A Shaw Road station between Puyallup and Sumner
A Shaw Road station between Puyallup and Sumner

One of the stranger proposals that came out of last month’s joint meetings between Sound Transit and Puyallup was the idea of a new “transit station” on Shaw Road, just less than two miles east of downtown.  Although I’m still trying to figure out what “transit station” actually means, it sounds like Puyallup officials are referring to a brand new Sounder station– which would mean new platforms and presumably new parking.

So far, the Puyallup City Council hasn’t bought into proposals for more parking at the existing station or anything that would put more pressure on the downtown core.  According to the Puyallup Patch, many on the council have warmed up to the idea of a new station, an idea which Sound Transit has balked at:

Most on the Puyallup City Council agreed with the idea that adding more pressure on the historic downtown core is not a feasible option and that a Sound Transit center on Shaw Road could help ease traffic, for both Puyallup and Sumner.

During a joint planning meeting on April 30, Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl said that a full service station at Shaw Road isn’t possible and is “a much more expensive scenario” than Sound Transit can commit to.

While I’m no railroad expert, I’d suspect that BNSF and the FRA wouldn’t be too pleased with a new mainline station, especially given the already short distance between Puyallup and Sumner.  I’m also wary of the bad precedent this could set– a new Shaw Road station planned solely for park-and-ride customers would be the first not to serve a downtown core or activity center.  That’s hardly the kind of regional planning investment we want to be making.

74 Replies to “A New Sounder Station Outside Downtown Puyallup?”

  1. This idea is fantastic. It avoids mixing up the traffic that truly wants to go downtown with those who simply want to commute to Tacoma, Kent or Seattle on Sounder.

    They could add a bus route between the two stations. At the same time parking could be built for little or no cost.

    1. I would also like to see a station like this at Emerald Downs.

      They have a gargantuan parking lot that is only used during the horse races.

      It could handle a lot of traffic and get people right on 167 (East Valley Highway) without having to navigate through a downtown.

  2. Sumner Station is about 29 miles from KSS, Puyallup Station is about 32 miles from KSS. So a station midway between them would be about 1.5mi from each. Stopping at all three would make no sense.

      1. John you know that is a pointless and stupid comparison. While you’re at it lets compare the stop spacing of a streetcar to a high speed train!

      2. It is a valid comparison but you have to stop seeing everything through your own myopic urban glasses.

        To wit, yes, it makes sense for a linear rail line to serve many stations close together if there is demand.

        But you also have to understand that cars, congregating in a parking lot, is a form of density. It allows homeowners to use a centralized resource like a train very efficiently. It is our density, not yours.

      3. A P&R is not “density” unless people are living in their cars. Or working or shopping in their parked cars. But it is a form of public transit.

      4. John,

        Adam is correct on this, because diesel hauled commuter trains weigh massively more than electrically powered light rail vehicles. Therefore they require much more energy to get up to operating speed. If you want close station spacing, they are the wrong vehicle.

        Since the majority of people who use the Sumner and Puyallup stations drive or take the bus to them — and especially if Puyallup isn’t going to allow its town center to become more dense — it might make sense to build this new station between the two towns and close the two downtown stations.

        But it’s premature to do that before an election is held in Puyallup. I wouldn’t be surprised to find most of that board swept away next time.

      5. But you also have to understand that cars, congregating in a parking lot, is a form of density.

        Laughing and crying at the same time. The earnestness of it “you have to understand” is what puts it over the top. Yes, John, the word density, according to my dictionary, does mean many things near each other. Because I’m too cheap to check a bag, the carry-on I’m currently packing is also “a form of density”. My cat just had kittens, their cat family is now “a form of density”. The faculty meeting I’m about to attend is in a small room; it’s “a form of density”. Density is, like, everywhere, man!

        Put down the bong, John.

  3. More congestion is what they get when they slash transit service. They’re reaping what they sowed and Sound Transit should not be bailing them out with a sprawl station. Someone should find out if there are any adjacent land owners pushing for this so they can capitalize on development of that agricultural land I see on the satellite map.

    1. Agreed, with a grain of salt.

      It’s perfectly fine to entertain the notion of a community wanting to add transit infrastructure and service regardless of the conditions that created that need. But, in the event that this idea isn’t deemed to be completely ridiculous, ST shouldn’t be the one left with the bill.

    2. Is this really about former PT riders who are now driving, or is it more of a general increase in Sounder ridership?

    3. On the bright side, this new station will be significantly closer to the foothills trail than either of the two existing stations and if they wanted to, they could build a half-mile connector trail that would go right to the station. This would be great for people in Orting who want to use bike + Sounder to get to work.

