Opening Ceremony

Sound Transit 3 materials have not said a lot about the agency’s successful South Sounder service. Most of the attention in that subregion has gone into extending the light rail “spine” into Tacoma. Sounder will actually have a quicker running time from Tacoma to Seattle, although Link may have its advantages for somewhat spontaneous Tacoma-Seattle trips, those outside commuter rail operating hours, and trips within the South King Link corridor. That said, there is a significant (if vague) commitment to Sounder in the package. And it’s vague for a good reason.

Currently ST runs 8 peak-direction round trips and 2 reverse-peak round trips. 6 of the 8 go to Lakewood. The peaks arrive in Seattle between 5:54 and 9:09am and leave from 3:12-6:20pm. The 2016 Service Implementation Plan says that existing funding will produce an off-peak round trip this September. In September 2017, ST will add a ninth peak round trip and a third reverse-peak round trip. And that’s it for South Sounder without further authorization.

The current ST3 proposal for South Sounder has four components:
  • Facilities and train cars necessary to support 10-car trains. This is a fairly bounded set of improvements, up from 7 cars today.
  • Station access improvements. This runs the usual spectrum from sidewalks to parking spaces, including speed and reliability improvements for approaching buses. As always, the exact form of these will depend on many rounds of exchange with Sounder communities, and ST will not commit to a framework for these now.
  • Trains to Tillicum and Dupont. Four of the six round trips to Lakewood would start in Dupont instead, with no need for additional trainsets. The 8-mile extension would cost about $300m for 1,000-1,500 riders per day.
  • “Elements to expand service levels.” More trains!
But how many trains? Sound Transit can’t say. “We’re purposefully oblique about what it is in the plan,”  ST Executive Ric Ilgenfritz told us, “because we’re in the midst of a negotiation with the railroad.”

BNSF and ST are discussing capital improvements — adding a third track in at least some places is probably the biggest chunk — and assessing the extent to which those improvements allow additional Sounder trips without severely impairing freight operations. The budget available, minimum and maximum achievable service packages, and open time windows for trips are all confidential.

I asked Mr. Ilgenfritz to step back from what the current ST3 constraints are, and describe his ultimate goals for South Sounder. He expressed the hope that it could run hourly all day and into the evening, with even more intensive peak service, and even a few weekend round trips if demand justified it. That vision will almost certainly not occur in ST3, but every part of the day is on the table.

It’s hard to say when the negotiations will conclude. With luck it would finish before late June’s formal approval of the package, but it could easily drag on to the election. But it appears riders in the Sounder corridor have a lot to look forward to.

95 Replies to “South Sounder in ST3”

    1. Approx. 13,360 per weekday in Q4 2015.

      Which exceeds all ST Express Bus routes, even running only peak hours.

  1. It seems like we are seriously underutilizing this corridor if the ultimate vision (not even ST3) is hourly service. The 150 has 15 minute all-day service to Seattle, so there is already good all-day demand in the corridor. When you consider that for trips from Tacoma and further south sounder will be significantly faster than link, that means that all of the readership on existing 59x routes would also ride sounder (obviously the 574 and 577 riders will use Link). Its even conceivable that a good portion of the 10x riders from Renton could switch to sounder since although it would be an out-of-direction transfer, I think it would be faster than slogging through traffic on I-5.

    If I had my way I’d vote for 15 minute all-day service on Sounder (leveraging DMUs of course). Rather than increasing capacity by making trains longer (which means no frequency improvements), we should double down on a third track. If ST pays for a third track it should basically get whatever frequency it wants – you could run sounder on it’s own dedicated tracks the vast majority of the time.

    We should really be looking at German commuter rail (S-bahn), or even the LIRR, both are commuter oriented, but also support good all day and weekend frequencies.

    1. Spent a lot of time in Chicago and the suburbs – Chicago metra seems a great goal, which I think is equivalent to LIRR.

    2. You would need some very large DMU sets to replace the capacity of the existing equipment…

      1. If it actually ran every 15 minutes I don’t think you’d need big train sets.

      2. It runs every twenty-five to thirty-five minutes at the peak. Let’s be real here; most folks from Tacoma, Puyallup, Auburn and Kent who ride transit in the middle of the day won’t pay Sounder’s higher fares. They’ll ride the bus even if it takes longer.

        Commuter rail works best when its enormous capacity is fully used. Dinky so are a poor use of resources.

        Seattle not equal Chicago or Nre York.

    3. LIRR owns most the right of way it runs routes on, and those it doesn’t are mostly owned by Amtrak. METRA owns the right of way on 7 of the 11 corridors it runs.
      To do that level of service here would be very difficult given our environment.

      1. Metra’s busiest corridor, however, is actually owned by BNSF. Who have been very cooperative. The entire line is triple-tracked from Chicago to Aurora, which helps a lot.

    4. South Sounder expansion has 2 limiting factors

      1. Parking Garages. Almost all riders are using them and they are all full.
      2. Terrible connection to Link. Only 1 Sounder station in Seattle and most people don’t work next to it.

      1. +1
        About parking, in Kent at least plenty of drivers already park around in nearby neighborhoods. Regarding the station in Seattle and Link connections, also true: everyone immediately heads right down to the bus tunnel after the train.

        I think better bus connections to Sounder stations might help, but people are so spread out… I think TOD like Kent station is a good idea.

      2. It is one thing I had always wanted to consider is moving the terminus further into town. It is difficult to determine if BNSF would allow such a thing or you would have to make a new pair of tunnels to go under but it might be worth exploring given the cut to travel times from the south and a much better reason for weekend service let alone all day ridership if people are delivered further in. Pike Place could have a stop if permitted or even near the Sculpture Park. Although Pike would be quite a distance from the surface up.

    5. Cannot run every 15 minutes on the Seattle Subdivision unless BNSF and UP got together and rebuilt the UP line completely between Fife and Tukwila.

      Even then, there is still winter peak trains were the majority will still go to Auburn Yard.

  2. From a service standpoint, all-day Sounder service would go a long way. Besides Tacoma->Seattle trips, it would also address Kent->Seattle and Aurburn->Seattle in half the time of the 150/578, as well as connecting Tacoma to Kent and Aurburn in a reasonable amount of time.

    The problem is that when the service is operated with huge trains that are sized for peak-period demand, and each daily trip entails another $50 million to BNSF, just for the right the operate it, on top of the actual operating costs, off-peak service becomes hugely expensive, on a per rider basis. Which is a shame because, while there isn’t enough off-peak demand to fill 10-car trains every half-hour, there almost certainly would be enough demand to fill one-car trains every half-hour. But the way the tracks are managed today, it is not possible to operate one-car trains economically.

    Shadow buses could work, but a true shadow bus that stops at all the Sounder stops would be excruciatingly slow getting from Tacoma->Seattle – slower, in fact, than slogging it out all the way on Link, in spite of serving far fewer stops. I still think the right pattern for Sounder shadow buses would to be have too routes, Tacoma->Federal Way->Seattle, and Aurburn->Kent->Renton->Seattle, with all Seattle buses skipping SODO and using the Seneca St. exit into downtown. I’m not convinced that enough demand exists to warrant shadow service to Sumner and Puyallup. The only reason they even get Sounder service is because the tracks already happen to go there, so the marginal cost of building a station is cheap, and people will drive there from considerable distance to park and ride the train.

    1. When I visit my friends in Sumner the trip from downtown on Sounder is 45min. vs. 90min. on the 578 “Express” bus making stops in Federal Way and Auburn. I really prefer the trip on Sounder, look forward to the upcoming mid-day trip, and really hope more service can be added.

    2. Every 578 trip I have ridden on always has at least 3-4 on/offs at Sumner and Puyallup, which is pretty damn good for the tail end of a trip.

  3. Good way to get a lot more riders: At the Lacey Amtrak Station that serves Olympia, attach a half dozen Sounder coaches to the first northbound Cascadian train through Lakewood to Seattle. Do the same thing on a southbound train at PM rush.

    Do this for a week or two, just for advertising. The Lacey station is at most a 20 minute express bus ride to Downtown Olympia. Easy to have a bus meet every single train. Could be a very short campaign for Olympia to vote itself into Sound Transit.

    Best campaign PR, we owe the I-5 bridge across the Nisqually River, and the stretch past Joint Base Lewis McChord. Because same hundred percent week-day rush hour traffic jam from Everett has its south end where SR 101 feeds into I-5.

    I can guess every expense and obstacle. Starting with amount of parking required as the rest of Thurston County realizes that there’s a Freeway-Free commute between Olympia and Seattle. Also for blocks around every ballot box on election day.

    But when Dupont station opens, question why Sounder ends there won’t have an answer I’d like to be the one to deliver.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Lacey’s Station is in the middle-of-nowhere… I go to Evergreen and from campus it takes an hour to get to Lacey amtrak(of which 35-40 minutes is to downtown Oly)…which is just 30 minutes less than a trip to tacoma…The only way to make sounder currenty reasonable into oly is to upgrade the wye and add the branch line into oly (A station next to capitol lake would be awesome)

    2. It’s just as easy to have those express buses go to DuPont as it is to have them go to Centennial. Let the buses run in the shoulders west of Center Boulevard.

      1. +1

        Going to the Centennial station ignores a significant advantage of DuPont: it isn’t on the BNSF main line. You could run trains there every half hour or more all day if you wanted.

  4. There comes a time in referenda to be vague. Operators need some flexibility based on not only negotiations but also on demand. Defining things further for ST3 is merely putting more money in the pocket of the railroad, who knows how much money ST brings to the table.

