Photo by Slack Action

Link is once again seeing a warm-weather surge. In May, weekday/Saturday/Sunday boardings were 23,656/19,335/15,639, respectively. That’s up about 9% on last year.

ST also revised the March (again) and April ridership numbers. I’m not sure what the reason is. March went to 21,246/13,953/11,225, a little bit down except Saturdays, and April to 21,751/15,108/12,637, a small fall except for a huge jump on Sundays.

78 Replies to “May 2011 Link Ridership”

  1. So, where are the May ridership numbers? You have a link to those? The link you give says estimates as of 6-22-2011, but it only gives figures through April, not May.

  2. Look at the bump on 5/27 right before Memorial Day weekend – almost 30,000. Assuming many of those folks were heading to the airport, I wonder how a bus route, like the old 194, would handle an *extra* 3,000-4,000 travelers. Either way, does anybody recall any disruptions that day caused by the extra heavy traffic? If not, did Sound Transit add any extra trains?

    1. That was the first day of Folklife and the Mariners played against the Yankees. Folklife tends to attract a lot of youth, many of whom are transit dependent. Even my 255 was full of young people going to Folklife. I don’t know about the 194 but the 255 has experienced overloads at night from all the people going home. The bus only runs once an hour and I don’t know of Metro has any extra buses and drivers standing by the pick up the left overs.

      I hear a friend complain all the time when he tries to take the 41 home after a game. It takes forever to load and the buses fill up instantly.

      1. If I did the math right the average for weekdays that the Mariners were in town was 317 greater than the monthly average. 10 home games on week days and 21 weekdays in the month so the baseball bump is around 650 people. Probably more towards the end of the month since they started playing better and the Yankees are always a big draw.

      2. I’m pretty sure 3000 extra passengers in a day would bring the 550 to it’s knees. Rapid Ride, may have a better chance since they can slip more buses in there and adjust the headways on the fly. (In theory, at least… I don’t know if they are actually doing this stuff yet)

        Regarding extra drivers: I have heard Report operators talking about Overload trippers on the 554 and 550 in the past. During the whole private shuttle bus fiasco, Metro/ST basically put a single overload tripper onto each.

        I really wish Sound Transit would put more marketing into taking Sound Transit buses to the game and back it up with overload trippers. Guess they only do that for steel wheels.

      3. If the 3,000 were all during peak you’d have to add a minimum of 8 buses (1.33/hr) so might as well go from 15 minute to 10 min headways. 6 buses x 6 hours x $130/hr = $4,680. That would buy you 20 hours of Link service so to be cost neutral you’d have to go 20 minute headways. Sure the train has the capacity and it’s a sweet ride but I’ll bet most people would jump on the 1st bus rather than wait another 10 minutes for the train. Start talkin’ 30,000 more people and the train wins hands down.

      4. “Sure the train has the capacity and it’s a sweet ride but I’ll bet most people would jump on the 1st bus rather than wait another 10 minutes for the train”

        Experience bears that one out. Hell, most people crowd onto the 1st bus of two even when it should be obvious that the 2nd bus will be much less crowded.

        As for the rest of your numbers that calculates out to $234/hr. I thought Link was somewhere in the mid $300s for a train. Ideally, we’d know the cost of a single car train & operator as well as each incremental car. Longer than 2 car trains are not an option yet but once they are that seems the way to add extra capacity going forward. (Does anybody know if those extended tracks at the Pine Street Stub will be done before U Link? It would be nice to get experience with 4 car trains for events)

        In reality ST needs an “All hands on deck” approach. Add trains and overflow trippers to buses. Assuming the Mariners, or whatever, aren’t inconsiderate enough to schedule games/events during rush hours, the buses and tunnel capacity are available. (Can you tell I hate 1pm weekday games? The marketing guy who comes up with those should be chased out of Seattle with pitchforks and boiling hot coffee)

    2. Silly bus driver! Don’t you know that a two-lane busway full of crush-loaded double-deckers driving nose to tail at 80 mph has FIVE TIMES the capacity of Central Link?

      1. Central Link currently operating 2-car trains every 7.5 minutes at peak hours has a capacity of about 2,112 people per hour per direction. That is the equivalent of about 23.5 articulated buses per hour per direction.

