November Link Ridership Down

New lights in BHS, by Mike Bjork

"New lights in BHS", by Mike Bjork

As I’ve said consistently through both ups and downs, monthly ridership numbers suffer from significant sample size issues, seasonal variations, shifts in supporting bus service, and so on, and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Nonetheless, weekday ridership dropped about 10% from 16,192 to 14,399, bringing it to about the same plateau as August and September and October.  Weekend ridership dropped even more (9,838 for Saturday and 7,836 for Sundays and Thanksgiving), possibly hurt by a lack of special events.  These numbers put Link slightly above Metro’s highest ridership route, the 48.  I’m told by various sources that October is typically a peak ridership month for buses and Sounder, so the month-to-month drop isn’t surprising.

However, given widespread vacation time in December, it would be surprising if Link were to come near its year-end target 0f 21,000 weekday riders.  The end-of-2010 target is 26,000, at which point data would reflect a full year of the completed line running to Seatac with all planned Metro changes in place (except for RapidRide A) for almost 11 months.  The last word on Central Link’s success or failure will not come for decades, but that will be the first really informative data point.

About Martin H. Duke

Martin joined the blog in Fall 2007 and became Editor-in-Chief in 2009. He is originally from suburban DC, but has lived in the Greater Seattle area since 1997. He resides with his family in Columbia City and works as a software engineer in Lower Queen Anne.




Comments

  1. Hey, Link may be more successful the more people ride it, but as a frequent rider, I sure love sitting down on the train during rush hour! Purely selfish, I know…

  2. Airport link is now in the Trip Planner!

  3. So what factors (that ARE under ST control) are contributing to the failure to meet the target, and what actions are being taken to rectify the situation?

    • From talking casually to folks about town (friends, colleagues, students), there are still lots of misconceptions about how to pay to ride Link.

    • alexjonlin says:

      I think more outreach to people in Rainier Valley, especially non-English-speakers, needs to happen. There’s so many misconceptions about how or even whether you have to pay, and even where it goes. It would be good to teach all the people down there how to ride it.

    • The problem is, Matt and alex’s comments are things that will solve themselves in another year or two anyway. It’s probably more expensive to spend more on outreach – the train speaks for itself.

      There really isn’t much under ST control to change. Metro hasn’t finished reorganizing their routes, and they kept the 42.

      • I caught glimpse today of a 42 and wonder with limited span and hourly service who’d still ride this. I would think the 42 will be eliminated or cut further back when the performance reviews come out.

      • Chris Stefan says:

        Blame ACRS for creating a stink about losing their one-seat ride to/from the ID to their office on MLK. No matter that an 8 will allow a transfer to Link at any of 4 stations or one can transfer to any of the many routes the 8 crosses.

      • Ride the 42 some day and watch where it drops off. If everyone is going to the I-District or places already on the 7/8/9/48, then it should be cut. My recollection, however, is that there are several places of employment on Dearborn that are not easily accessible from Jackson, and a looong walk from I-District Station.

        At any rate, it could be cut off at Mt Baker Station, or otherwise rerouted.

      • I think the danger with some misconceptions is that they can become too deeply held or entrenched. I don’t know about fare structure misconceptions, but that’s certainly the case with misconceptions about things like physics.

      • FWIW, I think ACRS’s thinking on the 42 is evolving. Their website tells how to get there by bus and rail (but asks people to walk 0.5 miles south from MBS), and fails to mention the #8, which is the most frequent bus by their office, while still listing the #48, which now terminates at MBS. Oh, and they have free parking, thanks to the antiquated Seattle City Code. I hope one of the first things Mayor McGinn does is waive the free parking requirement anywhere within a mile of a light rail station. Businesses can still offer it, but this onerous imposition on small business should be the first imposition to go away.

      • I really don’t get the free parking mandate. Bellevue does the same thing and it makes even less sense. I can understand the parking requirement where the norm for residents and business has been on street parking. I don’t get why a city provides free on street parking. But, for the most part there is no on street parking in Bellevue. If a business doesn’t plan for enough parking their business is going to hurt. Spill over parking to other businesses is easily handled with a “you will be towed” sign. Bellevue should be taxing parking based on square footage of impermeably surface (a disincentive to over build) and use the funds for day lighting creeks, improving culverts and other mitigation measures. There’s a lot of talk about the Bel-Red plan but so far the only funding has been spent on road design and acquiring property to build a new east west arterial to prepare for future demand.

      • ACRS’s is not city parking. It is business parking, which ACRS offers its clients free. In general, the city requires businesses to have a certain number of parking spaces. It does not require that those spaces be offered freely.

