SOUNDER
Oran Viriyincy/Flickr

Ever since voters first had a look in 2016, the exact plan for South Sounder expansion in ST3 has been vague. Key elements are subject to negotiation with BNSF, who owns the track between Seattle and Tacoma. However, staff briefed the Sound Transit System Expansion Committee last Thursday on the recommendations they’ve been able to form since the last report in September, in the form of a draft Strategic Development and Implementation Plan.

Rider feedback is what one would expect: they would like trains to be reliable, less crowded, have the stations be nicer, and have more trips. Notably, there was more excitement about trips adjacent to current trips (in the peak, the shoulder of the peak, and evenings) than opening up entirely new times of day or weekends.

Staff is recommending progress on every axis of Sounder expansion (stations at Tillicum and Dupont in 2036 are already baked in the cake). They would make gradual station improvements over the next 20 years, especially at King Street Station where volumes are highest.

A rudimentary ridership analysis suggests that ridership demand would begin to exceed the current number of seats in the mid-2020s, dip when Link to Tacoma opens in 2030, and then exceed capacity again in the mid-2030s. ST can keep this problem at bay by going from 7- to 8-car trains around 2023 and 10-car trains around 2028.

As only Seattle and Tacoma have platforms long enough for as many as 8 cars today, from 2023-2028 rider education would have to reserve the 8th car for Tacoma or have people enter from the 7th car. The 2028 increment would include projects to expand all of the platforms to 10 car lengths.

There was little new information about additional daily trips. ST Express data suggests that peak trips are roughly 5 times more popular than off-peak trips, but there are constraints everywhere. Simulations suggest that bringing headways lower than 20 minutes would cause delays to ripple across the system. Freight volumes are much higher afternoons and evenings, where there would be genuinely new trip patterns and require fewer required trainsets, but also the most resistance from BNSF and a low cost-benefit ratio. I got the sense that the least bad option, in the staff’s view, would be to add trips in the peak shoulder.

The briefing charts suggest, without much emphasis, that these negotiations might wrap up as soon as 2021.

76 Replies to “The ST3 Sounder plan is still not very clear”

  1. The tracks between Seattle and Tacoma are incredibly busy and they’re only going to get more congested. The needs a coordinated freight/intercity/commuter rail plan. I still miss the heavy rail updates from Brian Bundridge, I’m curious how things are progressing (slowly).

    1. Still here and lurking – There hasn’t been a lot in the way of meaningful news. The Cascades service should return to the Point Defiance line in June/July 2020 using the Wisconsin Talgo trainsets.

      Most of the rail infrastructure is shifting down South and East. I’ve been pushing (emailing, a lot) ST and WSDOT to look into taking over the Union Pacific line between Fife/Tacoma and Tukwila and adding a second main between those two points for a dramatic increase in freight mobility, along with turning the existing PC Running track from Tukwila to Georgetown into a new mainline (it used to be the old mainline anyways), making it a 4 main track line. The other big-ticket items are making the current 3 main tracks between King Street Station and Tukwila all the same track speed, which they currently aren’t.

      Redesigning TR Jct/Reservation (where Sounder and Amtrak will head up to Freighthouse Square and where the Union Pacific ties back into the BNSF line) would increase reduce traffic on the main BNSF corridor, eliminating the need to add a third main between Puyallup and TR Jct. Freight trains (empty grain, empty oil, and empty coal) will continue using the main BNSF line as they head East out of Auburn to their respective loading locations.

      Adding a second track for Amtrak/Sounder use at TR Jct to G Street would be a logical improvement to tie into the future second main between Freighthouse Square and Nisqually.

      The added benefits would be easier port access in and out of Tacoma Rail, allowing BNSF or UP trains easy entry with minimal disruptions to yard switching operations. It will allow Amtrak and Sounder to meet/pass with little to no delays waiting for each other. It will allow uninterrupted military rail movements out of JBLM, and lastly, less freight rail customer disruptions that continue to be served on the Lakewood Subdivision.

      Sorry, this went a bit longer than intended!

