Sounder North turned 15 years old on Friday. The line has four daily round-trips that carry an average of 1,750 people per weekday.

This is an open thread.

53 Replies to “Sunday Open Thread: Sounder North Line”

  1. I hope that once Lynnwood link opens in 2024 there is a serious conversation about ending North Sounder and instead having frequent, express bus connections from Edmonds, Mukeltio, and Everett to the nearest Link station (with a stop or two along the way to connect with intersecting Swift lines). In terms of journey time it would be basically the same to get downtown. More importantly, it could be frequent, all-day, bidirectional service that serves far more destinations along the way (Mukeltio -> Udistrict or Edmonds -> SLU) much faster than North sounder (since you have backtrack from King street station).

    The South sounder is much more successful and we could use the rolling stock from North sounder there. Since the operational cost of North sounder is so high running a few busses back and forth all day to the respective stations could actually save money too (unless you choose to invest it in the South sounder).

    1. I agree 100%. 1,750 daily ridership, considering the amount of subsidy $ the line is getting, is pathetic. By comparison, the south line got 16,059 average weekday riderships in Q3 2018. The North line’s daily weekday ridership is just barely higher than that of the First Hill Streetcar (1,600).

      When Link extends to Everett, the case for continuing Sounder service becomes even sillier. Even with the Paine Field Deviation, Link’s projected travel time from Everett Station to International District Station is pretty much identical with that of Sounder, while running much more frequently, serving many more destinations along the way, and not being subject to mudslides. That still doesn’t directly serve Edmonds and Mukilteo station, but it would leave Mukilteo with a much shorter shuttle ride – Paine Field Station would be just 10 minutes away, according to Google Maps.

      Today, the north Sounder station contributing the most ridership is actually Edmonds, but I suspect most of those riders are driving in from somewhere between Edmonds and Lynnwood, and will switch en masse to driving to Lynnwood Station instead, once the Link service there opens.

    2. I’m not so sure. I think you have to look at it station by station:

      1) Everett — Not that popular now, and likely to be less popular in the future.

      2) Mukilteo — Fairly weak station, with less than 50 riders per train. I’m not sure how long it takes for a bus to get from Mukilteo to Lynnwood, but I would imagine would be bus is caught in traffic quite often. So far as I can tell, there are no HOV lanes on the Mukilteo Speedway nor are there HOV ramps connecting the two. It takes a long time by train to get to downtown from there (50 minutes) but it might take just as long, if not longer, by bus.

      3) Edmonds — Currently the most popular stop in North Sounder (outside of downtown). A little over 100 people per train board there (each direction). That is a respectable number, similar to Tacoma, and much better than South Tacoma and Lakewood. From Edmonds it is about a half hour ride to downtown Seattle. It is hard to say the best option from Edmonds to Link, but it takes about 15 minutes to get from there to Lynnwood. It is about another half hour to downtown (when you count additional wait and walk time). So the train saves about 20 minutes, which is considerable if your destination is the south end of downtown.

      Worth noting is that just about everyone takes the train to downtown (unlike South Sounder, where a significant number of riders are traveling between destinations). I would say that Everett and Mukilteo are hard to justify as stations. Ridership is very low to Mukilteo, and Everett will have a faster alternative (with lots of good destinations along the way). Edmonds, though, seems justified. I could see truncating the train there, just as I could see truncating the South Sounder train at Tacoma. My guess is neither will happen, at least for a while. I think Sound Transit will continue the train service, and then just wait and see what happens. If ridership plummets (even in Edmonds) then I think they may cancel the whole line.

      1. That “20 minute” savings from Edmonds is only valid if your destination is the immediate Pioneer Square/ID area – if you are going anywhere else downtown (i.e. most people), you’ve just moved your transfer from Edmonds/Lynnwood to King Street Station/anywhere else. If you are going to the financial district or Westlake you’ve added most or all of that 20 minutes back getting from Sounder out of the station, either to a bus that may or may not be in the immediate vicinity of the station or over to ID Station and Link, then waiting for the next train. Even walking to anywhere north of Yesler adds most of that time back. There’s a reason that only 100 people/train board at Edmonds which – unlike Everett or Mukilteo – has a decent amount of population nearby. There is really no reason to run a train to Edmonds to pick up 100 people.

