February 2014 Sound Transit Ridership Report – Off the Chart (Again)

Beast Quake 2 - Image from Pacific Northwest Seismic Network

Beast Quake 2 – Image from Pacific Northwest Seismic Network

I first created my charts and started writing these reports a year and a half ago.  Back then I set the upper limit for my growth chart at 16%.  At the time it seemed pretty reasonable.  In the fall of 2013, the most Link had ever grown from one year to next was 15% and at any time the growth rate would have to level off to the ‘mature rate’ of 2-3%.  Well I was wrong.  Unlike every other system in North America, Link has somehow not only managed to keep up double digit growth into its 4th year of operation, but Link’s growth is actually accelerating.  Last December I had to bump the top of the chart up to 18%, now I have to extend the upper limit to 20%.  True, there was a little event back in February that impacted the numbers, but even taking that day out Link was still in double digits.  At this pace Link is trending to catch up to its original projections even with the Great Recession severely impacting ridership in the short term.

February’s Central Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday boardings were 30,250/18,805/14,474, growth of 19.2%, 4.4%, and 11.9% respectively over February 2013. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 11.2% with ridership increasing on both the North and South lines.  Total Tacoma Link ridership was down 7.6% with weekday ridership declining 6.3%. Weekday ST Express ridership was up 7.4%, with most growth occurring on East King and Pierce County routes. Complete February Ridership Summary here>

At 29,609 average daily riders for the last 12 months, Link has already surpassed its projection of 29,600 average daily riders by Dec 31st 2014 (see page 112)

Yes, you read that correctly.  By February Link had already met its projected YEARLY ridership growth for 2014. 

As mentioned last post, February’s report not only has the pages of cool charts from January’s report but also a short analysis/context blurb for each chart.  Well worth checking out.  My charts below the fold.Feb14Weekday Feb14WeekendFeb14GrowthFeb14MvgAvg

Comments

  1. Brent says

    “Link’s growth is actually accelerating.”

    Light rail. Dark energy.

    Central Link has gained more boardings than ST Express for five consecutive months. Within a year of U-Link opening, Link will likely be carrying a majority of all ST rides — and a lot more rides than any other transit agency in the state, besides King County Metro.

  2. Mark Dublin says

    Why wouldn’t ridership increase on reliably fast, frequent, and comfortable service with the region’s major airport at one end, a city’s central commercial area at the other end, a residential area for much of its length, and two stadiums and their south-end parking lot along the route?

    As a regular passenger, my ride on LINK would be first choice except for three factor main factors: in this very early stage of its existence, the service requires other service to reach its future regional extents in all three directions.

    My other factors are harder to quantify, but very convincing to passengers with intensive experience on both trains and buses.

    One is that despite frequent grade crossings on MLK, inexcusable in the planning of an airport line. Which are predictably responsible for most LINK delays by collision with both motor vehicles and pedestrians. Accidents all of which judged non-preventable on the part of trains.

    But again especially for regular rush hour and stadium passengers, for standing loads a train is hugely more comfortable than a bus. A standing load in local and every bus in stop and go traffic would be discouraged for livestock.

    For seated loads, express rides are better than bearable, and on the ST Express highway coaches quite enjoyable. Too bad the new buses replacing them having only four comfortable seats each, the window lines whose window lines are above a passenger’s chin.

    Chief fault of the Greyhound-type buses, with single narrow doors and steep stairs, have long delays at every stop during rush hour. And wheelchair access requires boarding like a two-story outdoor elevator ride.

    But most glaring difference between a LINK ride and a the best bus ride can be seen at every bus platform in the Downtown Seattle tunnel: door use for passengers with and without wheelchairs takes a long time. To which the addition of fareboxes shares inexcusability with MLK grade crossings.

    However, I think the increasing ridership has always been standard with freeways: it takes people several years to even find out it’s even there, and several more to figure out how to change travel patterns to use it. Good report here- but no surprise.

    Mark Dublin

  3. bigyaz says

    Each of these should be “its” not “it’s”:

    …it’s 4th year of operation, but Link’s growth is actually accelerating.

    At this pace Link is trending to catch up to it’s original projections…

    …Link has already surpassed it’s projection of 29,600 average daily riders by Dec 31st 2014 (see page 112).

    By February Link had already met it’s projected YEARLY ridership growth for 2014.

      • bigyaz says

        So you make no distinction between rudely correcting obscure, fine points of grammar and usage vs. providing some (not at all rude) guidance to someone who clearly has no clue about the difference between something as basic as its and it’s?

      • TSipe says

        “Providing some (not at all rude) guidance to SOMEONE WHO HAS NO CLUE (RUDE) about the difference between something as basic as its and it’s?”

        Matthew, I’m sure does know the difference. There are examples in his pieces where he correctly uses both its and it’s. He’s probably busy with his full-time job, running and contributing to a blog (for free), and likely has a family — it could and should be forgiven that he has the most minor of grammar mistake. Was the idea of his words lost on you? Or anyone? No.

        But if you’re so enlightened to share (solicited or unsolicited) your mastery of the English language, I suggest you work for free to be a copy editor for seattletransitblog. I hear they’re looking for volunteers.

  4. Jory says

    Why don’t we wait and see until AFTER 2014 to see how Link did.
    Those huge numbers may just be a one time abolition.
    Give it a couple more months, and THEN we’ll talk. :)

    • Charles B says

      Did you mean an anomaly or an aberration?

      Even if we ignore the one time ridership for the Seahawks parade, the trend appears to be continued growth. It will be interesting to see what effect (if any) the new streetcar will have when it opens later this year.

    • Mike Orr says

      The later months can’t erase the ridership in January and February. They won’t be zero either. So even if they return to the previously-expected level, it’ll still end up being twice the expected annual ridership by the end of the year.

      Another thing. People say the Seahawks demonstration was unusual and we shouldn’t count it as a trend of anything. But what is usual is that unusual events will continue to happen. One advantage of high-capacity transit is that it can handle unusual spikes of demand more easily. Perhaps you remember a little demonstration in 1999. We didn’t have Link then but we did have the DSTT, which was a partial step. It allowed buses to run underground while the protestors were blocking the streets aboveground. The current Link line adds resiliency, and when Link gets to north Seattle and Lynnwood and Bellevue it will add much more resiliency.

  5. Worth It? says

    Link’s daily boarding numbers are not impressive. The initial FFGA for Central Link (CPS to Tukwila) said there would be 29,000 new transit users by 2015 and 42,000 average daily boardings. The actual numbers aren’t close to those, and the extension to the airport should have raised the levels above those FFGA estimates. Moreover, the same 18.5% of Seattle residents still use transit to commute, which has not changed since the early 2000’s when light rail was just a dream. TOD? No, that secondary benefit has not been spawned by light rail. Apartment construction is booming elsewhere in the city, and essentially no TOD is taking place proximate to light rail stations.

