Photo by Slack Action

As always, John Niles has the data for both September and October. Weekday/Saturday/Sunday mean ridership was 25,222/20,134/16,646 in September and 24,369/19,097/14,869 in October. As in 2010, ridership is declining from summer peaks.

September 2nd is the new one day revenue service record, surpassing August 12th at 32,334.

94 Replies to “September and October 2011 Link Ridership”

      1. Yes, the data is all there, but it would be nicer if we could get that data in an environment that was not so permeated with such hostile intent. Mr. Niles’s site seems hell bent on berating Sound Transit with a thousand paper cuts, spinning each datum as a vicious slice.

        It begins with the supposition that building Link was a catastrophically bad decision and that every metric that fails to meet its arbitrary target is proof and reinforcement of that “bad decision”. Fair enough, I’d like to see the same thing done for construction costs and operational costs about the DBT but I know that ship has sailed and it would Quixotic to do so.

      2. His use of the data doesn’t really benefit his cause very much. As we’ve iterated repeatedly, spinning early ridership numbers any way are completely irrelevant.

      3. Without the data, how can we tell what should be done to improve the ridership? Seems to be growing, and in a recession as deep as this one, that’s a hugely good sign.

    1. If he would only use that much effort to promote link, more people will use it and it will be more cost effective.

      Why the hell are people still complaining about central link. Its already built. How about people concentrate their efforts on improving it rather than continuing to complain.

      1. Because Central Link is a disastrous waste of billions of tax dollars, and we want everyone to realize and remember that.

        ST has spent millions of tax dollars promoting Link.

      2. Survey results? Are you referring to this survey taken this year by the Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee III’s (CTAC III)?

        http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/docs/ctac/CTAC%20III%20Survey%20Summary_FINAL.pdf

        Page 2. “What do you think are the two most important transportation
        issues facing Seattle? (top 10 shown below)”

        Light rail: #7 at 5%

        Page 3. “What do you think are the two most important transportation issues facing your neighborhood? (top 10 shown below)”

        Light rail/need monorail: #9 at 4%

        Is this the survey you are referring to?

      3. No but the survey you linked is interesting.

        The #1 item on the top 10 most important issues for all of Seattle is:

        “Inadequate transit”

        At the bottom of the list with “Light rail” is “Buses / bus routes / late buses”.

        The respondents considered “Rail to connect neighborhoods, like West Seattle and Ballard, with Downtown” more important investments than “More frequent bus service” or “extending the streetcar network”. As far as transit investments are concerned, Seattle residents think light rail (not streetcars or buses) is the way to go. That’s not surprising, since Seattle residents overwhelmingly (60+%) voted for light rail expansion in 2008.

        In a regionwide survey conducted last November, 70% of respondents “think tax investments in Sound Transit thus far have been completely worth it”, the highest ever.

      4. 47% supporting something with no funding source means it has zero chance of passing a vote. You need about 60% support WITH a funding source at the start of a campaign to have a chance, because tax increases always lose support during the campaign. People show a lot greater support for anything if you don’t tell them how they are going to pay for it, and how much it would cost. So, basically, what that says is that 47% of people would like rail to Ballard and W. Seattle, if it didn’t cost them anything.

        Note that the top three priorities on page 6 were all for roads:

        1) Paving streets and repairing potholes: 69% support
        2) Repairing or replacing bridges and overpasses: 68% support
        3) Improvements to our most heavily used roads: 62% support

        And very last with only 26% support, and more “not important” than “important”: Extending the streetcar network. lol

        Also, bike lanes get very little support.

      5. On page 2, 4 of the top 5 transportation priorities for all of Seattle are road issues:

        2) traffic/congestion 28%
        3) potholes/poor pavement 19%
        4) Alaskan Way Viaduct 17%
        5) SR520 bridge 9%

        Light rail is at 7) with 5%.

        In total, of the top 10 issues, road issues had 5 different items totaling 76%; and transit had 4 issues totaling 42%.

