Sounder commuter rail maintains record ridership levels during I-5 construction

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Ridership on Sounder commuter rail remained at all-time highs throughout WSDOT’s I-5 construction, exceeding the previous daily record of 8,800 on all but one day and averaging more than 40 percent higher than daily ridership in May.

“The silver lining of the construction inconveniences was that it encouraged a lot of people to try a new way of commuting,” said Tacoma City Council and Sound Transit Board member Julie Anderson. “We are eager to see how Sounder ridership trends over the coming months and how many riders stick around. Long-term, we know more people will ride as our region’s population grows more than 40 percent by 2040. Growing congestion will increase the already considerable advantages of riding transit.”

With the help of services provided by Sound Transit and other transit agencies, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) achieved its goal of getting nearly half the vehicles that normally use I-5 through Seattle off the freeway and avoiding the worst-case scenario of long delays and miles of traffic back-ups. 

“The success of the I-5 project depended on drivers getting out of their cars and onto transit, including Sound Transit's Sounder commuter rail and Regional Express buses,” said WSDOT Regional Administrator Lorena Eng.  “Sound Transit stepped up to the plate and helped out by adding extra Sounder runs, rerouting buses off of I-5 prior to the construction zone, and by keeping their customers informed about the project's effect on their commutes.”

Sounder south corridor ridership hit its highest level, 11,965, on the first day of construction. Levels declined over the course of the construction closures as road congestion was not as significant as feared, but stayed high throughout the period.

 

 

AM Peak

PM Peak

Total

8/13/2007

6,719

5,246

11,965

8/14/2007

5,820

4,985

10,805

8/15/2007

4,956

4,863

9,819

8/16/2007

4,815

4,545

9,360

8/17/2007

4,151

4,089

8,240

8/20/2007

4,688

4,660

9,348

8/21/2007

4,898

4,658

9,556

8/22/2007

4,638

4,561

9,199

8/23/2007

4,501

 

78,292

 

 

 

 

May ’07 averages

3371

3494

6866

 

While enjoying congestion-free commutes, the additional riders who chose Sounder during the construction took significant pressure off I-5. Northbound Sounder trips in the morning carried an average of 1,650 more riders than in May, a ridership increase of almost 50 percent. If those 1,650 additional riders had instead been trying to drive northbound in cars on I-5, their vehicles would have taken up about half of the capacity of a freeway lane. (This example assumes an average of 1.2 people per vehicle and is based on the fact that a freeway lane operating in congested conditions has a capacity of about 1,500 vehicles per hour.)

 

During the construction, Sound Transit added an extra Sounder round trip in the south corridor that ran from Puyallup station to King Street Station in Seattle in the morning and returned to Puyallup in the afternoon. That special train will be discontinued after tomorrow based on the early completion of the construction, with normal Sounder service continuing on Monday, Aug. 27.

 

Sound Transit is moving forward with longstanding plans to add two more round trips between Tacoma and Seattle in late September – with one train offering a “reverse commute” option running from Seattle to Tacoma in the morning and from Tacoma to Seattle in the evening.   The additional train service is the latest step toward operating nine daily weekday round trips on the south corridor under an agreement with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.  The final three trains are expected to be running by the end of 2008.

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