    Any estimate of the tax costs to the public of securing the mountain of long term debt that municipality intends to issue? Didn’t think so.

    Let’s do it this way: who wants to argue Sound Transit is worth it.

    • Sam says

      Don’t forget, you can subtract 3% to 4% from that transit user number. These are the fare evaders. And just as a people who steal from a store are not customers, people who do not pay the fare can’t be counted as customers, either.

      • Emily says

        Unless the percentage of fare evaders is increasing each year (and you’ve offered no evidence that it is), then ST’s numbers do indeed show an increase in customers.

    • KyleK says

      If you are going to trot out a bunch of incorrect numbers, you really should include links to your sources.

      As with most critics, your view is far too myopic when it comes to rail. The current line from downtown to the airport is just the beginning. Its simple a simple network concept — the more nodes there are on the system the more valuble it is to be near one of those nodes… and there are going to be a lot more nodes.
      When U-Link opens in 2016, ridership is expected to triple with only a minor increase in operating expenses. What does that mean? It will then be much cheaper, per ride, to operate Link than any other form of transportation that we currently use in the city. Multiply that times the 25 Million-ish rides/year that it will carry starting in 2016, and might – if you care to – see the basis for the payback on the investment.

      • Sam says

        Kyle, if “Worth It?” is myopic on the anti-Link side, don’t you think you’re being a bit myopic on the pro-Link side, with your claim that our investment will be paid back?

      • KyleK says

        Sam: No.

        I’m glad to argue the money thing with people because it’s a place where detractors are objectively wrong. But the economics piece is only one of many benefits — the rest of which detractors patently refuse to acknowledge.

        I’m also glad to point out where Link could be better. We can and should be building a system more like Vancouver.

      • RossB says

        I think University Link as well as the U-District station is key. We built the current system for political reasons. No one in their right mind would head south to the airport instead of north to the U-District, if not for the desire to satisfy the suburban representatives. There were other political aspects to that choice as well — such as the greater risk involved with going north. But don’t be fooled by the name. The “central” part of link will go from the U-District to downtown. If we add a transit center at SODO, then that becomes part of the core. Every station from there to the U-District will have much higher ridership than everything to the south (there was potential to the south and east, via the Central Area, but it was squandered).

        Numbers like this are really impressive given the fact that we haven’t built the most important part of the system yet (UW-Capitol Hill-Downtown).

      • Mike Orr says

        The estimate that Worth It? cites is also a poorer one. (1) There never had been light rail in the region so it was harder to predict people’s behavior to it. (2) The initial estimates go back to the 1990s so get more dated and obsolete every year. Nobody in the 90s predicted the real estate boom, the crash, 9/11, large social networks, or other things. (3) The initial estimates were overoptimistic in more ways than this. They also miscalculated the risk of the ship canal crossing, which led to University Link being deferred. Again, nobody had ever dug a transit tunnel under the Ship Canal before, so it had to be a guess. But later Sound Transit was reorganized, and since then has published much more conservative estimates and budgets. That’s why we trust the recent estimates more than the old ones.

      • Worth It? says

        Mike Orr: If you would read what I posted — and not just respond to what you wish I’d posted — you’d see that I wasn’t referring to the 1990’s ridership estimates or the estimates of the cost of tunneling from CPS north.

        I was referring to the 2003 FFGA application for Central Link. Central Link was forecast to have 42,500 average weekday boardings, including 29,000 new riders daily:

        http://www.fta.dot.gov/newsroom_512.html

        To the poster above that suggests I should have provided links: the constant 18.5% share of Seattle commuters that has used transit since the early 2000’s can be seen here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._cities_with_high_transit_ridership

        Previous versions of that chart can be seen by going to the “history” section of that page.

        Somebody posted this above: “I’m glad to argue the money thing with people because it’s a place where detractors are objectively wrong.” Suuuure you are. Estimate the tax cost to the public of securing the (approx.) $9 billion of long-term ST2 bonds staff says the board will want to issue over the next decade. Let’s see what you know about “the money thing.”

        Now — who wants to argue Sound Transit is worth it to the 98% of people here subject to its heavy taxing who are not financial beneficiaries of it?

      • RossB says

        >> Now — who wants to argue Sound Transit is worth it to the 98% of people here subject to its heavy taxing who are not financial beneficiaries of it?

        Everyone in the region benefits financially from Link, whether they use it or not. Whether it is worth it or not, is another question.

      • KyleK says

        Haha.. Worth It:

        I’m sorry, you really arent getting any better at internet. You will need to provide a lot more information and not link to Wikipedia if you want to make some point about ST’s finances.

        Here is the commute Seattle study that found 42.2% (vs 32.7% who drove alone) of Seattle commuters used transit in 2012. I suggest you read the whole thing, but page 7 breaks it down. http://commuteseattle.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/2012-Modesplit-Final-Report.pdf

        Regarding Link — no one is saying it isnt an expenive investment, but it is an investment that has an ROI. When fully built out it will have the lowest per trip cost vs any other mode which gives us that ROI. It’s a pretty terrible abherration of numbers to conflate current ridership with future project bond projections – no one should do that.

      • KyleK says

        Also — the link you provided from 2003 says 42k rides by 2020 for Central Link. I would be shocked at this point if Central Link doesnt hit that number by 2020 considering its improved utility when U-Link and Angle Lake open.

      • John Bailo says

        Numbers like this are really impressive given the fact that we haven’t built the most important part of the system yet (UW-Capitol Hill-Downtown).

        I don’t agree with that. The point being made here is that what people want…what they voted for two decades ago…is fast regional transit.

        I don’t think that the UW-Capitol Hill-Downtown line will be that impressive in the sense that it will draw from already swift bus service, but also because people are already taking transit rather than cars for that segment.

        What will really be impressive is building more expansive lines like Bellevue and Northgate. That is where the real utility comes in for transit like LINK and Sounder — that is where they truly compete with cars. Where people who would take a car sit back and say, hey, this is a cost-saver, a time-saver and a grief-saver and I would pay for it.

        My qualm with LINK has always been — why is it taking so long!?

      • David Lawson says

        John, are you really describing the 43, complete with average speed of 4 mph and average trip times of 12 minutes over a one-mile segment Link will serve in 2, as “already swift bus service?” Really? Average speed of 4 mph means that my not-perfectly-conditioned self could easily beat the 43 by jogging. Up the hill.

        UW-Downtown is going to attract several times the riders that all of East Link will. No one is disputing that. The reason is that it’s replacing glacially slow and ineffective bus service in a place where organic demand for transit is already extremely high.