      6. You know Norman, maybe it’s hard [ad hom] to believe, but it is possible to support roads and transit. To most people it’s not a one or the other issue like you like to make it. Most current and potential transit are also car owners.

      7. Zed, do you think it’s possible to pay for absolutely everything that anyone wants with tax revenues?

        Or, do you think it is necessary to make choices on what we spend tax revenue on, and that there is not enough tax revenue to pay for everything anyone wants?

        The State Legislature seems to think we need to make choices. Do you think that we can have everything?

      8. The NO on Prop 1 campaign shouted that Sound Transit 2 will “cost $107 billion dollars” and “families will be paying thousands of dollars in increased taxes” and it’s “a doubling of taxes” and “costs too much, does too little.” The majority of voters didn’t buy it.

      9. I don’t remember the details of the ST2 campaign, but generally, the YES campaign spends much more money for tv commercials, etc., that the NO campaign cannot afford at all. And what did the YES campaign tell people? That it would cost a couple of lattes? That you could “rise above traffic” on trains. That Link light rail would carry as many people as a 12-lane freeway. That light rail would reduce traffic congestion.

        Why don’t you look up the amount of money spent on the YES campaign vs the NO campaign for ST2. I admit, I don’t know what it was, but I expect the YES campaign, financed by engineering companies, construction companies, unions (all of which stood to make millions of dollars from the light rail boondoggle) out-spent the NO campaign significantly. If one side can afford tv commercials and the other side can’t, who do you think has the advantage in that campaign?

        In the last Prop 1 ($60 car tabs) the YES campaign (financed by Cascade Bicycle Club, Vulcan, etc.) spent about 4 times as much as the NO campaign, yet NO won handily.

      10. “I expect the YES campaign … out-spent the NO campaign significantly. If one side can afford tv commercials and the other side can’t, who do you think has the advantage in that campaign?”

        “In the last Prop 1 ($60 car tabs) the YES campaign (financed by Cascade Bicycle Club, Vulcan, etc.) spent about 4 times as much as the NO campaign, yet NO won handily.”

        I love the contradiction here.

      11. Zed: that is not a contradiction. The campaign with the most money always has the advantage in the campaign. They don’t always win, but obviously, they have the advantage.

        You disagree that having a lot more money to spend on a campaign is an advantage?

        In the $60 car tabs campaign there were no tv commercials from either side. My opinion is that when one side has tv commercials and the other side does not, that is really a huge advantage in a campaign. I think that should be obvious to everybody.

  1. I wonder how many of the peak days’ ridership totals were impacted by ST’s decision to run one-car service on the days it should have run 2-car trains, and not run 4-car special service (it would fit) from Sea-Tac to the Stadia (Safeco/Qwest/Clink)?

    I ask because there are potentially some riders who did not board overcrowded trains and chose another route/mode either for that trip of the return trip on that day.

    Then there is the impact on ridership that the silly (IMHO) fare policy in the Bus Tunnel downtown has (Downtown trips being made on buses for free, not the unfree LINK)

    1. Trips which never leave the tunnel on Link are free, for all intents and purposes. I have never seen any fares checked inside the tunnel. And people who take those short trips know this. Or, they don’t know the official policy, and just assume it is free inside the tunnel, like the buses, so they don’t bother to pay. Either way, most people taking trips that don’t leave the downtown tunnel are not paying for them.

      And I believe that between 10% and 15% of all Link trips are taken entirely within the downtown tunnel, which means they are trips of just slightly over one mile, or less.

      Last winter, Link ridership bottomed out at 20,472 in February. It’s fairly likely that February will be the low point for Link ridership this winter also. So there will probably be a gradual decline in Link ridership over the next 4 months.

      1. I have seen fare enforcement on Link in the tunnel. If I recall, it was around noon on a weekday.

      2. Are you sure it wasn’t at International Station on trains leaving the tunnel? Fare checkers board southbound Link trains at International Station, and deboard northbound trains at International Station, but I have not seen them checking fares north of International Station.