        The bus tunnel used to carry 90 articulated buses per hour per direction, and had the capacity of 120 buses per hour per direction, before Link started sharing it.

        Therefore, Link’s current capacity is equivalent to about one-fifth of what the bus tunnel could carry with buses only.

        One highway lane has the capacity to carry at least 700 buses per hour per direction, which would be about 63,000 people per hour per direction, or about THIRTY TIMES the capacity of Central Link.

        Thanks for asking.

      2. Thanks for that, Bruce. Needed a laugh and you knew just what to post to generate just the right response.

      3. Norman have you calculated the operating and maintenance costs of those 700 buses an hour? How much would payroll alone be for all those extra operators? How would you board and deboard that many people in a timely manner? How ’bout the cost of the very elaborate and large stops that would have to be constructed? The exit improvements that would have to be done? The increased highway maintenance costs?

        Thanks for responding. I look forward to your figures.

      4. An interesting article, The bus tunnel tug-of-war By Eric Pryne. Max utilization was 132 buses per hour. The limiting factor was the number of tunnel buses. With real world experience Metro lowered it’s maximum capacity estimate from 290 per hour to 250 (125 each direction). I have a hard time believing that the surface streets could deliver that many buses in an orderly fashion but Metro should know.

        More musings in, “Open Letter Number One” from Citizens for Mobility.

        What would really be interesting to know is CAPACITY FOR SEATTLE’S BUS TUNNEL. Unfortunately it’s not online and the nearest library hard copy seems to be in Oregon :-(

      5. During peak hours Metro and ST combined operate around a couple thousand buses per hour, I believe, so you can easily figure out the cost. There is no single route which would need anything close to 700 buses per hour, so obviously that is not necessary, but it is the capacity of one highway lane, conservatively. The cost per boarding of the best Metro bus routes is signifucantly lower than for Link light rail.

        Just look at any major highway in our area. There are often 2,000 vehicles per hour per lane. Obviously, it would be possible for one highway lane to carry 700 buses per hour. Highway lanes easily have that capacity.

        Of course, these buses would be on many different routes, using many different onramps and offramps. They would not all use the same stops, as light rail trains must.

        Here is a short video on the BRT in Guangzhoou, China, which carries 800,000 people per day, including 27,000 passengers per direction per hour in peak hours. This is on a surface street through the city with intersections and stop lights, with mostly 40-foot buses, not articulated buses. On a highway, with no intersections, using articulated buses you would have a lot higher capacity, obviously.

        And they are planning new BRT systems in Guangzhou, which will be improved over this one.

        So, it is patently obvious that one highway lane CAN carry 700 buses per hour. In our area, that much capacity isn’t needed.

        But you can get the same capacity that Central Link currently has, with only 24 articulated buses per hour in one lane. Anyone want to claim that that is not possible? LMAO

      6. Norman, I’ve still not heard you advocate for an HOV 3+ system. Given your penchant for pushing vanpools and buses packed to the gills, you really should get behind this idea – Either that or do away with HOV lanes all together and adopt a comprehensive system-wide congestion charge for ALL freeways, highways, and major arterials.

      7. And now we are back to where this discussion ended earlier. Norman’s plan would work except we need a special exit for buses that go direct into a big bus parking garage that is connected to an underground rail system to distribute people through downtown.

      8. The Lincoln Tunnel, over a 4-hour period in the morning, carries 1,700 buses

        Yes, you dramatically increase the number of buses you could run through the DSTT if you don’t stop to pick up passengers. Hey, that gets rid of the problem of bums on the bus too ;-) Since we can’t run double deckers in the tunnel (short sited engineering, typical of Seattle) the only option I see is to buy buses with basements!!!

      9. Bernie: I’m not comparing the Lincoln Tunnel to the downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. I’m using the Lincoln Tunnel as an example of buses per hour on a highway lane. The Seattle transit tunnel is not a highway, obviously. I already wrote that the capacity of the downtown Seattle transit tunnel is about 120 buses per hour per direction with no trains, according to Metro.

        J. Reddoch: Why would all buses go to downtown? And, isn’t there more than one street through downtown, anyway? You would have buses going to downtown, the U. District, “Pill Hill”, the airport, Bellevue, Redmond, Boeing Field, etc. etc.