      • Well, Seattle only taxes pay parking spots though.

        If business (including mall) parking was taxed at the same rate as pay lot spots you’d see some smaller lots.

      • Or just not require businesses to build parking in the first place.

        Tax parking spaces the city required them to build? That wouldn’t stand long in court.

    • I think the fact that LINK is on a distance based fare formula vs the “Zone” system of the buses, and assorted ORCA problems dont help. January is going to either be really quiet and non-chilant, or the perverbial sh*t is going to hit the fan when ORCA gets forced on everyone to make a cross mode/county transfer. Which i’m sure will also be a detriment to LINK as well since you’ll no longer be able to take your metro transfer and board a LINK light rail train.

      • And i just went to go throw five or ten dollars on my empty ORCA card and they wanted my name ph# address and everything else… Wouldent even take dummy information on that crap website of theirs (about the only part of it that probally does work). Gaaa, will have to go pay in cash at the bus shop tommorw.

      • The website does suck, but you can add value to an unregistered card here without creating an account.

        https://www.orcacard.com/ERG-Seattle/p4_017.do

        I usually just use a TVM to add value because it’s faster and I don’t have to deal with the website.

      • You can also add value at any of the BusShops (Everett, Lynwood P&R, Westlake, Tacoma Dome, Tacoma Theatre District) or the ST offices at King Street/I-District Station.

    • Tony the Economist says:

      Three words: Park and Ride.

      • Chris Stefan says:

        You can park outside the 2 hour zone around the stations or take advantage of any number of private pay lots along the line. Building P&R facilities at any of the current Seattle Link stations would take money ST doesn’t have. Putting P&R facilities at any Seattle Link station also takes away from potential TOD capacity.

        I will agree putting a P&R at Rainier Beach might make some sense as might buying the Post Office garage at SODO station. However money spent on either of those projects means less money for other ST projects in the North sub-area.

      • I know it would be a huge shift in policy. One in the right direction I think. But would buying the Post Office garage and charging market rate be revenue neutral or perhaps even a money maker if long term development potential is considered? What if the “gate” for congestion pricing happened to fall just north of the Post Office ;-) One other thing that make the PO garage different is it’s not building new parking.

  4. Where do you get ridership statistics?

  5. Kellen Donohue says:

    I think once the airport station is opened and the 194 is eliminated we will see big short-term gains for Link. The forced transfer and slower travel time make me usually opt for the bus when going to the airport.

  6. I’m just going to throw out one possible reason Link ridership could be lower than forecast and see if anyone responds with comments about this hypothesis. I think Link ridership is likely lower than predicted partially because the economy is down and fewer people have to commute to work these days. In my highly scientific ridership surveys and traffic studies, commuters riding my morning 72 are way fewer and further between than in years past, and a much larger percentage of my afternoon commutes when I drive are traffic jam-free than three years ago. My assumption here is that the ridership predictions were made assuming WaMu wouldn’t collapse and whatnot.

    • Matt the Engineer says:

      This would be easy to test for. Simply look at overall Metro ridership monthly numbers. If there’s >= 10% drop, that explains it.

      • Easy? Looking at numbers sounds difficult. Just kidding.

        I wonder what other factors there may be, like more unemployment in South Seattle than other places, decreased overall ridership just in South Seattle, who knows.

      • Sounder numbers are coming soon, but you can see this kind of decrease in previous years as well. Have a look at the big Sound Transit ridership reports.

      • I can’t find any monthly breakdowns for ridership from KC Metro. I tried looking a P&R utilization. Individual lots show different trends. They don’t total the information and irritatingly they only put the 4th quarter reports for each year on line which only gives numbers for Oct, Nov and December and much of it is missing for December.

  7. hi, sorry for naive question…i’m not a seattle native
    what was the reasoning behind this line being the first light rail route?

    just seeems like, purely in terms of marketing and “selling” the idea of light rail, a route that went through more hip/yuppie/gentrified/upscale (sorry for the gross generalizations) areas would have resulted in better ridership (i’m thinking of north & east of downtown rather than south)?

    these kind of numbers may fuel anti-transit sentiment which may stifle future plans..so i was just curious as to the history of choosing this specific route first..was an airport link the main driver? is/was it really that important?

    • Kenneth Parker says:

      It’s was the easy to build part of the initial line. The airport link is part 2 and UW is part 3. The idea was airport to UW. Phase 2 is under plans and includes east to MS and north to northgate.

    • UW was much higher risk. The agency was worried about completing anything, that kind of tunneling project was way too risky.

