Update April, 7, 2023: Sounder S Line sticking with five cars
Last September, in response to workforce shortages, we reduced the length of our S Line Sounder trains from seven cars to five with the expectation that seven-car trains would return in March. Since then, the workforce situation has improved. Ridership has improved as well.
But not enough to justify the return to seven-car trains. Currently Sounder ridership is about 35% of pre-pandemic levels, meaning it could double without introducing significant crowding.
Sound Transit will plan to deploy seven-car trains for Seahawk games this fall and extend trains as needed for the special Sounders and Mariners game-day service.
S Line train lengths will be revisited in September depending on ridership growth.
While things continue to improve as we navigate past the worst of the COVID labor landscape, many industries are continuing to experience staffing shortages. Amtrak, which services Sounder train cars under a maintenance agreement, is one of them.
To give our maintenance partners some breathing room, and to address other Sound Transit needs, we will soon be reducing the Sounder S-Line car sets from seven cars to five until March 2023.
The most noticeable impact to S-Line passengers is that they may have to move up the platform to board the train. Some other key points:
With this short-term change, Amtrak will be able to restore trips on its Amtrak Cascades service, providing more regional, interstate, and international connections to and from the Puget Sound.
Ridership is currently 25-30 percent of pre-COVID levels and could double without resulting in standees or overfull cars.
We will be able to maintain seven-car trains for Seahawks and Mariners game day service.
Out-of-service cars will be available for retrofitting for the new Passenger Information Management System (PIMS).
While reducing capacity is never ideal, workforce challenges require flexibility, and this change allows Sound Transit to continue to serve our passengers while accomplishing other agency goals.
We will also add back capacity via additional frequency when we restore the final two S-Line trips cut during COVID on Sept. 19.
The restored trips are the 7:55 a.m. southbound departure from Seattle and the 10:06 a.m. northbound departure from Lakewood, providing South Sound residents and workers with more travel options and bringing the total of daily round trips to 13.