      Brian

      1. Brian,

        Please reach out if you’d like some help in doing the heavy lifting of advancing some of these proposals. The nature of agencies productively working with Class I’s on their rights of way tend to be secretive until the last minute (see the recent Virginia deal with CSX, something that’s been going on under wraps for a decade or more) so I’m not terribly surprised that there isn’t more public news about this despite the tremendous capacity constraints and demand for more service.

        That said, keeping Sounder expansion on the radar by maximizing the extant rights of way (and making sure that the agency focus on Link doesn’t become more myopic than it already is) is very important for the region.

    2. We shouldn’t stop here. We need to build a massive regional rail commuter system with hundreds of stations and dozens of lines. A system with trains running around the clock and coming every few minutes of the day or night. We should devote Tens of billions of dollars to ensure that the system can be constructed within a few years. Hire laborers from all Over the world to build the largest planetary civil works project.

  2. The reason that people are asking for more trips during peak is because all of the current passengers are peak. Mid-day, weekend, and evening trips, would be for an entirely new category of passengers, who don’t yet exist.

    1. What are the bus options in the middle of the day, and how do they compare to the train? For Tacoma to Seattle, it seems like the bus competes really well — often it is faster (and there are plenty of buses). For places like Puyallup and Auburn, though, it seems like the train is just more direct. Depending on how much BNSF is charging, it might be better if ST ran a series of express buses in the middle of the day (when traffic is relatively light). Those types of buses aren’t necessarily efficient (they spend a lot of time on the freeway) but they might be a better deal.

      1. The 578 runs all day, every day, down DT Seattle to Puyallup. It takes about double the time to get there as Sounder does.

        And, of course there are those oddball trips like Auburn to Tacoma that take 20-30 minutes when Sounder is running, or two hours of buses when it isn’t.

        Even Tukwila station, having Sounder running is a huge advantage. I remember having an evening event once at a hotel near the station. Getting there, Sounder was running, and the trip was easy. Getting back, the options included walking to South center in the dark and catching the 150, through not the safest neighborhood, or making an additional transfer with the F line. I ended up doing neither, and paid an Uber driver for a ride all the way back to Seattle.

      2. The 578 runs all day, every day, down DT Seattle to Puyallup. It takes about double the time to get there as Sounder does.

        For Puyallup, but not Auburn. For Auburn, it looks like it costs riders an extra ten minutes (if that) and that includes the trip to Federal Way. Interestingly enough, Federal Way has more riders on that bus than any other place. Not only that, but it has more suburban stop to stop ridership.

        In general, the number of people that go from suburban stop to stop is so tiny (on the train, or the buses) that I wouldn’t worry about it. Likewise, reverse peak ridership on the train is very low. That is the tough problem that ST has to deal with. Either way you are likely to create a massive subsidy for relatively few riders. Either you spend a bundle on midday train service (with relatively few riders) or run lots of express buses (for relatively few riders).

      3. The bus from Tacoma to Seattle is frequently faster, though the afternoon rush is getting earlier and earlier. In my experience leaving Seattle, you’re fine until after 2pm. From 2-3pm it’s risky. After 3pm you’d better be on the train.

      4. Once Federal Way Link opens, there might be better bus options because you can run all days buses (STX or otherwise) from KDM to Kent and Auburn and Federal Way to Puyallup. Those will primarily service different trip pairs, but can also function as all day & late evening alternative when Sounder isn’t running. For your typical commuter to depend on transit, the occasional need to travel off peak doesn’t need to be great transit, it just needs to be a reasonable, dependable option.

      5. It is conceivable that, when fully built, the Tacoma Link extension helps alleviate these problems, at least a little bit. Right now, a lot of the pain in getting from Kent or Auburn to Tacoma on a bus comes from having to make those dreaded transfers between infrequent and not-super-reliable bus routes.

        But, at the end of the day, it still just replaces a 90-minute trip with a 60-minute trip, compared to 30 minutes via Sounder, or driving.

        This is a fundamental problem with South Sound Transit. Sounder connects the dots in far less time than any reasonable bus options, short of separate nonstop express routes between every possible station pair (10 routes total for 5 stations). But, with the operating structure of Sounder relying upon having to fork over millions to BNSF, for every trip, just for trackage rights, on top of the operating cost of running gigantic trains, it is simply impossible to run cost-effectively except for single-direction rush-hour trips to downtown.

