ct_ridershipThanks to alert reader Reyes Ojeda, we have the latest Community Transit System Performance Report, which has tons of route ridership and park-and-ride utilization data.

Year-on-year boardings on the bus system were down 7.6% on a 21.6% decline in revenue hours, a consequence of cutting the least productive service. The format of this report reveals that CT is thinking clearly about what it is trying to achieve with its bus service.

In addition to vanpools and paratransit, bus service is split into five classes: Bus Rapid Transit (Swift), corridor service, local feeders, suburban/rural lifeline service, and commuter buses. Swift blows all the other routes away with an average of 4,144 weekday and 2,486 Saturday routers, but it’s actually its shadow, the 101, that is most productive per revenue hour.


CT’s giant park and rides along I-5 and I-405 are well utilized, much more so than those on the lesser corridors. In general, the smaller ones are also proportionally emptier. Having Sound Transit Express service is a good indicator of attracting a ton of cars, or perhaps ST goes where the parking is:

November 2012 Community Transit System Performance Report

Park and ride utilization
Park and ride utilization

2011 bus cost per rider is at $7.33, down slightly from 2010.

29 Replies to “CT November 2012 Performance Report”

  1. Despite the constant belly aching about the terribleness of one-way commuter routes they appear to be a good source of revenue.

    1. Some of CT’s one-way commuter routes are, indeed, pretty cost-effective, with some caveats:

      1. In this report the only points of comparison are corridor services in a county with few good and no great corridors. The boardings-per-hour metrics even look good compared to lots of KCM routes (http://metro.kingcounty.gov/planning/pdf/2011-21/Metro_2012_Srv_Guidelines_Rpt_RouteAnalysis.pdf) but KCM uses platform hours, not revenue hours.

      2. These routes only run a few trips per day during high-ridership periods. The core corridor services will perform similarly well during these times.

      3. These routes support and reinforce sparse, single-use development patterns that are inhospitable to transit and walkable urbanism.

      4. None of them are actually profitable.

      All that said, CT does charge a premium for these services and some are not far from breaking even (I assume these are the routes that are packed to the extent that there isn’t really much room left for efficiency to improve). There isn’t any excess peak capacity on the regional trunks (ST 510/511) so CT pretty much has to run buses into Seattle (I bet a lot of SnoHoCo residents would identify this as CT’s one true mandate, and the popularity of commuter service over weekend service reflects this). Some of the commuter routes could theoretically be organized for more efficiency by turning some tails into connection-protected feeders and consolidating the number of runs into Seattle; this was one of CT’s proposals to help reduce the impact of its recent cuts. It would have been cool to see them try it.

      1. (To be sure on #4, I’m not saying that profitability is the standard that any route should be measured against right now. But it does mean they’re a source of revenue but they can’t just run more and end up with more money… particularly because adding peak service requires extra capital expenditure as well.)

    2. This is part of where ADA comes in. The cost of Sunday service is not just the cost of whatever routes are running on Sundays – it’s also the cost of whatever paratransit the law would require to run with it.

      But as long as paratransit is already operational during the weekday peak period, adding more service during that time doesn’t require any additional paratransit. While commuter routes have costs associated with excessive deadheading, these costs are mitigated by not needing to provide more paratransit service to go with the extra fixed-route service.

      Furthermore, single-direction-peak-only service is a lot more capitol-intensive than all-day service because you need also a separate bus for every trip, rather than fewer buses operating more hours a day. This is certainly expensive. However, federal transit funding has always been more generous in paying for capitol costs (purchase of buses) than operating costs.

      So, when federal subsidies towards the purchase of buses, along with mandates for ADA paratransit, are factored in, it is not at all surprising that we end up with a service that is concentrated almost entirely at the peaks. When the federal government sets up rules that make peak service cheaper and all-day service more expensive than they would naturally be, lots of peak service and little off-peak service is exactly what you end up with.

      1. Paratransit has ended up being something other than it was intended to be. It was intended to be a temporary requirement to prod cities into getting low-floor buses, building and maintaining sidewalks, and suchlike things which make it possible for wheelchair users to take the bus.

        It ended up also being used by a different population who will probably never be able to take any bus — this sort of transportation should be funded by the National Health Service.

        …oh, wait, we don’t have a National Health Service. I think I see the problem. :-)

  2. 2011 bus cost per rider is at $7.33, down slightly from 2010.

    Holy crap. What’s ST Express’ cost? It’s more like $5, right?

      1. An interesting bit on fare revenue: the 2011 financial report (which unfortunately differs from the ridership report and doesn’t help me much figuring out how the cost-per-rider metric is calculated) lists average fare revenue per boarding. It was a little under 2 bucks in 2011 for buses.

  3. What’s with Montalke Terrace TC….That 1% number can’t be right. Or is it? Anyway, I have mixed feelings about CT. It’s overly commuter heavy with almost no system redundancy. Trip planning is a nightmare because of few local routes.

    1. According to the table on p. 11, the utilization is 100%. The graphic is clearly wrong, considering that a 1% utilization rate would show a tiny blue dot.

      1. That’s what I had thought. I was pretty sure I saw it full most of the time. But, it could have been my tired 7am commuter eyes failing me.

    2. Even though it says that Swamp Creek has about 50% utilization I’m not sure what they’re talking about. I usually hit it first and it will be full then I go to Ash way which is always full then I go to Lynnwood and it’s full. If I’m going to the city early I usually have to Park and Hide. The solution is not more parking spots but better local connections which are currently horrible. I’d almost rather take the Swift/358 because I don’t have to park the car and they come by every 10-15 minutes making the trip about the same as the 511 + hunting for parking spot.

      1. If you’re going during peak hours the 301 should usually be faster than the 358 from Aurora Village (except those trips that take the detour through Richmond Beach, which are nearly a wash). That might swing the calculus in favor of the transfer.

  4. Interesting tidbit, this is how CT describes themselves on Google:

    Transit system serving the Everett-Aurora Village (Shoreline)-Seattle corridor.

    1. So they’re a one-corridor agency!? I knew it! No, but really. Is there any way for CT to raise revenue and restore additional service? Particularly that which is non-Seattle-SnoCo-suburban oriented?

      1. I’d like to see the math on moving those 200 riders a month over to paratransit/dial-a-ride/whatever.

      2. Given that they’re already on two round trips a day, I don’t see how you could get them much cheaper (unless First Transit has different wage scales for fixed-route v. paratransit drivers, or there’s significant paratransit service required for Darrington because of this route.)

      1. No, several King County P&R lots exceed 100%. Much of it is cars parked illegally; taking up fire lanes for instance or parking off the pavement. Some of it is turn over where people are literally circling waiting for someone to leave like at Bellevue Square during Xmas. 100% is design capacity.

  5. @Al Dimond. The #301 is faster, just take the trips that don’t divert to Richmond Beach!

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