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Sounder at Everett Station

My photo of Sounder North at Everett Station

These are not the views of Seattle Transit Blog, rather the Page Two Writer.

I used to ride Sounder North until very recently, when I just decided free WiFi, the thrill of riding the rails and the gratification of riding grade-separated mass transit of Sounder North was not worth my life after reading of a slide one week ago that, “came down in front of a Sounder train heading into Everett. Mud slid onto the tracks immediately in front of the train, which came to an emergency stop in the shallow mud and vegetation.” I also think Sounder North is not just unsafe but also illegal.

Sounder North illegal? Yes, as RCW 81.104.120 allows Sound Transit to provide commuter rail service only when “costs per mile, including costs of trackage, equipment, maintenance, operations, and administration are equal to or less than comparable bus…”

Rail is wonderful – it’s grade-separated, which means that there’s little to no congestion. But rail also costs more than a bus. In fact, the Sound Transit Citizen Oversight Panel found the cost of Sounder North six times more expensive than moving by bus in a 2012 report. However, the Third Quarter 2014 Sound Transit ridership report says ST Express Bus for that quarter is $6.22, versus $11.32 per Sounder North & Sounder South rider – perhaps because the easements bought from BNSF are not calculated. Still.

Furthermore, according to that same report, Sounder North was getting only 245,025 riders from three quarters of 2014 service. The original 1994 Commuter Rail Status report (page 13 of the PDF) projected 1,168,000 annual passengers in 2010 to make Sounder North pencil out and legal. Sound Transit is nowhere near that 2010 goal in late 2014.

Two years ago, the lovely Meg Coyle of KING 5 anchored a stern news report that the Citizens’ Oversight Panel recommended Sounder North be more cost-effective or stood down:

One would also add the sensitive matter of Sounder North’s proclivity to slide disruptions. Perhaps this explains why ridership is low. But also the slide disruptions race genuine moral questions. When seconds count, first responders are minutes away. Each Sounder North car can take over 130 passengers – so even at 33% use, that’s more lives at risk than lost from the 2014 Oso mudslide. Per car. In places along the tracks from Everett to Seattle, there are no roads for ambulances and the like to race to – which means that rescue swimmers by helicopter and boat would be necessary to help good Samaritans pulling Sounder North users out of Puget Sound. Granted, NAS Whidbey Island only has one SAR helicopter on strip alert (with another two for backup) that requires base commander permission to launch– and the Snohomish County Sheriff has a donation-supported Helicopter Rescue Team using an upgraded Huey. Both units performed beautifully during the Skagit River bridge collapse and the Oso landslide – but did not have to deal with hundreds in a life-threatening situation.

Vital minutes would pass for those heroes to get on scene while folks in business attire would be drowning and/or have the onset of hypothermia. As somebody who’s been in the backcountry and worked on a farm in the elements who has experienced the cold, hypothermia is a serious matter. Just reading the Wikipedia entry on hypothermia from water immersion should get your attention. The first two minutes truly matter and the first 15-30 minutes are when folks live or die after getting plunged into Puget Sound – so if lots of people can’t swim in business attire to shore and try to dry off until ample First Responders arrive… they could very likely die.

However, as you may have noticed from the agenda, Sound Transit’s monthly Board meeting will not address this issue. So I called King County Executive Dow Constantine’s Communications Office today and was politely told negotiations are underway to schedule a Sound Transit Board discussion about Sounder North as Executive Constantine’s been clear: “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.”

One would hope soon as every time a Sounder North races around slopes still waiting for stabilization efforts to complete… a dangerous roulette is underway. Not to mention the expensive matter of noncompliance with RCW 81.104.120 intended to protect scarce transit dollars.  For those reasons of safety and illegality, it’s time the Sound Transit Board seriously recalculated whether to proceed with Sounder North operations.

Ultimately, in the final analysis: How long does the Sound Transit Board want to wait until several hundred Sounder North passengers end up in Puget Sound from a mudslide and we have a mass casualty incident for no good reason with RCW 81.104.120 to cite to eliminate the risk? Who wants to be the transit advocate or likable politician to explain that to the next of kin and a class action litigator?  Especially when bus rapid transit/BRT would resolve the transit needs Sounder North has meagerly addressed with minimal risk to human life and be in compliance with state law.

