Ben has editorialized before that ridership numbers at this point, even if accurate, aren’t much to get excited about one way or the other. And as Scott Gutierrez reports, they’ve recently had some technical problems with retrieving data from automatic passenger counters (though the counters themselves are still counting). Furthermore, these numbers are crippled by suffering from a small sample size. Lastly, when trying to compare this to any other transportation line, you have to strip out seasonal variations for things like special events downtown and school being in or out of session.
All that said, I can’t help myself but to watch these numbers, which must be reported monthly to the FTA (with a two-m0nth time lag):
Mean Weekday: 12,357
Mean Saturday: 31,861 (obviously distorted by opening day)
Mean Sunday: 28,015
Mean Weekday: 14,437
Mean Saturday: 15,089
Mean Sunday: 11,620
Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick tells me the August numbers are likely to be revised, and that given the technical issues we’re not going to get reports quite as frequently in future.
To help make these numbers meaningful, Link trains make about 248 one-way trips a day, about 48 in the peak direction during peak hours, and there are 148 seats per 2-car train. You can do the division.
116 Replies to “New Link Ridership Numbers”
is that 248 + 48? or are you saying 48 of the 248 are peak?
at 150 seats/train, that’s 96 people/train on Weekdays and 101 people/train on Saturdays and 77 on Sundays
48 of the 248 are peak.
I’m not sure how you did the math, but I’m pretty sure 14437/248 = 58, not 96. The # of seats per train is only important because it tells you a little over a third of the seats are full on an average train.
I was averaging the numbers out per 150 seats (or per train) not sure why … guess I am tired
We pride ourselves on getting the facts right here at STB, so I guess I should correct the statement “you can do the division”
Those numbers are kind of pathetic.
Actually, those numbers are pretty good. Considering how new the system is and the fact that Metro hasn’t made it’s feeder changes yet, I would have expected the ridership to be somewhat lower.
My quick math indicates that Link is operating with about 30% of the seats taken — that is a big number considering that it is an average over the entire day and includes service late at night when ridership will be low.
I’d guess that at these ridership levels Link is operating nearly full at peak commute periods. Stunning really.
Saying again that there are huge error bars on this measurement, Link is already one of the top two or three highest-ridership lines in the entire Metro/ST system.
And it’s replacing a couple of buses (42, 194) that aren’t really all that high in terms of ridership, due to a lack of housing along the route.
Yep. So far Link is looking good.
But to clarify my original comment: I really should have said about 50 boardings per train per trip. Since most riders don’t ride end-to-end, the train won’t necessarily be operating with “30% of the seats taken” at any given time. We’d need ridership data per route segment to make that judgement.
Will we ever have segment-to-segment ridership numbers? I think that’d be fascinating to see.
ST is sure to have the on/offs at each station for service planning purposes. Making that into a public press release? Don’t think so. That would have to be requested.
Actually, I’d say by now it’s the highest ridership route in the system.
The difference between Link and a few other high-ridership routes are within the margin of error of these numbers.
What’s the margin of error? >10%?
At six weeks in to a 100 year life? How can you possibly make that statement?
Heck, the Mexico City Metro moves 5 million people a day, so Link does seem kind of pathetic. Of course Seattle seems a little pathetic in many regards when compared to Mexico City. Furthermore, I like actually being able to get on a train and actually being able to sit down.
Mexico City’s Metro didn’t move 5 million people a day the first month of operation of the first line.
I know. My point is only this: Link will always be pathetic relative to systems like Mexico City, New York, Moscow, Tokyo, etc. We won’t even ever have 5 million people available to ride it if they wanted to. As much as I want Link to rule, I have to remind myself that it only should aspire to serve the urban area we’ll actually have here.
It’s more fun to compare our Link to Portland’s MAX. Which we will rule in the long run.
Heck there is a good chance Link will beat San Diego, SF Muni, or even Boston’s Green Line in the long run. I think LA will stay ahead of us but that is because they have an ambitious expansion program and a lot of relatively dense areas needing service.
Mexico City got a 300 year head start on its population.
More like a 1,200 year head start. Cities were built in the Valle de Mexico as early as 800 A.D., and Tenochtitlan was one of the largest urban areas in the world when Cortes arrived in 1521.
