Sounder ridership eclipses goal in 2002; Sound Transit commuter rail service gets federal environmental approval for Lakewood Extension

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Sound Transit's Sounder commuter rail service was even more popular than expected in 2002, exceeding the projection of 610,000 passengers. At the same time, the environmental impact statement (EIS) for Sounder service from Tacoma to Lakewood has been approved by the Federal Transit Administration.

"This is a double dose of good news," said Sound Transit Board Chair Ron Sims. "We were pleasantly surprised when we learned that 670,000 people rode our Sounder trains in 2002; that exceeded our projection for the year by 10%, or 60,000 riders - a 19% increase over 2001."

"This, coupled with the federal EIS decision, is a major step forward. It will enable us to begin acquiring right-of-way and station property for this important addition to our service," added Sims.

The recent decision completes the federal environmental process - a key step in obtaining final design approval from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA.).

In the meantime, negotiations continue with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad regarding the Lakewood Extension and service between Seattle and Everett.

"We are making progress in the negotiations," said Sims. "We hope to have an agreement in principle this year so we can begin the track and signal improvements that will allow many more thousands to choose this time-saving option for their daily commute."

The Sounder ridership numbers for 2002 received a boost in September when a third round-trip was added between Tacoma and Seattle. Special trains - Mariners Home Run Service, Seahawks Special, and the Holiday Special -- also drew record numbers.

The breakdown:

Service Description

2001

2002

Increase

% Growth

Regular

544K

638K

94K

17%

Special Events

18K

32K

14K

78%

Total

562K

670K

108K

19%


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