Sound Transit should reduce its Sounder train service between Everett and Seattle and shift funding to buses, a new study suggests.
The twelve member Citizens Oversight Panel released the study suggesting that low ridership is not a good use of taxpayer money compared to the bus service and the South Sounder line, which is typically standing-room only.
“The taxpayers and transit users of Snohomish County will not be well served if the high-cost Sounder North line continues to run well below capacity while the much lower-cost ST Express bus routes run overloaded with passengers standing in the aisles,” the study suggests.
A few reasons for the low ridership stem from parking. The Edmonds station only has 156 spaces, which often fill up fast.
Sound Transit realizes ridership is low but says over time that will change.
“Long term, we think we're going to get there with rising population growth and more congestion,” said Geoff Patrick, Communications Manager for Sound Transit. “We want to see those riders sooner than later.”
Sound Transit also says the train is more reliable and more comfortable.
It costs $32.38 per boarding to operate Sounder North compared to $10.19 for Sounder South. When it comes to buses, the cost is only $12.71.
The Sound Transit Board is expected to respond to the study by the end of the month. Sound Transit does say it’s considering cutting the number of train cars, adding additional parking and marketing the Sounder to help recruit new riders.
An independent analyst claims Sound Transit is breaking a state law, which says taxpayer money can only be used to operate the train if its costs are in line with the buses.
“The fact that the buses are full and the train is empty and the train costs more, they are proving they’re not meeting that law and that the train is illegal,” said John Niles, Coalition for Affective Transportation Alternatives.
The Sound Transit Board said it will have a response to the report later this month.