    1. I’m not sure if I buy this though. I think you can negotiate before ST3, you just have to be willing to walk away from the table. Looking at the area in general, I think you should have a bunch of express bus service, along with increased Sounder service. Many of the express bus service lines might be money losers or of marginal value (e. g. frequent service from Tacoma to Kent). But they are still better than nothing, and you have to be willing to live with them.

      Walk into the negotiation, and try and get the best deal. If they give you something reasonable, it is part of ST3. If not, you add more bus service. It is quite possible you negotiate something in between (not as much Sounder service as we would like, but still something that is a good value). As long as you have something else you can spend the money on, i don’t see the problem.

  5. Has there been a survey to see how many people will switch to Link when it opens to Tacoma? It would seem to be an important question to answer before making more Sounder plans.

    1. Link shouldnt go all the way to Tacoma in the first place. Sound Transit would be tempted to make Tacoma Link a part of Central Link if it got to the Dome, and that is simply too long for a light rail service.

      1. No, Tacoma link has nothing to do with central link and they will never be combined. It’s basically the Tacoma streetcar.

      2. Agreed. I much rather see it go right towards Dash Point than go into Tacoma. There is no ridership to justify the cost of going to Tacoma, at all.

    2. Based on ridership reports, a lot more people at Tacoma dome station use the 590 express buses than the train. About 2x more in the morning if I recall since its quicker. Less so in the afternoon. I doubt any of them would switch to an even slower mode – light rail.

      1. For average 594 passenger, though, my guess is that buses run a lot more often, and also fare is much lower. Personal thing, maybe. I’d rather drive 20 miles out of my way and keep moving than be stuck in a mile of traffic.

        My own choices for peak-hour trip from Olympia to Seattle:

        1. Intercity Transit to Tacoma, 8:10 Sounder north.

        2. ST 592 to Lakewood, 6:46 AM Sounder.

        3. Drive to Tacoma Dome, park, and take either Sounder to Seattle or 574 to Sea-Tac LINK.

        Sometimes use Tacoma LINK between History Museum and Tacoma Dome. If connections dictate.

        But more and more often, going with 574, which misses I-5’s worst, and Central LINK. For my own most usual visit, since UW opened, the legendary mythical Single Seat Ride is starting to materialize through the mist.


      2. I find that surprising, but I double checked the numbers and you are right. It makes sense when you think about it. Even though ridership on the South Sounder exceeds the combined total of ST express buses (including the 5990/594) most of the riders are coming from the Puyallup to Kent stations. Each of those stations carry around double the number that the Tacoma does station does. This makes sense when you consider speed. For that part of the run, Sounder is fairly competitive with an express bus.

        So, while Mark makes a great point (frequency matters) I don’t think that it changes the nature of Link there. Even though the express buses are more popular and run fairly often, they still aren’t hugely popular. About 3,000 people a day (counting both boarding and departures) from Tacoma. That just isn’t that many. There simply isn’t that much demand for Tacoma to Seattle transit travel, and people generally (not just in Tacoma) prefer the more direct, fast route. With a slower trip, I just don’t see Link running the trains very often (more often than they run the 590/594). Quite the opposite. If they do decide to get rid of the express buses, then Link to Tacoma might run very infrequently (and still be mostly empty). Otherwise they will bleed money very quickly (running empty trains is expensive).

        For Tacoma, the answer is to either muddle along with what they have, speed up Sounder (or speed up the buses). If Sounder was competitive with the express buses, Sounder ridership there would likely be similar to Sounder ridership at the stations farther north.

      3. It also makes sense when you consider how far the Tacoma Dome station is from much of anything. It’s not just time from the station to Seattle, but time from anything else to the Tacoma Dome station.

      4. You guys should not look strictly at transit travel time. The amount of advanced arrival to make sure that you won’t miss the Sounder train has to be added into the calculation. Link riders have no such need to arrive early. You should add at least 5 to 10 minutes for Sounder in a travel time decision.

      5. @Al — I definitely agree and should have mentioned it. I guess when people say things like “South Sounder is very popular — more popular than all the ST express buses”, I assume that lots of people are taking it from Tacoma. I’m afraid I think of South Sounder as a Tacoma train, and it obviously isn’t (it is more of a Green River train). From Tacoma it makes more sense to take the bus (because it is often faster and always more frequent).

        @Glenn — I agree, Glenn, but isn’t that the case with the other stations? I wouldn’t imagine any of the train stops are very urban (except for Seattle) but I haven’t been to all of them.

        Also, here is the weird part: For the 590, the Tacoma Dome ridership greatly exceeds the other stops. About five times as many people use the Tacoma Dome stop than all the other stops combined.

        One reason might be that the bus doesn’t always go to the other stops. There are some 590 runs that start at the Tacoma Dome. That could account for part (if not most) of it. As Al said, frequency matters (a lot). The bus runs every 5-8 minutes until about 9:00. That is frequent enough to not worry about timing. At the same time, the bus runs on Commerce every 12-15 minutes. Pretty good, but you would want to time it.