      3. I have never seen that. And I don’t believe it.

        Could be true, but if they were doing that on a regular basis, I would have seen fare checkers inside the tunnel, and I never have, except at International. I have seen fare checkers on LInk trains everywhere else along the line, but never north of International Station.

      4. Norman hasn’t seen it, so it can’t be true. I wonder what else Norman hasn’t seen? Do I even exist? Uh oh…

      5. Norman, I’ve been ticket checked in the tunnel before somewhere northbound between IDS and Univ St Sta

    2. That’s a good point about the fare policy in the tunnel. If I were in there and aware of the policy I’d specifically avoid the train to save the few bucks since it wouldn’t really add much time to my trip anyway. I wonder how many people are really making trips between the tunnel stations on a regular basis though. It doesn’t seem like it’d be much.

      1. Have you ever paid to ride Link between 2 downtown tunnel stations? And I mean paid the full price — not using a pass, which would cost you nothing extra for that trip?

      2. I’ve tapped on/off within tunnel and indeed, in one case I think stumbled on a problem in a use case. I had ridden Link to ID/Chinatown station, tapped off, went to the Metro office, returned, tapped ON at ID station and then tapped OFF at Westlake. They charged me $0.25 from my e-purse for that. It appears the tap-on at ID station was counted as a reversal of my tap-off and the tap-off at at Westlake was counted as a new trip for which there was no tap-off thus incurring the difference between my monthly pass value ($2.50) and the full fare to Sea-Tac ($2.75). They’re sending me a bus ticket as recompense. (laugh)

      3. Why wouldn’t you ride a bus for free, instead of paying for Link? Trip time is exactly the same.

        But, if indeed you do pay to take the train, then Link is actually costing you much more for very short tunnel trips than the bus before Link was built, and, before Link, there were a lot shorter headways in the tunnel than there are now. So, you are also having to wait longer to pay for a trip that you used to take for free with shorter waiting times. Pretty good deal for you, no?

      4. When I’m at Westlake Station going to catch Sounder to head home, I usually hang out by the downstairs ORCA Reader, so whatever shows up first, I’m ready.

        Yes, I have a pass and yes, if all I had was Purse, I’d wait specifically for a bus.

      5. I took the first available vehicle. It happened to be Link. I was “on a schedule” and needed to make connections near Westlake.

      6. Again, before Link, headways in the downtown tunnel were much shorter, so your average wait would have been less before Link.

      7. As someone with a pass, I’d recommend tapping anyway, without knowing whether a bus or train is coming first, then hopping on whatever vehicle does come first. Yes, if it happens to be a bus, the tap was unnecessary, but since I have a pass, it costs nothing. And, also, thanks to the pass, there is no financial incentive to bother tapping off either.

      8. “Why wouldn’t you ride a bus for free, instead of paying for Link?”

        B/c we support Link, thus feel it worthwhile to help pay for it. It’s called voting with your dollar.

        And my wife doesn’t like buses. She’s open to trains though, so when lobbying for getting a place in the RV I took her on Link as much as possible. Now she is a fan and we will likely get a place on the line.

  2. A couple of points:
    1. The ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ of the ride free area is going away next year. I suspect lots of trips within the CBD are not counted for Link (no taps), which is costing them in the division of revenue when the ORCA pot gets emptied each month.
    2. Metro’s ridership patterns do not follow Links patterns month to month. I suspect there are a lots of tourist/discretionary trips on Link that commuters and regulars on Metro don’t make. That should all be detailed in the ‘Before and After Study’ ST is currently working on as part of their FFGA contract with the FTA after two complete years of operation.
    Anyone know where ST is on getting that out the door? Even in draft form.
    Kudos to John Niles for keeping the information alive. I’m smart enough to filter the BS from most of the facts. Most others here are too, so I’m not worried.

      1. Agreed Oran, but it’s the tapping of the ORCA card that generates revenue, not the automatic passenger counters. I’m talking $$, not bodies.