When you compare us to one of the mostly populated cities in the world (with 19M metro area) it’ll always come out pathetic.
I like to remind myself how pathetic my city (which I love) really is.
My understanding is that Metro has not yet implemented the bus service changes designed to feed the LRT line, so the numbers are of course low…
Yes, there’ll be a big bump after September changes, a bump after January’s fare increase (making Metro just as expensive as Link), and another after next February’s service changes.
I wonder if ST’s planners assumed a Metro fare increase (or multiple increases) as a factor in making ridership projections.
Not that I know of. :)
when the 194 is gone ridership should go way up
I’d expect a February bump of 4000/day.
“248 one way trips a day on Link”? Say what? I think that needs a revision.
Update: Never mind, I figured out what it meant and made a clarification.
There are about 213 trips on Saturday with avg. 71 boardings and about 197 trips on Sunday with avg. 59 boardings.
Too early and not enough data to get excited… but wild speculation is always fun :=
If you figure the peak hour trains are filling every seat but nobody is left standing then about half the ridership is peak/commute. That seems reasonable. Which leaves you with about 36 riders per trip average off peak. Since not all of those rides are end to end you end up with something more like 25 people on the train at any one time. Unless there’s a dramatic increase in off peak ridership the current budget shortfall will likely mean pulling one train and moving from 15 to 20 minute headways. Not bad if they can synchronize with the bus schedules. If they can’t then even 15 minute headways are still a problem.
Remember the promised savings are from reduced labor cost. Until the average number of seats filled exceeds the capacity of a bus those savings aren’t realized. Of course peak hour numbers I’m guessing are already above that threshold. The system break even point will depend on the cost savings from service hours Link replaces vs how much feeder service costs to drive ridership.
Wait, what? “Budget shortfall”? I didn’t think ST had a budget shortfall, just Metro.
ST has been talking about delaying ST Express service expansion for ST2 because of lower than expected sales tax revenue.
Yes, but North King subarea doesn’t pay for any bus service that I know of – and hasn’t really seen a big shortfall. Check out the budget.
North King Subarea? Ben, where did you come up with this? Certainly not in this comment thread. I’ve never heard of a North King subarea.
King County is divided into 3 subareas — North King (includes Seattle and areas north), South King (funding Airport Link), and East King (dominated by buses). It’s been that way since the original ST1 was approved.
North King gets bus service, it ought to pay for it. If I understand correctly, when there’s an inter-regional bus that doesn’t go to Seattle, the operational cost is shared between the sub-areas.
The problem is, when you take the capital costs of Central Link, U Link and North Link, there isn’t any budget left to pay for buses.
But none of the bus service in North King is oriented to serve North King residents — otherwise the 522 would have more stops in Lake City, the 545 would run over Capitol Hill, the 510 series would detour through the U-District or at least stop at freeway stops during rush hours, etc.
North King chose rail over buses, and that’s where our money goes, as it should.
Bernie, North King hasn’t really had a budget shortfall, and even if they did, it wouldn’t be reflected in Link operations. It would be made up for by things like the low U-Link bids, and capital savings from construction of Central Link.
I really just cannot understand where you come up with ideas like cutting train service. In a month of service, we’ve added 2,000 daily riders, and you think that needs a cut? Link is probably already paying much more of its operations costs than any ST bus route.
I guess Bernie’s taking a cue from Phoenix. They went down to running single cars and less frequent service to save money because of budget constraints. Of course, Sound Transit doesn’t have a budget problem threatening existing service, unlike Metro and othrs.
Not taking a cue from anything. I started my comment with “wild speculation being fun :=)”
Now how does North King relate to Central Link? Bait and switch?
ST does have a budget shortfall to consider. The same sales tax revenues that are down for funding Metro operations are also crimping ST. ST is far more capital construction oriented and the lower bids help but as has been covered here before they are still feeling the pinch. It’s way to early to take much from the ridership numbers but lets not take the eye off the ball. Cost savings based on Link carrying more on average than a bus. Ben’s claim that traffic will decrease on MLK. Let’s just keep watching on how this plays out. It’s just the opening minute but that’s a really fun time; everybody is even up!
