Sounder commuter rail

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.

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 lengthNorth Line: 1 locomotive, 2 or 3 passenger cars
South Line: 1 locomotive, 7 passenger cars
System length83 mi (134 km)
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Top speed79 mph (127 km/h)
System map

North Line
Tacoma Dome
South Tacoma
South Line

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 CenturyLink Field and Mariners games at T-Mobile Park. Both stadiums are a short walk from King Street Station.

Service historyEdit

South LineEdit

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 South 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 South 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 were 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 South 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, South Line ridership was 16,419 per day.[1]

North LineEdit

The 35-mile (56 km) Everett-to-Seattle line started with a Seahawks game train on December 21, 2003. Regular service started on the 22nd 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 North 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 North Line was roughly 1,100 in 2010[12] and was about 1,561 in the first quarter of 2016.[13] Trains on the North Line have been prone to frequent cancellation due to mudslides throughout its history,[14] though WSDOT has begun construction to remedy the problem.[15]

Future expansionEdit

Sound Transit plans to add additional Sounder South 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. The construction of the stations will be funded by the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure passed in 2016. The two stations are expected to open in 2036 and cost $300 million.[16] In addition, Sound Transit plans to extend station platform lengths on the south line to accommodate trains up to ten cars in length, up from the current seven.[17]


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.[18]

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, fare collection for all Sound Transit services was suspended from March 21 to June 1.[19] Fares on Link and Sounder were reintroduced on June 1 with a discounted rate of $2 for non-ORCA users on Sounder.[20]

Ridership statisticsEdit

Data from Sound Transit[21]
Year Ridership YoY Diff. %
2004 955,298
2005 1,268,291 33%
2006 1,692,971 34%
2007 2,156,652 27%
2008 2,668,623 24%
2009 2,492,362 -7%
2010 2,364,290 -5%
2011 2,543,955 8%
2012 2,811,891 11%
2013 3,035,735 8%
2014 3,361,317 11%
2015 3,812,040 13%
2016 4,165,992 8%
2017[22] 4,438,374 6%
2018[23] 4,646,408 5%
2019[24] 4,616,656 -0.6%


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.[25]  
2000 905–906 2
2001 907–911 5
MotivePower MP40PH-3C 2012 921–923 3 Upgraded to comply with the Tier 3 emissions standard  
Cab Cars
Bombardier BiLevel cab car 1999 101–104 4  
2000 105–111 7 112–118 sold to Caltrain.[26]
2003 301–307 7
2017 321–329 9  
Bombardier BiLevel Coach 2000 201–213 13  
2001 214–215 2
2002 216–218, 227–228, 231–240 15 219–226 & 229–230 sold to Caltrain.[26]
2003 401–410 10
Sources (unless noted otherwise):[27][28]


  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. ^ "South Sounder Capital Improvements Program" (PDF). Sound Transit. July 1, 2016. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  18. ^ "Sounder train fares". Sound Transit. Retrieved December 21, 2018.
  19. ^ "Sound Transit to suspend fares on all transit modes until further notice" (Press release). Sound Transit. March 20, 2020. Retrieved June 11, 2020.
  20. ^ "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.
  21. ^ "Quarterly Ridership Report archive". Sound Transit. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  22. ^ "2017 Ridership".
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ "MOTION NO. M2016-123 Sounder Locomotive Overhaul Contract Amendment" (PDF). Sound Transit. December 15, 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  26. ^ a b "Sound Transit Motion No. M2001-72". Sound Transit. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-20.
  27. ^ "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.
  28. ^ "Sound Transit". Canadian Public Transportation Discussion Board Wiki. Retrieved 20 December 2014.

External linksEdit

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata