Spirit of Washington Dinner Train at Downtown Renton (Wikimedia)
Spirit of Washington Dinner Train at Downtown Renton (Wikimedia)

In the weeks leading up to last week’s Sound Transit 3 Draft Plan update, the City of Renton made some noise about feeling left out. As part of the East King subarea it has funds to build things, but will see very little in the plan except for I-405 BRT. Some of this perceived wound is based on geographical bad luck, but much of it is also self-inflicted. The city has been speaking out of both sides of its mouth, demanding high-capacity transit while asking Sound Transit for two very transit-hostile things in ST3: financial help moving transit away from its fledgling Downtown and constructing the region’s largest parking garage. Other potential investments, such as a West Seattle-Burien-Tukwila-Renton light rail line, are excluded from ST3 and are many decades away from having either the political will or financial capacity to build it.

So for the time being Renton seems set to get what it asked for, a transit-hostile park & ride and transfer facility, surrounded by some of the worst auto-oriented development in the region, in the vicinity of SR 167 and Grady Way. It will also get BRT access ramps at NE 44th Street, sandwiched between the hills of Kennydale, a Denny’s, and the Seahawks training facility.

Yet questionable municipal preferences aside, Renton is a serious city of 98,000, the 8th largest in the state, and nearly as big as Everett and its spine destiny of high frequency, high capacity transit. There is significant ridership in Renton, both all-day on Routes 101, 105, 106, 107, etc, and on peak-oriented service to Seattle on Routes 102, 111, 114, etc. As jobs continue to concentrate in the Seattle core and Seattle housing fails to keep up, recents trends of suburbanized poverty and increased peak travel demand seem set to continue or intensify. So what could we do for Renton?

There’s one idea that’s been kicking around in my head for years. Over the years on the blog we’ve sung the praises of diesel multiple units (DMUs) as a flexible, low-cost alternative to traditional locomotive hauled commuter rail such as Sounder. There are numerous potential applications for DMU service in the Puget Sound Region, including on the low-ridership North Sounder line and for off-peak service on the Sound Transit-owned Nalley Valley line between Tacoma-Lakewood-JBLM-DuPont. But no one has really discussed using them in Renton.

The Black River line is an active freight spur primarily used for moving 737 fuselages to the Renton assembly plant. The 4.5 mile spur diverts from the BNSF mainline just north of Tukwila to Renton Landing, north of which the Eastside Rail Corridor has been decommissioned as a freight line and purchased for trail use, though Sound Transit retains an easement along the entire corridor. Historically, the Milwaukee Road (now the Cedar River Trail) approached Seattle via Snoqualmie Pass, Rattlesnake Lake, and Downtown Renton. The Downtown Renton station saw periodic use as recently as 2007 for the Washington Dinner Train.

Medium-capacity DMU service would be a great fit for this line. Imagine half-hourly service to King Street Station, with intermediate stations at Renton Landing, Downtown Renton, Boeing Access Road, and Georgetown. An associated restructure could divert Routes 101, 102, 111, and 114 to stations along the line. Even with a 30-mph speed limit on the Renton spur, travel times from Renton Landing to King Street could be as low as 20-minutes, far faster than bus alternatives and providing the direct service that Renton seems to want, rather than subpar transfers from I-405 or peak-hour buses in perpetuity.

Renton Sounder Map-01

Potential arguments against the idea are numerous and possibly fatal. BSNF easements are typically extremely expensive and only economical at very high passenger densities. Reliable operations would likely require a dedicated track. Serving stations such as Georgetown from the east side of the BNSF main line would require extensive footbridge infrastructure. The unpredictability of Boeing freight traffic would not mix well with passenger trains when the majority of the current line is single-track. There is even 1/4 mile of street-running for the freight tracks along Houser Way just east of the Downtown Renton station. And of course, the idea isn’t on anyone’s radar, much less in the Long Range Plan from which all eligible projects are drawn.

But I wanted to give the idea a hearing, at least among the blog commentariat. It would provide much faster service to Renton and Renton Landing. With bi-directional service, it would be a reasonable commute option for thousands of Boeing workers at the 737 plant. It lies in a resource-rich East King subarea that has lacked for projects. It would make the planned Boeing Access Road Station much more useful, boosting it with all-day demand.  It would be a right-sized service on existing tracks. And it would serve a growing city that needs better service than its current parking-centered dreams.

113 Replies to “Sounder Service to Renton?”

  1. It’s certainly better than some other ideas in ST3 (e.g. 405 BRT — relocating Renton Transit Center to the middle of auto-hell) — but the big bottleneck is the BNSF ROW between Renton and Downtown.

    If ST can just build a dedicated 3rd track along the BNSF mainline then I suspect it can handle the full capacity needed of both South Sounder and Renton Sounder (plus however many passing sidings are needed to handle reverse traffic).

    I know that there has been discussion of building a 3rd track, and that has to be cheaper than net-new building (e.g. the ROW is already there, it’s mostly graded so it’s mostly just building the tracks themselves), but until that happens I assume this is DOA.

    On the other hand, once the 3rd track is there, this actually is a good idea — the only change I would make is to add a few more stations. Since this is really the end-of-the-line we don’t need to be stingy with stop spacing — there could be stations at: Ranier Ave, Houser Way (aka “downtown”), 3rd St, and Renton Landing.

    1. Given BNSF’s track record for gouging passenger rail services the easement cost alone will make this option all but impossible.

      I guess if Boeing moves 737 production to a “right-to-work” state or another country that gives them even more subsidies than WA already does it could remove freight demand and open up opportunities for pax rail service, but without BNSF who would pay to maintain the line?

      1. Boeing is unlikely to move the 737 line any time soon.

        North Charleston is still giving Boeing headaches more than enough to offset any labor cost savings.

      2. If it moves to Canada or Europe for tax breaks, then its workforce would be unionized. If it moves to China or a third-world country to avoid unions, it could find severe quality problems in the reliability of the surrounding environment.

    2. I would guess that the key is passenger tracks from Black River Junction to, more or less, Airport Way South.

    3. The 3rd mainline track project is irrelevant to this Renton proposal. The section of railroad between the Black River Junction and King Street Station has between 4 and 8 tracks at a minimum. There is plenty of capacity; it is just a matter of how BNSF and Union Pacific use it. (The BNSF and UP tracks merge in this section)

      Does anyone know the ownership of the Renton spur track?

      1. BNSF is the owner of the right of way.

        Furthermore, there is only 3 main tracks between King Street Station and Renton Jct. It is single track, except for a 4500 foot long siding just east of the junction and another small siding at the Landing.

