Sounder at Puyallup Station, photo by Dave Honan

The Sound Transit Board’s choice to proceed with a west-side running alignment for 112th Avenue in Bellevue wasn’t the only big news yesterday.  The Board also moved to authorize (PDF) expanded Sounder service for the South Line.  The expansion will cost $185 million in an agreement with BNSF as part of ST2 funding, and in turn will get four new daily round-trips between Seattle and Tacoma, increasing the current 9 round-trips to a total of 13 round-trips.

The really exciting news doesn’t stop there.  According to the Sound Transit news release, the “perpetual” rail easements purchased from BNSF also open a window of flexibility:

The expanded service will add four peak direction, peak hour trains to the Seattle-to-Tacoma Sounder schedule, with flexibility to run reverse commute and midday service based on ridership demand.

For those of us who’ve been saddened by freight priority snuffing out midday Sounder service, this possibility is good news.  According to the motion, the purchase of the first easement will come by the end of this month, with the second easement’s purchase by January of next year.  This will allow ST to incrementally add service, with the first round-trip slated for service by July 2012, the second by fall 2014, the third by summer 2015, and the last sometime in 2016.

126 Replies to “Sound Transit Board Votes to Extend Sounder South”

  1. Where are we on turning the Renton to Snohomish railway into commuter rail?

    It seems like that story has been quiet for months now.

      1. Given the Severence at the Wilberton tressel, it would end up being Bellevue to Snohomish
        GNP Railway wants to run commuter allong that segment, I believe that several things still need to occure, including ST to post a RFP (Request for Proposal)

        My understanding (based on Everett herald and Snohomish Times articles) is that GNP needs to be running some form of pasenger service to due to contractual agreements before the end of the year, they could acomplish this by Tourist trains, Commuter service, or bycycle trains (connecting the BG/Sammamish trail to the Centenial trail)

      2. There is zero chance of GNP operating anything. You can look forward to them claiming the requirements in the RFP are ‘unjust’ or ‘stacked against them’.

      3. I think GNP only has operating rights north of Woodinville and the line south of Woodinville was “abandon” by BNSF and rail banked. Kirkland is dead set against the section running from South Kirkland P&R up to Woodinville ever being used for any type of rail service ever. Plus it would be way way to slow without major upgrades (complete rebuild) and since it misses the I-405 corridor the ridership would be pretty dismal. Renton to Bellevue may have made sense but Renton doesn’t want it and again it would take major investment in the track if the speed were ever to approach Express bus service.

      4. I’ve heard down the grapevine that GNP has 6 passenger cars coming this way…

        They have been running freight for some time now.

      5. What business’ are they serving? I haven’t been north of Woodinville in quite a while but still have a PO Box there. I’ve walked the tracks there and it doesn’t look like anything has been rolling on those tracks since BNSF gave it up. Are they working with some of the industrial places out by Maltby?

  2. That’s great news. As I’m currently living in London I’m enjoying the benefits of passenger suburban rail service that runs every 15 minutes all day long. Obviously the population of London is different from Seattle, and while I wouldn’t expect this level of service on the south Sounder line, It would be great to provide hourly service in both directions during the non-commute hours and 15 minute peak direction service during the morning and evening commute. Hopefully now that level of service isn’t as far away as it once seemed.

  3. Wow, 2012? I understand the concept of incremental service increases, but summer 2012 is quite some time from now. Oh well, at least it’s coming. And no word on weekend service?

    Baby steps…

    1. Oh, I dunno. Some of us have waited for 40+ years for more comprehensive and effective rail transit in this area – another couple of years for some more Sounder service and a couple of more Talgos to/from Portland is only about 4% of the time we’ve been waiting.

    2. Well, if it’s peak hour and all the existing trains are in use, they’ll have to buy new trains, which means the manufacturer will have to make them. That in itself can take a year depending on the manufacturer’s backlog.

    3. There’s not a lack of word on weekend service. The answer has always come immediately. There are no plans to do it, because it wouldn’t be anything like cost effective.

      2012 is likely for a few reasons – maybe they may still have to buy more equipment, there’s probably signal work to be done, and the trickle of money coming into Sound Transit right now is smaller than expected. Much smaller.

      1. I thought ST had excess Sounder rail cars that were on lease to somewhere else that can be brought back?

      2. Remember there is weekend Amtrak service and while the price is more than double weekday Sounder service ($9.50 r/t vs $26.00 r/t), it’s still an option. Plus you need to take into account parking in downtown Seattle, gas and wear/tear on vehicle and then $26 isn’t a bad deal actually.

      3. Well, unless you’re starting or ending from one of the Sounder stations which Amtrak doesn’t stop at. Which are those again?

      4. It’s my understanding that all leased equipment has been returned to home rails. Someone with more concrete knowledge can confirm or deny.

      5. All the equipment leased to SCRRA (d.b.a. “Metrolink”) has been returned to Seattle from Southern California.

  4. this would never have happened if the BNSF’s traffic wasn’t as impacted by the recession as it (and other freight railroads) is

      1. It won’t; with the agreement in place, BNSF will be obliged to run the trains on schedule. Also, look for additional captial improvements to be made in the corridor to increase capacity and allow both Sounder and Amtrak trains more freedom to operate without incurring delay.

      2. Re-alignment of Georgetown, adding the 3rd MT from Black River Jct to Pacific. Not sure what else may be in the pipeline for the BNSF corridor unless Stewart to TR Jct will be done.

      3. Would be nice someday to upgrade the UPRR corridor and move more freight traffic thru that way, but that would probably require the state to purchase it and allow interline traffic. Not likely, in other words…but probably the only way to see Caltrain-type scheduling.

        I’d love to be able to attend a concert or other evening event in Tacoma and still be able to return to Seattle by train.

      4. Link may be running to Tacoma in the late 2020s. It takes 36 minutes from Seattle to SeaTac, and it might be able to do the rest of the way in 20 minutes given the elevated grade and 20-block station spacing (less in Fife probably). That would put it at about an hour, or the same as Sounder and the 594. Given that, who needs Sounder all day unless you live in Puyallup or Sumner?

        Auburn: has ST and Metro buses to Federal way. The 578 could be extended to evenings and weekends.

        Kent: hopefully some kind of BRT to Link.

        Tukwila: RapidRide to TIB planned.

      5. Auburn and Kent to Seattle via transferring from bus to Link in Federal Way/Des Moines, however, would take far, far longer than Sounder. Sounder takes 33-34 min from Downtown to Auburn, and 25-27 min from Downtown to Kent. A forced transfer would make each trip over an hour.

      6. Kent would be best served with all day service on the sounder.
        When comparing MEtra to Sounder, considering Metra has 11 lines that run over 487 miles (not including NICTD Trains) in a metro of 9 million to our 2 lines in 3.5 million people, why would we not do fine with all day service.