    • The initial vision for the starting spine was from S. 200th (one stop south of the Airport) to Northgate. This was too massive and expensive of a project to be done at once, so eventually it was split up into segments. While building Downtown to UW first certainly would have had great ridership by itself, it was problematic. 1)The tunneling is a huge issue. It’s not easy or cheap. One of the reasons ST decided to tunnel through Beacon Hill despite the cost was to test out Seattle’s sandy hills before taking on the much bigger tunnel job of U-Link. 2)Opening first from Downtown to UW alone, while beneficial to many people, would have furthered the impression that Link was solely a Seattle thing, and solely a well-off white people thing. Going from the beginning to the suburbs (if only a couple of stops) and going through a largely-minority neighborhood both do a lot to help Link be seen as something for everyone, rather than being stereotyped as a yuppie train (more than it has, anyway). 3)By establishing first that they could be a competent agency able to build what they promised, Sound Transit probably maximized the potential Federal funding for U-Link. I don’t think as much Federal money would have been available if they had built U-Link first and then the southern half.

      Finally, don’t underestimate the value of going to the Rainier Valley. It is a huge ridership area. People in general stick with what they know, so it will take some time for Link to reach its potential there, but it will happen as people slowly decide to try it out. (And just wait for the next snow storm and see how many people pack on).

      Opening at the Airport at the (near) beginning is also very beneficial. While Airports are not as important as they may seem to be in the overall transit scheme of things, it will lead to a lot of otherwise reluctant people deciding to try out Link and thus possibly considering changing their commuting habits.

      • Tony the Economist says:

        Your analysis is reasonable. I particularly agree that success with the initial segment probably helped in securing more federal money for U-Link (and hopefully North-Link as well).

        Be careful in giving too much weight to existing bus ridership as a predictor of light rail success. The primary reason to build a rail system is to attract NEW riders, people who, for whatever reason, did not find the existing bus service tenable. Rainier Valley’s high ridership numbers are not due to particularly high density, but to an abnormally high mode split in favor of transit. Essentially, they’re already using transit so there’s no that much room to grow (except via TOD). That doesn’t mean that Rainier Valley wasn’t a good idea, nor does it mean Link won’t capture some new riders, but when assessing the value of light rail, the key is how many new riders it can attract, not how many existing riders there are, and the two are not always correlated.

      • Chris Stefan says:

        Even though new riders get a lot of weight in FTA scoring criteria for capital grants it isn’t necessarily the most rational way to decide where to build rail. Historically lines were double-tracked, grade-separated, or upgraded to metros as demand exceeded current capacity.

        While I will agree Northgate to Downtown via UW and Capitol Hill has a large number of potential new riders it also has a huge current ridership that is overwhelming the current infrastructure and transit service. But this line also passes through some of the densest parts of the region so one would hope the ridership is high.

    • Chris Stefan says:

      I’m not too worried about the “disappointing” ridership of Central/Airport Link hurting future transit plans. The money for ST2 has already been voted on so Link will go to Lynnwood, Federal Way, and Overlake. Once U-Link opens the “nobody rides light rail” argument will go away (even if the predicted numbers don’t happen the first year).

      Two ways “low” Central Link ridership might hurt future plans though are in routing East Link through Bellevue and City of Seattle efforts to build in-city rail transit, particularly Link expansion prior to ST3. In the first case the City of Bellevue won’t be able to stop East Link entirely and they ultimately will lose any pissing match they get into with Sound Transit just like Tukwilla lost theirs. In the case of Bellevue, any anti-rail city council members should be reminded of the majority Prop 1 got in Bellevue. In the second case I don’t think the ridership on Central Link really changes the pro-transit views of Seattle voters or the political leadership. The SLUT hasn’t been a smashing success from a ridership standpoint but that doesn’t seem to be slowing down the desire to build a streetcar network. Indeed the City is speeding up the First Hill Line and the City Council President seems to be serious about a streetcar extension to Fremont and Ballard.

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        Chris,

        I agree that a lot of the chatter about this, on both sides, is a result of trying to “win the news cycle” rather than any real reevaluation about what’s going on here. Part of my point here is that no one is really changing their mind about light rail based on these numbers. Anti-rail types are having their biases reinforced, while pro-rail people didn’t back it primarily in the hope that ridership would be high in 2009 or even 2015.

      • True believers aren’t changing sides, but I wouldn’t underestimate the risk of losing support among those who don’t pay a lot of attention. That is, it’s important to win the news cycle at least some of the time. For Link, this puts pressure on getting good ridership numbers after the early 2010 changes.