I cannot believe you don’t know about that. From Sound Transit’s page on the Sound Transit District:
How does it relate to Central Link? Most of the Link initial segment, all of University Link, and North Link to Northgate are in the North King Subarea.
Make that North Link all the way to Shoreline.
And RV to Downtown relates to Shoreline & Lake Forest Park how? Link is not in my lifetime ever plotted to serve Lake Forest Park. We’re looking at initial numbers. They don’t mean much of anything. But, budget considerations are going to come into play as U-link is being built and Central Link and U-Link are all part of the West Sub-area.
Subarea equity dictates that the same amount of money has to be spent in a subarea as is collected in the subarea. Since Central Link is almost entirely in the North King Subarea, the money to run it almost entirely comes out of the North King budget. Central Link relates to Shoreline and Lake Forest Park because money for bus service to there at for Link to Shoreline is coming out of the same budget that is funding service on Central Link. Hope that helps illuminate some things for you.
And there is no “West sub-area.” Again from the ST website:
Sorry, getting confused because Metro calls it West and ST calls it North. Don’t know about lack of revenue. Seems like sales tax is down county wide. The ST North King sub area is also due to pay back all of it’s sub area loans. If there is a shortfall I’d bet ST tries to cut service before delaying capital expenditure like the extension to UW.
Ridership should see a significant boost when it goes all the way to the airport. And what Metro does with eliminating routes and providing feeder service will also have a big impact.
North King revenue is down in the low single digits – I believe Central Link savings and U-Link low bids more than make up for it. East and South King are where the “county wide” number is coming from.
There’s not really an “if”. Read the financial reports.
So where does Mariner/Sounder FC ridership figure into all these figures? I was taking the train into downtown from Mount Baker Station during a game night. The trains in the opposite direction were busy on the commute going home, but the reverse train that I was on, was just as packed for the game. I would imagine if it wasn’t game night, the train wouldn’t be as full. I even had to stand until we reached Stadium Staion.
Good question – how HAS the traffic been for stadium events?
Yeah, we lingered for awhile after a Sounders game, had to wait for a freight train crossing, and then just missed a Link train b/c the Orca machine was malfunctioning. The train we finally caught still had tons of folks standing.
I’ve been taking Link to Mariners, Sounders and Seahawks games and I can say that I’ve had to wait for another train before because of crush loads. Only happened a few times but still, there are days I wish a third vehicle was added.
The first pre-season Seahawks game traffic was simply insane.
Have they had an train on the storage siding just south of Stadium Sta to run as an extra or second section either to Westlake or southward?
Yeah, Oran has some video of it on YouTube.
Almost two weeks ago, after the Mariners game I was in Beacon Hill station and witnessed 5 outbound trains come through within a span of 15 minutes. All of them had a lot of people on board. I boarded the 6th train, which was standing only.
Here’s the link to the YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwShHkxFDvE
I also had a shot of a 4-car train in the yard before the game ended but didn’t actually see it carry passengers.
For game days it would be nice if Link would add a thrid car…
Vancouver’s Averaging 85000 per day with their brand new Canada Line :(
How are our number so small? I thought this area had more people?
Much less density and the fact that Link is not part of a larger established rapid transit system.
When I saw Vancouver’s numbers last week, I thought the same thing and,don’t even compare Phoenix initial numbers to ours.I know Phoenix is a bigger city than Seattle, but for a city that has been car dependent for so many years outdo the Emerald City is quite disappointing to say the least. However, I do believe there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I believe numbers are simply low because Central Link was more of a political line rather than the best one to start with, and yes, I know, it will connect Seattle to the Airport. But, I believe inital numbers would’ve been more impressive if it went to areas that need service right now and not tomorrow. Anyway, you gotta start somewhere. Right?
exactly. the line we have is the trunk route that all (or most) future lines will connect to, be it east to Issaquah, west to Ballard, West Seattle, South Park, White Center, etc … While maybe not serving the most people directly, it makes sense to start with the most central line of the growing system.
Actually if Link ever goes to Ballard or West Seattle it will almost certainly use its own route through downtown. The DSTT will be full with the lines in ST2.