If you want to make your views known to the Sound Transit B0ard – EmailTheBoard-AT-soundtransit-DOT-orgNow is the time…

Special thanks to John Niles of Public Interest Transportation Forum, Bob Pishue of the Washington Policy Center and Frank Abe of King County Executive Dow Constantine for your invaluable help in stitching this together.

59 Replies to “North by Northwest View 007 – License to Kill Sounder North?”

  1. While we fight for every dollar to extend Link northward, opting for cheaper alignments along I-5 and deferring stations, we continue to waste millions on Sounder north. Imagine if that money were spend on North Link instead? A well designed North Link line could carry more passengers in a week than Sounder North does in a year.

    1. “Why” is that people voted for it twice (in ST1 to create it, and in ST2 to keep running it). ST is reluctant to contradict past votes or reconsider the projects. It’s especially reluctant to shift money from them to a project that’s not voter approved yet (Lynnwood-Everett), because some taxpayers would object “You’re taking money for A but doing B instead!!!” It’s only with this safety concern that ST is even considering suspending Sounder North for some period of time. But that’s still a step in the right direction, at normal bureaucratic speed. Even if this step doesn’t delete Sounder North, it makes it thinkable by removing its sacrosancthood. That may make it harder for the board to avoid the issue in the coming years.

      But as I’ve said before, if we really want this to happen, we need some Snohomish County voices to speak up for it. So far I haven’t heard any.

      1. It’s not quite that easy… ST needs buy-in from as many leaders as possible in places like Snohomish County. What can ST promise Edmonds or Mukilteo in exchange for the loss of Sounder North (which actually does benefit some people there), in order to prevent them from becoming rabid opponents of the whole project of regional transit? A FHSC-style consolation prize — maybe really fast and frequent express buses connecting to Link when it’s built? Link isn’t going to be built out to there for years yet. All-day bus service all the way to Seattle (essentially branching the 512 instead of connecting to it)? That’s a steep price considering the likely small ridership. More peak-hour service? That’s a given, but it’s right into the teeth of the traffic. Would

        That’s the irony of Sounder North. On one hand it’s useless and redundant: when trips are cancelled it’s no strain for the transit system to get people where they need to go. On the other hand it’s irreplaceable, because for the people that “have” it, there’s nothing worth accepting in “trade” for it.

      2. Al;

        As far as trade Sounder North – I would go for BRT until light rail plus assistance w/ helping Community Transit get full funding.

        I would also mention uh the landslide risk of 8 trains a day plus the RCW stating rail cannot cost more than bus, which Sounder does dramatically. Do the Everett, Mukilteo and Edmonds’ community leaders want to explain at some memorial service, in the press and in court why they fought so hard for Sounder North? Or do they want to blink while honor is left and while the public could empathize and support with such a move.

      3. Wild and crazy idea: Run DMU’s from Seattle to Edmonds, which takes 27 minutes. Have an express bus wait for the train. The existing 196 is scheduled for 20 minutes at rush hour between Edmonds Station and just north of Lynnwood TC; together, that’s still a little less than the 511, which is scheduled for 50 minutes from King Street Station to Lynnwood TC.

        Unfortunately, this wouldn’t really work. ST wouldn’t save on the train slots, they’d need to rebuild the storage tracks, and it doesn’t offer substantial time advantages anywhere except Edmonds.

      4. The coastal Snohomish cities need proportional service from ST for the same reason that the west side of Seattle needs Link. So Edmonds and Mukilteo absolutely have a right to know what they would get instead of Sounder. There are some promising alternatives; the stakeholders just need to sit down and talk.

        In the short term they’ll need one-seat expresses to downtown at the same frequency as Sounder, as many buses as necessary to fit the crowd. That’s only fair. Beyond that, we could look at midday and weekend runs to Lynnwood, Everett, or Mountlake Terrace. Those would be precursors to future Link feeders anyway. The mayors of Edmonds and Mukilteo may have other cost-effective ideas once they get over losing Sounder.

