ever happens, it gets re-routed over the San Francisco Chief’s route through Oklahoma and Texas, the closest it would get to Albuquerque would be Belen. Although one of the reasons the State of New Mexico bought the Raton Pass line was to keep it open for the Southwest Chief. Now the branch to Santa Fe, doubt they would continue it North to Denver, the old Denver and Rio Grande’s Chili line was ripped up in 1942, and that was part of the Rio Grande’s Narrow Gauge routes.

      3. Why unthinkable? The line across eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle will soon be double track reverse signaled all the way from Belen to Avard, Oklahoma. It’s flat and serves two fairly important cities, Wichita and Amarillo that don’t have direct service today.

        It’s not as pretty though, that’s for sure. The line between Lamy and Walsenburg is beautiful.

      4. One advantage of the Raton Pass line is there is less contention with freight then on the line between Belen and Avard. The reason BNSF is investing so much money double tracking and reverse signaling that line is to speed freight movements between Southern California and the middle of the country.

      5. The Southwest Chief is Amtrak’s fastest Long Distance Train, not sure how much diverting over the Transcon would hurt it, but it will still be a few years before the Abo Canyon Double Tracking will be finished. Plus, it’s a traditional route.

      6. Hmmm, the Belen cutoff route in theory at least should be even faster than Raton. Adding Amarillo and Wichita can’t hurt the ridership numbers either. The only thing is I’d hate to loose the stop in Albuquerque, though RailRunner could provide a connection all the way to Santa Fe. I’m not entirely sure of the track layout in the area so a stop at the current Albuquerque station might be possible without any crazy time-sucking train movements.

        I have to agree on the scenery too, hate to lose the pretty view.

      7. There is a wye not far south of Albuquerque, and the trains are already moving very slowly in that area (so running in reverse between the wye and the station probably wouldn’t be that bad). You lose more than 15 minutes getting from Belen to Albuquerque, but the trip is probably still faster than via the current route.

      8. Aye. As much as I want more rail yesterday, I think Seattle should be quite proud of it’s advancement in the last 10 years. Link, Sounder, SLUT, KSS renovations, and improved/expanded Cascades service.

        Lets hope the next 10 we continue to build on this firm base.

      9. Hopefully, we will be doing just that. Construction of U-LINK is underway, and much more. Will be interesting for local distribution as Amtrak Cascades ramps up, as Portland and Vancouver B.C. already have.

      1. Problem is, the closest DMU that meets FRA compliance is the former Colorado Railcar design, although US Railcar LLC says they are for resuming production. TriMet has had problems with them on the WES, and is acquiring used BUDD RDCs from the Alaska RR to augment them. Although the Budd RDC is very reliable. Especially in the service the ARR used them on in Alaska, the Hurricane flagstop train.

      2. That’s pretty sad when operators buy 50 year old railcars to run instead of your product because they are more reliable.

        Any chance Bombardier or whomever ended up with Budd’s assets could just start making a modern RDC? It would seem there is enough demand between lines using old RDCs and lightly trafficked commuter and long distance service to sell at least a few.

        For that matter Bombardier should consider doing a DMU version of their standard bi-level commuter rail cars.

      3. Diesel Multiple Unit, and there are about three kinds of them in North America.

        The first is the Legacy Budd Rail Diesel Car, which is still in passenger service in Canada, Oregon, and Texas.

        The second is the Light DMU, used by diesel-powered light rail services in San Diego, Southern New Jersey, and soon to be in two cities in Texas, the Metroplex suburb county of Denton County, and also Austin.

        The third is the heavy DMU that meets FRA specs to share tracks with freight trains, which the Chugach Explorer DMU up in Alaska is an example of.

      4. The “new” heavy DMUs are also in Miami and Portland (as WES along with the RDC cars). I think the Alaska RR is still running some of their Colorado Railcar units as well.

        Hopefully some real rail equipment manufacturer will make a FRA compliant DMU for the North American market. There seems to be enough demand to justify the investment and I have little faith US Railcar will end up doing much better than Colorado Railcar did.

      5. I believe the ARR only took delivery of one before Colorado Railcar shut down, probably the only one they ordered. THe other cars they had from CRC were the Ultradomes used on trains like hte Denali Star and Coastal Classic. Although I am surprised former Senator Stevens was not able to get an extra earmark for a second DMU, to replace the Budds on the Hurricane.

      6. So about the only thing I understood in that was “diesel train”. How are DMUs different from our trains (Sounder, Talgo, Superliner)? Would the difference be something substantial to riders, or is it just the color of the wheels and the type of engine?