      2. Yes, I guess with the tunnel gridlocked during rush hour after the free ride goes away, there will be plenty of time for fare inspectors to check fare in the tunnel.

        ST will need different strategies for fare enforcement in the tunnel. Just having inspectors on board is enough to deter casual fare evaders. Or checking fares right after you take a seat without waiting for the doors to close (happened to me on Swift). Or checking upon exiting the train outside downtown (happened to me at SeaTac).

    1. For point #2, I wonder if airport volumes have strong seasonal patterns that are correlated to this. Certainly stadium attendance has obvious patterns (maybe if the Mariners were playing better they’d drive more ridership to the stadiums late in the season!). Just as tourists and baseball fans ride more in the summer, once Link runs to UW there will be a lot of riders that aren’t even in town over the summer.

      Comparing Link seasonal patterns to Metro’s as a whole doesn’t necessarily make sense. There are plenty of individual bus routes with seasonal patterns that differ from Metro’s, and Link is just one route right now. Once it goes to UW it will be something like one-and-a-half bus routes, and when it gets to Northgate it will be something like two. When it gets to Bellevue it will be something like three, and four when it’s in Redmond. By that point maybe the system will serve a reasonably representative chunk of the area.

      I agree with the kudos to John Niles. Whether you agree with his point of view, he’s unquestionably doing a public service by compiling the data into a useful form. He even draws all his axes down to zero!

      1. Yes, SeaTac airport has much more traffic in the summer than in the winter, as I have documneted here before (Seattle Times puts the SeaTac stats out once a month). Link ridership has fluctuations that are almost certainly due to far more SeaTac passengers in the summer than in the winter. Although Mariners games and Sounders games also contribute to higher weekday ridership in the summer than in the winter.

        I also think weather plays a part, as it is not too bad walking up to a mile to a Link station in the summer, but pretty miserable to do so when it’s 40 degrees and pouring rain, as it often is here in the fall and winter (see the past few days).

    2. Update: The Before and After Study of Central Link was awarded to EMC Research in the amount not to exceed $642,429 (motion M2011-66) In July 2011.
      Should be a good read for that kinda dough.

  3. Anything around 25000 a day seems fantastically good.

    With 20 hours of operation a day, that is 1250 an hour.

    At a per hour if a train every 7.5 minutes that is 125 people per train.

    1. Huh? Trains travel in both directions. Cut your numbers in half. Most trains are two cars long, so the average load per car is slightly better that a good bus route, at how many times the cost per hour for the train over a bus. At least be correct on the numbers.
      I love the trains so long as someone else gets stuck with the higher cost – just don’t come crying to me for higher fares down the road.

    2. Your math is off. ST actually has the number of boardings per train. You can look up the actual figures — you don’t have to make up stuff.

      25,000 boardings per day is pathetic. Remember, voters were told that light rail can carry the same number of people as a 12-lane highway!

      I-5, where the exits to go to SeaTac (SR 518) are, carries about 400,000 people per day. That is in ten lanes, not twelve.

      At that spot, where Link tracks parallel I-5, Central Link carries around 10,000 people per day, both directions combined. So, Link is carrying approximately 1/40 as many people as I-5 where they parallel each other.

      Instead of carrying as many people as a 12-lane freeway, Central Link is carrying 1/40 as many people as a 10-lane freeway.

      And Bailo calls that “fantastically good”. lol

      Yeah, great investment, John.

      1. Will Link ever carry the same number of people as a 12-lane freeway, past any point on the Central Link line?

        What is the highest ridership ST projects for Central Link at any time in the future? Does it come close to 400,000 people per day at the point where it parallels I-5 by the 518 exit?

        Because the highest projection for Central Link in the future that I have seen is less that twice what it is carrying today. So, that would be about 20,000 people per day at the I-5 exit to SR 518, compared to 400,000 today on I-5 at that point.

        What is your prediction for what Central Link will carry along that stretch 20 or 30 years from now?

