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John Niles has the raw data: 21,341 weekday; 14,139 Saturday; 8,881 Sunday. All but Sunday are up vs. February, and weekdays are up about 18% compared to the same month last year.

My generic curb your enthusiasm disclaimer is here.

43 Replies to “March 2011 Link Ridership”

    1. I don’t think Metro has any major Link-related service changes planned before 2016. Their planners mostly seem to be occupied with RapidRide changes, none of which are Link-focused.

  1. Ridership seems to track the tourist season. Based on that, I assume there will be healthy gains through spring and into summer, followed by another moderate decline next fall and winter.

    1. Two days ago on NPR over here in North Carolina (I believe it was Morning Edition) there was a story from Seattle. It was about how in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan people were cutting back and not traveling as much. Which is really hurting Seattle’s tourism industry in that the Japanese are by far the largest group of foreign tourists.

      Sidenote, figured out who actually attends Mariner’s games. Turns out tickets are a part of most Japanese vacation packages. Who knew?

      1. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/flatpages/businesstechnology/timeswatch2010.html

        According to the Seattle Times Watch, SeaTac passenger volume was up about 6% this March compared to March 2010:

        Domestic: March 2010 2,233,232; March, 2011: 2,370,784

        International: March, 2010: 226,303; March, 2011: 244,378

        Total: March 2010: 2,459,535; March 2011: 2,615,162

        That is a 6% increase in total passengers at SeaTac in March, 2011 over March, 2010.

        Since there are only 80,000 tourists from Japan to Seattle each entire year, that is not a very large percentage of total tourists to Seattle in any year.

      2. The Port of Seattle website is the source for those stats. Always fun for the nerds among us. They break it out by airline as well. Much of the increase is due to the condinued addition of overseas routes, which rose much more dramatically, vs. a stable volume of Canada passengers. Much of the increase in the last year or two has been China.

        Overall, tourism should be fine. Even as our largest overseas tourist source, Japan is a small percentage of local tourists. The national economic recovery should play a bigger role. Gas and jet fuel prices might be a plus or a minus, as some people will travel less, and others (from Portland and Vancouver perhaps) will visit nearby places instead of distant ones.

  2. Well, even though I admit I’m not the biggest fan of Link, any news that shows ridership is increasing is a good sign, imho.

    As for your “enthusiasm disclaimer” on your third point regarding MLK development,I see the neighborhood not gaining as much traction as hoped for. From my perspective all the recent changes aren’t heading in a direction that benefits Link and/or the city. MLK seems to be a continual mess with no end in sight.

    1. Development in areas like the MLK corridor is going to be hardest hit by any recession, let alone the Great Recession. Let’s see what a couple years of sustained economic growth does for the neighborhood.

    2. Like Jason says – you’re only seeing development in rich neighborhoods right now. Give it a few years.

      That said, there’s a market starting by Othello, across the street from The Station, and The Station is nearly open.

      1. What, you mean there is new development in our area that has nothing to do with light rail? And there is almost no new development along the Link light rail route?

      2. I’m guessing he’s talking about The Station at Othello Park, which is about to open (or has it already opened?) right there at the intersection of MLK and Othello.

  3. This is really the link that should be given to Niles’ site re this story:

    http://www.bettertransport.info/pitf/Linkpassengercount.htm

    “Weekday average ridership of 21,000 during January to March 2011 was 16% below a newly revised forecast of 25,000 and 34% below an earlier forecast of 32,000.”

    “What’s interesting to observe in the first quarter of 2011 is how the monthly growth over last year is dropping month by month. January 2011 was 29% greater than January 2010, but February 2011 was only 15% greater than February 2010 and March 2011 was only 13% greater than March 2010. This is illustrated in the first chart below where the 2011 ridership moving average line is coming closer to the 2010 line. Fortunately for Sound Transit, the moving average finally began rising in the second half of March 2011.”

      1. That is just absurd. Niles did not make that number up. It is right from Sound Transit’s Proposed 2011 Budget:

        http://www.soundtransit.org/Documents/pdf/about/financial/2010/Proposed2011Budget.pdf

        page 45 of 173.

        For Central Link, forecast weekday boardings in 2011: 31,759

        Or, Almost 32,000/weekday forecast by Sound Transit in a document which came out in September 2010.

        For anyone to claim that Niles “basically made up the 32,000 number”, when it is right in the Sound Transit Proposed Budget for 2011 is incredible.

        And to say that ST had not built the system that had that projection by September 2010 is utterly foolish.

    1. Yeah, I’m like totally shocked that ridership growth is tapering off. I really thought it would keep growing at 5 percent forever, just like my old savings bonds.

  4. norman that is the amount of riders they budgeted for not forecasted. look at 2010 the forecasted riders are lower then the budgeted riders.

    1. That’s because they changed the 2010 forecast after they realized their original 2010 forecast (made before 2010 began, obviously) became unrealistic. Their origianl forecast for 2010 was 26,600/weekday. Then, partway through 2010, they adjusted their forecast down to 25,000/weekday, because they realized they weren’t going to get 26,600. Just like they have now changed their 2011 forecast, because they now know their original 2011 forecast was way off.

      ST makes more than one forecast for each year, so far. Their original forecast, made before each year begins, to base the budget on. Then, after they see how things are going, they revise the forecast. And, ST has had to revise their forecasts DOWNWARD each year, so far, because their original forecasts have been way too optimistic.

      When ST first came out with the 2011 budget, they forecast almost 32,000 riders per weekday. Now that 2011 has begun, ST has had to reivse their 2011 forecast way down, because it has become obvious they are not going to come close to 32,000/weekday this year.

