Sounder commuter rail

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Sound Transit Sounder logo.svg
Sounder Commuter Rail 01.jpg
Two Sounder trainsets at King Street Station in Seattle
OwnerSound Transit
LocaleSeattle metropolitan area
Transit typeCommuter rail
Number of lines2
Number of stations12
Daily ridership17,993 (2019)[1]
Annual ridership4,616,646 (2019)[1]
WebsiteSounder Rider Guide
Began operationSeptember 18, 2000 (2000-09-18) (South Line)
December 26, 2003 (2003-12-26) (North Line)
Reporting marksSDRX
Number of vehicles14 locomotives
67 passenger cars[2]
Train lengthN Line: 1 locomotive, 2 or 3 passenger cars
S Line: 1 locomotive, 7 passenger cars
HeadwayN Line: One train every hour during morning and evening rush hours on weekdays
S Line: One train every 20 minutes during morning and evening rush hours on weekdays
System length83 mi (134 km)
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Top speed79 mph (127 km/h)
System map

N Line
Tacoma Dome
South Tacoma
S Line

Sounder commuter rail (reporting mark SDRX) is a commuter rail service operated by BNSF on behalf of Sound Transit.[3] Service operates Monday through Friday during peak hours from Seattle, Washington, north to Everett and south to Lakewood.

As of 2017, schedules serve the traditional peak commutes, with most trains running inbound to Seattle in the morning and outbound in the afternoon. Three daily round-trips run the reverse commute to and from Tacoma.[4] Additional Sounder trains operate on some Saturdays and Sundays for travel to and from Seahawks and Sounders games at Lumen Field and Mariners games at T-Mobile Park. Both stadiums are a short walk from King Street Station.

Service history[edit]

S Line[edit]

The S Line (formerly the South Line) began service with two round trip trains on September 18, 2000, with stops in Tacoma, Sumner and Auburn that terminated in Seattle. Puyallup and Kent stations were added February 5, 2001, with Tukwila being added March 12, 2001. There are currently thirteen round trips on the S Line, with three operating in the reverse commute direction.[4]

In July 2010, Sound Transit reached a new agreement with BNSF, valued at $185 million, which grants Sound Transit permanent access to the S Line corridor, as well as allowing four more daily round trips to begin, starting in 2012 and continuing through 2017.[5]

On October 8, 2012, the extension to South Tacoma and Lakewood stations was inaugurated, with five daily round trips, all of which are in the peak direction, serving the new stations.[6] In September 2016, a mid-day round trip was added between Lakewood and Seattle.[7] In September 2017, two additional round trips were added, bringing the total to eight daily round trips servicing the Lakewood extension.[8][4]

The average weekday ridership in 2010 on the S Line was 8,300, down 7% from 2009 due to continued low employment in Downtown Seattle. Since then the average ridership has increased and as of October 2015 stood at 14,500 per day.[9] In 2019, S Line ridership was 16,419 per day.[1]

N Line[edit]

The 35-mile (56 km) Everett-to-Seattle N line (formerly North Line) started with a Seahawks game train on December 21, 2003. Regular service started on December 22 with one morning train to Seattle and one evening train back. A second round trip train was added on June 6, 2005, to help increase ridership, a third was added in September 2007. In September 2008, an additional train was added to the line, bringing the total number to four round trips in the peak direction. On May 31, 2008, service to Mukilteo station began. There are currently three stops along the N Line: Edmonds, Mukilteo, and Everett.[10][11]

Additionally, Sound Transit partners with Amtrak Cascades to allow Sounder riders to use the two trains per day that Amtrak Cascades operates to Bellingham, WA and Vancouver, BC through the RailPlus program. This allows commuters to use the Sounder fare structure between Everett and Seattle. The program is available only to riders who use monthly passes. The Amtrak Cascades trains do not stop at Mukilteo nor does Amtrak's Empire Builder from Chicago, Illinois.

