Weekday Riders Per Hour, Courtesy Sound Transit

I’m a big numbers nerd, and when I came across these graphs of Q1 Link ridership data I felt had to share them. It’s pretty interesting to see what time rush hour is for Link and that Friday is the line’s busiest day. Make sure you read Martin’s “how to understand ridership numbers” post before drawing wild conclusions from these.

Weekday riders per hour per car
Average Weekday Boardings
Daily Average by Day of Week

48 Replies to “Link Q1 Ridership Graphs”

  1. Is there a chart like the 3rd one “Central Link Average Weekday Boardings” except with 2009 and 2011 data overlayed?

    1. I’d like a scatter plot with ridership by day/by hour for the last two yeasr with any sporting events days normalized or omitted from the dataset.

      1. Oh, apparently those trips wouldn’t happen by car if we hadn’t built Link? I don’t want to see that data, because the main use for that data is to mislead people.

      2. Considering we have three major league sports teams that would eliminate a big chunk of the data. I don’t understand the idea that somehow trips to the stadium count less than trips to Macy’s or any other destination.

  2. On a side note, check out the U Link counter. 2,001 days until openingish time. lol

    We need one for the first hill streetcar.

    1. It’s wrong. It’ll probably be September, not November. We passed 2000 days! I just haven’t made anyone fix it. :)

  3. A week or two ago I was in the tunnel a few days in a row in the evening. I normally bike to work, so I don’t get this experience very often. It was interesting to see crush load on Link a couple times around 5pm. A few people casually decided to not board and wait for the next train, which seemed to imply that they had been through this before.

    I’d be really interested in seeing how often this happens.

    1. @Bryan: I’ve experienced that myself, deciding not to board because of the mass of people. It is so nice to know that there will be another LINK train in just a few minutes that probably won’t be nearly as crowded. If only the whole world worked that way.

    2. If this is happening frequently (or really at all) we should be adding cars. I know the cost of maintenance goes up with more cars, but we spent too much on this sytstem to leave people standing on the tracks for lack of room.

      1. There won’t be any 3-car trains until U-Link opens because there isn’t enough space in the stub tunnel during U-Link tunneling for 3-car trains.

        From the graph, on average, the trains are really not that crowded. They don’t even reach seated capacity!

        Also, the front car tends to be more crowded than the rear car and people don’t fully use all doors, instead cramming in a few doors (the ends) while leaving the others (middles) wide open.

      2. I’d also like to point out that the prevailing notion of a “crush load” in Seattle is a joke to anyone who’s been on (say) the Piccadilly Line at rush hour.

      3. I might agree if people actually “couldn’t” fit (although I don’t think we can add a 3rd car until U-Link, anyway), but the stats show the cars aren’t actually at crush load on a regular basis. And, as someone born-and-raised back East, I think it’s fair to say Seattleites are still coming around to a reasonable and working definition of crush load. And still working on basic train skills like boarding anywhere except the first door of the first car.

      4. By crush load, I meant that additional people would have to squeeze quite a bit to get in the doors. You’d be up against at least two people.

        One of the above graphs implies that the cars aren’t usually full, and the load I saw at 5pm was beyond what I would consider full. Thus I was left curious by the graph. I didn’t sense any tunnel problems, another train showed up before my bus did and was not at that load. Surely there could have been some bunching and I wasn’t there to see the prior train. It may be an unavoidable problem for one run on the way out at rush hour.

        Either way, per train statistics for 4-6pm would be really interesting.

    3. I wonder how they actually figured the “Riders per hour per car” graph. I’m assuming it’s just derived from other statistics and represents an average for the entire line and not actually measured at any point, because I frequently ride Link southbound between 5:00 and 6:00 pm and the trains are frequently standing room only by University Street and packed by IDS. It would be more interesting to see “peak riders per car” because the average will be low due to the directionality of our commute and the lack of boardings in the southbound direction outside of downtown.

      1. i have always felt they were undercounting, but there may be other reasons?

      2. What ever, just be clear that ST present some data as per revenue vehicle which is very different than “per train” which is the real cost driver.

  4. Try riding a metro in any Asian country. You will see crush loads… There should actually be a new name for how many people they cram into one train… FIRE HAZARD! lol

    1. Has the fire department placed a limit on number of passengers on any bus model or traincar?

      1. In some places they do have rated limits by fire code, but I don’t know if Washington State is one of them. It’s impossible to enforce anyway.

      2. I don’t know about trains. Buses do have an official limit under NHTSA regs; it’s the same as the capacity listed on the manufacturer’s spec sheet for the vehicle. That’s the passenger count they use for crash tests and all the rest of the litany of certifications needed to get a production vehicle approved for use on public roads in the US.

        Our DE60LFR’s are technically limited to 116 passengers. It’s not enforced at all though. By anyone.

    1. Well the first run from downtown isn’t until 5 AM, so this isn’t really a fair comparison. Those boardings before 5 AM are just from Stadium and points south, so you’re missing the biggest ridership area.

      That said, once Link expands to Capitol Hill, I predict much more demand for service through to 2 AM. Valley Metro in Phoenix has extended schedules on Friday and Saturday nights, and we should extend service on those days at least.

      1. Don’t forget about the 80s that run from Downtown to Stadium that connect to the 4am train. I think there’s a scattered tunnel bus or two that also comes close but just misses the train.