        This is one of Metra’s lines, it has service all day no more than 1 hour apart, with trains coming every 10-30 minutes at rush hour.
        It has 11 lines, many of them run similar schedules, some more intense, two like the heritage corridor, worse than the sounder, but in general most lines don’t run more than 2 hours apart during the day from 5 AM to midnight or 1 AM

        but relative to metro area size, and considering the nothing short of Decently large population within a ten minute drive of the south sounder line, I don’t see why it is infeasible to run all day service. at least on weekdays, (weekends would be really nice)

      7. Unless we can get more frequency on Sounder e.g. multiple per hour trips then I think the idea of a by-pass for Central Link near Boeing Field would make sense. Also, what is the possibility of adding additional cars to Sounder trains now?

        Also, I would suggest it might make sense to run express trains that skip stations as they do here in Chicago on the Red and Brown lines.

      8. Part of what we voted on in ST2 was to extend platforms and trains to 8 cars on the south line, in addition to adding more trips.

      9. Reply To Mike,

        UP and BN operate as a single railroad from Black River Junction to Argo. All three tracks are reverse signaled and host trains of both railroads agnostically. If there were state money provided to double track the UP from BRJ to East Tacoma BN would jump at the chance to bypass Puyallup, Auburn and Kent. BN would still need to run some trains on the existing ROW, but a DT/RS UP would take a good number of their freights easily.

        There would have to be some bridges built and there are a couple of pretty narrow places through Tukwila, but it would be a large improvement in freight productivity and safety.

        Of course, the state is busted and Warren though pretty public spirited is not going to foot the bill himself. So it’s not going to happen real soon now.

        Besides, the point about Link taking about the same amount of time between Tacoma and Seattle (if and when completed) is well made. The hourly operation costs of commuter rail are several times that of light rail, expensive though it is.

        By the way, there WILL be a bypass along Airport Way or as an elevated along East Marginal — assuming Boeing realizes that its engineers would rather live here than Savannah — connecting to the main line through the Maintenance Facility loop and flyunder regardless of how much Ben hates the idea. I wouldn’t be surprised to see MLK downgraded to three car trams running between Sea-Tac and the surface alignment for the Ballard-West Seattle trackage at that time.

        Relatively few people are going to want to travel between somewhere south of the airport and the Rainier Valley, and it will not make sense to delay all the folks who want to go downtown or to the U-district from the south end.

      10. The point that It (sounder) takes the same time Tacoma-Seattle as Link seems fairly irrelevant to me as most of its ridership comes from Kent and Puyallup.
        There are 600 boardings per day in tacoma to the over a thousand at each Kent and Puyallup Stations
        Link would take considerably more time for people from Puyallup, and points north on the sounder line than the sounder

      11. I disagree about a bypass. At most, even with no stations between SODO and Tukwila, it would save, say, 6 minutes. But any line going down there should have a couple stations, at Georgetown and Boeing Field and maybe South SODO and the Museum of Flight as well, so it would end up being a time savings of only a couple minutes, which percentage-wise will make very little difference for South King commuters. So that means that it would have very little positive effect.
        The bad thing about it, though, is that it would have to dramatically reduce frequencies on the Rainier Valley segment, as you can’t fit another high-frequency line in the Downtown tunnel (unless you had this go in a separate tunnel which definitely isn’t worth it). Eventually I think if we’re ever going to do anything to make the Rainier Valley segment faster, it should be to bury that segment, although that would be costly and disruptive and again not help all that much.
        Georgetown and Boeing Field would best be served by a line from Renton that would interchange with Central Link at Boeing Access Road then go through Downtown in the same Second Avenue Tunnel as the West Seattle-Ballard line, as this would enable high frequencies on both Tacoma/South King-Seattle trips and Rainier Valley-Downtown/North Seattle trips and be part of a much more helpful line.

      12. You are wrong Alex, and we’ve been through this before. There are five stations (and will probably be six before long) between TIB and SoDo each of which takes about a minute of dwell time. There will not be a station at Georgetown because it’s right underneath the flight path of Boeing Field and right next to Argo Yard. Callow youth may want to live 500′ under screaming jets and next to a 24 hour 140 decibel railcar slamming facility in an old industrial building — I did that when I was a kid, too — but adults with choices don’t want to.

        If Boeing throws out the ex-military types from Douglas and (like Intel has here in Portland) realizes that they’re nothing without their engineers, there may be one on East Marginal. Maybe even two because of your beloved Museum of Flight.

        So that’s a net gain of three minutes of dwell time.

        Plus it’s at least a mile longer via MLK than via either side of Boeing Field. At an average between-station speed of 25 or so (remember they don’t jump from zero to 45 and back down in 3.1 seconds….) versus 50 or so along Boeing Field; that’s another two minutes. And then there are the lights! Ach; the lights. Add another minute on average per trip of needless, random delays waiting for “the slot”.

        Net result a minimum of minutes shorter.

        But MUCH more important is the capacity issue. If you really want South Link to serve as an urban spine eventually the trains will be full at the airport. Where are the people getting on at Rainier Beach going to sit? Where are the ones getting on at Mt. Baker going to STAND?

        No, the MLK line — especially with a couple of needed in-fill stations — is better developed as a high-frequency separated ROW surface tram line, much like Ballard-West Seattle. Let Link become a purely reserved ROW regional metro with no grade crossings north of the airport, east of Bel Square (which is why it might actually be better to choose B7), or south of Alderwood Mall.

        It can host the MLK tram between Boeing Access Road and the airport if the vehicles are fast and powerful enough to climb the hill to TIB. You can even call the tram “Link” and paint it the same; but the service on MLK is way too much like the Max Yellow Line. It doesn’t hold up for regional service.

        Most of the people at the end of the line don’t want to go there, and the people who live there mostly don’t want to go beyond the airport.

      13. “six minutes shorter”.

        And I just noticed that’s the time savings you calculated, so I have to apologize for saying you are wrong.

        However you do not allow for the fundamental difference between North and East Links as planned versus South Link. South will eventually be longer than either of the other two lines, and both of them have five mile high-speed grade separated trunks leading into the CBD. South Link has five miles of at-grade with street crossings and eight stations. It needs to be seriously upgraded to meet its regional responsibilities.