        I could also see people showing up to the Tacoma Dome station and taking the train if it is there, and the bus if it isn’t. Another reason is that, in general, Tacoma doesn’t really have high density anywhere. So while more people might walk to Commerce Street, there still won’t be huge numbers. Many of the people who take the 590/594 take a connecting bus first, and there are plenty of buses that go to the Tacoma Dome (where again, frequency is higher). Also, for the numbers we are talking about, and the relative density in the area, that big (over 2,000 space) park and ride in the Tacoma Dome is I’m sure appealing. I am curious as to the how people get to the bus/train stop. My guess is over half drive, and most of the rest take a connecting bus.

    3. The 574 serves a lot of the trips that Link to Tacoma would, with comparable travel time, so that could serve as a rough guideline. Hopefully, Link will also attract some new riders who don’t ride the 574 today because it is too infrequent and/or too unreliable.

      1. asdf2, most Intercity Transit rides northbound from Olympia are scheduled to miss the northbound 574 by five minutes. I think there’s an understanding between IT and ST Express to hold de facto for connections.

        But if this connection could be made solid, and publicized, there’d be a single-transfer ride from Olympia to Sea-Tac Airport. Which might be popular enough to get the Olympia leg half hour service all day, and very late into the night, every day. Van fare is a shared-ride $60.

        Might also be worth giving Star Lake and Kent Des Moines Road freeway stations, and Sea-Tac between the Airport and I-5 another local route. Federal Way, debatable which route gets it.

        But I think 574 might get to the Airport faster via SR 518, meaning no stop-lights all the way in. Anyhow, to me, this is exactly the kind of measure that ST-3 and every succeeding decades-to-build effort needs.

        Existing lanes and machines, deployed fast, and used to their real potential.

        Mark Dublin

      2. But it will be slower. Quite a bit slower outside of peak. Ridership on the 590/594 is definitely heavily weighted towards peak hour travel, but quite a few people ride it in the early morning, and a fair number ride it in the middle of the day. Somewhere around a third, by my reckoning (it is confusing, because I have to compare both the 590 and 594). It isn’t clear where they draw the line either (when “Peak Morning” starts). But it stands to reason that a substantial number of riders would lose time if they took Link. Assuming you kept all the systems, it is really tough for Link to be competitive. Sounder provides service that is faster during peak, while the buses are much faster during the middle of the day (and often faster during peak).

        If you cancelled all the express bus routes, you would probably lose a fair number of people to Sounder (during peak hours) and to driving (during the non-peak time). Since 570/574 carry around 3,000 a day from Tacoma, my guess is you are looking at around 2,000 a day.

        You would be able to provide additional service to other areas, of course. There would be riders who get off before Seattle, SeaTac being the most popular. SeaTac handles around 6,000 a day right now, but the line north of there is oodles of magnitudes more densely populated than south of there. I think you will be lucky if you get 2,000. Add another 1,000 (I’m feeling generous) for trips between there (e. g. Federal Way TC to Angle Lake) and you get around 5,000 a day.

        It is really expensive to run trains very often (as often as the 590/594) if you only pick up 5,000 a day. I just don’t see frequency increasing, unless ST has a death wish. I don’t think farefox recovery will justify it. I don’t see this running more often than it does now (which again is fairly frequent during peak, and not that bad during much of the day).

    4. The overall running times are so vastly different that LINK would have a hard time making taking many riders in the Seattle-Tacoma Bus or Sounder corridors. the 574 for sure would be replaced, but when you are talking at 15-20+ minute increase in travel times on LINK vs the bus, not to mention the reduction in service quality (High back/wider seats, seats for everyone, fewer troublemakers, gang-bangers, and other idiots (who seem to be all over the south king county subarea), there is still going to be a need for both services.

      1. Come to think of it, while I’m pushing for a direct connection between ST 574 and IT 600’s which could happen right now, airport run from Olympia is really ST Express work. Might be good “lapel pin” for an example of something ST can do on short notice and very little capital.

        Mr. Z., and everybody else, north, south, or east in this region (west is for another posting) for anything subject to traffic, only use for printed rush hour schedules is to make pages look less blank.

        While aside for the at-grade section of MLK, Sea-Tac to UW is a horizontal elevator ride. Not, thankfully, the vertical ones at LINK stations. Elevated to Tacoma, same right of way, only longer.

        I really do like the MCI fleet on the 574. In Canada between Toronto and Sudbury, I think, Greyhound used to have an overnight run with large seats and curtained windows, billed as a “Sleeper Coach.” Here and now, forty minute nap makes thirty mile drive from Tacoma Dome to Olympia a lot safer.

        But single door and steep narrow staircase cost a fortune in service delays. Might be good workout for drivers to put passengers’ luggage into the compartments which are still under the bus. But right now, steep narrow staircase and huge wheeled luggage aren’t a good match from any perspective.

        New replacements, however, are so human-unfriendly they’ve got to be designed by the same space aliens who did Mountain View and Dupont. This far from France (where the Coneheads come from) does that sound Terrestrial? Maybe it means “Mountain View” on Remulak.

