Mukilteo Station South Platform opening - April 2016

After a delay of over a year, Sound Transit opened the south platform at Mukilteo’s Sounder station on Monday. The platform and accompanying pedestrian bridge wesre opened with a ribbon-cutting that afternoon attended by Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, Everett City Councilmember and Sound Transit Boardmember Paul Roberts, and Snohomish County Executive and Sound Transit Boardmember Dave Somers. The celebration was originally scheduled for Monday, March 28, but was delayed because of a mudslide earlier that day on the tracks between Mukilteo and Everett.

All northbound Sounder trains headed towards Everett now use the new platform, requiring alighting passengers to cross over the tracks on the new pedestrian bridge. The original platform, which will now only serve southbound trains, was opened in 2008 and was intended to be quickly supplemented by a second platform, with only temporary shelters installed. Instead, the project to build the second platform was delayed during negotiations with BNSF Railway over service time needed for construction, which began in the summer of 2014.

The $18.1 million project was originally scheduled to open in early 2015, but the date was pushed back—first to autumn of that year and later into 2016—because of a limited time-frame for construction imposed by BNSF and state inspectors identifying problems with the new elevators on the overpass in late October; it was declared complete in January and is not expected to exceed its budget despite the delay. The station is the last Sounder station to receive a second platform and to use a second track and is one of the last pieces of the 1996 Sound Move measure to be built and opened.

As of 2015, Mukilteo Station has an average of 142 boardings and alightings every weekday. It is located adjacent to the Mukilteo ferry terminal, which is planned to be replaced with a new terminal sited closer to the station by 2019, and is served by three Community Transit routes and two Everett Transit routes.

90 Replies to “Sound Transit Opens New Sounder Platform at Mukilteo Station”

  1. Am I reading this correct?
    ST spent $18m to accommodate 71 SB boardings, then plan to abandon it in 3 years for a relocated station in 2019.
    I knew Sounder North was a money pit, but this can’t be so.

    1. The station will stay where it is – it’s the ferry terminal that is being moved. Though that doesn’t make the 71 number any bigger:(

      1. Thanks for that clarification, and yes, spending over 1/4 million per boarding is just nuts. They could buy them all fast cigar boats for less.

      2. This isn’t ST’s only project with such bad performance. LRT from Bellevue to Issaquah comes out to $113k to $144k per rider… This is what happens when politics trumps rational transit planning.

      3. @People Mover
        At least Issaquah has some remote plans to increase density near the station sites. As far as I can tell there are essentially zero plans for density in downtown Mukilteo.

        Also, if Kitsap actually pulls off its express Kingston to Seattle ferry plan, we can probably expect Edmonds station numbers to drop accordingly.

        I still think the Sounder North slots should be sold to Amtrak (if possible) and reinvest in more useful Snohomish County services.

        The train sets can be sent to the South Line where they’ll actually be used.

      1. Indeed. One needn’t be a right-winger to realize that it *is* possible for there to be wasteful spending on mass transit.

        Anything more than an “amshack” and a temporary wooden platform for a Sounder North station not also served by Amtrak is a waste, IMO. Sounder North should be seen as a temporary service until Link can be built out to Everett. Then replace it with express buses for stations like Mukilteo and Edmonds which are not close to the light rail.

        The specifics of the rail line (mostly in a low-density area and prone to landslides) mean it will never be either reliable or well-patronized. Just because commuter rail makes sense for the Kent Valley does not automatically mean it makes sense for the North End, subarea equity or no.

  2. Do you know if there are hopes that the number of boardings will increase? 142/day just seems so amazingly anemic.

    1. I count parking for 61 cars, and the nearest bus service goes towards Seattle rather than feeding the station from the neighborhoods directly east of the station.

      I’d say the 71 per day is fairly good considering how poorly thought out transportation feeding the station is. It doesn’t even have good park and ride access, and with Sounder only operating 4 times per day per direction that is the only thing that really makes sense here.

      Maybe a park and ride lot could be built on top of the ferry auto queue area or something?

    2. Some basic 5th grade math: If it costs $18.1 million for a new station that serves 142 passengers per day, what is the total cost per boarding/alighting, assuming a 50-year lifetime of the station and 255 weekdays per year? Answer: About $10. Which, I guess means $20/passenger/day assuming that each passenger has one boarding and one alighting per day. Which means that the $32/day passenger subsidy is about to become a $52/day passenger subsidy. Wonderful.