  2. A Georgetown Sounder stop would be very welcome too, I’d think. That neighborhood seems to be becoming more popular these days, and a quick rail connection to it would be pretty nice.

  3. I think it’s a great idea! Given that it would be connecting two Boeing plants and Boeing is the primary customer for the spur, I could imagine BNSF being more accommodating. The customer is always right.

    1. Yes, if Boeing is behind it that will certainly help, but I don’t know why they would? They need to move cargo, not people

      1. 737 F fuselages don’t just show up, their arrivals will have been planned for a long time. There’s no reason that the few freight trains arriving can’t be scheduled after hours or between passenger service.

      2. Sounder already has priority on the main line during peak commute times. Freight on this branch has to be scheduled around that anyway.

      3. When does Boeing schedule its deliveries now? It probably does so at night or noon or whenever freight congestion is lowest.

      4. I don’t know anything about freight congestion, and I’ve only been to Renton a couple dozen times, but one of those I got stuck at a railroad crossing for a fuselage delivery at 4:30pm. So they aren’t necessarily planning around road congestion.

      5. They plan around sounder service but if there is three tracks between king street and black river junction then running freight between Boeing and king street (and beyond!) can be done during rush hour.

  4. I like the idea. It would be even better if the Federal Railway Administration rules on DMUs were eliminated. Then off-the-shelf European DMU trains would be usable. Almost no chance of that happening unfortunately.

    I remember seeing German EMUs/DMUs and freight trains sharing the same track on multiple lines when I was visiting. No big deal there, but in the US that would be massively illegal.

    1. Actually, there are places (CalTrain) where European equipment will be allowed with the addition of PTC signals, which everyone operating passenger trains will have to install at some point soon anyway.

      Therefore, there is far better chance of this happening than you might think.

    2. It is not illegal, but requires stronger / reinforced DMU bodies vs EU standard. Austin has a pathetic rail, but they share rail between DMU and freight. For now, they separate by schedule, but are upgrading the DMUs to allow running at the same time as Freight — increase capacity

      1. Only if you are operating in mixed traffic. If you use temporal separation like New Jersey RiverLINE you operate as light rail sometimes and as a freight railroad at others.

        Or, get a signal based waiver like CalTrain did.

    3. Doesn’t BNSF’s Washington track already have PTC or is getting it soon?

  5. There is already a president, set by CalTrain, of being able to intermix European approved rolling stock on main line with standard American trains without temporal separation. PTC style signals were required in the CalTrain case, but passenger operations on freight railroads are having to convert to that anyway.

    Therefore, being able to intermix something cheap to operate and maintain on this line with the existing freight traffic shouldn’t be that hard.

    Stadler is currently building 8x of its FLIRT design for Texas. They are low floor cars for operation at 79 mph, seats for 240 and an impact absorption that meets FRA standards. While the design for Texas does not include toilet facilities, Stadler says they are designing them for easy retrofit later.

    Take a look at the brochure for The T, United States listed under regional trains here:
    If you look through the other versions of this that have been built, you will see that 79 mph is actually a specially slowed down model of this design. A number have been built for a maximum speed of 95 mph.

    Tack on an order for a couple more of those from the Texas order, have them install toilets in those, put in some concrete platforms, and you’ve got something that should be pretty good for an off-peak Sounder train or branch line service to Renton.

  6. Interesting idea, and I think it would work pretty well, depending on scheduling and easement issues. Probably a little late in the game for it, though.

  7. Because BNSF runs high-and-wide loads on this spur, they won’t allow platforms next to the main tracks. This means a separate passenger siding for each station, leaving clearance for a 737 fuselage train to pass a passenger train.

    If a siding is built for each station, they’ll probably be quite reasonable about allowing passenger traffic; it’s not as if they use this branch very often. It will be much harder to get BNSF to allow additional slots on the mainline.

    Renton consists almost entirely of parking lots, so it should be pretty cheap to buy the land for stations & station sidings.

    1. AMT in Montreal has low level platforms north of Central Station on the Deux Montagnes line for a similar reason: fuselage shipments to the Bombardier plant.

    2. This is not true at all. BNSF run at track speed right next to Wenatchee, Leavenworth and other stations with no restrictions.

      The 777 skybox cars however have certain restrictions but most of those are being modified to remove those restrictions. Besides that however, we drop those off at Mukilteo and only goes to Interbay to head back East on a empty jet train.

    3. The issues with the platforms is only a problem if you are using high level platforms.

      To date, all Stadler cars in use in the USA are at least partially low floor to accommodate platforms that are low enough for freight cars.

      New Jersey Transit RiverLINE:
      Basically just like light rail, only with diesel cars and freight operating on the line in places.

  8. I think given the capital investment needed, between 2nd tracks, stations, easement rights, and Nathanael’s point about wide BNSF loads, I think in the long run, it will probably be cheaper and more sustainable to simply invest in a Burien Tukwila Renton light rail. As long as you’ve got a good Junction with Tukwila Sounder Station, you’ll achieve everything this proposal will achieve for South King. ST has a great mock up of a proposed routing that hits all the key spots in Renton and then connects to Tukwila Sounder Station before hitting Southcenter and TIBS, I’ll see if I can find that
    Giving Georgetown a station would be great, but that can be tacked onto South Sounder at some point

    1. None of last year’s Burien-Renton studies examined an alternative with a light rail line that goes through a Boeing Access Road station. They need to reopen that study from last year and examine another alternative with the Burien-Renton segment ran interlined with Link between TIB and BAR.

      1. Why the heck would you do that? BAR is quite far North of most of what you would want to connect to. There is a big hill in the way of going directly East.

      2. Because the predominant direction out of Renton for transit users is central Seattle, and going to TIBS is several miles and many minutes out-of-direction.

      3. Any ridership gain from such a routing is likely more than canceled out by skipping the Tukwilla Amtrak/Sounder station (remember BAR won’t have Sounder) and Southcenter.

        Besides the travel time difference is not going to be very big in any case.

      4. I’m merely pointing out that it wasn’t’ studied, Chris. It should have been because there was no recent ST study to directly connect Renton and Seattle except for those going through TIBS.

        When I have driven MLK between BAR and Rainier in Renton, it looks fairly obvious that it would be possible to add rail tracks in a new median or on one side — and that the steepness doesn’t appear to be too severe of a problem.

        As far as Southcenter goes, I am sure that there are many more transit riders between Renton and Seattle than between either Burien or Renton and Southcenter. After all, Southcenter is a one-story mall with acres of free parking around it!