        Bad enough that there are max four comfortable seats on the bus. But having window line and human scalp line same height from rear door forward really means it’s time for camera screens to replace every window on the coach. Also, no more complaints about “wraps!”

        Finally, one real big problem adjusting route planning and equipment allocation to law-enforcement problems with passengers: across the criminal world, nobody honors a contract to not change “turf.”

        Fortunately, solution that can at least keep transit safe and clean over whole service area: Necessary number of trained police officers who know their territory and its residents. Win/win for transit. Including that seats don’t get slashed no matter how big and comfortable they are.


    5. I was particularly wondering about Sounder stations in South King. If someone is already driving to Auburn, wouldn’t they consider driving a few more miles to Link? What about if they live west of the Sounder tracks?

      1. Good point. But I think the dynamic is similar. The bus or commuter train is considerably faster. I would guess that the commuter train is relatively faster, just because at that point, it is headed straight towards Seattle (Tacoma takes a hit, since the train heads south initially). So if traffic is bad, taking the commuter train is fastest; if not, then the bus is faster. I think if someone is already driving to Auburn, then they won’t continue on to Link, unless the frequency of Link makes up for the loss in speed (and that is assuming that Link is more frequent than the buses). Of course, as you mentioned, if you live closer to Link, then taking Link might make sense. But that is no different than today, really. My guess is folks closer to Federal Way just drive to Federal Way, rather than go out of their way to take Sounder. The bus is a lot more frequent, and faster 9 times out of 10.

        A lot depends on where you live, your tolerance for congested driving and how much of a hurry you are in. I am sure there are people who drive “the wrong direction” to get to a station, because traffic is light that way. So, for example, if you live in north Kent, you can probably time your trip fairly well. Head south (reverse commuting in effect) then take the train north. Not exactly speedy, but a lot less stressful. But then again, I don’t know the traffic patterns (I’m just speculating).

  6. What they should do is build Sounder-exclusive trackage wherever possible, build out to Olympia via new trackage directy adjacent to I-5 beyound DuPont, electrify the Seattle-Olympia portion of the route, add infill stations at Interbay, Shishole Bay, and Shoreline on North Sounder, convert North Sounder to DMU service, and extend North Sounder to Arlington, build South Sounder out to Orting, build a spur to Renton off of the main line, add another infill station at Boeing Field (possibly at Boeing Acess Road to interchange with Link), and build a new line, “Sounder East”, on the Eastside Rail Corridor from Renton to Maltby, with possible thru service to Seattle via the Renton spur off South Sounder. Bam. Perfecto.

    1. With the Point Defiance Bypass, it will be passenger rail ownership from Tacoma down to Nisqually and the track shared with Amtrak Cascades.

      I have wondered the possibility of infill in the existing BNSF tunnel downtown or at Pike Place Market along with the north ends and Sounder DMU service to the North with tilting trains and a few short tunnels could make the difference between 56 minutes and 45 minutes. This could potentially serve Interbay and West Ballard too but it would require some serious negotiations with BNSF. They are likely receiving a great deal of revenue from Sound Transit per train which makes it quite tempting to pay UP off and triple track their alignment and grade separate to get passenger only trackage.

      In terms of Sounder up the ERC, All Aboard Washington sent a letter to the board in support of a peak hour service in the ERC given the notorious Renton to Bellevue slog but I would say in terms of Sounder North, I would keep it to Marysville first before moving north to Arlington. Orting I don’t believe has the ridership and I’m surprised rural Pierce County has not jetisoned from the RTA.

      1. I would personally love so much to see a station in the old BNSF tunnel under downtown, but it will probably never happen. That said, a Belltown/Pike Place/Waterfomt station near the north portal of said tunnel is a great idea. I only included Orting as part of my plan because ST seems interesting in serving it, for reasons I do not yet understand.

      2. The other problem with Arlington is that the mainline rail veers west into farm country before even getting to Smokey Point. Arlington’s got a spur, but that basically makes it a dead-end line, meaning paying for two sets of tracks (one regional to Bellingham and a local to Arlington) instead of one.

      3. @Lukas B. It’s because the mayor of Orting made a big fuss about not accepting express buses or BRT instead.

      4. Orting is a complete waste of trackage rights. These train slots are so valuable they are needed for Tacoma, not on a little one station low ridership branch between Seattle and Tacoma.

      5. While I agree that Orting is a waste, it’s not because of trackage rights. The proposed line would end at Sumner, and would use a rail line that is barely ever used anyway. It would not take away trackage rights from Auburn or Tacoma in the slightest.

  7. In terms of Dupont ridership, I am a bit interested as to how they come near 1,000 riders while South Tacoma and Lakewood stops manage to collectively have 561 riders per day in terms of boardings and alightings.