      • d.p. says

        I hesitate to get involved, but Keith, “center city commuter mode split” (from any point of origin) pan-city transit effectiveness. The latter commute share really is stuck at 18.5%, with non-commute share forever dragging in the single digits.

        This is the impact of Metro’s refusal to evolve into a more broadly effective system, as well as the result of Sound Transit’s distance-fetishizing, access-limiting approach that you rightly single out for criticism.

        Becoming a transit city, with a stakeholder buy-in broad enough to shut the trolls up for good, will require advocates to stop conflating acceptable unidirectional peak figures with resounding urban transit triumph.

        (And frankly, given the intensity of downtown’s traffic troubles, 32.7% SOV commuting into the CBD, which we’ve expended such disproportionate resources expressly serving from all directions, is still pretty galling.)

      • asdf says

        It is also somewhat ironic that the downtown SOV commuters I’ve talked too, by and large, aren’t commuting from places like Lynnwood or Issaquah, with excellent park-and-ride bus service. Rather, they’re driving from places like Queen Anne or Capitol Hill to avoid bus service that is glacially slow.

      • Glenn in Portland says

        I really hate to agree with some of the detractors here, but the fact is that in my opinion Link ridership isn’t quite as good as it should be. I’m really glad to see that it is doing as well as it is. There are some obstacles though:

        1) See Bringing Frequent Service to South King County, by Aleks last month. A backbone is great to have, but it doesn’t do so very much without a rib cage. Some of these connecting routes could be doing a bit better than they are.

        2) Both of the two current end stations at the south end are heavily surrounded by a sea of parking and busy and wide roads, and really that entire area of Tukwila and SeaTac are that way. In order to RIDE the train, people have to be able to GET TO the train (without getting killed by traffic). Sadly, even if the line were extended all the way to Federal Way, that area has developed pretty much along the same lines, if not worse. . It would be good for ridership if there were some sort of smaller city core at the other end of the line that offered decent transit opportunities. Unless this line were extended all the way to Tacoma, I just don’t see that happening anywhere in the direction this line is pointed.

        3) The average speed really isn’t great for a line built to such standards as this one. Some of that is the routing (several fairly sharp curves between Martin Luther King and Tukwila – for future station locations?), and some of that is the tunnel congestion.

        4) Many, many places with some sort of rail transit have free transfers between the rail transit and the buses. ORCA helps solve the problem, but it also isn’t a solution that would encourage a large number of people to transfer between bus and light rail to complete a trip. I understand why it has to be the way it is in Seattle, but that doesn’t make it any less of an obstacle to increasing the ridership.

      • Mike Orr says

        Glenn: Highway 99 is our biggest opportunity actually. There are tons and tons of decaying large buildings that could be converted to TOD without displacing anybody’s NIMBY house. Kent has a “Midway” plan for the east side. (The west side is Des Moines; I don’t know its plans.) The Midway plan calls for two “transit-oriented communities”. One is at KDM Road/245th/Pac Hwy/I-5 (approx. 12 x 3 blocks, including a few Kent blocks on the west side). The other is 266th/272nd/Pac Hwy/21st (6 x 3 blocks). “Minimum 2-story to 5-story with maximum 200′ height. Mixed-use, residential focus.” In between would remain auto-oriented. It’s just waiting to hear where the Link stations will be, but even if Link goes on I-5 they’re still thinking about the RapidRide stations.

        Tukwika has several opportunities around TIB station, although I haven’t heard they’re pursuing them yet. But Tukwila is planning a better neighborhood east of Southcenter.

        SeaTac was planning to build a civic center on the east side of its station but the hotel owner (Clarion) is refusing to sell the property.

        1) (Feeders): That’s the biggest issue but you can’t turn around a legacy network in a day. All the cities’ recent transit master plans envision feeders something like this.

        2) (Highway 99): That’s our biggest opportunity actually. There are tons and tons of decaying buildings that could be converted to TOD without displacing anybody’s NIMBY house. Kent has a “Midway” plan for the east side of the highway. (The west side is Des Moines.) It

      • mic says

        Something we finally agree on Mr. Orr. “2) (Highway 99): That’s our biggest opportunity actually.”
        Another ‘Build the Rhody’ line convert – one more down, 2 mil to go.

      • KyleK says

        DP – you have to follow the thread all the way back to where he claims that 18.5% of Seattleites use transit to commute as part of an argument about transit not being that important or worth paying for. Obviously false.

        Your point about off peak is well taken. A prop 1 fail will make that problem even worse.

        Your points about ST are also valid. Advocates have to be the biggest critics of transit infrastructure during the planning process. Without us – the people who have crazy/uninformed opinions or who just don’t want transit will make all the decisions by being the only/loudest voices *cough* Bellevue *cough*.

      • Glenn in Portland says

        I’m glad to hear there is something better being planned for Federal Way and other areas along 99. I took the bus out to Dash Point State Park about a year ago and wound up going through a bunch of that area (the trip planner gave me Link -> RapidRide -> 187). Transit oriented development might work there, but there are an awful lot of heavily travelled streets and parking areas that act as walls through there.

    • David Lawson says

      essentially no TOD is taking place proximate to light rail stations.

      It’s just baffling to me that people continue to argue this in view of the amount of development that’s taken place both in Columbia City and near Othello Station since the start of Link construction. “TOD” is not just apartments directly above stations. It’s infill development anywhere within walking distance.

      Mt. Baker station is on its way as well.

      • Scott Stidell says

        Midrise apartment building under construction immediately adjacent to the station. Framing appears basically complete; windows, barrier and cladding are going on (likely roofing as well).

      • John Bailo says

        I’m sorry to say, TOD is barking up the wrong tree.

        Did anyone bother to check the parking lot numbers?

        They’re filled to the gills in nearly all stations!

        Why?

        Because that’s the transit people want.

        -Fast, regional transit that they can drive to from their homes
        -Single board, single alight
        -Smooth quiet ride
        -Relatively safe
        -Fixed schedule

      • Zach Shaner says

        Sure, P&Rs are popular, but those “full lots!” only fill one train or maybe 10-12 buses per day, so you can’t equate a full garage with ‘what the people want!’. Parking just looks impressive because cars take up so much damn space.

      • aw says

        Regarding full P&R lots:

        “Parking continues to be near capacity at many of our parking facilities.

        The 2014 parking permit pilot project is in full swing at Sumner, Issaquah, Mukilteo, and TIBS. To date, we have issued a total of 469 permits (54 for high-occupancy spaces and 415 for single-occupancy spaces).”

        Sumner: 83%
        Issaquah: 94%
        Mukilteo: 78%
        TIBS: 84%

        Maybe they can figure out some way to free up spaces in the P&Rs and get some revenue in the meantime.

