A new midday Sounder commuter train will begin running from Lakewood to Seattle on Monday, an incremental step toward the expanded weekday and weekend service many South Sound transit users say they want.
The new train will leave the Lakewood station at 10:18 a.m. on weekdays, stop at all south line stations and arrive in Seattle about 11:31 a.m.
The return train will leave Seattle’s King Street Station at 2:32 p.m. with scheduled arrival in Lakewood at 3:45 p.m.
It will be the 11th weekday train on Sound Transit’s south line, which currently operates eight trains between Lakewood and Seattle and two between Tacoma and Seattle.
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Trains begin running north from Lakewood at 4:41 a.m. and from Tacoma at 6:15 a.m., with return trips leaving King Street Station beginning at 3:12 p.m.
“The new train will provide flex-schedule workers and other riders an additional travel option for bypassing highway gridlock that now snarls traffic throughout the day,” the agency said in a news release.
The train initially will run two cars with a total passenger capacity of 290. The regional transit agency hopes to expand the train to seven cars early next year.
South Sound transit users have told the agency they want even more.
The comments of one Pierce County resident summed up the feelings of many who responded to an anonymous survey this spring seeking input on Sound Transit’s $54 billion November ballot initiative.
That person said increased midday Sounder service would open up opportunities to shop or sightsee in Seattle without having to brave the freeways.
“Why does Sounder only run during rush hour or Seattle sporting events?” the person wrote. “We need it all day, every day, even if it is only the engine pulling one or two cars.”
Sound Transit spokeswoman Kimberly Reason said the agency is sympathetic to those desires but pointed out that money is an issue.
The Sound Transit 3 ballot issue, if approved by voters, would provide money to lengthen south line station platforms to accommodate 8- and 10-car trains and extend the southern terminus of the line to DuPont, but it includes no money for additional midday or weekend service.
“Even with this addition, commuters continue to ask for more service, including all-day service,” Reason said. “Whether all day and/or additional midday service could be affordable is still a question that is being explored.”
More track time also might have to be negotiated with the private railroads.
Money for the train that starts Monday and three other peak-service trains was approved by voters in the 2008 Sound Transit 2 ballot measure.
The first peak-service train began running from Lakewood in 2013. The other two are scheduled to begin service next year.
Ridership of south line Sounder service has increased steadily recently, according to Sound Transit records.
More than 946,000 riders boarded south line trains in the second quarter of this year, an 11-percent increase over the same period in 2015, the records show.
That growth has led to some problems, including lack of parking at Sounder stations from Puyallup to Sumner and standing-room-only on some weekday commutes or special-event trains.
For a complete list of Sounder departure times, visit soundtransit.org/schedules.