I also don’t doubt ST will meet or exceed their ridership targets for Central link. The airport will be a big boost, as will the service changes over the next 6 months. As time goes on some of those who are currently resisting change will move to Link, furthermore given enough time many people who want to live near transit will be moving to the station areas. The last though is going to take a while to show up.
I want to echo what Chris is saying here, Gordon. Ballard and West Seattle *cannot* use the existing tunnel, it will be full.
Would it be engineeringly feasible to put another tunnel below the existing DSTT, like the BART and SF Muni in the same two-level tunnel? And I mean ignoring the problems with keeping the DSTT open during construction.
I think it would make more sense to build under 2nd Avenue, but sure, it’s possible like sending fifty people to the moon is possible.
It’s possible, some of the Paris Metro stations were built that way, but it makes for a very long trip from street-level to the platform. I think it would be more feasible, and cheaper, to build a shallow tunnel under 2nd Avenue and have a transfer connection at Westlake or University Street.
Plus one of the things Seattle wants to do as part of the “Westlake Hub” concept is extend the mezzanine level at Westlake under 3rd and add an entrance by Columbia Sportswear. If there was a tunnel under 2nd, they could just have one big mezzanine level for transfers.
Another possiblity would be to build down 5th avenue and put stations on the new line under Westlake and next to International District. I suspect building under 2nd is more likely though.
A tunnel under 5th would have to be much deeper in order to have ADA transfers between platform levels – and at that depth, the BNSF tunnel already exists. I don’t think it’s possible.
The BNSF tunnel isn’t under 5th. I’m not sure what you mean about the new tunnel needing to be much deeper for ADA transfers.
I was wondering about that. As I recall it goes right under Benaroya Hall which is between 2nd and 3rd. Nowhere can I find a map of Seattle which shows the route.
As far as I know the BNSF tunnel follows 4th from Main to about Seneca then turns toward the waterfront coming out roughly at Virginia under the Viaduct.
I’ve seen a couple of maps of the tunnel route but none of them seem particularly accurate.
Try looking at this map I quickly whipped up. I use GIS data from WSDOT so I’m sure the route of the BNSF tunnel (orange line) is accurate. There’s also Central Link in blue and a potential 2nd Ave West Link tunnel in green.
Oran, you’re so cool! Yet another awesome map.
I wonder if it would be possible to make a 2nd Avenue tunnel shallow enough at University Street to allow a platform level connection with the 3rd Avenue tunnel. 2nd Avenue itself is just below the mezzanine level of the University Street Station.
Thanks, Zed. An error I just found in the map is the vertical positioning of the tunnels. The DSTT actually goes under the BNSF tunnel between Pioneer Square and International District, not over it. And SR 99 definitely doesn’t go under the tracks.
I don’t know but University Street station has an entrance under Benaroya Hall that’s pretty visible from 2nd Avenue.
I saw an old report (from maybe 5 years ago?) done for ST/WSDOT and some other agencies that looked at potential alignments for a new transit tunnel in downtown. The alignment that was preferred out of that process was under 5th, with stations next to the ID station, at 5th and Columbia, and under Westlake.
I didn’t look at it long enough to see why they were doing the study or what their assumptions were. It was in a pile of stuff getting tossed. I wish I had snagged it.
Great map, and I wish I could Photoshop it because I have a few routing suggestions for your “Green Line”.
First, what I see as the problems:
1) Having only one transfer point between the Green and Blue lines will force everyone to transfer at the same station pair. As ridership builds, this has the potential to overload these stations.
2) Passengers transferring to the Green Line from Sounder at KSS are forced to first transfer to the Blue Line at KSS and then transfer to the Green Line at University.
3) Transitioning from 2nd to 1st Aves mid block would require tunneling under some fairly large buildings in marginal soil conditions.
Now my suggested routing mods:
1) Keep the Green Line on 2nd Ave until it gets to KSS, then cut through the KSS passenger drop-off area and then diagonally across the North Parking lot and back to 1st Ave.
2) Move your station at Pioneer Square over onto 2nd Ave in the vicinity of Cherry St.
3) Add a station at KSS under the drop-off area and/or the North Parking lot.
I see the advantages of the mods as these:
1) Having two transfer station pairs between the Green and Blue lines will split the transfer load roughly in half. This level loading will reduce station congestion and improve utility.