        The idea of running trains where you can connect directly from the ferry system to a train downtown at Edmonds and Mukilteo is nice in theory – although there’s not really a ton of population on the west side of the Sound to use this – but in practice there aren’t enough trains to even make that reasonable. It’s a catch-22: not enough trains, but ridership is far too low to justify what they currently run let alone additional trains.

        My guess is that because of what you point out at Mukilteo they may keep this thing alive until Link reaches Paine Field – although again, almost nobody is catching Sounder now at Mukilteo so even that is tough to justify. Almost everybody lives up the hill.

        I do agree with previous comments that ST should not just relinquish those slots if they can be leveraged for additional Amtrak trains; failing that, ask Snohomish County what they’d rather use the money for in their ST project list.

      2. My point is 100 people per train is perfectly reasonable. It is very similar to the most popular stations on South Link (a line people want to keep). Truncating there would work well, as only a handful go anywhere but between there and downtown Seattle. Yes, only the folks that work close to I. D. are likely to use it, but so what? For those people, it is a huge time savings, just as it is for people who ride the train from the south.

        If we are going to start talking cuts, then we should focus our efforts on areas that are really weak or have evolving, better alternatives. In the latter group you have Everett. In the former group you have Mukilteo, South Tacoma and Lakewood. Any cuts should start there, as they are likely the most expensive per rider to serve. As I said up above, I also think there is no harm in simply waiting a few years, until after Lynnwood Link. At that point people will vote with their feet. If the low frequency and one stop nature of North Link leads to widespread loss of ridership, then so be it — time to cancel it. But if it turns out the riders really like that trip, then it would make sense to keep it.

        Oh, and I think there is minimal ferry to train ridership at Mukilteo not only because the train isn’t frequent, but also because it just doesn’t make sense for very many commuters. Whidbey Island only has 80,000 people, and the bulk of the population lives to the north (where “driving around” makes more sense). This is contrast to Bainbridge Island, where the population density is relatively close to the ferry. That means that very few people are within reasonable commuting distance. There are only so many people who will drive for a half hour, ride a ferry, then catch a train for another twenty minutes every day.

      3. I think North Sounder suffers most from a weak catchment area. Edmonds and Mulkiteo have nowhere the catchment population of Kent, Auburn or Puyallup.

        Then there is the limitation of three stations compared to South Sounder’s eight. Most commuter rail trains across the country have at least six (usually more) suburban stops. Just look at a map of Chicago’s, LA’s, Washinton’s or Boston’s systems.

        Looking at these fundamentals, it’s clear that it’s never going to develop healthy rail ridership with just these stations.

        The best way to attract more riders is to add stations. However, the district stops at Everett and the current corridor segment suitable for longer-distance commuter rail (at least 10 miles from Downtown Seattle) has low density on one side and water on the other. Plus, further communities outside of the ST district would find it more cost effective and less risky to run an express bus to Lynnwood Link.

        So it’s quite a conundrum on what to do outside of using the service to take on a longer rail service that acts more to serve something besides a limited number of commuters.

      4. So we should run a train to a place with one “viable” stop, since you admit that the other two are not (and by “viable” you are comparing to several stops on the other line, which have a cumulative effect – not the same thing – and those stations are served by 13 trains each way, each day, not 4). Once Link opens to Lynnwood this train does not better serve anyone who does not work in the lowest employment density neighborhood in the Downtown area (save Belltown). But sure, by all means, run a train to a single stop where 100 people will board. Yay! They get a non-stop express train all to themselves – I mean, they already do, and only 400 people TOTAL think it’s worth the effort on any given day, but still! And how much per rider are we subsidizing this?

        Al S. is spot on. There is no catchment area at all for anything on this line save Edmonds, and Edmonds 1) is not likely to be much further built up anywhere near the station, and 2) will have another alternative for the vast majority of its population, who live atop the hill, in 5 years. Unfortunately due to the topography there is little point in adding more stations – Belltown will be meh at best, Smith Cove might make some sense, Richmond Beach has the same issues Mukilteo does (without the ferry), Marysville/Tulalip could potentially work (particularly if there is a good way to get to Paine Field/Boeing from Mukilteo station), but would have to be added to the district or buy in. That’s about it. Unlike any of the stations on South Sounder, the existing stations will never get better.

