Sounders fans line up to ride Link. Photo by Oran.

Light rail ridership was up 11% in April compared to March.  The average April weekday saw 20,129 boardings, according to Sound Transit. April’s numbers are Link’s strongest performance so far.

There were 18,094 boardings on the average weekday in March and 16,741 in February. This month’s raw data is hosted locally (pdf).

Link ridership has had an upward trend is recent months, but as I noted last month even these current numbers are below ST’s earlier projections:

The 2010 Service Implementation Plan (pdf) from Sound Transit predicted that ridership would average 26,600 across the year, a figure that is unlikely to be met. Sources at Sound Transit have told us those estimates do not reflect the lower-than-planned train frequencies and the fact that fares are charged in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, and do not account for the deep recession. It’s unknown if the 2011 Service Implementation Plan will continue to use unreliable estimates.

And though these large percentage jumps are nice to see, we should keep in mind that they may not keep up with seasonal changes in demand over the rest of the year.

113 Replies to “Link Light Rail Ridership up 11% in April”

  1. Here is the Mariners home schedule for April:

    Monday 4-12: home opener, 3:40 afternoon start
    Tuesday 4-13
    Wednesday 4-14
    Friday 4-16
    Saturday 4-17
    Sunday 4-18
    Monday 4-19
    Tuesday 4-20
    Wednesday 4-21
    Friday 4-30

    My preliminary count shows Link averaged 21,836 boardings on weekdays with M’s home games, and 19,153 boardings on weekdays without M’s home games. That would mean that almost half the increase in ridership from March to April was due to M’s home games. That is still a significant increase in ridership, even when you take out the factor of M’s games.

    If the entire difference in weekday boardings between days with M’s home games and days without M’s home games is attributed to fans going to those games, that would mean that about 2,700 boardings per weekday with M’s home games were people going to, or leaving Safeco Field, or about 1,350 different people taking Link both to and from each M’s home game.

    1. Uh, so basically, “people use light rail to get to things, therefore it’s not useful!”

      1. That’s an interesting interpretation of my post. I’m not sure where you read anything in there about Link’s usefulness, or lack thereof.

        Basically, when comparing March to April, there were no M’s home games in March, and there were 10 M’s home games in April. That explains about half the increase in ridership. Presumably, if there were no M’s games in April, ridership would not have increased as much.

        Or, to put it another way, when the M’s season ends on September 3, it would be reasonable to expect Link ridership to drop from September to October, would it not? In other words, whatever part of Link ridership is attributable to M’s home games is temporary — it will not continue when baseball season is over.

        It’s like many economic statistics, which are “weighted” to reflect seasonal fluctuations. Or hotel occupancy rates. Hotels in Seattle always have more bookings in the summer than in the winter. So, you don’t compare hotel occupancy rates in July of 2010 to January of 2010, and say “occupancy is going up!” You compare occupancy in July 2010 to July 2009, and see if occupancy is getting better, or worse.

      2. Norman,

        I usually disagree with the way you present things. However, with this one you are right on. I think Ben just jumped down your throat because he usually has good reason, but this time he is off base.

        I agree with your assumption that the numbers will decrease in September. Heck, I rode Link twice last week, and both were to go to Mariners’ games. However, the last couple of times that I rode Link not for a game, nor was there one at the time, I noticed very good ridership, especially to/from the airport. There were several suitcases both ways. Come to think of it, on the Mariner days I noticed suitcases both ways, too.

        Just rambling.

      3. Ben is right – people ride Link because it useful. It doesn’t really matter if they are riding it because they are going to work, doing business, or participating in some form of recreation. Everyone who rides Link helps reduce the pressure on some other form of transpo. That is exactly what we want.

        Per your comments ridership decreasing in September, I’m not sure I agree with you. Baseball goes through the end of September and football season starts in September. And schools should be in session. September should be a very good month.

        But who cares, this is very good news — ridership is generally increasing, and that is what we want and expect from Link. There is no need or purpose in getting too concerned about day-to-day fluctuations in ridership – fluctuations will always exist.

      4. October is always the highest ridership month for transit, because all schools (including colleges) are in session, there’s a couple sports going on, and there’s the least number of people on vacation.

      5. Norman – at the same time, ST Express ridership likely did not make an 11% increase.

      6. Norman, I addressed your point in the original post: And though these large percentage jumps are nice to see, we should keep in mind that they may not keep up with seasonal changes in demand over the rest of the year.

