Bruce Gray at Sound Transit was kind enough to send us the newest station level data report for Link.  These reports are a treasure trove of information, too much in fact for one post.  Some things I found interesting:

  • During the week the Rainier Valley (Beacon Hill Station to Rainier Beach Station) accounts for 28% of all boardings and alightings.  During the weekend it is only 22%.  This suggests a strong commuter focus and room for continued growth.
  • Growth rates at Rainier Valley stations are higher than system average, except for Rainier Beach Station which is half of system average.
  • International District/Chinatown Station has the least weekday to weekend fluctuation, Stadium Station the most.
  • SeaTac Airport Station, Tukwila International Blvd Station, and Westlake dominate weekend ridership (52% of all boardings and alightings).

Combined with earlier reports we now have data from February 6th 2010 to February 15th 2013:

Also, see Station Level Data posts from 2010 and last year, and other related charts and a data posts from Bruce and Andrew.  I’ve also uploaded my spreadsheet (where I have a half dozen charts) if anyone wants to play around with the data.


[UPDATE – 13JUN13]  As noted in this post, there was an error in Service Change 19.  Both the link and my spreedsheet have been upadated.

53 Replies to “Three Years of Central Link Station Data”

  1. Westlake takes on twice as many boardings and alightings a the 3 other down town stations. Wonder if that is because it is the northern interchange with bus routes. Like to see if that will change when cap hill and u dist stations open.

    SeaTac. Question for me is, passengers or workers. Who uses the train more. Can I presume that most air travel passengers are going to alight downtown?

    1. I don’t know if anyone’s studied it all that exhaustively, but Westlake Station has some advantages over the other downtown stations that will go away when Link is built out to the north and others that won’t.

      With each additional northern station opened, at least as far as Northgate, the list of neighborhoods whose best transfer is at Westlake (or that will walk to Westlake) will shrink. ID and SODO will take on more transfers from southern bus routes as more northern destinations are available on Link as well (and as Sounder improves, hopefully). The north side has more (and more popular) crosstown transit than the south side, so stations at 45th, 65th, and Northgate will get lots of transfers from east-west routes (probably more than stations in the Rainier Valley do).

      But Westlake’s unique walkshed will remain the biggest and most continuous of any downtown Link station, and its “transfershed” will remain significant, and growing: Belltown, SLU, Queen Anne, Magnolia, greater Ballard, Fremont, and probably Phinney Ridge. I bet it will remain the most popular downtown Link station for years.

      1. I wonder what will be the best Eastside route for, say, a Ballardian, once East LINK is running. Going to downtown and transferring, or continuing to take a 520 bus.

      2. I think even today it’s usually better to go through downtown — especially if you’re making the trip during commute hours when the express routes that skip LQA are running. The 44 improvement project was pretty awesome, but not that awesome.

      3. When transferring from Link to another tunnel route, I tend to prefer the International District station for several reasons:

        1) You will be waiting for the same bus regardless, since tunnel operations policy makes it impossible to catch up to a bus you just missed. Even if the bus you are waiting for is just in front of the train, waiting for a long line of change fumblers to board, Metro policy is that the train must sit there and wait as long as it takes to make sure you miss your bus.

        2) Since the train tends to move faster through the tunnel than buses (unless it gets stuck behind a bus), making the transfer at ID station tends to lead to a slightly shorter wait at the bus stop, even if it doesn’t get you home any faster.

        3) ID station has cell phone reception, which means OBA support. Westlake has no cell phone reception, hence no OBA.

        4) Making the switch at ID station almost guarantees you a seat on your connecting bus, even if it’s a super-crowded 71/72/73. Make the switch at Westlake, however, and there’s a decent chance you will have to stand.

        When transferring to a street bus, however, Westlake is better since:

        1) The train tends to move faster through the tunnel than the connecting bus, which will have to stop for change fumblers at every stop

        2) The waiting area on the street for the connecting bus will have more foot traffic, and therefore, tend to be safer.

        3) Not all street buses go all the way through downtown, so the number of connections possible at Westlake is simply more.

      4. University Street is far and away the best place to transfer, especially during busy hours.

        Southbound entry at either Benaroya or Seneca is far easier than waiting to cross 3rd, fight Pine Street loiterers, making the block-long lobby slog, and then squeezing past slowpokes on the stairs just as your bus or train departs. This goes double if your “rapid ride” uses the Pike stop, ensuring you’ve already lost a whole extra light cycle before having the chance to transfer at and the northerly tunnel stop.

        Northbound, switching from tunnel to surface behind the post office will significantly reduce the chance of missing your connection because “this train is being held due to traffic ahead”.

        The only reason University doesn’t already show a higher transfer rate is that Seattleites are automatons who will take extremely bad advice from a trip planner or an ill-informed bus driver, and then continue to do it that way forever.

      5. I’ve tried University, transferring to a Belltown/LQA bus, but the RR D doesn’t share the same stop as the LQA buses. I always end up on the wrong corner, because I cannot use OBA until I hit the surface.

        It is much more pleasant than Pike, however.

      6. I suppose it all depends on whose ox you’re goring, but Westlake is the station at the retail core, near most of the larger hotels and the convention center. It is also the one where the walk from it in all directions is flat, as opposed to the cliff you face heading east from University St. or Pioneer Square. Today when I got off at Westlake to go to Macy’s, I discovered I could walk right into the men’s department without going through the perfume section on the ground floor. Bottom line: Westlake is a destination for a lot of transit users.

