Riders board Sound Transit's Sounder Commuter Rail in Puyallup. A Crown Hill resident is fighting for a Ballard stop for the train, which passes by Golden Gardens and Shilshole.
Ballardite pushes for better transit at Golden Gardens
When Crown Hill resident Kevin Morgan watches the Sounder trains whoosh past Golden Gardens and the Shilshole Bay Marina on their way between Edmonds and downtown Seattle, he sees missed opportunity.
"If you really want to get people out of their cars, you have to get serious about it," Morgan said.
Morgan is pushing for Sound Transit to construct a Sounder Commuter Rail stop in the Golden Gardens area to accommodate Ballard riders. In the past weeks, he has gathered 80 to 100 signatures of support on posters he put up around the neighborhood.
The Sounder trains already go by there, the track is already laid and there is already parking, Morgan said. He said all that is needed is a light to make the trains stop, a bus stop-sized shelter and a ticket puncher.
Installing the stop would be economical and have a minimal environmental impact, Morgan said. It would also be a boost to nearby businesses, he said.
When the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure passed in 2008, allotting $17.8 billion for transit expansion, it included a provisional stop near Golden Gardens if there was sufficient funding available.
After extensive discussion and environmental research for a Ballard Sounder stop, Sound Transit prioritized future implementation of light rail over the heavy Sounder Commuter Rail, said Kimberly Reason, spokesperson for Sound Transit.
Ridership projections for the Ballard stop were very low, about 200 to 240 riders daily, Reason said. The Sounder North Line gets 1,000 to 1,600 riders per day, while the South Line gets 6,000 to 7,000 per day.
In general, Sound Transit's Link Light Rail system is outperforming Sounder Commuter Rail
According to the June Sound Transit Quarterly Report, Sounder Commuter Rail had 1.2 million boardings in 2010 through June. The Central Link Light Rail Line had 3.2 million.
In the second quarter of 2010, the Sounder North Line had 82,000 boardings and the South Line had 624,000. The Central Link Line had 1.8 million in the same time period, according to the report.
"The economic downturn continues to hit Sounder harder than other modes, as ridership productivity measures have not hit targets," according to the report.
"For the dollars we have available in Sound Transit 2, we would rather take those and designate them for light rail," Reason said.
Morgan said a light rail line would be beneficial, but they cost a big chunk of money.
"[A Sounder stop] is the most simple and economical plan, to me," he said.
Sound Transit dismissed a Ballard Sounder stop based on ridership numbers before coming up with a cost estimate, but the elevation changes at potential stop sites across from the Shilshole Bay Marina would make the project difficult, Reason said.
But, she said a Ballard Sounder stop has not been completely ruled out, and Sound Transit is looking at it as a possibility for a future ballot measure.
Sound Transit 2 contains funding for further study of the stop, and it could still be part of future transit development in the area, Reason said.
Morgan said he is encouraged by the response his posters have garnered, but his method is taking too long. He is hoping to host a public rally to gather signatures in late September at Golden Gardens but does not have anything finalized.
His said his goal is to gather enough signatures to avoid a vote, get the Ballard Sounder stop in Sound Transit's budget and help Ballardites get out of their cars.