John Niles and I definitely disagree about the significance of current Link ridership to the project as a whole, but I’m for adding more people and this is a constructive question:
If Sound Transit were to have an incremental 50 million dollars (pick a number) to invest in either (1) additional parking at Tukwila Station or S 200th Station, or (2) TOD at any light rail stations of its choosing from Husky Stadium to S 200th, which investment would provide the largest increase in light rail ridership?
Follow-up question, which investment would most meet the intent of regional public policy?
Additional follow-up question, which investment would be best for the sustainability of the region and the planet?
and in a later comment:
I’m pretty sure that providing as much parking as possible at Tukwila or the new S 200th station with giant promotion of its availability would drive up Central Link ridership more than anything else Sound Transit could do. But let’s discuss if that’s the right thing to do.
The shame of it is that Sound Transit itself has little power to do anything at this point. There were multiple decisions in the period 1995-2005 that could have dramatically improved 2012 ridership1, but now most of the power lies with Metro and the City of Seattle.
In terms of small-bore things ST could do today, Mr. Niles is posing in the first case an empirical question. I don’t have at hand decent planning assumptions for cost per space, new rides per space, cost per housing unit, and new rides per housing unit, but perhaps readers do.
However, I’d add three more possibilities. One is improving operations, getting true real-time information and/or paying Metro to take some buses out of the DSTT. These measures would reduce perceived or actual travel time, respectively, which the formulas say will boost ridership.
A cheaper option is to truncate buses at Rainier Beach, which would simultaneously boost Link ridership, reduce ridership on those routes, and free up resources for new service. Boosting Link ridership by cutting overall system ridership is counterproductive but oddly politically attractive2; whether new bus service would cancel out the losses is another empirical question.
Lastly, charging for parking ought to be both at least revenue neutral and improve ridership. A nominal parking charge will drive some people away, and induce others to endure the inconvenience of a bus transfer, carpool, or walk to the station. At lots limited by supply, others that have no plausible option but to drive will suddenly have spaces available, turning them into system users.
1That’s a whole different post.
2Because approximately zero people care about ST Express ridership numbers.