State Fair plummet

It is almost time for the State Fair. The Fair runs Friday, September 11 through Sunday, September 25.

Sounder service will once again be limited to the second and third Saturdays of the Fair (September 19 and 26), and will feature two round-trips from Everett each of those days, with longer trains due to high demand. On those two days, the Fair and Sound Transit are reprising the package deal of Everett, Mukilteo, Edmonds, and Seattle round-trip / gate admission tickets for $17 / $12 for youth ages 6-18, and Tukwila, Kent, Auburn, and Sumner / admission tickets for $15.50 / $11.25 for youth 6-18.

North Sounder trains will leave Everett Station at 8:40 am and 9:40 am. Passengers will transfer to South Sounder at King Street Station, where trains will depart 9:50 am, 10:50 am, and 11:50 am. All stations from Everett to Puyallup will be served. The stations west of Puyallup (Tacoma Dome, South Tacoma, and Lakewood) will not be.

Return trains will depart Puyallup Station 5:50 pm, 6:50 pm, and 7:50 pm, with the first two trains having North Sounder trains awaiting transferring passengers.

Pierce Transit will be running shuttles between Puyallup Station and the fairgrounds, as well as express shuttles between South Hill Mall, Tacoma Mall, Lakewood Towne Center, and the fairgrounds.

Regular bus routes serving Puyallup Station include ST Express 578, and Pierce Transit routes 400, 402, 409, 425, and 495. Regular Pierce Transit bus routes serving the fairgrounds include 400, 402, 425, and 495.

32 Replies to “Transit to State Fair, With More Sounder Capacity”

  1. Why does there need to be transfer from North Sounder at King street? Is there a reason that these special trains can’t just run straight from Everett to Puyallup?

    1. The North Sounder crews stick with North Sounder. Same with South Sounder. In order to run seven-car trains all the way from Everett, ST would have had to run extra cars up to Everett, and reduced the lengths of South Sounder trains for the Friday peak-direction commutes.

      1. I’m not talking about the commuter runs, I’m talking about these special Saturday trains whose purpose is to serve the fair. But I see what you mean, since three trains are running to/from Seattle, and only two trains are going all the way to Everett. But I don’t know, to me it would still seem to be simpler if they sent one train to Seattle and two trains to Everett, and run them both to Puyallup instead of having three trains come from Seattle and two trains come from Everett. That way we are only dealing with 3 trains instead of 5.

      2. The demand for north Sounder is simply less, so it makes sense to operate it with a shorter train.

      3. It takes a bit of labor to spend a bunch of time sorting cars, coupling and uncoupling the cars, making and breaking the HEP, COM and MU connections between each car, and forming this larger trainset. This larger train set would then need to be broken back down into shorter trains for the weekday operation.

        Edmonds station really can’t handle longer trains that well, as there are times that both a Sounder train and Amtrak are at the platform at the same time – Sounder gets the south end of the platform and Amtrak the north end. Everett can handle a longer train, but I don’t think Mukilteo can handle a longer train at all. When you have a train longer than the platform, you have to go with manually opening the doors as you don’t want the doors where there isn’t a platform at all to open.

        So, there are a few reasons to stick with shorter trains on the north side rather than run them through.

      4. They build 5 car trainsets for North Sounder for gameday trains, two of them, in fact for Seahawks gams.

        The platform is long enough at Edmonds for probably 11 car trains, the problem is, it’s not all at the height for level boarding. They would need step stools for any cars not within the 5 car length part that North Sounder currently uses.

      5. As long as it is only one train you need to accommodate, Edmonds is probably closer to 17 or so, but that assumes that Amtrak and Sounder aren’t there at the same time.

        Full Empire Builder space is about 11 Superliners, baggage, two or sometimes three locomotives, plus I’ve seen as many as three private / business cars at the rear.

  2. Or just make all three trains go to Everett. Too bad no trains from lakewood direction though! Would help give an option to those who want to avoid 512 and fair parking.