    2. I’m not really sure if the numbers point to that. The 4 am data is a little misleading since there are only 2 or 3 trains during that period. The 5 am ridership is pretty strong and one of the most frequent complaints I hear about Link is that it doesn’t get to the airport early enough. But if all the early morning Metro service gets axed there won’t be anyway to connect to Link anyways!

      1. The 81, 82, 84, and 85 are proposed to be eliminated. The 280 is on the priority-3 bubble.

        The 7, 49, 120, 124, and A appear to be safe, for now. These routes substantially protect night-owl service, if in a clunky way, for much of the current and future Link path.

      2. Or rather, those were the routes listed for elimination on that spreadsheet we now know to not actually be a proposal. :(

    3. Why? Because Link is averaging about 100 boardings per hour at midnight, according to the first chart? That would mean that Link should have only one one-car train in the hour between midnight and 1 pm, since one car can easily carry 100 riders, and Link is averaging only 100 riders per hour in both directions combined at midnight. So, one 1-car train per hour in each direction between midnight and 1 am is way more capacity than needed at that time.

      Seriously, why is Link operating any trains at all at midnight when only 100 people, in total, are riding Link trains in that hour? Even a blind man can see that this is an incredibly stupid waste of tax dollars. This is “high-capacity transit”? 100 people per hour, both directions combined?

      1. Only 100 people are riding because there’s hardly any service. There is only one single departure after midnight from Seatac that goes all the way downtown. There are three departures from Westlake, with the last at 12:37am. There is no service at all after midnight on Sundays.

      2. You mean there is room for only 100 boardings on those 4 trains you say leave after midnight? lol

        There aren’t more people riding Link after midnight because the four trains which operate after midnight are at capacity with a total of 100 boardings shared among 4 trains, huh?

  5. Regarding the Average Weekday Boardings chart: Comparing Metro’s monthly performance charts (which are quite nice as others here have noted), I see some broad comparisons can be made between Link’s performance and Metro as a whole, although in some ways they are opposite.

    Metro’s numbers drop off significantly in the Summer (public schools are out, UW activity greatly reduced), then pick back up in the Fall, only to drop off during the Holidays. Ridership is sluggish in Feb-March, perhaps due to cold, wet weather and short days.

    The summers are where the two ridership trends are opposite. I understand Link will be different because of the current line’s terminus (Seatac) and seasonal travel associated with it. I’d be willing to bet as Link gives access to more of the city (particularly UW) it’s ridership may start to look more like Metro’s.

  6. Where is the data these charts were made from? ST has data broken down into boardings during distinct periods of the day in each direction, with south-bound separated from north-bound boardings.

    But I have never seen any ST data on “riders” per car.

    I have only see ST data on “boardings.”

    So, if there is, indeed, ST data on “riders” per car, at what point on the line is this data for? Because the number of riders per car changes at each station. In general, for south-bound trains the number of riders per car increases from Westlake until Stadium, then decreases at each successive station.

    So, “riders per car” on Link makes no sense unless we are given the point on the Line where these numbers supposedly were counted.

    Does this data actually exist? Or, do the first two charts in reality show “boardings per car” and not “riders” per car at some given point along the line?

    1. It would be easy enough to work daily ridership back into hourly, knowing how many trains run per hour.
      I’m off to a meeting, so go for it.

      1. That is certainly not true, at all. Are you implying that there are the same number of riders per hour during each hour throughout the day? Obviously, this is not true.

    2. Riders per hour could be extrapolated from APC data, or calculated more precisely from ORCA data and ticket sales. Riders per hour per car can be derived from the former statistic along with knowledge of the train schedule and train consists. It’s not that hard if you have the data.

      Riders per car vs. boardings per car, what the eff is the difference? I guess you can decide which hour bucket to put a rider in depending on whether you count bourdings or deboardings. In any case, I don’t think this statistic is related to load factor.

      1. The difference is in measuring how many people Link is actually moving past any given point, as in compared to a highway.

        Boardings per hour is not the same as “passengers per hour per direction” (pphpd), which ST uses to describe capacity of Link light rail. And these charts show total boardings in both directions combined, apparently.

        So, if these charts show boardings per hour, they really say nothing about how full Link cars are at any particular point on the line or any particular hour of the day.

        And, again, where is the data from ST on boardings per each hour of the day? I have never seen that. Who made these charts, and where is the data they are based on?

  7. If the second chart actually is “riders per hour per car”, then how far does a car travel in one hour? It takes about 40 minutes from Westlake to SeaTac, then about a 7.5 minute layover at SeaTac, then 12.5 minutes on the return trip to total one hour, which would get the car back to about Rainier Beach station? So, is the “riders per hour per car” the total number of people who board one car in one hour, or about one trip between Westlake and SeaTac PLUS part of the return trip back to about Rainier Beach?

    Or, what exactly does that mean?

    The first chart looks to me like it pretty much has to be “boardings” per hour in both directions combined. Is it an average of both directions combined? So, 2/3 of those boardings might be going in one direction, and only 1/3 in the other direction?

      1. Right. So nobody here knows anything about these charts? They are just pretty pictures signifying nothing?

      2. The charts signify plenty.

        It’s clear folks here are increasingly less inclined to seriously reply to your posts. I was just reminding you that there are people who definitely know the answers to your questions and that have to engage you because it’s part of their job description. It was my good deed for the day.

      3. How about the people who put these charts on this site explaining them, as in where did they get the data, and why isn’t the data available to the public, or if it is available where can we find it?

        So, in your opinion, people who write articles for this site have no obligation to answer questions about their articles? All questions should be addressed to Sound Transit?

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