        Year-over-year is a superior metric for some of the reasons you talk about. Of course, there was no light rail last April, and light rail still seems to be gaining some initial momentum which other modes that are more familiar to people are not.

    2. As Ben implied, these are real trips that would either have to be accomplished through some other means or not taken at all if light rail hadn’t existed.

      1. Is there any problem with trips “not being taken at all”? I would agree with your suggestion that many trips on Link are trips which would not be taken at all. Therefore these “induced” trips really serve no function, since they are not necessary at all — analagous to “joy rides”. These trips are not taking people out of cars.

        What is the point of spending tax dollars to encouarge people to take more unnecessary trips?

      2. Don’t froth. :) My wording was carefully chosen to highways, roads, horseback, or any other mode of transportation.

        No trips are necessary. What is necessary in life is oxygen, food, and water. Whether we desire more trips is entirely. We cannot control why people take trips in a way that’s compatible with freedom, so we cannot control why you drive your car or why I ride light rail.

        We can assign a charge to encourage people to take trips that have a benefit which exceed the cost — so light rail has a fare. Why aren’t highways tolled? Why do we oversupply roads?

      3. Who says we oversupply roads?

        Highways are paid for with gas taxes. Why charge drivers twice? For very expensive highways, such as bridges and tunnels, tolls are often charged to supplement the other taxes motorists pay.

      4. We oversupply roads almost as a matter of fact; demand is a graph on price and drivers would certainly be unwilling to pay for additional lanes if they each had to face tolls to pay the cost. Instead, they ask taxpayers across the nation to pay for their roadway.

        Highways are not paid for exclusively with gas taxes, you are wrong. According to the Transport Politic: “Congress has allocated a total of $79.2 billion of income tax-sourced funds to pay for ground transportation projects over the past two years.” (This includes transit funding, of course.)

        Taxpayers pay for light rail through their sales taxes. Why do we charge a fare? Why do we charge people twice?

        The “needs” that drive roads to be built with taxpayer money are the same ones that drive transit to be built with taxpayer money: political pressure. If you wanted to get subsidies entirely out of transportation, fine by me. But please stop pretending like highways serve “necessary” trips only when there is no marginal cost to that attempts to ration its use, save for congestion and the cost of fuel.

      5. “For very expensive highways, such as bridges and tunnels, tolls are often charged to supplement the other taxes motorists pay.”

        Include with bridges and tunnels, the rest of the freeway system.

        Urban freeways are expensive, and the tax portion of gas burnt on these freeways covers 30% at the high end. For structures like the Evergreen Point floating bridge, more like 3%.

        The only place users burn enough gas, relative to the price of the lane they are using, is a somewhat congested (in the commute times) suburban/urban arterial.

        Rural freeways are cheaper, but their ‘ridership’ is lower. I haven’t been involved in any of those projects, so I haven’t worked out that ratio.

      6. It seems clear that the trips to sports games would have been taken with or without Link — that seems like an unlikely target for “induced demand”. Who goes “Oh, it’s easier to get to the stadium by train, I guess I’ll see a game instead of not seeing one?

      7. The person that goes “oh, it’s easier to get to the stadium by train, I guess I’ll see a game instead of not seeing one” is
        1) Someone without a car. Now Link makes it easier to get there.
        2) Someone that has been stuck in bad traffic after the game and doesn’t want that experience again
        3) Someone that looks for an excuse to ride link because it is fun. The trip is part the night’s adventure and fun (often more fun than the Mariner’s performance).

      8. Ah, then there’s the people like me that:
        1)Hate driving DT because of the maze of one one streets, confusing lights and zero useful signage.
        2)Figured out it’s cheaper than parking plus gas plus getting your car broken into.
        3)Would like to have a beer or two during the match and not deal with the rest of the drunks on the road after the event.

        Although, I’d have to say your point 3) is equally valid with respect to the Mariner’s recent performance :=

    3. I think in the case of sports events a monthly year-over-year comparison would be more appropriate. Of course, we don’t have a full year to compare to…yet.

      1. Or you can just compare to other transit services. If we saw an 11% increase in ST Express ridership month over month, Sound Transit would have noted it.

        Link is just maturing.

      2. If you read my post, you would note that I said nearly half of the increase in Link ridership in April over March could be attributed to M’s games starting up — not the entire 11%.

      3. No you can’t compare it to other transit services, when talking about the sports days. Link obviously serves the big sports stadiums nicely. Lots of people who go to sports stadiums realize this, and use Link to get there. They cannot use every St Express line to get there.

