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Sounder North in the Rain in "Kodachrome"

My iPod Touch snap postprocessed to emulate Kodachrome, “Sounder North in the Rain in “Kodachrome”

Below is the body of my comments to the Sound Transit Board & King County Executive Dow Constantine, cc’ing the main Sound Transit e-mail addy & Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson regarding the ongoing Sounder North slide situation.  Figured I’d post here as an editorial.


Dear Sound Transit Board;

I am the statistical outlier who has been boarding Sounder North at Mukilteo Station to get to Everett Station in recent months.  I am relieved that King County Executive Dow Constantine promised in the Seattle Times that he would raise at the monthly Sound Transit Board meeting a better Sounder North safety policy.

I’m not so sure I’d get to comment on the matter orally so sending this e-mail of support for a Sounder North safety policy of… shutting Sounder North down if there has been serious rainfall in the previous 12 hours before a run.  I’m asking you do what your Interim CEO Mike Harbour wants which is, according to The Seattle Times, “if the weather and monitoring devices indicate a high risk” to send a blast e-mail as you do so helpfully :-) & put signs up at the stations of Sounder North cancellation.

I’m also going to ask that you please require ALL Sound Transit employees on Sounder North undergo lifeguard training as soon as possible – just Sounder North.  This is so in the event a Sounder North ends up in Puget Sound somebody can help pull folks back to shore until First Responders can arrive because when seconds count, First Responders are minutes away.

On a personal level, I don’t want to have to tell my Sedro-Woolley mother at 1900 Hours/7 PM from my cellular that somehow her son’s on a train and I knew the train was becoming unreliable if not unsafe until May but I took Sounder North anyway knowing I’d either be stuck behind a slide or taking some of Puget Sound home with me.  As such, I will be going back to Everett from the Future of Flight – where I do professional aviation photography and help the organization out via Everett Transit Route 70 at 84TH ST SW & 44TH AVE W, then Everett Transit Route 18 from the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal to make my Everett Station connection to Skagit Transit 90X and home.  My point is this: I really like the reliability, comfort and WiFi of Sounder North.  However I’m not exactly too gung ho about riding the rails against unstable slopes for WiFi.

Perhaps, if I may submit some business advice, it would be best to stand Sounder North down until slopes are reinforced or until May.  Or perhaps as one internet commenter on the Seattle Times story thought up:

There is another route for the Sounder, abit more expensive, and that is up the old North Interurban. It is a much better route in that it accommodates a much higher population density. But, because past politicians allowed it to be fragmented, reacquiring the land by Lake Ballenger and north of Alderwood Mall will be expensive. But it also gives a direct passenger rail access to Shoreline and Lynnwood…

Just something to consider, although I’m pretty confident my contact Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson would have an acutely different opinion.

Ultimately, I’m asking the Sound Transit Board to please prioritize rider safety over ridership statistics.  If that means a new express bus service to these four communities – I’m okay with that grudgingly.  If that means making Sounder North seasonal away from the wet season until safety measures are installed, okay.  But please put safety first and fiscal responsibility a close second – normally the two don’t contradict.


I got a thoughtful response from EmailTheBoard-AT-soundtransit-DOT-org pledging:

Thank you for your message to the Sound Transit Board. Your email is being distributed to all boardmembers for review, and will be responded to within three business days.

Thank you,

Sound Transit Board Administration

If true, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, I much appreciate.

If you’ve got thoughts about Sounder North, you just might want to send EmailTheBoard-AT-soundtransit-DOT-org your thoughts.  Here’s why:

King County Executive Dow Constantine, who is Sound Transit’s board chairman, said Friday he’ll bring up landslide matters at a transit-board meeting.

“The board’s first concern is safety. In light of this incident, and service interruptions during past winters, I plan to ask the board to discuss rainy-season operational challenges,” Constantine said in a statement.

Folks if you oppose Sounder North, if you support Sounder North, or if you just support reforming Sounder North chime in at EmailTheBoard-AT-soundtransit-DOT-org .

5 Replies to “North by Northwest View 06 – Comment Letter to Sound Transit Board, RE: Sounder North”

  1. Eventually, BNSF will have to do something.

    The new crude oil unloading facility in Anacortes is designed to unload two oil unit trains every 24 hours.
    http://www.wilsonco.com/Tesoro%20Crude%20Oil
    The least hilly and thus cheapest route is through downtown Seattle and through this area. Then, there’s the unit coal trains to Vancouver, BC. Then, there’s all the other traffic.

    Boeing will be very displeased if, instead of an intermodal train or the Empire Builder, the next train that gets hit by a landslide here is carrying 737 frames.

    Amtrak and Sounder could vanish tomorrow and BNSF would still need to do something, so long as Anacortes and Vancouver didn’t vanish as well.

    As slow as I have seen I-5, from the vantage point of ST express buses, I’m wondering if there would be any advantage to replacing Sounder North with express buses on highway 99? Sure, there’s traffic lights, but so long as stops are limited to only several it seems like it might be better than the mess I have seen on I-5.

    1. Agreed, BNSF needs to act on this – either stabilize the slope or if that fails, get an inland route. My contact the Mukilteo Mayor may not be pleased, but losing the Boeing plant due to lack of rail access would be a MUCH bigger loss for Mukilteo.

    2. 99? What we really need is the completion of bus lanes on every single inch of I-5 and completion of some HOV entrances and exits. 99 is slower than I-5 for the long haul except maybe once or twice a year, probably less often than that because once I-5 gets really backed up people flock to 99 and it’s just as bad. North of downtown Seattle I-5 is almost always faster for a point-to-point trip longer than a few miles, even when 99 is more direct.

      Based on some of your posts it appears you happened to try to catch a bus on I-5 on one of its worst days once. I’ve experienced some of I-5’s worst days, too, where the size and grade-separation that normally make it a fast road turned it into a trap. The truth is, these days are rare. Often enough the 512 already is the fastest way to travel between Seattle and Everett.

      And when you’re talking about I-5, 99, or the Interurban Route (forget about that one, Joe — it ran on surface streets that have no chance of supporting regional transit these days) you’re really just talking about Everett, not Edmonds or Mukilteo. What happens without Sounder North? A single transit route that connects Edmonds, Mukilteo, and Everett is unlikely on any other route for obvious geographical reasons. Most of Sounder North’s ridership is going to Seattle and each of the three cities has peak-hour routes to Seattle (Everett, of course, has more than that). Mukilteo has some local service to Everett and Edmonds has lots of local east-west service connecting to lots of faster north-south service to Everett. Edmonds-Mukilteo is a two-seat local-route slog, but if that’s ever our biggest transit problem we’ll be doing well indeed.

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