passengers crowded on a Link train
Outbound train on Monday, June 13th, 4:32 pm, an average June weekday

Central Link’s summer ridership surge continues. In June, weekday/Saturday/Sunday boardings were 25,629/22,919/18,841. That’s up 9.5%/30.9%/35.4% over last year.

New revenue service ridership records were set on Friday, June 17th with 30,542 boardings, Saturday, June 4th, 26,089 boardings, and Sunday, June 26th, 22,922 boardings. Ridership broke the 28,000 mark for two consecutive days on Thursday the 23rd and Friday the 24th.

Sound Transit revised past estimates again. For unknown reasons, weekday estimates for March, April, and May increased by a few hundred, while April’s Saturday estimates jumped by 2,000.

For the big picture, I made a year-over-year summary of Link ridership.

40 Replies to “June 2011 Link Ridership”

  1. I use link to go to Mariners games, and the trains have felt more full recently. It’s a great way to get to the stadium. Plus, with summer as the main tourist season, there are lots of people who want to get to-and-from the airport. A great sign!

  2. After wild swings in growth rates, to be expected when opening a new line, ridership growth has stabilized at roughly 9% year-over-year (June 2011 vs. June 2010 etc). If we can expect that to continue until U-Link opens, we’ll have around 35,000 weekday boardings in summer 2016.

    1. I wouldn’t expect ridership growth to be steady. Although the secular trend will almost certainly be up, as employment, traffic, weather, airport arrivals, and Mariners attendance vary, ridership growth will vary with it.

      1. Hmmm … Secular trend – that must be opposed to the clerical or ecclesiatical trend.:)


      2. Just imagine what the ridership would be if either 1) they dumped the FRA in downtown or 2) make LINK free in the tunnel. While most people would still grab the next thing coming (either train or bus), they would at least grab the train if it was there instead of waiting for the next bus in case they were just going from one downtown station to another.

  3. All the more impressive given the lousy employment numbers for King Co. in 2010–though some of this is starting to recover for 2011.

  4. At the rate things are going, they’re probably going to wish they had 3 car capability by next summer…

    1. Or increase frequency. Time to kick the buses to the street! (ok, probably not quite yet)

      1. Or ST could move to 6-minute headways during peak hours using existing fleet and 2-car trains. This is what the system was designed to do upon opening, before the more conservative 7.5-minute headways were imposed.

      2. That might be a mistake. Once U-Link opens, trains will be able to go up to four cars in the peak, and there’s no way you’ll need more than 8 minute headways in the RV to meet the demand with trains that size. People will get cranky when you take their trains away — or you’ll be forced to run an underutilized service to keep them happy.

        Outside of game days or special events, none of the Link trains I’ve taken has approached a true crush load. I doubt capacity will be an issue before 2016.

      3. Wouldn’t 6-minute headways have more issues with bus interaction anyway?

        Also, what Bruce Nourish said.

        Come to think of it, will capacity at 7.5 minute headways even be an issue for the north section of U-Link? If I understand the projections correctly, U-Link stations will see about 35,000 boardings a day. If that’s 10,000 boardings/day more than Central Link today and all trains are twice as long as they are now, shouldn’t 7.5 minute headways be able to handle it? (Not that more frequent trains wouldn’t be nice, just that maybe they’ll need to wait until North Link is complete, at which point there’s no way 7.5 minute headways can handle the passenger load.)

      4. But does a train have to be at crush load to justify adding an additional car? Just having all seats taken and substantial number of standees would justify adding another car. I’ve noted that frequently, trains are carrying a very large amount of luggage that is taking up seating space and aisle space. The space provided for bikes and luggage is totally inadequate.

        It is a pity that Sea-Tac’s station is directly in-line with the route because I sorta like the idea of what SFO has done with a spur track to the airport. They get to charge a hefty surcharge for riding BART to the airport. Still loads cheaper than a cab or bus.

      5. I suspect University Link will be the same as it is now but with 4-car trains. When ST2 is finished, the Intl Dist-Northgate segment is supposed to have 2-4 minute frequency. But that assumes two north-south lines plus East Link. I don’t know what they’ll do if Lynnwood, East Link, and Federal Way are delayed. Perhaps they’ll have one line Northgate-200th and another Northgate-Stadium. That would keep the south frequency intact but double the north frequency.

        The Pine Street stub tunnel can supposedly hold 3-car trains but not 4-car, so that’s the limit now.

