Highest Weekday Ridership Routes, Spring 2009 (click for more routes)

This data (click the image to see more routes) is a tad dated but I think everyone will enjoy taking a look and seeing how their favorite routes stack up.

Back when I wrote at Orphanroad.com I did a series with some similar ridership data (Part 1, Part 2). I didn’t directly compare the ridership figures because they aren’t directly comparable, so cross your eyes a bit if you want to compare them. I have only included routes with more than 1,000 daily riders. Also note that these figures are not direct measures and created using sampling and some fancy statistics.

The next shakeup should complete the most significant change Seattle’s transit system has seen in many years and it will be interesting to see how it impacts ridership on specific routes. At first blush I would expect the 8 to gain a good amount of ridership. It is becoming a center city version of the 44 and 48. And can’t the the 48 get any love… or Rapidride branding, TSP, off-board fare payment and maybe some real-time information?

54 Replies to “King County Ridership – Spring 2009”

  1. How many routes are below 1000?

    It would also be interesting to put the SLU streetcar (98?) in there, unless it was just off the bottom in Sprint 2009.

    1. Its actually not in the original data file but should be around mid 1k and grow along with SLU.

      There are 154 routes below 1K riders.

    1. You could get historical data, I’m sure. I emailed outreach staff at Metro and requested it. The actual outreach folks there are great!

  2. Use caution in intepreting these data. I’m sure there are peak-hour-only routes and other such limited routes that provide valuable and productive service, even if they don’t show in the upper reaches of this chart. Boardings per revenue hour, or rider miles per revenue hour, would be more useful to know.

    1. I wouldn’t say “more useful,” but “also useful.” There are different perspectives from which to look at the data. Rider miles per revenue hour favors commuter routes (like the 74 at the bottom of the list) that fill up at the beginning of the route then hit the freeway for a few miles. It’s great if you’ve got a roughly 9-5 job downtown, though I know from personal experience that the 74 gets stuck in I-5 traffic.

      On the other side are routes like the 8 that provide all day car-free access to a large part of the center city (Lower Queen Anne, SLU/Denny Triangle, Capitol Hill, Central District). There’s no way it performs as well as the 74 on rider miles per revenue hour, but the purposes of the two routes are completely different.

      1. I agree with you completely. Different criteria apply to different types of routes. For your Rt. 8 example, boardings per revenue hour would be a more useful number.

        I only brought up the topic because I know there are reporters and other non-knowledgeable people out there (not regulars on this blog for sure) who grab on to data like these and apply them incorrectly. And there are our transit adversaries who are quite happy to apply wrong criteria when it allows them to (falsely) conclude that transit it bad and/or just too expensive or inefficient.

    2. Also, this chart fails to recognize many corridors with extremely high ridership because of the fact that those corridors are served by multiple routes (71,72,73 and 15/18 are examples)

      Another piece of good information would be boardings per mile.

      1. Good point. Was wondering why the Cap hill routes (49, 43, 44, 10, 11, 12) are buried when experience tells me these routes are packed to the gills.

      1. Cool document. Sucks that Seattle ends up subsidizing the suburbs’ transit service… Lots of suburbanites seem to think it’s the other way around!

      2. Yes, right on both counts. Seattle subsidizes suburban transit and suburbanites think it’s the other way around. What drives the suburbanites view is that most suburban transit routes don’t make sense and exist only because Urban Seattle decided it was a good idea to become a county wide transit agency. The empty eastside buses are a result of the “vision” of Seattle transit to expand county wide.

      3. I think in one of the debates over 20/40/40 a while back someone actually dug into the tax and farebox collection numbers for each of the Metro sub-areas. If I recall correctly there ends up being a slight subsidy from the suburbs to the city. Though that conclusion is arguable due to the way routes that cross sub-area boundaries are allocated. For example I believe the cost of the 255 is allocated 50/50 to the West and East sub-areas.

        On a strict service hour vs. tax collection basis the West sub-area receives far more service hours per dollar of taxes collected than either the East or South sub-area.

        Now it wasn’t urban Seattle that decided it was a good idea to run empty buses in the suburban and rural areas of the county, but a suburban dominated county council back in the ’90s. This is why we have 20/40/40 so new service hours go disproportionately to the East and South sub-areas to make up for the West sub-area getting the lions share of the service hours.