        Finally, the BAR Sounder station can always be added later. Spending the amount of money to build an LRT to Renton is large so adding a Sounder station is quite minor compared to that!

      5. What you are proposing is branching LINK south of BAR which is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. Not the least of which is the required frequency reduction south of the junction.

        The point of serving Southcenter is not necessarily to provide a way to get there from Burien or Renton but to provide access to the entire Link network with the transfer at TIBS. It is also to provide access to the Tukwilla Sounder/Amtrak station which during peak makes for a handy fast way to/from downtown Seattle.

        While it may seem a pipe dream right now Tukwilla wants a transformation of the Southcenter area similar to what Lynnwood is planning.

      6. I’d note that the entire Link corridor between TIBS and BAR Station is fully grade separated, and it may be desirable to build a new transfer platform at BAR — so that the sharing does not appear to be a problem. That Link corridor capacity is much more defined by MLK at-grade crossings, and a Burien-TIBS-BAR-Renton line would not require any of those.

        If Tukwila wanted prioritize a denser Southcenter, why did they push for the BAR station in the first place? Wouldn’t trying to put an infill station nearer to Southcenter have made more sense?

      7. All day Sounder service should be a much higher priority than any rail service to Renton. If there ever is an all day Sounder train it wouldn’t be much trouble to connect the Tukwila Sounder Station with the South Renton P&R and Boeing/Renton (basically the F-Line with better frequency).

        One problem with a Renton Sounder service would be that the train would have to terminate at King Street Station and require that most riders would have to make a time-consuming transfer to another transit service for the last mile. Given that most riders would also have to make a transfer in downtown Renton to get on the train and then make another transfer at KSS, the speed advantage of the rail service would ultimately be lost for most riders. Currently, a commuter living near Lindbergh High School can take the 102 to downtown Seattle (1 seat ride). I doubt that replacing that 1 seat ride with a 3 seat ride would ultimately make the commute faster or less frustrating.

      8. “That Link corridor capacity is much more defined by MLK at-grade crossings”

        That could be fixed with underpasses at the intersections. Or just put the whole thing in a trench.

        “If Tukwila wanted prioritize a denser Southcenter, why did they push for the BAR station in the first place? Wouldn’t trying to put an infill station nearer to Southcenter have made more sense?”

        Southcenter’s urban village is at Baker Street, on the east side of the mall. That’s where the Burien-Renton line would presumably have a station. An infill station on Central Link would be northwest of the mall and across the freeway.

        As for why Tukwila is pushing for BAR Station, that’s mystifying. They cite several surrounding destinations that aren’t in walking distance so you’d have to take a bus to them. And what they’d really want is a BAR Sounder station to go with it for Sounder-Link transfers.

      9. “Currently, a commuter living near Lindbergh High School can take the 102 to downtown Seattle (1 seat ride).”

        But not in 2040 in Metro’s long-term plan. It shows a route like the 101 (#2614), but no 102.

      10. “basically the F-Line with better frequency”

        And a straighter route. The south Renton detour to the Boeing Commercial offices was to avoid having to keep running a peak route. That decision needs to be reconsidered. Frequent bus corridors can’t have lots of turns to isolated office parks that are only alive 9-5.

        Whenever Renton gets around to a transit master plan, maybe it’ll give some thought to transit lanes between the proposed transit center and downtown Renton, to speed up 10-minute overhead that buses have crossing central Renton.

      11. “That Link corridor capacity is much more defined by MLK at-grade crossings”

        That could be fixed with underpasses at the intersections. Or just put the whole thing in a trench.

        Or go with the far less expensive option and simply give trains preemption at intersections.

        “basically the F-Line with better frequency”

        And a straighter route. The south Renton detour to the Boeing Commercial offices was to avoid having to keep running a peak route. That decision needs to be reconsidered. Frequent bus corridors can’t have lots of turns to isolated office parks that are only alive 9-5.

        Staying away from the Tukwila Sounder Station altogether (which is alive for an even narrower span than 9 to 5) and sticking largely to Southcenter Blvd and Grady (dipping down to Tukwila Parkway between 61st Av and where Tukwila Parkway rejoins Southcenter Blvd) would go a long way toward making the F more useful as an all-day service. The downside is you only skirt the Southcenter shopping/employment area. However, this seems a good solution until Tukwila completes the Strander-27th St connection and the proposed ST3 Sounder platform extension project can be leveraged to make it such that the F doesn’t have to drive up and down the length of the the Sounder platform and park-and-ride to serve the station.

      12. I think all day Sounder service would lead to a complete restructure of bus service in south King County. The F would undoubtedly have a new mission and there would be many other changes, too.

  9. Not so sure about this one. Skipping Tukwila station seems like a pretty big problem. Any line from Renton ought to connect to local centers where it can to enable as much utility as possible.

    Connecting to the Tukwila Amtrak station and TIBS Link station seem higher utility to me, especially when express buses to Seattle achieve the same thing as this DMU with greater frequency and for less money.

    How about investing in speed/reliability improvements for Rapid Ride F instead?

    1. *blows raspberry* Bad idea.”BRT” (notice quotation marks) can and will never be an alternative to rail, sinly because politicians always want it cheaper, and soon your gold-standard BRT becomes the same thing you had before, plus a few new stop signs. Not to mention: Which soundes better to you: Improvements to an existing bus IR a shiny new rail line? Exactly. Abd you know the benefits and deficiencies of both. All regular citizens see is stinky bus vs shiny train.

      1. A commuter rail line that only goes Renton to Seattle is not a very effective use of limited resources.

        Long term, LRT from Renton to Burien would be ideal but seems a ways off. This line could be a big money suck in the mean time.

        I didn’t call out BRT because I recognize rapid ride is not. Speed improvements would be welcome though.

        I ride the bus daily and any incremental improvement helps us bus riders is a good thing.

        Save the money and build a real connection, or upgrade existing services. Don’t waste it on a less useful half measure.

      2. Light rail gets watered down as well. Quick example: Which project will be better for First Hill, the Madison BRT, or the multi-billion dollar light rail line that goes right under it? The answer is the BRT, because the light rail plan got watered down more than the BRT.

        How about the region as a whole? That one is tougher to say. Obviously the Capitol Hill station is great, but it is only one station. Madison BRT will provide plenty of stops, with speed that won’t match it, but will still be much faster than driving. It all really depends on where you are, but since frequency will be roughly the same — frequency didn’t get watered down on the Madison BRT, nor did speed — my guess is the time savings will be substantial for a lot of users on both systems. But when you include the cost, my guess is the edge goes to the BRT project (the first BRT project in King County).