      14. The MLK at-grade stretch has very little effect on Link’s travel time, as I’ve shown before. Top speed has very little effect on average speed when stops are one to two miles apart. Central Link’s average speed is higher than both the Canada Line and the CTA Blue Line over a similar distance, both of which are fully grade-separated rapid transit lines. The minimal time savings that a bypass would give will never be worth the enormous cost, especially when there are so many other priorities for our limited transit dollars. Maybe some day a bypass will be needed to increase capacity in the south, but I doubt if that will be needed in our lifetimes. In the meantime we need West Seattle – Downtown – Ballard- Northgate and Ballard – UW – Kirkland – Redmond and Burien – Southcenter – Renton and …

      15. It’s actually quite cheap to take the easternmost northbound lane along Airport Way for the southbound track and put the northbound between the existing roadway and the rail tracks. Very cheap; it’s dead level and completely cleared of any obstructions already.

        Now it’s not particularly cheap to build the needed flyunder at Boeing Access Road and it would require purchase of some low end businesses east of Airport Way through Georgetown, an overcrossing of the BNSF/UP trackage and Airport Way and some more low end businesses along the Freeway up to Spokane. But it could be done for about 150 million total. In Link Land that’s not “an enormous cost”.

        Now a line along East Marginal to serve Boeing and the Museum of Flight would be a very different prospect. It should only be considered if Boeing makes a long-term commitment not to run off to the Confederacy.

        It’s pretty obvious that you folks don’t really give much of a rip about the people who live in Sea-Tac, Midway and Federal Way. “Let them eat cake while they ride”, perhaps?

      16. I also noticed that I said “east of Bel-Square” when I obviously meant “west of Bel-Square”. But I did say it exactly wrongly.

        East of downtown Bellevue should be East Link’s “collection zone” just as south of the airport will be South Link’s and north of Alderwood Square North Link’s. By “collection zone” I mean a place where it can run as an at grade system with somewhat more frequent stations. This is much like the Muni Metro in San Francisco, the Shaker Heights LRT’s in Cleveland, the Riverside Green Line in Boston, and the South Hills system in Pittsburgh.

        Notice that these are the only legacy streetcar systems in the United States that survived the transition to autos. Seems like people here at STB need to learn a century-long lesson.

        LRT works best in a configuration where it has a comparatively slow, frequent stop collection area, passes through a major sub-regional activity center and then hustles on grade-separated ROW to the regional center. That’s EXACTLY the model that North and East Link will follow. East of downtown Bellevue the stations will become more frequent and there is to be much more at-grade operation. Ditto North Link south of Lynnwood, though there absolutely MUST be a parallel line in the Linden/Interurban right of way connecting at Northgate to serve the wonderful opportunities for TOD along Aurora north of the cemetery.

        South Link is the bastard child with eight stations and cross streets in it’s final run to the CBD. To meet its regional responsibilities there must be an express access to the CBD.

        Now that could be done by elevating or undergrounding the right of way along MLK, but it makes more sense to use what is a GREAT potential urban tramway as that and provide the vast majority of the long-distance riders who have no interest in that corridor a bypass.

        Obviously this is not needed now; there is no Link collection area south of the airport, because there is no Link south of the airport. But ST should secure the necessary right of way so that when it is needed it is available.

      17. Collect who? The next stop, Hospital Station is an employment center. There’s nothing in Bel-Red and won’t be for a long long time because there’s decades worth capacity in what’s built and what’s planned for DT. The only collection point is the damn P&R at 130th (great, more traffic, thanks). The Overlake Village and Overlake P&R collect a few but is primarily Microsoft. East Link does little to collect eastsiders working DT; it’s primarily going to take workers to jobs in Bellevue and Overlake. Even S. Bellevue is going to see a lot of traffic parking for free and riding the train to Bellevue and Overlake.

      18. “It’s pretty obvious that you folks don’t really give much of a rip about the people who live in Sea-Tac, Midway and Federal Way.”

        Oh the poor babies, they might have to spend a whole 5 extra minutes on their shiny new train while the rest of us suck fumes on the bus for the foreseeable future.

      19. That 5 minutes is not their loss, it is Sound Transit’s, because if the route isn’t deemed fast enough people will just drive.
        (to be fair, I don’t think they should worry about a bypass until they have most of the metro area served well, but at the same time, ST’s loss)

      20. “Link taking about the same amount of time between Tacoma and Seattle”

        I may have been overoptimistic. Link takes 3 minutes from TIB to SeaTac, which is about 20 blocks. It’s 240 blocks (20×7) from there to Federal Way, which would presumably take 21 minutes (3×7) plus stop time. Federal Way to Tacoma must be at least that far, so 21+ minutes. That means Seattle-Tacoma would take at least 80 minutes. Or 20 minutes slower than Sounder, and 30 minutes slower than the 594.

        I don’t understand that though. A car can do it in 30 minutes, going at the same 55 mph Link does. Even if the car stopped ritually by the side of the road to mimic Link stations, it still wouldn’t more than double the time.

        “(sounder) takes the same time Tacoma-Seattle as Link seems fairly irrelevant to me as most of its ridership comes from Kent and Puyallup.”

        The original poster was talking about Tacoma-Seattle. Of course Kent and Puyallup are different markets, and the overall impact of service changes has to be considered.

        For Tacoma-Seattle, 80+ minutes on LR with 10-minute headways may be better than a 50 minute bus with 30-minute headways, or 60 minute Sounder with 30-minute peak headways and 60-minute off-peak (or no service off-peak now). The wait time is part of the trip, especially if you’re transfering and can’t control when you arrive.

        For Sumner, Auburn, and Kent, a transfer to Link may increase travel time significantly. But you’d have 10-minute headways on Link and maybe even on the connector bus. Also, with resources becoming scarcer, we may not be able to afford to run both Link and Sounder in the future. In that case, Sounder will have to die because Link provides much more comprehensive service at a lower price.

      21. Or we choose to make the right choice and find money to run both, and increase sounder service to all-day. Why on earth would we ever get rid of the sounder. It is a well-ridden line that clearly needs to be expanded, not considered for removal.

        10 minute headways on link and its connections is still an unacceptable replacement for the sounder(for Auburn, Sumner, Puyallup, and Kent) as link from Sea-tac takes 36 minutes alone, that doesn’t count time coming from south of there which is where the 15-20 minute bus ride would take you. compared to the sounder’s 25-40 minutes straight from the heart of towns, that already have bus connections to the communities around them.

        Unless you are talking about replacing the sounder line with Link, which is absurd, Link makes no sense whatsoever to people up and down the green river valley and at points east of it(unless they drive to it, but still, not a good solution).

        Maybe someday if they do a lake loop link line then drop a line down 515 to 516 and out from renton, it might makes sense then, MAYBE, but that still ignores Auburn, puyallup and Sumner, so it probably wouldn’t even make sense then.

      22. I think there are a few issues with your calculation.

        Naively, I would guess that accelerating to 55 mph takes Link somewhere around 60 seconds, and decelerating likewise. Assuming constant acceleration, 120 seconds (or a full 2/3 of the travel time) is effectively running at half speed, or 27.5 mph. Thus, Link’s average speed between TIBS and Sea-Tac is closer to 35mph.