      • asdf says

        The parking lots are also for the exclusive benefit of residents of suburbs visiting downtown. A park-and-ride oriented transit network means anyone traveling in the reverse direction is still stuck driving the entire way. And with John Bailo’s “decentralization” of jobs, reverse commutes will only get more and more common.

      • Glenn in Portland says

        John Bailo says:
        I’m sorry to say, TOD is barking up the wrong tree.

        I am not a fan of the term Transit Oriented Development, as for the most part the developments that have done it really well aren’t oriented around transit. They are oriented around being able to walk places, and one of those places happens to be a transit route. Those places that attempt to be Transit Oriented Development sometimes work, but if they don’t get the walking bit down correctly, it doesn’t work well.

        Perhaps the most successful transit corridor in Portland is SE Hawthorne Blvd, served by bus route #14. Peak periods will see a bus every 3 – 5 minutes on that route, and they will be standing room only usually between SE 15th or so and downtown. There really isn’t anything too special about SE Hawthorne. In fact, except for maybe three recent big apartment buildings it is mostly single and two level structures, and much of the neighborhood is single family homes with scattered small scale apartments and a number of larger, older homes converted to duplexes, etc. It probably shouldn’t work, but it does work really well, and the reason it works well is that SE Hawthorne isn’t some 7 lane wide high speed through road where you have to walk a mile to get to the nearest cross signal, but something that is easy to get across.

        Because that’s the transit people want.

        Want? Or because they have no other choice?

        The housing prices along SE Hawthorne Blvd seem to say people want to be close to convenient transit routes and are willing to pay to be there. It isn’t as if people’s desires are significantly different between Seattle and Portland.

        The term Transit Oriented Development hadn’t been in popular use when the first MAX line was finished in 1986. However, along the outer edges of E. Burnside there was a frenzy of new building soon after the line was finished. At that time, there wasn’t a huge amount of interest in changing development patterns, so it wasn’t something that was really planned at that time. However, apparently there was a significant market for development near stations as that is what got built. At that time city agencies weren’t putting their finger in and stirring the pot to especially encourage that type of development, so it was essentially the free market doing what it does.

      • Mike Orr says

        Hawthorne Blvd feels like the U-District to me in its pedestrian vibe, or at least how the U-District was in the 80s. It’s strongest in the couple blocks around the Bagdad and the Powell’s branch. And the people I’ve known who’d lived in the Hawthorne district were post-student like that. I always wished MAX had gone down there; it seemed a shame that you had to walk a mile up to a highway to reach it.

    • Mike Orr says

      Also, there never was a Convention Place to Tukwila plan. I assume you meant Westlake. The initial plan was 45th to SeaTac, bypassing Convention Place. Then the part north of Westlake was deferred. Then a forced redesign of SeaTac station due to the post-9/11 TSA and other port requirements delayed the SeaTac opening.

      • Worth It? says

        Stop lying, Mike:

        http://www.fta.dot.gov/newsroom_512.html

        ____

        Seattle Central Link LRT

        Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) is proposing a 24-mile Central Link light rail transit (LRT) line running north to south from Northgate, through downtown Seattle and Southeast Seattle to the cities of Tukwila and SeaTac, Washington. The system will operate on existing and new right-of-way, including the existing 1.3-mile Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. Sound Transit plans to construct the entire system in phases. In the fall of 2001, the Sound Transit Board voted to implement the initial segment, know as the Central Link Initial Segment, a 14-mile, 11-station LRT line extending from Convention Place through downtown Seattle and terminating at South 154th Station. The system is forecast to have 42,500 average weekday boardings in 2020, including 29,000 new riders daily.

        _____

        [ah]

      • Martin H. Duke says

        Worth it,

        Pick a username and stick with it. If your shifting between handles continues you will be banned.

      • William C. says

        You will note that, according to the quote you provided, the forecast of 42,500 weekday boardings was for 2020 – contrary to your claim in your initial post that it was for 2015. Why do you think it was important to lie about that?

        I would not be surprised if it did meet that forecast by 2021, when Northgate Link is opened.

      • Jason Mitchell says

        Only skimming the posts, Worth It’s syntax and tone reads an awful lot like a certain banned someone.

      • RossB says

        >> The system is forecast to have 42,500 average weekday boardings in 2020

        We should beat the number easily. Right now we have about 30,000 riders. If we increase by 8% each year, then that makes over 47,000 in six years. Eight percent growth is pretty high, but not when you look at the chart. We are averaging well over that right now. This is all without the most important parts of Link (UW and Capitol Hill). My guess is that we will beat that 42,500 number in about three years. I would put money (and give you decent odds) that we beat the number before 2012.

      • Scott Stidell says

        @ RossB – in the spirit of this thread’s typo police, I will gladly take your money and whatever odds you may offer that we will not beat 42,500 by 2012. ;-)

        2017, however, is a different thing altogether….

      • RossB says

        @Scott — Ha! Right. Oops. I meant 2020, actually (based on the quoted article from WorthIt).

      • RossB says

        I should also add that if Proposition 1 fails, that will likely reduce the numbers substantially (fewer buses feeding the train).

    • Worth It? says

      Oh come on . . . somebody said they wanted to “argue the money thing”. How much tax does Sound Transit intend on taking in as security for the (approx.) $9 billion in long term bonds it intends to issue. No other bus and train services provider taxes nearly that heavily. Let’s see somebody argue Sound Transit’s aberrant financing plan is worth it to the 98% of the people here taxed for it who are not financial beneficiaries of it or its contractors.

      As far as the lousy ridership figures go, Sound Transit explained that the PSRC had wildly overestimated how many jobs would be in downtown Seattle, and Sound Transit’s board selected routes, station locations, taxing schemes, construction budgets, mode choices, etc. on those faulty PSRC projections. Don’t believe me? Read the “Before and After Report” Sound Transit’s staff prepared recently. Part of what it says is this:

      —————-

      Employment in downtown Seattle was lower than the employment forecast used at the time the Initial Segment Project was baselined for the FFGA in 2002. The Puget Sound Regional Council’s (PSRC) small area employment forecast was used for the 2011 and 2020 Central Link ridership forecasts. In 2010 there about 80,000 fewer jobs in downtown Seattle than forecasted by PSRC at the FFGA milestone. The downtown forecast was 210,000 jobs for 2010 and 225,000 for 2020. These were updated in 2006 to 202,000 and 226,000 respectively. For the same geographic area, the dataset released by PSRC in May 2012 for the local review process shows 131,000 for 2010 and 187,000 for 2020.

      initial segment b&a study final report 2013_04_01 draft.docx

      ——————————

      • Worth It? says

        William C. — That indeed may be one of the factors that caused the PSRC estimates to be so wrong.