    1. The 400 serves downtown Tacoma and the Tacoma Dome, and the Tacoma Mall and Lakewood Towne Center shuttles may take care of South Tacoma and Lakewood stations.

    2. Every special North Sounder run costs a fortune in fees to BN&SF. Running that third train would balloon the cost of running North Sounder to the fair by close to 50%, in addition to the other logistical issues involving single crews operating outside their trained turf.

    3. Also, trains came from the Lakewood, South Tacoma and Tacoma Dome a couple years ago. Ridership was close to nonexistent.

      1. I was on one of those trains (and I wasn’t even going to Puyallup, but Auburn), and there were very few people. Having PT shuttles does kind of make it really unnecessary though. Sure, there’s traffic delay, but you get a half-hourly (I think it is) shuttle that runs all day, as opposed to 2 or 3 trains.

        It is far places like Seattle and Everett that really warrant a train. Think about it, is there any other circumstance where Everett to Puyallup is a “normal” transit trip? On a normal weekday even, such a long trip on transit would seem crazy by most people’s standards.

      2. It’s not the distance that matters but the destinations. What does Puyallup have that no place in between has? Well, the Fair. It’s hard to think of anything else, except that cars cost less there. What does Seattle have that draws in Tacoma and Everett? Lots of jobs, high-paying jobs, UW, sports teams, Pike Place, concerts, Bumbersoot, etc. If Tacoma were on the other side of Everett, twice as far away, would people still commute to Seattle? Yes, because all those things are there. For the same reason that people from all over the Olympic Penninsula commute to Tacoma, because that’s where the highest-paying jobs — or often the only jobs — are.

      3. I did the Smokey Point-to-Tacoma commute by transit recently and it was a very long and uncrowded trip for the most part. It is very much an insane trip.

      4. Yes, there are those kinds of trips, like Mark Dublin’s Olympia to Seattle and the Eastside. People do long commutes to Tacoma, but probably not to Puyallup or Smokey Point. Although somebody works in those casinos… The casino workers may cross two counties, but probably not three.

  3. PT 495 is one of the Sounder connectors. Sure you want to include that in your list of regular bus service, since it’s not all day?

    1. PT 495 serves the Red parking Lot at the fairgrounds, so it is one more option for connecting from Sounder to the Fair in the evening, and for getting to South Hill Mall from the Fair in the evening.

    2. I was just thinking that. It’s particularly unusual in that it only ever runs south (there is no northbound run in the morning).

      It’s also probably worth noting in the article that neither this route nor route 400 run on weekends, since lots of people may want to take transit to the fair on weekends, and it’s more than a little surprising that the downtown Tacoma to Puyallup route doesn’t run on weekends in the first place.

      1. The 578 used to go to Tacoma but it was truncated at Puyallup due to low ridership and overlapping PT. I think PT 400 used to run on weekends but that was cut around the time of the recession and the shrinking of PT’s service area.

        It looks like the fairgrounds is within a 10-minute walk of Puyallup Station, no? So you don’t absolutely have to wait for a shuttle bus.

      2. The 495 used to run in the morning to meet Sounder, but IIRC those trips were absorbed by the 400

  4. Riding last year, the five car trains were almost completely full (in terms of seated loads) in the AM from Edmomds south. This left little room for Seattle passengers and riders south of there. In the afternoon, the schedule had only 2 pm return trips, and both were so full with standing riders, they sent over 10 metro busses to Puyallup Station to pick up the extra riders. According to Sound Transit, I think they plan to increase the south of Seattle runs to seven cars. Hopefully that and a third PM run will help out.

  5. The plan is to run three 7-car trains between Seattle and Puyallup and two 5-car trains between Seattle and Everett.

    Because of how the Sounder agreements were done (railroad agreement, not between ST and BNSF), the north crew is not qualified between Seattle and Lakewood, just as the South crew is not qualified between Seattle and Everett.

    The only time this becomes an issue is during an event such as this whereas normal commuter operations does not matter.

