In honor of Central Link’s third anniversary today, Sound Transit released some ridership information. It’s unwise to draw all kinds of conclusions from this data, but ridership numbers are fun:

More graphs below the jump.

For those of you keeping track, June 2012’s averages are 28,012/23,147/18,177 for weekday/Saturday/Sunday. Total rides in the first half of the year are up 10.5% over the same period in 2011.

25 Replies to “Link at Three”

  1. This is the first year Central Link and Metro seem to be tracking together on monthly ridership swings – at least for the last 6 months. Between Xmas and mid summer, Link has shown it’s typical steady rise (21% this year).
    Over the past three years KC Metro has bounced all over the place between 330k and 390k monthly riders, with this year showing a rise of 15% for the last 6 months between winter and summer.
    I only bring this up because the trends have perplexed me why Link didn’t pretty much track what the underlying basic Metro Transit service was doing, month to month.
    Both are transit, both serve similar corridors, and one is new and building ridership. Link is heavily influenced by tourist and sporting event traffic, but that isn’t the only answer. I’m sure Metro sees a lot of those same category riders from other areas too, not just Seatac Airport.
    I guess the only conclusion I can draw from this is that Link is growing about 6% greater than Metro, starting out on year 4, which is a good thing.

    1. The ride experience for Link is so far superior to a bus that people are choosing that over other modes. Metro will hopefully recognize that its relevance in the future is tied to coordinating its service with Link.

    2. I would also look at Orca card usage, especially those with monthly passes, since this would probably represent the baseline, daily commuter more than the sporting event or one time tourist.

  2. HBD Link! Even if you’ve been a bit of a runt, you’re growing and improving. Now about that real-time arrival information (on platform, station entrance and internet/mobile)…

    Here is to hoping U Link and North Link open early!

  3. Has there been any estimate of the time savings (if any) from an eventually rail-only DSTT? The 37-minute run time from SeaTac to Westlake often includes very slow travel between Stadium and IDS and 90-120 second dwell times in (or in between) DSTT stations. Am I off base in thinking that in 2016/2021 the trip from Capitol Hill-SeaTac will be equivalent to the trip from Westlake-SeaTac today?

    1. I haven’t see any official estimates of travel time savings but yes I would agree that DSTT travel times will reduced with Link only operations. I think a safe guess is in the 1-2 minute range on average if nothing dramatic changes which a large improvement in travel time reliability. If ST does some work to speed up travel speeds at the south entrance as well as through the IDS staging area bigger savings might be possible.

    2. 120 Seconds is the official allowance for ‘Joint Bus/Rail” operations for schedule padding.
      (Note 2, Page 38/61, ST Central Link Operations Plan, 2008)

      1. Sounds about right. That’s about the amount of time I sit at the light waiting to get into Westlake while they clear the train. Once the trains are being cleared at Husky Stadium, that will improve joint operations in the tunnel.

        Bus operations could be improved by drilling us more often on recovering from Hush mode errors. Those are the most common faults that are easily recovered from. Often drivers who aren’t regularly driving in the tunnel call into Link Control. Having a better reminder system for us might help out. The beginning of the shakeup is the worst – Just listen to the radio.

    3. Link Westlake-IDS is scheduled for 6 minutes. I’ve clocked it at 4 minutes, in a rare occasion when there were no delays from buses. So 2 minutes time savings on a rail-only tunnel are reasonable.

      FWIW, I think Link’s ridership potential would be much greater if Westlake-Airport was 30 minutes.

    4. I expect a little extra time in the approach to UW Station before North Link opens, for the switch. Doing that underground in the dark, I expect it to go more slowly than the Airport Station approach. So, add a minute or two for that when U-Link opens, and subtract it when North Link opens.

      Similarly, expect the approach to Airport Station to be up to a minute faster after 200th St Station opens, and then add it back in for those going to 200th, for the long deboarding time at the airport. And say Hallelujah for the 200th St Station tail track, with the switch south of the station!

      We also have to account for boarding time at Westlake Station, which may continue to be the better part of a minute in perpetuity.

      The savings should be calculated for Westlake to Stadium Station, which will hopefully include a much faster movement between ID and Stadium once the guard station can go away, plus the elimination of the speed limit inside the tunnel. I’d guesstimate 3 minutes total for that length between pre- and post-bus-removal.

      Official estimate of travel time for UW Station to 200th St is 48 min 50 sec.

      As I said, I expect the Westlake-Airport travel time to drop by a minute with the opening of 200th St Station. Eventually, I expect Westlake-Airport to drop to 34 minutes with the removal of buses. Eventual UW-Airport would be ca. 41 minutes.

    5. I’ve timed Westlake-Intl Dist at 10 minutes during both high load and low load, peak and evening. So the “pauses” here and there don’t seem to affect actual travel time hardly at all, and so I’m doubtful that removing the buses will make it much faster.

      One possible factor, I time departing from Westlake to departing from Intl Dist, so it includes dwell time in the last station. Other people’s estimates may not. My interest is not the speed of intra-downtown trips, but how much the downtown segment adds to a longer trip. I think people get a mistaken impression of Link’s travel time because of the downtown segment. Westlake-Rainier Beach (28 min) and Westlake-SeaTac (37 min) looks like a long time, but if you start from Intl Dist it comes out to a much more impressive 18 min and 27 min. In other words, the downtown segment is 1/4 or 1/3 of the total travel time. this may be appropriate since downtowns inevitably have close stop spacing. But the upshot is that a trip that doesn’t include downtown, such as Columbia City-SeaTac (19 min) is quite impressive.

  4. It’s encouraging how consistant those year-over-year numbers are. The weekday curves are the same shape every year, just a notch higher.

  5. Dear ̶s̶u̶c̶k̶e̶r̶s̶ Sound Transit,

    Thank you for building and operating Central Link for us.

    – The Port

  6. 100 years from now, if anyone can find these graphs (that’s a problem with teh intarwebs) they will wonder what we were concerned about.

  7. While the base is lower than expected, the continued strong growth is a positive sign. Now imagine if only the city (zoning) economy (jobs, building), and Metro (duplicating service) would just stop trying their hardest to keep it down!

  8. I’m interested in how Sound Transit Determines number of riders they quote. Their 2012 budget reported the “average” fare box revenue per rider in 2011 was $1.30. Most of their fares are $2.50 or more raising the question how did they “determine” number of riders. Take total revenue and divide by $1.30?

    1. This is discussed often. Some trains have devices that count people entering and exiting, which is where this data comes from.

      1. And discounts from passes. And children. And elderly. And tourists that can’t figure out where they’re supposed to pay. And, yes, fare skippers.

  9. Has anyone noticed that the wheel hunting/vibration/shimmying on the elevated section between Rainier Valley and Tukwila has been reduced?

    I went on it and was surprised at how much better it’s gotten since it opened.

    1. We rode MAX from Cascade Station to downtown Portland last Saturday and the ride was as smooth as can be. We rode it back, on presumably a different train, and it was as bad as the MBTA Green Line between Boylston and Arlington (which makes a 90 degree turn that is ear-shattering). No idea what the reason was.

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