        I agree Link is maturing, and that definitely accounts for some of the increase in ridership. However, it cannot be discounted that games also account for the increase in ridership.

        I used to drive to every Mariners game I went to. However, even though it costs me more to take Link, I do it. Why? It is easy, the kids enjoy it, it drops you two blocks from the stadiums, and I don’t have to worry about getting there early to find a parking spot. Having used it many times for sports games, it is a very popular way for us southenders to get to the games. Could have I used the bus before? Sure, but it isn’t the same and is much slower than Link.

      4. Link doesn’t serve the main stadiums any differently than the 594, 545, or 522. Those buses aren’t seeing the bump Link is. Sooo… no, actually, Link ridership is just growing faster than other services.

  2. Lower-than-planned train frequencies?

    Does that mean south Link was originally planned to have more trains?

    I had originally heard it would be 7-minute headways north and 15-minute headways south, so Link is already doing better than that.

    1. Headways were advertised as 6 minutes peak. I’m not sure what you mean by 7 north and 15 south – headways have to be the same both directions because all trains have to turn around!

      1. I think he means that originally ST was going to turn every other train at Henderson Street (Rainier Beach station), so headways from there to the airport would’ve been double what they from Henderson to Westlake. ST built a tail track south of the station for this reason.

      2. Actually, Link was going to operate every six minutes end to end.

        When North Link was complete, the original plan was to operate trains every five minutes to Rainier Beach, and every ten minutes farther south. That plan is basically scrapped now, though, because with 7-8 minute headways, it makes sense to just run the same on East Link.

      3. Yeah, I should’ve been more clear that I was referring to the operating plan in the original EIS. Of course that operating plan assumed that Link would extend to the U-District.

    2. I meant that Link north of downtown was going to run every 7 minutes, and south of downtown every 15 minutes. We’ve already got 7-10 minutes south of downtown, and the promise of even more frequency north.

  3. Hard to tell if there is a Sounders effect (though the picture suggests there might be) since both April matches were on Saturday and that gives us only 4 data points.

    4/3 (7:30 match) was the lowest Saturday of the month and 4/17 (12:00 match time) was the highest.

    April did have the best Saturday ridership so far in 2010.

    1. I’m sure there is a Sounders effect. Every time I have been on or around Link before or after a Sounders game, there are plenty of fans riding it.

      1. You mean… Link is successfully taking Sounders riders out of their cars.

      2. No, Link is successfully taking Sounders fans who used to take the bus to games.

      3. Well since both of you are speculating, it’s probably worth mentioning that it’s a combination of those.

      4. If they had had a large free parking lot in Tukwila for people to use when taking a bus from the Tukwila area to games in Safeco Field and Qwest Field, a lot more people from that area would have taken the bus to sporting events in Seattle. I would suggest that the large park and ride lot at the Tukwila station is the main reason why more people might be taking Link to games in Seattle than used to take the bus.

      5. Nope. When I take the bus home from a Sounders match, the bus usually sits in traffic for a long stretch. Plus, I have to wait up to a half hour for my bus, which shows up way late because it was stuck in traffic. I’ve decided to give up the joy of taking an hour to get out of the stadium district…

        With Link, my ride shows up in five minutes, and I’m all the way to Beacon Hill Station just a few minutes later.

      6. Huge volumes of people heading for the same destination? That’s a sports game. That’s also an ideal situation for rail.

        Of *course* rail works better than buses for people going to sports games!

  4. Just a reminder: ST projections for greater Link ridership were established before the Great Recession hit.

    1. Yep, and the Great Recession is also probably hitting the RV and south King a little harder than some other parts of the ST taxing district.

  5. I love Link, but this is all still very depressing compared with the news from TransLink’s Canada Line. I’m not going to go re-read that article from a post last weekend…but it was startling in its impressiveness — they are reaching capacity (100k/day? can that be right?)in just a couple of years after opening. Then, I watched a bunch of YouTube videos about the line (and SkyTrain in general) and it just depressed me — rush hour in one of the downtown stations looked like what I thought Link would be, a real honest-to-goodness mass transit system with people buzzing around with European (or East Coast, I guess) efficiency. I guess U-Link and EastLink will change that, but damn that seems like a long ways off.

    1. Dude. It’s partly because the Canada Line was an addition to a much larger system that it is seeing such high ridership.

      Yes, there are other factors too, but having integrated access to the much larger system really increases the utility of the line. Wait until we start adding extensions to Link – we will see improved ridership across the entire system also.