      1. Wow, really? That surprises me. I assumed there were three parts to the station:

        1) Link station
        2) Freeway bus interchange (allowing for easy on off for all the express buses)
        3) Sounder Station

        The first two are great, and that is all that is added, I guess it is OK. But I can’t imagine buses terminating here, the way they will when Lynnwood Link is added. This is where Link is really slow compared to an express. So this could definitely add some nice connections, but not much in the way of service hour savings.

        With a Sounder station, you add both. Not only would that allow for some fairly quick connections (Kent or Auburn to Rainier Valley) but I could definitely see some buses being truncated and asking riders to either take the commuter train quickly to downtown, or Link through the valley. You wouldn’t have too many truncation until Sounder got more frequent, but even if you didn’t this would make for a fairly cost effective station.

      2. I’d be surprised if Sabey doesn’t try to get an intermodal station pushed through if at all possible, even to the point of providing some funding — he owns a ton of property in the area that he’d love to develop. When the Sonics were loading up the moving vans he had a proposal to develop an arena and ancillary facilities–basically an entertainment center akin to LA Live at Staples Center along with shopping and housing. The proposal, as far as it went, envisioned a multi-modal station to serve it.

        Of course BNSF as always will have something to say about that….

      3. Tukwila asked for both a Link station and a Sounder station at BAR but ST wasn’t interested. It would be just a mile from Tukwila’s existing Sounder station, Maybe Tukwila should have asked for the original Sounder station to be at BAR in the first place.

      4. If Tukwila is interested in another station (and they should be!), it should be at S. 133rd St. ST engineers designed for one to be added in the future — crossover tracks, a TPSS, and 400 feet of straight and level track. There’s room for a park-and-ride lot and/or development of an urban village. Little or none of that works at the BAR site.

        One of the first thing ST did in designing the Initial Segment is delete the BAR station. Too much money for too few riders, and nothing has happened to change that analysis.

  10. Is there even a point to this project, seeing as thouh Eastside Rail will probably never be built, and this will remain a mostly pointless stub?

    1. Well its not pointless as it actually goes somewhere (Renton). I’d question the long term utility though as the frequency we could purchase here would be limited geatly by freight needs and by how much the owner would charge for each slot.

      If I’m trading a half hourly bus for a train that runs 2-4 times in peak, I’d pick the bus and invest to get it to 15 minute frequency all day if possible.

      Powerful transit is frequent and well connected, not just grade separated.

      1. I agree. It is a great idea, but only if it is cheap. That is the beauty of commuter rail — it is fairly cheap. But in this case, not so much. My guess is to get decent service would be really expensive.

        Right now folks are pushing for 15 minute service for south Sounder (a laudable goal). With this, you are basically pushing for 7.5 minute service then, on (I would assume) the most expensive segment (Boeing Field to downtown). That would be extremely expensive, and the main beneficiaries of that relatively frequent service (7.5 minute) would be those in Georgetown and those in Boeing Access Road. I just don’t see that many people riding it from either place. To be fair, the latter might have some value as a major transit center, and getting that kind of frequency (even at rush hour) could make it work. I just think it would be a lot more expensive than we hope.

      2. Ross, why do you think that this line would have equal headway with South Sounder? Zach didn’t propose anything like that.

      3. Equal spacing would be ideal, but no matter how you do this, it will be expensive. You have to have some headway, because these are trains. You could have the Renton train shadow the other train, possibly skipping some trips, but I don’t see how that gets you anything. For example:

        Train from Tacoma — 7:00
        Train from Renton — 7:05
        Train from Tacoma — 7:15
        Train from Tacoma — 7:30
        Train from Renton — 7:35

        That is assuming 15 minute frequency from Tacoma. Change that to today’s routing, and it really doesn’t get much better:

        Train from Tacoma — 7:00
        Train from Renton — 7:05
        Train from Tacoma — 7:20
        Train from Tacoma — 7:40
        Train from Renton — 7:45

        You are giving BNSF a small window to get their trains through, which (I am guessing) will cost a bundle.

      4. Equal spacing is good for an urban line, but with lower train frequencies and longer station distances that isn’t necessarily the case.

        If both trains are going all the way to Seattle, then what you want to do here is schedule a northbound branch train to go through the connecting station 2 to 5 minutes before a southbound main line train comes through. That way, the branch line trains work for southbound passengers sort of good as well as northbound.

        Then, you need to plan around that going the opposite direction.

  11. Here’s a good link to B737 production ramping up to 2 planes per day, which is maybe 4 trains per week to feed fuselages from Wichita. http://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-aerospace/boeing-retools-renton-plant-for-737s-big-ramp-up/
    I don’t see the width as a problem at the platform level, maybe just the platform furniture and awning.
    If anyone wants to see a demand for travel along the eastside, please stand alongside I-405 in Renton for an hour, anytime of the day, and say with a straight face that there is little demand for rail along the Eastside rail corridor. DMU’s could certainly provide an initial link to Renton as the basis of restarting the Woodinville Subdivision with frequent service, including the precious bike trail.
    BTW, this idea of a DMU/LRT common station was heavily discussed by me and others when the Bellevue station and tunnel were being kicked around. The Vision Station was heartily pooh-poohed by LRT purists, so now you get tunnels that go nowhere, and trains from Issaquah to E.Main for traveling along I-90.

    1. Could Wilburton be upgraded to handled DMUs? That would be the logical access point along the ERC

      1. Of course it could. It handled both freights and Spirit Dinner trains (which I heartily miss as a night on the town). DMU’s are just self propelled passenger cars which can be linked together as demand grows.

      2. No need to upgrade Wilburton. DMU’s are FAR more lighter than anything that bridge has seen before.

  12. As reference points, route 143 takes about a half hour to go from Renton TC to downtown Seattle. Route 101 takes about 35 minutes to go from South Renton P&R to downtown Seattle. Sounder takes 19 minutes from Tukwila Sounder Station to downtown Seattle.

    I can’t figure out why anyone in Renton who would drive somewhere to catch transit to Seattle would want to catch it at South Renton P&R, as opposed to Tukwila Sounder Station or Renton Transit Center (if only Renton TC had all-day bus service toward Seattle that did not involve diverting through South Renton P&R first).

    I also can’t see anyone riding any of the routes that go to downtown Seattle wanting to give up their direct ride for a time-consuming transfer at South Renton, followed by a 35-minute ride into Seattle.

    Who does Renton expect to use the giant parking garage?