    I am not sure how suddenly you get around 1,000 riders per day out of 4 round trips let alone where one facility only has 125 parking spaces and DuPont with 129 spaces. Unless Pierce Transit has some peak only bus service to feed Sounder in those areas and based on previous experience this extension will under perform.

    1. I’m wondering if commuters from Lacey and Olympia will use DuPont station since its not too far. DuPont has a big employer – State Farm- as well.

      1. Where’s the room in the existing park & rides? I simply do not see the stigma changing for reverse commuting. The jams mostly occur during PM peaks like with PSNS here in Kitsap. There is one hour per day where we have significant jamming heading out of Bremerton but it is small in comparison to other jams like 167 from Kent to Puyallup and 5 from SR 18 to SR 16.

    2. Daniel, from what I can see from the window of the ST 592 at Dupont, and the Sounder from Lakewood north, first stop looks like the one that would most appreciate an I-5-free trip both directions. And any transit at all outside rush hour. And, like its every imitator across the river, is barely getting started sprawling.

      Reason Pierce stays in ST is that its board doubtless includes developers who read miles of tail-lights as a mercury-red thermometer line moving southward a lot faster than global warming. Transportation Choices Coalition, unfortunately, aren’t the only ones with Vision.

      Lukas, might be good to investigate how much trackside land we could buy from BN, freeing us from both their tracks and their train-control. I doubt they’d miss us very much, but I don’t expect any bargains. Might be cheaper to do same along I-5.

      Also, speaking of Vision that needs glasses for LINK from Sea-Tac south: ‘Way past time to start reading rail-equipment catalogs, both trains and express track. STB, please don’t throw me off the blog for flickr-trolling, but know ST reads this, and obnoxious repetition is the soul of persuasion. But stop shaking. Only KC Metro stuff has to be purple, and also yellow.

    3. Actually, I think you would probably pull a lot of riders, over the 1000 a day from the Lacey/Olympia area once the extension opens and especially if more service were added. For a commuter coming from Lacey/Olympia if you had a chance to hop off before JBLM and get on the train, that is a bonus. Now, if you have to drive through JBLM you’re already halfway through the battle at that point.

      1. Good point, although it does kind of suck if Sound Transit is spending all this money to extend the line, when most of the beneficiaries will be people who live outside the Sound Transit district. Perhaps one day, Thurston County or the state will pony up the money to just extend Sounder to Olympia, where all of the DuPont riders are coming from anyway.

  8. I wonder why a West Ballard station for Sounder North is not on the table as an early deliverable? It would help calm emotions over a 22-year (then 19-year) timeline for light rail, and it would vastly improve efficiency on the highly inefficient Sounder North line.

    1. Because the inclusion of such a station would burden North King with non-trivial portion of north Sounder’s insanely high operating costs, which would take away from from Ballard Link.

    2. ST could spend a billion on a nice Sounder station, P&R and even a 2nd station in Ballard and eliminate the 5 billion wasted on link.

      1. Surely, you must joking here. As if a station at the very edge of Ballard, serving a commuter train that runs just four round trips per day (with no feasible way to increase service), and only goes to King St. Station (not even Westlake) is a substitute for a line that can run every few minutes, all day, every day, while also serving lower Queen Anne and SLU along the way.

        North Sounder is basically a joke, and should not even be running at all, let alone expanded. The trainsets should be moved over to South Sounder service, and the Snohomish subarea savings moved towards anything else – ST express service to Edmonds and Mukilteo, plus the “provisional” SR-99 station on Everett Link would be as good of a use as any.

      2. Will give reason for it to increase frequency and make it viable. Why have 2 jokes when 1 will suffice.

      3. Almost no one would ride Ballard Sounder. The roads to Golden Gardens have nowhere near enough capacity even if a park and ride were built.

        More people would ride Ballard Link than any other line proposed in ST3. Especially the stretch south of the canal (aka the most expensive part).

        What would you propose we build instead of a line that reaches many of the most popular points in the city not already getting rail?

      4. I already fed the troll once. Bad mistake. I will not feed the troll a second time…

      5. asdf2;

        As to

        North Sounder is basically a joke, and should not even be running at all, let alone expanded. The trainsets should be moved over to South Sounder service, and the Snohomish subarea savings moved towards anything else – ST express service to Edmonds and Mukilteo, plus the “provisional” SR-99 station on Everett Link would be as good of a use as any.

        You certainly weren’t feeding any trolls. You’re saying what the Citizen Oversight Panel is trying to say, what most STB commentariat folks like me think and what should be whammed down Snohomish County’s throat or forcefully injected into their buttocks.

        Chin up.

      6. Extending monorail has got to be more cheaper then building more tunnel stations.

    3. No. Soundsr North doesn’t go through what should be thought of as Ballard, and it is far too infrequent.

      If it were me. I would push for a station at the Fremont Fred Meyer, rebuild the Northern Pacific bridge that was east of the Ballard Bridge, and extend Sounder South trains to there. Look at Google satellite view: parts of the bridge are still there as private piers. It’s pretty obvious as they are curved piers that lead into the industrial track that remains on the south side of the canal. That plops the trains into a spot where everyone from Crown Hill to the U District might benefit.

