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Chokepoints: Features on new Sounder cars come with a price

(File, KIRO Radio)

KIRO Radio listener Jenny K. sent me a note Monday morning after her ride from Pierce County.

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“Sullivan. What’s with the new Sounder train cars? No tables and no Wi-Fi defeat the goal of working on the train. I may as well drive.”

For those that don’t use the south-end Sounder service, Sound Transit just added two new trips to the run this week. They have also added new cars so each train has seven cars, meaning more people can use the service.

But Jenny is absolutely correct. The new cars don’t have tables and they don’t have Wi-Fi.

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Agency spokesperson Rachelle Cunningham said the new cars have a different configuration because they include new safety features. That gives the cars wider aisles and less rigid seats, but it came with a price.

“The newer cars have more contoured seats, so if you’re going to be sitting in them for a long period of time, you’re not quite as rigid and straight up and down,” she said. “What that has meant is a little less leg room in the quads.”

It also means no armrests. The extra leg room squeezed out space for new tables that have also been beefed-up.

“The tables that are available now are safe,” Cunningham said. “They meet crash standards, but they are too big for the quads. In the interest of passenger comfort, Sound Transit opted not to include the tables in the new cab cars.”

Cunningham said Sound Transit is not replacing all of the older cars with newer ones so people who like to work on the trains, like Jenny, can still find tables.

“We still have a lot of the older cars still on the line, so if that’s something that’s important to people hoping they can get a seat now at those tables,” she said.

So what’s up with the Wi-Fi? It’s coming, albeit slowly.

“The Wi-Fi just has not been installed yet,” Cunningham said. “There are currently five new cars on the line and we are expecting four more. Over the next eight to ten weeks, we will hopefully have Wi-Fi installed in all of those cars.”

And like the tables, the Wi-Fi is still operating in the old cars.

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