Weekday ridership on the N Line was roughly 1,100 in 2010[12] and was about 1,561 in the first quarter of 2016.[13] Trains on the N Line have been prone to frequent cancellation due to mudslides throughout its history,[14] though WSDOT has[when?] begun construction to remedy the problem.[15]

Future expansion[edit]

The future terminus of the S Line at DuPont station

Sound Transit plans to add additional S Line stations at Tillicum and DuPont. The track has already been constructed by Sound Transit with funding from WSDOT as part of the Point Defiance Bypass project. Funding for constructing the two stations was approved in the 2016 Sound Transit 3 ballot measure and is expected to cost $300 million. It was originally scheduled to open in 2036, but was delayed to 2045 due to a systemwide funding gap caused by increased planning costs.[16][17] The Tillicum station is planned to be located near the intersection of Interstate 5 and Berkeley Street Southwest, adjacent to Joint Base Lewis–McChord. The terminus at DuPont station is planned to be located adjacent to an existing park and ride lot at Interstate 5 and Center Drive.[18]

In addition, Sound Transit plans to extend station platform lengths on the S Line to accommodate trains up to ten cars in length, up from the current seven, and increase service.[19] Both programs were included in the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure and were originally scheduled to be fully completed by 2036, but were also delayed by the systemwide funding gap and subsequent realignment of projects. Platform extensions are scheduled to be complete by 2036, while additional trips on the S Line are scheduled to be implemented by 2046.[20][21]


As with Link light rail, Sounder operates using a proof-of-payment fare system and uses distance-based fares. Passengers are required to purchase a paper ticket, use a mobile ticket, or tap their ORCA card (and receive a valid permit to travel) before boarding trains. Sound Transit fare inspectors or police officers randomly board trains and check for valid proof-of-payment, issuing warnings or fines to passengers without valid proof-of-payment. Passengers using ORCA cards are charged the maximum fare from the station they are traveling from and are issued a permit to travel when they tap before boarding and, if necessary, receive a refund when they tap after boarding. Discounted fares are offered for youth, seniors and the disabled, and low-income riders qualifying for the ORCA Lift program.[22]

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, fare collection for all Sound Transit services was suspended from March 21 to June 1.[23] Fares on Link and Sounder were reintroduced on June 1 with a discounted rate of $2 for non-ORCA users on Sounder.[24]

Ridership statistics[edit]

Year Ridership YoY Diff. %
2004 955,298
2005 1,268,291 32.8%
2006 1,692,971 33.5%
2007 2,156,652 27.4%
2008 2,668,623 23.7%
2009 2,492,362 -6.6%
2010 2,364,290 -5.1%
2011 2,543,955 7.6%
2012 2,811,891 10.5%
2013 3,035,735 8%
2014 3,361,317 10.7%
2015 3,812,040 13.4%
2016 4,165,992 9.3%
2017[25] 4,438,374 6.5%
2018[26] 4,646,408 4.7%
2019[27] 4,616,656 -0.6%
2020[28] 1,274,219 -72.4%
Data from Sound Transit[29]

Rolling Stock[edit]

Model Manufactured Road Numbers Number In Fleet Notes Image
EMD F59PHI 1999 901–904 4 All locomotives rebuilt with engines that meet the Tier 3 EPA standard to reduce emissions and provide fuel savings.[30]
2000 905–906 2
2001 907–911 5
MotivePower MP40PH-3C 2012 921–923 3 Upgraded to comply with the Tier 3 emissions standard Sounder -923 at Everett Station.jpg
Cab Cars
Bombardier BiLevel cab car 1999 101–104 4 SRDX 111 at Everett Station (18778358478).jpg
2000 105–111 7 112–118 sold to Caltrain.[31]
2003 301–307 7
2017 321–329 9 Sounder Cab Car 327 (37384615221).jpg
Bombardier BiLevel Coach 2000 201–213 13 SDRX228.jpg
2001 214–215 2
2002 216–218, 227–228, 231–240 15 219–226 & 229–230 sold to Caltrain.[31]
2003 401–410 10
Sources (unless noted otherwise):[32][33]