      2. So, Norman, instead of complaining, how about saying something positive. Listening to you, it sounds as if any form of public transit is so hopeless, we should just give up. Is that what you are trying to say?

        If you don’t like Link as a transportation solution, what do you propose instead?

      3. Here’s my take on what needs to happen to make this corridor work.

        The other week when I took LINK in to downtown from Tukwila, and I rode past South Seattle I did take note of the “high density” apartments that line the side of the tracks. I thought, you know, there is the possibility that I would want to live there.

        The thing is, I don’t think those apartments are worth what they are charging. I think the hold up are people who are still living in the past and thinking the heyday is coming back. It ain’t.

        For that neighborhood, and those size dwellings, and with today’s stagnant salaries and possible job eliminations at any time, I would peg apartments there at $400 for a one-bedroom and $600 for a two bedroom.

        Charging $1200 or $1800 or more for a small apartment in an Othello area tower? Ridiculous…so yes, over time that corridor might work, but they really need to “prime the pump” with some Black Friday style price cuts.

      4. John: Do you know anything about the vacancy rate there? (I don’t.) If people are willing to pay those prices, then so be it. On the other hand, if they’re sitting on 50% vacant apartments, then my guess is that prices will, in fact, steadily drop.

        Personally, I don’t understand why people are willing to pay so much for certain apartments. What I’m paying for a 2-bedroom would have gotten me a studio downtown. But if people are willing to pay it, then power to them.

      5. So, Zed, when and at what point on the line, will Link light rail ever carry 400,000 people per day past a point?

      6. Eric, I have consistently said that transit should be paid for with fares. So, whatever public transit can be provided without any tax subsidies is ok with me. The problem with Link light rail and Sounder trains, in particular, is not that it is public transit — it is that they are both stupidly expensive, and they are wasting billions of dollars of tax revenue that could be better used on basics. Or, we could just lower tax rates significantly if we eliminated tax subsidies to Metro and ST, putting billions of dollars back in the pockets of consumers.

        People who ride buses and trains should pay the full cost of their trips, just like motorists pay the full cost of their trips.

      7. “I have consistently said that transit should be paid for with fares.”

        Two problems with that logic. First, the number of markets that are capable of sustaining themselves with fares is very small. Raising fares beyond what we’re already charging doesn’t help – it simply means fewer people ride and revenue goes down, not up.

        If we actually operated transit according to your principles, the only “transit” that would exist in Seattle (and pretty much everywhere in the U.S. outside New York) besides taxis and airport shuttles would be courtesy shuttles oriented at serving the specific business that pays for them and no one else. The result is you have a tiny portion of trips where transit is available, and for everything else, there is no option other than for everybody to drive everywhere in a separate car.

        If your proposal were enacted, the 15% or so of Seattle residents who don’t own a car would be forced to either buy one or rent one for every trip that’s too far to walk or bike. This would be a considerable expense which many of these people simply cannot afford. Requiring 15% of the population to shell out an extra $200-300 every month, especially given that many of these 15% are people who can afford it least, is an unacceptable burden.

        Second, your logic is based on the assumption that transit is subsidized, but driving isn’t. This assumption is not true. Anytime you drive anywhere, you have to park. And, even though parking is free for 99% of trips, the construction of a parking facility still costs anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands of dollars per space that someone has to pay for. Plus, the opportunity cost of not being able to use the land for something more productive, such as homes or businesses that actually improve the economy.

        Even though parking, in many cases, isn’t directly subsidized by taxpayers (although it often is, consider Seattle’s Pacific Place Garage which is losing money by the boatload), virtually every city in the United States, Seattle being no exception, requires every developer to provide a minimum amount of on-site parking, which is usually calibrated to error way on the side of caution of ensuring sufficient parking capacity for every person who could possibly be on the property to arrive in a separate car. All in all, parking requirements are a much larger burden on businesses than the sales taxes that are collected to fund transit.

