One of the new cab cars during an earlier test run (Sound Transit)

Beginning this coming Monday, September 25, the Sounder South Line will have two new roundtrips, bringing the total number of daily roundtrips to 13. The trips will bring Sounder frequencies down to every 20 minutes during peak hours and 40 minutes during the early afternoon peak.

The first new morning trip, a northbound departure from Lakewood, will depart at 5:01 a.m.; existing departures will be pushed out to 4:36 a.m. and 5:26 a.m. to accommodate the new trip. A new reverse peak trip will depart from Seattle at 7:55 a.m., arriving in Lakewood at 9:11 a.m. The first southbound trip to Lakewood in the afternoon will be moved from 2:35 p.m. to 3:35 p.m., with replacement bus service on Route 580 between Puyallup and Lakewood offered instead. Other departure times will also be adjusted, with the last southbound Sounder train leaving Seattle at 6:30 p.m.

In addition to the new trips, Sound Transit is rolling out new cars, featuring a new cab design. Additional capacity will be added to certain trips, including the mid-day trips added last September, with the new cars and other fleet reshuffles. Several cars that were borrowed from the North Line will be returned, reducing the number of days with two- and three- car trains at rush hour.

Riders at Tacoma Dome Station may need to use the new south platform, across the tracks from the existing station, built as part of the Amtrak project next door. The track can be accessed from East D Street, as seen in the map above.

The following trips will use “Track #2”, effective September 25 (all others will use Track #1, regardless of direction):

  • 1514 – Northbound to Seattle at 7:20 a.m.
  • 1505 – Southbound to Lakewood at 8:52 a.m.
  • 1518 – Northbound to Lakewood at 10:30 a.m.
  • 1511 – Southbound to Lakewood at 4:30 p.m.
  • 1515 – Southbound to Lakewood at 5:10 p.m.
  • 1519 – Southbound to Lakewood at 5:50 p.m.
  • 1523 – Southbound to Lakewood at 6:40 p.m.

23 Replies to “Sounder South Line Gets New Trains and New Trips”

  1. It sure would make a lot of sense to have all southbound trips on track 1 and all northbound trips on track 2, rather than this mixed up hodgepodge.

    1. True, but… I believe amtrak makes this complicated too… Coastal Starlight can use only one of the two platforms due to length…

    2. Yes, the track assignments primarily revolve around two factors: Amtrak and flip/reverse commute trains. When Amtrak starts using Freighthouse in the next few months, Cascades will use Track #1 whenever possible for ease of baggage handling and passenger flow, etc, but may use Track 2 during delays or other irregular operations. The Coast Starlight is too long for Track #2 and will always use the extended platform on Track 1. When Amtrak meets Sounder at Freighthouse, 4 times per day per the latest schedule, Sounder moves to Track 2.

      Meanwhile, when Sounder meets itself, i.e. through trains meet flip/reverse commute trains, the latter will generally arrive on Track 2 and hold for 12-15 minutes before departing again, while through service to/from Lakewood will be on Track 1. The assignments may seem odd without this background, but they do optimize passenger flow and minimize the number of departing passengers on Track 2. The new track assignments start Monday so that riders can get used to them, and by the time Amtrak starts up the assignments should be pretty intuitive for riders.

      For the nerds, the Amtrak/Sounder meets are:
      Amtrak 500 (8:51a), Sounder 1505 (8:52a)
      Amtrak 11 (10:38a), Sounder 1518 (10:30a)
      Amtrak 518 (5:51p), Sounder 1519 (5:50p)
      Amtrak 14 (6:43p), Sounder 1523 (6:40p)

      1. And of course, these assignments are preferences and are subject to change. The safety maxim to expect “any train on any track on any time” still applies.

    1. Yes, padding, and it’s in 2 other places as well. Puyallup-Tacoma is scheduled for 20 minutes when trains terminate in Tacoma, and 15 minutes when continuing to Lakewood. Meanwhile, Tacoma-Puyallup is always scheduled for 12-13 minutes. The other place is South Tacoma-Lakewood, which is 5 minutes northbound and 10 minutes southbound.

      1. And it is the padding for PTC added to the schedule early as well since it’ll be in operation before the next schedule update.

    2. Whenever I’ve ridden Sounder southbound Seattle-Kent has always been 20 minutes, so it must be the same the other way. Metro pads at major timepoints, and Sounder may do something similar.

  2. It would be extremely helpful if there was one later train, maybe 8pm for those who work late. Lots of Harborview and other downtown employees don’t get off work until 7:30pm, making it impossible to utilize Sounder service.

    1. I’ve always wondered why there isn’t one really late outbound train. The way the schedule is set up now, it’s almost impossible for scheduled workers to run errands downtown or grab dinner/drinks with friends after work. When you look at other commuter train systems in major metros, there’s usually a very late departure out of the city. I’ve never even heard ST suggest something remotely like this.

      I think those super freaky early trains into the city are much less useful. I don’t know anyone who regularly starts work before 7am. Heck, for that matter, I don’t know many that start before 9.