        The point is, Sound Transit’s board does not use good data. Take the East Link planning. The traffic, employment and population growth figures the board used to justify East Link all came from the PSRC and all were produced between 2002 and 2004. The 12/2008 East Link DEIS submissions identify those studies. They are horribly wrong in light of what we know now about job and traffic growth. If the board were to use updated PSRC data and updated cost information for East Link that megaproject would not be justified — it wouldn’t be close.

        The problem isn’t the PSRC, The problem is the thick institutional blinders that board has on. That board is biased to go ahead with bad financing practices and essentially-useless megaprojects.

      • KyleK says

        Yes, Worth it… I’m pretty sure you can read the comments to see that its me that is willing to argue numbers with you. I’m guessing you don’t want to have an actual argument about the numbers with me.

        What you want to do is throw out a lot of numbers that you don’t have references for and that don’t align with the points that you are trying to make. My question to you is: Why? What could you possibly be getting out of it? You arent scoring any points with anyone here.

        T

      • Bernie says

        problem is the thick institutional blinders that board has on.

        “Watch out, I have a tax base and I’m not afraid to use it!” To be fair nobody could really have predicted the giant hole left in DT employment. Well, maybe the crooks running WAMu but I don’t think anybody back in 2002 would have correctly predicted the huge influence of Amazon and it’s effect on S. Lake Onion. Even with the downturn DT is still the only real urban area in Washington state. East Link on the other hand doesn’t even pencil out with ST’s pie in the sky inflated numbers. It started out as a dreadful idea and continues to get worse with every percentage point it draws closer to final design. But they’re going to build it by damn because they have the tax base and politicians love building shine new things with “free money”.

      • Worth It? says

        —–
        “But they’re going to build it by damn because they have the tax base and politicians love building shine new things with “free money”.”
        —–

        No, Bernie. You are wrong about that.

        Sound Transit board members want to build East Link because they are not politicians.

        They are unaccountable political appointees.

        If they were politicians they would not want to build it because the people would stop them. The people would stop them. The public would get rid of them, by electing opponents of the project on to that board. It is because the people can not stop them that they want to issue all that debt and confiscate the decades of regressive taxes.

        Do you understand how that financing plan is structured, Bernie? You know . . . Sound Transit’s financing plan that has not been disclosed and that NO transit supporters at SEATTLE TRANSIT BLOG are willing to discuss.

      • David Lawson says

        “You know . . . Sound Transit’s financing plan that has not been disclosed”

        Pure conspiracy-theory B.S. Sound Transit’s financing is perfectly clear. You may not like the amount involved, or feel it relies too heavily on long-term bonds, but it’s right there for anyone to look at it. See, for example, page 27+ of the ST2 explainer. There is no nefarious plot to hide any Sound Transit ball, except in your mind.

      • Worth It? says

        Bear in mind: the gross overestimates of job growth and traffic growth that the PSRC produced in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s that Sound Transit used to “justify” all its rail megaprojects were paid for by Sound Transit.

        Everyone gets this, right? Those overestimated employment and traffic figures were needed by Sound Transit, for FFGA, DEIS, etc. purposes, so it bought them from the PSRC that in no way is independent of it. The PSRC is an agent of Sound Transit and other municipalities around here, the management of it and Sound Transit overlap, Sound Transit has paid it millions of dollars over the past several decades, etc.

      • David Lawson says

        You keep making loony conspiracy-theory accusations about Sound Transit. So connect the dots. Who do you think is really behind this plot (as you see it) to fleece the public, and why?

      • Worth It? says

        Per David Lawson:

        “Pure conspiracy-theory B.S. Sound Transit’s financing is perfectly clear. You may not like the amount involved, or feel it relies too heavily on long-term bonds, but it’s right there for anyone to look at it. See, for example, page 27+ of the ST2 explainer. There is no nefarious plot to hide any Sound Transit ball, except in your mind.”

        I read that “ST2 Explainer”. It only tells part of the truth, and in this case what is not disclosed in it makes what is disclosed materially misleading. That document contains lies by omission.

        The key misleading assertion in the discussion of the financing plan is where it says that after 2023 tax will be confiscated merely to subsidize operations and service the debt. What that document fails to say is that the sales tax will continue to be confiscated at or near the .9% rate for decades after 2023, resulting in Sound Transit hauling in vastly more tax than it reasonably could need for operations subsidies and administrative costs.

        Sound Transit’s financing plan is abusive. Read that document David Lawson alludes to: it doesn’t come close to describing the reality of the abusive taxing plan that has not been made public. We can get a sense of the magnitude of the staggeringly bad taxing scheme targeting people here now being set in to place from this Sound Transit document:

        http://crosscut.com/media/static_file/2010/04/20/soundtransit1.pdf

        That is from early 2010. It shows that through 2040 the tax collections necessitated by the bond sale contract security pledges will be over $44 billion. Those projections were prepared before the significant downward revisions of the tax revenue forecasts for the near term that came out a couple of years ago, but the $44 billion figure as of 2040 may still be accurate.

        Those 2011-era lowered tax revenue revisions from Sound Transit staff mean: 1) the bulk of the bonds would need to be sold later than what was anticipated for that document, 2) the amount of debt outstanding in 2040 will be greater than what the footnote shows (“$4.9 billion; Interest Balance = $2.1 billion”), and 3) there won’t be the reserves shown on that exhibit, which could have been used to pay off bonds on an accelerated basis in the 2040’s.

        That exhibit shows the annual tax collection level in 2040 at the $2.3 billion level. That massive level of annual taxing will need to continue for 15 years after that, due to the bond sale contract security pledges Sound Transit uses which require it to continue taxing at or near the maximum rates while any of the bonds are outstanding. That means the tax costs to the public of financing the approximately $12 billion of ST2 capital costs could well reach $85 billion.

        Think about it: the tax costs to the region just to secure the approximately $9 billion in long term bonds will be about $85 billion and last through 2054. That’s like the abusive monorail authority financing scheme, on steroids. The staggering tax costs of this unprecedented financing plan are being kept hidden, and that “ST2 Explainer” doesn’t come anywhere near revealing them.

        Disagree with anything in this post, David?

      • David Lawson says

        Disagree with anything in this post, David?

        Pretty much everything. It’s in tinfoil-hat land, and readers should know that.

        First, you’re ignoring that Sound Transit says, up front: “The agency will seek legislative authority to replace or substantially reduce its reliance on the sales and use tax as the primary funding source for regional transit improvements, consistent with all contractual commitments. In order to replace the revenue that would be lost by reducing or eliminating the sales and use tax, the agency will seek legislative authority to raise an equal amount of revenue from other sources more directly related to regional transportation such as tolls, user-based fees, vehicle or other transportation related taxes.”

