Earlier this morning we reported that Sound Transit plans to charge fare in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel for its Link light rail service, while buses in the tunnel will still operate for free for intra-downtown trips. While this means a cheaper base fare across the system, our commenters wondered what sort of affects on ridership this would have.
Greg Walker, Sound Transit chief policy and planning officer, said it won’t have much of an impact. “We project about 2,600 people daily” will be deincentivized from paying a fare for light rail compared to jumping on a free bus, Walker told us. The plan only affects “non-transfer, cash-paying” customers who are taking a trip entirely within downtown. He noted that it’s not possible to know how many of those 2,600 people will skip riding light rail.
Walker said that the 2,600 number is “less than 10% of the overall ridership on the line.” Since ridership numbers are hard to predict, he said that’s “within my margin-of-error for ridership projections.” Walker expects that Link ridership will exceed projections, even with this loss, since most other new light rail projects across the nation have exceeded their projections as well.