        One point is that the Sounder stations are not necessarily at the center of travel demand. People go to the Sounder stations because that’s where the stations are, but that doesn’t mean they live around the stations. The bulk of Edmonds’ and Mukilteo’s populations are east of the city centers. So maybe the buses should start at the city center and then make a second stop at a small P&R east of the center, closer to the majority of houses.

      5. “On the other hand it’s irreplaceable, because for the people that “have” it, there’s nothing worth accepting in “trade” for it.”

        That’s the trick, you have to convince those people — and especially their city leaders — that Sounder North is not such a great asset after all, and is not worth throwing money down the drain for. Then they’ll be more willing to consider alternatives.

      6. “Run DMU’s from Seattle to Edmonds, which takes 27 minutes.”

        Is the slide area only north of Edmonds?

      7. Re: Mike Orr says, December 19, 2014 at 9:15 am

        Again I agree. As to, “The bulk of Edmonds’ and Mukilteo’s populations are east of the city centers. So maybe the buses should start at the city center and then make a second stop at a small P&R east of the center, closer to the majority of houses” – all the more reason to end this boondoggle so we can get ST3 to get the light rail there.

        I can say using ST3 as a carrot to close Sounder North down has been proposed by state legislative Republicans, is being discussed and no final decision has been made yet. The fact Dow Constantine is joining the Stop-Sounder-North coalition should be a wake-up call, Dow didn’t get to be King County Executive by being less than politically smart & highly intelligent.

  2. While I appreciate your position, I think it is a bit hyperbolic. There are many places where rail runs that are difficult to get to by road. That’s pretty much the reason rail exists there. Any number of incidents could occur, apart from mudslides, that would make rescue difficult.

    Fine that you don’t want Sounder North to be run due to cost efficiency, low ridership or other financial reasons. But the use of mudslides as a reason borders on fear-mongering.

    And just to be clear, are you advocating for no passenger rail to be run between Seattle and Everett or just Sounder?

    1. Other places where rail runs don’t have a mudslide-prone cliff on one side and a sea on the other.

    2. M;

      “Fine that you don’t want Sounder North to be run due to cost efficiency, low ridership or other financial reasons. But the use of mudslides as a reason borders on fear-mongering.”

      Uh no. There have been mudslides that have pushed freight trains well off the rails:


      * in 1948


      Then there’s the Amtrak derailment of last year:

      “And just to be clear, are you advocating for no passenger rail to be run between Seattle and Everett or just Sounder?”

      Just Sounder North, full stop. We’re playing Wheel of Mis-Fortune here and sooner or later the wrong item is going to come up.

      1. Why are Sounder North customers more important than Amtrak Cascades or Empire Builder riders? Seriously asking, because I don’t understand why, if it is such a huge threat, there is no advocacy to remove ALL passenger trains from that stretch of track.

      2. M;

        Amtrak will probably get the hint in their faraway corporate offices if Sounder North is pulled. This is a multi-step process for public safety & compliance w/ State RCW.

      3. i have to say I find this safety angle quite unconvincing. First of all, it makes no sense to single out North Sounder when Cascades has the same issue. Meanwhile, shoring the hillside continues.

        Furthermore, although obviously there could be an accident, riding on these tracks has killed exactly zero people. By cancelling the service, you’ll for the most part be moving these people onto the highways, where the chance of them being killed (or killing someone else) is quite a bit higher.

        it’s entirely reasonable to have a problem with Sounder’s productivity and favor diverting funds into other forms of transit. But if the concern is safety the answer is to make the line safer, not eliminate it.

      4. It’s Sounder North because we’re talking about Sound Transit and its overall budget and what its alternatives might be. That’s what affects STB readers the most: intra-Pugetopolis transit. Amtrak can figure out on its own what to do about Cascades and the Empire Builder. Maybe somebody here has some ideas that they can put into an article, but that’s not the focus of this article, which is Sounder.

      5. Thank you Mike. The plan is to start out with Sounder North, then Amtrak.

        Martin: There are a slough of reasons to quash Sounder North. Preventing a mass casualty incident that would take human life and significantly harm Sound Transit’s reputation in the lead-up to ST3 that all but John N. & Bob P. support should be something you should consider please.

