25 Replies to “November 2011 Link Ridership”

  1. I’ve never been accused of being the brightest star in the sky, so let me just throw this out for others to figure out.
    There doesn’t seem to be a good correlation between Metro ridership, month to month, and Link ridership for the same months. Metro has there highest ridership in August (347k this year), and peaks in October (395k). That’s a gain of 48k or 12%.
    Link does the opposite. August was the high month (26k) but goes down 6% to Oct (24k), and will continue down until February if it repeats last years trend.
    I would think both transit modes would generally trend in the same direction during the year.
    Airport traffic doesn’t explain it all away. Even if winter ridership from Seatac is only half the summer peaks, that’s only a couple of thousand daily boardings.
    If Link rose the same as Metro (summer to winter) it should have gained about 3k. Subtract 2k for airline traffic being lower would still produce a net gain during the same period (Aug-Oct). But it actually goes down. Over 2k, and continues down for several more months to Feb, losing another 2k.
    In short, if Link rose the same as Metro, it would be at 29,130 avg weekday, but actually goes down about 6,000. Attribute 2,000 to the airport. So, what’s happening to the other 4,000 missing riders?

    1. To what degree is Metro’s ridership high correlated with UW being in session? It will be interesting to see what the ridership trend for Link is after 2016. Maybe it will be as influenced by UW sessions as Metro is.

      In August, many people may be on vacation and not commuting to work on Metro. In contrast, Link may be getting ridership from people coming to the area for vacation. Not just for the trip to/from the airport, but for getting around the city.

      1. I don’t see much effect for the UW school year starting at the end of Sep, and ending the first week of Jun each year.
        You could make a case that peak ridership for Metro in Oct was a result, but then how do you explain the rest of the school year, where enrollment is stable, and ridership varies?
        Clearly Link is busier in the peak tourist months, and lowest in the dead of winter, so maybe it’s a commuter/student service for many, and a really big tourist thing on top of that.

    2. I think the difference between Metro and Link shows demographic differences between bus riders and train riders.

      Rail is much more successful at capturing “choice” riders than bus service. A lot of these choice riders will flee back to the secluded warmth of their garaged cars as the weather (and thus the walk to the train station) turns cold.

      Metro buses don’t have nearly as many choice riders, thus doesn’t show the same seasonal drop.

      1. “Rail is much more successful at capturing “choice” riders than bus service.”


        Page 43: 75% of ST Express bus riders are “choice riders.” Only 68% of Central Link riders are “choice” riders.

        So, ST Express buses are more successful at capturing “choice” riders than Central Link light rail.

        And about 4 times as many commuters each day take the bus from Everett to Seattle, than take Sounder trains from Everett to Seattle.

      2. Peak-only commuter express service is it’s own animal. Particularly the P&R -> inner city shuttles that make up a lot of ST Express.

        Tell me, what percentage of Metro riders are choice riders?

      3. Norman, aren’t you always saying that Central Link shouldn’t be compared to ST Express when it comes to subsidy comparisons, that instead it should be compaired to the Metro service it replaced?

        So which is it?

      4. This was a study done by Sound Transit. It was Sound Transit’s comparisons between buses they operate and rail they operate. The questions were asked in the same way to riders of different modes, so they should be valid comparisons.

        I don’t blame you for not liking the results, which found that ST Express buses have more “choice” riders than Link light rail.

      5. From the “Regional Transit Task Force Summary of Meeting, April 20, 2010”

        Bottom of page 3:

        “Ridership survey. A 2009 ridership survey showed that 90 percent of Metro riders are “choice” riders (have cars but choose to ride the bus). The median income of riders is $69,000, which is much higher than for typical transit riders in other U.S. cities. In terms of access to transit, 95 percent of the people within the urban growth boundary live within one-half mile of a major transit line or within one and one-half miles of a park-and-ride lot. Overall, rider satisfaction continues to be good, with 93 percent satisfied.”

        So, 68% of Link riders are “choice” riders.

        And 90% of Metro riders are “choice” riders.

        You prefer that comparison?

      6. ““Rail is much more successful at capturing “choice” riders than bus service.”


        Page 43: 75% of ST Express bus riders are “choice riders.” Only 68% of Central Link riders are “choice” riders.

        So, ST Express buses are more successful at capturing “choice” riders than Central Link light rail.”

        And 79% of Sounder riders are `choice riders’ according to their difinition. Rail bias?

        Skip ahead to pp. 45-46. More current riders are likely to continue using or to recommend Light Rail compared to ST Express. That’s another dimension of `choice riders’.

        Central Link was routed through the Rainier Valley at least partly for social justice reasons. Could it be that the riders served there are less likely to have a car available to them? With the expansion to UW and serving students, they might also be less likely to have a car available. This is just demographics, not people searching out the bus. I’d bet that the vast majority of ST Express riders would switch to light rail if it served their needs.