    1. Renton parking garage will be used by all the people in suburban Renton, i.e. the majority of the people who currently live in Renton

    2. I’m on with this — there’s a big chunk of losers here called “riders of the main line”. Technically, using the existing spur is worth the positive thought exercise, but the major focus should be increasing the usability and access of the Tukwila sounder station however possible. If DMU service does come, I’m on for Seattle-Tukwila-Kent service: it would immediately take over as the speediest service to downtown for Kent 150 riders, and many Tukwila/Renton F-line-to-Link/101 riders.

    3. “Sounder takes 19 minutes from Tukwila Sounder Station to downtown Seattle.”

      And on Cascades last night it was 20 minutes from Auburn to downtown Seattle. 9 minutes from Auburn to Tukwila.

      “I can’t figure out why anyone in Renton who would drive somewhere to catch transit to Seattle would want to catch it at South Renton P&R, as opposed to Tukwila Sounder Station or Renton Transit Center”

      They may want to use Renton Transit Center but Renton doesn’t want them to; it’s eliminating the transit center and merging it with the South Renton P&R. Its stated reason is too many cars and buses downtown.

  13. If only the subareas could be amended so that Tukwila Sounder Station is part of the East King subarea, then the parking garage Renton is asking for could be built where car/transit commuters would use it.

    1. The rail line is the border between Renton and Tukwila. So any station amenities should rightfully be half East King.

  14. This is a great idea, Zack.

    As a new idea, it is best simplified to focus on the target market: commuting to downtown Seattle.

    Initially, a Renton Sounder line could run peak hours only, at 20 minute frequencies. My rough calculations show that the single-track spur could handle 20 minute frequency. Running peak hours only would make coordinating with Boeing freight movements easier.

    The Downtown Renton-King Street ride would be 23 minutes, much faster than the 30 to 40 minute peak travel times on the 101, 102, etc. buses. The frequency would be much lower than that available at S. Renton P&R, but enough people would prefer the train to make it a well used service. It would increase total commuting capacity, and some peak runs of the 101 could be eliminated if demand dropped.

    I would avoid adding BAR and Georgetown Stations initially, as those projects are not directly related and could cause BNSF heartburn.

    The downtown Renton station would be 1 block away for the Renton Transit Center, and would give the City a reason to keep RTC even if bus service is moved to South Renton P&R. The Renton Landing stop could share parking with Fry’s and Lowe’s, and collect drivers coming from the Renton Highlands.

    In the further future, the line could be double-tracked and have 15-minute all day service with BAR and Georgetown stops, and replace the 101, but that would require more investment and negotiation with BNSF than there is appetite for now.

    1. Realistically, it would be about 25-30 minutes due to the curves between Renton Jct and the required 10mph through Downtown Renton. (if going to the Landing)

      I can make the run from King Street Station to Renton Jct in 15 minutes, light power (50mph Royal Brougham to Spokane Street, 40mph on the curve to Georgetown, 70mph to Renton Jct), just a touch over 9 miles.

      DMU’s accelerate just about as fast as 2 locomotives light power. The curve from Main 3 onto the sub could be bumped up to 20-25ish, the curves and siding could be upgraded to 35ish and 60 until downtown, where it is required to go 10mph due to no protection at the crossings. After that, I believe the dinner train did 15-25mph until after the landing where the speed went back up to 40mph. I need to find the old timetable for the line to confirm that.

      I don’t see why this couldn’t be done for less than $50-75 million, including vehicle purchases when compared to Austin, SMART, and Sprinter.

      1. Thanks for your technical insight.

        What would it take to remove the 10 mph restriction in downtown Renton? Adding crossing arms, or more? It would be great to also eliminate noise pollution from train horns through the area.

      2. The issue is the track in the street:

        There’s not too much you can do to improve operations there short of move the line or move the street. You could make it a station location I suppose so that the low speed actually isn’t as noticeable. It’s as good a location as any on the line, pretty much.

      3. I would assume that is where the station would be placed. That is downtown Renton, as close as you can get to the old transit center on the train.

  15. Renton did this to themselves completely and them crying for additional options is laughable at best, especially if they want to get rid of their downtown transit center.

    They didn’t want commuter rail when it was proposed several years ago, which killed the project. It could have gone to the landing but the goal was to connect to the Tukwila Multimodal station and thus Sounder or run it all the way to Tacoma.

    They didn’t want the dinner train because 2 round trips “clogged up Downtown Renton”, along with Kirkland.

    They only want BNSF running the line because of the business Renton Boeing brings them, otherwise, I am sure Renton would want to get rid of the rail line altogether.

    As I have stated many times, DEMU’s would be the best solution for this line. Siemens Desiro has a very similar design as our Kinkisharyo vehicles. 60-70mph max and run it with East Link from South Bellevue P&R to Overlake Hospital and continue up the corridor to Snohomish, Everett and/or Goldbar, or even both would be the most optimal solution.

    $400 million WITH a trail for all of that is a drop in a the bucket compared to what Link will cost.

    1. First reaction? Renton’s declaration that private automobiles are the only form of transportation that counts should deny them a Sound Transit dime. Any chance at all ST-3 could win without them?

      But having watched Renton over the years- I drove both the 106 and the 107 on Tunnel routes- I’ve always thought that the place deserved a better break in the general world than it’s been getting for at least forty years.

      The 1970’s saw a lot of this: Well-intentioned attempts to turn towns into pedestrian spaces. I always liked Renton’s white street lamps looking like the ones on ships. But the effort took place in the face of the industrial collapse that followed the Viet Nam war. When the Rust Belt turned orange and well-paid factory work went away forever. The country’s worst Depression never to be called one.

      I don’t think it’s over yet.

      So these renewal programs never had the energy or money behind them to counter the massive un-coerced popular desire of the American people to get their car industry back. Which Japan resuscitated for them. Anybody remember the K-Cars, and the little Fords that caught fire a lot?


      No question that present Renton Transit Center has always been fatally cut off from I-405. At the wheel of my Renton Routes, I always wondered what elevated ramps would cost. But best first approach for ST-3 might be to find out exactly what transit can do to bring Downtown Renton back to life. Because nobody is doing Renton’s residents any favors by present course of action. Will soon be a long slow miserable ride to work again.

      However, meantime, if anybody reads this on their i-pad (or whatever it is) while they’re at today’s meeting, since it’s too late for public comment, try to set up and appointment with your Board member for a great and easy Provisional:

      At 62nd and Prentice, a switch, some curved wire, a trail-in and a few miles of straight trolleywire eastbound on Renton Avenue will connect Renton with LINK at Mt. Baker, and walking distance to Rainier Beach and Columbia City. Too bad actual plan to wire the 7 out of the DSTT at Dearborn never got off the drawing board. Where it actually was.