      1. Some basic 5th grade math: If it costs $18.1 million for a new station that serves 142 passengers per day

        It’s worse than that. This isn’t a “new” station but just an $18M improvement on an existing station. I’d like to see a comparison to the two eastside flyer stops on 520 that also required elevators.

    3. Oh I agree. It’s embarassing. It’s enough to make me wanna move to Mukilteo and one of my planks for Mayor would be to trade Sounder North for something better.

      Problem is, I think the current Mayor is doing a lot of good for transit and is smarter & better intellectually rounded than me. Plus other personal Joe factors…

    4. People will preferentially choose a train if it’s faster or more frequent than the alternatives. Faster generally means it has a good right of way and is in-line with the person’s origin and destination. Only a few people can walk to Sounder: tiny downtown Mukilteo and ferry passengers. Everyone else has to go out-of-direction to get to the station. Of the five existing buses, ET70 goes to Boeing where hardly anybody lives. ET18 goes to Everett Station, so over half its rideshed is closer to another Sounder station. CT113 goes to Lynnwood TC, to become a Link feeder. CT880 goes to UW, which Sounder doesn’t serve at all, and will doubtless be replaced with an express to Lynnwood Station. CT417 goes to downtown Seattle so it essentially competes with Sounder, and will probably be replaced with that same express to Lynnwood Station. So out of all that, where will more Sounder riders come from? The growing population in downtown Everett will be closer to Everett Station. The Paine Field area is too industrial for more residents, and the surrounding housing developments are decidedly of a “we hate density” sort.

      1. CT 113 eventually goes to Lynnwood Transit Center, after wandering through a number of residential areas and making one half-loop around some sort of industrial building.

      2. The CT113 connections are impossible. If you live too far from the station to walk but still downtown you might as well ride the 417. If CT had any sense the 113 and the Ferry would arrive at about the same time and the Sounder would arrive about 10 minutes later allowing a transfer. As it stands only one 113 provides any sort of transfer and it’s way too long.

  3. 1. The bus arrives time for Everett Transit #18 is bad, it makes people who live in Everett to drive.
    2. The parking is so limited, people who try to make the last train in the morning are out of luck.

    1. Mukilteo Lighthouse Park is a paid lot. Sounder is not.
      It had also been discovered that local businesses were telling their employees to park in the Sounder lot.

      Parking enforcement is an issue.

    2. I doubt many people here get up to the island much, we own a place there and I do. While the PR in Mukilteo is limited remember there is a ferry right there, one that has one of the worst walk-on passenger rates of any route in the system, only about 600 per day. At it’s core the issue is and remains (at least in my view) parking on the island side.

      On the Island side the parking is poorly sighted requiring a significant stair climb, if you want ADA parking you must ride a bus to a lot up the road. It’s limited in space and transit service is minimal compared to other routes like Bainbridge . It doesn’t help that Clinton is not a real “town” it’s just a few buildings at an intersection on a state highway and so true walk on traffic is poor. Since it’s outside of the district the parking is not anything ST can do anything about either. Some day maybe but we’d need Island County and Clinton to step up their game. And a bigger PR in Mukilteo certainly wouldn’t hurt.

      1. So maybe the Mukilteo P&R should be funded by somebody other than Sound Transit.

        I sometimes walk on the ferry to Bremerton or Bainbridge. But with Clinton you can’t do anything when you get there. My friend’s dad lives on Whidbey, so sometimes we’ll meet him in Mukilteo for lunch. Never in Clinton.

      2. As Mike Orr’s post (another thread up) points out, you don’t have to be too far inland from Mukilteo to have a better regional/commuter transit connection than Sounder somewhere along I-5. More P&R capacity might add a little ridership, but not as much as in other places.

        Whidbey Island just isn’t convenient enough to the mainland to be a bedroom community for all that many people that need to travel to the mainland daily. It would need to provide some kind of value over places just across the sound… affordability, views, lifestyle, economic opportunity on the island… for most people it doesn’t add up.

    3. Everett Transit leaves a lot to be desired. The ET 29 which serves the South Everett Freeway station is even worse. That P&R generally fills up early with cars because there is no dependable local bus service going to it.