        All in all, the amount of subsidies that drivers receive through parking alone, including taxpayer-funded street parking, taxpayer-funded off-street parking, and privately funded parking that businesses were required to provide in order to be allowed to operate is massive – probably significantly larger than what we pay to fund our transit system.

        If parking everywhere were priced to reflect the actual cost of providing that parking, then you might be able to argue that it’s “fair” to say transit fares should reflect the actual cost of providing transit. Of course, if this were really the case, the amount of money people would be willing to pay for transit would be substantially more than what it currently is, maybe it would even be enough for a few core routes to be self-sustaining.

        And don’t forget, driving receives more subsidies than just parking. Consider the taxpayer money used to build and maintain roads which comes from the general fund, rather than gas taxes. Consider the ill-advised “Cash for Clunkers” program offering an outright $4,000 subsidy towards the purchase of a new car. Consider the tax breaks you get for buying a hybrid car (if you buy no car, your carbon footprint is obviously lower, yet you get no tax break). Consider the generous tax allowances allowing people who occasionally use their care for business purposes to deduct most of the fixed costs of owning and maintaining the car for personal purposes. And consider government-backed mortgage agencies favoring sprawl-ridden cul-de-sac developments over compact developments that aren’t so car dependent.

        Yes, you can make the counter-argument “but transit uses the roads too”. However, for most freeways, the portion of the freeway that is actually used by transit is quite small. With the number of transit vehicles that use a typical freeway, 2 lanes would be sufficient. To handle all the private cars, we need 8 lanes. It isn’t fair to charge transit with the burden of building an 8 lane highway when it’s the cars, not the buses, that are responsible for the need to built it out to 8 lanes in the first place.

      8. “25,000 boardings per day is pathetic. Remember, voters were told that light rail can carry the same number of people as a 12-lane highway!”

        per hour

        I’m assuming it was an honest mistake.
        I hope that helps with your road capacity calculations.

      9. “People who ride buses and trains should pay the full cost of their trips, just like motorists pay the full cost of their trips.”

        Motorists don’t pay the full costs of the freeway system. They’re taxed in excess on gas, and don’t receive the needed local road rahabilitation that is needed, but instead that money is diverted to major freeway expansion.

        And Eric, your counter arguments are weak.
        Why? Because you play along with Norman.
        You, and the other transit supporters are always playing defense.

        It’s up to folks like Norman to put a Roads Plan together that would pass muster at the ballot box.

        Plain and simple.

        Norman has to come up with the numbers to support his roads-only statements.

        I’ve challenged commenters like him on the local News websites to come up with viable plans, but no one does.
        (Speaking of which Norman, I haven’t seen you there (Copernicus) lately. I can usually tell the ‘Norman’ personality, even if you have a new nom-de-plume, but I haven’t recognized you. Are you using a different tag?)

        You can list all the other societal ‘subsidies’ Eric, but the most obvious to me is the fact that if the gas tax pays for a freeway, the people who are burning gas on that freeway, aren’t covering the costs of that freeway.

        I know what the numbers are, they’re out there, and it’s not really that hard of a calculation.

        So why can’t those who think pavement is the answer come up with the “Roads Only” portion of the first (failed) Prop 1, and resubmit it to the voters?

        Sound Transit resubmitted (and passed) the Transit Only part.

        And personally, I think there are quite a few improvements that can be made to our freeways system, that I think the voters could go for.

        It would be a multi-billion dollar package, but if it shows the best payback then it should be no problem.

        I just can’t figure out why the most vocal “road warriors” can’t come up with anything.

      10. LOL. Good luck with that Jim. Norman’s been called out before on his ‘support’ of BRT, and all you’ll get are crickets or a deflection.

      11. Jim: In the campaign literature, they never say “per hour.” They always say light rail can carry as many people as a 12-lane freeway. Period.

        But, look at the per hour stats.

        I-5 carries conservatively over 25,000 people per hour past the 518 exits during peak traffic, while Link carries 10,000 PER DAY!