  4. Is this an opportunity for segmentation of service levels? Express versus Limited versus Local? Especially now that Lakewood and South Tacoma is open, it may make sense for service above local.

    Of course, ST can’t do anything that might piss off the philistines at BNSF.

    1. Agreed. If BNSF is now getting over $50M upfront to just add another train, then how much do you think adding another station would fetch?
      ST could propose to abandon both the Puyallup and Summner stations, in exchange for one joint stop for a huge ass garage and greenfield station site to ease congestion on the ‘historic nature’ of both downtowns.
      Of course, both cities will baulk, as Sounder was going to revitalize their downtown cores with all the travelers coming and going. Maybe that’s not the plum they were looking for – ‘All gain, No pain’.
      In the end, all parties will drop the idea, and return to plodding along with station boardings flat lining at some point called equilibrium.

  5. Well, at least the Elk’s Lodge and Van Lierop’s workers will have great transit access. Where everyone else is going to come from is the $100 million question.

  6. “I’m also wary of the bad precedent this could set– a new Shaw Road station planned solely for park-and-ride customers would be the first not to serve a downtown core or activity center.”

    What about Tukwila Swamp Station?

    1. With the new station, the Strander-27th connection, new bike/ped bridge across the Duwamish and Tukwila’s Urban Center Plan, Tukwila Sounder Station will be much more a part of the South Center activity center than it is now.

      1. Also the Rapid Ride linking South Center and Renton and passing through Longacres.

    1. Wrong sub-area – different agendas.
      It doesn’t look like Link will ever make it to Tacoma, so why not blow some dough on another Sounder stop in the meantime?

  7. An islolated P&R station is better than a large parking structure in the middle of downtown. That’s what Bellevue got right and Renton and Lynnwood got wrong. A P&R downtown hinders walkability and brings a ton of drivers that aren’t doing anything downtown but just getting on the train. A downtown garage makes sense to replace surface parking for downtown shoppers, but not for commuter-train patrons. Let bus transferees get on the train downtown, and drivers get on the train at the P&R.

    1. So, a parking structure at Kent Station is okay, but not in Puyallup?

      How about a parking structure at the fairgrounds Red Lot?

      1. It seems to be working well in Kent, but maybe Puyallup is somehow “special”.

        Na, the stupidity here is really on the part of the Puyallup City Council. Every one of those commuters who come into Puyallup to catch the train is a potential source of business for DT Puyallup. The Puyallup City Council just needs to stop whining long enough to think a little bit.

        Figure out how to get those commuters to spend a little bit in DT Puyallup and it will benefit the city all around.

      2. You assume that, but is it true? I observe the majority of Sounder riders running from the train to their cars and then getting caught up in the downtown traffic.

        So if commuters aren’t shoppers, then they are using up parking that could be used by shoppers. And I find there are many times, like at lunch where the regular parking lot is full!!

        So the commuter parkers who aren’t shoppers are better parking somewhere else less dense and allowing more real shoppers to the station.

      3. John, the garage was built by ST and intended mostly for use by commuters. If there’s additional space available for shoppers, that’s just a bonus for the shopping center.

  8. This concept is not entirely unprecedented. Northeastern commuter rail lines, and regional trains throughout Europe, offer plenty of examples of segregated-purpose station siting, where one station handles “village” traffic and another handles parking-and-riding. These are far better than the myriad 20th-century counterexamples of town-center stations closed and mass-relocated to the asphalt outskirts.

    That said, this is generally only worth doing where very high passenger volumes and all-day demand offer a reasonable expectation of use/turnover at both locations. South Sounder ridership is plenty respectable, but no station has even a fraction of the kind of volume I’m describing. All-day service doesn’t even exist (nor would it yet be justified).

    It should also only be done where one can keep a couple of miles between each station. Commuter rail involves high-inertia equipment that does not do well with too-frequent stops; there’s a reason it is used primarily to connect corridors with few and discontiguous walksheds. The proximity to Sumner, which has made no noise that I recall about a parking crunch at its station, suggests that there exists more capacity to absorb demand at existing stations. And should that capacity be reached, a shift in usage habits toward getting dropped off at the station — again, perfectly commonplace elsewhere — is likely to restore equilibrium without the need for new concrete and tar on the ground.

    Lastly, this is the kind of proposal that could be taken seriously only if Puyallup were willing to pay for every dime of the studying, surveying, construction, and maintenance of the new facility. “If you build it, we will stop there.” But in the absence of an overwhelming system benefit — and I assure you, none exists — asking Sound Transit to pay a single dime beyond the cost of the rail service is asking too much.