      Whatever happens, it needs to be Sounder South trains that do it, They operate often enough to serve as an actual transportation link.

      1. This makes too much sense, cheerleaders for Seattle Subway will never go for it.

    4. There is no longer room and just recently built multiple houses where the station would have been placed at.

      Furthermore, BNSF does not want a station at this location for safety concerns with the bridge.

  9. Interesting use of single lines, regional rail and serving communities with low boardings.
    Today, we boarded our Renfre train going from Vigo to Leon Spain, a trip of about 6 hours. The consist was one electric engine pulling one passenger car with 20 riders to start the trip. Stopping at half dozen stations along the way, we pulled into Ocerne, where we added two more cars and engine coming from the north, which were nearly full.
    About halfway to Leon, Spain, we pulled into a typical dead end station, lost our head ended engine and added a new engine to the rear of the consist, plus a bistro car. Now, we quit bitching facing backwards, as we are going forwards for the next 2 hours.
    They do this every day as SOP and the transitions take about 5 minutes. Just amazing how necessity is the mother of invention.
    I hope the BNSF doesn’t screw over ST and the Green River Communities any worse than the last two go-around, but hey, they know a cash cow when they see one.
    Comida, anyone?

    1. Anybody first-line on LINK, either driving, supervising, or coordinating: Think LINK can handle ops like this? BTW, Mic, what headway we talking about here? Also, are they still doing Joint-ops?

      But what the World really needs to know, since Starbucks’ is already becoming an international menace which being Starbucks can’t be degraded any further: Whose coffee are they using, and do they have a real barista in the bistro?

      I’m imagining a guy like the Soup Nazi being asked for a coconut pineapple mocha with a half shot of whip cream but not too hot. Close?

      Ever read “For Whom the Bell Tolls?” Just have to practice writing two-word sentences whole new generation of college boys will be waving red flags at bulls! Did book have a train getting blown up? Been awhile. But on subject of Spanish transit history, does Madrid still have little PCC streetcars with wood seats?

      One of my life’s greatest streetcar rides: Whole shift of motormen late for report. Car threw ‘pole off the line every block. Each time, swarm of desperate trainmen jumped off, and ran back to re-wire, yelling “Andele, andele”! Wouldn’t “scan” with our new pole mechanism. Besides, Norwegian general usage has no such term.

      Same for line of historically accurate machine gun bullet holes in every track-side wall. Somehow SPD’s shots-fired recorders deprive Metro scene of needed vitality.


      1. Headway are pretty low, measured in hours, not minutes, and the tracks still serve industrial sidings. The most interesting thing I’ve seen is how poor both Spain and Portugal are, with most industrial sidings leading into plants that have long ceased to exist as job creators. The number of buildings falling apart with no roofs left in towns along the way is kind of depressing to look at.
        We live in a rich country and should thank our forebearers for making that a part of American life.

      2. Part of the problem there is the way European freight traffic works, and the fact that Spain and Portugal are broad gauge so interchange traffic with the rest of Europe is expensive. A plant in Germany or France can sent freight cars to Poland or northern Sweden, but not Spain or Portugal. They might as well be on an island, rail freight wise.

  10. Question, les: Say you’ve got an international flight to catch at Sea-Tac, and the weather’s left the airport the only transportation-related thing still running. Except for LINK. Saw that happen first winter of service.

    Missing that plane is going to cost you more than your share of five billion dollars for this particular fiscal year. Which by the time Ballard LINK opens is going to be a lot less than your share of what Sea-Tac Airport still costs you, let alone of every “Free”- way you drive.

    Would also bet BN will ask you for a five billion dollar non-refundable deposit while they think about that Ballard station. But on the bright side, the developer who decided me on my present city of residence also has a very large building at Othello Station.

    So good chance he’ll do a “Deal” (woodchucks and marmots, flee for the Olympics!) to combine his two spheres of influence. Considering interior design preference of most likely tenant base, he won’t have any trouble finding renters who can live without a kitchen with walls.


  11. Regarding Sounder North: I don’t know why somebody on the Sound Transit Board doesn’t just demand Snohomish County do this:

    1) Trade in Sounder North…

    2) In return;

    *Mukilteo gets Amtrak Cascades at their station
    *Mukilteo gets half hourly service via WSF Terminal & the Future of Flight + Bernie Webber to Link until 2036
    *Edmonds gets half hourly service to Link until 2036
    *No more slope destablization life & safety issues
    *A good fight to get bus lanes down I-5 for the 510/512 until Everett Link
    *The “provisional” SR-99 station on Everett Link
    *Potential for BRT grade separation assistance

    All in return for an under-performing, unreliable heavy rail service.