        In other words, if the state legislature cooperates, ST is happy to switch to a better mix of funding sources. So far, though, the state legislature has shown no willingness to cooperate.

        Second, the security provisions of a bond agreement are not handed down by God on stone tablets. If it’s clear after the capital projects are completed that there is no need for the amount of revenue they require the agency to raise, they can be renegotiated or even modified with a court’s permission. This happens from time to time when a revenue stream securing public bonds is clearly excessive.

        Third , you’re ignoring that Sound Transit can do other things with any excess tax collection — it won’t just sit in a vault where the evil Rothschild-like Sound Transit board members (who, by the way, *are* all elected officials, although not from the full RTA area) can swim in it. It could take over bus routes of regional significance from local agencies. (For that matter, it could even absorb and fund parts of local agencies, reducing their tax burden.) It could build additional rail and bus projects without a ST2- or ST3-style further tax hike — there is certainly no shortage of them that would be helpful, and there will be more in 2040.

        Fourth, it’s ridiculously speculative to assume that a temporary dip in tax collections in 2011 will linearly apply to collections all the way through 2040. Your “$85 billion” number (and, for that matter, the 2054 deadline) is completely made up, without any basis, to scare the reader.

        It’s natural for public projects to employ bonding, because the benefit of having the infrastructure available immediately far exceeds the additional cost (both cynically, for politicians, and in real terms for the economy). It would be the height of silliness for the government to sit around saving money like I might save it for a new laptop, even though fewer dollars would be spent in the end.

      • Sebellius says

        David: That “ST2″ pamphlet does say that Sound Transit will seek other funding sources, but there haven’t been any bills introduced to do that in the state legislature. The cynical among us would claim that is empty rhetoric. Is there any evidence Sound Transit has attempted to get replacement funding sources? Just curious . . . .

        Your statement to the effect that contract terms in bond sale ordinances are not “handed down from God on stone tablets” is amusing, but it needs to be put into context. Those bond sale contracts are protected by the “contracts clause” of the constitution, so no subsequent legislation (at the state or the local level) can amend or repeal them. You are correct though — if a lawsuit is brought by Sound Transit against a representative of all the bondholders to modify those terms because excessive taxes would be collected then the courts could change the terms. You must admit though — the odds of Sound Transit suing its bondholders are slim to none. The debt markets would frown on that, big time.

        Your third point presents an interesting scenario: Sound Transit using excess revenue to take over bus routes from other bus services providers, or building out more rail lines that were not part of the ST2 project. I’d like to think the public would get a chance to weigh in on that though, and be offered the chance to lower its sales tax bills instead. I know you think rail is really, really important, but not everyone agrees Sound Transit’s board should be choosing new capital spending megaprojects to impose on the public.

        I can’t speak to your fourth point. I have no idea how much tax Sound Transit now intends to confiscate over the coming decades. As far as I know, it does not make those estimates public.

        Cheers!

      • David Lawson says

        Don’t forget the possibility of retiring one bond issue early and issuing new bonds not subject to the same security requirements.

        Also, I would suggest following Martin’s advice about sticking with one username.

      • Mike Orr says

        Bonding is a statewide issue, not just a Sound Transit issue.

        I would rather raise the money first and pay cash. But there are two problems with that. (1) It would take decades, and we need the infrastructure now. Actually, we needed it thirty years ago. (2) As soon as a right-winger takes office he’ll either divert the money to highway projects or refund it in the name of “low taxes”. So we can never get anything built that way.

        There is a third option, a state infrastructure bank. Then we could pay ourselves rather than out-of-state bondholders, and use the proceeds for future infrastructure projects. But it requires the Legislature to set it up, the same Legislature that can’t pass a transportation bill.

      • Brent says

        I hate having to respond to the sock puppet. I hate having to disagree occasionally with Mr. Orr even more. With all due respect, politicians of all stripes raid funds set aside for other purposes all the time. The county council has been doing that to keep Metro service afloat. For example, that money raised by the ferry district is not all going to running the foot ferries…

      • Charles says

        >>”Sound Transit board members want to build East Link because they are not politicians.

        They are unaccountable political appointees.”

        Except for the most part, Sound Transit’s board are indeed politicians. You see, The Legislature of the State of Washington, which by the Constitution of the State of Washington has the power and the authority to create the governance structure of Sound Transit, edicted that it’s governance shall be composed of elected political officials from the counties and cities served by the Central Puget Sound Transit Authority.

        Since we are guaranteed a republican form of government by the Constitution of the United States, we have complete freedom to vote for or against any of the various politicians (in our home districts) that make up our Legislature that created Sound Transit as well as for or against the politicians that make up the board members by voting for or against them in your own political subdivision.

        It is my opinion that Sound Transit is an efficient and effective agency with very transparent governance. It has successfully navigated building a starter line significantly under budget and used the knowledge gained from that experience to plan the next phases of their build out. Which it is building, again, under budget and ahead of schedule. Of course various factions of the general public may not agree with all of Sound Transit’s decisions but one cannot say those decisions were made in a vacuum or without rationale.

    • NW Egg says

      Even if the percentage using transit has remained stagnant at 18.5%, Seattle and the metro region as a whole have grown significantly since 2003. I don’t have a link, but I’m sure someone here can find something on our region’s growth.
      That means that just by keeping 18.5% already a significant amount of new riders are coming on to transit.

  6. Sam says

    This just goes to show, if you build it (then eliminate public transit competition, raise parking rates, reduce the number of parking spots by turning them into parklets, raise car fees and taxes, run the line next to sports stadiums and an airport, cap the number of TNC’s, turn street parking along the line into RPZ’s, funnel all nearby bus routes to Link stations), they will come.

    • Glenn in Portland says

      People seem to still be using Interstate 5 and most local streets.

      Which particular “public transit competition” was eliminated?

      • David Lawson says

        As far as I can tell, Sam is referring to the 42, whose ridership evaporated (poof!) the second it was exposed to competition with Link, and the 194, which was wholly redundant with Link. Not sure why the usually efficiency-focused Sam thinks it’s good transit planning to have two competing, uncoordinated services serving exactly the same destinations in almost exactly the same amount of time.

      • RossB says

        Yeah, plus funneling nearby bus routes to Link is a good thing. We should do more of it. Link is not just about getting people to downtown or the airport. It is about getting people to all the places in between. Link travels almost as fast as an express, but it makes neighborhood stops. It does so frequently (and that frequency should increase as time goes on). This saves a tremendous amount of time if you are going somewhere besides downtown. Metro really struggles with this, and it becoming more and more common.