        Now the exact politics of Metro taking over transit back in the early 70’s are lost to me but I believe the poor financial condition of both the city owned Seattle Transit System and the privately owned Metropolitan Transit Corporation had much to do with it.

      4. the west subarea (e.g., Seattle, Shoreline, and LFP) has 62 percent of Metro’s service hours and produces a bit more than one-third of the tax revenues. the higher farebox recovery does not make up for that overwhelming distribution. the suburbs subsidize Seattle riders.

    3. Ridership per day is a good measure because it’s understandable to laypeople. Whereas people are not sure what ridership per revenue hour neabs or whether it’s a fair statistic. But I would also put the peak-only routes on a separate list. It was a policy decision to have peak only routes, and they partly account for why peak-hour fares are higher. So we should judge the peak-hour routes as a whole and against each other, but not against the all-day routes.

      There seem to be two kinds of peak routes: those that make up for the slowness of local routes during the highest congestion periods (mainly in Seattle), and those where no all-day route exist (Eastside and south King County). The chart skews these a bit because the 7-express is performing the same function as the Aurora Village expresses, but it gets lumped with the 7 while the others have distinct numbers. Those again are distinct from the peak-only Kent, Phantom Lake, and Sammamish routes that have no local service. The argument for these is that those people would drive to work if there weren’t peak buses, but they don’t ride the bus enough other times to offer all-day service.

      For the owl routes, I’d say just compare all 2-5am service on a separate list.

  3. It’s interesting to note that the 71/72/73/74 combined have about the same number of riders as the 48, which bodes well for University Link ridership.

    1. Capitol Hill buses are mostly in the top half of the graph which is good i think! 48 (serves the edge of cap hill), 49, 43, 14, 10, etc. are all solid buses :) Good also for the university link.

    2. Ya, I noticed that too.

      And the current Link ridership also looks good compared to the 48 ridership data presented. It’s not a direct comparison, but on a purely ROM basis I think it looks good for Link.

  4. in Spring ’09, the 48 was the longest in-city route, wasn’t it?

    it’d be nice to see ridership per mile or something nerdier.

  5. I see my bus, the 75 is up there in the top 15. I don’t commute on it (I bike to work), but use it for evening and weekend trips since it is the only route on Sand Point Way north of 74th. At any rate, the 75 is a well traveled route, as reflected in the ridership, serving the U District, Northgate, and Ballard.

  6. And …. Daily ridership for the monorail: 7000. Daily ridership for the SLUT: 1,283. Daily ridership for Link: 14,000.

    1. When does the monorail get 7k? That sounds very high to me but I have never seen ridership data.

  7. Of interest is the 7 and 49 with a combined ridership of 17,500. It wasn’t so long ago that it was all the #7 route before they split it up.
    Also, the 3 and 4 have a combined total of 13,500. There pretty much the same route, with diferent tails on each end.
    Trolleys Rule.

    1. Mostly Mercer Island, school and OWL routes.

      Least ridden routes:

      1. 201 Mercer Island, 10
      2. 886 Clyde Hill – Bellevue HS, 14
      3. 925 Newcastle-Coal Creek DART, 14 (this one has no fixed route)
      4. 885 Newport Shores – Intl School/Bellevue HS, 15
      5. 84 Madison Pk OWL, 20
      6. 981 S Kirkland – Lakeside School ,20
      7. 984 First Hill – Lakeside School, 26
      8. 35 Harbor Island, 29
      9. 82 Greenwood OWL, 34
      10. 912 Enumclaw – Covington, 37

      1. 213 Mercer Island, 18
      2. 280 Seattle-Eastside OWL, 18
      3. 84, 22
      4. 37 West Seattle – Downtown via Alki Beach, 28
      5. 85 W Seattle OWL, 38
      6. 203 Mercer Island, 39
      7. 81 Ballard OWL, 43
      8. 82, 43
      9. 908 Renton Highlands DART, 62
      10. 83 Ravenna OWL, 66

      1. 213, 7
      2. 203, 16
      3. 84, 28
      4. 82, 34
      5. 280, 35
      6. 204, 41
      7. 83, 59
      8. 81, 61
      9. 85, 63
      10. 51 West Seattle/Admiral loop, 111

      1. Are the OWL routes worth it then? Why not have some type of night version of DART cars for the whole county or cab vouchers and save money. (A coworker of mine was offered cab vouchers to get his son to a Seattle public school–something to do with the bus routing.)