      1. Surprisingly, the earliest trains are the busiest and demand slowly falls throughout the morning. My guess is that while most white collar folks don’t start until 7:30-9, all those hotel staff, restaurant staff, and others who support the white collar economy start earlier. Some white collar folks may also work on East Coast time if they’re part of a larger company?

      2. Yes, lots more early starts for blue collar workers.

        But also parking. A lot of Sounder P&Rs fill up early. Some riders choose an earlier train, and earlier work start, to get a stall.

      3. if you have a long commute, a 9 am start time means you get home obscenely late. Also, anyone who does business with people in eastern time zones typically starts before 9.

      4. There’s a virtuous cycle going on:

        1) People need to get to the train early to find parking.
        2) So, the parking at the station fills up earlier.
        3) So, people get to the station, even earlier to find parking
        4) So the early trains are more crowded.
        5) So, Sound Transit adds even earlier trains to accommodate the demand
        6) So parking fills up even earlier
        7) So, people adjust their schedules earlier to arrive at the station before the parking fills up
        8) Rinse and repeat.

      5. ST isn’t adding extra runs because BN&SF charges a king’s ransom for each extra daily trip that uses their tracks.

        That’s also why there was no service plan for additional runs in ST3, just a budget. ST is playing hardball to bring down the cost of additional runs.

      6. “I don’t know anyone who regularly starts work before 7am. Heck, for that matter, I don’t know many that start before 9.”

        Your social circle must be quite small. Many hospitals operate day shift as 7:00 am to 3:30 or 7:30 pm, depending on whether you work 8s or 12s. This includes nurses and IT/engineering/housekeeping. I work in an office environment, 7 to 4 and have peers who work 6:30 to 3:30, 8 to 5, 9 to 6, lots of offset. It isn’t unusual to see some people pull occasional 12 hour shifts to meet deadlines. Lots of people I work with work an offset early or late schedule to coordinate school drop offs or child care. My phone routinely rings prior to 8 am, usually from somebody working in construction. I’ve never met a land surveyor who starts work after 7 am, and I’ve worked at four different companies with in-house survey operations. I personally don’t know a ton of people who start work after 9, but if I started, I could probably rattle off a fairly long list, so it isn’t for lack of people, it just isn’t the majority. The early trains are needed, and so are the later trains. If we kept the early trains and tagged on a late train, it would be possible for the 12 hour people at the hospitals to take the train, as well as folks who get stuck late working on a deadline, or with to go to happy hour after a particularly rough day.

      7. Granted, this is a different urban area that keeps different hours, but when I take the first bus that goes past my place at 5:30 am it is already quite full, and essentially at the beginning of its run. I’ve taken MAX at 5:15 on weekdays and it’s far from empty, even though this part of the green line isn’t the busiest.

        Even when visiting Seattle, I’ve gotten on a westbound ferry at 6 am and faced a flood of people getting off.

        So, Seattle definitely opens for business well before 7.

  3. “The first southbound trip to Lakewood in the afternoon will be moved from 2:35 p.m. to 3:35 p.m., with replacement bus service on Route 580 between Puyallup and Lakewood offered instead. ”

    In new “Ride The Wave”, page 28, southbound schedule lists Train 1507 at 2:35 pm, Train 1509 at 3:15 pm, and then Train 1511 at 3:35 pm. Which reaches Puyallup at 4:17, Tacoma Dome at 4:30, S. Tacoma at 4:39, and Lakewood at 4:51.

    Have I got something wrong? I also don’t like the idea of exchanging a train for a bus no matter what. If I wanted to be stuck in traffic with no bathroom I’d drive. I hope I’m wrong on all counts here. Please set me straight.


    1. The change is which train is the first to continue on from Tacoma Dome to Lakewood, which impacts not very many passengers.

      That earlier train turns around at Tacoma Dome and becomes the new, earlier reverse-peak-direction train back to Seattle, accommodating a lot more passengers than those losing their mid-afternoon train trip to South Tacoma Station. Hooray for having three reverse-peak trains!

  4. One of the new projects added to the 2017 TIP that came out of the 2016 budgeting process in the capital committee was this item:

    6. Sounder Passenger Emergency Intercom for $1.5 million will allow Sounder passengers to communicate directly with the conductor in emergencies which is a change from communicating with the engineer and having the
    concerns relayed to the conductor.

    Per project detail information in said TIP:

    “Scope: New FRA rule requires passengers to be able to speak directly with a train crew member. The new Bombardier Cab Cars are coming with a
    system to meet this new rule. However, this system will only allow passengers to talk directly with the engineer, not the conductor. There is an
    “Emergency Order” put out by the FRA that prohibits an engineer from being disturbed by a cell phone. This project upgrades this system which will require an upgrade on all cars with a Passenger Emergency Intercom (PEI) system that will enable passengers to speak directly to the conductor instead of the engineer so as not to allow passengers to disturb the engineer.

    Changes to authorized project allocation since 2016: $1.5 million new project.”


    1. I’m getting lost in these positions. I assume the conductor drives the train. What does the engineer do? I assume he didn’t design and build new trains. Why is it more important for the conductor to get the call, and for the engineer to not be disturbed?

      1. The Conductor is responsible for the train, the freight and the crew. The Locomotive Engineer actually operates the locomotive.

Comments are closed.