Kent McDaniel, of Everett, explains how difficult it is for him to get from the loading platform on the west side of the tracks to the loading platform on the east side of the tracks. He has to go up an elevator on one side, cross over the pedestrian bridge, then down an elevator on the other side, and navigate the passenger walkways with other passengers both arriving and departing. He is grateful that Sounder recently added staff to help passengers with information about arriving trains.

Kent McDaniel, of Everett, explains how difficult it is for him to get from the loading platform on the west side of the tracks to the loading platform on the east side of the tracks. He has to go up an elevator on one side, cross over the pedestrian bridge, then down an elevator on the other side, and navigate the passenger walkways with other passengers both arriving and departing. He is grateful that Sounder recently added staff to help passengers with information about arriving trains.

Which track? Sounder passengers no longer have to guess

MUKILTEO — In April, Mukilteo finally got its long-planned second boarding platform for northbound and southbound Sounder trains.

But railroad freight traffic can cause last-minute switches between the two platforms passengers use to catch the trains.

Those changes sometimes made it impossible for Kent McDaniel, of Everett, to make his connection.

McDaniel, 39, said he has used a wheelchair since being diagnosed as a child with cerebral palsy. He said he regularly uses public transit, including buses, trains and ferries, to visit spots such as the Edmonds and Mukilteo waterfronts and to make trips to Whidbey Island.

His problems started after the second platform opened at the Mukilteo Sounder station on April 11.

McDaniel emailed Sound Transit earlier this month to alert them to the issue. “The last few times I’ve tried to catch the train towards home in Everett in the evenings, I’ve waited on the northbound tracks only to find that the Sounder commuter train is using the southbound track to go northbound toward Everett station,” he wrote.

McDaniel would wait in the station’s sky bridge, watching for northbound Sounder trains to round the corner near Lighthouse Park toward the station. He would then turn and race his motorized wheelchair toward the right or left to catch an elevator, wait for it to arrive, and hope its doors opened in time for him to race off to the boarding platform.

“It is extremely confusing and there hasn’t been anyone there to help me,” he told the transit agency.

The last-minute changes in where the trains would arrive caused him to miss about five trains on his trips home to Everett.

McDaniel sent his email to Sound Transit on June 4. Peter Rogoff, Sound Transit’s chief executive officer, wrote back, saying he would tell the staff to come up with an immediate solution, said Kimberly Reason, a spokeswoman for the transit agency.

Starting June 8, Sound Transit assigned a station agent to direct McDaniel and other passengers on which platform they needed to use.

Rogoff “was very receptive to the problem and extremely helpful,” McDaniel said.

The tracks are owned by BNSF Railway. Typically, northbound trains arrive on the new south platform, Reason said.

Because of heavy rail traffic, dispatchers may need to switch platforms minutes before the Sounder’s scheduled arrival to accommodate the railroad’s freight traffic. “This happens on the south line, too,” she said.

“People who are using wheelchairs or other assistive devices are a top priority for us,” Reason said. “All the more reason we wanted to resolve this very quick in Mr. McDaniel’s case.”

McDaniel said having the station agent help direct passengers to the right platform in Mukilteo has helped him catch his trains so far.

“Definitely kudos to Sound Transit on this,” he said. “This was not only to help me but someone else in the same situation.”

McDaniel has just one other suggestion: Install a machine on the new platform to read the electronic ORCA boarding pass. Currently, there isn’t one. Riders need to tap the ORCA card before crossing the pedestrian bridge.

Work is under way to get an additional electronic card reader installed at the station right away, Reason said.

McDaniel smiled with one final observation. “All they’ve got to do is work out the logistics a little bit and everything will be in good shape.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com

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