        The best hope for this line is that the new federal regs allow for some sort of DMU to operate to Edmonds at some point – something that will save costs on what otherwise is a white elephant. I agree that we probably will need to keep running this – to Edmonds, at least – until Lynnwood Link opens. After that it seriously needs to be looked at. Sure, were there no financial constraints why not run it – but clearly that’s not the world we live in. Were it not for the necessity of politics, it probably would have made as much sense to run this line as to re-build the Monroe-Woodinville-Kirkland-Bellevue line – that is, not much.

    3. That should have been included in ST3. Cancel Sounder North and put the money into replacement buses and speeding up Link construction.

    4. Scavenge North Sounder’s perpetual daily run rights, for which ST spent a small fortune, to Amtrak, to run four more daily trips to Vancouver. But upgrade Mukilteo to an Amtrak stop.

      Don’t just gift the perpetual run rights back to BNSF for free.

      1. “upgrade Mukilteo to an Amtrak stop”

        Why? Mukilteans can’t go to Everett? Almost all Mujilteans live closer to Everett Station than Mukilteo Station is. Cascades North already takes too long, and it’s added a Stanwood station which just slightly less sense than Mukilteo.

      2. Given the commute time slots, I wonder if North Snohomish and maybe Skagit and Whatcom should be offered to contribute to its operation and get train service.

        Or maybe there can be a Casino Express and all the local casinos could meet the trains with shuttles.

  2. Do you know why Sounder North lags so far behind Sounder South? Lack of trips, terrible times, lack of broken promises to complete the new Edmonds station by Sound Transit. Lack of transit connections to the stations (30 and 60-minute service bus service is self-defeating)

    A lot of people like to crap on Sounder North when realistically, ST can upgrade the line. BNSF does not run nearly the amount of trains that Seattle to Tacoma sees on a daily basis. There is no coordination with ST, Community Transit, and WSF to get more people to ride the train.

    Complete the double track between milepost 16 and 18, with the new Edmonds station, complete the double track between milepost 27 and 28 and finish doing the upgrades that were already planned and in place along the entire line instead of continuously moving money around from Sounder North.

    Add a station between Broad St and Wall Street to remove the feeling of “passing” the central business district and having to double back into Downtown Seattle. Don’t even bother with a Ballard station with the new bridge going in; It’ll never happen.

    There are plenty of solutions for fixing Sounder North and Sound Transit SHOULD address those issues. Mudslide litigation is ongoing and there is no excuse not to finish the system out as originally voted on.

    I am typically pretty good about ST but Sounder North is one line they have dramatically failed on that could and SHOULD have been done right from the start. BNSF is also to blame but not nearly as much as ST is for reallocating money from it, which would have addressed mudslides, adding new crossovers, the double track project, and improving Everett Jct to reduce the delays between freight and passenger trains.

    1. It’s BNSF’s line, and Sound Transit can only entice them do so much. Adding the second track in Edmonds and Mukilteo is on BNSF Railway to build now that Sound Transit cut them the check to do it many years ago, but they’re not interested in spending the money since congestion isn’t a huge issue between Interbay and Everett Jct. BN DID build Interbay 2nd main, Ballard double track, and CP Blue Ridge on ST’s dollar which helped congestion significantly.

      Mudslides are a good reason to question additional investments in the corridor. It’s impossible to make the line 100% reliable in the winter due to mudslides, so ridership will move to more reliable modes, which it already has.

      There’s plenty of other good reasons not to finish the North Sounder as originally voted on. The North Line is not performing at levels originally anticipated despite 15 years of operations and there’s little hope of extension north or east out of Everett; so why continue to spend money on it when parallel corridors already exist or are under development. At the cost of Sound Transit projects and BNSF timeslots, this is a $100+ million capital investment to add a few hundred added riders in hopes of marginally improving service.

    2. I think investing and upgrading the Northline is a huge risk and not worth taking. The majority of the population in Snohomish County lives much closer to I-5 than the shore. I’d much rather see the millions of dollars that is being used for the Northline to be reinvested into robust Express bus service and new corridors such as Snohomish County to Overlake or South Lake Union.

    3. The biggest thing Sounder North needs is to move the track east to Lynnwood where the population center is. That’s what Sounder South has and it’s why it’s so high ridership. The increasing frequency followed the ridership increase one run at a time. Only a tiny fraction of Snohomish’s population lives near the Edmonds and Mukilteo coast; the rest would have to go out of their way west to go south. The track was designed for freight at a time when nobody considered the shoreline valuable. The Interurban did not use that track. I wonder why not.