  1. ^ a b c "Q4 2019 Service Delivery Quarterly Performance Report" (PDF). Sound Transit. February 27, 2020. Retrieved July 30, 2020.
  2. ^ "2016 Service Implementation Plan - Appendix B: Fleet Plans" (PDF). Sound Transit. pp. 138–139. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  3. ^ "Sounder Commuter Rail Train Specifications". Sound Transit. 2009-07-18. Archived from the original on 2009-08-02. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
  4. ^ a b c "Sound Transit: Sounder Commuter Rail Schedules". Sound Transit. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  5. ^ "Sound Transit approves four new Seattle-Tacoma round trips". Trains Magazine. 23 July 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2010.
  6. ^ Hall, C.B. (November 21, 2012). "Sounder train gets a lackluster start in Lakewood". Crosscut. Retrieved May 2, 2017.
  7. ^ "South Sounder line to start mid-day service in September". Seattle Times. August 30, 2016. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  8. ^ "Sounder south gets better than ever with new trips starting 9/25". Sound Transit. August 24, 2017. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  9. ^ "October 2015 Ridership Summary" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-11-07. Retrieved 2013-11-27.
  10. ^ Pesznecker, Scott (May 31, 2008). "Sounder begins service to Mukilteo today". Everett Herald. Everett Herald. Retrieved 2008-05-31.
  11. ^ "Mukilteo Station". Sound Transit. 2008-02-10. Archived from the original on 2008-02-07. Retrieved 2008-02-10.
  12. ^ 2011 SIP, page 26 Archived 2011-08-10 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "2016 Q1 Report" (PDF).
  14. ^ "Mudslides continue to plague rail traffic north of Seattle".
  15. ^ "Work starts on landslide solutions for Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor".
  16. ^ Lynn, Adam (March 24, 2016). "Several Pierce County projects in $50 billion Sound Transit plan". The News Tribune. Retrieved December 20, 2016.
  17. ^ Luczak, Marybeth (August 6, 2021). "Sound Transit Adopts 'Realignment' Plan". Railway Age. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  18. ^ "Sounder Extension to DuPont" (PDF). Sound Transit. July 21, 2016. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  19. ^ "South Sounder Capital Improvements Program" (PDF). Sound Transit. July 1, 2016. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  20. ^ "Realigned Capital Program Pursuant to Sound Transit Board action of August 5, 2021" (PDF). Sound Transit. August 12, 2021. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  21. ^ "Sounder South Capacity Expansion". Sound Transit. Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  22. ^ "Sounder train fares". Sound Transit. Retrieved December 21, 2018.
  23. ^ "Sound Transit to suspend fares on all transit modes until further notice" (Press release). Sound Transit. March 20, 2020. Retrieved June 11, 2020.
  24. ^ "Reduced fare options will accompany June 1 reintroduction of fares on Link and Sounder" (Press release). Sound Transit. May 18, 2020. Retrieved June 11, 2020.
  25. ^ "2017 Ridership".
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Q4 2020 Service Delivery Quarterly Performance Report" (PDF). Sound Transit. February 25, 2021. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
  29. ^ "Quarterly Ridership Report archive". Sound Transit. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  30. ^ "MOTION NO. M2016-123 Sounder Locomotive Overhaul Contract Amendment" (PDF). Sound Transit. December 15, 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  31. ^ a b "Sound Transit Motion No. M2001-72". Sound Transit. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-20.
  32. ^ "Draft 2015 Service Implementation Plan - Appendix B: Fleet Plans" (PDF). Sound Transit. p. 112. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 November 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  33. ^ "Sound Transit". Canadian Public Transportation Discussion Board Wiki. Retrieved 20 December 2014.

External links[edit]

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata