Photo by Mike Bjork

The 3rd Quarter Sound Transit ridership numbers are out. All year-on-year system boardings comparisons are overwhelmed by a full quarter of Central Link in 2010, which now makes up just over a third of total Sound Transit network ridership.

ST Express ridership was down overall. Notable was a 29% drop in boardings when the 566 replaced the 564 and 565, a huge increase in the 577/578 when the 194 went away, and a precipitous 30% decline in 560 ridership thanks to a big service reduction.

Central Link’s reliability numbers continue to be atrocious (79%) by the bizarre definition ST continues to use, although ST had a 90% success rate at maintaining headways. The 79% figure also includes trips affected by maintenance, which may or may not be appropriate to include depending on what you’re trying to measure.

Link’s operating cost per boarding ($6.53) has slipped  below that for express buses ($7.47) for the second consecutive quarter, as ridership numbers go in opposite directions.

31 Replies to “ST 2010 Q3 Ridership”

  1. OK, someone smack me upside the head. How is it that the numbers for total ridership have gone down, but average weekday boardings have increased significantly for 2010?

    I’m not gonna heap criticism if I’m not smart enough to understand the figures…and extrapolating my own POV from this I would guess that way more people are driving to work again, or did the population decrease accordingly?

    1. Weekends. Central Link is generating huge amounts of weekend traffic, comparatively much more than buses. The gains on weekdays aren’t large enough to cancel out the bus losses.

      1. By “weekdays” do you mean Seahawks games?

        And probably 90 percent of the traffic is Tukwila to Seattle — in essense, LINK is a parking ride shuttle.

  2. I’m curious what will happen to Line A, the 577 and 574 when South Link gets built. The 577 at least would be entirely duplicated, although I suspect that when the roads are flowing well, the 577 is a quicker way to get from downtown to Federal Way.

    1. You mean when South Link gets built all the way to Federal Way? I’m guessing the 577 will stay because, as you said, it’ll be much faster (similarly, I’m guessing the 590s will stay when Link makes it to Tacoma), although I’m sure the 574 would be dropped.

      1. But the 574 will stay until Link gets to Tacoma because it is Tacoma and Lakewood’s only real link to Sea-Tac. Although it could skip FW once Link is extended to FW, which would be nice for speed. It was nice to see gains on the 574 made by the way.

      1. thats an odd name. in reno there is a southbound bus to the mall. one is called rapid. it makes i belive only 5 stops. its counterpart on the same route is called the connect. it can make around 12 stops.

      2. “Which shows again that RapidRide is the future for local routes, not express routes.”

        what does an express route not do for a local route that a rapidride does do??

        have express routes ever been considered the future for local routes?

  3. Regarding the cost per boarding ($6.53), what kind of ridership will Link have to achieve to break even, holding all other factors constant? (Yes that means holding service levels the way they are, same level of rolling stock maintenance, etc.) It will be an unrealistic situation, but I just want a rough idea of the break even ridership.

    1. If you assume no cost difference you can do it just playing with the numbers in that report’s table; it would need about 263% of its current ridership.

      1. Actually that’s based on the probably silly assumption that everyone pays $2.75/boarding. If you say it’s on average $2/boarding then you need about 335%, but that’s a wild and wooly number.

        Keep in mind that even at $2/$6.71 you’re already at 30% farebox recovery which beats the heck out of Metro (wikipedia says 10%). Most of the systems that come close to break even are far more established systems like London Underground.

    2. Most systems “break-even” point is 100,000 passengers/day. The Canada Line for example is seeing 110,000 passengers/day and is now able to cover its operating costs and a small sum of its construction costs. This goal wasn’t expected to happen until 2014/2019 timeframe.

      Translink is already looking at ways to hopefully expand the stations early (2013) and add another car to each of the trains to go from 3

      The Canada Line is currently running at 3.55 minute intervals with 14 trains and 2 extra at rush hour. Next year, unless it gets bumped up sooner, it will be 16 trains at 3.33 minute intervals.

      Per the land of Wikipedia:

      On February 5, 2010, ridership reached a (then) record of 135,000 during a campaign to encourage residents to use transit prior to the Olympics. Further single-day records included 157,000 on February 11, 2010, and 210,000 on February 15, 2010 with all 20 trains running.