        I don’t know of any solution to improve this without massive increases the number of bus trips and, hence, expenditures and subsidy-per-rider.

    2. When Seattle to Tacoma light rail opens in 2030, I believe those passengers who want mid-day, weekend and evening trips will start to exist. The population growth will inevitably hit the south sound big time due to high housing costs and lack of affordable supply in king county as well as overall population growth in the puget sound (driven by climate refugees? cost of living refugees?) Those passengers that have moved to Tacoma will want the fast flexibility of coming into Seattle not just for work, but cultural pursuits as well.

      1. But between Tacoma and Seattle, Sounder simply isn’t needed midday and evening. Sounder is needed at peak, as 6 minute headways simply won’t handle projected ridership in 2030. But even with robust growth – and Link should induce good all-day ridership in ways Sounder won’t – Link alone should be sufficient to handle midday ridership.

  3. A rudimentary ridership analysis suggests that ridership demand would begin to exceed the current number of seats in the mid-2020s, dip when Link to Tacoma opens in 2030, and then exceed capacity again in the mid-2030s.

    Considering the two stations in competition between Sounder South and (eventual) Tacoma Link are Tacoma Dome Station and Union Station, I can’t see riders trading an hour trip for what is certain to be one and a half hours, even with a transfer penalty to Link or a bus to continue north through downtown. Not to mention, the Sounder is much more comfortable for a long trip.

    You might get some people from Fife where the extra drive to Tacoma puts the Sounder time over Link time from Fife, but I would expect that drop to be a rounding error.

    Anyone know what ST’s rationale for a South Sounder rider dip when Link to Tacoma opens?

    1. I don’t think it will be an hour and a half on Link. I think it will be just a little bit more than Sounder. Sounder runs every 20 minutes during rush hour, and Link, presumably, will run more often from Tacoma. If it ran every ten minutes, then someone who just misses the Sounder train wouldn’t wait for the next one, they would take Link. Of course you could argue that the same rider just takes the bus right now, but ST assumes that Link will be more popular than the bus during rush hour and that the current riders don’t do that (they wait for the train).

      All that being said, I doubt we see much of a dip at all. Tacoma ridership is only about 15% of Sounder ridership. Even if it sees a small dip, ridership at the other stations would more than make up for that.

      1. RossB on travel time. between TDS and South Jackson Street, I heard 50 minutes via bus without congestion; 60 minutes by Sounder; and, 72 minutes by Link.

        what of getting UPRR and BNSFRR to share tracks and shift more freight to UP so that midday Sounder or DMU could use the BNSFRR track with stations. there would be speed and reliability advantages for Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, and Tukwila. in the MBTA, commuter rail runs two-way all-day.

      2. According to ST, Link will be 35 minutes from Tacoma Dome to Seatac and it’s 31 minutes from Seatac to ID (Next to where Sounder ends). That’s 66 minutes. The two infill stations will likely raise that to about 68 or 69 minutes.

        Also, at a 6 minute peak frequency, Link is almost continuous where there is a much longer wait if a rider misses a Sounder train. Waiting for a train adds time if it’s less frequent. If riders arrive randomly, that’s an average (or half of the headway) 3 minute wait for Link and a 10 minute wait for Sounder, giving Link a 7 minute additional advantage.

        Finally, no matter what Downtown tunnel is used, Link goes all the way to Westlake. That directness makes Link also look more attractive from a travel time perspective for anyone going north of Denny or Cherry Street.

        I not only think that Tacoma Dome Link will take riders from Sounder in interim stations, but there should be a little dip when Federal Way Link opens. Of course, there will be more Sounder riders when trains go further to Dupont (3036).

        If anything, the video shows a pretty skeptical set of Board members about ridership specifically. There was some offhand staff comment about 2019 riders even being almost flat, then the forecast graph showed notable growth for 2019. The Board members were polite, but clearly they weren’t buying the analysis summary.

      3. You’re both right. I was thinking 45 minutes from ID to Angle Lake, but that’s Westlake to Angle Lake. So it’ll be more like 75 minutes versus 85 minutes. My bad.

