Sound Transit adds more buses, but no additional Light Rail or Sounder Trains during Viaduct closure

SEATTLE – Catching the light rail or Sounder commuter train might be your next best option to avoid heavy congestion on the roads during the viaduct closure.  Sound Transit says most of their rail cars are not at capacity on a normal day, so there should be room for you.  Sound Transit plans to add more buses to their daily routes, but you won’t see additional light rail cars or commuter trains.

“I prefer this over driving any day,” said Sound Transit rider Christopher Stevens.

With the viaduct closing, the light rail might be a good option.

“It’s gonna create a bottleneck in between like carmagaddeon in LA and stuff of that nature,” said Stevens.

Rail cars will be packed to capacity.

“Expect full trains, fuller than normal,” said Sound Transit Public Information Officer Kimberly Reason.

But Sound Transit doesn’t have any extra light rail cars lying around in some storage shed to contribute to easing the congestion during the viaduct closure.

“We don’t have extra cars to add. We did order light rail vehicles for our Northgate and East Link extensions, but those won’t be on board until 2021-2022.  Those cars aren’t here yet,” said Reason.

So what about the commuter train, the Sounder, that rides the same tracks owned by BNSF?  Sound Transit’s Kimberly Reason says it takes years of negotiating and a new contract with BNSF to get even just one additional Sounder train in rotation.

“You’re talking about a $50 million price tag to run one round trip train Monday through Friday,” said Reason.

So without more light rail cars or more sounder commuter cars, you’ll have to plan ahead.  Go online to take a look at graphs that show just how full rail cars are right now.  So you’ll have to add more time during the viaduct closure.

“We can’t guess the time, because we don’t really know. So that’s why we recommend trying it out once this week and give yourself maybe an extra 20 minutes to see how that works out based on the time of day you travel,” said Reason.

Or maybe we should all learn from Stevens who doesn’t limit his options.

“Light rail, bus, and if I have to take rideshare like Uber or Lyft, then so be it,” said Stevens.

Reason says right now some 80,000 people ride Sound Transit’s light rail every weekday and ridership on its other platform is only going up as well.