    • Another question – What was the rational for not going to SouthCenter area?

      • competition with Seattle based retailers. Northgate is within Seattle, SouthCenter is not.

      • Also, SouthCenter is not on the way to the airport. It should be served by a future branch.

      • The Southcenter alignment had an advantage (serving a mall) and a disadvantage (it’s a detour which would be better served by an east-west train). But I heard that what really did the option in was opposition by the city of Tukwila.

    • Originally it was a fear that the ship canal tunnel would be so expensive it would sink the entire project. Plus concerns about interfering with UW seismograph instruments. The federal grant was partly based on the fact that it serves a poor/minority area. Without that, our grant application would have had lower priority and the money might have gone to another city.

      Later ST found a different ship canal route that had less geological risks and was farther away from the seismographs.

  8. transit doesn’t always have to built to serve an existing need. look at pictures of the subway being constructed in new york at the turn of the century. queens was farmland and sure enough a few years after the subway was completely the area became populated and built up.

    • Just like the early commuter trains to London. Many were built by private real estate developers.

      • The difference is they were competing against a horse and virtually no infrastructure instead of an established street grid with plenty of public and private options. London at the time was built out and high rise condos weren’t an option. Your comparing completely different times and circumstances. Plus we’re not talking about private developers. We’re talking about public funds which should benefit the public that’s paying for it; not line the pockets of developers.

      • Tony the Economist says:

        Tokyo’s subway system was also primarily built by private developers who made their money on the real estate, but Tokyo’s system was built almost entirely after WWII. Granted, Asia is a different place, but this is a compelling example from the post-war era.

        Stockholm, Sweden also built their transit system entirely after WWII and the have had tremendous success. While Stockholm’s system was built by the government, they intentionally built it out into the rural areas around the city knowing full well that they would run the trains nearly empty for decades, but exactly as planned, the new land was developed into dense transit oriented satellite communities and Stockholm now enjoys one of the highest transit mode shares in the world, all built in the era of the car all made possible by leveraging the connection between transit and land use and having the courage and foresight to build it before they needed it.

        Check out the book: The Transit Metropolis by Robert Cervero for a great discussion of these and other examples of successful post-war transit planning across the globe.

      • Stockholm is built on a series of island. It’s nodal development is because of geography. When you look at the map or the satellite view it’s a mass of roads covering every developable area except where they had the foresight to reserve parks. They certainly have a fine system of public transport. The best money can buy. They also have massive automobile use and a congestion charge in the city core. This seems to be a common theme with cities that have been around for centuries longer than the United States has been a country. I wouldn’t be opposed to a congestion charge in Seattle being used to fund transit. But interestingly (according to good ole Wikipedia):

        The opposition parties won the general election and a few days before they formed government (cabinet Reinfeldt) they announced that the congestion tax would be reintroduced in Stockholm, but that the revenue would go entirely to road construction in and around Stockholm. During the trial period and according to the agenda of the previous government the revenue went entirely to public transport.

        Post WWII an automobile wasn’t an option for Tokyo residents. It was walk or use public transportation. What they did have was density; over 6 million people in 1940. Japan’s infrastructure was of course rebuilt following the war but their first rail line was built in 1872, first subway in 1927. The automobile didn’t become common in Japan until the 1950s and within a few decades Tokyo’s traffic morass was ledgendary.

    • Ah, but it did. The 48 and 7 were the highest ridership routes in the system. That’s exactly the right place to build rail first.

      • Chris Stefan says:

        But how much of the 48 ridership is/was in the CD, University District, Roosevelt, Greenlake, Greenwood, or Crown Hill?

      • Sherwin Lee says:

        There’s no way in hell it was going through the Duwamish.

      • Tony the Economist says:

        Not necessarily. The best place to build rail first is the corridor with the highest existing ridership potential, not necessarily existing ridership. That means a corridor with high trip density, land use patterns that already support transit, but where a large portion of trips are still made by car. That corridor is Northgate to Downtown via UW. NJL made a good point that doing that corridor first was risky and expensive and that it may have been wise for ST to prove itself with an easier project like the Rainier Valley segment, but aside from that, North-Link was by far the most productive segment and the best segment to do first.

      • Part of the reason for not hitting the ridership numbers might be that the line was built 3-4 blocks uphill from the high transit mode market it was aimed at. If you’re going from Rainier and Genesee to 2nd & Jackson it’s the same time (actually 1 min faster according to trip planner) to take a one seat ride on the #7 to take the 7 and then transfer at Mt. Baker (and according to trip planner, 25 cents more to take the train?). Or you can take the #39 for more schedule flexibility. It’s only 2 minutes longer travel time than link but you could be at your stop 15 minutes later. But I think the ridership on the 48 and the 7 are all about the areas they serve (completely different than Link) and less about how fast they get you downtown (which is the focus of Link).