      1. “The biggest thing Sounder North needs is to move the track east to Lynnwood where the population center is.”

        Which is exactly what Link is.

    4. Before Sound Move, In a meeting of the Commuter Rail division of WashARP (Washington Association of Rail Passenger, now All Aboard Washington), Roger Jacobson, the Superintendent of Suburban Services for the Seattle area discussed Sounder, and answered questions I had about Sounder North (the double tracking).

      His reply was “Sound Transit is paying for CAPACITY to run Sounder”
      “That means, BNSF is free to use the money as we see fit to increase capacity on the north end. That can mean that we could upgrade Stampede Pass with the money and run trains there, freeing up CAPACITY on the Scenic Subdivision.”

      Since the agreement that was signed was for the 4 round trips per day, BNSF has already met that agreement, and then some, … running more special trains to sporting events, etc.

      What we are doing is subsidizing Mr Bundridges Iron Triangle country outings! :-D
      You’re welcome, Brian.

    5. One investment that would be worthwhile is the one Brian suggests, the station between Broad and Wall streets.

      I speak to a lot of people who work in that area who end up using the Community Transit Express buses, even though the ride takes longer (direct). It’s the back-tracking that discourages them.

      Plus, it’s as if Community Transit runs the bus service in competition with Sound Transit, as opposed to being a connecting service (with proper timing) to the high capacity systems.

      Plus, both Mukilteo and Edmonds need to do their part to increase density in the station areas, but that issue seems endemic to the region. (See Edmonds Height Restrictions vs. Port of Edmonds Harbor Square project)

      1. Are we talking about adding stations a few city blocks apart on an underground diesel tunnel?


    6. “Community Transit runs the bus service in competition with Sound Transit”

      ST Express doesn’t have the capacity to absorb hundreds of more riders. Adding buses for them is beyond the scope of the ST1&2 budgets. ST provides basic trunk service, and CT provides whatever additional service the CT benefit area wants. In the recession cuts CT recommended switching to a more frequent local service but most of the feedback was, “No, keep the Seattle expresses instead.” Metro also provides additional peak expresses to Issaquah and Federal Way beyond ST’s service. When Link reaches those areas, it’s expected to have enough capacity to obviate the need for those extra buses.

    1. That’s all there is. ST’s long-range plan is a menu of things it might possibly want in the future. There’s no commitment to do any of it and no timeline. ST2 included a Ballard-UW-Redmond corridor study, which was done. It did not say how it might interact with a Ballard-downtown line, whether it would continue south or remain separate. ST didn’t choose to construct it in ST3 but it’s presumably a frontrunner for ST4. There’s no indication of when an ST4 vote might be scheduled. The most likely guess is the late 2020s at the earliest. A couple years before the vote, ST will update the long-range plan and choose potential projects to consider. These will be whittled down to a project list. While ST usually chooses the projects that are furthest along — and Ballard-UW is further along because it has a corridor study — there’s no guarantee what will be selected then.

    2. Interesting thought experiment – what if a Sounder Belltown station did, in fact, get built, but for South Sounder, instead of north Sounder (with north Sounder getting cut, completely). It would allow ST to get something out of the north Sounder trackage rights it paid for, even if north Sounder is shut down, and would complement Link by serving the part of Belltown furthest from Link service.

      Do the tracks at King St. station even make it physically possible to run a train through there, without end the line and making people change trains?

      1. Well that would cause a subarea equity issue. Would the North King Co subarea reimburse the Snohomish Co subarea for the Sounder North costs, including the debt expense the latter has been paying?

      2. If you run South Sounder to a station at belltown you may as well also run it to a joint sounder/Link station at Smith cove.

        But ST seems uninterested in that. I don’t know if ST has studied it or not.

      3. Some of the Belltown proponents have suggested putting it on Sounder South. That sounds reasonable conceptually, and Smith Cove or Ballard wouldn’t be much of a stretch beyond that. I have no idea whether trains can reverse direction there or how it would impact BNSF’s freight capacity. If we’re talking about using the existing Sounder North leases then the main impact would be the additional time to get back to King Street (in central Seattle), but that’s somewhat compensated for by freeing up the north Seattle/Shoreline track.