        As far as the moving people onto highways canard, many of them easily take the buses which aren’t strained that much by the shifts. Although the slopes should be made safer, that’s going to take time both to implement and win back trust.

        Sorry but until May, my trust in those slopes is very close to zero. The slide in front of a Sounder North should be the last straw of last straws. Then there’s the legal and fiscal aspects – the service can be easily replaced with BRT; human lives and political capital and fiscal capital not so much.

        Maybe I haven’t said this because it’s not a top motivation but one of my motivations in leading this charge is so we get ST3 to get light rail which we know is working. We also know Sounder South to Tacoma is bordering on viability, and I for one would like to see that happen.

      6. If the focus is what Sound Transit is spending, that has nothing to do with mudslides. If it has to do with the safety of Sounder North, that’s unrelated to what their budget is. Conflating the two ignores the problems of each.

        And as long as RailPlus is an option, Amtrak Cascades passengers are the same commuters riding the same length of track. Therefore, they would be just as relevant to the discussion. Perhaps the RailPlus program should be eliminated in the interest of safety?

      7. No M, you just wanna protect your route no matter the cost. So you want to silence some of the debate.

        You make it sound like Save-your-bus is now save-your-train, to hell with the consequences. Making a full list of the consequences is only fair.

        We at STB aren’t supposed to be about save-your-bus but about the most safest, most cost-effective system possible. The two issues work hand-in-hand to remove a route that is dangerous, fiscally irresponsible and illegal. When and especially when Dow Constantine is leading the coalition to Stop-Sounder-North, it might be time to stop and think….

        As far as putting Amtrak Cascades on buses, that’s conflation. But it’d be a lot easier to fight that fight after Sounder North is gone.

        Sounder North is not worth defending any longer. Stabilizing the slopes may or may not work. Burning good money after bad is unwise. Restructuring Sound Transit to be even more awesome is wise.

      8. If the focus is what Sound Transit is spending, that has nothing to do with mudslides. If it has to do with the safety of Sounder North, that’s unrelated to what their budget is. Conflating the two ignores the problems of each.

        Risk is a continuum, not a cutoff. There’s a viaduct in Seattle that’s in a similar situation. At what point do you close it? Does the supposed post-closure traffic congestion play any role? The state believes rightly or wrongly that closing the viaduct would cause major traffic congestion on I-5 and downtown streets, and thus the tunnel must be completed first. There’s a tradeoff between the unknown time to finish the tunnel and how much the viaduct deteriorates further in the meantime. So closing the viaduct has to be weighed against whatever we might do instead. Coming back to Sounder North, the slide issue is not so critical that it must be decided in a vacuum. The interplay between it and ST’s overall budget and the impact of alternatives on riders is valid to consider. If you believe the slide risk is very urgent, then you’d weigh that factor highly. But we still discuss the wholistic impact of a change or non-change with people who weigh it differently.

      9. Mike;

        I put the comment you quoted in blockquote so folks understood.

        I’m of the view the tunnel and the viaduct on Seattle’s waterfront need to be stood down. Cut our state’s losses and risk.

        I’m also of the view Sounder North needs to be stood down. Cut fiscal losses, prevent human life loss and reduce risk to a vital Sound Transit. Even proven transit advocate King County Executive Dow Constantine is on board with this.

        Furthermore making a list of all the reasons is important for debate, focusing on only one allows the defensive to play better defense. By making a list and sticking to that list, wears down the weak. Sort of how the Seahawks’ defense operates…. hard to run the ball, can’t pass towards Richard Sherman, not many options for an offense.

        There are many like us Mike who want Sounder North gone. Sadly some fellow transit advocates forget to defend everything is to defend nothing.

      10. Joe:
        *Amtrak has nowhere else it can run.*

        Due to the extreme shortsightedness of previous governments, which ripped out the route which is now the Burke-Gilman Trail, and then proceeded to sever the Eastside Rail Line, there is *no other rail route* from Seattle to Vancouver BC.

        In a pinch the Empire Builder could be rerouted via Pasco and Stampede Pass, but there is no alternative for Seattle-Vancouver BC trains.