2) Adding a station at KSS will facilitate Sounder transfers to the Green Line (more level loading and improved utility)
3) Transitioning from 2nd to 1st Aves under the un-built triangular area in front of Salumi’s and then via the North Lot would eliminate most issues with tunneling under large buildings.
Of course having a station nearer to Salumi’s is a huge advantage, but that might just be my stomach speaking – time to go get some lunch.
For a second avenue line I think following more or less the alignment of the SMP green line South of Stewart is probably the best routing.
IOW run down 2nd and 2nd ave extension to 3rd, follow the 3rd ave ROW to South of the stadiums before swinging over to 1st.
This allows you to put a station in with a direct connection to the Sounder station and skybridge to the ID station. It also allows a transition from a tunnel to either at-grade or elevated somewhere between Jackson and Qwest Field.
I’d put the Pioneer square station roughly in the vicinity of the sinking ship garage. Demolish the damn thing and make the site either a station entry plaza or TOD over a station entrance. This also allows a connection to the DSTT at Pioneer Square as well.
North of there I think you’d want a station centered roughly on Pike St. This allows an entrance near the market, a connection to a possible extended Westlake mezzanine and a possible connection to University street station. At the very least entrances to these two DSTT stations would be fairly close to the north and south entrances of a 2nd Ave Pike St. station.
I’m not sure if you’d want another station in between Yesler and Pike, though something around Madison or Marion could serve the Ferry terminal.
I think things will be quite a bit better once Link actually *does* go to the airport. I think there’s still a lot of uncertainty around getting to the airport on Link. One of my friends is flying out of Sea-Tac tomorrow, and last night she was asking the Trip Planner how to get there, and the answers it gave were the 174 or the 194 – even if you say “Westlake Center to Sea-Tac Airport,” it will never tell you to ride Link and its connector service. Until I told her otherwise, she was under the impression that Link wasn’t open at all yet.
But I think Link is well positioned to become the premier way to get to the airport – my friend was planning to take the Downtown Airporter bus until she realized that its last trip leaves the airport at 9 – too late for her return flight – and Link runs till after midnight 6 days a week. Not to mention that Link costs $2.50 each way vs. $11 for the Downtown Airporter.
Yeah, the connector adds a good 15-20 minutes to the whole trip to downtown (walk all the way down to the opposite end of the terminal from where the biggest airlines are, wait for several minutes for the bus, bus takes 10 minutes, take a couple minutes to get up to the platform… it all adds up). It’ll be so much nicer when it actually goes to the airport. Anyone know what they’re going to do for the pedestrian walkway to the station? I went and had a look but there wasn’t much to see… just caution tape around the part of the garage closest to the northern end and a construction wall around where the skybridge is going to go. Are they going to repave it so that the walkway is like a sidewalk or are they just going to repaint it or what?
Here’s some info on the walkway design. Last I heard they were supposed to be finalizing the design and hiring a contractor in September.
Cool, they’re taking parking away!
Not wide enough. 18′ minus 2′ for the Jersey barrier. Then there’s signage and support columns that intrude and it looks like after it makes the 45 degree bend it’s even narrower than the section view shows. There needs to be a way for people to check bags with a Skycap at the station and room for motorized carts to operate in both directions without running people over. Maybe that will be routed through the garage area?
Er, too EARLY for her return flight.
The Canada Line follows along the Richmond-Vancouver commuter corridor, which already has staggering transit ridership. The 98 B-line has more boardings than any of Metro’s busiest routes.
I forgot to mention that Vancouver has no major freeways, a very big reason for high transit ridership up there.
I’m can’t find Translink ridership anywhere but I don’t think Vancouver has that much higher ridership than the Seattle area.
Translink Annual Report 2008: 178,796,367 passenger boardings
PSRC Transit Ridership 2008(includes all agencies in ORCA except WSF): 166,328,000 passenger boardings
Those are two different measurements.
The figure for 179M is for revenue riders (linked trips). The number for boardings (unlinked trips) is over 300M.
Ah ha. I knew there was something as I’ve seen figures in the 200+ million and then lower numbers.