  4. We need some other information, like:

    1. What’s projected for residential and economic growth on both ends of the ferry these next 20 years?

    2. What are chances, and possibilities for, more and much faster passenger ferries?

    3. Considering Mukilteo’s geographic isolation, why DON’T more people ride Sounder?

    Sound Transit and Washington State Ferries- the floor is yours.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The Mukilteo Clinton ferry is less than a 2 mile crossing. The current crossing time is approximately 15 minutes, half the time is spent unloading/loading the vessels. If they run flat out you can make the crossing in ~10 minutes, but WSF doesn’t do that to save fuel. Basically tis’ not an opportunity for a passenger only service.

      There is significant room for walk-ons on the boats, the passenger capacity is 1200 on Kittitas and 1500 on Tokitae. The terminal at Mukilteo will be upgraded to have overhead loading so people do not need to walk on the car ramp in the elements as much which will help. But there just isn’t enough parking (and possibly not enough workers period) on the Clinton side.

      1. Great comment!

        I’d only add there isn’t that much need for parking on the Clinton side… as there’s Island Transit Route 1. Fare-free and probably going to remain that way at least a few more years.

      2. And the bus connection is very well timed with the ferry.

        With the difficulty of parking access and the walking distance at each end and the free Sounder parking, for some it would be cheaper to just put their car on the boat and park at the Mukilteo station, since that is the only place in this whole trip area that doesn’t charge for parking.

      3. The one is an excellent route, if you live north of the ferry terminal on the Island. But it’s easy to forget that the Island extends over 4 miles south of the ferry dock, the opposite direction the 1 runs, with several large former vacation communities that are now more year round developments. So if you live south there is less of an opportunity. That whole area has a lot of homes going in for the reason that it is a less than 10 minute drive to the ferry.

        There is limited service to the Scatchet Head and Possession Point areas in the form of the 58 express (which is well timed to the ferry). The stops however are widely spaced, though being rural you can flag the bus down really anywhere. ;-) There is no parking at the stops them so from a time savings perspective it’s going to make sense to drive to the ferry terminal or the Deer Lake Rd P&R or your already long commute is going to be even longer. Fact is it’s rural, people are gonna need to drive to an even greater extent than the suburbs.

      4. Kyle;

        When Island Transit does their Transit Development Plan in the summer, might want to write them a letter requesting better service. Also make sure to CC your Commish Helen Price-Johnson.

      5. Yep, except I dunno if “I need to take the bus a few times a year when we are staying at our vacation home and I decide to work in the wife doesn’t” is a compelling argument for a serious transit need. :-P

    2. Mark;

      1) Don’t know.

      2) Just say no to taxpayer-funded passenger-only fast ferries. The Mukilteo-Clinton ferry run is already the shortest in the WSF route network. At some tipping point, the conversation should be about a bridge.

      3) Well because it’s unreliable and right now it’s a 5-10 minute walk to the buses & ferry. In a few years, that’ll change to a 2-3 minute walk. Well worth the investment in the Mukilteo/Jennifer Gregerson Multimodal Terminal.

  5. I know $18 million isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things, but this kind of junk spending makes me question what kind of similarly wasteful spending is lurking in ST3. Spending $250k per passenger on top of the thousands of dollars per passenger spent on providing the train service is a waste of taxpayer dollars to serve 142 people. That’s crazy!

    1. Make no mistake, Everett Link won’t be any different. A few thousand riders a day at the cost of billions of dollars.

      1. Given how the Paine Field industrial area is spread out BRT might be a better solution than LRT for that area. There is only one station planned for Paine Field. There would be a need for feeder busses for all businesses there to make the station work.

        That assumes Everett Transit gets its act together.

      2. An ST official essentially said that to Everett: replace your Paine Field deviation with a BRT loop and you can have your Everett extension in 15 years. So far Everett and Snohomish have shown no signs of wavering, but there’s still hope. Meanwhile, Sounder is still running because of the Mukilteo and Edmonds mayors, more or less.

    2. Cost numbers like these just provide more ammo to the opposition. Opponents of ST3 are good at churning numbers like these, and unfortunately we can’t answer back with “not true!”

      1. Agreed. Over the years I have found myself wanting to live these remote stations in principal, but the math is atrocious.

      2. Jason, math is a measuring tool for what’s happened or is happening, and since nobody can no the future for certain, only indications of what might happen.

        Roger, one irrefutable answer to ST3 (which only deals with the future) opponents: “Prove our plan won’t change the numbers so they support what we want to do!”

        My calculation right now? A state highway with ferry service in the middle of it + a long bus ride in heavy traffic to the main north-south highway corridor + likely expanding populations both ends of the ferry + existing tracks and trains = worth checking out.