    1. I would agree Joe, but the political fallout from burning a half billion in cash on this project is more than ST or any current and prior Directors can stomach. $300 million for just the trackage rights, on top of all the capital and operating cost make for bad posters during an ST3 campaign.
      You gotta cut your losses sometime, but now is a crummy time to do it.

      1. Sounder North may not have been the best idea but given the sunk costs, ST could also try to make it more successful.

        I rode it recently to Edmonds and just about every seat was taken, so I’m extremely skeptical of these myths perpetuated on here that its entirely empty and a complete failure. Its shortcomings are from a lack of trains.

      2. Good for chance at reply to your geographic observation! Spain and Portugal have been poor countries for a very long time. Which the financial activities of a few rich countries didn’t help any.

        So here’s the question the world, and especially the Democratic Party, are too scared to ask now, but had better:

        Since the United States of America is the richest country in world history, hasn’t had a single foreign military boot-print on its soil since the Brits burned our Capital in 1812, and unlike Spain has never faced serious secession since Lee surrendered (too bad the South didn’t)…

        Why do Aberdeen, Hoquiam, Concrete, and every formerly-industrial town in rural America, and a lot of non-rural ones too look exactly like the Iberian Peninsula except colder, wetter, gloomier, and with much worse wine?

        Bring back some of those Spanish railroad guys so we can at least fix one National problem just by including their input into ST3. Though will sign your application for asylum by testifying to what you’re fleeing.


      3. “Its shortcomings are from a lack of trains.”

        and perhaps a lack of operational flexibility. How about having one or two of the trains being through-routed from Everett to Tacoma in the morning and vice-versa in the evening. Maybe for the last morning southbound train, they could add a coach, increasing capacity from the north and then use that train for a midday trips on Sounder South.

    2. Joe,

      Edmonds would already have two bus routes to Link via Lynnwood TC at 30 minute frequencies and will likely have it before then once you utilize the service hours freed up from the commuter routes.

    3. Something important you can concentrate on, Joe. Transit must lose a fortune in operating hours, especially at PM rush, because there’s no southbound transit lane in the afternoon.

      So whatever structure and design is necessary to get diamond lanes in both directions between Northgate and Stewart Street- since neither Convention Place or DSTT bus service will exist ten years from now- will show we’re serious about seeing to it that Lynnwood and Everett don’t have to wait three decades to get anything out of ST-3.

      Too bad we didn’t do this since before DSTT opened. But, just about everybody reading this has a lot more transit future in their lives than past.


  12. On South Sounder,

    While a mid-day roundtrip would be great, I really hope ST pushes to extend the peak windows. 9 and 9:30am (Auburn time) trains would be really helpful some mornings when there is a late start.

    BUT more important for the average (potential) commuter is the ability to catch a southbound train later than 6:20!!!! Sometimes you need to run an errand in the city, sometimes you need to stay late for a timezone spanning meeting, sometimes stuff happens. Having a 7pm and a 7:30 collector train would be VERY useful. Yes there wouldn’t be local bus connections at the stations but that doesn’t matter if staying late only happens once a month or so. Usually someone is around to pick you up, or you parked.

    1. As far as those later return trips, that goes equally for every single ST express bus. I had a trip to Seattle that ended at Seattle Center at 5:45, and when I got back downtown there was no 595 to get back home.

  13. Could UPRR and WSDOT be added to the negotiating table? Could enough BN freight shift to the UP track to allow 30-minute headway South Sounder service? Could the off-peak service use DMU? in the peaks, could the DMU be used on the Nalley Valley line?
    Cancel south Link. Improve streamlined Route 594 via Federal Way; improve Route 574; add BRT to PT routes 1, 2, and 4. add South King County regional express routes.

    1. That would be the idea of shifting freight to UP by paying for double to triple track freight exclusive with grade separation and keep BN passenger exclusive. However it would be taking a bit of showing profit motives for the parties.

    2. From the very start the whole point of Sound Transit was to connect the region. And that region includes Tacoma and Everett, and much as the Seattle-or-else crowd doesn’t like it. A bunch of busses and a 30-minute train just don’t cut it, the word I would use is “shafted”.

      And PT needs frequency before they can justify the money to BRT their lines. None of those three routes even runs 15-minutes midday.

      1. What I find interesting is we are insisting on LRT in 14 years without the current transit ridership let alone BRT investment in the corridors. I cannot fathom spending $4 billion on an extension that has over inflated ridership.

        BART currently has a budget shortfall of 447 million over the next 10 years. ST is not immune to these issues and can modify the budget as needed and it is dependent on sales tax coming in. With Seattle pushing vehicles out, you will also have less growth in car tab fees as people go without cars. Property tax becomes the only way to manage that and if we hit a peak and those go down then what do you do.

        This is why I say we need to maximize investments and ensure that the services can be a bit more sustainable than the exurbian extensions of Link. Redmond Federal Way and Alderwood are fine for now but I worry that it could become a huge loss from Tacoma. Everett maybe not as much.

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