Puget Sound Transportation Projects
Sounder Commuter Rail
Part of the 1996 Sound Move package was a commuter rail line between Tacoma and Seattle, and a line between Everett and Seattle. This line parallels Interstate 5 for most of its length. While it is primarily set up to bring North and South end commuters into Seattle, reverse commute trains have been added from Seattle in the morning and Everett and Tacoma in the evening.
The line has proven to be wildly popular. Most trains are standing room only. Garages fill by 7am. For those who work in Seattle this is a great alternative to driving and paying to park. Unfortunately the line does NOT head out to Redmond and the Eastside, where many of the new tech jobs are.
When Interstate 5 was mostly shut down in 2007 the trains were fully packed daily as commuters who didn't want to be stuck in the traffic nightmare that was predicted used the rail system. This is where the system shines: as a bypass for when there are problems on the freeways, such as construction or inclement weather.
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While I have been unable to use the line, as it does not head up to the Redmond area where I was working, it has played a large role in my planning for future jobs. I would easily take a job in downtown Seattle where I could use the Sounder to connect to the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel.
However for the line to truly serve the area a few things need to be done. Stations need to have increased parking or transit connections. As noted, most stations parking lots are full by 7am, if not before. Secondly, the line needs to run up the Eastside to Redmond, or connect with a line that does. Much of the job growth in the area is in high tech in the Bellevue/Redmond/Kirkland area. Currently the only options to get to the Eastside is via roads (either by bus, carpool or solo driving). This make I-405 horribly overloaded. Connecting with the discussed Eastside Rail system would be a major addition to transportation for the area.
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Map: © Ben Brooks