    2. Not sure whether I agree with charging more for airport trips, Charles, but I bet it’s feasible with the current system. Since your fare is already distance-based, I imagine ST (or their vendor) can program the system to charge all trips ending at Sea-Tac differently. Or maybe just trips starting in the tunnel and ending at Sea-Tac—effectively applying the surcharge to most tourists and business-people but not Seattleites coming from the neighborhoods.

      1. How would you tell the difference between someone going to the airport versus someone coming in from the apartments just east of International Blvd?

      2. Good point. Might want to reconfigure reader location and access at that station. I’m sure there’s a workaround somehow.

      3. The way that Vancouver does it is that all airport station tickets have a surcharge on them. You get around this by buying your ticket at another station or having a monthly pass.

    3. Even with regular 30,000/day ridership, they won’t really need an increase in capacity, people will just have to get used to not always being able to get a seat.

      1. Well, except now we’re talking a similar problem we have with roadways… Peak capacity. If 30,000 people want to travel within a very short period of time e.g. 7-9 am, Link would be hard pressed to accomodate them all at its present level of service. And I think crush loading should not be a norm for our buses and trains. Unlike a certain curmudgeon sometimes seen around these parts, I think having our trains not being constantly crush loaded is not a sign of lack of demand or poor investment. Of course, I’m probably speaking from a western culture of a presumed level of personal space, but I’m also speaking from one who has lived in Chicagoland where commutes on the CTA trains can be quite “intimate”.

      2. I love my “intimate” CTA commutes. Seeing trains that full, and all the pretty people around me is awesome (heading downtown, people dress very nicely)

      3. I’m less worried about a crushloaded train than a crushloaded bus. Buses make harder stops and are more dangerous to stand on. Some bus drivers even wait for every passenger to sit down, to avoid any preventables.

  5. Imagine how many more people would be riding LINK if the Mariners actually were good? Since Safeco Field is usually about half-full each game, I wonder how many more people would ride LINK if the games sold out?

    1. I’m curious as to what the numbers were for the day of the Sounders, Man U game. That was a packed house summer day.

  6. Based on my completely unscientific observations, the trains seem to be filled more and more with tourists and/or travelers to/from the airport. I’d be curious to know if the daily commute numbers are also going up. I’m there y’all have linked to that data somewhere, I’m just too lazy to look for it right now.

    1. I have a feeling that more and more guidebooks and traveler’s websites are updated with information for Link, attracting more tourists (the last time I went back to Japan, a travel guidebook to US cities had info for Link in Japanese!).

      This is not necessarily a bad thing, but to attract more riders, buses in the valley need to be reorganized with more developments around stations.

    1. The parking is a band-aid for the problem of not enough transit in south King. Until south King gets more dense and has more bus lines, P&Rs are the best solution.

  7. Recent correspondence I received from ST indicates that more 550 trips might be added, and Metro may have to move a route or two out of the tunnel.

    If Link is running schedule-free, then in theory, only the transit wonks will notice a slight decrease in peak headway. It’s been my hope that headway would drop a little bit with each June pick. Of course, that doesn’t help Metro schedule connections.

    I’m not liking the idea of running every other train from UW Station just to Stadium Station when U-Link opens. Doing so will significantly reduce potential bus throughput in the tunnel. I’d prefer to see four-car trains running the whole line, to maximize bus throughput in the DSTT, even if the Rainier Valley segment runs less full. Metro can help fill those trains by providing more outside-of-downtown bus-to-train connections.

    ST will have enough traincars to run 4-car trains with 10-minute headway, but not with 8-minute headway, at the opening of U-Link. Frankly, for a difference of 2 minutes in headway, I’d go for having Link stick to a 10-minute headway schedule all day, and have riders be able to memorize that schedule, rather than have the peak schedule seem totally random.

  8. I noticed how dead the DSTT was a mere half hour after the Torchlight Parade was over, in contrast to the heavy foot traffic after games. It remains really difficult to find your way into the DSTT unless you’ve already come out the entrances you are looking for.

    Signage would probably pay for itself many times over.

    1. I was down at a show in SODO and stopped at Denny’s around 11:15pm. The place was packed; I got a table but people after me were told it would be a 30-45 minute wait. I asked if it’s usually like this on Saturdays, and they said it’s because of the parade. I walked to SODO stn and took the second-last train to Westlake. I don’t remember the ridership or or platform use; I can only remember another trip the next evening from Costco when Intl Dist was packed after a Sounders game.

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