      Add an electrified route along the Lake where the 107 used to run, add reserved lanes and signal pre-empt and I’ll drive it free for life. And also move to Renton.

      Mark Dublin

  16. In what ways would Sounder service to Renton be better than existing bus connections which provide service at much higher frequencies than trains could ever match?

    1. More capacity, could run more frequent if upgrades are done. With 2 sidings, it is entirely possible to run 10-15 minute service.

      Double track isn’t always needed if the siding spacing can warrant it. There are 2 sidings available that could easily allow increased frequency.

    2. Cutting travel time in half for one, retaining service to Downtown Renton for two. There is also no current bus in Renton that runs better than every half hour all day, except for Rapid Ride F, and Renton DMU could make it to King Street in the time it takes the F-Line to get from the Landing to Tukwila Sounder.

      1. Half, really? I know the schedule says it takes a while, but I assume that is fairly padded. I would be interested in knowing who rides the 101, and what they typically experience. Keep in mind the 101 serves a lot more areas, which means the end to end trip is likely a lot faster for more people (even if the train saves a huge amount of time, most of the riders will have to get to and from the stations, which is different than the 101). But even so, I doubt it would take twice as long to get from Renton to downtown.

        Speaking of which, the 101 runs every 15 minutes during commute hours, both directions. It does slip to half hour at night and during the day. But Sounder doesn’t run at all during the middle of the day. It peaks out at 20 minutes, then 35 minutes after 7:30. To get that kind of frequency (which is worse than the 101) would require spending a huge amount of money, is my guess. It would mean paying BNSF for 10 minute frequency on what I assume to be the most congested section (the area close to Seattle).

        Just to be clear, i really like this idea. I think it is very clever, and might not be that expensive. But I see it as something that would complement the other service, not replace it. For those who find it easier to get to downtown Renton or Renton Landing, and happen to work close to King Street, it makes a lot of sense. I could easily see numbers similar to the other south Sounder Stations (a few thousand). But I doubt it would replace the need for the 101, nor would I expect this to get anything close to the ridership, unless we strike a very good deal with BNSF.

    3. By asking this question I presume you have never had to ride a bus from downtown Seattle to Renton.

    4. This is all dreamy nonsense. No way is BNSF going to allow 15-minute service on its freight rails, Brian.

      Better to take a small fraction of the capital dollars this would cost and use them to create Rapid Ride+ service in the corridor.

  17. Sooner or later, passenger rail has to have its own right of way. Period. I don’t think there’s a single railroad system in the world that makes trains of any real speed share tracks with oil and coal trains. TGV built its tracks and its trains as two parts of the same machine.

    If it takes a whole separate ST-whatever number to buy the amount of space we need, it could be worth as much as all of ST-3. It’s been a fight even to let go of any information about even the location of its mile-long rolling napalm bombs. Railroads have been claiming it’s “proprietary.”

    Though they might finally, under pressure, been telling local fire chiefs about it. As if Longview fire department could handle possible events. Awhile ago, the industry promised to help with programs for citizens to help themselves get some fire-fighting training.

    Considering the danger, I think Governor Inslee would be more than justified to throw National Guard road-blocks across the tracks at every state line. But- guess where would BN go first for help? I think Federal law even says railroads have the right to their own police forces.

    Federal law, and money, have given special protection to private railroads since their ceased being stage-coaches on steel wheels. So I think ‘way past time for a transit project using Federal money to have a few more mandates than drug testing.

    Mark Dublin

  18. Whatever type of arterial transit is built for Renton, I’m going to play troll for a minute and state that it’s going to need “transit hostile parking” to achieve the goal of keeping more suburban cars out of urban employment centers.

    * The majority of Renton’s population lives in Renton suburbs (Renton Highlands, Kennydale, Benson Hill, Talbot Road, Fairwood), not in walking distance to the downtown core
    * Renton is a gateway to SE King County sprawl (especially Maple Valley and Covington)

    You’re right that it would be better to serve the Renton suburbs with a comprehensive web of rapid ride buses to feed downtown transit service than to build parking garages (we could use this TODAY just to feed existing bus service at the downtown and Grady transit centers where parking fills up by 8am). However what do you do to capture all the car commuters coming from the low-density sprawl around Maple Valley and Covington? You have to give them a carrot on a stick if you want to change behavior; if there is viable parking at Renton transit centers they’ll consider getting on a bus/train, otherwise they’re just going to continue driving to Seattle/Bellevue/Everett.

    The same argument could be made for other leaf-nodes in the transit system. Example: Issaquah, to aggregate commuters from low-density North Bend and Snoqualmie (Issaquah currently has a pretty big transit garage that already fills up).

    The answer then is Renton needs both transit parking and rapid ride feeder service, and it’s in the interest of the transit system as a whole. Transit parking is not hostile, it’s the right tool to interface arterial transit with low-densities on the edges of the system (cars being the capillaries). You could break up the parking into smaller decentralized lots fed by rapid ride, but does that really lower the overall cost, and how many legs will people tolerate on their daily journey?

    Regarding existing parking at The Landing; it currently has quite a bit of parking, but it’s privately owned, and during evening/dinner hours it is often close to full already (especially Thursday-Sunday). It would definitely fill up with additional load from transit riders; the question is, would The Landing’s owners spend money on more garages, or would they just ban parking for transit and start towing cars?

    1. Fred Meyer has a huge surface lot next to the line. I say bury it with a parking structure and put a second station there.

    2. Very good points. As to this one:

      >> You could break up the parking into smaller decentralized lots fed by rapid ride, but does that really lower the overall cost, and how many legs will people tolerate on their daily journey?

      I could see a couple ways of doing this. First is to run the bus to somewhere else after you get to the suburban downtown area. For example, the 41 does exactly this — cruises through the neighborhood, then goes to Northgate (not that different than some suburban centers, really) and then gets right on the freeway and heads downtown. Of course this won’t work if you take a train from the suburban center (which is the focus of this article) nor will it work as well for Renton. A good chunk of the folks are headed towards Bellevue, while a good chunk are headed to downtown, which would mean a lot more transfers.

      The other way you could improve things is add HOV lanes for those feeder buses. I would assume this would be really appealing (especially if combined with the first idea). For example, 169 seems to get really nasty once you get west of 154th (as folks from the highlands combine with folks from Maple Valley). With a park and ride there, along with HOV lanes, someone coming from either direction would be able to park and ride much faster than their friends who are trying to slog their way towards the freeway.