        They could all use I-5 as the “trunk route”, then branch out to a myriad of destinations using multiple exits and arterials. That is one of the huge advantages buses have over rail — buses don’t all have to go to the same place — they can branch out and cover an entire area.

      10. All we’d have to do in order to live out Norman’s dream is completely clear the streets of people and cars so the buses would have room. ROFL

      11. Grant: How many buses per hour do you think are on Seattle streets during the peak afternoon hour right now? Include the bus tunnel in that.

      12. “I’m not comparing the Lincoln Tunnel to the downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. I’m using the Lincoln Tunnel as an example of buses per hour on a highway lane.”

        And how exactly do you plan to free up capacity on I-5 for all those buses? You’ve never really said.

      13. Velo: I’ve explained many times that adding buses to highways reduces the number of cars on those highways, since buses take people out of cars. Therefore, the act of adding buses creates the space for them, by eliminating many cars for each bus added. I think the video I linked to for the Lincoln tunnel bus lane says that the buses crossing that river reduce the number of cars crossing the river by something like 200,000 cars per day. Eliminating 200,000 cars per day creates a lot of room for buses.

        To get anything close to 700 buses per hour per lane would require “bus-only” lanes on a highway, of course. If you were going to run a couple hundred buses per hour per direction on a highway, I would support bus-only lanes on that highway. But, if you are going to operate less than a couple hundred buses per hour per direction, I don’t think that justifies bus-only lanes.

  3. Only 24 buses eh? Quite a drop from 700. I was looking forward to the details of the logistics and finances required.

    Anyway, let’s go with the hypothetical of having built BRT instead of Link. Of course, you will need quite a bit more than 24 buses. Are the operating costs equivalent or less than Link? Will more operators be needed? Are those buses going to have complete grade separation? Would we still have built high-quality stations? Are they going to run all day? Off-board fare payment? Low floor boarding? Will they be as smooth as a train? How would you deal with the presumably increased dwell times? Would a BRT system attract TOD investment?

    Thanks for responding.

    1. That would be 24 buses per hour per direction, as I wrote, and yes, that would be all you would need to replicate Central Link’s capacity.

      Operating costs per boarding for SWIFT and RapidRide are lower than for Link.

      More operators will be needed.

      No grade separation. The express buses to the airport will use the HOV lanes, and be faster than Link between downtown and the airport, like the 194 express was.

      The stations in the downtown tunnel would be exactly the same as they are now. The other stations would be like the stations for SWIFT buses.

      They could run the same hours as Link.

      Off-board payment, just like SWIFT buses, yes.

      Low floor boarding, of course, like SWIFT buses.

      Depends on which part of the tracks you are talking about.

      SWIFT bus dwell times are shorter than Link dwell times.

      Buses attract exactly the same TOD as light rail. Just go to Ballard to see for yourself.

      You are welcome.

      1. So Norman what is your solution to achieving 13 minute travel times between Northgate and Westlake or 8 minute travel times between the U-District and Westlake during peak hour?

      2. What is your “need” for “13 minute travel times between Northgate and Westlake or 8 minute travel times between the U-District and Westlake during peak hour?”

      3. I got this one for you Norm.
        I-5 Reversible Lanes and bus only access ramps from Northgate and Campus Pkwy to CPS tunnel station.
        Those lanes were built and dedicated to high capacity transit. Just like we’re building HCT HOV lanes on I-90, both directions, the express lanes could function in a similar manner. Buses and carpools, bi-directional, all day long, with direct ramps to stations.
        That system would be far cheaper to build than U-Link AND be faster.

      4. “The express buses to the airport will use the HOV lanes, and be faster than Link between downtown and the airport, like the 194 express was.”

        Nice in theory, but until you’ve tried to merge a bus through our patchwork of HOV lanes, I’m going to still think you are full of it. There is a lot of highway spending on HOV lanes and dedicated ramps necessary before your pipe dream will work. Details, please, not just hand waving.

      5. Mike,

        Would you have cost estimates for building the extra entry and exit ramps for the express lanes to make them bidirectional?

        I’m not really sure it would be any cheaper, especially if ST/Metro have to buy the lanes and win the lawsuits against Kemper Freeman.

      6. “More operators will be needed.”

        So you are trading capital costs for operating costs.

