Hourly heavy rail service between Seattle and Tacoma. Why hasn’t this happened yet? This really deserves a facepalm and long sigh, then a discussion on what to do next.
I published a Page 2 post almost two years ago about ERC heavy rail from Renton to Woodinville, which is clearly a project that will probably never happen – transport technology will advance to a new era of hyperloop and organic hemp dirigibles before the Eastside gets its heavy electrified rail. But, I have not yet given up on heavy rail.
Vastly improved Sounder service between Tacoma and Seattle could arrive sooner than any major ST3 project. Metropolitan transportation networks start in the center and fan outward over time, which makes it even more puzzling that not one example of worldclass heavy rail transit has yet been constructed in this transit-progressive region. Seattle and Tacoma are two large population centers just 34 miles apart along the only freeway connecting the two. The rail tracks take a slightly longer route, but in a valley of the flattest land in the region and ample space for more rail tracks. The land is cheap and the stations and TOD developement already exist.
Sound Transit has a reputation for doing projects that simply get the job done – such as MLK Way center-running light-rail and draw-bridge running light-rail; there was virtually no forward-thinking mindset. After nearly begging on their knees, Sound Transit succumbed to transit advocates region-wide and approved all grade-separated light-rail expansions to Ballard and West Seattle – this is forward thinking compared to their previously center-running at-grade designs for those same neighborhoods.
Sounder gets the job done, but now it’s time for South Sounder to get its deserved promotion to heavy rail. By doing this, Sound Transit would be connecting two of the largest regional transit hubs and termini, serving bus, rail, streetcar and long-distance rail, with 40-minute trips on reliably on-time schedules. This would revolutionize an already progressive transit agenda into a project that finally enables the progressive rail transit desired around the region. It will encourage more transit expansions radiating from Sounder stations, including potential lines to Orting, Graham, Enumclaw and Olympia in the south end, and Renton and Maple Valley spurs in the north end.
Until the day people wait no more than a half hour for the next train between Seattle and Tacoma, a worldclass rail transit network will always be considered a pipe dream. Sound Transit needs a cornerstone to support its expanding regional network. Currently, the network is a series of seemingly random bus routes, but it is rail that evolves urban infrastructure. This Seattle-Tacoma heavy rail line is such a reachable goal, and yet it has been almost 100 years since the last heavy rail line in Puget Sound, when Puget Sound Electric Railway ended the historical Interurban Everett-Seattle-Tacoma line.
As transit advocates, we must vocally support the construction of at least one dedicated track exclusively for Sounder rail. Rather than renting the tracks from BNSF on already-congested routes, Sound Transit can use the money destined for BNSF to run 18-hour daily service on its dedicated tracks, guaranteeing frequent reliable service that serves everyone, not just 9 to 5 weekday commuters.
Good news though: Sound Transit has rumored support and active negotiating with BNSF for all-day service weekdays plus weekends. That means the time is now that we must loudly express our support for Seattle-Tacoma heavy rail to enable a future of worldclass rail in the Puget Sound region.
I anticipate working on this more once I return to the Seattle area permanently. I strongly support the investment of a European/Japanese-style regional rail network for the Puget Sound region, either with electrified rail or some other future mode of heavy public transportation, such as maglev or hyperloop. Please contact me if interested: email@example.com