Photo by Atomic Taco

Last month’s Central Link ridership was 26,221/26,627/20,905  for weekday/Saturday/Sunday. That’s right: Saturday was higher than weekdays, partly thanks to Seafair. Those are new revenue service records, up 1013%/16%/31% year-on-year. [UPDATE: ST spokesman Bruce Gray says the August 2010 numbers have been revised slightly downwards to 23,218.]

I don’t have July’s day-by-day numbers, but I believe August 12th was the single day revenue service boarding record, at 31,176. August 20th is the new Saturday mark at 28,592, and August 7th for Sundays at 26,714.

We never posted July’s numbers, which were 25,618/23,474/17,759.

From here, it’s the long, slow, cold descent into winter.

29 Replies to “August 2011 Link Ridership”

  1. Everytime that I’ve been on the light rail, there has been a fair number of riders. Glad to see that the service is being utilized by locals and travelers.

  2. I’m impressed by how much it’s grown since last year.

    I thought that once the buses were realigned and so on, ridership would be fairly stable, with major growth relying on the economy, infill, extensions, and connections. Infill hasn’t been that major. The economy still sucks. Sea-Tac passenger traffic is up but not as much.

    One factor might be travel guides getting updated and travelers developing habits. Another might be that the quality of the experience is helping retain riders once they try it, affecting mode share.

    1. FWIW, I just took a flight, and signage at the airport has improved.

      But I think people that are as plugged-in to the process as readers of this blog are may not realize how slow most people are to change their habits. In addition, there are plenty of people and businesses making decisions that are affected by the existence of Link, and those decisions aren’t made overnight.

      1. Better signage at the airport? Maybe I’ll just have to go and take a look. Last time I was there, you needed a microscope to see any signs for LINK.

      2. I did an article (no longer available) on taking Public transit from Snohomish county to Orange county with a flight in the middle since I do this a lot. In my taking photos for the article I had to stop and ask someone how to get to the Link in Seatac because from exiting my airplane it wasn’t clear. However once I got to the right end of the airport there were tons of signs letting you know which direction to go. Total time from deboarding to link was 13 minutes. I wish the walk was a bit shorter but it works well anyway once you find the door to Link.

      3. It really DOES take people a long time to change habits. Or even to realize that there *is* an alternative. I am repeatedly startled by people not having heard about “new” options which came in… er… ten years ago. And when they have heard… they still don’t try them. Local public rail transportation usually gets publicized a LITTLE better than that, and gets significantly better uptake, but I’m not even slightly surprised that numbers are still rising after this many years.

        This is actually an argument for not changing bus routes. Or if you do, changing them all in one giant reorganization and then leaving them the same for ten years. People like predictability — not having to *think* about the routes. Constant tweaking of routes is a disaster. (Luckily it’s close to impossible to constantly tweak rail routes, thanks to the large, expensive stations.)

    2. Before everyone gets too giddy about the gains, Link has a steep hill to climb.
      Ridership is only at 72% of budget YTD (2nd Qtr) at 3.6 Mil riders, generating $5.5 Mil in fare revenue, for an average of $1.52 per trip.
      Expenses on the other hand total $25.0 Mil direct, plus $29.5 Mil in depreciation and amortization, for a total of $54.5 Mil to operate through the 2nd Qtr of 2011.
      That’s $15.14 per trip, less the $1.52 fare for a subsidy of $13.62 per rider.
      In other words, your accountant/CPA is yelling at you to sell more tickets.
      A lot more!
      Ref: Pg 9 of 25

      1. I wouldn’t go that far, but subsidies do matter. Here’s a good read on the subject, and some links to others viewpoints.
        If you’re among the 25,000 daily riders that use Link, then it’s a no-brainer, ‘Oh what a lovely service this is’, and the hell with what it cost. On the other hand, if you’re trying to convince the other 99% percent of the population that spending $13.62 of their money each and every time you step on the train is a good deal, then it starts to matter when transit wants more tax money.

      2. It is interesting to see though that in Q2 2011 Central link had the highest farebox recovery of sound trainsit services at 26.2% (Exp Bus-23.7%, Sounder-15.2%)

      3. That’s true if you ignore the largest component of cost for Link, which is debt repayments and depreciation.
        ST does that, but distorts the comparison to less capital intensive modes.
        Debt and interest payments mean less cash available for building and operating things, and the only thing that doesn’t depreciate year after year are the right of ways, which are tiny compared to vehicles, maintenance of way, electronics, structures, and everything else that will need replacement or upgrade over time.

      4. “That’s true if you ignore the largest component of cost for Link, which is debt repayments and depreciation”

        To be clear, are the fare recovery numbers that ST uses for Link compatible with Metro’s? (ie. Not including bus depreciation?) Another interesting question: Presumably Link’s maintenance costs, which includes track maintenance, is included in the fare recovery for Link. That isn’t true for buses since Metro doesn’t pay for road maintenance. That would seem to make buses look more cost effective than they actually are.

      5. I’m not sure why you’d include the road cost per bus, as they never ever pay for it.
        But if they ever did, it would go something like this:
        Cost to build a freeway mile ~$6 mil, over 20 years = $300k/yr
        or, about $820/day, divided by ~25,000 vehicles per day = 3 cents per day/per vehicle movement.
        So the bus trip is about 10 miles, that’s 30 cents per trip, divided by about 30 riders per trip is about a penny a rider.
        OK, bump the bus number up a penny,
        I don’t care.

      6. Your per-mile freeway costs are too low (what, no bridges?) and your depreciation period is too long (try 10 years for the pavement portion).

      7. Hmm, maybe we could buy a ticket on Link from the airport to the University of Washington…. oh wait.

        Yeah, yeah, they built the less attractive half of the line first. We’ll see what the other half looks like when it opens.

    3. I hope more bus routes will get realigned with connectivity to Link in mind. South Park has suffered enough with the painfully circuitous 60, 131, and 134, and the painfully hour-headway 132 which is our lifeline to downtown, and now being routed across the dependability-destroying freight train tracks. Yes, they connect to Link downtown, but South Parkers pretty much have to go through Burien to get to the airport end of Link.

      The West Seattle realignment can’t come soon enough. West Seattle and South Park need more direct connections to the airport.

  3. Disappointed Seafair didn’t cause a bigger spike. I mean after all I took not one, not two but eight light rail trips between Seafair Friday & Seafair Saturday. The cab fare if I hadn’t would have caused me to cancel spending money on Kenmore Air and/or attempting to visit a friend.

    Although having the backstage pass precluded me from using the Metro shuttle bus to-from light rail, I sure saw its impact. Incredible!

    Yes, light rail is expensive to install. But it sure is a sleek Modern Marvel to cut past traffic & disabled-induced immobility.

    1. Light rail may be expensive to install, but I would love to see the costs 20 years from now compared with the costs of the freeways. If you add the maintenance to the initial costs, I think the cost of the freeways will be a lot more.

  4. This article has been up for 29 hours and no Norman? He must be busy. I’ll fill in for him. Link is a boondoggle, and buses have lower operating costs than trains.

  5. Saturday was higher than weekdays, partly thanks to Seafair.

    And to Seattle Hempfest (August 19-20-21, 2011). The train was “packed”.

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