        Joe, fifteen years ago South Lake Union looked like nobody lower middle class would move there. Same with Columbia City. Over the years, a well-designed project should be able to serve people of a variety of income brackets.

        But this is also a problem that’s a hundred percent politics, meaning that same amount changeable by us the people:

        Forty years of deferred maintenance on every nut and bolt of this country’s highways, bridges, railroads, water supplies, and, which will finally impel action, sewage systems has created a whole generation’s worth of well-paid working jobs.

        So way to end any-and-all-class welfare is to pay our people enough money building us back into the First World to give everybody an income they can live anyplace they want. And get there by train. On a paycheck carrying zero interest.

        Any argument? Prove we can’t!

        Mark Dublin

    3. One immediate example is the 240 additional parking spaces at Mukilteo in ST3, when the 63 they currently have are only 83% occupied.

      1. Or if you want to keep parking free but not require monthly passes, just require an ORCA card for entry to the lot. Then if there’s no valid boarding or arrival on your card within the next, say 18 hours, charge the card $10 (I say boarding or arrival in case you need to carpool one way or something like that but still use Sounder the other way).

  6. To the dozens of riders using Mukilteo station each day: congrats and enjoy your spacious, roomy new station!

    1. Yeah, really… a ton of upper middle class welfare for relatively few. If we’re going to do this, let’s make Amtrak Cascades stop there so folks can get off in Mukilteo and take the ferry to Whidbey Island. Maybe we’ll get some return on investment.

      1. That seems like a very reasonable idea. With Cascades numbers taking a hit (from Bolt, I assume), it seems like your proposition could create a double benefit (assuming a very small time penalty).

      2. The cool thing is that Whidbey Island (well, South Whidbey) would nearly become a Cascades destination. I wonder if you could piece together a SEA-MUK via Cascades, ferry, bus up island (with lunch in Coupeville?), continuing on public bus to Mt. Vernon in time to catch the evening southbound train?

        That station is too handsome for so few people.

  7. How long until an elevator will be out of service?

    At least at Mukilteo the excuse can’t be “gets too much usage” so I’ll go with “near salt water” on this one.

    1. The photo with the Mukilteo Station and both the Tokitae and Kittitas (I assume) in view is timed nicely.

      Man, we have some very pretty commuter rail stations in our Sounder system. Too bad they’re served so infrequently and/or unreliably and used (at least on Sounder North) so little.

      I don’t mind publicly funding really nice infrastructure (in fact, I generally love it), but geez this is crazy easy pickings for the anti-transit/government folks.

      1. As to;

        geez this is crazy easy pickings for the anti-transit/government folks

        Not to mention the fiscal responsibility folks like me, the anti-rail folks of the Washington Policy Center, and everybody to the RIGHT of Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson…

        The attack pieces write themselves. If the ridership doesn’t tick up, then at some point the urbanist caucus on the Sound Transit Board has gotta repeal and replace Sounder North.

        The problem is this for now: Most folks who oppose ST3 will use the Sounder North debacle to justify their position, but will vote no or oppose anyway. Taking away Sounder North now would require many public meetings, alienate at least two communities from Sound Transit in a transit referendum year and could cost a young rising star in Snohomish County Democratic Party politics a 2nd term as Mayor. It’s a risky political calculus that won’t correct itself until 2017-2019.

  8. If we’re going to do this, let’s make Amtrak Cascades stop there so folks can get off in Mukilteo and transfer to the ferry to Whidbey Island. Maybe we’ll get some return on investment worth bragging about.

    1. More Cascades stations means a longer time, especially if it eventually leads to stopping at all the Sounder stations. How many people are using Stanwood Station? It seems like what we most need is all-day bus service between Mt Vernon and Everett.

      1. Mike;

        I see your point that this would add a few minutes. Already Amtrak Cascades services the Sounder North stations of Seattle, Edmonds and Everett.

        Unlike with Stanwood (thanks to pork barrel spending), almost nothing would have to be built to make this a reality. I just want to see some decent ROI at this point….

      2. As far as, “all-day bus service between Mt Vernon and Everett” that’s going to require state funding for all county connectors. That’s a state transit lobby (e.g. WSTA) priority.