    1. I have ridden NY Transit many times. There is no such thing as TOD. There is the station in the middle of nowhere. There is the parking lot. And then there are the malls that you drive do when and if you want to eat or buy something.

      1. That’s “average density”, which as we recently discussed is misleading. I haven’t been outside Jersey City much but I did go to Red Bank a couple times to meet a friend who “took a bus from a mall”. The immediate station area seemed very small, just a few businesses, but as we walked around the town I saw it extended several more blocks. I asked if the other NJT stations were like this, looking like the middle of nowhere at the station, but actually a larger town just behind it, and he said most of them are the latter.

      2. Mike is correct, in that most Long Island and New Jersey towns grew up in concert with the rail lines that began to snake across the region in the late 19th century. This is, of course, different than the “faith-based TOD” often advocated here, which amounts to building rail somewhere and then crossing your fingers that someone will find it useful enough to build something from nothing.

        John is correct, in that the primary usage for New York’s commuter rails in the post-WWII era involves driving to the station, (paying for) parking, and then hopping on the train to a handful of common regional destinations. Although John seems to ignore that the two station forms and land uses coexist quite ably in his region of origin.

        But I haven’t a clue what in Amun-Ra’s green earth John’s pithy and misleading reply has to do with the fact that Sounder’s demand is not high enough to require additional facilities, that the existing station areas do not honestly experience woeful capacity problems, or that Puyallup’s suggestion that someone else should build it a facility of questionable merit is not to be taken seriously.

    2. Agreed that Puyallup should pay for it if it wants a parking expansion. ST needs to focus on feeder buses and Tacoma Link, not on excess P&Rs. If the P&R capacity limits Sounder’s ridership, maybe that’s something ST can live with, given that it has so many other priorities.

    3. Sumner has also had a severe parking shortage since day one, which is why when Sumner and Bonney Lake left the Pierce County Public Transportation Benefit Area they pressured Sound Transit into taking over what’s now the 596 route.

      If we had Local. Vs. Express Sounder Trains I would support a Shaw road station, however, having a station in-between Puyallup and Tacoma would be short sighted, if BNSF would even allow it to begin with. Since most of the traffic goes to South Hill via Meridian or a parallel road, having people wander all the way to Shaw Road would not work so well.

      I think a better investment, would be to use demand management techniques on the existing Puyallup Station, improve the feeder bus service to/from the “Red Lot” and South Hill P&R at all times of the day, and watch the traffic patterns. Perhaps even open up a new P&R further out on South Hill as well, with appropriate feeder routes. A follow up phase would than be to expand those facilities as appropriate, which are far easier politically to expand than the Sounder Station Downtown is.

    4. “South Sounder ridership is plenty respectable, but no station has even a fraction of the kind of volume I’m describing.”

      Arguably Tacoma itself does, but we just built South Tacoma and Lakewood, so that pretty much deals with that.

  9. A new Sounder station at Shaw Rd is a monumentally stupid idea. It takes potential business out of Puyallup’s DT core, and given the spacing of the stops it slows all Sounder riders down by placing the stops so close together that Sounder will never spend any time at sustained high speed.

    It’s just a plain dumb idea that inconveniences everyone simply because the elected officials in Puyallup don’t know how to govern.

    But a remote P&R station that feeds the existing Sounder stations via shuttle buses isn’t necessarily totally stupid. Of course, it wouldn’t benefit DT Puyallup very much, but it appears that the elected officials in Puyallup don’t actually care about that very much.

    Na, if ST is going to spend the $$$ to add a new Sounder station in Pierce County, a better place to put it would be DuPont. A DuPont station would increase Sounder coverage and add to total ridership without slowing down the rest of the Sounder riders.

    The only problem with a DuPont station would be the large number of Sounder riders who would come from outside the taxing district, but maybe ST could figure out a way to charge them an additional surcharge.

    1. The problem with a DuPont station has always been being at the edge of the subarea with a larger city just beyond. There’s no way ST could enforce proof of address when selling tickets or ORCA cards, but Thurston County could contribute to a DuPont station and an extension to Olympia.

      1. If people are getting on at Dupont then they are going to work in either Pierce or King County which means they likely contribute to the ST tax base. Besides, as more trains are added seats go begging so better to fill them with people from outside the subarea than let them go empty. And I really think you get most of the ridership from parts of JBLM, Dupont, Steilacoom and Lakewood. Also from Spannaway and Roy if the cross base highway gets built. I just have a hard time believing there is a large population that is not only willing to commute to Tacoma/Seattle from Olympia and spend the additional time it takes to take transit when they are already on I-5 in their car.