      7. “Diesel Multiple Unit” means there’s a diesel engine in every car, and no separate locomotive. Similarly, “Electric Multiple Unit” (EMU) means there’s an electric engine in every car and no separate locomotive.

        Link is EMU, Sounder is “locomotive hauled coach” (one locomotive and a lot of cars which just get pulled behind it, or pushed in front of it).

    4. i just hope they don’t expand to weekend service until the seattle coach yard project is done. as it is now the yard is jammed up with sounders mid-day during the week.

  3. Not until BNSF gives us kiddies their permission, despite the millions the taxpayers have subsidised (erm, invested) in the SEA – TAC main line.

  4. Don’t forget FC Sounders – we’re also running trains (besides Link) to FC Sounders weekend day games this year!

    1. I’ve got Sounders season tickets, so I’ll be taking all the Sounder for Sounders!

      1. That has a nice ring to it. Although their have been Soccer teams in Seattle with the Sounders name long before Sound Transit got passed and the train got named.

      2. Don’t forget the weekend Seahawk service as well from September through January. Doesn’t that pretty much cover an entire year between the Mariners, Sounders and Seahawks? Meaning there’s at least one train running nearly every weekend day for most of the year? I do see that on some occasions that there is a train running on both weekend days. I do know that many of my friend’s who have wives that aren’t interested in the games, take the Sounder with the husband, but then goes downtown for a day of shopping. I’m sure when and if weekend service becomes a reality, there will be much pent up demand for it.

      3. No, not really; the Mariners, Sounders and Seahawks play half of their games on the road, after all, plus the long gap between the end of the NFL season (December, unless the Hawks find their way back to the playoffs) and MLB Opening Day (April)

      4. ST and FC Sounders should have one of the trains wrapped. That would be super cool!

  5. As a Tacoma Rainiers fan who lives in Seattle, I would love it if they would run Sounder to Tacoma on weekends when the Rainiers play at home. I understand why it will never happen (including, especially, how to get from Tacoma Dome station to Cheney Stadium), but I do feel guilty about all the carbon when I drive down for a game.

    1. I’ve thought about taking the 594 down to Cheney sometimes, but I think the PT bus service to the stadium itself is not good.

      1. From someone who lives in Tacoma, the PT service is a little pathetic when compared to King Co. Metro service. ST will get you from Seattle, to here just fine, but Pierce Transit seems ignore the need to connect with the Sounder whenever possible. I’ve mentioned to PT many times that they need to coordinate their scheldules and routes with the inbound Sounder Service. Deaf ears is all I get so far.

        Rt 2 actually will get you there from downtown but you can’t take from the Sounder Station, you have to go take Link to the arbitrarily placed 9th and commerce bus hub to transfer.

        Pierce Transit is trying to redesign the routes, and you can go to the website to give them feedback and or see what is planned if they get new funding (or to see what isn’t planned if there is no new funding). Rt 2 would be every 15 minutes which is pretty good, but they still don’t plan on a stop at the Tacoma Dome Station. Give ’em feed back please.

    2. I’ve gone to several games, and a Joe Biden event, at Cheney Stadium from Seattle via the bus. It’s actually quite easy. 594 to Commerce St. Transfer Area, then a quick ride on the relatively frequent 2 right to Cheney Stadium. No need to drive!

  6. Some of the World-Class U.S. Cities with Commuter Rail service on weekends:

    San Bruno, CA
    Riverside, CA
    San Bernardino, CA
    Palmdale, CA
    Lancaster, CA
    Escondido, CA

    Salt Lake City, UT
    Odgen, UT

    Albequerque, NM

    Fort Worth, TX

    Coon Rapids, MN

    Aurora, IL

    Gary, IN

    Worcester, MA

    Camden, NJ

    and on and on…


    1. I was looking at a list of United States commuter rail systems by ridership a while ago, and noticed that Sounder was by far the highest ridership commuter rail system that is peak-only. All sorts of systems that get just a couple thousand riders a day go every half-hour or hour all day, seven days a week. I understand that it won’t work out to offer that kind of service now because of the lack of space on BNSF tracks, but is there room for ST to maybe build its own track so it can get Sounder headways way down?

      1. I was wondering the same thing. Since we’re paying BILLIONS to rent ROW from BNSF, might it not be cost effective to add tracks? That way we could run Link LR trains to the south suburbs/Tacoma. Since the tracks would be surface routes with gated crossing, a few billion may do the trick. Once the initial investment was paid off, we’d be saving money verses leasing indefinitely from BNSF. Maybe the ridership is not there yet, but hopefully when the current lease between ST and BNSF is up, ST will explore other options.