        “Operating costs per boarding for SWIFT and RapidRide are lower than for Link.

        Because those are inferior services. Link is better than both. And Link will become ever more efficient to run as the system is built out and the capital costs are amortized.

        “No grade separation.”

        So, inferior service. Slower, more unreliable.

        “The other stations would be like the stations for SWIFT buses.”

        So, inferior.

        “Depends on which part of the tracks you are talking about.”

        I’m talking about every part of the track, versus any bus. Again, buses are inferior. Cheaper, yes, and adequate where these is nothing more than moderate demand, but inferior.

        “Buses attract exactly the same TOD as light rail. Just go to Ballard to see for yourself.”

        To use your favorite phrase, LMAO. I will refrain from using an ad hominem though.

        “What is your “need” for “13 minute travel times between Northgate and Westlake or 8 minute travel times between the U-District and Westlake during peak hour?”

        Faster is better. Trains are faster than buses in dense neighborhoods.

      7. @ Brent: At 4 bil and 10 years to get to Northgate, you can move a lot of buses in that timeframe, and build a lot of ramps and barrier separate the bus lanes from 1 or two through routed reversible lanes for I-5.
        But all this chat on bus/LRT is a moot point, as the TBM’s are launched.
        Some at Metro proposed an E-3 extension past Spokane St to Michigan for about $100 mil. extra lanes up the hill, or just shift the 194’s to the 1st ave bridge would be another route. Again, a moot point now.
        Merging the Breda’s from I-5 to Spokane St. was a problem, but solutions did exist- just never really considered.

      8. WSDOT HOV Direct Access Ramps. About a third of the way down click on HOV webmap for a list of current and future projects. I can’t tell from the detail on the map if the “future” green dot in Kirkland is going to be Houghton P&R or NE 85th. My bet is on NE 85th, my hope is Houghton P&R. Also, the last project update I read for the SR-520 Montlake cluster f interchange is for buses to be able to exit and reenter the highway directly from the lid which sounds like a flyer stop to me.

      9. Bernie, see further down on that page:

        “Projects in the long-term planning stage (webpages are not yet available for all long-range projects):

        NE 85th Street Direct Access (SR 908/Kirkland Way Park-and-Ride): I-405 at NE 85th Street in Kirkland.


      10. In this 24-buses-replacing-Link scenario, if I’m at TIBS will both the bus to downtown and the bus to Rainier Valley be running at the same headways as Link (10 minutes midday, 7 minutes peak)? Or would the frequency be cut in half in order to adequately support buses to both destinations?

      11. Mike Orr: with 24 buses per hour, you could have a bus every five minutes going down MLK Jr Wy, and an express bus every five minutes on I-5.

  4. Norman…your 23.5 bus figure is based on the 2 car trains ST is currently running. But they are only using 2 cars right now based on the current demand. The system has the capacity to expand to 4 car trains once demand is there (which it will be once University Link opens in a few years). So the capacity ST has built is really more equivalent to running 47 buses an hour along its route.

      1. The frequency and total paths aren’t set in stone. I’ve been told that with the 62 traincars that will be in inventory by late 2016, that still is not enough to run four-car trains the whole path if frequency is increased. Add eight minutes to the travel time each way, and, yep, it isn’t enough to run four-car trains the whole length more frequently.

        Two primary options under consideration are (1) running three-car trains the whole length more frequently; and (2) running every other train just from UW to Stadium Station, with all trains being four-car. Ridership on either end of the tunnel would be the primary factor in setting the route length and capacity.

    1. “47 buses an hour along its route”

      I bet we could do that without bus bunching…. It’s not like the 358s (running every 15 minutes) don’t all get piled up or anything.

      1. Again, buses don’t have to all take the same “route”, like Link trains do. For people going from downtown to the airport, there would be an express route along I-5, like the 194. Those buses would not go down the Rainier Valley. You could have a similar express route on I-5 to Tukwila.

        The 10% of Link boardings who never leave the bus tunnel could take any existing bus in the tunnel.

        The people who ride Link only between SODO and downtown could ride the bus going to the airport, or other existing buses using the SODO bus way.

        The number of Link passengers who use the MLK Jr Way stations is pretty small, so you wouldn’t need very many buses per hour going down MLK JR Way, would you?

