Sound Transit, Amtrak team up

One pass. Two trains.

Commuters who don’t like the fact that there is only one Sounder train from Everett to Seattle on weekdays will soon have two new options.

Starting Oct. 1, the same monthly pass Snohomish County residents use to ride Sounder to work will be good on the two daily round-trip Amtrak trains that use the same route. In turn, Amtrak riders will be able to use their monthly Amtrak passes to hop on the Sounder train.

“We’re really focusing on getting commuters who are trying to use our service on a regular basis,” said Barb Gilliland, Sound Transit’s deputy director of transportation services. “This really gives (our riders) quite a few options.”

The program will be a one-year test and could be expanded if it works well.

Amtrak’s trains won’t match the Everett-to-Seattle commute perfectly, but they will help, Gillilan said.

One Amtrak train will give riders a second train to get from Seattle to Everett in the evenings. Another will give reverse commuters a ride to Everett in the morning. There’s even a third option, a train to take folks into Seattle during the middle of the day for a medical appointment or shopping.

The two agencies announced the agreement on Friday, saying the monthly passes for the Everett-to-Seattle trip are exactly the same, $108, and that allowed the partnership to form.

Partnering with Amtrak will make the commute easier, said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

This “means more mobility, more flexibility and a better quality of life for the people living and working in this region,” said Murray, who attended a press conference in Seattle announcing the partnership. “We see from the partnership here today, together we can overcome whatever obstacles we face, and we can build a brighter future for Washington state.”

Similar Amtrak partnerships in Los Angeles and San Diego have been successful, spokeswoman Vernae Graham said.

“It’s worked really well,” Graham said, adding that ridership numbers increased in Southern California after partnerships were formed with Los Angeles’ Metrolink and San Diego’s Coaster.

Casual riders will not be able take advantage of the partnership, however, because Sound Transit’s one-time, one-way cost of $3 is much lower than a one-way Amtrak ticket, which is $10 or more.

Few riders have ridden Sounder since service started from Everett to Seattle at the end of 2003, something Sound Transit doesn’t expect to change until second, third and fourth round-trip trains are added. A second train will be added in 2005 and two more in 2007.

In recent months, only about 165 people have been riding each Sounder train. Each five-car train can carry 560 people, which means the trains have been only 30 percent full.

Reporter Lukas Velush: 425-339-3449 or

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