      2. How about building the station at Du Pont but charging some super-high fare for everyone who boards there? That way, you’d be able to make the Thurstonians pay (some of) their fair share.

      3. @Mike,

        Yes, I agree it could be hard to charge a surcharge, but it might be worth at least looking into it. And I’m not sure having out of district riders use the system is that much of an issue anyhow.

        Per DuPont contributing – I suspect they would be more willing to help financially than would Puyallup. DuPont would be getting something they don’t have now (a Sounder Station), and generally speaking. DuPont is a wealthier city than Puyallup anyhow.

      4. Actually, it might not be that hard.

        Since most out-of-district riders will be coming from Thurston County and parking at the station, just charge out-of-county parkers a parking fee — say something like $5/day — and have them display their parking receipt on their dash.

        ST wouldn’t need to check every day, but if they just checked periodically and wrote tickets to out-of-county parkers then the system should work, and at reasonably low cost.

      5. Nobody checks to see if the 595 riders live in the ST taxing area, since most boarding in Gig Harbor do not.

      6. Another thought: Could we get the governor to line-up veto continued funding for legislator/staff shuttles until they give Intercity Transit and Sound Transit the funding tools to complete Sounder to Olympia?

      7. This is brilliant! Build a new station, then punish people for using it.

        As Bernie pointed out, people getting on in DuPont would be travelling toward the ST district. If they buy lunch, they’re paying toward the capital costs. If they buy a ticket, they’re contributing to operating costs.

      8. What does being in the sub area have to do with anything. It seems to work out just fine for half the riders boarding Sounder in Edmonds who get off the ferry.
        Mukilteo is another fine example of catering to free loaders.

    2. Haha, in Russia vee have vays of making you pay. If you have a foreign accent, you pay the foreigners’ rate which is twice or ten times the Russians’ rate. Now if only Thurstonians had an accent….

    3. Of course, the state could fund an extension to Olympia to connect the state capitol to the state’s largest metropolitan area. Maybe it could happen in another universe.

      1. There used to be a spur that went west through Lacey directly into downtown Olympia. Unfortunately, the part through Lacey was ripped out for the Woodland Trail and another part was taken out by I-5 south of downtown. That would’ve been a perfect place for the Sounder to terminate. The tracks go right up Jefferson Street and more go under the old capitol in a tunnel and go along the shore below the current one. There could’ve been a Sounder station right in front of the Capitol building!

        It’s too perfect to make any kind of sense I guess. The current Olympia station is way too far out there to be of any use.

      2. too perfect…

        …as long as you ignore that it’s 91 miles from Seattle, that a commuter rail trip would run a minimum of 95-105 minutes each way, that Olympia is a really tiny city with a small and decentralized metropolitan area.

        At best, there would be enough demand for a single peak trip in each direction, weekdays only. Hardly the “perfect” rationale for an extremely costly capital outlay.

        If demand really exists for non-driving trips to and from the state capital, then institute a reliable and well-marketed direct shuttle bus to and from the Lakewood Sounder or Lacey Amtrak stations. But y’all need to stop with the pie-in-the-sky rail projects that lack even the faintest whiff of reasonable demand.

      3. That’s 61 miles, not 91. Merely a typo.

        The 95-105 minute estimate at Sounder speeds still holds, as does the total uselessness and unprecedentedness of 60-mile commuter rails to places as infinitesimal as our capitol city.

      4. Sam: I agree with Colin: the spur which runs from Lacey to downtown Olympia proper should be reactivated. The Lacey stop is not exactly an Olympia stop, is it?

        There is enough ROW to reactivate those tracks, even with the obstructions which were put in. The Woodland Trail can legally be ripped out any time — it’s railbanked, meaning that the trail has no rights if rail service is going to be restored. The I-5 obstruction is not insurmountable; I-5 simply crosses the ROW rather than running along it. So it requires a tunnel or bridge.

      5. d.p. : Don’t underestimate the value of intercity train service to the state Capitol, *politically speaking*.

        Sure, if the capital were moved from Olympia to Seattle, there would seem to be little point in intercity rail to Olympia. But as it is now….

      6. Also WRT an Olympia extension, it’s not 61 miles between Olympia and Tacoma or the Kent Valley.

      7. OLYMPIA IS TINY AND THERE’S SIMPLY NOT ENOUGH DEMAND.

        Why, when it comes to rail, are you people allergic to the obvious?

  10. the first not to serve a downtown core or activity center.

    It’s hard to define a downtown, let alone a “core” of Lakewood but Ponders Station sure ain’t it. It’s equally hard to call it an activity center unless you’re talking about the low rent hotels conveniently located across the freeway from McChord field.

