Tacoma Link at Night – Photo by Oran

Sound Transit just released its Q4 2011 Ridership Report, an encouraging trinity of big ridership gains, increased punctuality, and reduced (though still high) costs.

ST Express:  Ridership is up 13% on weekdays and 10% overall, with average weekday boardings of 48,094.  Strong growth on Snohomish County routes is likely due both to ST absorbing riders affected by cuts at Community Transit and the completion of Mountlake Terrace Transit center in March 2011.  Ridership is up 20% on #510, 28% on #511, 44% on #513, 20% on #532, and 7% on #535.  Other routes saw healthy increases of 4-15%, the only exceptions being ridership losses on #560 (-10%) and #566 (-11%).  Cost per boarding declined from $7.48 to $7.04.  On-time performance increased from 87% to 88%.

Sounder:  South Sounder ridership is up an impressive 22%, and North Sounder is up 15% (though it must be noted that 22% of total North Sounder boardings were on Special Event service).  Overall weekday ridership is up 27%, with average weekday boardings again exceeding 10,000.  Cost per boarding declined from $13.74 to $12.71, with an on-time performance of 97%.

Central Link:  Ridership is up by 12%, with average weekday boardings of 24,070, though ridership is still 24% below budgeted estimates.  Cost per boarding declined from $6.78 to $6.29, and on-time performance improved dramatically, from 81% to 87%.

Tacoma Link:  Ridership is up by 20%, on-time performance is 99.9%, and cost per boarding declined from $3.93 to $3.59.

45 Replies to “Sound Transit Q4 2011 Ridership Report”

  1. Sounder is a amazing. I put some photos of the Auburn station in the next post. They are doing a great job turning these stations into modest density that is appropriate for the area and towns they are located in.

    I think more daily runs, adding some nights and weekends should be looked into.

    1. South Sounder has yet to deliver on any significant example of density in the immediate station area–unless you’re speaking of non-residential uses. Lucky that our Kent will be the very first.

      1. For these locations, residential density doesn’t have to be a goal. Even if people simply use it as a shorter driving commute — which they do — it reduces (rather than eliminates) car usage.

      2. How so? The parking garages are nearly full at every station 5 days a week. Short of better bus-to-station services, there’s little potential for additional growth beyond actual station area density.

      3. Reducing vehicle-miles travelled is good, and Sounder and the Kent shopping centers do that. But putting residential above the shops would be even better. Nobody would have to live in these, but those who want to could. Currently if you wants to live in a residential/shopping complex next to a transit center, you have to live in Renton or Burien because Kent doesn’t have one. And Southcenter doesn’t either, for that matter.

    2. However, Kent is building one!

      They are planning a mixed use residential complex in the heart of Kent, right near the library and Kent Station.

      Should be available in a couple of years.

    1. As a resident of Everett who commutes to Seattle:

      I take Sounder when I can. I VASTLY prefer it over the 510. More comfortable, electrical outlets, Wifi (works 20% of the time), and a MUCH better clientele. However, the schedule SUCKS. Last one leaves Everett at 7:15 in the morning, which means that even though I live a mile from the station, I have to get up at O-Christ hundred hours to get to work by nine. I can wait another hour and get on the 510 and be to work on time. Coming home isn’t as big a problem, but a lot of people would take a 6:00 train if they could.

      1. I used to think I had it bad because the last South Sounder from Kent left at 8:32 pm. Yes, it seems like they should do more of what works (and less of what doesn’t work). Sounder, in this case, clearly works as is.

        I would like them to experiment with a “Night Train”. Say a single train that ran each night at 11pm or midnight just to see if encouraged nightlife commuters in and out of downtown (or vice versa…say for someone who wanted to experience the restaurants of Kent Station…say, Cal’s American which just opened is very cool).

      2. Or giving Thunderbird fans an option to getting back to Seattle from the ShoWare Center without taking the 150. Although, now you can take the 180 to TIBS which is at least a different way.

        And Cal’s is easily our favorite restaurant in Kent Station now. So good.