        So Link time will be slightly closer to Sounder time than I thought. So then it’s more of a question if people will trade comfort and shorter trip, but less frequency and downtown transfer likely for less comfort and longer trip, but better frequency and single ride downtown access. ST is banking heavily on yes.

        Maybe by then, WSDOT will have electrified the BNSF trunk line and upgraded the route to 125 MPH :)

    2. I think a lot of people probably feel like going all the way to Puyallup before going to Seattle is slower than Link, even if it’s not really.

      Another issue is that Sounder has more large delays than Link. A few people will probably appreciate the relative reliability of Link, and bet on that (critically, if there is a large Sounder delay, you cannot choose to ditch Sounder and switch to Link from whatever station you are at unless that station is TDS).

      1. I think the comfort issue is one worth keeping an eye on. I live in Tacoma and have put in a good number of hours on both ST Express busses and Sounder, and I’ve taken Link from Federal Way a couple times. Link is, by far, the least comfortable of the three. The extra cushioning and headrests make a huge difference when you’re on an hour-plus ride, and that’s not even mentioning the bathrooms and tables on the Sounder!

      2. Yeah, I’m with Brendan. This is a very long trip. Very few people live close to the station. There is almost always a bit of a walk to the office. Add it up, and no matter which train you take, riders will spend about three hours of there day going back and forth.

        In that sense, it is like the ferry. People have a love/hate relationship with it. On the one hand, it takes up a huge part of their day. On the other hand, it is rather pleasant. If it is no longer pleasant, then I don’t think people put up with it.

        Commuters tend to get into a routine — they time the train with a decent amount of confidence. On the rare occasion when they miss it (just barely) they then take the alternative. I just don’t see that many riders switching from Sounder to Link from Tacoma. They will be switching from the bus to Link (because they won’t have a choice).

      3. Sounder has tables for working while traveling. Link cars do not have this. If you can make travel time more productive the equation changes a bit, so Sounder has this advantage.

  4. If the tracks are that busy, and only getting busier, then why aren’t they working on adding new track?

    Instead of ad hoc, piecemeal improvements that are subject to the whim of a private company, they should be working on developing an alternative.

    1. Um, that’s exactly what the “South Sounder Capacity Improvement” project is. To gain additional easements, ST invests in capital improvements to create capacity so that BNSF is made whole. Sometimes this involves adding a 3rd or 4th track to a segment, sometimes it doesn’t. The analysis for which specific investments and in what order is exactly what ST is currently working on.

      1. I think the point is, it’s pretty messed up that Sound Transit has to pay for the infrastructure to support more capacity and then they also pay for the timeslots created by the infrastructure they built. It’s a fantastic grift for BNSF, they get to profit for over a century on land/rails they didn’t even build.

      2. No, ST pays for the value of the timeslots (aka the easement) by a mixture of infrastructure and cash. ST needs to create new capacity because it doesn’t have eminent domain over railroads. If BNSF had spare capacity, they could just sell it to ST or WSDOT for cash. This is more or less what Virginia just did to acquire a bunch of ROW and time slots … They wrote a big check, plus need to build a new bridge over the Potomac to alleviate the key capacity choke point.

        ST having to pay for BNSF’s ROW is no different than ST paying another private entity for their ROW for Link. I can see getting grumpy for paying WSDOT for ROW, but I don’t see how you can object to BNSF. Railroad property rights might be arcane but they are still real.

      3. AJ paying for timeslots through a mixture of infrastructure and cash is exactly what I said. They’re building rails/bridges/etc for more capacity, yet they won’t own those rails/bridges. Not sure how anything I said contradicts that.

        It’s like if I rented an apartment, paid for a new fridge/stove on top of my rent, and left all my appliances there when I moved out.

      4. As I understand it, what ST bought was time slots for trains which it can use in perpetuity without per-use charges, and it could later sell them back to BNSF or another operator if it chose to. So for an ST/WSDOT built track what the agency would be buying is the right to use the land under the track.

        Separately, ST hires BNSF to operate its trains, so there’s a per-use charge for that.

      5. No, it’s a permanent easement, which is real property. In your example, you would get to take your appliances with you when you left your apartment.