    2. Why would ST budget for one number of riders, yet forecast for a lower number? That makes no sense, unless you are cooking the books so that you come in under budget.

      1. The budget was drafted before the numbers for ’10 were in. For that reason, among others, the budget numbers for ’11 were carried over unchanged and a separate forecast was made later.

      2. The forecast used for the 2010 budget came out in mid- or late-2009, when the 2010 budget was first created. Then, in mid-2010, or so, they revised the forecast, based on what ridership was, up to that point. So, there are at least two different forecasts for each year: one made during the prior year, on which the next year’s budget is based; then another forecast made at the beginning of the year, to show that expectations have changed based on newer data.

        This is not complicated.

        ST already has ridership forecasts for the next 5 years. These will likely all be changed every 6 months, or so, based on newer data.

        In the case of Link light rail, every forecast has been revised downward whenever ST does a new, updated forecast.

        http://www.soundtransit.org/Documents/pdf/newsroom/SIP/2011SIPRevisedRidershipTargets.pdf

        Note that it says both “updated” and “revised”? That means it has been changed since the last forecasts, which came out probably about 6 months before this forecast. ST is forecasting Link ridership out until 2016. As of January 2011, ST’s forecast for Link is 25,000/weekday in 2011; 26,500/weekday in 2012; 27,300/weekday in 2013, etc., up to 35,400 in 2016. Undoubtedly, all these forecasts will be “revised” or “updated” about every 6 months, based on what actually happens between now and the next updates.

        Since ST is now forecasting 25,000/weekday on Link this year, if the actual numbers come in below that, you would have to imagine ST will revise the forecasts for the next 5 years downward, right?

      3. “if the actual numbers come in below that, you would have to imagine ST will revise the forecasts for the next 5 years downward, right?”

        That’s what any other business would do, why should ST operate any differently? I’d be more worried if they didn’t revise their projections because that would mean they aren’t paying any attention to ridership.

      4. Thanks Norman.
        That helps explain things. In 2008 documents for Airport Link funding to the Feds, 2011 ridership was forecast at 35,273, rising to 47,000 per day in 2020(excluding U-Link).
        I hope there not keeping track.

      5. Actually, the feds are keeping track, and this was, indirectly, one of the other reasons I alluded to above as to why the revised estimates were published separately.

      6. I wrote: “Since ST is now forecasting 25,000/weekday on Link this year, if the actual numbers come in below that, you would have to imagine ST will revise the forecasts for the next 5 years downward, right?”

        Bruce replied: “Actually, they’ll probably revise them up.”

        That’s hilarious. If Link ridership falls short of the newly-downwardly-revised forecast, Bruce thinks ST will revise future year ridership forecasts up! lol

        ST may actually do that, which is really funny. But, what would be the rationale for doing so? “All our past forecasts have been too high, so therefore we are going to revise our future forecasts up”? That’s what Bruce thinks ST is going to say?

      7. I explained this to you last time Norman:

        Pet license fee increases == fewer dog farts in RV station areas == higher ridership.

        LOL. Don’t you understand these simple facts?

    1. I don’t think Link is projected to reach capacity for decades (though I’m sure Norman will tell me if I’m wrong).

      1. Link will never come close to actually carrying the “capacity” ST claims it potentially has. I’m sure Matt will tell us what the true ultimate capacity of Link light rail is.

      2. Norman, believe you are very wrong, at least for the portion north of International District Station. Once north link opens we’ll likely be seeing packed 4 car trains between Northgate and downtown from day 1. The extension to Lynwood will push ridership even higher (yes even if the I-5 alignment is chosen). This will easily be one of the highest ridership lines in the country, with only the Green Line in Boston having higher ridership.

        East link is a little harder for me to predict yet I see how packed some of the commute hour buses are in both directions across the lake. Or for that matter how strong late morning and evening ridership is for a rout like the 271.

      3. Yeah, right.

        By “packed 4-car trains” do you mean 800 passengers per train? lol Or, you have a different definition of “packed” than ST does?

        So, how many boardings/weekday will Central Link average this year, Chris? You are really confident about ridership a decade from now. Can you predict ridership this year, already knowing what it was for the first 3 months?

      4. Yes Norman, I mean 800 people per train. If you’ve seen the routes between the north end and downtown, Capitol Hill and Downtown, the routes serving the UW, or some of the Eastside routes you know that riders already pack buses to crush loads every day.

        It is fairly simple why I’m willing to make predictions for the north lines and east lines but not central link. I’m much more familiar with land use patterns (both current and planned), commute patterns, transit use patterns, and general attitudes toward transit in the north end an parts of the Eastside than I am in Rainier Valley or South King County.

        I can SEE the pent up demand for Downtown to Northgate or downtown Bellevue rail transit every day.

        In fact were we at the stage where we were still deciding which segments to build first I’d advocate building to Northgate and Overlake before building South to the airport. For central ling much of the ridership growth is going to come from changes in land use that haven’t happened yet due to the recession. The remainder from route restructuring which metro hasn’t done.

      5. There is not a light rail system in the U.S. that gets anything close to 200 passengers/car during normal commute peak hours. That is utter fantasy. Link will never get anything close to 200 passengers/car during normal commutes. Do you work for Sound Transit, by any chance?

        What is your idea of the number of passengers on a “crush loaded” bus?

  5. Peak capacity is certainly an issue. Weekends can also get tight with the single cars.

  6. Yeah I think once the system is fully built out it’ll be fully utilized, . We’re at the crummy end of the thing, very expensive to build out and not particularly useful for most people.

    When all those capital costs are behind us, all the lines are going and everything’s cheap-to-operate four-car trains, things will look much better.

    The initial pain is worth it.

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