        One thing to note about the ridership trend is that taking out Thanksgiving the overall trend for November is upward. It’s sort of strange that the busisest travel day of the year is Link’s lowest ridership; especially when you consider that the line goes to the airport (albeit with a shuttle bus transfer). Black Friday shoppers and all of the kick-off the holidays hoopla showed a spike in ridership. I mean, what better time to try transit, especially the train, than on the busiest shopping day of the year?

        I think the daily numbers are important to help plan for special events. Weekly and monthly numbers too are important to observe how things like changes in bus routes are affecting ridership. Of course you’ll have better answers, or at least confirmation when you’ve got year on year comparisons but these numbers are more than just trying to win the news cycle. For example we’re expecting a 4,000 or so jump in ridership after eliminating the 194. If it’s substantially more then I think you can conclude those are people who previously weren’t using transit. If we see the immediate jump and then a slow decline that’s cause for concern because it might mean people are deciding that with a forced transfer they might as well just drive.

      • That’s a funny tale about the 39 being 2 minutes longer than Link but 15 minute savings on the other end. I like to take the 34, because it’s right by my house, but Link gets me to my 72 in the tunnel reliably every morning, which the 34 can’t do. The September service change made the 34 linke a minute or two later, killing my connection… score one for Link!

      • High transit use and new rider potential are both important factors, but I lean toward the former. Because a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The long-term trend may favor density at rail stations, but this is not necessarily true short- and medium-term in the US. I read that Atlanta built rail in one direction expecting a lot of middle-class and lower-middle class development in that area, but the growth occurred in another direction instead. Everywhere developers build dumb buildings next to stations, multifamily housing far from stations, or people keep on driving rather than move to a station.

        So it’s best to serve places with guaranteed ridership first, and hopefully pull in a few expansion areas along with it. That will build more political support for extending the line later. Rather than going all expansion and ending up with empty trains.

  9. This boondoggle of a train keeps booning the doggles in the doggle-boons.

    BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONDOGGLE.

    There, now you won’t need to read any comments to posts about ridership at the P-I or Times.

  10. If I was to pick one reason that maybe ridership isn’t as high as some thought it would be is lack of a few particular stations. I really think ST should explore a station at MLK Way and Graham. What would a basic station cost? $10-$20m? They have over $100m from ST1 still. I also think a Convention Place station is needed as well. Later on down the road they should infill the deferred station at Boeing Field and then at 133rd in Tukwila, however those stations would provide small ridership numbers.

    As everyone has said, the Airport extension, Metro’s schedule restructuring and fare increases will all help increase ridership as well. The economy isn’t helping, as is the low price of gas currently. Once all these factors iron themselves out, the ridership numbers will increase. However a station at Graham would really help.

    Denver did the same thing back in 1995 with their initial 9 mile light rail route. They ran it through an area where they could get a line built and at the cheapest price. Ridership was nill, but they increased that line to 15 miles and eventually added another 19 mile line and now their system is doing fine. It just takes time like everyone said.

    • Chris Stefan says:

      There might be a possibility of building a convention place station around the current stub tunnel, but it wouldn’t be likely to happen until after the buses are gone from the tunnel (plus money to build it will have to be found). I’m not exactly sure of the technical feasibility. I believe at a minimum 4 Link car lengths of straight and level track would be required.

      • How level? Pioneer Square Station is at an angle dipping to the south.

      • 1.00%, to be exact.

        The stub tunnel has a %2.00 dip towards I-5 with slight curves to the south at the end and is 3 car lengths long. The south curve comes really close to the edge of the NE corner of the Paramount. The tracks also diverge more than half way through in preparation for the U-Link tunnels. Extend it another car length and you get really close to I-5. I don’t think it’s really feasible.

      • Chris Stefan says:

        Sounds like it wouldn’t be terribly feasible to add a station in this location. Perhaps there are some other approaches that could be taken once the buses are out of the tunnel. However I suspect it won’t prove to be practical due to cost, engineering, and construction challenges.

      • Would it be possible to leave CPS as a transfer point for busses, and then have some type of “transport” in the tunnel between CPS and Westlake.