        But for ST, it’s actually better, but in their case, when their fridge breaks, BNSF their landlord has to pay to fix it. Also, the fridge will run forever. When you own something, you have to pay to maintain it in a good state of repair. Full ownership isn’t always the best option.

        Let’s say someone is building a house, and you write them a check and you get to stay in that house for 3 weeks every July. This is better than building your own house. It’s much cheaper, it would be empty most of the time, and when the roof needs to be replaced, you don’t have to pay anything because it’s not your house.

        Now, the initial easements purchased for South Sounder were operating rights, not easements, so those expire in 2040-ish and will need to renewed, which will cost $$$$s. Technically, same for the WSDOT easements – but politically it will be interesting if ST is still writing WSDOT big checks in a few decades. But for North Sounder and ST2 South Sounder, and for ST3, ST is acquiring permanent easements that have permanent value and do not disappear.

        Similarly, for the large freeway interchanges that ST is paying for at 44th and 85th, ST will have a permanent right to have a bus stop in WSDOT’s ROW, but when the interchange needs to be rebuilt in 40 years, that’s WSDOT’s problem, not ST’s.

      6. Is the easement by time of day or by train? Would it cost ST more money to BNSF if there were two Sounder trains – each on a skip-stop schedule with one five minutes behind the other?

        I realize that may be tricky at King Street, but I’m asking here only about payments to BNSF and not train operations.

      7. There are too many local connections that can only work on Sounder. It’d be better to have an express to Tacoma leading a local that serves all stops.

  5. and speaking of possible delays…..

    When Link gets stopped on MLK because of an accident, or when the Sounder line gets blocked because of an accident in Kent…..

    why aren’t they considering the ability to transfer between the two at BAR as a way to mitigate these impacts? Build in some redundancy!

    As I understand it the original intent was to create some sort of transfer there, but that idea has since gone by the wayside.

    1. If there is a fatality on the Sounder tracks, it might help you. Or it might not. There’s a good chance that either you are past BAR already (probably at least 90% of Sounder tracks are farther south), or your train is being held north of BAR. So that’s a fairly narrow range of scenarios where a BAR transfer helps with Sounder accidents.

      And Link Accidents? The overwhelming majority of Link accidents are on MLK, with a few more in SODO. Going northbound the transfer can help, since you have not encountered the accident yet, but going south doesn’t help unless you know beforehand and get on the Sounder. And this is only really helpful during peak in the peak direction (with a few exceptions, but dependent on luck).

      The cost of building the BAR transfer are the literal cost, which is probably not trivial, plus added travel time for all Sounder passengers and more complex coordination with BNSF. I could see people transferring from Link to get a faster trip (as an alternative to Seattle Subway’s Duwamish bypass), but that market is likely small, only makes sense for about 1 in 3 trips (assuming 20 minutes headways on Sounder and 6 on Link), and the majority of people would have to transfer back again to get where they are going (Sounder only has one stop in downtown). So that also seems like a weak case.

      There are a small number of people on Sounder trying to get to the RV. It’s tough for them, but there’s probably not enough to justify a new station here.

      And of course there’s absolutely nothing there but train tracks (https://maps.app.goo.gl/8H9b6J92Em5Cuyxr7), so there won’t be anything there that anyone would take the train from except parking that is not yet built. And since we’ve already decided on giving them a Link station, I don’t think we should give them a Sounder Station as well. There are better uses for funds.

  6. Yesterday featured another fatality on Sounder tracks. My last visit to Seattle, my trip home to Olympia cost me about five extra hours because somebody used train ahead of mine to kill themselves with.

    How about if, the next time we put any money into Sounder, we put it into track-side police patrols in every town the train goes through? Along with greatly-increased amount of intrusion- proof right of way?

    Good you’re still around, Brian.

    Mark Dublin

      1. Electrification too! It lets trains stop faster and lets trains run faster! Plus, it’s better for reducing carbon emissions!

      2. Fact that so many professionals bill clients by the hour indicates that $1 billion dollars can be considered a bargain if it saves you $10 billion worth of time spent waiting when your service could have been moving.

