Today, we should all remember that ridership takes time. Sound Transit projects 25,000 riders on weekdays – but that’s not until the end of the year.
Today, and probably for the next few months, Link will look like a ghost town. That’s totally expected – we’re drawing a line from zero today to 25,000 at the end of the year. In late August we’ll probably have 5,000 weekday riders, in September 10,000, October 15,000 – maybe it won’t look exactly like that, but it takes time for people to choose to try something new.
All these things we talk about with light rail – the confidence that it’s always there, the reliable travel time, the comfort – these are learned slowly. For each new rider, there’s a tipping point: a bus breaks down, a car accident, a day of really bad traffic. These inconsistencies in other modes of transport teach people to try the train, but they teach it a little at a time. In the meantime, the train will run like clockwork, showing a little more every day that it’s the most reliable option.
The real ridership gains will start next year, when Airport Link is open and it starts getting warmer. The catch basin for a station gets bigger when the weather is nicer and the walk is pleasant – new people will ride, and once their schedules are set, they’ll stick around through the winter.
For now, ridership will be light. I know you all know this, but this is a good time to remind your friends and coworkers reading the Times – we didn’t build this for just 2009, or even 2019. We built it for 2109.