      11. Geezus.

        Not you Nathanael, but the situation. What a bizarre situation that will require years to correct.

        Perhaps seasonally Amtrak could run buses/coaches.

  3. Why don’t you put together a ballot proposal, or at least show up at the Sound Transit board meetings and testify in favor of that, cancelling Sounder North.

    You can request that provision in ST3.

    1. I’m discussing a multitude of options with several people in several offices; one viable option is to use ST3 as leverage to kill Sounder North before it’s too late.

      1. No and I’ll share responses as appropriate ;-). Let’s just say there’s a lot of strateisizing on. Sometimes members of the media are fed stuff on background or given clues.

        For Edmonds & Mukilteo, I’d be pushing for a Swift-esque replacement.

      2. What a hero you are, campaigning to take away someone else’s service that you’re not even paying for.

      3. Martin, I paid Sounder North fare for a while. Sorry you’re so upset about campaigning for a route restructure – granted mega-sized – that would put scarce transit resources where they belong.

  4. I’ve suffered through some pretty long trips through there on various buses. If it changes to bus service, other changes have to be made so the bus service isn’t so slow.

    That said, changing to bus service has the potential to free up money for two directional service, which based on the traffic I have seen is bad in both directions, yet Sounder North only satisfies one of those directions per peak.

    1. Thank you Glenn. Safety issues may have pushed me to action, but what sustains me via M’s borderline trolling is the need to use limited resources cost-effectively.

      1. Again, since the Great Northern opened that ROW in the late 19th Century, how many fatalities have there been? Since the predecessors of WashDOT opened US 99 and I-5 from Seattle to Everett in the 1920s and 1960s, how many passenger fatalities have there been along these highways? I loathe the risks I must take EVERY DAY in downtown Seattle with mad-cap drivers passing on the right, making illegal turns, ignoring crosswalks, etc. That is a CHOICE I have made, similar to the choices rail passengers have made for more than a century and a quarter heading north on the Great Northern and its successors. Assign costs to the homeowners above the ROW and work to make it safer. Nowhere in human society is there a “risk-free” activity, nowhere.

      2. Lloyd, my argument is that buses are 1,000 more safer than Sounder North. One mass casualty incident right now would be immoral – not to mention at some point a PR disaster at a sensitive time for Sound Transit’s future. I’m more the pick-your-battles, know when to blink kinda bloke.

        I’m also supportive of Sounder South (Seattle-Lakewood). This is more about safety and being cost-effective with limited resources.

        One last thing I don’t blame the homeowners in this. I doubt seriously they want an unstable slope.

      3. Of course, the problem for the homeowners is the cost of stabilizing the slopes.
        However, they are the ones to benefit the most.

        Then there is the problem of illegal (non-permitted) changes that cause excess runoff.

        If the railroad ROW wasn’t there, what would the slopes look like? In some areas, the tracks are all that is protecting the bluff from the wave action.

      4. Jim, good points and difficult, insightful questions I don’t know how to answer. I would prefer not to have this encroachment on the slopes which is far from transit-oriented development & trades safety for a view but it’s there.

    2. That’s what we want to do: get Link up there. But that can’t be done in one day so we’ll have to keep the slow buses for a while. North Seattle is also suffering with slow buses that will be replaced with Link in seven years, so it’s not like Snohomish’s problem is unique. As for speeding up the buses, that means speeding up I-5, and that’s under WSDOT’s control. One could hope for more HOV lanes and 3+ restriction, but that won’t get done immediately either.

    3. Mike, once Lynnwood Station is built, Community Transit will literally deposit most commuters onto light rail. Massive ridership boost that will help Community Transit rebuild & improve it’s network.

      Food for thought. Keep commenting ;-).