      2. Are the OWL routes worth it then?

        To whom?

        To those workers who work odd hours who rely on public transportation – they’re vital.

        A lot of bus drivers ride the Owl as well.

      3. No, is it worth it to have a whole bus out there covering a route for 38 riders or whatever, when you could instead have some different program to get those people to and from work.

        I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that OWL trips are used for other purposes at well.

      4. Keep in mind that these are total ridership numbers, and since each owl route only runs twice a night, that’s (at worst) ten riders per run… which is light, but not *that* light.

  8. Is anyone else surprised that the 44 has such low ridership, or that the 5 has so much? My regular bus stop is 46th and Phinney, and based on my (admittedly limited) experience, it seems like the 44 gets much heavier usage.

    There’s also the fact that Seattle is improving N 45th specifically to make the 44 faster, while there’s no such plan for the 5 (though I guess it is pretty close to the 358 for much of its route). Then again, the 48 gets no love at all, so maybe it’s just one of those things.

    1. the 5 is a longer route than the 44, so when it comes to ridership per mile, you are probably right.

    2. 5 also goes into the Ride Free Area. I wonder how many downtown boardings are short trips in the RFA.

    3. Yeah, back in 2007 the 44 got ~25% more riders per mile than the 48.

      I also wonder, since these numbers are from Spring 2009, does it happen to include UW’s Spring break? That could probably skew the numbers down a little bit for the 44 (though the 48 also gets a lot of student riders).

  9. I totally agree about the 48. I stopped taking it to school every morning because (if I make it in time) it gets so packed that people are sitting in front of the yellow line, and it’s so crowded behind the yellow line that they’re probably the most comfortable people on the bus. It’s a 40-footer, and despite the fact that at least a dozen of us have called Metro to ask them to put an artic on the run (there are artics on the runs before and after), but it has probably 70+ people on it most mornings… Now I take the 64, just get off at the last stop at Cherry Hill and run the six blocks to Garfield.
    However, this overcrowdedness isn’t limited to those runs; any time during peak that I have ridden it, it is very packed. My other pet peeve with it is stop spacing. There are periods where it stops literally every block (around Madison, it stops just north of John, just south of John, just south of Madison, just south of Olive, and just south of Pine). They need to clean up that route, eliminating stops, adding the “BRT” features that you mentioned, and possibly splitting it at the U District.

    1. If the 48 were split in the U District, the south half would turn around at 45th St. (around the future light rail station) and the north half would turn around at the triangle (UW light rail station.) Thus only those whose trip straddles the U District and crosses the ship canal would have to transfer.

      If that were done I wonder how the ridership would compare for the two halves. My guess is it would split sort of evenly.

      This would roughly halve the average headways in the U District and increase schedule reliability for the “Forty Late.”

      The 48 will also cross the Roosevelt station when that is built, and of course it serves the Mount Baker station today.

      Metro already “cleaned up” the stops around Montlake which are shared between the 43 and 48. I believe they are getting to the entire line over time but I don’t know the schedule for that.

      1. That’d be great if they split it up that way in the next couple years, so that there are even closer headways between U District and UW Station. It would actually be a little less convenient for me, but I’m okay with sacrificing my one-seat ride for reliability. We were just thinking that with just a little bit of more trolley wire, they could make the 48S (maybe the 47) become a trolley, and turn around at 50th like the 70.
        The other thing that I think would actually significantly speed up the bus is if they repave 15th. 15th is ridiculously potholed, and the bus actually slows down quite a bit most times I’m on it for the segment along 15th, while it’s bumping up and down like crazy.

      2. It’d be nice to do some wire infill and make the south half of the 48 electric “when” we order another 400 electric buses.

      3. The fourty-late has gotten a lot more reliable now that it ends at the Mount Baker Transit Center.

        I can actually trust it to get me to work on time now, and I can transfer to the Central Link at Mt. Baker instead of downtown, which is much more comfortable.

    2. They yanked stops off the 48 years ago – it used to be far, far worse. The particular area you mention is full of transfer points and arterials, and I’m not sure which stop you would close – when Metro looked at it they left things the way they were southbound, and only closed the northbound stop between Madison and John.

      No question BRT features (and more service!) would really help.

  10. Don’t forget this is SPRING 09 data. The 48 and 174 routes has been shortened in Fall 09.

Comments are closed.