      1. Brent, who knows what’s best for Puyallup? Puyallup”s government and citizens, or some guy living in Bellevue? Pick one.

      2. What’s best for Puyallup may not be what’s best for the region as a whole.

        Sound Transit is a regional entity. If Puyallup desperately needs an additional Sounder stop, and Sound Transit doesn’t see fit to add it, Puyallup can go stuff itself.

      3. Brent, who knows what’s best for Puyallup?

        As usual, someone answers your straw man, and you do nothing but repeat yourself. Which is why you’re a troll.

        If Puyallup wants to pay for every goddamned cent of an additional outskirts station, I’m sure it will have Sound Transit’s ear.

        But that’s not what’s going on. Puyallup wants to propose something of questionable merit and then have it funded on the backs of their entire subarea and the entire system.

        That’s not self-determination. That’s selfishness.

    1. Kyle, ST IS going to add an additional Sounder stop in Puyallup. Joni Earl has said as much. It’s now just a question of what kind station it will be. It will most likely be a satellite station.

      1. During a joint planning meeting on April 30, Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl said that a full service station at Shaw Road isn’t possible and is “a much more expensive scenario” than Sound Transit can commit to.

        An option could be a Shaw Road park and ride, with shuttle service to the Sumner and Puyallup stations.

        “But, we’re still not sure if Shaw Road could even handle all that parking,” said Earl.

        Yeah, so that’s, like, the exact opposite of what you claim she said.

  11. Could we refocus on a Sounder Ballard stop since there’s already a plan for that, but no funding yet?

    1. No. Any savings from not building Puyallup a parking garage would need to be spent in Pierce County due to sub-area equity.

      And there are no plans for a Sounder stop in Ballard, or at least nothing more than a dot on a map from about 1999.

      1. “Any savings from not building Puyallup a parking garage would need to be spent in Pierce County due to sub-area equity.”

        In that case, the best way to spend that would be on improving Tacoma Link, to get people (who have rail bias) between the Tacoma Dome station and the rest of Tacoma.

      2. It could also be spent on the Tacoma trestle replacement, which is crucial for increased Amtrak or Sounder service.

    2. What would a Ballard Sounder stop accomplish, since in the time most Ballard residents could get to it from home, they could get downtown as well? The line is not well positioned to serve anyone but a small number of residents on Shilshole. Better to dump that money into the Ballard Link pot.

  12. Wasn’t there a push at some point to build a station at the bottom of Lake Tapps Parkway?

    I could see how a station there would ease pressure off Auburn and Sumner stations. It wouldn’t do much for Puyallup though.

    As far as Puyallup though, the City Council needs to realize that by building a new parking garage, not EVERY single car is going to come, stop, and pour off 1000 passengers.

    At any given point, even when I was living in Puyallup, I would see no more than 75-100 people getting off and most were already parked off-site. Those that do park in the lot typically are on the first two trains, with the rest all around the neighborhood.

    As for the garage itself, add a few good restaurants in the garages bottom level (like Auburn station) and you’ll instantly have a hit and additional business that is coming into Puyallup.

    It really is a shame to see this happening but it just makes me glad I have moved out of such a transit hostile community. The mayor and the council do not like Sound Transit, one bit, and this shows it.

  13. It sounds like somebody needs to reevaluate Sounder’s “master plan” Auburn and Tacoma Dome stations, and decide if anything needs to be changed in a balanced way, not just what the Puyallup city council wants (and wants somebody else to pay for). So it really requires ST to review its Sounder goals in consultation with Puyallup and Sumner. (Tacoma and Auburn will also want to make sure their interests aren’t harmed.)

    Kent station and its shared garage are functioning well for their various responsibilities. It gives South Kingians the expected commute to Seattle, it brings other commuters to Kent, and people are starting to walk in the city center (after driving/busing to it). Auburn station is not as far along but it seems to be doing OK. I don’t know enough about Puyallup or Sumner to say what’s right there. If people aren’t commuting to them they are to Puyallup and Auburn, I could see closing both stations and replacing them with an intermediate P&R. That means both cities would be giving up on trains to their city centers. Peak-only Sounder will never be a major contributor to city center walking-and-shopping. All-day Sounder would be somewhat better, but Puyallup and Sumner are probably the least likely to benefit from this because they’re the furthest from Seattle and the smallest cities and have smaller industrial districts. Downtown Puyallup would probably do better to focus on more buses to Tacoma, and making its downtown more lively and more attractive to businesses, without expecting Sounder to do it. As for Sumner, I really don’t know. My hunch is that it will always be a bedroom community, and it really doesn’t matter where the nearest station is, becauase it will only be used by outbound commuters in cars.

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