Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sounder South (S Line) trips had high ridership during peak commuting periods - northbound to Seattle weekday mornings and southbound weekday afternoons - and we had every reason to think that trend would continue.
Our Sounder South Strategic Plan, drafted in 2019, thus prioritized longer trains over potential new trips, to ensure we would have enough capacity to carry riders during rush hour.
Flash forward to 2023, and it's clear the commuting patterns of 2019 have changed significantly, with more hybrid and work-from-home schedules reducing travel demand during peak periods.
This gives us an opportunity to take a look at reimagining Sounder South - can it serve more travel needs and types of trips? Whether that be the UW-Tacoma student who lives in Kent, the Sumner warehouse employee commuting from Lakewood, the Seattle resident figuring out if they can date someone who lives in Tacoma or the Puyallup family wanting to go to Pacific Science Center on the weekend.
That's why we will be updating the Sounder South Strategic Plan this year. Through research, peer comparisons, public outreach, and discussions with our partners at BNSF and WSDOT we will consider whether potential additional trips should be prioritized over longer trains.
We'll also evaluate whether any new trips could run mid-day, in the evenings, or on weekends, bearing in mind that any new trips or changes to the existing schedule require approval and negotiation with BNSF Railway, which owns most of the tracks Sounder operates on. (Unlike with Link light rail, where Sound Transit owns the tracks and can run trains all day, adding a single Sounder trip is a significant expense.)
Sound Transit Boardmember and Tacoma Deputy Mayor Kristina Walker is excited for the update. "I'm eager to hear from the public, partners, and fellow Boardmembers about how we can reimagine future Sounder investments to make sure it works for more people at more times throughout the day and week."
Stay tuned for public outreach later this year, where you can share your input about priorities for Sounder South. Sign up for updates here.
In the meantime, don't forget that Sounder serves select Mariners, Sounders FC, and Seahawks games. See schedule of upcoming trains.