Having ridden the inaugural run of the Sounder Lakewood extension, I can say that in my opinion the train is an asset to the region. The traffic removed from freeways, resultant reduction in pollution, and access to transportation for low income and non-driving public from Lakewood all the way to Everett are solid community improvements.
That said, I cannot fathom why such an improvement would be relegated to a truncated commuter-only operation schedule. Not having at least 18-hour, if not full round-the-clock, daily train service to allow for tourist, swing and night shift as well as weekend work, theatergoing, shopping and routine event transport is in my view appallingly shortsighted.
The cost per passenger per track mile argument, once ridership catches on, would surely have to come down when matched against the increased business and labor traffic minus the road congestion. Those who advocate the “bus when the Sounder isn’t running” solution overlook that buses stop far more frequently and are subject to the vagaries of traffic congestion. They are far more efficient for short distances and as transfer assets off a fully scheduled Sounder to complete public transportation commutes.
Using the Sounder as is compares to building a 10-story, five-star hotel and only renting out the first floor.