    • Part of the reason the Convention Place station was dropped is it never lived up to its expectations. It’s convenient for Capitol Hill riders but it’s still only lightly used. The mass of convention riders never materialized. Plus it’s badly designed: the buses stop at several different platforms, so if you simply want to take “a southbound bus”, you have to wait at the top of the escalators to see which one comes first.

  11. It’s too bad we can’t add our name to the list of cities happy to report that they have met their ridership goals for out-years within the first month. In addition to sample size problems, I wonder if the counting equipment is as reliable as we would want it to be.

  12. How do they count ridership on Metro buses?

  13. Also, does anyone here know if school kids have to pay to ride LINK trains?

    The other day several teenagers boarded a LINK train I was on at Mt Baker station. I asked one of them where he went to school, and he said Franklin High School. Then I asked him how he paid for his fare on LINK, and he told me he didn’t have to pay to ride LINK — it is free for school kids. Does anyone know if this is true, or not?

    • Daniel Warwick says:

      Free with the Student Orca card–for Seattle students

      Students who don’t have a school Orca card (for whatever reason) don’t ride for free.

      • Actually there’s no ORCA card yet, but if you have a PugetPass that says student on it you get onto Link free. Students only get a pass from school if they live 2.5 miles or more away, though. I understand that they want to encourage walking to school, but someone who lives two and a half miles away isn’t going to walk, that would be like 45 minutes every morning.

    • I think he probably meant he got his pass free from the school district.

    • Lucas Smith says:

      Link is not free for anyone, but the passes that Seattle Schools gives to high school students are good for full fare on Link and 75¢ elsewhere.

    • Also know that Seattle students are being asked for their student ID’s in addition to showing their “student” pass. This confusion (according to my teen daughter) has left her friends thinking that buses are easier. She, on the other hand, is thrilled to take the train.

      • The student pass should’ve been a photo ID. Just integrate ORCA into the student ID like the U-PASS will be. And allow the school district and parents to manage the card online.

      • alexjonlin says:

        Huh I’ve never been asked to show a student ID. Why would they need that?

      • That’s totally insane – I don’t need to show my ID on the train, so why should students? I don’t have much of a libertarian bent, but checking IDs just to ride transit? Sounds like South Africa or something. Is this really happening?!

      • From what i hear about ST fare enforcement…. Apparantly they are quite unforgiving. even in the event of ORCA/TVM Malfunction it dosent matter, out goes the ticketbook!

        If you have any sort of reduced fare card that requires you to show ID, RRFP (thats got the photo on it) Student/U-Pass/various Flex Passes technically you are to show your employer’s issued ID card along with the pass. Been that way for years.

      • I’m not sure that students know this… I know that students at the school where I teach get transit passes and they aren’t told by anyone they’ll need to carry an ID. There’s probably a letter that goes home to parents or something, but they don’t read those.

  14. Mathew "RennDawg" Renner says:

    You know the answer may be simpler than anyone thinks. It maybe that because it is cold people may prefer a warm car to waiting in the cold for a bus. Maybe people remember what happened when it snowed last year and they do not want to take a chance. I know that this is not scientific just a guess.

    • It was darn cold, I’ll agree with that. I’d love to see a precipitation vs. daily ridership graph for routes in the U District where the alternative is walking or biking.

      • It was not that cold in November. The high temp for almost every day in November was 50 degrees or warmer.

        It got cold in the first two weeks of December, and we don’t have December ridership numbers yet.

        I don’t think the temperature has anything to do with ridership on LINK, but if it does, and cold temps mean fewer riders, then December’s ridership before the airport station opens should be a lot lower than November’s was.

      • I bet temperature plays at least a small role in determining whether somebody feels like waiting for transit or taking their car – Thinking back to winters in DC, it sure does suck waiting at above-ground stations in below-zero weather.

      • It never gets below zero here. Doesn’t even get below freezing that often. The forecast for tonight’s low temperature is 45 degrees.

      • Mathew "RennDawg" Renner says:

        Yes, but we have a lot of wimps who hate being very cold. If you live in places like Chicago or DC you may get used to it.

      • Temperature does have an effect, especially if it’s colder or warmer than normal in the winter, ridership decreases or increases. Rain, snow and wind also have a negative effect. That’s according to research my friend did with Pierce Transit ridership data and SeaTac Airport weather data.

      • Mathew "RennDawg" Renner says:

        Wow I was right. I was just making a guess. I’m smarter than I thought.

      • It sure as heck gets below zero here.

        I guess rain would have done it in November.

      • Below 0 Fahrenheit? In Seattle!?!

      • Nope, Celsius. You’re the first one to specify units, Anc – that was my point!