        If you assume that the average length of a city block is 400 feet, then 20 blocks is about 8000 feet, or 1.5 miles. Travelling 1.5 miles in 3 minutes is equivalent to 30 mph — pretty close to the number I calculated above.

        Cars, of course, take *much* less time to accelerate. Even the Prius, which has a reputation for not being peppy, can accelerate to 60mph (faster than Link’s top speed) in 10 seconds. Assuming a dedicated ROW, a Prius stopped at TIBS would cover 880 feet in 20 seconds (accel/decel), and the rest of the journey in about 81 seconds, for a total travel time of under 2 minutes.

        Another way to look at this is, how much does each stop cost? In each case, the answer is equal to the difference between the time spent accelerating/decelerating and the time that segment would have taken at full speed. (In other words, it’s half the accel/decel time.) For a Prius, this is 10 seconds; for Link, it’s closer to 60.

        By your numbers, there would be at least 15 stops from TIBS to Tacoma. In a Prius, that’s a delay of 2.5 minutes. On Link, it’s 15 minutes. There’s already about 12 stops between Westlake and TIBS, which is another 12 minutes. Add in dwell time, and the fact that Link on MLK is limited to 25mph, and your 80 gets a lot closer to 30.

        The point of all these calculations is to illustrate that one train line, almost by definition, cannot meet all needs. With the 20-block stops, the time Link would take from Seattle to Tacoma is almost laughably slow. With 10-block stops in dense parts of Seattle, it would be even worse. But without these stops, the train would be useless for everyone who lives along the line but not near a stop. This can lead to ridiculous situations; Somerville, MA, the densest community in Massachusetts, has something like 5-6 train lines pass through or near its borders, but only a single stop on a single line.

        I don’t care whether the technology used for the express line is the same as Link (e.g. local/express service in NYC) or different (e.g. commuter rail), but one system *cannot* satisfy all needs.

      23. First of all, they only dwell at stations for 20 seconds, so it’s only one minute gained from having less stations (by the way your argument that they shouldn’t put a station in Georgetown because it’s not a desirable place to live is ridiculous; regardless of whether you would like to live there, lots of people do live and work there). And the capacity argument isn’t true either, as 4-car trains going every few minutes have a capacity of thousands and thousands of passengers in each direction each hour. Finally, your red herring “It’s pretty obvious that you folks don’t really give much of a rip about the people who live in Sea-Tac, Midway and Federal Way” is completely ridiculous, as for the people in SeaTac this would only make their Downtown journey about 10% shorter, and for the people in Federal Way it would be even less than that.
        Link is not just regional rail and it’s not just urban rapid transit, but a combination of the two. It must adequately serve both inner-city neighborhoods like most older metro systems around the world, and far-flung suburbs like most commuter rail systems around the world. But this is more of an advantage than a disadvantage, in my opinion, as it allows high-frequency, high-quality transit to serve inner-city neighborhoods, and the same to serve the suburbs. If we try to make it into just a commuter rail system, as it seems some people want to do, then it will leave behind the traditionally under-served people in closer-in neighborhoods as usual, and continue to encourage sprawl.
        Anyways, that last paragraph doesn’t really pertain to this argument, as it seems pretty obvious that a bypass wouldn’t actually in fact help the suburbs.

      24. Bernie,

        Somebody in Bellevue expects there to be TOD along NE 16th or they spent a lot of money making a shiny brochure and planning road improvements for nothing.

        If there is to be no development at the stations in East Bellevue, then just end the line at the BTC. It makes no sense to spend another half billion dollars to get to Redmond just to serve Microsoft reverse commuters twice a day.

        No offence Softies, but take the bus. Steve’s Transit is pretty darn posh.

        Trunk line transit needs density alongside it. Park In The Suburbs And Ride is a lot better from an energy and environment point of view than Drive And Park In The CBD. But it doesn’t need LRT; express buses are perfectly adequate or if there are a string of towns along an existing railroad track then commuter rail. It makes no sense to have LRT for commute only service.

      25. Wright Runstad is the who that expected to clean up with the purchase of the 25 acre Safeway distribution plant (now being leased to Amazon Fresh btw). It wasn’t just Link, or just the seed money, or just Bellevue falling over backward to build more giant roads. Before the bust the more you spent the more you made so nobody cared if it made sense; you just built it and sold at a profit based on a percentage of what you spent. The projects built and those already planned for DT Bellevue are going to be struggling for the next decade to remain full. Add to that some very aggressive competition from DT Seattle and moving out to Mufflerville isn’t going to look very attractive for a long long time. You’re right, express buses with a rebuilt 520 make a lot more sense. You don’t see Microsoft investing in Connector Light Rail.

      26. Alex,

        You’re voting for fish and fowl in one creature (a Flying Fish?). While there’s no reason that both kinds of service can’t be provided by the same system — of course they can — they can’t be provided by the SAME LINE.

        The people beyond the urban density section would have to ride too long. It will take at least ten minutes longer on Link as planned from Star Lake to downtown compared to the existing express bus service. Shaving that six minutes would mean a lot to those folks. And let’s be honest; suburbanites are often reluctant to ride through non-gentrified neighborhoods because of unfamiliarity or outright prejudice. It’s not pretty but it is a reality.

        Finally it IS a minute of dwell time, or nearly so. Link is scheduled to take 15 minutes to travel the slightly more than five plus miles between Rainier Beach and SoDo and rarely makes it except in the early hours or late at night when there are few passengers. There are four intervening stations. If your twenty second estimate is to be believed, that’s only one minute twenty seconds of dwell between the end point stations, which means that it takes thirteen and a half minutes to travel five miles. That makes the average speed 22.2 miles per hour. It sure seems to me that they spend more of their time between stations at 45 than they do at 15 — except of course when they miss the slot. They don’t get up to 45 like a drag race car, but they do step out smartly when the blocks are all white. So I honestly don’t see how they could have a 22.2 mile per hour average speed with 20 second dwell times. It just does not add up.

        A cut-off with no stations would have an average speed close to the theoretical maximum of 55 and is about a mile shorter, so it STILL ends up being six or seven minutes quicker. Six or seven minutes times thousands of people per day is significant. They might not be able to finish their cake.

        And finally, there are at most 500 people living in Georgetown as defined by Lucille, First Avenue, East Marginal, Ellis and Airport Way. And there are darn few people working there, except along East Marginal in widely spaced industrial facilities not amenable to service by transit. There are a few offices along First and Fourth South near Lucille, but they’re basically single-level and have lots of free parking. Most of the tenants drive and would still do so even with a station in the area.