        And, let’s be honest. Even ST’s extremely optimistic ridership projections into the future don’t come close to hitting the “capacity” of 4-car trains every 7 minutes. So, just as 4-car Link trains will not be necessary to carry the number of people ST projects will use Central Link south of the tunnel in 2030, there won’t actually be any need for 47 buses per hour along that route.

        But, in any case, there wouldn’t be any need for anything close to 47 buses per hour down MLK Jr. Way, with the express routes using I-5, and the 15% or so of all Link boardings who never get south of SODO.

      2. If you’re comparing apples to apples those 47 buses need to go where Link goes (minus the few needed for MLK). So now we have 45 buses going to the airport every hour picking up people and their luggage?

      3. Grant: SeaTac Link station gets only a few thousand boardings per day. No need for 47 buses per hour to handle that volume of passengers.

        At the same time, the bus bays at SeaTac were empty most of the time before Link began operating. They could have handled many more buses than they did.

        Some of the buses down MLK could go all the way to Tukwila and SeaTac, and some of them could just stop at Rainier Beach station. If you have ever ridden Link, you know that more than half the passengers are off of south-bound trains by the time they leave Rainier Beach station. And a lot of those passengers would take an express bus to the airport instead of riding down MLK Jr Way from downtown to the airport, if they had that choice.

        So, there would not need to be many buses from Rainier Beach to Tukwila and SeaTac to handle the volume that Link handles on that stretch.

      4. 132 is the capacity of one Link car using 2 standees per square meter. 2 standees per square meter is the U.S. standard for light rail. That is not a fantasy at all.

    2. Actually assuming 80 passengers per bus a 4 car link train is equivalent to 10 buses. At 20 trains per hour per direction that is 200 buses per hour per direction. At 30 trains per hour per direction that is 300 buses per hour per direction.

      1. 4-car Link train capacity is 528. Articulated bus capacity is 90.

        4-car Link train equals slightly less than 6 articulated buses.

        Basic math.

      2. So a train every 2 minutes is roughly equivalent to a bus every 20 seconds Norm? The problem is a train could run every 2 minutes (they run every 60 seconds in Mexico City and Toulouse when I was there) but you could never ever run buses every 20 seconds. Since the bus would have it’s doors open for 20 seconds it would have to move in order for the next one to pull forward and open it’s doors. Might as well have a conveyor belt.

        Even if we use your numbers it shows that buses can never handle as many people as trains – ever. In Mexico City the trains are 10 cars long and come by every 60 seconds. If you do the math you’ll see you’d need buses coming by every 2.5 seconds. There’s a place for buses and there’s a place for trains. Buses are great at bringing people to the backbones which are provided by trains….

      3. I feel like Norman just doesn’t comprehend ANYTHING. No one here is dismissing buses, or saying that they are a useless waste of money. (As Norman says rails is) A bus and rail system compliment each other very well. There are things both do well and things both do poorly. Norman is simply trolling and clearly provides nothing for our city/ region.

      4. Grant: Buses could easily handle the passenger volume that Link light rail is ever going to carry. ST has no plans to ever operate Link on 2-minute headways. The shortest headways ST plans are 3.5 minutes. That equates to 90 buses per hour in the downtown tunnel, which has already been done.

        aw: the capacity of one link car is 132, using the U.S. standard of 2 standees per square meter. 200 passengers per Link car is a fantasy of ST and some light rail proponents on this site.

        Johnny: the light rail system ST is building is stupidly expensive, and not cost-effective whatsoever. It is a terrible wast of billions of tax dollars. You could provide the same capacity with buses at a fraction of the cost of light rail.

      5. “the capacity of one link car is 132, using the U.S. standard of 2 standees per square meter.”

        No, it’s 148 under normal conditions and 200 crush-loaded. The 132 number is your fantasy.

  5. Everyone knows he’s a troll, sometimes it’s fun to play with them.

    Understand that Norman is resolutely anti-transit. It’s his pattern. If the appropriate solution is light rail, then Norman advocates for BRT. If the best solution is BRT, Norman advocates for trolleybuses; if trolleybuses, then regular bus service; if regular buses, then social service transit; if social service transit, then nothing.

