The Tuesday (10/16) Times article “Too many empty seats on Sounder North Line” epitomizes Sound Transit incompetency. The North Sounder operation was based on the dubious idea that large numbers of commuters would chose to ride a train rather than an express bus from Everett to Seattle.
The bus service, ST510, begins service southbound from the Everett Station at 4:20 a.m. with departures every 10-15 minutes during the peak commute. It takes 52 minutes to reach 5th and Pine in Seattle. The return routes leave 4th and Union at similar intervals and take about an hour to reach Everett. The fares in both directions are $3.50.
Sounder trains leave Everett every 30 minutes from 5:45 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. and reach the King Street Station in an hour. The four return routes begin at 4:05 again every 30 minutes, and reach Everett in an hour. The train fares for Everett are $4.50.
While riding a train may be more attractive than a bus, the King Street Station location is not nearly as convenient as the options with the bus routes. Thus it should not be a surprise (unless you’re Sound Transit) that ridership levels are low.
In 2011, this failure to attract riders along with the high operating costs for the trains forced Sound Transit to subsidize each rider by $20,000 a year (See 6/12/12 Post) This has been going on for years. Yet ST response is a threat to reduce service if ridership doesn’t double by 2020. Wow, that ought to get peoples attention!
They spent untold millions on stations in Mukilteo and Edmonds yet Mukilteo has only 56 parking spaces and Edmunds 156. ST’s aversion to putting P&R lots near Central Link has apparently carried over to the Sounder.
I was particularly struck by the women who commented “When not in a hurry, she drives to Edmunds Station instead of catching a crowded bus for a ride into Seattle”.
Think about that for a moment. ST is spending tax dollars so riders can take a somewhat slower but relatively empty train rather than a crowded bus for their commute. Any rational analysis would lead to quickly reducing the number of trains and increasing the number of buses. Not ST, they want to give the system another 8 years because of their $368 million initial investment. Talk about “throwing good money away after bad”.