        Unless you can show some realistic plan to redevelop the area — with money behind it — it would be silly to put a station there.

      27. 20 seconds is the idealized time the train is stopped. I think they do pretty well at that. No argument boarding is much faster than a bus. But it’s not just acceleration but deceleration that leads to the station penalty of more like a minute to a minute and a half over straight running. The faster the speed you’re braking from the bigger the penalty. The extra time if you were never going beyond TIB might not be a big deal. But as you extend the line it becomes huge. If you’re going to add minutes to the trip time for RV then why not for areas south of SEA? It makes no sense to suggest we’re going to have five stations in the RV and then only five stations from TIB to Tacoma. Likewise, why would you spend the money on a grade separated system built for speed just to lose all of that advantage by shifting to streetcar mode only a dozen miles from the primary DT Seattle destination. Once you’re running slower than a bus you sort of lose that “but it’s more reliable” argument. Yeah, more reliably slower!

      28. “Why on earth would we ever get rid of the sounder.”

        Only when/if we can’t afford to run it. When the price of gas rises to $5-6-7 a gallon, everything is going to be more expensive, including food, railcars, and maintaining them. State/county/city governments are all facing dwindling revenues and making ever-larger cuts every year, even with the “cheap” gas we have now. Someday we may have to choose between running Sounder, Link, or the express buses. Link will be the winner because it has a lower operating cost and can serve a wider variety of trips simultaneously (all except the shortest distance). Travel times may increase by forcing everyone onto Link, but there may be no other choice. That’s also why we need to build as much light rail as possible now while we can afford it.

      29. When gas is 5-6-7$ a gallon the sounder will be crush loaded with commuters and that will cover the cost of increased gas for it. As well its fares may rise slightly.
        If we add the million we are expected to by 2020 or whatever, and add them in places that are already developed, we will have a larger tax base, and the sounder will be sustainable.

        Taking it out makes no sense under any circumstance.
        That would be repeating our history.

        We tore out the streetcars in the ’40s because they were not cost-effective.
        What are we doing now?, re-building them!
        Lets not ever consider making the same stupid mistakes we’ve made in the past again.
        People in this region have proved they will vote more taxes on themselves to maintain(and grow) mass transit, and that sentiment is only going to grow as our highways won’t(and congestion will).

        Nationwide the sentiment is moving away from Highways and to rail lines, here is one example:

        All we have to do is make very sure we continue to maintain good quality service and that we don’t reduce it. We must continually find ways to pay for it, because it is necessary. There is no situation, that would call for that scale of reduction or elimination of service except the region shrinking, which without a natural disaster, isn’t going to happen.

      30. If Sounder is mothballed in some future of runaway oil prices, we don’t have to tear out anything. We just park the railcars.

      31. In “the long run”, BNSF will build an additional freight-only track if freight demand REALLY rises. The Sounder easements are not going anywhere.

  5. Are there any plans from ST to expand the north branch? This expansion makes the south end useful (though to my eye this line deserves at least Caltrain-level quality of service), but I’m baffled by why anyone rides the north line at all, since it runs at weird times and seems to be wholly inferior to the express bus service down I-5.

    1. I would say that until there is at least 6-8 daily trains between Seattle and Everett, it will continue to be a “dead” line. Along with some sort of better integration with the ferry system (ORCA helps) and perhaps if the DOT built a parking garage at Clinton and Kingston, along with the addition of a Broad Street Station and transportation down the waterfront (Waterfront Streetcar, modernized or not). The ferry system won’t do that because it would affect their bottom line of revenue since Autos cost double the amount as walk-on passengers.

      Regardless of what everyones opinion is of the Discovery Institute may be, the Pier 70 Station concept was and still is the best design for a multi-modal station in Downtown Seattle that would serve the North end of the corridor.

      1. Still, the University St. Station hub is one of the awesomest things I’ve ever seen, and should be built in conjunction with Sounder electrification in about ST6 in, say, 2035.

      2. Funny actually, years ago when I first started following LINK’s progress before I moved here I just assumed there was a hub beneath Benaroya. Knowing what I do now this is one hell of an undertaking, but seriously a very awesome idea nonetheless.

    2. There was no plan in ST2 to increase service. North Line service was largely a political artifact – it doesn’t make economic sense, it’s too slow to compete with driving.

    3. It’s limited by capacity. There’s a single track in places, and a ridge alongside it. You can’t lay a track on the side of the ridge, and east of it is all built up with houses.

    4. I think the scheduling for Sounder North was supposed to improve after the double tracking was finished. We’ll see if that makes a difference in how useful and/or popular it is.

  6. Midday Sounder will be great. Now can we just get the BNSF tracks upgraded to Class V for 90 mph operation if not Class VI?

    1. If the money can come up for PTC, improved track and maintenance costs, increased operating costs, more powerful locomotives, then sure, that is possible but that would be several million dollars, excluding the locomotives. As it is now, the F59’s with 6-7 car train struggles to get up to 79mph in between stations. 90 won’t be much different…

      1. Give or take. If they can get BNSF to agree on 70mph (60mph for general freight, 70mph for intermodal) then they can allow passenger trains to do 90mph on all of the main tracks. This most likely won’t happen due to such tense pressure from the cities already.

        If BNSF allowed 90mph on the main lines, the Cascades could do 2 hours and 30 minutes, 110mph on dedicated track would probably get close to 2hrs and 15 minutes or less.

        Again, it really comes down to BNSF and the tonnage over the corridor. Right now, the likelihood of seeing anything more than 79mph on “shared” trackage on the main lines is slim to none with several new contracts for coal, grain, and soybean unit trains. To have a 90mph passenger train come up on a 45mph heavy unit train poses a safety risk, even with 3 mains to navigate around them. Once the Cherry Point facility opens in the next year or two (along with a proposed 231kw power plant there) freight traffic in this region will triple by 2020, putting an even larger strain on the corridor.

      2. What does “intermodal” mean in this context?

        Is there room for a pair of new tracks between Seattle and Portland in the corridor, assuming we could find money to build them?

      3. Someday they should be thinking about true HSR (220mph+) along that corridor, with dedicated tracks. In the Seattle Metropolitan area it’ll be very expensive to build tracks, as it would probably require new ROW, but south of Tacoma or so it could just shoot mostly along the I-5 median.
        But yeah, back to what’s possible in the non-super-long-term, is there room for another track or two along the current BNSF corridor?

      4. From the Nisqually River bridge to the north end of Centralia there is adequate room for another track. Through Centralia and Chehalis things are a little tight but some industrial leads might be snagged. From the freeway underpass south of Chehalis to the bridge over the Cowlitz there is room. BNSF has wide rights of way through the three towns it passes through.