      2. I think there’s enough width in the two ROWs plus the Interurban Trail ROW (there were formerly at least three railroads from Seattle to Tacoma) to build more tracks, until just south of King Street Station. There’s no chance immediately north of there due to the tunnel, and further north double track seems likely to be the maximum possible.

      3. The line to the west (UPRR?) down the Valley–where the Interurban Trail is–would seem to be a candidate for additional improvements for through and local freight traffic. It would be nice if both lines were part of the commons (like that would ever happen) and therefore possible to schedule trains on either line. At least some of the through freights could be shifted to an improved, double-tracked west Valley line.

        Obviously the existing setup dates back to the Orphan Road days; it would just be a common sense idea to allow more through train flexibility and free up space for daily two-way Sounder service on the current BNSF line.

        (Caveat–I know little about freight rail except what I learn from the great posters here, so even with unlimited capital and political desire perhaps this wouldn’t work.)

      4. I know there are some efforts by the state to improve the UPRR mainline between Tacoma and Seattle to increase capacity. I’m not sure if the motive is to gain more freight capacity or to free up more space for Cascades on the BNSF line or a little of both.

        The Cascades long-range plan has identified a couple of projects to make the entire Tacoma to Seattle BNSF corridor triple-tracked. I don’t know if that is enough capacity to allow say 40 Sounder round trips per-day along with 13 Cascades round trips per day.

  7. Sporting events are great ways for Sounder to get its exersize on the weekends, but how about some other options? Along with some concerts in the Tacoma Dome, I would love to see Sounder running up to the Tulip Festival.

    They have a spiffy new intermodel station in Mount Vernon, and Amtrak prefers to fill their train for the full length of the run, Seattle to Vancouver… so there is no incentive to try to fill the train Seattle to Mount Vernon. A Sounder Train could bring 1000 up, and 10 good coaches would be able to take folks to destination farms and LaConner. Reduces heavy traffic on farm roads, and would be a green option for the half million who attend each year.

    Sounder could start in Tacoma, add in Seattle and Everett… and after dropping in Mount Vernon be stored on a siding to Annacortes… or make that the pick up point.

    How about a late train (9:30) in December for those headed to Zoolights?

    And when McChord has its open house this summer, a sounder special to Lakewood, with shuttle service Lakewood to McChord and back… Last open house drew 150,000 a day!

    1. What? Do something creative, that show the public how cool commuter trains are? Not out of the regular commute times, except for SPPORTS events.
      C’mon ST and BNSF, show some creativity, initiative and vitality!! Get folks on your trains and rails at the weekends!!

    2. All these ideas are nice, but they won’t pencil out as well as the Ms and Sounders do. First of all, the bus transfer will kill ridership. Second, parking isn’t expensive enough at these events. Thirdly, arrivals and departures are scattered throughout the day, making it much harder to serve with a couple of train trips.

    3. Are there specific start and end times to these events? I would think an event with specific start and end times would be where a train would work well. I seem to remember Sounder service to the Puyallup Fair years ago, but I don’t think it did well as people could come and go at any time. After a couple of years of running trains, Sound Transit ran buses to the Fair, which I believe had higher ridership than the trains. But the buses ran all day.

      Route 578 will now get you fairly close (Puyallup Station). Although it might not run late enough into Seattle for workers or night-time concerts, it might work for families with older children who can walk the little over half-mile to the fairgrounds that desire a day trip.

  8. [off-topic]

    How much does each Sounder train for an M’s, Seahawks or Sounders game cost taxpayers?

    1. [off-topic]

      How much does each car trip to the M’s, Seahawks, or Sounders game cost taxpayers?

      1. For that matter, how much does each M’s, Seahawks and Sounders game cost taxpayers, period? :-)

      2. The cost to taxpayers is zero. The teams have to pay the difference between fares generated and ST operating cost. In fact it actually saves taxpayers money by making better use of sunk capital costs. The service is cost effective because the trains run basicly full both directions and there is a relatively short layover time.

        Then there’s the benefit of less road wear and tear, less lost time due to congestion caused by game traffic, less green house gas emissions… We sunk a fair deal of tax payer funds into the stadiums. I wasn’t a fan of that but so far it seems to be working. The sports teams generate a lot of revenue in the form of taxes on rental cars, hotels and restaurants. They undeniably generate a lot of income for workers; everything from parking lot attendants, to vendors to bar staff. The funding package for the stadiums actually seems to be paying off (or at least not being the total give-away I thought it was). Offering this bonus service not only helps diffuse the investment in the Sounder trains (which are still a huge money pit) but it increases the tax revenue stream effect that the sports teams generate.

