Seattle Sounder Commuter Rail

From nycsubway.org


Sounder/Amtrak Coach Yard south of King Street Station. Photo by Peter Ehrlich, September 2009.


Sounder became the Seattle area's first modern interurban rail transit system upon opening in 2000. This came after voters approved the creation of Sound Transit in 1996. Sound Transit is charged with building new and improving existing regional mass transit, including express buses, commuter rail, and light rail.

The Sounder system is a two line commuter rail system. One line heads south from Seattle to Tacoma, Washington, and the other heads north to Everett. Service is provided into Seattle in the mornings, with outbound service in the afternoons. King Street station, Seattle's Amtrak station, serves as the hub of the Sounder system. Special service is provided for games at Safeco Field and Seahawks Stadium, near King Street Station.

Trains sets are typical of newer North American commuter rail lines: Bi-Level Bombardier multiple unit cab/passenger cars and F-59PHI locomotives. Other than the Sound Transit "wave" paint scheme, these trainsets are similar to ones used on the Los Angeles Metrolink Commuter Rail, the San Diego County, California Coaster, and Vancouver's West Coast Express. Amtrak California and the Cascades line use the F-59PHI locos.

Most stations include park and ride lots and connections to King County Metro, Everett Transit, Pierce Transit, Sound Transit, and Community Transit bus service. Transfers to the popular Amtrak Cascades line are possible at Tukwilla (unmanned Amtrak station), Tacoma, King Street, Everett, and Edmonds. The new Tacoma Link Streetcar stops at the Tacoma Sounder station as well.

Passenger cars are equipped with restrooms and electrical outlets for laptop computers.

Route Map


Station By Station

King Street Station. The hub of Sounder service, trains depart from the center platform of this historic train station. Portland-Seattle routed Amtrak Cascades trains terminate to the left (facing the station), and Empire Builder and Coast Starlight trains use the platforms to the left.

An elevated walkway connects passengers to the street level above and the International District Metro Bus Tunnel station. The Metro Waterfront Streetcar's Jackson Street terminal is only a short walk to the north.

Traveling south to Tacoma, the route passes under the supports for Seahawks Stadium's retractable roof. Heading north, trains use a tunnel under downtown Seattle directly north of King Street station.

Seattle-Tacoma. This route heads south on BNSF trackage, passing through suburbs between Seattle and Tacoma. These tracks provide service into Seattle for the Amtrak Cascades (Eugene, OR- Vancouver, BC) and Coast Starlight service (LA-Oakland-Portland-Seattle). Trains stop (north to south) at Tukwilla, Kent, Auburn, Sumner, and Puyallup. All stations, except for Tukwilla, have been completed and are permanent stations. Tukwilla's current station will be finished once Central Link light rail (presently under construction and slated to connect to Sounder here) is completed.

The end of the line is currently at the Tacoma Dome, a major transit hub. A new Sounder station was built here around a new retail development known as Freighthouse Square. Transfers to the Tacoma Link Streetcar, Amtrak, and Pierce Transit are possible here.

Future extensions to this line will take trains south to Lakewood and South Tacoma. Sound Transit also has purchased rights on BNSF tracks to the Thurston County line.

Seattle-Everett. The newest Sounder route was slated to open earlier, however problems with the BNSF railroad and questions about environmental impacts of trackway improvements stalled the line until 2003.

The Amtrak Cascades and Empire Builder (Seattle/Portland to Chicago) trains also use this trackway.

Trains stop at Edmonds, Mukilteo, and terminate in Everett. The new Everett Station terminal consolidates Amtrak and Sounder service into a bus transit hub with an office/community/retail building. The route north of Seattle hugs the Puget Sound shoreline. I've read that it is quite memorable.

Future stations on this line may include Seattle's Ballard District, and a transportation advocate-supported unofficial plan to put a station in the rail tunnel under downtown Seattle, connecting to the Seattle Metro Tunnel above.

Photo Gallery

Five Random Images

Image 74775

(198k, 1044x788)
Photo by: Roberto C. Tobar
Location: King Street Station

Image 93166

(228k, 930x618)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: King Street Station

Image 93173

(243k, 930x618)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: King Street Station

Image 106195

(203k, 620x864)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: King Street Station

Image 106196

(179k, 930x618)
Photo by: Peter Ehrlich
Location: Tacoma Dome

More Images: 1-37

Page Credits

By Adam J. Benjamin

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