  5. I’m confused why the Puget Sound region delusionally thinks one light rail like extending 60+ miles is the best mode for intercity travel. I’m confused why people in the Puget Sound can so willfully disregard effective transit planning as established in European & Asian cities yet still think we have a superb system. I’m confused why the people can so eagerly write off Sounder North when it’s been handicapped from the beginning. Let’s make it better people; not kill it! We are in the process of adding more retaining walls and stabilizing the slopes; good, let’s do more! You want more people to take it? Then give more people access, let’s add stops starting with Ballard and upper downtown. And can we agree that King street station is a terrible transfer point?! The commuter rails and every other random form of transportation need ONE central hub; not a string of 5 that we somehow convince ourselves is useful. We need to redevelop Westlake Center to be the true central hub this city is yearning for. I ask my fellow people to not be quitters, let’s show some resolve & work to improve our situation. No more quitting on a mode; that’s why we have 5 individual and terribly coordinated transportation systems. Let’s start by improving the system we already have that will have a real impact almost immediately when compared to Sound Transit’s timeline. Let’s improve Sounder North; not kill it!

    1. Andy;

      I admire your attitude but:

      a) It’s unsafe to run Sounder North & Amtrak Cascades until those slopes are stabilized and proven safe. We start with Sounder North to flip Amtrak on board with using buses instead.

      b) It’s illegal by state RCW to use Sounder North since Sounder North costs more than buses.

      c) It’s fiscally responsible to protect scarce resources and put them where we can have “effective transit planning”.

      As to, “I ask my fellow people to not be quitters, let’s show some resolve & work to improve our situation” – I agree, let’s fight for ST3 and what works – double tall buses, more Bus Rapid Transit and light rail. I don’t agree with putting human lives in jeopardy and being fiscally irresponsible to accomplish those goals.

      1. Joe:

        a) I agree safety is paramount. However I wouldn’t want to let fear dictate my life. There has been inherent risk with every facet of transportation, including aviation, and it was this realization of risk that pushed us for higher safety standards. Those industries kept improving; they didn’t shut down till they had the perfect vehicle/infrastructure. We realize this is a risky area, which is why BNSF and ST have studied vulnerable spots and continue to add retaining walls. They are currently doing this; it’s not perfect yet but they are improving the situation. If they didn’t have a plan of action as of yet, I’d agree with you that the risks outweigh continuing the service on this portion as is.

        b/c) I understand the intent of the cited RCW is to ensure we keep a cost effective approach to transportation and that part I agree on. I don’t however believe we should hide behind the technicality of this code section when it can be changed by the legislator in the very next session. That being said, I think BRT done well is great, and we should most certainly be utilizing that over slow intercity light rail. How will yet to be constructed light rail to other cities compare to buses and trains currently operating on existing infrastructure? It won’t pencil out and won’t meet the intent of RCW 81.104.120. I do agree with you though that current track leasing agreements with BNSF is BS and irresponsible, but that just means ST needs to get better at negotiating or consider construction of their own track at a later date.

        I more want to argue the big picture vs this particular section. And the big picture is that commuter rails are the more effective way to travel between cities. Leave the light rail/metro for in the cities. Since the Puget Sound is late to the transportation game, let’s learn lessons from other successful transportation systems around the world! From the current trajectory of ST though, it feels as if we are doing the opposite.

      2. Andy W;

        If safety is paramount to you why do you support passenger rail continue to operate past slippery slopes, one of whom just parked a piece of itself in front of a Sounder North train on 10 December? For me, that was the breaking point as no longer could I – who used to use Sounder North – convince me only freight trains caused slides.

        I think with your statement “I agree safety is paramount” but demand we continue Sounder North & Amtrak Cascades past these slopes, you just contradicted yourself. Oddly enough King County Executive Dow Constantine realizes standing down Sounder North at least until the slopes are stabilized & retaining walls are built. Perhaps because he’s a leader.

        Finally don’t expect that RCW changed. I am more than willing to trade in Sounder North to get ST3 as has been discussed here and keep Sounder South for all the eloquence of ” commuter rails are the more effective way to travel between cities”. I would also propose that perhaps – sorry Mayor Gregorson – heavy rail needs to be built more inland than along the Everett to Seattle coastline.

        Ultimately, the mode of transit is not my issue and I was willing to be a lukewarm supporter of Sounder North for some time. The safety and cost-effectiveness of that mode are the issues in the way.

      3. Amtrak Cascades will never use buses long-term, for several reasons.
        (1) Ridership collapses whenever there’s a bustitution.
        (2) It’s not in their remit; they run trains and contract buses out. If the state government is using buses, it can hire someone who actually operates buses.