    Eventually when the contract for the service comes up, I am sure this will be brought up. When Sounder originally came into life, no one originally thought of the train being used in such a manner but with future plans (ST3/4 talks) and the possibility of additional trains coming to Sounder North (yes, you read that right) and more trains coming South the desire for a full length a run-thru round trip train between Everett and Lakewood, among other ideas, Sounder’s flexibility is limited and thus, causes an unneeded transfer.

    1. I would think, though, that you would have to operate the north and south lines with separate trains, if nothing else, to ensure reliability. It would be rediculous for a mud-slide in the less-popular north section to cancel runs in the more popular south section.

      In practice, I don’t think the demand for thru-riders would be statistically significant. After all, the entire ridership for reverse-direction Sounder runs is not statistically significant. I could possibly see a few Boeing workers riding a thru-train from Everett to Tukwila (who used to live close to work, until Boeing suddenly switched them from the Everett plant to the Renton plant), with a transfer to the F-line at the end. But, getting 10 workers to do this out of tens of thousands is hardly a success by any stretch of the imagination.

      1. Operational efficiency could be a good justification for through-routing. Anything to keep the trains and crews on the road for a bigger proportion of their working day. The first morning run from Lakewood could travel through to Everett then be turned to become a commuter run to Seattle. The last morning commuter run from Everett could run through to Lakewood as a shoulder of peak reverse-commute run, the go back to Seattle as an off-peak trip. Using a five car train on those trips would probably be a good use of the rolling stock.

        Disruptions due to mudslides are supposed to be rare events (and hopefully they will become increasingly rare with the mitigation work by WSDOT, ST and BNSF). They call for contingency plans; normal operations shouldn’t assume they will happen routinely.

      2. There’s no reason a landslide would require you to cancel the entire run. In that case, just run the train from Lakewood to Seattle as scheduled, and replace only the northern section with buses. That’s what Amtrak does with Empire Builder (and I think Cascades too, though I’m less certain).

      3. “There’s no reason a landslide would require you to cancel the entire run.”

        … as long as the trains aren’t stuck in Everett.

        “The only time this becomes an issue is during an event such as this whereas normal commuter operations does not matter.”

        Ignoring those who want to travel between south King/Pierce County and Snohomish County.

    2. Brian, the list of potential projects for ST3 includes nothing new for Sounder North, except for a permanet Edmonds Station, if I remember correctly. It looks like the “deferred” stations in Ballard and at Broad Street from ST2 are off the table. I assume the ridership projections were too low to excite any of the Snohomish County stakeholders, as everyone wants to save all their money for light rail. Or do you know if because those projects received voter approval in ST2, they could be built any time sufficient funds are found in the future, without another vote?

      For the record, light rail is much more important for those corridors, but the marginal cost of those infill stations is so low it seems a waste not to build them out.

      1. The Edmonds Station and Mukilteo multi-modal terminal did receive approval in ST2 AFAIK, so this is just reconfirming them. I did not see anything else for Sounder North. I think ST has started to give up on Sounder North, though it’s not ready to cancel existing service yet.

      2. Well, if Sounder North does eventually get cancelled, Cascades can always be made to serve Mulkiteo, so the stations won’t be wasted.

      3. I’m sure they’d like to see the ridership increase at a healthier rate.

        When these agencies model ridership, they use a standard method based on populations of cities where they planned stations are, and work of percentages that include the mix of people who drive, bus, or walk to the stations.

        With Sounder North, the mudslide cancellations do the most harm to potential rider’s perception of reliability, and whether they should commit to … well, unscrewing their ass from their car seat (regardless of how bad traffic gets).

        I’m disappointed in some of these municipality’s reluctance to rezone and build some higher density around the stations.

        Most definitely the DMWMHPV crowd.

        (DMWMHPV = Don’t Mess With My High Priced View).

  6. It’s too bad there’s not more service. As I recall, Metro used to have a bus from downtown Seattle to the fair. I don’t remember if it ran late enough for folks attending the concerts, but a connection like that – or from Bellevue – would be nice to see and well worth a premium fare.

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