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Monday, December 22, 2003 - Page updated at 10:55 A.M.

Sounder train opens Everett-Seattle route

By Rachel Tuinstra
Seattle Times Snohomish County bureau

GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Sound Transit employee Ella Campbell, left, volunteering for the first Everett-Seattle Sounder run, waits along with Seahawks fan Paul Rubio, of Arlington, as other passengers arrived at the Everett train station. Weekday commuter service begins today.
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EVERETT — The glassy waters of Puget Sound rushed past 2-½-year-old Spencer Neiffer as he and his family peered from the window of the Sounder train, smoothly chugging toward downtown Seattle.

It was both Spencer's first train trip and Sound Transit's first trip between Everett and Seattle. Spencer and the rest of the Neiffer family were among hundreds who swarmed Everett Station yesterday morning for the kickoff of the new train route.

On this inaugural trip to Seattle, 709 people crammed aboard for the free round-trip ride, many of them bound to the Seahawks game. Passengers were lining up by 7:30 a.m., and by 9:15 a.m. all tickets had been handed out, a Sound Transit official said.

"I got the last three tickets," said Bill Sinclair, of Everett, who brought his two nieces, ages 5 and 12, for the ride. Unlike the hordes of Seahawks fans on the train, the trio planned to skip the game and meet up with extended family for dim sum in Seattle's Chinatown International District.

Everett-Seattle Sounder train


Cost: Service is free until Jan. 5. Then adult tickets will be $3 between Snohomish County and King County, $2 between Everett and Edmonds; for children under 18, the cost will be $2.25 between Snohomish County and Seattle, or $1.50 between Everett and Edmonds. All fares are one-way.

Morning schedule: Departs Everett at 6:55 a.m., departs Edmonds at 7:21 a.m., arrives at Seattle's King Street Station at 7:54 a.m.

Evening schedule: Departs King Street Station at 5:15 p.m., departs Edmonds at 5:42 p.m., arrives in Everett at 6:14 p.m.

"I hope this is used; it's a neat thing," Sinclair said. "If it's not used, it might go away, and it took long enough to get it."

The regular train schedule begins today, with one daily round trip between Everett and Seattle, including a stop in Edmonds, Mondays through Fridays. There also will be special-event trains on some weekends. Eventually, Sound Transit plans to run four round trips on the line, said Geoff Patrick, Sound Transit spokesman.

For some, Sunday's trip downtown was a preview of what their morning commute might look like. For others, it heralded an easier, cheaper way of getting to a Seahawks game.

"One, two, three: Go, Seahawks!" A group of men chanted and cheered as the train chugged the last few yards into the King Street Station in Seattle.

"We'll definitely use this to go to games. It saves parking, which can be like $20," said Bob Peterson, of Everett.

"And it's more fun this way. It's more convenient," said Aaron Ennis, of Snohomish.

GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Marysville Seahawks fans Mike Lemler and his wife, Keyna, leave the Sounder train at King Street Station yesterday after its first run from Everett. The trip was Keyna's first train ride. Once-a-day round trips for weekday commuters start today and will be free until Jan. 5.
Under its contract, Sound Transit will pay Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway $258 million over four years for access to the line forever. Sound Transit also plans to add a stop in Mukilteo within the next four years, once a new train station is constructed there, said Martin Minkoff, director of Sounder Commuter Rail.

Some train riders predicted the once-daily round trip will limit the number of people able to use the new service.

"No one's going to use it; it's one trip to Seattle and back," said Bob Dearborn, of Mill Creek. "It's not going to keep traffic off the freeway. It's just a 'make-work' program for the government. It's a waste of time and money. I'm here because it's a free trip, and it is really nice inside. It's nice fluff."

Outgoing Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel said seeing the Sounder train at the Everett station was the capstone to his years in office. Drewel, who also sits on the Sound Transit board of directors, has been working toward bringing commuter trains to Snohomish County since voters approved a regional transportation system in 1996.

GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Bob Drewel, outgoing Snohomish County executive, visits with passengers on the Sounder train's inaugural run to Seattle. Drewel was among those working to bring commuter rail service to Snohomish County since 1996.
"It's very hard to describe my feelings," Drewel said. "To have a 57-year-old man's eyes well up over the opportunity to ride a train. ... This has been a remarkable week, with the announcement of the 7E7 and now this."

The trains will probably begin running at about 54 percent capacity, with ridership initially expected to generate about 1,800 boardings a week, said Martin Young, program manager for Sounder Commuter Rail. Sound Transit's Tacoma-Seattle line, opened in 1999, initially had about 1,500 weekly boardings and now has about 3,000.

"We had a great first trip," Young said. "We got a lot of smiley faces and happy campers."

Rachel Tuinstra: 425-783-0674 or rtuinstra@seattletimes.com


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