Sounder adds three more daily trains as ridership passes 10 million

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On the heels of serving Sounder commuter rail’s tenth-millionth rider, Sound Transit today announced the launch of three new daily roundtrip trains starting Monday, Sept. 22. The added service will help meet fast-growing demand for Sounder service, with the latest numbers showing a 38 percent increase from July 2007 to July 2008.

“Ten million riders can’t be wrong. Each time they climb aboard Sounder, they wave goodbye to the costs and stress of driving, and they reduce greenhouse gases and the number of cars on the road,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. “With Sound Transit ridership up more than 10,000 riders each weekday, commuters will certainly welcome these new trains.”

One new peak-direction train and one new reverse-commute train will run between Tacoma and Seattle, for a total of eight weekday round-trip trains in the south corridor. The final funded addition to the Sounder schedule is a ninth round-trip train in the south end coming next year. Along with the new Sounder trips, Lakewood Station will open for service and will be connected with Sounder trains departing Tacoma Dome Station with the brand new ST Express Route 599.

“There’s one more Sounder addition coming Monday, and while ST Route 599 may not be a locomotive, it will be a welcome sight for Lakewood commuters who have had an overcrowded park-and-ride for 10 years, said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and Lakewood City Councilmember Claudia Thomas. “We’re adding a lot more capacity to the transit choices south Pierce County commuters already enjoy, and we are one big step closer to adding rail service to the mix.”

A fourth roundtrip train will run between Everett and Seattle, including stops at the recently opened Mukilteo Station, with new departure times to better serve ferry riders. Sound Transit’s Rail Plus partnership with Amtrak will also continue, giving Snohomish County residents even more commuter train options.

“The key to getting people out of their cars is providing high-quality alternatives such as this,” said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon. “With a fourth roundtrip train starting Monday, and a new schedule that improves the connection with the Clinton-Mukilteo ferry, we expect ridership to continue growing strong.”

Counts show that sometime within the last few days, Sounder’s total ridership since service began in September 2000 topped the 10 million mark.

In 2008 Sounder ridership has surpassed the national commuter rail ridership growth more than fivefold. Average July weekday Sounder ridership was up 38 percent compared to the same month last year. Sounder’s second quarter ridership growth for 2008 was 31 percent, making it the second-fastest growing commuter rail system in the country for that period. First quarter Sounder ridership was up 27 percent—the highest growth rate nationwide for that period.

Today, more than 10,500 riders board Sounder trains on a typical weekday, which is nearly equal to the number of Sounder riders that boarded on the first weekday day of I-5 construction and lane closures in August 2007. Sound Transit’s network of express buses, Sounder commuter trains, and Link light rail trains serve nearly 61,000 riders each weekday, up by more than 10,000 since February of this year.

If adopted, the Mass Transit Expansion Proposal before voters this November is projected to increase weekday system ridership to 358,000 in 2030. It proposes building 36 miles of additional light rail, increasing ST Express bus service by 17 percent starting in 2009, and increasing Seattle-Tacoma Sounder service 65 percent by adding more trains and lengthening platforms to accommodate longer trains. Information on the ballot measure is available at www.soundtransit.org/future. The projected 358,000 ridership level is 84 percent higher than the projected level that Sound Transit would achieve in 2030 without the expansions.

View the new Sounder Schedule>>>