      The 2010 Winter Olympics saw the Canada Line’s ridership increase 118 per cent to an average of 228,190 per day for 17 days, with a single-day record of 287,400 on February 19, 2010.

      1. The Bangkok Skytrain had to break 300,000/day for the
        private builder/operator to make a profit and repay the loans. Ridership was half the
        projections for over four years before it caught up due to the ’97 financial crisis.

      2. You can’t say most system break-even at 10,000 passengers/day as each system is different – different technology, train/station size, system length, headway, etc. Take Vancouver for an example, the Expo and Millennium Lines are carrying 240,000/day in 2008, and it’s only running at 109% cost recovery.

  4. Are their cost breakouts for other transit companies this well done? I’m curious about Seattle (monorail and SLUT) as well as CT and Pierce Transit.

  5. Sounder:

    Sounder commuter rail boardings decreased by 8 percent overall. Fewer special event trains were operated compared with
    2009, and this contributed to a 28 percent decline in event train boardings during the quarter. Reflecting the greater stability of
    commuter travel, average weekday boardings declined by 6 percent, less than the overall percentage decrease in Sounder ridership.

    This is a case where more detailed data is needed.

    For example, Sounder runs two trains in the reverse commute direction each evening. (I recently took one of these from to attend the Symphony…and took the 150 return trip). These, of course, have very few riders.

    I would like to see a breakdown of the Tacoma-Seattle Sounder versus the Seattle-Everett line — full stats, boardings, …

    1. Okay, I should have looked at Page Two:

      North Line
      Commuter 70,351 67,211 -4%
      Special 18,840 13,004 -31%
      Subtotal 89,191 80,215 -10%

      South Line
      Commuter 519,784 487,355 -6%
      Special 29,511 21,649 -27%
      549,295 509,004 -7%

      I’d like to offer a personal observation about declines on the South Line.

      They only recently started making regular checks for tickets using the hand scanners (last few months on a regular basis). Given that the Kent Regional Justice Center is at Kent Station, I think there were a lot of scofflaws riding the rails to get to their possession hearings, and those folks were scared off by the appearance of ticket takers.

      And I would still like to see per train boardings to isolate the reverse commute train from the regular rush hour schedule.

      1. You’re not making a lot of sense, John. There’s only one KC station south of Kent Station, namely, Auburn. Anyone from other parts of the county would need to use the reverse-peak trains to get to a morning hearing. Those trains which you say are not well-patronized.

        Even if the reverse-peak trains don’t have a lot of riders, the train is repositioned to make another peak-direction trip. This allows having more peak-direction trips with the same amount of equipment,

        I’ve wondered why they couldn’t take one of the north trains, have it run-through Seattle to become one of the reverse-peak trips in the south, then come back to Sattle as an after peak trip. In the afternoon, it could run south before the start of the peak, then turn and run from Tacoma to Everett. It seems like a trip the full length of the corridor would be a useful addition to the service, even if it’s only in one direction.

      2. aw,
        Think of all the slides on the North Line when service is disrupted for 48 hours. If the North Line is disrupted and a train is scheduled through, then the South Line schedule would be disrupted also.

      3. Assuming the equipment is suitably positioned, it could just do the south part of the route until the blockage is cleared and the moratorium is lifted. If the equipment is stuck north of the blockage, it could be repositioned as soon as freights start moving and then serve the south part of the route. Bus bridge in the meantime, as is the case today.

  6. I’m surprised by the drops in ST 510 and 511 buses to Snohomish. With the big cuts to CT last year they expected some of their commuting riders that got cut to shift to ST routes, clearly that didn’t happen too much which probably means they went back to their cars. Bad news.

  7. “Link’s operating cost per boarding ($6.53) has slipped below that for express buses ($7.47) for the second consecutive quarter, as ridership numbers go in opposite directions.”

    what?? busses having less boardings and Links boardings increasing??

  8. are plans in the works to cut out more busses (those that future rail will replace) in the near future?

  9. Link’s operating cost per boarding ($6.53) has slipped below that for express buses ($7.47) for the second consecutive quarter,….

    does the cost of one mode go up and down more often depending on the amount of boardings?? it seems that cost for busses would go up more with more riders due to more braking and stop-starting more than fixed train stops.

    how is OCpB useful though? if one person rode the link its overall cost would be the same right?? is there a better measure to use??? cost per passenger per time travelled per mile travelled??? for determining transit effectiveness??

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