Every time we have a Link ridership report readers like to make predictions for next year. Blog comments are low stakes, so if that’s entertaining for people so be it. In the long term, there’s pretty good reason to think ridership will increase substantially because:
- People will naturally sort themselves so that those very interested in living near a train line will displace those not so inclined;
- Barring an absolute fiscal or engineering catastrophe, more stations will open and serve more trips, even on the existing segment; and
- Barring continued chaos in the finance and real estate markets, all those empty pits on MLK will be developed.
I’m personally confident that all those trends will emerge over the next decade or so. In the short term, however, those secular trends are likely to be totally swamped by variation in employment levels, fuel prices, tourist arrivals, Metro service levels, weather, and Mariners and Sounders attendance. These things are hard to predict and short term variations don’t have much to do with the long-term viability of Link.
In other words, no matter what ridership does in 2011, that’s not substantial confirmation or refutation of your beliefs. If it comes back strong, it doesn’t mean that 2010 can be dismissed as an isolated blip below expectations. Similarly, if it’s flat or slightly declining, that doesn’t “prove” that Link’s future ridership growth is a mirage.
See also Zach on models.