        It seems undeniable that Amtrak Cascades is worth operating from Seattle to Vancouver; even the Canadian border agency, which was recalcitrant, was coninvced that the benefits to commerce were worth it.

        The options, then, are (1) repair the existing route, or (2) build a new heavy rail route. Perhaps on the old Northern Pacific route, which has been turned into a low-value BIKE TRAIL called the “Burke Gilman Trail”.

        If you’re worried about safety, you’ll have to start advocating for converting that back to rail. Heavy political lift, I know….

      4. I’m not above a hard challenge. I’m sure once Sounder North is stood down, the pressure will build to slam the door shut on Amtrak.

        First Sound Transit, then Amtrak. I hope you’re with me or at least understand. I can’t be advocating for or remaining mute about a transit service – Sounder North – I refuse to use out of genuine safety concern.

        The “Burke Gilman Trail” never should have happened. It is history the current coastal rail route is unsafe.

      5. You should study that “low value” bike trail’s route before you suggest it for commuter rail. First of all, it hasn’t been directly connected to downtown Seattle since sometime in the 1950’s, its bridge across the ship canal is long gone. Second, it runs through even less populated parts of Snohomish County than the current route (Snohomish, Lake Stevens, Arlington).Third, there’s a huge hill in it between Woodinville and Snohomish (part of the reason it’s abandoned). Fourth, unless you backtrack at Arlington or Sedro Woolley, you’re going to end up in Sumas which is where that line dead ends into the Canadian rail system. Fifth, the Burke Gilman itself is subject to landslides in North Seattle. Even when both lines existed, the “Burke Gilman” line was only used for passengers for a very few years.

        It’s not a heavy lift because of political considerations, it’s a heavy lift because it was abandoned 50 years ago for economic reasons.

      6. For a lot of people the “Burke-Gilman Trail” exists as the most visible part from the Lake Forest Park neighborhood all the way to Woodinville, forgetting that most of the rest of it is alongside Lake Washington without any meaningful walkshed until around the UW.

        It is most often used in the argument “Once a Bike Trail, ALWAYS a Bike Trail”

        “Third, there’s a huge hill in it between Woodinville and Snohomish (part of the reason it’s abandoned)”

        The Woodinville to Snohomish Jct. segment is the one active part of the line, and hasn’t been abandoned.

        Where is this hill? Or are you speaking in terms of a ruling-grade that made the line less attractive for heavy-haul freight?

    2. Andy W: There are three other long-term factors that hinder Sounder North from becoming the Caltrain you want and I would like too. Sounder South has the potential but Sounder North does not. The first factor is the single track wedged between the Sound and the hillside. Single track prevents two-directional runs from operating simultaneously so it severely limits frequency. The second factor is sharing the track with freight, and now with a new wave of oil trains and a potential wave of coal trains. The third factor is the station areas. The bulk of Edmonds’ and Mukilteo’s population and all of the rest of south Snohomish’s population is more than a mile east of them. In contrast, Sounder South is already heading for almost-hourly service weekdays; the state has long-term plans for separate passenger tracks for HSR and 110 mph Cascades and Sounder; and there’s walksheds and drivesheds on both sides of the station. So a truly effective northern rail needs to be in the middle of the population center and that’s where we’re building Link. The technology is not that big a deal and should not be a stumbling block. Ideally in the past we should have kept the interurbans and built them up, then we’d have an existing track and ROW on Linden Ave in King County and over to downtown Lynnwood in Snohomish County, but we didn’t, so we can’t put Metra on it.

  6. Hey did all of you hear a slide interrupted Sounder North service again tonight, 24 December?

    From an e-mail I got from Sound Transit:

    Northline train 1700 (4:05 pm Seattle departure) is going back to Mukilteo to unload passengers due to a mudslide south of Everett Station. Train 1702 (4:33 pm Seattle departure) is at Mukilteo currently unloading passengers. Buses are being arranged to take the passengers from Mukilteo to Everett Station.

    So Sounder North still a good idea? Imagine if that slide hit the train…. hmm, is that the day some of you would get a clue?

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