      7. Metro’s ridership survey showed that 90% of Metro bus riders are “choice” riders. How do you explain that?

      8. It may simply be demographics: The “average neighborhood” served by Link may be poorer than the “average neighborhood” served by Metro.

        To get a sense of the rail bias, you have to check parallel routes.

      9. The 90% number sited in the Metro presentation is a misprint. When it doubt, go to the source. Only 83% of regular Metro riders even hold a drivers license – 90% choice riders is impossible. The ’09 ridership survey didn’t actually define choice riders, but has enough demographic information that you to calculate your own choice ridership number, depending on how you want to define it. Most numbers I’ve seen put it in the 60% range, depending on how they define “choice”, and if you count a guy who used Metro once a couple years ago as a “rider”.

        If Metro truly did have 90% choice riders, it would be either very impressive or very depressing. You could attribute it to the high average income of the area allowing people to keep their cars, even when they’re not using them, or to Metro’s lousy service preventing people from having the confidence to ditch their cars out and becoming voluntarily transit-dependent. Or you could assume their suburban service is so high-quality and compelling that people are jumping out of their cars left and right to use it.

      10. Right from the survey, an exact quote:

        “Vehicle Access

        “While most Regular Riders have a driver‘s license and access to a vehicle, 17 percent do not have a license and 9 percent do not have access to a car. Moreover, the number of cars per household is lower for Regular Riders. ”

        Only 9 percent of regular riders do NOT have access to a car, meaning 91 percent of regular Metro riders DO have access to a car.

        Therefore, as I wrote before, and as the survey itself confirms, 91% of Metro regular riders are “choice” riders. And an even higher perecnt of Metro non-regular riders are “choice” riders.

  2. Not sure why you’d try to compare ridership on all of Metro to the one line that Link is and expect the same trend.

    AW – indeed UW accounts for almost 10% of the ridership on Metro on a given day when classes are in session.

    I see the trains every peak AM and peak PM at University Street. In the PM most of the seats are filled when the trains leave Westlake. I’ve thought about moving to a Link-friendly neighborhood but trains always look quite crowded when I would be using them. I think this is a good thing, but am looking forward to the start of 3 car service.

    1. Link trains never have anything close to 200 people on them. In peak periods at the peak point in the route (usually between International and SODO) they might carry around 100- 120 people at the most. If you perceive this to be “crowded”, then that is why Link will never average anything close to 200 passengers per car at the peak point on the line — because people will stop riding Link if they feel “crowded” on it.

      1. If we were already seeing 200 (crush load) trains, then we should probably re-evaluate the capacity we actually need in this region. With that said, since we don’t reach crush load, running 2 car trains is perfect. No system should ever be crush load from the moment they open. The system is designed to grow.

    2. The view from outside the train may be misleading. I rarely have trouble getting a seat on it. Granted, southbound I get on at Westlake, and northbound I don’t ride during peak hours.

  3. I was on link today and it was packed to the windows with people wearing Seahawks jackets. Sports fans are the worst transit riders because (I’m going to guess here) they don’t normally ride transit. The line to get on the 511 is about 30 people long and every flippin’ one of them have to ask how much it is then get out their wallets to find the money. With Link it’s not as bad but still they all pile right inside the door and refuse to move. We were leaving people at the platform because nobody could get in the door. Nobody could get off either because nobody could quite figure out that if they stepped off the train to let off passenger then stepped right back on everything would work out just fine.

    1. Did you try and educate them?

      Don’t be a dick about it, but use your Command Voice: “Push on through to the rear, we got more people trying to get on” or “Please step off for a moment to let others out.” You’d be surprised how well people will respond to simple commands, especially if they truely are just ignorant of the proper behavoir.

  4. ST revised the October ridership estimates downwards by about 900 per weekday.

    In the 11-17-11 report, ST estimated 24,637 per weekday in October.

    In the 12-10-11 report, ST estimated 23,753 per weekday in October.

    Does anyone know the reason for this downward revision? Should we expect a similar downward revision for the November ridership estimates?

  5. TransLink’s new Canada line which runs from Downtown Vancouver to the Airport (with a second branch to Richmond) is doing 130,000 weekday trips. Not exactly apples to apples in terms of technology or land use, but yowza…

    1. …running faster and more frequently, through massively higher density. We haven’t even tried to get density yet, including a lot of land owned by Sound Transit that’s waiting for values to increase before they sell/lease.

      University Link will increase our numbers quite a bit. Getting even a moderate semblance of density on Central Link will as well. Othello recently opened 350 units. Columbia City has some new townhouses opening up soon, plus 120 or so units that just started closer to the district core. Mt. Baker will apparently get the 50 unit Artspace project started in the next few months, and has another 300 units potentially starting within a year just to the north. Even Rainier Beach Station has some townhouses proposed nearby. All of this is pretty minor vs. the huge resident counts in Vancouver’s suburban nodes but it’ll be noticeably more density around the stations soon.

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