        I wanted to post a separate comment as I see the need very much up here in North by Northwest Washington. Some of us can’t afford or have relatives that refuse to live in the Everett-Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue-Redmond megalopolis. Having to arrange our lives around the current service schedules is cringe-worthy…

      3. One would think there would plenty of opportunities for relatively low-cost track improvements, that would allow the time spent my making an additional station stop to be made back…

        As to having Cascades serve Mukilteo, I would support it. I could even see myself buying a ticket, at least one direction, between Mukilteo and King St. Station – outside of Sounder hours, the transit journey from Seattle to Mukilteo is currently nearly two hours. (I will admit that Link to Paine Field would likely improve upon this somewhat, but not nearly enough to be worth the several billion dollars it would cost).

  9. Out of curiosity (pipe dream, I’m sure) – what would ridership look like if the ferry was timed “just right?”

    1. Mukilteo is the one route where the ferry can almost be considered “frequent”.

  10. It would be great if ET could advance route 18 by about 10 minutes in the morning. Otherwise you have between 1 and 3 minutes to get from the bus stop to the Sounder platform, which is an Olympic-level sprint. Alternatively you have 20 to 25 minutes to sit at the platform waiting for the next train.

    The return trips are actually quite reasonable. I’ll probably try that next time I ride.

    The low parking occupancy rate is also a bit misleading. If you can’t rely on finding an open spot every weekday it’s not especially useful as a park-and-ride. Some kind of pricing (maybe even dynamic, so that you can always find a spot but it might cost $20) would be welcome.

  11. Snohomish County is a bottomless money pit for Sound Transit. Whatever they want, ST is there to eagerly feed it to them.

      1. Did I say that? The 510 is one of the few services that make sense.

        Link to Paine Field and the ridiculousness of Sounder North are two examples of Sound Transit’s obscene desire to buy Snohomish County votes at the expense of service that makes actual sense.

    1. Lucky that it’s Snohomish County residents who are paying for it. And the same ones who are demanding these bottomless services.

  12. While the effectiveness of providing North Sounder service is a valid question, safety is a more valid question in station design. We have tons of pedestrian sidewalks on road bridges that don’t get much use, for example. I would also want to know how much of the time trains block a surface crossing and how fast trains are that do not stop at the station.

  13. If I may lament: It’s kinda sad to a “Jenn Fan” to see my friend have to put up with this level of criticism from her biggest fans & friends & teammates; but on Sounder North we have every duty to be critical. This is upper middle class welfare for relatively few riders (and votes).

    I’ve publicly proposed a streetcar for Mukilteo and now BRT for part of the Mukilteo Speedway. I care greatly for Mukilteo and Paine Field (and quite a few of its female avgeek residents) but I also care for protecting taxpayers.

    There you go.

    1. We probably could have had a connector streetcar for each downtown to a swift station for the cost of Sounder North… and perhaps even had money left over.

  14. >>and is served by three Community Transit routes and two Everett Transit routes.<<

    Do the bus routes actually go to the station now? A while ago I checked out the area on Google Streetview and the closest bus stops looked to be a 5-6 minute walk from the Sounder station.

      1. Don’t give the current mayor much credit for the new ferry terminal. It has been in the works for more than a decade.

    1. It’s a walk, but it’s also impossible if the ferry is loading or unloading. The bus stop is on the south side of the street. So is the ferry terminal passenger area. There is only one cross walk, and there is no way across it for 15 minutes or so after the auto traffic is turned loose.

      1. Most opt to jaywalk and get yelled at by the ferry workers.

        The situation should improve with the new terminal, which will have a dedicated bus turnaround and better pedestrian access at that intersection. Hopefully the stop is retained for those who don’t want to walk back-and-forth to get their clam chowder.

  15. Why have a pedestrian bridge when other cities just put a sidewalk across the rails? Chicago rail stations handle thousands per day with little more infrastructure than a concrete slab and shelter on the inbound side.

    1. Chicago has been a gigantic rail hub for 150+ years..
      For the most part, the population knows how to behave around active rail lines.

      Here we favor roadways, where pedestrians are protected by the [crosswalk] Force [field].
      All, including transit, shall pay heed.

      Since trains have the audacity to not stop for people on the tracks, they must be protected!

      1. The big expense isn’t the pedestrian bridge it’s the fact that because of ADA requirements they installed two elevators. Of the couple of hundred people that might use this a day how many need an elevator? Why they can’t make use with ramps that meet the grade requirement I don’t know. They did the same thing on 520 for the Evergreen Pt. flyer stop.

      2. BNSF doesn’t want people crossing the tracks. They grudgingly tolerate the road crossing for the ferry but they’d actually like to get rid of that too. (Don’t be suprised if a road overpass is proposed eventually.)

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