        Canceling Sounder North would involve consideration of what to do with the leases. We may be able to sell them back to BNSF, sublease them to freight, or trade them for something else BNSF has. Naturally, Snohomish wouldn’t pay for the extension of Sounder South or any additional central track time that required. Who would pay? Does North King benefit? Or does it mostly benefit South King and Pierce?

      4. “Would the North King Co subarea reimburse the Snohomish Co subarea for the Sounder North costs, including the debt expense the latter has been paying?”

        Snohomish wouldn’t pay for any of the improvements, and it could get a rebate for the part of the least Sounder South is using. But the rest of the lease is Snohomish’s responsibility and its folly.

      5. As I said up above, Edmonds is a worthy stop. It is in the same ballpark as the best of the South Sounder stops (a bit over 100 riders per train). It is reasonable to assume that a stop in Belltown would increase ridership in Edmonds. It is also relatively fast from Edmonds to Seattle, making it both more affordable to serve, and the best option for some riders. Even when Link gets to Lynnwood (and beyond) the train would be an option that would be faster for a lot of riders. Thus it would make sense to add the Belltown stop (if it isn’t too expensive) and then just truncate North Sounder in Edmonds.

      6. “Snohomish wouldn’t pay for any of the improvements, and it could get a rebate for the part of the least (sic)Sounder South is using. But the rest of the lease is Snohomish’s responsibility and its folly.”

        Lol. Couple of things…

        Firstly, I asked those questions mostly as rhetorical questions, perhaps a bit of tongue-in-cheek on my part, in reply to asdf2’s “thought experiment”. But seriously, what he proposed would involve some sort of subarea equity adjustment to be made by ST in all fairness to SnoCo.

        Secondly, I would categorize the folly as belonging to Sound Transit as the proposal for commuter rail from Seattle to Everett contained in the 1996 Sound Move measure, and which ultimately became Sounder North, was more of a political ploy to gather more yes votes from SnoCo district voters (who knew they would be waiting decades for “electric” rail to reach them). It wasn’t as if the folks in this area of SnoCo were demanding a commuter rail option on BNSF’s existing freight corridor as their first choice; it was their consolation prize.

  3. I’ll also add, there is ZERO incentive for people to leave their vehicle on the Kitsap side and walk onto the ferry and passenger train. As much as STB hates parking garages, where the lack of solid transit that Seattle and others get to enjoy isn’t the case over there. Encourage carpooling to the ferry terminal, walk onto the boat, hop on Sounder, get off at the respective Sounder station and go to work. The 10-minute savings from having a station at the north end of the tunnel would benefit many. Hell, add a gondola but there are many faults that have failed Sounder North. Plenty of solutions, tons of lack of action.

    1. Brian, is it fair to look at Sounder as simply the fastest way we had to get some temporary regional passenger use out of existing tracks until we can really build the regional railroad we need?

      But also, can you tell me where to see a map showing how passenger trains used to get into Downtown Olympia? And would appreciate your thinking on bringing Thurston into ST. I’ve scoped out a lot of track between here, the Nisqually, and Lacey, but can’t quite get a picture.

      However, based on five years’ personal experience I wish was just a nightmare, I think my present address (block from the court-house) already makes me Precinct Committeeman in a de facto 32nd District in Exile that’ll gerrymander into a beer-bong, round part being the State Capitol, tube being the 60 miles of I-5 from Ballard to dome center.

      So would appreciate your thoughts. These last four years at least, no counting how many of my neighbors now commute 60 miles to the jobs we used to be able to get to on the Route 40. By our very numbers dragging I-5 speed limit much slower than Leary Way.

      How much time and what effort do you see needed to make the Central Puget Sound Region another county or two- or three – bigger? Proven ability to bring freeway speed to zero entitles us to join, doesn’t it? Could just be personal, but don’t like losing my electoral rights over both Sound Transit and the Seattle speculative activities that have paved I-5 in car-roofs since I got here.

      Expanded ST membership could also make it easier both to get that future interstate light rail crossing into the Vancouver that is in same country as Kentucky, and to face about thirty trackside miles of mud with some rock. Glenn, how do you think the merger ought to go? Single agency doubtless right. So should Portland join or just take over ST and call it a merger? There’s precedent. Any advice, much appreciated.

      Because at this rate, to paraphrase a really spooky IMDb series falsely called “Justified”, I’ll never leave Thurston alive. Which isn’t “Fair” either.