      I.e., we are just starting, and so is our ridership level. We can’t play with the big boys yet, because we aren’t one.

      1. Oh I agree…it’s just that I have always sort of thought of Seattle as a city with a Vancouver (or Stockholm, Portland…) type of transit sensibility, but just WITHOUT that infrastructure. And, so, I assumed once it was built there would be this sort of instantaneous response. I know that our population density is quite a bit lower, but SkyTrain goes to some pretty suburbanish places. I know my utopian hopes may not intersect with reality, I just with they did.

      2. We haven’t built infrastructure yet to compare to Vancouver, or Stockholm, or Portland. We’ve only built one line serving just one part of just one city in the region. As we add extensions ridership will come up across all lines, and development patterns will improve to add ridership too.

        It’s a long process, we’re just starting….

      3. It’s worth noting that the “killer app” line was supposed to be University Link. The “less attractive” line, Central Link, got built first, largely for political sticker-shock reasons. When U-Link opens, you may start seeing the sort of rush hour usage you’re hoping for.

      4. I don’t think U-Link will attract that many U-District to downtown commuters until the Roosevelt station is open.

      5. It depends where people are coming from. From Wedgewood or Ravenna you could more quickly take a bus to UW campus and transfer at Husky Stadium than the “expresses” that stop all down the Ave.

      6. As a tangent, I’m not sure while people in Seattle always cite Portland as having one of the best transit systems in the country, let alone the world.

        Don’t get me wrong, it’s better than Seattle’s (which is not saying much at this point). But in this country, NYC, Chicago, DC, San Francisco, Boston, and Philly as clearly the best. They have the highest mode shares for public transit and all at or near the top in terms of ridership.

        Portland doesn’t belong in that category. Yes, theyve done great things for such a late bloomer and are on their way, but unlike Boston and SF–for instance–they don’t have a subway, and both Boston and SF have much higher light rail ridership.

        Seattle should aim for SF/Boston level of transit. Seattle’s urbanity spreads out much further than Portland’s and it has more of a big city feel. Plus, there are a lot of areas in Portland where a light rail station isn’t that close.

      7. Yeah, I’ve often wondered that too. The Seattle metro area overall actually has much higher transit usage than Portland. We have higher transit usage per capita, and the percentage of trips made to downtown by transit is much higher here than in Portland. I think that people look at all the new light rail built in Portland and equate that with a successful transit system.

      8. I agree. In fact, Portland’s transit modeshare is lower than Seattle’s, despite its extensive light rail system. Also, I heard that its transit ridership didn’t increase much with the light rail, it just completely replaced people who were already taking the bus. Already, our transit is far more subway-like than Portland MAX, even on the MLK segment, which is the best example of at-grade light rail that I’ve seen in the country.

      9. Exactly. San Francisco and Vancouver are the two West Coast cities Seattle should be emulating in terms of public transit.

        Not a diss to Portland, what theyve done is great as I said, but it’s absurd to claim they are anywhere near the best public transit in the country. Portland is essentially a large town, with a basic (but relatively effective) at-grade light rail that feels more like a tram than a subway, and serves largely as a commuter rail for nearby suburbs.

      10. I don’t think you can have a comparison of the total transit share in cities without talking about land use.

      11. “People in Seattle always cite Portland as having one of the best transit systems in the country”

        Who says that? It looks different in different time periods and with different comparisions. First you have to exclude cities with extensive subways and 24/7 service to essentially everywhere: NYC, Chicago, SF, Vancouver, Europe, DC, Boston, Philly (dunno about night owl in the last three). Portland is clearly not in that class.

        The comparison with Seattle is different depending on if you mean Seattle past, Seattle present, or Seattle future. Portland was years ahead of Seattle with MAX, a streetcar, and even a gondola (“aitram”). It has cute symbol-coded sectors (snowflake, beaver, etc). Although its Sunday frequency could have been better.

        Now with Link, Seattle is leapfrogging over Portland, because it has extensive grade-separated sections and wide stop spacing, with stations directly in city neighborhoods.

        But if you look beyond the routes and schedules, Portland has many other things going for it. It pioneered urban growth boundaries, although they’ve been weakened in the past decade. It has much more bicycle routes and ridership. Isn’t there a bike/pedestrian bridge there? The population is generally more willing to support livability than Pugetopolis is. They replaced a riverside freeway with a park. They scrapped a freeway proposal and put the money into MAX. Meanwhile Seattle’s getting an express car tunnel and Kemper wants more lanes on 405. So Portland is way ahead of us in overall vision.