      3. Cal’s really is AMAZING! I need to make a visit there again now that you mentioned it =)

        I’m looking forward to the redevelopment of Downtown Kent. With Green River CC there along with all of the new housing improvements that have started, it’ll be very interesting to see the transformation in the next 3-7 years.

        As for Sounder North, yes, the schedule needs to be changed. It leaves way too early in the morning and not late enough at night. If they were to add 2 more trains to fill in those gaps, I would not at all be surprised if those trains ran 5+ car long trains…

  2. I just read Sound Transit’s CEO Corner. And I noticed an very interesting item. ST is going to be adding regenerative breaking systems to link. It theoretically will allow a train to continue running fully powered for up to 1500 feet, if the power would go out on the line.Plus it would save a ton of money on ST’s power bill. All I can say about all this… Now that’s more like it! Wow!

      1. There might not be a full payback on this trial, which is at least partially funded by a TIGER grant. The hope probably is that the trial will be successful leading to technology/data that will be used for future projects that will actually have a measurable payback. If the data is good, it might justify a larger project with a scale that allows for lower cost per vehicle and a demonstrable payback.

        I’m hopeful but I don’t know enough about the technology to say that it will have a measurable payback.

      2. I’m a little startled that Link trains don’t *already* have regenerative braking; it seems to be standard for new electric rail orders.

        Having an actual onboard battery is unusual though; usually the regenerated energy is fed back into the overhead lines.

    1. IIRC, the pilot project is over $1 million and that was just to test a few cars. The power costs must be significant if there is payback to be had on this kind of money.

      That would be a very interesting question to ask Sound Transit, how do they acquire the power they use? What rates do they pay and to whom?

      1. Potential payback may not just be in power. Reduced brake maintenance may also be a goal. Our Hybrid buses go far longer between brake jobs than diesel coaches. Using an example from the car world: I’ve probably spent $500 or more on brake jobs for my Subaru which has only 72,000 miles on it while our Prius still has the original brakes at 110,000 miles. We will likely never have to do a brake job on the Prius.

        Again, though, we’re just speculating. Somebody who understands more about how hybrid trains work in the real world might have more to say.

      2. @veloBusDriver good point but I would posit that if the cost of outfitting just a few cars is over $1 Million, and it holds simliar ratio for the rest of the fleet, then the cost of brake repair couldn’t possibly approach that much per car. I could see $50k or $100k per car maybe?

        Now, I recall that the New York MTA experimented with a trackside capacitor reservoir that an onboard regenerative system sent energy down the wire to this storage medium to benefit all trains on that segment. Not sure of its success or efficiency.

      3. I suspect the high costs are due to this being a trial project; engineering costs, mostly, I’d guess, for integrating the technology with the existing Link vehicles. I would assume that if this is successful the per-vehicle cost for the rest of the fleet would be lower.

    2. Regenerative braking is cool, and I understand they are getting this paid for with grant money, but would someone make realtime arrival data a PRIORITY? They already have the signs, they already track the trains. What gives? Having that data at the stations platform, at the station entrance, and available via a Google transit feed (for OBA, google maps, etc) would be very nice. PLEASE!!!

  3. ST buses between snohomish county and Seattle (510/511) are standing room only this week during rush hour as ct makes a huge load of service cuts. Lots of people on so few buses.

    1. There was also a mudslide, so no Sounder service for one day and only limited trains from Mukilteo to Seattle on the second day.

    2. All routes were affected, except for the university routes (800’s). Many downtown commuter routes (400’s) had their first and last trips cancelled. Also, local routes were affected as well. So with everyone going to south Everett or ash way, the ridership numbers on st will be interesting.

  4. 566 lost ridership in part because of service cuts and I imagine due to lack of evening reliability and overcapacity ridership. Thank you ST for doing the opposite of your job!

  5. Congratulations Tacoma Link! Very impressive.

    Why doesn’t Everett have one of these streetcars running up and down Broadway? every 10 minutes? Might just make it too easy to get in between regional transit center -> regional medical center -> college campus, eh? The rt. 9 artic dinosaurs could be retired. Stinkolicious could finally give way to wonderful clean electric power. Everett. It’s not too good for you. Just get the nerve to ask!