      None of that is cheap, though, which gets to your point. Unless you want to spend some money on HOV lanes, and a bunch of small park and ride lots, it makes sense to just suck it up and use the giant lot in town.

    3. Not “trolling” at all, Kory. All very necessary and valid points for this discussion. Especially the fact of where, and how, a very large percentage of the Renton-area’s working people live.

      But present traffic conditions region-wide show that in an ever-shorter space of time, these patterns result in a complete loss of freedom to travel. To me, at this stage of transit development, it makes sense for transit passengers to be able to leave their cars at the transit stations they now want to use.

      There’s no better introduction to transit, as Tukwila International LINK Station is proving. Especially if the family has children. I’ve seen this process start. With parents telling me that their babies point and demand, in words or not, when they hear a subway bell down a flight of station stairs.

      And when older children start to like the train ride better than whatever it is they’re going to. About thirteen years from first train ride to first vote is good prep for a lifetime of pro-transit voting.

      However, Renton’s record gives the appearance of a place that thinks present patterns never will, or should, change. An attitude that guarantees that after a few years at most, everything newly-built will become permanently mobility and freedom-free.

      The last time I drove transit through Renton, Downtown was an active and attractive place, just a few blocks from the airfield. The Downtown Transit Center seemed like a feature that fit. What’s your take on why the scene changed so that transit downtown is only in the way?

      Because I think this question is absolutely key to this discussion. Underneath it all, any transit plan has to root itself in the way its passengers work and live, as well as travel. Not trolling to work from the truth.


      1. I think The Landing happened and it sucked a lot of the mindshare and development dollars away from the downtown core, while simultaneously the Grady transit center gets more bus routes to Seattle more often, thus is seeing higher usage (though the downtown garage still fills up) so the city wants to prioritize BRT there and significantly drop the priority of downtown (they just want to put a shuttle from Grady to downtown, which just keeps downtown on life support). As far as the parking goes, Grady really does have a ton of room for a garage, and it’s a lot closer to get buses on and off 405… of course if we were talking about trains then a 5 minute proximity difference to 405 loses importance and walkable proximity to shops and restaurants becomes more important.

        Unfortunately the people living and working inside Seattle and Bellevue with density and proximity to the existing and planned trains don’t seem to understand any of the Renton variables and continue to blame Renton for wanting certain things (even saying they don’t deserve anything, even though they pay $20 million/year into ST and get scraps in return). It was interesting how Renton was only going to get a garage and BRT with ramps to 405, then they were only going to get a smaller garage and BRT with no ramps, then ST is a hero for giving back the previous BRT plan. Renton doesn’t deserve a train station because it’s not dense enough, but Issaquah deserves one? Renton is stupid for having or wanting parking but not Issaquah? Huh? I guess the average income in Issaquah is a lot higher so they get better representation.

      2. “Unfortunately the people living and working inside Seattle and Bellevue with density and proximity to the existing and planned trains don’t seem to understand any of the Renton variables and continue to blame Renton for wanting certain things (even saying they don’t deserve anything, even though they pay $20 million/year into ST and get scraps in return)… Renton doesn’t deserve a train station because it’s not dense enough, but Issaquah deserves one? Renton is stupid for having or wanting parking but not Issaquah? Huh? I guess the average income in Issaquah is a lot higher so they get better representation.”

        Seattle and Bellevue have transit master plans that show how a few frequent routes can serve the entire city, so that non-driving residents can get to local destinations and trunk stations conveniently. Issaquah doesn’t have that but it has long consistently asked for one thing: light rail from its urban growth center to Bellevue. Renton has done neither, and it always puts cars before transit, and leaves non-drivers out cold. It takes 10-20 minutes for the 101, 169, 240, F, and 560 to get through downtown Renton. Who can do something about that? The City of Renton. Is there even two blocks of transit-priority lanes and signal priority anywhere? Not that I can see. Why has Renton not been begging Metro for full-time frequent transit from downtown Renton to the eastern neighborhoods since there are too many barriers to walk? Renton could be a solution for lower-income people without cars, but it just makes it too hard to live there without a car. Some of that is the 1970s legacy, but Renton has hardly done anything to alleviate it in the meantime.

  19. I really like this idea. It would be a way to connect Renton to the spine without that much investment. This corridor is seriously underused. Boeing is building 2 planes per day with dreams of 3 planes per day. Each train is carrying 4 fuselages that can be delivered during 2nd shift. They could reserve this line entirely for a passenger line that could run early enough to get Boeing workers to Renton for the 5am or 5:30 shift start (unlike the current Sounder or F rapid ride). Renton Boeing has a parking problem and would love to remove a parking lot or 2 that would enable them to build buildings to support the rate increases. They should be onboard. The downtown train station would be in walking distance from the new garage which would allow Renton residents a way to connect to their jobs in Seattle.
    Someday, it could even be used to move people between Boeing plants.

  20. It’s a good, low-cost idea. Still, the only way it will get any wheels at all is if Boeing weighs in support. Boeing could say no at the outset. Boeing could pull their plant out of Renton (noting that a Boeing pull-out is a big fear in general and this is not a huge facility), which would make the track unused and available.

    Given the giddy consensus of ST3, I don’t see much potential to entertain new ideas, unfortunately.

  21. For reference, DMU supporters may want to look at the E-BART saga in Eastern Contra Costa County, California. There, the original proposal to was to have a route that leaves BART, and jog over to a mainline track so BART would pay a railroad to (UP?) use it at commute hours. By the time they priced out all of the components — switching tracks, track usage fees, new sidings for train stops, new overpasses to get the train on the rail tracks, signal system issues, DMU compliance issues, etc. — it just became cheaper to put a track down the median of the SR4 freeway and leave the railroad alone.

    Personally, I think that we have focused so much on our long spines that we have ignored the utility of “ribs”. DMU is a great technology to improve accessibility by adding ribs. Still, I am always uneasy when transit operators have to negotiate with railroads for operating slots. It’s much easier to have control over the tracks. With a half-hour frequency system and maybe with a 20-minute frequency system, ST could even build and operate a DMU on a single track through middle sections with strategically placed double-tracks if non-controversial right-of-way could be identified.

  22. The Lake to Sound trail (Renton to Des Moines) will also complicate this proposal, since it plans to run along the Houser Way, and wants to add trail to the existing rail right of way. The planning for this is quite advanced already.

    1. The Lake to Sound trail is unfunded in Renton except for a section from Fort Dent park to Naches/ 7th Street to be built in 2017 after the heron nesting season. The Lake Washington Loop trail is also unfunded. Bike trails are not a priority for Renton.