        Mark Dublin

  7. The one big “huh?” I took from the presentation was use of a single capacity number. Is that a fixed number of seats? Can’t people stand in a train? Aren’t cars going to load differently on a train? Aren’t trains going to have different loads depending on which train it is?

    Having a range for capacity seems more accurate. It’s not like a plane where everyone has an assigned seat and standing isn’t allowed.

    1. Different service standards. I believe ST aims to have no one standing for more than 20 minutes, which means if people are regularly standing on Sounder runs, it’s over capacity. Sure, if there a big event or something standing is fine, but that’s not the intended service standard.

      Link and STX are held to the same standard. For long bus runs, ST doesn’t want people to need to stand. Even for a workhorse route like the 550, generally it’s only standing between Seattle and MI

      1. But not every train is going to have the exact number of riders. Is the calculation based on the most crowded, the least crowded or the average train?

        I’d also point out that standing is a fuzzy definition. Some choose to stand. Some hog seats. Some seats may be out of order.

  8. Is Sound Transit still planning to replace ST Express Bus Service with Tacoma Link and Federal Way Link? If that is still the case you’re all missing that in the equation all those people that take the bus will suddenly take the Link train or Sounder. Undoubtedly they will reduce the number of ST Express buses.

    1. Yes. As a rule of thumb, when Link duplicates an STX route, it will replace those service hours. The ridership projections include this and take into account riders simply shifting mode, or turning a 1 seat bus ride into a 2 seat bus-Link ride.

      1. You might see a small dip between Sounder and Link out of the Tacoma Dome but there would be no reason why you would see a drop in Sounder service as a whole. Lakewood, South Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, Tukwila won’t have alternate service and ridership will only go up at those stations and I’m sure it will offset the handful of people that will go to Link. Also has Sound Transit Considered running Express Lightrail trains that will bypass certain stations to make a quicker ride to Downtown Seattle? would be an interesting thing for them to consider perhaps a handful of trips leave Tacoma Dome and only top at Federal Way, SeaTac and then the Downtown Stations. some sections along MLK are already 3 tracks so it might work

      2. Link is only 2 tracks so it cannot accommodate express runs. I don’t believe there is any triple tracking in MLK?

        An express bypass is a common suggestion from the armchair transit planners, but I don’t think the Board or staff has ever seriously considered it. Having no expresses means high frequency for all stations, which is a feature not a bug in the design, particularly given Link’s explicit goal of developing density nodes outside of Seattle, not simply funneling people in & out of Seattle.

        STX routes end up providing better point to point express runs than Link does. This is why some STX routes will still exist even when they seem to duplicate Link corridors. Sounder will always be better during congestion, but on, say, weekends it’s probably better to run a selection of STX routes to connect the various Sounder stations to Seattle rather than one route that simply duplicates Sounder.

        Yes, I agree Link should complement Sounder and long term will buttress Sounder ridership, not cannibalize. .

      3. I was just driving on MLK towards the South part of Links line on MLK and there were a number of spots where the tracking went to 3 sets it looked like it was mainly there for bypassing trains during their deadheads. While express trains may not have been explored by the board they would do a great deal to draw commuters out of there cars and on to trains the Link line is already not the most direct route something that will hopefully change as the system grows. If you can shave off even 10 to 15 minutes not stopping in Angle lake, S federal way and all of the South Seattle Stops would give Link a sizable advantage over driving during the peak hours

      4. There’s currently not enough switchover tracks for it to work out operationally. And there’s only two 3 track sections, one at Rainier Beach and one at Stadium station, both of which are only long enough to hold a single 4-car train with a bit of back and forth maneuvering room; aside from that, there’s a switchover at either Columbia City or Othello, I forget which. Switching between tracks also requires trains to go extremely slow, which is not conducive to a) express runs or b) the peak train timing.

      5. Bypass tracks are not really useful unless the track bypasses an actual station. The MLK tracks are mere sidings.

      6. “An express bypass is a common suggestion from the armchair transit planners, but I don’t think the Board or staff has ever seriously considered it.”

        A Georgetown Link bypass was in ST’s long-range plan but it was deleted in the 2014 revision in the run-up to ST3. None of the boardmembers spoke up for it in the meeting I attended, not even the South King and Pierce members who would benefit from it.