      Mark Dublin

    2. Kitsap County and WSDOT pay zero for Sounder. You’re arguing for the most expensive solution for non-residents of the ST district, and it only works when Sounder is running. Off-peak and weekends it’s no solution at all. I’d rather have an all-day transit solution for the Mukilteo ferry.

      1. The obvious long-term transit solution for the Mukilteo ferry is a shuttle bus to the Paine Field Link station, once it finally opens. It is much closer than Lynnwood, and would hopefully have less exposure to traffic. The ferry runs about every half hour, so a half-hourly bus could meet every ferry, all day long. This feels about the right level of service for something like Mukilteo.

        The existing route, which runs once an hour, and spends a good 40 minutes meandering through residential neighborhoods, just to get to Lynnwood, is a joke.

      2. @asdf2
        Are you referring to the CT local 113 route? That’s a half-hour coverage route that CT considers part of its feeder service for this area of SW SnoCo.

      3. Hourly on weekends. Last time I took it it was OK connecting to a westbound ferry, but eastbound you had to wait fifty minutes in Mukilteo for it. There’s also an Everett Transit route from Mukilteo, but it’s weekdays only. The 113 takes an ungodly 38 minutes to meander from Mukilteo through low-density residential detours to Lynnwood TC. Ergo, there’s practically no service between the regional ferry and the regional transit spine (currently represented by ST Express).

      4. The reason that the 113 makes a very indirect route from Mukilteo to Lynnwood is because that is where the people are. The area by the ferries are just very low density, but along Harbor Pointe Boulevard and Beverley Park Road there are some apartments. In other words, it is very difficult to justify an express to the ferry dock (outside of rush hour). There just aren’t that many people who live there, or get off the boat wanting a bus.

        Or train ride, for that matter. Edmonds has about three times as many riders as Mukilteo. Not because the ferries they connect to are that different, but because Edmonds has a lot more apartments within walking distance of the station. The Edmonds Station is not ideal, by any means (it still doesn’t have huge ridership) but it is much better than Mukilteo.

        I just don’t think Mukilteo will ever pencil out. You can add all day express service to wherever you want (Everett, Seattle, a future Link Station). You can beef this up so that it runs as often as the ferries. You still won’t get huge ridership.

      5. “The 113 takes an ungodly 38 minutes to meander from Mukilteo through low-density residential detours to Lynnwood TC.”

        Yes, because it is a coverage route. It’s doing exactly what it was designed to do, i.e., going to where the potential riders are (just like RossB stated in his reply above).

      6. I know it’s a coverage route for the intermediate residents. The point is that that the lack of a more direct route between the regional network and the ferry makes it practically impossible to take transit to the ferry, and that should concern people who want to make cars more optional in society. Several of Chicago’s frequent routes terminate at an outlying park or tourist attraction. It’s not that those destinations have high ridership, but if you want people to go to parks and tourist attractions on transit, there has to be transit to get there on. The 113 is some kind of minimal coverage transit, but it’s not enough to reasonably expect people to use for ferry trips. We should put more priority on multimodal transit connections. Swift Green will soon come nearby, so it could potentially be extended to the ferry terminal. (Of course, it would need transit-priority lanes through the congestion around the terminal.)

    3. No diamond lanes. I think the best option would often be to take SR 526 (Boeing Freeway) and then connect to I-5 (where there are HOV lanes). There are some diamond lanes on 526 as it approaches I-5 (and HOV lanes on I-5). I could easily see an express bus just make the decision at the last second (as others do) if you didn’t have any stops past the dividing point. A deadhead bus would do that,certainly.

  4. Has Mukilteo Speedway got any diamond lanes? Because when LINK gets to Lynnwood, except for scenery, ferry passengers will have a lot better way up and down the shore. But “temporary” doesn’t mean “eliminate”.

    In 2033, I can see work in progress to put freight where it doesn’t have to see scenery, underground or just longitude of Wenatchee, from Fairbanks to the Anatarctic Ferries. Steam engines last forever, and wires, poles, and pans have a magic all their own.

    Lacey Morrow proved that floats work. And float construction industry should really go gangbusters. So no reason present Sounder right of way can’t finally start delivering its true enjoyment potential for the disturbingly foreseeable future. Preparedness is all.

    New Westminster to Portland Scenic Historic Railway….biofuel can power both locomotves and generators. And fake smoke can be dyed any color.