        South of the Cowlitz Bridge things are fairly tight. The freeway is often right alongside the tracks and Castle Rock squeezes pretty close to the tracks. Then there’s the little tunnel just north of Kelso.

        Kelso has a popular walking path right next to the tracks for several miles. It might have to be taken to add another track through there.

        Between Kelso and the Lewis River bridge south of Woodland there are several sections of triple track already, but the roadbed is often raised up for floods. Any new track would have to have a lot of earth moving.

        South of the Lewis River there is a wildlife refuge whose eastern boundary is the western boundary of the railroad right of way, and there are a couple of pretty nasty bends. Frankly I think that the only way to get three tracks through there is to tunnel under Ridgefield. Not a popular option, I’m sure.

        Unfortunately for the I-5 option, WSDOT is taking the median as we type for the third lane between Olympia and Centralia.

      5. Wow I hadn’t heard about that widening project. Ugh that sucks, I feel like eventually the Seattle and Portland metropolitan areas will merge into one giant sprawsville along I-5… The same is pretty much already happening between Seattle and Vancouver…

      6. But we can still find ROW somehow. Basically, I just see that California did it, and Florida and Illinois are doing it, so it can’t be impossible for us to do it. Just expensive.

      7. Ben,

        They struggle with the Sounder trainsets at anything more than 6-7 cars. The Bombardier cars are far, far more heavier than the Talgo trains. If I recall, the entire 12 car Talgo weighs about the same as a 3-4 car Bombardier set.

      8. The South Sounder trains use the entire space between Sumner and auburn to get up to 81 MPH(according to my phone, if it is accurate (iPhone 4), and once they do they are practically at Auburn station. They can’t really go faster with the existing trains.

  7. More trains are needed going north on Sounder. The last train leaves so early that I can rarely take it. I would love to see Sounder come as far north as Stanwood too.

    1. Agreed. I think it would benefit Community Transit as well if Sounder ran up North. I always seems that traffic “vanishes” after Stanwood/Camano Island. There has been a lot of commuters who have been taking Community Transit into Seattle then the Amtrak Cascades back into Stanwood. Makes sense! Just needs to be earlier though.

      I’ve always wanted to start a petition for getting Sounder up North but with the way things are going right now, it would be a very, very difficult hill to climb.

    2. Stanwood’s outside the Sound Transit district.

      Sounder North really just doesn’t make sense to expand. Any money you’d use to expand it would have to be taken away from extending Link.

      1. Well if that area were annexed into the ST district it could form a new “North Snohomish” subarea to pay for it.

      2. That’s a great idea. They should let them vote independently of the other areas, too, so that failure of a transit package in this area wouldn’t prevent passage of projects in the more urban subareas. That would take away one valid argument against bringing in rural (potential) No votes into the ST district.

        Since we have subarea equity, and all money raised in one area stays in that area, why do we require all the subareas to vote yest together? It would be great for future expansion if we let each subarea pass projects independently of the others, instead of failing everything for all subareas if one subarea voted no.

        I love the idea of adding Sounder service north past Everett, but don’t want to chance bringing down projects everywhere else because of it.

      3. That’s a good idea. North and East Snohomish County, and possibly Skagit as well, could form a separate agency that would have its own votes on tax increases and have all that money spent in its district, but would simply turn all of its money over to Sound Transit to build and operate their services.

      4. I think letting subareas vote independently would present a few problems to routes that cross boundaries, like East Link, for example, where the East King subarea will pay for the stops across the lake but Seattle’s subarea will pay for the stop I-5 station west of the lake. We’d have to come up with some sort of nuance to govern that type of situation if East voted no but west voted yes. However, other than that, even the existing subareas should be able to pass projects indepenently of each other.

        We could also use this change to create a structure for an early Seattle-subarea-only ST3 for light rail expansion in Seattle. And yes, this may spark calls for other types of governance reform, not all of which are good for transit, but this change would be great for transit!

      5. Yeah I don’t think in general we should have the subareas vote separately, but with the farther out areas that would more like to get less benefit for less taxes and would therefore drag every ST ballot measure down, I would support it.

  8. Upthread Brian mentions some of the things that would be needed to get Sounder service on the existing lines expanded and sped up. As well as the costs. Others have mentioned Eastside service and going further North.

    This is probably crazy, but maybe ST3 should focus more on Sounder expansion? Don’t get me wrong, I love Link and there are a couple of lines that I’d like to see built yesterday, but I am also worried about building too much too fast. Seems like we have a good base, we need to get it built and running AND then worry about the next expansion (not to mention possible voter fatigue). Plus by teaming up with the State and Amtrak (as they would benefit from the improvements), it could probably be done a bit cheaper no?

    1. Sounder doesn’t go where most people live, work, or recreate. The tracks were located for freight, not for commuting. People used the Interurban for commuting. The towns it stops in were the biggest ones 120 years ago but not now. Link has the same travel time as Sounder, but stops at more useful places along the way.

      Sounder was built because it seemed quick and cheap to get it running, not because it serves the bulk of the population. So we have skeletal service now, and the easy improvements are being done in Sounder South. There are no “easy” improvements for Sounder North (speaking in terms of speed and frequency, not infill stations). So we may as well leave Sounder as-is and beef up Link instead.

      But it would be fine to extend Sounder to Stanwood and Olympia, because Link will never go there. If those places pony up the taxes for it. It would be a long travel time for daily commutes, but it would pick up occasional riders going to meetings and such. Both people with business in Seattle, and Seattlites lobbying their legislators.

      1. The arguments for extending sounder north to Stanwood can also be made for extending Sounder North, East to Snohomish and Monroe
        Yes Olympia, Stanwood, Snohomish and Monroe are outside of ST boundries, but there are solutions
        * ST Boundries could be expanded to include these citys in the existing subareas
        * New Subareas could be created
        * Local transit agencies could partner with ST for the extensions
        * These localities could chose to tax tehemselves to pay for the extension

        It should also be realised taht some of the people that these expansions would serve, although living outside of ST boundries, may be making a large part of their taxable purchases within the ST taxing area

      2. However, wouldn’t an easement to Stanwood be much cheaper than an Easement to Monroe, given that the cost increases with competition from freight, and most freight trains heading north from Seattle split east and go through Monroe? I love the idea of creating new Sounder-only subareas to expand service. That will also help show voters in those areas that they’re not paying for urban service they can’t use – they’re only paying for what they get to use.

      3. A few years ago, Senator Haugen asked for a study of what it would cost to extend Sounder service to Stanwood. BNSF’s answer was on the order of $300M in capital improvements, never mind the “easement” fee. That price tag completely killed the concept, leading to the concept of Stanwood Station, which was forecast to serve 12 (yes, twelve) passengers per day. For what it cost to complete that project, I sure hope actual ridership has been much higher over the last few months!