      12. Those are all very good points.

        I think in terms of human-scale development and walkability, Portland is far ahead of Seattle.

        But I think Seattle should look to other cities (like Vancouver or SF) as better examples of how our public transit system should develop. I would be fine with MAX-style lines for the west side of the city (to West Seattle and Ballard/Crown Hill) but as you said, I think Seattle on the whole should aim to leapfrog Portland and continue with primarily grade-separated lines. And as you said, Portland’s light rail doesnt really go to neighborhood centers (i.e. NW23rd, Hawthorne, Alberta, etc.), and this is something Seattle should aim for as well.

        In terms of transit, I think Portland is definitely ahead of Seattle, but its not the model many hold it up to be. Im more impressed with the walkabililty, human-scale, and overall connectivity of the city (Something Seattle generally lacks)

      13. I’m surprised MAX has avoided the Hawthorne district for so long. It seems like the kind of place where train riders would live; e.g., Bagdad theater, pizza place, Powell’s branch, lots of young people. MAX doesn’t even go on Burnside there but farther north, which is all single-family houses. If you insist on taking MAX, it’s either a long walk or N-S bus to get to it.

      14. People don’t cite Boston, Philly, Chicago, San Fran, or NYC, because although they *do* have excellent systems, they’re *old* and they have generally been doing *poorly* at maintaining and upgrading them.

        In other words, the political culture is nothing to emulate, even though the physical plant is great.

        (To be fair: Philly built the Center City Commuter Connection in the 1970s/80s, which was good, and is doing comprehensive rebuilds of the oldest El/Subway stuff; Chicago has done some fairly impressive rebuilds, such as the Brown Line, recently, even on very little money. Boston, New York, and San Francsico have had serious management problems, and Boston and New York have had really serious funding problems.)

        Note that these are the cities with 1930s, or earlier, subways. It’s a different situation from Seattle, and very different problems.

        As for DC, it really *is* a good model managerially and politically as well as physically, and its subway is modern. I suppose Portland is referenced because it’s closer than DC? (And because Seattle in the 1970s rejected the Forward Thrust program which would have given it a very DC-like Metro?)

    2. The largest reason that the Canada Line is so successful is that there aren’t two highways in the same corridor. Between 599/99 and I-5, Link is competing with billions of dollars of highway infrastructure.

      1. Which is why Link is so unnecessary and wasteful. More buses on those highways and arterials would have provided the same capacity as Link at much lower cost to taxpayers.

      2. Link is necessary because our highways are at capacity and adding buses to them without doing anything else has been shown to be a failed paradigm by the last 40 years of Seattle history.

        Buses alone won’t solve our problems. It’s great to see Seattle finally admit this and get on with doing something real.

        On with more rail — we need it.

      3. In what way have buses “failed”?

        What problems is Link solving?

        Buses greatly increase the capacity of existing roads and highways.

      4. Buses haven’t failed – the bus only paradigm has failed.

        We need a healthy mix of all modes; Central Link is just the first element in the LR mode. More will follow, and the extensions have already been approved by the voters.

      5. You can compare Link to doing nothing, or you can compare it to a new freeway. Its cost and benefit is roughly similar to a new freeway, but it’s much more useful, especially in this age where people want to emphasize centripetal (toward neighborhood centers) rather than centrifugal (toward sprawl). As for buses, we could pack more of them on existing streets, but that would not achieve the rapid transit many people desire. Also, there has never been any political will to run buses as frequently as trains are.

      6. What about University Link? Are there not enough buses going to Capitol Hill and UW right now? East Link? Maybe we can just expand I-5 and I-90 at tremendous cost?

        Central Link is part of a larger system that will be completed in the future. Cut off Central Link, and the rest of the lines are less useful. And of course, it could certainly be said that Central Link is less useful than it will be in 10 years.

        Of course, poor weather bus fans rarely make the case for strong bus investment outside of the context of bashing light rail. If we were to get rid of Link entirely, no one would be shocked to see someone named Norman argue that buses are “unnecessary and wasteful.” I don’t think you’re sincere, and you’ve given no evidence to the contrary.

      7. No. There are not enough buses going to Capitol Hill and UW right now, according to things I have read. Are not many of those buses regularly packed during peak hours?

        There is no need to expand I-5 or I-90. Both highways can carry many more people than they do currently. There just have to be more people in each vehicle. Buses (and van pools) are how you get more people per vehicle, while taking a lot of cars off the roads at the same time. One bus can take about 50 cars off the road, while taking about as much space as 2 or 3 cars.

        100 buses per hour can carry as many people as about 5,000 cars. Which causes more congestion on freeways: 100 buses per hour; or 5,000 cars per hour?

      8. Where do the additional buses serving Capitol Hill and UW go? There’s no secret side street that allows easy transit. Maybe we should build a bus tunnel.

        There just have to be more people in each vehicle.

        I think one “market” approach to do this is to have tolls, but earlier you’ve rejected this. The end-all, be-all to transportation demand isn’t simply providing government-subsidized transit against government-subsidized highways.

      9. I don’t think the Capitol Hill could handle about two buses a minute. There would almost always be a stop at the zone.

      10. “They go the same place the current buses go. Just more frequently.”

        That’s a problem? You also didn’t mention that light rail doesn’t get caught in traffic or stop at stoplights (with a few exceptions on MLK). They stop right on the tracks rather than detouring to an exit or bus stop. All this speeds up the trip. You could do the same with buses but you’d have to redesign the roads for them, and that would make the cost approach light rail.

      11. Why do you even visit this website? I mean, you are free to have your opinions, and they might even include valid components at times…but, this blog is for people who actually like rail transit. And, it’s not as if this is some anti-democratic ram-it-down-your-throat system…we have chosen to go forward with it regardless of your arguments. There are lots of great and useful things around this planet that I’m sure weren’t thought to be the best use of resources at the time (your argument, not mine) but would be hard to imagine without now.

        Are there any desirable +1 million cities with demonstrable high quality of life indicators (places that the creative class want to live) that isn’t supported by modern rail transit?

      12. Really? I thought this was a “transit” blog. Which would include buses.

        This is really the “Seattle Train-lovers Blog”? Is this “Light Rail Now”?

        Why don’t you indicate that in the title of the blog — That it is only for people who support building more trains?

      13. shotsix will be unable to rename the blog because he is completely unaffiliated with it.

      14. Norman – at the same token, this isn’t the “Seattle Bus Lover’s Blog” either. A successful transit system will need to rely on all modals.

      15. Just because you keep repeating that does not make it true. Seattle has a very high percentage of commuting trips taken by transit, without any rail (this was true before Link opened, and Link has likely made zero difference).

        There is no “need” for rail transit in our area.

      16. Norman, actually, Seattle’s transit modeshare is smaller than cities with… rail systems. Which is why we’re building one. Whether you like it or not. :)

      17. “shotsix will be unable to rename the blog because he is completely unaffiliated with it.”

        I apologize if it sounded like I was speaking for this blog…I was using “we” as in ST tax district voters, and for everything else I was just spouting off my own opinions.

      18. Norman, I agree with you that buses are not frequent enough on Capitol Hill. But I strenuously disagree with your assertion that Rail transit is not needed or useful. The University Link in my view will be extremely useful, timely and will be despite a substantial capital outlay, well justified. The ability to get from Westlake to Broadway and East John in THREE MINUTES is an extraordinary accomplishment far outstripping car or bus modes. In my view, this segment in addition to the 2 stations in the University district will radically transform public transit in the Seattle area. Allowing significant reconfiguration of bus service hours to add frequency to bus routes, coordinate connecting routes and take thousands of people out of their cars.

        It was mentioned the incredible feat of the Canada Line being at capacity just a few short months after its opening, well from what I can see, the University Link may “suffer” the same fate. That would be a good problem to solve.

      19. Three minutes is less than the time it takes for me to get from the Westlake platform to a surface bus stop that takes me up to Capitol Hill and that doesn’t include waiting for the 10/11/43/49 once I get to the stop.

      20. Or, we’ve now made I-5 unnecessary. We can tear out I-5 and rebuild the homes that were destroyed when it was built.

      21. And eliminate the noise! I live a block from I-5 so I hear it all the time, but I was surprised when I looked at an apartment on the other side (Eastlake) and it was twice as loud. It had a beautiful courtyard but you’d have to wear headphones to use it. I notice all the other balconies on Melrose and started thinking about what was it like in the 60s? Did all the oldsters move away when you couldn’t even sit on your balcony without hearing the incessant roar all day?

      22. Once 520 is gone, and the public becomes aware of what little use it was, we’ll be able to start removing I-5 between the two I-405 junctions. We should be able to accomplish this by mid-century without too much disruption once the necessary Link, streetcar and feeder bus systems systems are in place.

      23. Heh heh, let the suburbs take the burden of having the freeways since they want them so much. Then Seattle would be like Vancouver.

      24. You’re just wrong, Norman. Please stop claiming that buses could provide the “same capacity” as Central Link trains at a “lower cost”, because it’s just plain untrue.

        The costs of hiring bus drivers alone makes it untrue. If you want to run a jobs program to create make-work jobs for bus drivers, then say so.

      25. As an academic exercise, it’s probably true that buses “could” provide as much… if there were no SOVs on the highways.

    3. Yes, the lack of freeways are huge. But also don’t forget that all express bus routes from White Rock, Richmond, South Surrey etc… now terminate at Bridgeport Station. That’s a HUGE factor in the Canada Line’s success. Cambie St. isn’t really all that dense, but with the bus routes feeding in, the YVR connection, and a fast-growing suburb in Richmond… it all adds up to an efficient and highly patronized rail line.

      We need the guts to similarly reorganize our bus services in 2016!

      1. I agree, but we haven’t even finished the obvious 2009 reorganizations.

        Light rail ridership is being sabotaged by Metro planners who are refusing to let any more bus routes that get near rail stations to be able to actually reach them (101, 132, 27, to name a few).

        But then, Sound Transit is providing lots of bus service that competes with Link and provides more frequency to downtown than to Link. The 577 is a huge example of ST undercutting Link. If ST had kept its promise to replace the 194 service levels, I’d have less of a case to make here. But the reality is that during rush hour, the next 577 is a five-minute wait, while the next 574 to the south terminus of Link is still up to a half hour wait. Tacoma has the same problem.

        If it is inconvenient to get to light rail, then a lot of potential riders won’t.

      2. I’m thinking they should wait until 2020 when North Link opens to do a major reorganization, but when they do, they should wipe the slate completely clean and start over from scratch for all Seattle bus routes. We should have less peak-only service and more frequent all-day grid-style feeder service. Who knows, maybe by that time I’ll be working as a transit planner and will be able to figure it all out!

      3. No, we want to make buses MORE convenient so that MORE people use them and the transportation system as a whole.

      4. How would connecting more bus routes to Link and increasing their frequency make buses more inconvenient?

        When 200th St Station opens, increasing the 574’s frequency and connecting the 578 to Link at 200th St would give Pierce County and Federal Way bus riders a lot of convenient connections all over South King County that they never had before. Plus, with higher frequency all day, the wait+travel time from most city centers in south King County and Pierce County to downtown Seattle should be faster.

      5. We can’t get too carried away with forced transfers. It makes tons of sense to transfer at Northgate or UW or Bellevue Transit Center for downtown because those are all significant distances (3+ miles on a highway or where buses have traditionally run express). It makes less sense in Rainier Valley or the Central District where you might save a mile or two, or transfer to a bus for just a mile. This is really two factors. One, Rainier Valley is so close to downtown that it’s on the borderline of where a forced transfer makes sense. Two, the geography allows buses to go only a couple miles in a straight line, which prevents them from going the longer distances that would make a forced transfer more obvious. And the Central District is even closer to downtown, so a forced transfer from the CD to downtown would make even less sense. And even less so transfering at Capitol Hill, or eliminating the buses between downtown and Capitol Hill. (Many riders are going short of Broadway, or just beyond it.)

        So we should concentrate on getting the longer-distance (suburban) routes to integrate with Link, and not get too cute with city routes that are already pretty short. The 150 and 180 being prime examples. The 101 is borderline, but it could continue on MLK directly to Link, and wouldn’t have to suffer many traffic lights or low speed limits on its way.

      6. We can debate “forced transfers” on a route-by-route basis. My biggest beef is with forced non-transfering.

        Riders along much of the 150 have the option of transfering to the 140 at Southcenter. Of course, the need to transfer makes the option less appealing.

        Riders on the 101 have no such option. It’s head downtown or head to Renton, with no connectivity to any other routes along the line. If there were an equivalent of the 101 that headed to Rainier Beach Station, perhaps alternating with the current route, riders on that route would have more choice. And on weekends, full truncation would probably mean all-day service instead of service starting at 9 am.

        The 132 is its own gruesome special case. A fellow South Parker offered one of the planners $100 for riding the route from end-to-end. The planner politely declined the offer. The 132 not only doesn’t provide faster service to downtown than Link would (and that would be the understatement of the year), but it also doesn’t go much of anywhere people are trying to get to, or have connectivity to help people get where they are going. But Metro doesn’t want to lose those four or five riders who get on the 132 south of Burien.