  23. I like this idea a lot, but my guess is it would be pretty expensive. But first, why I like this. I see three parts to a station at Boeing Access Road (BAR):

    1) Link station
    2) Freeway bus interchange (allowing for easy on off for all the express buses)
    3) Sounder Station

    The combination enables some very good connections, many of which are culturally connected (e. g. Renton and Rainier Valley). If the train ran often often enough to BAR, I could see some truncations there as well, or (with the right ramps) some interesting long distance bus routes (e. g. Southcenter to the freeway to BAR, then to Beacon Hill). No reason to run all the buses downtown (especially at rush hour) when the combination of Link (for local trips) and the train (for the express) would do nicely.

    For that to work well, though, you would need decent frequency there. This is where things get expensive. Even if the Renton train “shadows” the Tacoma train (as I mention here — https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2016/06/02/sounder-service-to-renton/#comment-736715) it is likely to get costly. Of course, if we buy the line (or even part of the line) then it would make a lot of sense to maximize it, and mix the trains. But again, none of that is cheap (although still probably a better value than light rail to Renton). It is definitely worth studying though. I guess a lot depends on how eager BNSF is to negotiate with us.

  24. I’m poking around the King County parcel viewer, and I see that while much of the corridor is owned by BNSF, some of the branch line appears to be owned by UP. Does this have implications? Perhaps if Boeing owned the spur, would this DMU be more viable? Could the extra track be built in the I-5 right-of-way between SoDo and the branch? In sum, is there a viable way to build this DMU without relying on BNSF at all?

  25. Let’s say this service were built. I am standing at Int’l District/King St station and need to get to the airport. Faster via BAR with transfer, or Link all the way?

    1. At peak of peak, when the transfer penalty is at its smallest, my guess is sounder beats link to the airport. Not so much an endorsement of sounder as an acknowledgement of just how slow LRT gets between IDS and Rainier Beach.

      1. To get there any faster, you basically have to skip ahead a train. So, assuming you are equal distant from both trains, and just missed Link, then I think you could catch up to it. You still have to make the transfer, but that shouldn’t take long (a minute or so). At worst you are likely to take the exact light rail you would have taken if you walked to that station.

        What gets tricky is whether it is ever worth it to transfer from the train and try and take the shortcut. You have the time spent transferring + the time spent transferring back + 6 minutes (the time spent between trains). I doubt this will be that much faster. So, my guess is that if you are outside the station(s), you take the express. Otherwise, you just stay on the light rail.

    2. Why do people overestimate the impact of Rainier Valley?: From Intl Dist to SeaTac on Link is 31 minutes. Just a little half hour. I could only wish I could get to the airport in half an hour from the U-District and Bellevue growing up. So a half-hour Link ride to a flight you paid $250 or $1000 for, so you’d better not miss it. You want to take Sounder to Tukwila to make that faster? Do you have any idea how long it would take to ride RapidRide F from Tukwila to TIB and transfer to the A or Link? Or how reliable it would be? What if you miss the Sounder train, or the F has just left and you have to wait for the next one. Just take Link.

  26. Long term thought. Curious if dmu and lrt are interlinable and what additional ventilation, fire protection etc. would be required in a common dmu/lrt tunnel. If the increment is small, could rentom dmu share parts of the west Seattle to Ballard tunnel and interlink with sounder north around the interbay yard? I imagine much of the bnsf cost is coordinating north sounder around the Great Northern tunnel. If ST could rely on bnsf north of inter bay….? And also, isn’t north sounder close to Boeing plant north?

    1. Take a look at the cars used on the New Jersey Transit RiverLINE. They are DMU, but also light rail cars but also operating on a freight line.

      Those already are LRT, so interlining isn’t an issue in terms of mode.

      The big question has to do with the specifics of the clearances required on Link and on the freight railroad. Standard railroad car width is 10 feet, while light rail trains in the USA have been built as narrow as 8 feet. Railroad freight cars and locomotives have trouble with platforms too close to the track, even if they are only 11 inches above the top of the rail (a typical dimension).

  27. I’ve often wondered why Link didn’t get terminated in Renton, with Sounder going to the airport and on to Tacoma. Guess it’s water under the bridge now.

    1. Because there weren’t any preexisting tracks to the airport.

      A Link line to Renton would be great, though. It’s too bad it can’t interline with the at-grade MLK tracks.

      1. It could interline. It just means making people sitting in traffic more pissed off than they already are.

        Or, spending money on digging trenches for the cross streets.

  28. This is a great idea. It’s really a shame that it wasn’t studied in time for ST3.

  29. Fantastic idea, Zach. There are, indeed, a lot of pitfalls, as you point out, but long term, it’s a great plan. Boeing has sold off a lot of the land it once owned in Renton, namely, the Landing. They are now landlocked. If in some bizarre alternative universe, Boeing decided it wanted to ramp up production in Renton, a commuter rail line like this could unlock the keys to building additional facilities on their existing parking lots while having the ability to have people commute there by transit rather than car. I don’t see this happening anytime soon, but it really is a great proposal.

  30. DMU to Renton makes a lot of sense to me. I recall vaguely that some outdated federal safety regs made DMU difficult to implement, but I thought I had heard that they either had changed or were in the process of being changed. I’m half remembering this report, but no time to reread it on my lunch break: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/planning/Studies/SEKingCommuterRailStudy/

    I understand WES in Portland had low ridership, but I haven’t seen recent numbers. Not sure how good of a comparison that would be at any rate.

    1. WES has low ridership in the same way Sounder North has low ridership… it barely ever runs and when it does, its operationally limited in frequency or one direction only… hence only suburban commuters working on a typical 9-5 M-F work week who live near the station can use it, its of no use to anyone else. The few trains that do run see good loads of people but when you have 4 trains a day, you simply aren’t going to have much ridership.

  31. Not ideal, but a shuttle running mostly on this branch would make the most sense connecting Tukwila to Renton/Renton Landing, much like the Princeton dinky. Time it to meet the Sounder South trains. The Tukwila station is already designed for four tracks so perhaps a track could be added in the RoW to run from the station the 3/4 of a mile to the Renton branch to avoid running on the mainline thru tracks?

    1. Could then even extend it to Bellevue on the ERC, it would only be about a block or two from the Downtown Bellevue station (thanks to pushing the station so far east). One positive redeeming thing is Bellevue plans to build a pedestrian/park cap over I-405 here as part of the Grand Connection, so this actually could be a pleasant connection…

      Like Seattle, Bellevue also considering ‘audacious goal’ of building a lid, park over the freeway
      Updated Jun 3, 2016, 8:45am PDT

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