Taxpayers funding North Sounder train service at $29 per passenger

Oct 16, 2012

It's usually easy to find an empty seat on Sound Transit's Sounder commuter trains running between Seattle and Everett.

The trains are typically one-third full, serving about 1,100 passengers on four trains a day. That's about half as many passengers as officials expected in 2003 when they made the deal to expand the service 35 miles north.

The Seattle Times reports taxpayers subsidize the service at a cost of about $29 for each passenger trip. 

A citizen oversight panel says if the number of passengers doesn't double by 2020 Sound Transit should consider shifting money to express buses.

The panel's report reads, "At a certain point in the future, Sound Transit may have to come to terms with a reality that one of its services is not living up to a reasonable definition of viability."

In response to the panel, the mayors of Everett, Mukilteo and Edmonds drafted a letter of support for Sound Transit and the continued efforts to develop new ridership on Sounder North. 

Supporters say the north Sounder service needs more park-and-ride lots. They also say service should improve with federal help controlling mudslides that have canceled dozens of trains the past two winters.