Weekday Link ridership declined slightly in August.  The weekday average of 23,771 boardings was down 1.5% from July’s record count of 24,145.  Sunday ridership declined a significant 7% (from 17,127 to 15,893) , while Saturday ridership was up by 4% (from 22,098 to 22,979). 

While perhaps disappointing, most of us expected an August lull of just this sort.  The cruise ship and general tourist markets were on the wane, and schools had not yet begun in earnest.  Looking into the autumn, the smart money is on increased ridership in September and October to be followed by another leveling-off or decline in November.

23 Replies to “Link Ridership Down 1.5% in August”

  1. This opinion is worth nothing, but I actually think July may be the weekday peak for the year.

    What is astonishing is that Saturday ridership is in a virtual tie with weekdays. That’s very rare in any transit system.

    1. I think the back-to-school riders will boost numbers in September and October. Students traveling to Franklin, Garfield and the UW will boost numbers, particularly because the 48 no longer runs down MLK. I’ve already noticed a huge surge in teens on the train, and as students become more adept with their Orca cards, this will only increase.

    2. I don’t know much about other systems, but isn’t it also odd that Sunday isn’t tracking closer to Saturday?

      1. Yeah I would attribute the high Saturday numbers to tourists, but there are just as many tourists on Sunday as on Saturday, so…. I dunno.

      2. Sound Transit isn’t the only system seeing this kind of change. Sunday numbers are lower than Saturday numbers on practically every transit system, and Saturday numbers have been heading upwards towards weekday numbers on many such systems.

        I don’t know why, but it may speak to some broader social shift in the US.

  2. Yeah, I think you’ll probably see a small bump in September and October (whether those months will surpass July is anyone’s guess), then a dip before for the holidays. In any event, it’s nice to see ridership right around estimates, despite the economy’s impact on commute trips and on development in the Link corridor. It seems the days of hand-wringing about ridership were left behind for good in March or April.

  3. (sort of off topic, but Link ridership related) I noticed that they now announce a last call for Link at the airport. At 12:04 last night there was an announcement in the walkway that the last train leaves at 12:10. Of course this was followed at 12:05 saying the station was now closed. But it was a nice try. Also, it would help to extend hours a bit – several planes had just unloaded and there was a rush of people heading for that last train.

    1. Oh. So the change isn’t significant, except for the curious and interesting changes in weekend ridership.

  4. Remember those two blockages in early August? One was for the truck that got wrapped around a station fence, which required turning off the electricity to the overhead wires to free the pieces of the truck. The other was an electronic glitch that caused the tunnels to have to be closed. Certainly, that was enough to make the difference in keeping August from setting a record.

  5. Just a small quibble: There are just as many cruise ship docking here in August as there are in July. It’s not until September that ships start heading out of town for warmer climates. Is there some data suggesting that those ships aren’t sailing as full in August as they are in July?

    1. I think earlier comments have indicated that the cruise ships may not be a major factor in Link ridership.

      I have a question though, don’t the buses that run on Pacific HWY S run Night Owl, and if so, wouldn’t the sky bridge across the HWY need to remain open? — err well, I guess I can look that up my self and the results weren’t pretty. I put in a route on Metro’s trip planner leaving at 1:35 am going to 4th and Union downtown Seattle and the result was — walk to TIB station to catch a bus. Now they list TIB as being only .3 miles from the airport. B.S.!!!

      The second result was even more comical. I put in 2:30 am and it suggests taking a bus on Pacific HWY S. but going south bound to the Federal Way Transit Center and then transferring twice and eventually reaching Seattle by 5:30 a.m.

      My suggestion is that Sound Transit should run their airport express routes at least hourly through out the night to most if not all the transit centers they serve the airport from during the day.

      There are a number of flights that both depart and arrive after 1 am including American and Delta red eyes to the east coast, a Korean Airlines flight at arrives at 4 am and not to mention the hundreds of personnel that are required to be on duty for the early am flights. Without effective night service, they will never be enticed out of their cars.

    1. “Link is the most expensive school bus in the country”

      Cute. And maybe true, if that were the only think Link were useful for.

      Frankly, Norman, your comments are getting pretty tired. Attacking Sound Transit’s implementation of Link doesn’t do a whole lot of good at this point. That milk has been spilled and the horse has already left the barn. Why don’t you spend your time looking at how to improve RapidRide, Swift, and any other BRT (520?) systems that come along. Your detailed ridership counts and commentary might actually do some good there – If you *really* think BRT is a viable substitute HCT mode. Frankly, I lump you in with anti-Transit advocates that wouldn’t be caught dead on a bus, but maybe I’m wrong about you.

    2. Norman, have you even experienced the vast, efficeint subway networks in Europe, Japan, and other devloped nations? If not, please go try it out, because you’ll find out that you’re the most ignorant person I know concerning public transportation.

      But I have a question for you… Do you hate ST’s Link Light rail particularly, or rail in general? Because I agree that Sound Transit overdid the Link with art, “gold finishing”, fancy letters and did so many unecessary things when all we need is a decent rail system. However, if you think buses are “better” than rail, then you need to escape this car-dominant American culture and experience the frugal, rail-dependant Europe & Japan. Seattle has full capability in looking like Europe in thirty years.

  6. Well, as I predicted, based on my own boarding counts each month, ridership fell in August. I am not doing counts in September, so have no idea what this month’s ridership will be, but would not be surprised if it increases over August, since there are several hundred Franklin High students who use Link to and from school each weekday. These trips are quite short, however, which will tend to reduce the average miles per trip.

    October though, sees the end of the Mariners season, and the end of the cruise ship season, and the end of tourist season, in general. This should cause a significant decrease in boardings and deboardings at SeaTac (tourists) and Tukwila (M’s fans) after September.

    Here is the month-by-month boardings for Amtrak Cascades trains for 2007 and 2008:


    You can see that in 2007 and 2008, ridership peaked in July or August, and the lowest ridership months were January, February and October. I think that SEATAC boardings and deboardings on Link — not overall Link ridership, necessarily — will look a lot like this, peaking in July or August and then being much lower in the fall and winter.

    1. Seriously, is Seattle really a top worldwide tourist destination? I certainly wouldn’t think so. Do you have numbers showing otherwise?

      1. The Seattle-King County area attracts more than 9.4 million overnight
        visitors annually who spend $4.75 billion and contribute more than
        $419 million in state and local tax revenues. Direct visitor spending
        supports 62,000 jobs in the Seattle region. The Port of Seattle has
        seen record cruise ship growth in recent years, with five major cruise
        lines and an estimated 390,040 passengers in 2007 and 434,000
        projected in 2008. The Washington State


      2. I’m in San Francisco right now and see tons of tourists (myself included), much, much more than I see in Seattle. Even the transit system here caters better to tourists.

      3. Anc, that site ranks specific tourist attractions/destinations, rather than cities. Among other things:

        – New York and Orlando each appear twice.
        – A number of those destinations aren’t cities.

        That said, this list (also from Forbes, indirectly) says that San Diego, #10, gets almost 30 million annual visitors, while John Bailo’s link says that Seattle only gets 9.4 million. The Forbes article also says that San Francisco just barely missed the top 10. Thus, it’s only extrapolating a little bit to say that SF gets 3 times as many tourists annually as Seattle.

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