      4. There is no capacity available on the BNSF east of Everett. Forget Sounder to Monroe. The only way that area might be served is on the Snohomish-Bellevue line.

      5. Right, but there should be plenty of room on the freight tracks north to Stanwood, right? And plenty of room means $cheaper$, especially since we already have an Amtrak station in Stanwood and empty Sounder trains parked in Everett. Build a station in Marysville and run all four trains north with stops in Marysville and Stanwood. Traffic on I-5 can be awful from Marysville to Everett, so I think ridership would be high enough to justify the route.

      6. If i can sit in goldbar and not see a train come through for multiple hours, I think I am justified in saying that there is capacity on the Scenic subdivision (Everett east) and that solutions could be worked out.

        Pleased note I am not asking for a sounder run all of the way out to gold bar, Monroe by itself would be wonderful

        Lor Scara

      7. Lor,

        When do you “sit in Gold Bar (sic) and not see a train come through for multiple hours”?

        The Cascade Tunnel takes about over forty-five minutes to clear the exhaust from a train that passed through it in about twelve minutes. So that means one train per hour. It is BNSF’s primary route to the east from Puget Sound and generally so full of stack trains that most grain is routed over the SP&S, even if it’s exported from Seattle. Warren is not about to host scoots on his shiny new railroad.

        Now if the state offered to build a second track to Monroe well now that would be an iron horse of a different color.

      8. I was out of town over the weekend and am a little late to this party, but for what it’s worth, the practical capacity of the Scenic Sub between Everett and Wenatchee is 22 trains/day (see pages 6 & 8), governed not by Cascade Tunnel itself but the running time between the sidings at either end of the tunnel (see explanation on p16).

        Addressing “twelve minutes,” actual running times through the 7.8-mile tunnel are ~25 minutes for freight trains (20mph) and ~20 minutes for Amtrak (25mph).

      9. Re-electrification of the Cascade Tunnel, and equipping the BNSF with an electric district in Washington State, would solve those problems…. running times through the tunnel would drop substantially.

        And apparently there exists an oil price at which it’s cost-effective for BNSF to do it on its own. That price hasn’t been publically released, but IIRC they said they hadn’t hit it for a sustained period yet, which indicates it may be less than the one-day peak a couple of years back.

      10. I think we can make Sounder-only districts without adversely affecting ST’s primary service area.

      11. The “easy” sounder extensions are extending the route further out to the suburbs, rather than increasing service. The incremental cost to the railroad of letting the current trains simply go further in their current time slot would probably be much cheaper than increasing service. And then in the future if extending suburban service further out does increase ridership, it would help justify increasing the number of daily trips. So I vote we take Sounder further out first, and then add trips second.

      12. Huh?

        Check out Kent Station and Auburn Station!

        These are stations in the heart of these right-sized Cities, surrounded by a brand new complex of shopping, business space and residential apartments, condoes and homes. (Ok, Longacres/Tukwila leaves much to be desired…but it does have a big parking lot and that keeps cars out of Seattle downtown.)—Project-Photos/Photo-5.xml

        In fact each of the stations and maybe more in the future, have the effect of “spreading” the density to a set of nodes all around Puget Sound and eventually all of Western Washington.

        Yes, I know, it’s hard for the Seattle Peninsula to one of many instead of the only fish in the sea, but that’s life…

  9. More / longer service is nice, but is it ever going to be competitive in terms of speed with the 59x express buses? From the comments I see here, it doesn’t sound likely.

    Maybe if they ever connect Tacoma Link and Central Link, the Sounder can be retired? It’s basically now just a luxury route for people who don’t care when they arrive. I’ve never known anyone to ride Sounder and not be highly disappointed, if not downright upset at the speed and fare.

    1. “I’ve never known anyone to ride Sounder and not be highly disappointed, if not downright upset at the speed and fare”

      The speed to where? Between Seattle and Puyallup, and all the stops in between, it’s much faster than driving or the bus. From Tacoma it takes about the same amount of time as the bus, but from anywhere in the valley its the fastest way to get to Seattle.

      1. Aha, I see now. The speed I was talking about was between Seattle and Tacoma. UW-Tacoma commuters, from Seattle, mostly. They all rode Sounder exactly once for that commute, and afterwards said never again.

        I’ve never spoken to anyone who needed to go to the Tacoma suburbs, period. So that’s a viewpoint I’m missing.

    2. The sounder is a fabulous way to get around, and it is not only for people who don’t care when they arrive. I have met people that ride the south line reverse commute trips with me that have very specific schedules to keep.

      the sounder cannot be retired when central and tacoma link come together because the sounder serves a different area that doesn’t even have decent inter-suburban bus service.

      The only decent way to get between Kent and Tacoma is the sounder, and its only available at Peak at that. (going to Federal Way to transfer takes an extra 45 minutes ish(by bus) Link would only shave about 15 mins off that extra time)

      Riding my bike to Link(20-30 mins), or taking a bus to link would take far longer than riding down the hill and hopping on the sounder(5 mins). You would lose plenty of people to their cars if you got rid of sounder because of the extra distance(3-5 miles) to Link.

    3. I work with a person who lives in Kent and uses Sounder every day (except Sunday – grrr). 30 minutes to King Street, another 10-12 to Westlake Center vs an hour or more on the 150. What’s not to like, except no bar car?

      1. And I heard a little while ago that they were talking about adding a little cafe car into Sounder… Then just add midday, evening, and weekend service and it’s perfect!

      2. Just to be clear he specified “bar car” not “cafe car” although that will certainly be an addition. They actually have them in the more cosmopolitan parts of the country.

        Here of course we’re quaking afraid of the American Taliban.

      3. I will say the Pac NW is the least religious part of the US so if its going to happen this would be the place. Thats one of the main reasons for the microbrewery revolution in the northwest.

        Dont forget that neo-prohibitionist cult MADD.

        Bar Car would be awesome, havent had the opportunity to ride a Metro-North train with one onboard. Its a real crapshoot to find a MN New Haven line train with one. Theres always a witchhunt to kill off the bar car on the MN, infact I think the MN new haven line is the only remaining commuter rail line with a bar car.

        A bar car would be such a selling point for Sounder.

    4. You’re totally wrong!

      I take Sounder from Kent to Seattle during the week.

      It’s a fantastic smooth 25 minute ride.

      No bus can compete with it for speed and quality of ride.

      For any distance longer than within Seattle City Limits, I think Heavy Rail should be the option.