      • It did went down to -8°C in Seattle last week with highs below-zero (freezing).

      • Matt – Being that I am not a Commie I do not recognize Celsius. ;)

    • Yeah, November was cold and wet. This is especially a deterrent to optional transit users, which trains usually attract more of.

  15. Jason Mitchell says:

    I’m on board with the economy argument. The Seattle Times ran a piece this summer that said overall traffic in the area was down 9 percent b/c of the economy. No reason Link ridership shouldn’t take the same kind of hit (or a worse hit, since minorities have suffered disproportionately in this economy).

    Also, does anyone have a guesstimate as to how many planned living units have not been built in RV since the economy tanked? Or what occupancy rates are like in those developments that have been built? I imagine part of the problem with the ridership estimate is that ST simply thought more people would be living along the line by now.

  16. The biggest reason, in my opinion, for decreasing ridership is the frustration in transferring with buses. While I agree that there are many in the Valley who need outreach, that wouldn’t account for decreasing ridership, only low ridership.

    For me the issue is all about the buses. The other thing to consider is that weather has changed. I’d much rather sit on one bus for the whole trip rather than having to walk to/from the train to the buses at the Mt. Baker station, particularly if the 8 runs every 15 minutes.

    • p.s. The 42 should be gone. The ACRS thing frustrates me to no end.

      The 48 should run into Columbia City as half of their routes used to do. The 8 should run far more frequently. It’s ridiculous the number of people who are getting off of the 48 and waiting for the 8 (or vice versa) at the Mt. Baker station.

      • The 42 serves Dearborn Street, a popular workplace destination short of downtown. It cannot be removed entirely without having the 7X run all day.

        We still need *frequent* bus service between the rail stations (which are not walking distance apart), to get people to the rail stations. I thought the 8 was going to replace the frequency of the 42, while forcing people to transfer to Link at Mt. Baker Station in order to get downtown in a reasonable amount of time.

        We should also consider a little more compromise with those car drivers who insist on having a parking garage next to Link. It won’t kill us to have a parking garage next to an occasional station, so long as most of the stations are more neighborhood friendly. It’s not like Tukwila International Station could become a European-style urban village. Such a parking garage would allow us to get a measure of vengeance on the Port of Seattle by undercutting their parking garage revenue (the reason they forced Airport Station to stay off their property). We’re not done playing hardball with the POS.

      • Dearborn, other than Goodwill, is really an ID destination. And the International District station can serve those folks just fine. I take the train to go to Uwajimaya and it’s great. Get rid of the 42 and improve on the 8 and 48.

      • Making the 8 into the main MLK route was probably a mistake. I think a lot more people are heading to 23rd/U-district (48) than to Denny Way (8). That’s forcing people to transfer between the 8 and the 48 because the 48 should have been the main MLK route in the first place.

      • Martin H. Duke says:

        Mike, the SE Seattle sounding board said as much in asking to make the 48 the MLK service. Metro’s counterargument was that the 8 was more reliable, and shortening the 48 would make the rest of it more reliable. So to some extent it was to benefit riders outside the Southeast.

  17. I think the biggest issue is the confusion around transfers and differing fares between agencies. While Metro has made some efforts to revise their bus services around Link, Link still seems to operate in a vacuum. There isn’t a whole lot of promotion of light rail by Metro, for instance.

    In the short-term, we clearly have a long way to go in terms of simplifying the fare structure. See this zone map from Copenhagen: http://www.dsb.dk/Global/Billeder/Zonekort/01-DSB-01.gif . All trains/buses/whatever within the Copenhagen area are priced based on the distance travelled. Doesn’t matter if you’re on a bus or the metro (run by one agency), or the suburban trains (which are run by the national Danish railways). Easy to read and figure out, and no confusion regarding transfers between modes.

    In the long-run, we simply HAVE to start combining agencies. We’re spending too much of our precious transit dollars to maintain multiple bureaucracies when we should be spending on the core service.

    If we want to get serious about obtaining the maximum return from our $2.4B investment, then the two points above need serious consideration.

  18. Martin H. Duke says:

    There’s no doubt that unemployment plays a role. Transit ridership and traffic are down across the board.

  19. Mike Skehan says:

    Does anyone know where to find the ‘official’ ridership targets or projections for Airport Link through 2016, or when the line gets another extension? (and be willing to post the URL). My Central/Airport Link document shows 19,800 avg. daily riders for 2009, and 32,600 for next year’s average.