        The most Link carries past the 518 exit is probably about 1,000 per HOUR during peak traffic.

        So, the peak hour is probably about 1,000 per hour for Link vs over 25,000 per hour for I-5. Does that help you at all?

      12. You know what the word “can” means, right? Light rail can easily carry as many people as a freeway, just because it’s not doing it now doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. Just like I-5 didn’t carry as much traffic when it opened as it does now. How much traffic do you think I-5 would carry if it only extended from the airport to downtown?

        And I’ve never seen that 12 lane figure in any Sound Transit “campaign literature.” I remember it being said by Nickels back in 2000, years after Sound Transit had passed.

        I also don’t know where you get the idea that I-5 carries 25,000 local people per hour day in and day out. The highest peak flow in one hour on I-5 near Seattle was 17,000 vehicles, and that happened only a handful of times last year. How many of those vehicles are semis and commercial vehicles? How many are just passing through the area? It is an interstate after all.

      13. In the East Link Draft Environmental Impact Statement Executive Summary (pg ES-11)

        Therefore, with the Project, the center roadway would have a peakhour capacity of up to 18,000 to 24,000 people per hour, equivalent to between 6 to 10 freeway lanes of traffic.

        It’s a pretty meaningless statistic. A freeway is capable of moving 2,420 people per hour in vehicles with an average occupancy of 1.1 people per vehicle. Even if you accept 12,000 people per hour in each direction (one “lane”) you can move the same number of people in 100 articulated buses. There’s no need for that type of capacity on one corridor. In fact the roadway will be completely empty most of the time.

      14. Bernie, why don’t you think peak capacity matters? If trip demand increases and the choice is between adding lots of lanes or Link, rail is a bargain.

      15. Peak capacity matters. As I’ve said many times, we don’t have a capacity problem with our transportation system we have a peak capacity problem. But, being capable of moving 24,000 people per hour is relevant only if that’s what you actually plan to do. East Link will never need even close to that much capacity for the life of the I-90 bridge. Why spend $3 billion dollars so that the entire projected ridership can be moved with the system only open 2 hours a day? A center roadway that is HOV 3+ and/or heavily tolled such that as many buses and van pools as people are will to ride can travel freely makes more sense. Bank the savings just like any family would save for the expected need to replace a car (or purchase a 2nd) instead of buying on credit when it’s not needed.

      16. Martin: I have to agree with Bernie on one thing, which is that these days, rail spending is most effective when you need *all-day* capacity.

        If it was just a question of providing peak capacity, then for a fraction of the cost of East Link, we could have simply declared that the express lanes were transit-only during peak, and also added a peak transit-only lane in the contraflow direction (by taking an existing lane).

        Personally, I think that East Link is a good long-term investment, because over the lifetime of the East Link infrastructure, I think that we *will* need more all-day capacity between Seattle and the Eastside than you can reasonably get from buses. (To put it another way, I think that the operating cost for East Link will eventually be lower — by a lot — than the buses that would otherwise be needed.)

        But a large part of my opposition to rail over 520 is precisely that 520 is primarily a commute corridor, and has every indication of remaining one forever. That’s just not enough. There are too many other corridors — in Seattle and the suburbs — with real all-day demand to justify spending that kind of money building a commuter rail.

      17. For what it’s worth, my skepticism about using capital spending to solve peak capacity issues applies double to highway projects. If we’re going to build something, far better to build for transit than for SOVs. But for roadways like 520, which are pretty much free-flowing for 16+ hours a day, there are much cheaper ways to fix things.

      18. But a large part of my opposition to rail over 520 is precisely that 520 is primarily a commute corridor, and has every indication of remaining one forever.

        Why then do you think I-90 isn’t? The U-District is the greatest trip generator outside of DT Seattle. SeaTac would be a wash with a Link connection on either bridge with the advantage of 520 being a one seat ride. Personally I see less and less “all day” demand over either bridge as the range of amenities continues to grow on the eastside. Fortunately for transit the “reverse” commute is becoming equal to the traditional influx to Seattle from the “bedroom communities”. Fortunate because that means no dead heading.