        A further benefit is that a lot of people are actually getting something tangible for the tax dollars they’ve spent on transit. I’m talking here about the people that don’t use transit to commute and otherwise get nothing from the investment. Economically it’s not the sort of subsidy the daily commuter enjoys but the “experience” of riding the train and enjoying a game (which is a pretty darn pricey indulgence) generates a lot of satisfaction for those that use it.

      3. Actually, the teams chip in for Metro special service, but ST does it as part of their mission. As spokesman Bruce Gray told me:

        The teams have never paid extra for this service. It’s part of our job to serve major events. Since the first Seahawks train, we’ve had great response to these services and have found it to be a great way to introduce Sound Transit to some who would never otherwise use transit.

      4. Then which sub-area equity funds are used to cover the gap? Just wondering since ST is supposed to be pinching pennies to get East Link built (part of their “mission”) and teams have obviously expressed a willingness to pay for service that puts butts in the seats.

      5. It wouldn’t come out of ST2 capital funds from any subarea. They have separate operating and capital budgets, the sales tax approved in 1996 (Sound Move) pays for Sounder operating expenses so far.

      6. I’m sure it would be a mix of Snohomish, South King, and Pierce subarea funds.

      7. Yes, the Sounder O&M budget comes from this mix:

        Snonomish: 22%
        S. King: 44%
        Pierce: 34%


      8. So, why hasn’t anyone answered my question: how much do these special Sounder trains cost taxpayers?

        Surely, someone on this thread can aswer this question.

      9. The operating cost of one driver on a weekend, some fuel, and a little depreciation — minus the ticket revenues.

        Sports runs are a good way to have *FULL* trains. If the train’s actually full it may well pay for its own marginal operating cost — this is quite common. It’s the need to run reliable, predictable scheduled service which results in partly empty trains and therefore the need for subsidies.

        Even if it’s not actually completely “paying for itself”, I have no doubt the net cost is so small it could be considered a marketing expense. Sports runs tend to be like that.

      10. One driver? You think it only takes one person to operate a train? Rough estimate is it’s about $10 per person per trip (that’s each way) to run South Sounder if the train is full (not counting capital costs). So multiple the number of people (800?) times two (each way) and subtract the fare revenue. So, if it was a $5 fare each way half the cost would be covered and $4,000 would come out of the ST kitty. Honestly, $4k or even $6k to make 800 people happy, plus the benefits of getting them off the road, plus the benefits in increased business revenue (and taxes) is probably pretty cheap (and effective) advertising. I don’t know what $6k will buy you as far as local TV ads but my hunch is this “free samples” approach is probably more effective. Still, I think they could be the teams to kick in some or all of the dollars. That avoids the negative advertising of “tax payer giveaway”.

      11. “For that matter, how much does each M’s, Seahawks and Sounders game cost taxpayers, period? :-)”

        There’s the traffic that slows everybody else down, the capital cost of the stadiums… and the cost of the dedicated I-90 ramps to the stadiums, which seems to have come out of general transportation funds rather than the stadiums’ budgets. Some wags mutter that that’s what caused Boeing to move to Chicago, that Washington wastes money on stadiums and ramps to stadiums rather than on fixing the states’ major problems.

      12. This reply was meant to be for the question from karl: “how much does each car trip to the M’s, Seahawks, or Sounders game cost taxpayers?”


      13. Really? Roads are free? All those police out directing traffic are volunteers? None of the fumes all the cars (not just the ones going to the games, but everyone effected) end up in the atmosphere? None of their fluids end up as runoff?


      14. And the tieup in SODO that affects everybody whose bus happens to go through that area.

  9. Anyone know why they’re not running special trains for weekend evening games? Friday and Saturday nights are when you’re most likely to be getting drunk drivers off the road.

    1. Hopefully, it is because someone is concerned about the cost to taxpayers of subsidizing sports fans’ trips to their hobbies.

      1. How much do DUIs cost the state each year? In enforcement, education, traffic delays, cleanup, prosecution, jail, lost productivity for those injured/killed, etc. etc.

    2. Could have to do with different rates for hiring the train drivers at different times — it could be really cheap, or even profitable, to run the train with one pay rate and more expensive at a different pay rate. Could have to do with BNSF’s willingness to provide slots on the railroad (maybe they have regular freights in the evening and not in the day). Lots of possibilities there.

Comments are closed.