    Central Link Operations Plan – Westlake to SeaTac /Airport (pg31, Jul,29,2008)

    Seems to me I remember reading the airport station is only expected to add about 2,000 daily riders initially, after the 194 stops running. Sounds about right, as the total ridership on the 194 is about 4,400 per day, and maybe half find other ways to get where there going, like express buses on I-5.

  20. Ridership numbers will increase as Metro cuts routes and forces people onto the Link. Hardly what was touted during the voting cycles however …. everyone will ride because it’s a choo-choo and they’ll leave their cars behind. Not. Instead they rely on Metro defectors, sports fans and students.

    The #8 REALLY REALLY needs to run more frequently and on-time. It is forever behind schedule by 10 and 15 minutes.

    Link needs to run later on Friday/Saturday. I know many people that will not ride the train INTO the city on the weekend for shows or bar fun, because they have to make sure they are at Westlake for the last train at 12:30am. I’m sorry, but often bands don’t finish playing until 1am or later. The consequence is people drive into town instead because they can leave later. No reason why the trains can’t have the last train out of the city at 2am or even later. I’m sure there are many service workers that would take the train if it ran later as well. They get off their shift and then have to deal with late night buses or driving. And don’t say: they gotta do maintenance. BS, running later on 2 nights isn’t going to cause a huge issue.

    • Transit officials predicted that the 8 would be a more on-time bus than the 48. That ain’t happening. Instead, it’s forcing transit-dependent riders to wait for long periods because we have no alternative. Not that I’m feeling resentful about it. ;-)

      • What I really don’t understand is *why* the 8 is so not on-time. Are they getting stuck on Denny? The rest of the route just doesn’t seem that crazy to me.

    • I agree completely with extending hours.

      Even better, get local bars to chip in and sponsor a ‘ride home safe and free’ from 12-2 or something like that. Maybe not every weekend as it could get expensive, but a couple times a month for holidays or sports events the like. Good publicity for the bars and good exposure for LINK.

      • It would be cool if the City would require large event planners to fund extra Link trains in order to get their permits.

      • That sir sounds a very good suggestion to make to the McGinn!

      • Yeah, I will… I was acutally thinking about it after forgoing Link for the car to get to the Jingle Bell Run – I just wasn’t feeling the 15-minute service on Sunday morning.

    • Later trains on Friday/Saturday would be a big improvement. But another problem is that Link runs on MLK while the 24-hour bus runs on Rainier and has completely different stops. Figuring out the train schedule is easy. Figuring our whether there’s a late-night bus nearby, what its number is, and whether you can find your way in the dark from an unfamiliar street is another issue. Frequent riders will look at all the schedules and figure it out. Visitors and occasional riders will just give up and not ride the bus.

    • Just to keep re- re- re-hashing the late night thing, I think one start in the right direction would be if service really were at 15-minute intervals starting at 5 a.m. and ending at 1 a.m. I would think I could show up at 12:45 a.m. at the latest and make the last train based on that notion, but that’s not true.

      BART says it runs till 1 a.m., which means you can catch a train at any station up until 1 a.m., not that the operators go home then.

      But any of this requires money.

  21. The fare and transfer policy inconsistencies are an unnecessary, unproductive nuisance and confusion for riders. Distance based fares don’t raise nearly enough revenue to justify the confusion for passengers. Just make the fares the same for riding Metro or Link, including transfers, and remove unnecessary confusion, and encourage transfers between modes and use of Link.

    Transit needs to be seamless and it is total BS to have inter-agency policy differences visible to riders. If riders don’t understand it, they just keep doing what they did before and ignore Link.

  22. The Zone fare structure causes quite a bit of confusion i think, not to mention making purchasing single ride tickets more complex than it should be. Overall, with all the regional inconsistancies in fare policy, it makes everything more complex than it needs to be. Soon to make things worse is the ORCA implementation, eliminating all cross-agency transfers (Metro-LINK, Metro/Sounder, all ST transfers) without an ORCA card, which have been less than successful (Seen several refrences lately to carrying your reciept with you when you ride as things may not work properly – dosent this defeat the point of the system?)

    • I used to carry my pass receipt but haven’t done so for five months.

    • I’ve had an ORCA card for several months. At first, I had trouble getting used to how to tap. Once I got past that step, it has been working fine.

      Maybe I’m living a charmed life, but these stories about ORCA cards not working is something I haven’t experienced. If it doesn’t work the first time, tap again. If it still isn’t working, ST has plenty of people nearby who can help you out.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] we reported the largely meaningless Link ridership numbers last week, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) just [...]

  2. [...] repeat myself, but monthly ridership numbers are highly sensitive to small sample size issues, seasonal [...]

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