      1. Here, here. Same thing to Tacoma as well. I really wish weekend service existed. I know plenty of people in the burbs and valley would take the service to both ends no problem. What would also be great is a through-train from Tacoma to Everett and vice versa. Tons of Beoing people work up there and originate in South King County amongst other places. Sounder is vital and really needs serious investment with new lines and service advancements in ST3 contrary to some voices on this blog. Of course, Link expansions should still be a central focus.

  10. Sure would be nice for Seattle to join the world-class cities of Gary, IN, Salt Lake City, UT, Albuquerque, NM, Brockton, MA, San Bernardino and Lancaster, CA in having weekend commuter rail service!

  11. This is my dream come true!

    Sounder does everything right in train travel and transit.

    It’s the one resource that cries out for MORE!

    More trips, more stations.

    Does anyone know what it’s top speed it?

    I wonder if we could put it on regular hourly Portland trip and make it competitive with Amtrak.

    Even if we could get it up to above 100 mph and drive it down to mid state, it would open up vast new housing and commercial opportunities outside the restrictive Seattle Peninsula.

  12. re: Weekend Sounder service

    When I lived in Providence, RI 5-7 years ago the MBTA didn’t provide commuter rail service into Providence on weekends (they do now, started it maybe 2006), as a result Amtrak had lower weekend fares for trips between Providence and Boston on the ‘Regional’, they were maybe $9-10 each way vs. MBTA’s $5-6 fare. The full amtrak fare would otherwise be $18-25 one way. Best of all the Amtrak trip only look 40-45 minutes and only made one stop enroute (vs. 70-75 minutes and like 9 stops with the MBTA commuter rail).

    Something like this could be done for weekend Sounder service.

    1. Well, it sort of should offer this connectivity. Sounder South stops at King Street, Tukwila, and Tacoma (all stations that Amtrak stops at) in addition to its infill stations (I have no idea why Tuwkila is the mid-Seattle-to-Tacoma station for Amtrak, should be Kent or Auburn). This, as well as Sounder North, should act as the regional feeder for Amtrak if there were enough service whilst Amtrak maintains its intercity (or arguably express) services. Of course, the schedules don’t really work out and we have yet to have a fully operational heavy rail system. Heck, even Cascades service is skeletal. Can we please get another $8 billion ARRA funds for just Washington State, please????

      1. I don’t get why they don’t do rail plus with the southline sounder/Amtrak Trains(as they do with northline), that would add 5 trips a day to the southline sounder(maybe they will when the Pt. Defiance Bypass is built and Amtrak and Sounder stop at the same station…), and Also I too wonder why Tukwila gets the mid-suburban amtrak stop, that station is ghetto, and its not where a lot of people live(the only reason I see that they might have it is because their station is not limited by a grade crossing on either end of it…). Kent would be much more logical, or Auburn, as they are both in the middle… and the stations there are HIGH Quality.

        I have a friend who comes up from Portland very frequently, there is no cascades service that coincides with northbound sounder service so He cant get off in Tacoma and get to Kent, we have to drive down to Tacoma to pick him up. It would be AWESOME if Cascades service coincided with sounder and made it convenient to connect.

        In fact, why don’t they just add sounder trips to coincide with cascades service, so that a sounder train trails a cascades (and starlight) train by about 15 minutes. that would be brilliant. (and I bet they could steal passengers from Amtrak because that would save like 10 dollars off the trip to Seattle. )

      2. Well, realistically, it’s something that should happen in some form. Major yes to the railplus! Like I said, it would basically be an express train since it’s skipping local stops. Unfortunately (not necessarily the railplus), we just don’t have the funding and capacity (slots) yet to do this sort of highly coordinated system. Major sigh.

      3. It’ll take way, way more than US$8B to get hourly service SEA-PDX and every other hour north to VAC and south of PDX to EUG. The new ROW alone will probably cost double that, and enough trainsets to run those services will cost at least that much alone. We are creating levels of service and speed never seen at any time in this part of the country. The NIMBYs will have a heyday – check what is happening in CA as they start planning the specifics of routes, stations and equipment for their system. Even when petrol is US$10/gallon it’ll be a tough sell to folks in the US who for 4 generations now have never known anything but the “freedom” (read tyranny) of the automobile.

      4. pray for peak oil. maybe i’m being optimistic but i think a large number of auto-obsessed people enjoy a good train.

        who said new ROW? I know there are long term thoughts of one, but we can get pretty close to hourly service with improvements to the existing line. no it wont be as fast but it will still be quite good.

        dont forget though that the western half of the US was built by the railroads. all the population is along the rail lines and there is no population away from the rail lines. not only that but something like 85-90% of the population of both WA and OR is within 20 miles of I-5 which makes it incredibly well suited to a single main line intercity passenger rail corridor.

        We are creating levels of service and speed never seen at any time in this part of the country.

        given that WA is already one of the top, if not the top leader in the nation in improving rail, its entirely reasonable that they have levels of service well above what we see elsewhere.

      5. FYI, I wasn’t putting a precise dollar amount on what I thought it might cost for any one specific HSR/mainline corridor project. I said $8 billion because it was a drop in the hat for HSR or railway improvement for ONE nation where a dozen projects divided it up. Meanwhile, we know one good project would cost at least 8 billion if not realistically far more investment than that. But, 8 billion would be a really good start!! :)

  13. Oh, and by my calculations, if the ARRA funds were used as they should have been to really help the states (go entirely to infrastructure) Washington should have gotten 17.5 billion dollars out of it, as we have median population we should have got the middle amount, which amounts to 787/50=17.5

    1. And what did we get? I meant ARRA strictly for rail infrastructure, not all the other bs like tax breaks. Actually, we just need to up FRA funding by like 4 to 10 times what it is today. If the DoD can increase it’s spending by 100s of billions of dollars over what it was only a decade ago, why can’t we do the same thing for something that actually invests in us?

      1. A half century ago we warned by President Eisenhower about this and venal politicians, industrialists and lobbyists duped the US public into believing otherwise:

        “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

        We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

        That was written in January 1961.

      2. Yep, Ike would never get a Republican nomination today. He’d be hard-pressed to get one from the Democrats.

  14. So, Sounder South will require expensive improvements and probably a new track to reach hourly service. And, Sounder has a much bigger advantage over other transit for Kent, Auburn, and Puyallup residents, than for Seattle-Tacoma trips. So how can we fund the improvements for hourly Sounder and also get Link to Tacoma?

    For Sounder North, the expense is a magnitude greater. But if anybody has ideas.

    1. I’m all ears on both ends of the existing Sounder line (and, well, still passively hopeful for Tacoma – Renton – Bellevue – Monroe/Everett??). Part of it can be funded by HSR federal spending, part from ST 3?

    2. Well, the Sounder South improvements should have synergy with the Amtrak Cascades improvements, so there’s gotta be a way to leverage that for funding.

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