      • Glenn in Portland says

        I know that the privately owned and operated Belair shuttle has stopped going to King Street Station (they can’t get the bus in and out of there very easily) and only stops in downtown Seattle several times a day now (so they can re-route the buses on I-405 between SeaTac and Marysville when I-5 is thoroughly congested). However, their ridership level isn’t one that I would consider competition with public transit. It also wasn’t eliminated as they just can’t get into downtown Seattle that easily any more due to traffic.

      • says

        “…so they can re-route the buses on I-405 between SeaTac and Marysville when I-5 is thoroughly congested”

        I-405 SB isn’t much more reliable today but the Express Toll lanes under construction will help. Perhaps the Sam/Norman anti-Link crowd would have been more successful had they advocated for such projects in the past over GP lane expansions (like what just finished on NB 405 just over the last few years and are already hopelessly crowded during rush hours = “free”way indeed).

    • kpt says

      I love the bit about “run the line next to sports stadiums and an airport”.

      Yes, turns out if you build transit next to where people want to go, they will use transit to go there.

      And what with all the new parklets around town, it’s a wonder anyone can drive any more. I mean, available parking has decreased by like 90 percent, no? No?

      • Mike Orr says

        ““run the line next to sports stadiums and an airport”.

        “Yes, turns out if you build transit next to where people want to go, they will use transit to go there.”

        Yeah, darn it! They should have routed it through West Seattle and Alki, then under the bay to Magnolia, then up to Ballard and Northgate. Nobody goes downtown anymore so who needs a train there. The UW has plenty of buses. And putting light rail near the stadiums just lines the pockets of the team owners and has no public benefit.

      • Sam says

        Silly me for wanting our public rail system to focus more on workers than sports fans and airline travelers.

      • William C. says

        Seems to me it’s doing a pretty good job of all three, Sam. Where would you have built it instead to focus on workers?

      • Mike Orr says

        “They should have routed it through West Seattle and Alki, then under the bay to Magnolia, then up to Ballard and Northgate.”

        I dub this a “Sam Line”. (Although it could also qualify as a Bailo line.) And it makes me wonder what kind of Sam line would be suitable for the Eastside.

      • Emily says

        Sam says: Silly me for wanting our public rail system to focus more on workers than sports fans and airline travelers.

        Lots of people work at the airport. Light rail focuses on them.

      • RossB says

        I think Sam has a point. Starting with a line to the airport was silly. But we’ve gone over the reasons why (politics, politics, politics). The station by the stadiums is simply because the stadiums are close to downtown, and it was cheaper to head south through there. It could have taken a sudden turn east after the International District station. But to get to the denser areas it would have had to make an even greater zig zag that it does now. It would have probably cost more money, too.

        It would have made more sense to follow the same route now, but end at Soho, and build a transit center there. Then add a second line through the Central Area (including Seattle U). That line could then curve west, thus including the South Lake Union area. All of that could have built for about the same amount as what we have currently built. But it wouldn’t have served the suburbs, and it was important, politically, to do so.

      • Mike Orr says

        No, a line to the airport makes perfect sense. It’s the largest transportation hub in the northwest, and the largest destination besides downtown. Visitors expect rapid transit from the airport or it gives a bad first impression of the city. The only justifiable alternative would have been a downtown-UW line, and that was nixed by the construction risk of the initial Ship Canal crossing plan.

    • D Murray says

      Really, you are complaining about parklets? How many parking spots have the take away from the city? I think its like 5. Wow, so many of those link numbers are because we eliminated 5 parking spots from the entire city. (only 1 is near a link station).

    • Mike Orr says

      “Eliminate public transit competition”: This would appear as a spike of riders the Monday after the line opens. It doesn’t account for the gradual increase of ridership since then.

      “Parklets”: There will never be more than a trivial number of parklets, or one every several blocks.

      “Raise car fees and taxes”: That’s what we should do, at least until it reaches the externalized costs of driving and we have adequate transit. (adequate = at least San Francisco, Chicago, Germany)

      “Next to sports stadiums and the airport”: That’s what high-capacity transit is supposed to do! It’s supposed to go to places where large numbers of pedestrians go: downtowns, airports, stadiums, universities, malls, etc.

      “Cap the number of TNCs”: Has little to do with Link. Did you miss the part that many Link fans want to eliminate the caps on TNCs?

      “RPZs”: These exist only where the neighborhood petitions for it.

      “Funnel all nearby bus routes to Link stations”: That’s what they should do too. If your bus terminates at a Link station (say the 48N at Roosevelt), it means you have all of Link’s destinations at your fingertips, every 10 minutes all day and evening. One bus can’t do that; it can only go to a fraction of those destinations. Additional buses from there to all Link destinations would be prohibitively expensive. Transferring to a second and third bus takes a long time, as does an existing trip from 85th to the airport or Bellevue, which takes over an hour.

      • Glenn in Portland says

        ….at least until it reaches the externalized costs of driving

        I would be happy if it reached the direct costs, rather than having property taxes. road taxes, income taxes, etc. cover the cost of city and county road departments – not to mention start to cover the highway trust fund at 100%.

    • Jason Mitchell says

      “reduce the number of parking spots by turning them into parklets…”

      Yup, that one parklet in front of Montana bar totally drove February’s Link ridership numbers. Good catch.

    • David Lawson says

      Hats off, Sam, for an unusually successful troll, attracting 16 of the 60 replies in the thread.

  7. says

    Sad to be the bringer of bad news to come, but much of January & February ridership’s bump simply had to be the incredible Seahawks season & victory celebrations.

    The real test will be March’s stats. Sorry in advance.

    • aw says

      “Even without impact of the Seahawks Parade, Link still
      carried about 10% more riders this year compared to
      February 2013.”

      The numbers in March will probably dip below 30k avg. weekday riders, but it’s likely to be more than March 2013.

    • Mike Orr says

      People dwell too much on negative predictions. “Ridership will come down again.” “Proposition 1 will fail.” They could go either way! Let’s be optimistic until something actually happens. The only cases worth eliminating are impossible ones, such as another Seahawks-like gathering this year.

      • says

        Hey, the Mariners are on pace to win 94 and a half games! They’d be the first team in history to win a fractional game, and all the math geeks in Seattle would certainly throw them a big party for that.

      • Mike Orr says

        I’m not waiting until next year. I’m assuming Link’s ridership will either return to the December trend or slightly accelerate.

      • Brent says

        If such a parade happens again, ST will be better prepared, sending 4-car trains between Stadium Station and Airport Station. The ridership demand was much larger than the number of people who were able to find space on the train. Thousands gave up and went home.

    • RossB says

      How many Seahawk games and celebrations occurred during weekdays? It is the weekday numbers that are impressive (and trending in the right direction).