    1. Don’t forget, TELECOMMUTING for restaurant workers, Doctors, nurses, firefighters, etc….you get the point….

      1. I think in theory, he wants us to end up like the people in Wall-E. A bunch of fat lazy people floating around in chairs….haha ( we may be closer to that than we realize… least the fat part) lol

      2. The funny thing is, in all those cartoons about the future in the 1950s and 60s, where everyone is driving everywhere and pushing buttons instead of doing manual labor, there was no thought about how would people get exercise and avoid becoming fat and brittle.

      3. Actually, Johnny, you don’t get the point. Telecommuting for office workers who tend to congregate in the huge office towers in the donwtown business core. This eliminates the need for large numbers of office workers to commute into and out of the downtown business district during peak hours.

        Is that a little complicated for you?

      4. What do you do for a living Norman? Have you ever worked in a professional office environment?

      5. Norman,
        Considering how problematic it can be to get things done on a team when team members are on different floors I just don’t see telecommuting having the dramatic effect you expect it to.

        I’ve worked in IT for the past 16 years and in spite of the technology having been there for a long time I don’t really see any more telecommuting than I did 10 or 15 years ago.

        At best I’ve seen telecommuting perform 3 functions:
        1. Allowing outsourcing of routine operations that follow standard procedures and don’t require constant interaction. (for example help desk)
        2. Allowing people to contribute who for various reasons can’t or won’t locate in the same geographic area as the main team.
        3. Allowing people to avoid commuting one or two days a week.

        Note that in all cases the nature of the work being performed needs to lend itself well to working remotely with minimal collaboration. In addition in the latter two cases the employee needs to be self-motivated enough that they are as productive when telecommuting as when in the office.

        For example unless performing certain types of work I’m far less productive when telecommuting than when in the office. I’ve seen this in co-workers so I know I’m not the only one who has this problem.

    2. Everyone knows he’s a troll, sometimes it’s fun to play with them.

      However, it’s also a violation of the STB comment policy.

      Please, don’t feed the trolls.

      1. Norman gets some license to be rude as he is because many of you are so rude to him. It’s just not necessary to engage in this preemptive teasing.

      2. Have a good-natured laugh or two at the troll’s expense, but don’t actually engage the troll. It’s bad for the soul.

      3. FWIW, Martin, I completely agree with you. I make a point of not saying anything on STB that I wouldn’t say to someone’s face.

        The reason I like reading and commenting on STB is that it’s a community of knowledgeable, resourceful, and interested transit fans. The kinds of discussions I like engaging in are ones where we’re discussing strategy, tactics, and/or technology/engineering, rather than ideology. Thus, I choose to engage in the former conversations, and not to engage in the latter. That’s all.

    3. I advocate for whatever is cost-effective. The light rail ST is building is stupidly expensive, and not cost-effective whatsoever.

      1. No, you advocate for what you think will cost you the least, not what’s cost-effective or practical. Not that it matters, your “advocacy” doesn’t extend past your computer screen.

      2. Tell you what Norman, why don’t you price out the cost of adding one lane each direction to I-5 between Northgate and Downtown? Then get back to us on what is “stupidly expensive”.

        Face it Norman you lost. Nothing you say or do is likely to prevent the full build-out of the light rail network in ST2.

        Now if you want to stop complaining and help say make Rapid Ride up to the same level of service as SWIFT I’m right there with you. However I’ve never really seen you do anything but complain about transit in all forms and how much it costs.

      3. There is no need to add lanes. Just add buses to existing lanes, which increases the capacity of the existing lanes.

      4. Without adding lanes your magic buses are stuck in traffic. WSDOT isn’t likely to allow the express lanes to be turned into a busway without new replacement lanes. Those lanes will be extremely expensive.

  6. I’m asking the people on this thread a nonridership question because it’s a recent thread. Would SR 520 HOV lanes that are 12 feet wide be sufficient for converting HOV lanes to Light Rail? The HOV lanes are wider in the 4 + 2 Configuration design and go back to 12 feet in the Future 6 + 2 HCT Configuration design, which will add 13.8 to 16 feet wide Light Rail lanes later. If the first phase supplies only 12 feet for an HOV lane, will we be locked into the future addition of two more lanes for Light Rail? See the SR 520 Requests for Proposal for the SR 520 Floating Bridge and Landings Project. Thanks to anyone who can answer this question for me.

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