    1. I’ve had that same idea, and I badger ET about it constantly. Believe it or not, they’re more interested in waiting for the Riverfront development, and building a streetcar to downtown. o_O

    2. Oh yeah, they had that Riverfront to Navy Base idea; What a terrible dud. There is very little ridership on existing bus routes there. An E-W segment between Everatt Station – Providence might make sense as a second phase but not for awhile. Straight up and down Broadway from the Stadium to the college is the best route with most riders right now, plus lots of all day activity and development potential. It has the least cost and impact because it’s pretty much a straight line and curvature is the source of much expense, noise and traffic delay.

  6. South Sounder’s numbers are impressive, even with direct competition with Metro routes scheduled to compete with it, rather than complement South Sounder’s schedule. Check out the 152 schedule and see how the two services compete rather than complement.

    Metro has been working the 162 similarly, picking up a load at Kent Station just a few minutes before northbound Sounder arrives. People’s willingness to wait five minutes for Sounder may explain why 162 ridership was so low and it got the axe.

    The circumstantial evidence suggests Metro’s schedulers are vying with Sound Transit for ridership, rather than providing the best coordinated transit service that can be provided.

    For those wanting to save the 152, you may want to take an interest in how the 152’s and Sounder’s schedules are aligned so wastefully, instead of creating interlined headway.

    1. It’s meant as a one-seat ride for a cheaper price to Kent suburbanites not originating at Kent Station. not justifying it, just saying. It should either be axed or fill in the gaps. It would actually get significant ridership if it did. Such a small window of opportunity right now for riders. It’s a tease to us Covington folks.

      1. Axe the others while they’re at it. Rather have better service on existing routes and a formal rerouting of the service as Kent/Covington/Maple Valley/GRCC are an f’ing mess.

      2. Non-circuitous routing. The existing service is partially 104th ave focused and 132nd ave P&R focused. It’s a real time competitive killer which is why many, myself included, just drive to Kent Station instead of taking local service. It’s slow and seeks to provide coverage and “frequency” but fails miserably at both objectives. If 104th needs to be served that’s what the GRCC service can remain for as a connector between other local services. Ideally, another route would be added to simply morass that is Kent service to the suburbs.

      3. Thanks, I’ve been wondering what exactly East Hill needs. The fact that it runs north-south makes it hard for the 168 to efficiently serve it, and the fact that its southern end is south of the TC makes it hard for the 169 to serve it. It has this ridiculous Queen Anne situation where routes go in opposite directions to reach Kent Station. But I don’t know how much demand there is specifically from all of East Hill to Renton, and from Covington to all of East Hill.

        From the map, it looks simplest to put the 168 on KK Road to match the 164, and thus provide double frequency west of 132nd, and thus make it obvious which side of 104th to stand on if you’re going to Kent Station. The 169 could then cut its “U shape” and go straight on 240th, or continue its current routing. Of course, the 169 is already the most frequent route and would probably be the first to gain frequency, so that’s a consideration.

    2. While Auburn Station is a terminal for Route 152 and doesn’t seem coordinated with Sounder, it does seem to be coordinated at Star Lake P&R with other Metro routes there. Perhaps that was Metro’s intent, realizing that people would probably prefer the faster trip to downtown on Sounder from Auburn.

      One reason it serves Auburn Station, is that it provides a connection from all the routes that serve Auburn Station to areas between Auburn and Star Lake that are unique to Route 152. If any incoming trips are designed to meet with Sounder, it actually might sense that Route 152 and Sounder would leave at similar times. Also, you wouldn’t want to fill the bus up at Auburn Station knowing it serves two more park and rides on its way to Seattle.

      1. It’s not that it isn’t coordinated with Sounder. It’s that it does appear to be coordinated with Sounder, to maximize the number of riders it can cannibalize from Sounder.

        If the above reasons (providing intermediate connections) are the real reason for the 152, what’s wrong with timing it to Sounder for better headway, and timing the other connections to the 152?

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