        Now, take the example of the 578 after 200th St Station opens. The 578 could completely bypass the south end of Link and head straight from Federal Way to downtown. It could pull off at 200th St to stop at the station, and then go back to I-5 to head north again. Or, it could stop at 200th St Station, and make the additional stop at the airport, and have twice as many runs with the same number of service hours. If the demand is there for 1-seat rides to the airport or transfers to Link (and I suspect the demand will be there), then the 200th St stop ought to happen. But once that stop happens, the time to get back on the freeway and complete the bus route to downtown is probably no faster than catching Link. So then, why bother doing the stretch to downtown? Why not truncate the 578 at the airport, increase the destinations that are served well by the route, and double the frequency?

        The thought has also crossed my mind as to why the 578 couldn’t already pull off at 200th St and head north to Airport Station. I suppose it has to do with travel time between 200th St and Airport Station.

      7. Or alternatively, think of all the Pierce County neighborhood bus service that could be saved by truncating more routes at Airport Station. And then think of how many different places Norman could ride to on a 1-seat-ride bus route.

  6. Good grief, I thought this debate had finally exhausted itself, at least until the next segment opens and there’s a whole new set of numbers to throw back-and-forth.

    Link is doing just fine. Given that we now know ridership estimates were made assuming shorter headways and participation in the RFA, and given the profound impact the recession has had not only on transit ridership (and auto traffic) in general but on redevelopment projects along the Central Link corridor in particular, there’s no cause for concern and much to be excited about.

    Yes, there will always be seasonal fluctuations in various classes of ridership. Spring, summer, and fall will see Sounders and M fans. Summer will lose student riders, but gain fair-weather commuters who drive if they sniff rain, special-event riders (Solstice, fireworks, SeaFair, etc.), and purely recreational riders. Fall and early winter 2010 will see Sunday spikes for Seahawks games and the return of students. Who cares? It’s all meaningless until you can do some year-to-year comparisons. All that matters is that ridership is in the right ballpark and continuing to grow.

  7. Some readers here may find the day-by-day plot of ridership through April to be interesting, Lead Story at

    These numbers for April, released on June 11, are very late in arriving compared to previous months, but Sound Transit indicates it will make release routine the third week of the month for the previous month, in synchronization with the Operations Subcommittee of the Board, which next meets on June 17. So May numbers should be out next Thursday.

    1. John, what an incredibly “glass is half (or mostly) empty” site you sent us to. :-(

      For example, your first headline suggests that Link’s passenger growth is only (mostly?) from baseball. Seems to suggest that it’s growth is not “legitimate”? (I know, discussed ad nauseum above) The remaining headlines are of the same ilk. While I would find a day by day plot of ridership to be nerdishly interesting, having to wade through this sea of disparagement is untenable.

      I think it is one thing to hold our government institutions accountable and publishing information that is not flattering to them is certainly one of our freedoms. But it is another to be so negative and fox news like that it is a distraction from what is real. You should count your blessings that the State of Washington has such open government practices. Where I presently live, there is significant grumbling over the lack of openness, responsiveness and transparency of government activities. And there is no initiative process here so the people’s ability to directly correct (or make mayhem) government actions is rather limited. But needless to say, I’ll not likely venture into that pool of ick again anytime soon.

      1. Charles, what do you find inaccurate about the information presented? Wishing the glass were full is far from pointing out it’s only half full or empty (which are just semantics).
        Some of us think that things like ridership, cost of transit in general, on-time performance, and efficiency of transport (farebox recovery) are important metrics, and that publishing available documents holds government to a higher standard. Those are the first four post you find “ick”ey.
        I’m sorry you live in an area without such public scrutiny. Where did you say that was?

      2. I don’t know where he lives, but New York State (third most populous state in the Union) would be a good example of “significant grumbling over the lack of openness, responsiveness and transparency of government activities. And there is no initiative process”.

  8. Is there any data comparing the boardings with fares collected? I observe lots of folks never buying tickets or tapping in/out. Seems to be especially prevalent when I’ve been on the train and a game has just let out.

    1. Maybe these people all have U-Passes? :-P

      Both times I’ve ridden Link after a Mariners game, there have been fare collectors at the entrance to Stadium Station making sure everyone had a pass or ticket.

  9. This is great that people can take the train to the M’s game, when I can start taking it from the north of Seattle?

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