98-B hasn’t even closed yet. It’s still packed to capacity even with the ridership numbers they’re getting on their new line.
But you have a good point about the lack of highways. I guess Vancouverites have no choice. It’s transit or bust.
I wonder what would happen if Seattle closed I-5.
One day, one day I-5 will follow the viaduct into oblivion. Vancouver was so smart NOT to let major limited access highways through the city.
Too early to make any kind of speculation. Lots of factors contribute–its new, it doesn’t go to the airport yet, its new, metro doesn’t yet feed it property, its new, it doesn’t have enough signage, its new, people haven’t adjusted their lifestyle to it yet, its new, it doesn’t connect with much yet, and did I mention that it is new?
When I am in the tunnel at 7am and 5pm, the two car trains seem to be rather full at the international district station–even when they are running 3->5 minutes apart. I think what brings these numbers down is the off-peak runs and the fact that it is, well, new.
Wait until it goes to the U-district. That is when that thing will be cram packed with people. It will be nuts I tells ya, nuts!
crush-load, four car train, every 5 minutes nuts! U Link is going to have Canada Line like numbers when it opens.
I look forward to the day we can boast of having one of the highest ridership of any light rail line in the United States.
That will be 2017.
There isn’t one included with the data, but I don’t think you can compare a sketchy 14,000 figure with a 13,000 figure (the 48) and think that the former is definitively higher.
Oh, I see where you’re coming from. No, 14,000 was the midpoint of August. The trend line has us over 15,000 now. We’re definitely over the 48.
Also remember that 48 ridership is lower on weekends, and Link ridership is often higher.
Well, the obvious problem is that a 5th avenue tunnel has to cross the existing tunnel twice to get to Ballard and WS.
That is a feature not a bug. ;-)
As I said above the idea would be to build a station on the new line either under or adjacent to Westlake.
Since the DSTT isn’t under 5th at the ID, a station likely could be built under 5th without interfering with either the DSTT or ID station. I’m assuming some sort of junction between the new line and the existing link line could be built somewhere between Stadium and ID station. The WS portion could share tracks and stations with Central Link between Stadium and SODO with another junction near the O&M base. This would also allow the possibility of Federal Way to Ballard or West Seattle to Lynnwood trains.
Even if you didn’t want to interline you could still do a flying junction south of ID and continue on to WS via another corridor.
The BNSF is under 5th for a good portion of the downtown trip, and 5th isn’t where the density is through Belltown. You would see higher cost and lower ridership.
Are you sure, Ben? BNSF tunnel turns a bit west (left) northbound not too far in from South Portal but after it passes over the transit tunnel, and then the Transit Tunnel passes above the railroad between PioSq Sta and University Street Sta at maybe 3rd and Madison or so. (I had a map from when the bus tunnel was built but can’t find it).
Lloyd, Oran posted a very nice map of the BNSF tunnel in a comment above.
Blew right by it – and I NEVER miss Oran’s maps. Thanks!
I made some comments to Oran’s post and map in the above comments — I won’t repost them here, but a 2nd Ave routing does have some advantages over a 5th Ave routing (and ditto the other way around).
I see the main problem with the 2nd Ave route to be dealing with that 100 year old brick sewer main that is buried under 2nd.
What’s the sewer main status? Is it tired and in need of replacement, or is it “will last another 100 years”? I think that rather determines whether to leave it alone or not.
Rail under 2nd!
I’m not sure the lower density along 5th in Belltown is a problem. The East side of Belltown stretching to SLU isn’t all that developed yet including many blocks of parking lots East of 6th. This provides a huge potential for TOD and some very dense office and residential construction near the station. On the other hand it isn’t as if 5th through Belltown is in the middle of nowhere. The area is more dense than almost any area outside of downtown with a Link station. Furthermore a 5th avenue station in Belltown would be within 2 or 3 blocks of SLU.
An advantage of following 5th through Belltown is a possible station on the East Side of Seattle Center near the Gates Foundation offices and EMP. I’d keep a station on the West side of the Center in Uptown too, I think the area has enough going on to warrant two stations.
Are you sure? Oran’s map places the BNSF under *4th* Avenue.
Look at the design of Westlake Station, there’s your hint to their prior intentions with the DSTT.
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