    • Jason Mitchell says

      Not sure what you’re talking about, Avgeek. The line in the final chart demonstrates robust year-on-year weekday growth dating back to the line’s launch. Aside from the celebration, the Seahawks had no impact on weekday ridership. March is no “real test,” because January and February weren’t aberrations.

      • says

        Well I just believe Jason the REAL proof to put this to bed will be March.

        Let’s not celebrate until these good ridership stats are in the bag without those very heavy peak days driven by Seahawks fever.

        What’s wrong with being a bit… patient and certain? That’s all I’m saying – and as I’ve said before, I rather like light rail.

      • Jason Mitchell says

        Say what? You’re acting like Link launched in December 2013 and the Seahawks played home games every other weeknight in both January and February.

        Again, Link has shown strong growth since spring of 2010, and aside from one day in February, the Seahawks had no effect on the continued weekday growth thus far in 2014.

        No one’s being impatient, just saying there’s nothing aberrant about the weekday numbers in January and February, and nothing special about March to make it the “real test” you claim it will be.

      • says

        The average in March will NOT have the huge spikes of Seahawks games & victory parade. The growth we all want of and for Sound Transit Central Link ridership will still be there, just probably not as much.

        I just urge caution, that’s all. No need to get overly defensive.

      • Jason Mitchell says

        Not sure what you’re reading as defensive, let alone “overly defensive.” I’m just saying that you’re wrong. The original post already points out that even without the Seahawks’ parade February saw double-digit growth. And there were zero weekday Seahawks events in January, so how exactly did the Seahawks “spike” January weekday ridership?

        March will almost certainly continue the robust growth the line has seen for years now. There’s no “real test” in that, and it’s not “bad news.”

  8. says

    Despite growth, Seattle’s light rail ridership has not yet reached the average weekday daily riders forecast of 32,500 — meant to be achieved over the course of a full year — that Sound Transit provided to the Federal Transit Administration in 2003 as the goal for the Initial Segment to be reached by 2011. Last time I did the projections, http://www.bettertransport.info/pitf/images/Linkpa7.gif , that goal was unlikely to be reached before 2016, when the opening of the line to Husky Stadium would make the Link Initial Segment forecasts for 2020 irrelevant.

    Too bad there’s not a Seahawks celebration every month, which was a big boost for February ridership. That day illustrated the present light rail system’s max capacity. Photo of the day that I took is at https://twitter.com/JN_Seattle/status/431191386897924096/photo/1 Around 75,000 on Link that day? I haven’t retrieved the daily counts yet.

    A winning Mariners team is Sound Transit’s best hope for reaching 32,500 weekday daily Link ridership average for 2014.

    I understand that the ridership will supposedly surge to double today’s level in 2016 when the line is extended north by two stations and south by one. We shall see if Sound Transit finally has a rail ridership forecast that comes true.

    • KyleK says

      We shall John.

      Since the 2003 projection didnt imagine a world economic collapse, would you say that the 2003 ST projection was fairly accurate and that Link is performing to expectations?

      • says

        Ridership at the SeaTac Airport Station and to/from the ball parks is doing better than expected. The Tukwila park & ride lot is full, last time I looked. Rainier Valley ridership, however, is not up where hoped to be. Expectations are adjusted all the time by Sound Transit and light rail fans. Is what we see the result of the “world economic collapse?” I just don’t know.

        I pin the status of transit service and ridership in this region on the lack of flexibility in the current and ongoing resource allocation to transit, with inflexibility to respond to the location of rider demand as the years go by and the economy and land use adjusts to multiple factors, including the ability to get around on all modes to movement.

        In the present day, KCM buses are overcrowded on some routes in the ST service territory and yet Metro says it’s so broke it has to cut service unless every car owner in King County ponies up more car tab tax and a smidgen more sales tax. But you can’t move ST’s billions to cover where ridership demand actually is. They’re focused on building for beyond 2020.

        PSRC’s latest mode share forecast for 2040 published on page 3 of http://www.psrc.org/assets/10541/T2040UpdateAppendixH.pdf tells us full build out of regional light rail (including ST3, which the PSRC plan assumes will be funded) plus a doubling of bus service (dig in the PSRC documents to find this) takes transit mode share over the next quarter century from 3.1% to 4.3%. This is after over half of the federal-state-local government transportation investment cataloged by PSRC goes to public transit.

        How’s that for transit expectations in a documented plan approved by an overwhelming majority of elected leaders in the regions?

        There will be a few “No to Prop 1″ votes to protest a feeling that transit is insane in this region. And, yes, I’m quite aware that many transit riders feel that everybody sending in more money to the various transit agencies will make everything OK.

      • KyleK says

        Way to dodge the question John. You know that, objectively, the answer is yes – but you just can’t.

        Proper rail systems built in other places all over the world outperform all other modes in terms of cost/ride. You talk about rail financing a lot but never mention that. Have you researched that at all? Look at Vancouver, for instance. Look at any mature subway system in the world. Honolulu will also be one to watch closely after it opens.

      • Glenn in Portland says

        Proper rail systems built in other places all over the world outperform all other modes in terms of cost/ride.

        Link is cheaper to operate per passenger mile than King County Metro bus routes. It doesn’t perform as well as the SoundTransit express bus routes, but those are essentially point to point bus routes, with stations that are vastly less complex that Link stations.

      • KyleK says

        Glenn — True on all counts.

        I’m making the larger point that Link is currently performing as poorly as it ever will in terms of cost/ride in operations. A lot of the currently planned/designed system is to subway grade. All John needs to do is look at other subways that are already built to see the direct economic benefit.

  9. Al S. says

    While important, ridership is only one indicator of the value of a light rail system. One driver for a two-car train (100 to 200 riders) can be quite efficient, and reduce the percent of public operating subsidy needed for transit. However, when I read the ST report, it appears that firebox recovery is about the same for 2013 and 2014 even though there are lots more riders. What’s going on?

    • mic says

      Good question Al. As the number of daily Link trips hasn’t changed much since opening, coming up on 5 years now, and all new riders are at the marginal cost of zero to the same driver, then cost per rider should be going down double digits each month YOY. It has come down some, but certainly not very fast.
      Who knows the answer?

  10. Brent says

    “Worth It?”: “Sound Transit board members want to build East Link because they are not politicians.

    They are unaccountable political appointees.

    If they were politicians they would not want to build it because the people would stop them. The people would stop them. The public would get rid of them, by electing opponents of the project on to that board. It is because the people can not stop them that they want to issue all that debt and confiscate the decades of regressive taxes.”

    Since, Metro is run by a directly-elected county council, we can count on your vote for King County Proposition 1. RIght?

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