Sounder North line sees increase in ridershipConstruction of a second platform on the horizon
While Sound Transit’s Sounder North may have its critics, recent studies suggest the commuter rail line service – which runs through Edmonds, Mukilteo and Everett – is on the right track to success.
Sound Transit’s September ridership reports indicate growth for the route, setting a new record of 1,212 average weekday boardings – a 19 percent increase in ridership from September 2011.
The report comes at a time when Sound Transit is set to begin construction to further increase ridership on the rail.
“We’re definitely committed to the Sounder North line and making it successful,” Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine said.
To draw more riders on the Sounder North in Mukilteo, Sound Transit plans to add a second platform to the south side of the tracks, as well as a pedestrian bridge connecting the new platform with the current one.
Sound Transit spokesperson Kim Reason said the company’s focus is on accessibility. She said the service conducted a survey of commuters, asking for possible improvements.
“For Mukilteo, the data is suggesting that we need more parking at the Mukilteo station,” Reason said.
Currently, there are 63 parking spaces at the Mukilteo station, but Reason said the rail could improve accessibility significantly if at least 139 more spots are added.
The changes are planned to begin in the spring of 2013, and finish in the fall of 2014.
Mayor Marine said accessibility to the station would further improve once the ferry terminal is moved closer to the station. He said he anticipates the terminal to be moved between 2015 and 2017, giving ferry-riders easy connection to the train – the original plan when the Mukilteo station was opened in 2008.
“People would walk on the ferry, walk off and catch the train,” Marine said. “When the ferry terminal is better connected with the station, when we have better pedestrian access and there’s more parking, you’re going to have much better ridership on that route.
“Basically it’s finishing the project so it works the way it’s supposed to.”
Despite the current increase in commuters, the Sounder North has been criticized for having lower ridership than its counterpart, the Sounder South line.
Sound Transit’s Citizen Oversight Panel (COP) is a critic. The group’s main concern is that there are crowded buses that run through stops on the north line’s route.
The COP would like to see cutbacks on the Sounder North so that funds can be allocated to possibly adding a bus for commuters who use those routes.
Despite their concern, the increased ridership of the Sounder North makes the COP hopeful of the service’s future.
“We feel long-term, it’s going to be a good service,” said Stuart Scheuerman, COP spokesperson. “We just need to build ridership, make improvements where we can and keep building on it.”
Reason said there are multiple inherent factors for the difference in ridership between the two rails, including that the Sounder South runs through a more populous area.
The north rail is also at risk of mudslides, which close service for a minimum of 48 hours. In the previous mudslide season – which ran from October 2011 to March 2012 – 33 slides occurred.
As an additional factor, Reason said the north route suffers from having fewer stations than Sounder South, which has seven.
“If you have fewer stations, then you have fewer access points to the trains,” she said. “If you have fewer train runs, you have fewer times people can take the train.
“So those are significant factors in being able to capture ridership.”
Despite the differences in ridership, Reason said Sound Transit is still very committed to Sounder North.
“It’s a very valuable service,” she said. “Our goal is to make it a worthwhile investment. We want people to ride Sounder.”