      7. On second thought, a bypass track can also be useful if there is only one track and trains must bypass each other going in opposite directions. That’s not the case with Link though.

    2. The last we’ve heard of ST Express were these planning scenarios in 2015. All of them truncate all Pierce/Auburn/Federal Way service at KDM. In ST3 Federal Way will open simultaneously with KDM so the truncation point will surely be moved. But ST has given no indication of keeping any Pierce-Seattle or Auburn-Seattle routes. Metro has indicated it will pick up the 577 and add a new express route on Seattle-Kent-Auburn. ST is considering extending the 574 to West Seattle to backfill part of the 560 when 405 Stride replaces it.

      ST is not considering a faster trip to Seattle. All the board’s emphasis has been on connecting Tacoma to the airport and bringing South King County workers/shoppers to Tacoma, and the corollary one-seat ride to Seattle is considered a secondary benefit. We warned them many times that Link’s travel time would be longer than the current buses but they weren’t interested. If you want to go fast, take Sounder. If you want to go off-peak, here’s triple the frequency and one-seat rides to a lot more destinations.

      1. Sigh.

        I will miss fast off-peak service on ST express busses. The idea that it’s going to take longer to get to Seattle after we spend several billion dollars is depressing.

      2. Frequency compensates for speed to some extent. If you miss the bus or can’t leave when it goes, you have to wait 25 minutes for the next bus, which extends your effective travel time by the same amount. People get more frustrated waiting that moving.

  9. I’d like to see better “reverse” trips from the “suburbs” to Tacoma, and less reliance on stations as “Park & Rides.” We need high-quality local transit to get from neighborhoods to station locations, and the milk runs we have don’t cut it. For those of us who have landed jobs in Tacoma – only 15 miles from home vs 35 miles, it sure would be nice to have a commuter rail that allowed for a full 8-hour workday after catching a connecting bus in Tacoma.

  10. Is there room in Auburn to expand to 10 cars? The east platform (logically northbound) has the branch to Stampede Pass on the south, and Main Street on the north. Perhaps they could go down to using only the other platform and make everyone walk around.

    A few months ago I stayed at a hotel overlooking the CTX tracks at L’Enfant Plaza. Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express trains ran constantly all morning and evening, and freight trains ran constantly all night. I was never there mid-day. This looks like the future of Seattle-Tacoma rail.

  11. Rather than have 10-car platforms, can’t the trains just stop at different positions at different stations? For example, dedicate the first three cars for Tukwika and Kent only, and the last three for Tacoma Dome and points south with the middle four open to everyone. That actually would seem to offer some guarantee that riders from stations closer to Seattle would have seats available in the mornings.

    1. I think the 8-car trains will start with this, where the 8th car won’t be able to serve all stops. But boardings are pretty spread out with nearly all riders heading to King Street, so I don’t think that approach will work long term. Some of the short stations, like Auburn (1,600), have more boarding than larger stations (Tacoma, 1,200 daily boardings)

    2. Stopping twice at each station will add at least 2 or 3 minutes of dwell at each station except Seattle and maybe Tacoma (close the doors move ahead 3 car lengths, stop and open the doors again for the other 3 cars). Today the dwell is ideally about 1 minute. That is 7 or 8 times 2.5 minutes adding, say, 16 minutes to the 1:15 trip. I think that would be a killer to ridership.

    3. I’m talking about stopping once at each station — with different cars having platform access. I’m not talking about stopping twice. The example:

      Cars 1-3: Tukwila/ Kent only
      Cars 4-7: All stops
      Cars 8-10: Tacoma Dome and stations further south

      1. I see where you are going, Al S. Not a bad idea, and I see the logic. If everyone was headed to Seattle or getting on in Seattle and if everyone could get on any car, it would work. On the other hand, if I need the mini-high to get on at Lakewood, I also need the mini-high to get off in, say, Kent. If I need the mini-high, then I can’t move between the cars as they are configured today to get to the cars that will spot at Kent. Under the ADA rules, the train has to give everyone a way to get off or on at any station they need to, so I would need a double-spot at either Kent or Lakewood. Since others don’t need to notify anyone where they plan to get off, I might not either, so it might even be unplanned.

Comments are closed.