      19. Bernie: Think big. Right now, from my home in Capitol Hill, getting to Bellevue is a schlep. If I could get there in 20-25 minutes on a super-frequent train, I would go there more often. And I have no doubt that the converse is true as well.

      20. Think small if you want to save the planet. Crossing Lake Washington before and after work shouldn’t be a priority. A one acre lot and you’ll have plenty to keep you busy.

      21. First of all, how exactly is a one-acre lot “thinking small”? Seattle has an average of 5-6 households per acre; if everyone had a one-acre lot, we’d need 6x the land. Suddenly that rail line to the eastside becomes a lot more important, huh? ;)

        And second, you basically seem to be arguing against mobility. What exactly is so bad about making it easier for people in the biggest city to visit people attractions in the second biggest city, and vice versa?

      22. Bernie, Yes, I agree we have things to do to save this planet. People will by shear economic forces gravitate from far flung places to be closer to density but I don’t agree that there is a single point of density. Bellevue/Eastside like it or not is a central core of our economic activity in the region. It is likely to be so for many many decades. It is silly to suggest that people should not have frequent and easy mobility to each regional center of activity be it for work or other purposes. I happen to think rail is a very appropriate mode because of its permanence, operational efficiency, environmental efficiency and capacity.

        Add to that the prospect that 1.5 MILLION more people will be settling withing this region and you have to plan for accommodating those people. Many I’m sure will choose to settle on the Eastside. It is very appropriate to plan a regional rail system that will provide the same level of service that Central link now provides to Seattle. There will be many people choosing to travel just within the east side just as they are finding people traveling between the Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill stops.

        Downtown Bellevue despite Kemper Freeman’s best efforts will continue to densify and become a viable, walkable neighborhood in which to live, work and play.

  4. “Jim: In the campaign literature, they never say “per hour.” They always say light rail can carry as many people as a 12-lane freeway. Period.”

    But, look at the per hour stats.

    I-5 carries conservatively over 25,000 people per hour past the 518 exits during peak traffic, while Link carries 10,000 PER DAY!

    The most Link carries past the 518 exit is probably about 1,000 per HOUR during peak traffic.

    So, the peak hour is probably about 1,000 per hour for Link vs over 25,000 per hour for I-5. Does that help you at all?

    Well, since you haven’t fleshed out the specifics of your SR518 – I-5 screenline, I’ll just play with your numbers. That area is a conglomeration of collector distributor lanes and HOV lanes. We’ll go with that as 12 through lanes.
    Your 25,000 VPH figure is close enough to the WSDOT lane capacity numbers for a 12 lane freeway at capacity in both directions.

    A 4 car Central Link train has the capacity to carry 800 passengers.
    Sound Transit, looking only to 2030, is planning 5 minute headways between Northgate and Henderson St.

    5 Minute headways for both directions, which is 24 trains, times 800 is a little over 19,000 riders who can pass what would be the same as your screenline in one hour on Central Link, so I will give you the 12 lane argument back for a 10 lane one.

    So, now let’s compare costs.

    If we were to build a 10 lane freeway now, in today’s dollars, at $20million per lane mile, then building I-5 to the specifications that match the situation as it is now, is $200 million for that one mile stretch of freeway.

    I’d love to see those proposals side by side.

    If you go with the $160 million per mile figure for Central Link,…

    What plan do you think people would vote for?

    The only thing missing is an actual Roads Plan.

    1. Well, when you put it that way I’d go for the double track lighten my pocket rail over the brand spanking new 10 lane wide freeway plowed through my neighborhood. Correct answer, D) None of the above.

  5. “Just like motorists pay the full cost of their trips.”

    This is false, it’s been pointed out to you many times, with links to various sources and studies.

  6. Did Niles point out that Oct. ’11 ridership is up 10% over Oct. ’10?

    I’ll take that sort of year over year growth any day.

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