    1. Two beep, or not two beep, that is the question.

      Whether ’tis more nobler in the mind to suffer
      The slings and arrows of outrageous fare enforcement,
      Or to take day passes against a sea of troubles
      And by printing them and taping them to my arm…

      To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:
      Will I miss my stop?

      1. Brent, trying to keep Shakespeare out of this ’til I can get a literary discrepancy straightened out. Shakespeare claims that “If there was no Common Sense, we should all die of sensuality.”

        So I’ve got my literary spirit medium is on the line to the great sweet poet Oscar Wilde as to why it’s taking so long.


    2. The Speedway does not have any transit priority, nor does it really have room to add it. The ferry queue lane system takes up a bit of space on the north half of the route.

      1. Just a question about how fast we’ll ever be able to get arriving ferry passengers at Mukilteo and Edmonds to any inland destination. Guess fast passenger service along I-5 corridor next move.

        Though still do think that when freight goes NAFTA, this time for good, might want fewer stops and more goods moved. So can easily see freight-only tunneled and also channeled away from population centers.

        Definitely mandatory to separate freight from passengers.


  5. I would suggest that, with minimal changes to the configuration/scope of Ballard link, a joint north sounder/link station at Interbay or Smith Cove, could accomplish much of the same efficiency in providing sounder north passengers a direct trip to north or central downtown (by removing the IDS transfer and backtrack penalty). In addition to creeping sclerosis of I-5 north this could entice much of the current bus ridership to Sounder North.

    With regards to the usefulness of the Everett Station – Once Link is there, there will be very few passengers taking Sounder North between Everett and Mukilteo. I think the case for keeping that segment of track open to Sounder North will be hard to make at that point, especially since there are a couple of sidings at Mukilteo Station that could easily host the terminal.

    Long term I wonder if it might be possible to run a train set back and forth up Japanese Gulch between the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal and the proposed SW Everett Industrial Center Link Station at SR526/Airport Rd. It could run midday with trips timed to the Ferry schedule, then through-route to downtown Seattle for maintenance at peak.

  6. My take is Edmonds is far enough from Lynnwood Link and a sufficient “activity center” to warrant keeping Sounder service. But downtown to Edmonds is probably too short to run as a separate commuter rail line. Who runs a half hour long commuter rail line anyway? I say merge Sounder South and Sounder North in to just Sounder — Lakewood to Edmonds. Which should run on weekends and evenings like every other serious commuter rail does! Not sure if we have a good answer as to whether it is physically possible to merge the “lines”, but I suspect much of the issue is more organizational/bureaucratic than technical. I kind of doubt BNSF unloads, hauls, and reloads all their freight to another train at King St Station. If Belltown and/or Smith Cove and/or Ballard stations can be added, more power to you. This alone would make the effort worth it to merge Sounder South and Sounder North.

  7. It seems like every few years this subject comes up on STB about what ST should do to “fix” its Sounder North commuter rail service…..

    And yet here we are again (sigh). I apologize for this bit of snarkiness but I just don’t see this line ever improving its ridership numbers and subsidy level given where the corridor actually is. It all comes down to ST’s thinking about its sunk capital costs versus its ongoing operational expenses. Personally, I’m of the opinion that ST’s collective mindset at present is such that it would have a hard time pulling the plug on Sounder North anytime soon.

    I have to agree with some of the other commenters on here that the argument for keeping the line after light rail reaches SW SnoCo will certainly be harder to make (under the current configuration with the ID station only transfer penalty). Perhaps there is some sort of compromise that could be worked out, like truncating the line at Edmonds and adding one or two additional Seattle stations, as some others have already mentioned. If my memory is correct, I believe the original Sound Move proposal also listed two provisional stations for the North line (Richmond Beach and Ballard) and one for the South line (Georgetown). As I stated in a reply above, any sort of “realignment” of this kind for Sounder North would indeed cause a subarea equity issue that would need to be worked out fairly (which is a whole other discussion in and of itself) as Snohomish County has paid for the North line rights and capital costs.

    FWIW….If you really want to have a laugh or two, just go back and take a look at what Sound Transit told voters commuter rail from Seattle to Everett would cost in the Sound Move proposal. I think the figure was like $90 million (in 1995$). Then ST got a big dose of reality:

    And again (for the South line):

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