      7. If you live on Capitol Hill there’s no equivalent to the “University Street convenient transfer”. Yesterday I was on a northbound 132, got off and 3rd & Union, and walked to 4th & Pike. Later I was in Chinatown (carrying heavy groceries) and contemplating taking the 7/14/36 or a tunnel bus/train back. The tunnel bus would be faster but I’d have to walk from 3rd & University (the “convenient transfer”) or 3rd & Pine to 4th & Pike. So I took the 36 which got me closest.

        Another thing I noticed is that the 131/132 are two of the most crowded non-articulated buses even on weekends. They should be articulated.

      8. Hmm. They should totally build a zig-zagging 5mph streetcar to solve that conundrum.

        (Capitol Hill transfers are obviously not what I was talking about.)

      9. You’re complaining that Ballard doesn’t have a good transfer at Westlake, and earlier you said that the D must give a one-seat ride to Intl Dist or it’s not “serving” downtown properly. I’m pointing out that you’re being Ballard-centric, and other neighborhoods have the same or worse.

      10. I’ve never said the RapidRide needs to give a one-seat ride to the I.D. And I generally opposed Bruce’s preferred zig-zag through Pioneer Square for the post-viaduct buses from West Seattle.

        But I have said that I sympathize with those who would wish for a one-seat across downtown, because the tunnel transfers are generally so laborious and lackluster. It doesn’t help that RapidRide southbound stops at Pike and Spring, and therefore hits a much worse light-cycle timing than buses that stop at Pine and University (after every other terrible light and ridiculous detour you’ve suffered).

        But in no way am I being Ballard-centric. The better transfer at University station holds true for every bus to and from the northwest, north, or north-northeast, from the 19 to the 70. And that transfer is more relevant in perpetuity since there’s no subway coming to those places any time soon. You’re being “Capitol Hill-centric” to think that even needs to be entered into the discussion.

  2. The numbers suggest that there’s quite a large number of transfers to/from Amtrak and Sounder commuter trains at International District station, both on weekdays and weekends. (Although the weekends are probably influenced by games at CenturyLink stadium). It will be interesting to see whether these numbers increase, now that the Jackson Street entrance to King Street Station is open, making transfers easier.

  3. So as predicted before Link opened, the peak load in the PM peak hour SouthBound occurs between Pioneer and IDS stations, with 64 riders per car (64 per car x 2 car trains x 8 trains/hr x 25.4 = avg Weekday daily riders.
    So the 2 car trains are about half full (1 standee for each seated rider in the peak periods)

    1. That’s nice. Do the AM math, when peak is compressed into 2.5 hours, and you’ll get a higher, but at least more useful, pretend peak load. Want the actual peak load? Ask ST. These numbers don’t provide it.

      1. I’m not sure why I would want to waste their time and mine getting refined AVERAGE for the morning or afternoon peak hour, but if you feel the urge, go for it.

      2. I’m not sure why you’re interested in average peak load, either, since the only measurement that is important to planners is load factor on the single fullest load.

      3. I’m not sure if you’re trying to pick a fight, so here’s the short answer.
        You can’t tell precisely which train will be overloaded until it happens, so knowing about the average peak load factor in the peak direction at the peak location during the peak hour gives a sense of how full the cars are, knowing some may be jammed packed at times. That’s just the nature of distribution curves.
        Based on the data above, it looks like the system is performing quite well with 2 car trains. Most riders have a seat, even in the peaks.
        I just did it for the curiosity of it, not for any home dispatching of extra trains.

    2. I operate the train SB leaving Westlake about 507PM most weekdays. Both cars of my consist are routinely SRO after University Street Station. If not for regular riders moving to fill the harder to reach standing areas up the stair next to the operating cabs, The train would be delayed excessively at PSS and IDS waiting for intending passengers to inch their way on board.

      The only other time I experience these kind of passenger loads are after SODO events.

  4. Beacon Hill Station through Rainier Beach Station account for 38.46% of the all the stations, but account for only 22% to 28% of all boardings and alightings. A lot of room for continued growth is just a euphemism for underperformance. It’s like when you say an underachieving person has a lot of potential. It’s not a compliment.

    1. Obvious troll is obvious, but I still feel compelled to tell you that this doesn’t make sense. Obviously Othello or Rainier Beach stations aren’t going to get the same level of ridership as Westlake Station.

    2. Calculate riders per dollar spent building the station, whydoncha?

      Then you can proclaim that all the downtown stations are “underperforming”, and proceed to join JB’s call to build the suburban portion of the rail lines first. Imagine how much better the numbers would have come out if South Sounder ended at Tukwila Swamp Station instead of heading on in to Seattle.

      1. Only a fool believes numbers of riders equals success. If Link isn’t taking a significant number of cars off the road, it’s a failure.

      2. Dude, a basic Sounder station can be a wooden platform similar to a deck!

        But yeah, look at the cost of the Beacon Hill “subway station> and tell me if it was worth it or not.

        Really I don’t care about the costs or tunnels and so on…I am glad for the money and construction jobs.

        What I don’t understand is the one thing at a time approach. Why in the world should digging a tunnel to North Seattle hold up running crosstown lines across East and South King?

      3. @JB: We aren’t doing one thing at a time — ST has two lines under construction and a third in planning.

        The reason we aren’t simultaneously building crosstown lines across East and South King is that there aren’t serious plans for crosstown rail lines across East and South King. We are “building” (or have built) crosstown RapidRide lines in those places, though there isn’t all that much building involved in the process…

        I actually think a route like the 140/Future-F would be a great place to build some heavy-duty BRT features. It’s unlikely to need the capacity of a rail line soon, and most of the route by distance is uncongested enough that street running is OK, but it (like the 150) really gets screwed by road layout around its important destinations (Southcenter particularly). This is true also of the C/D lines in downtown Seattle, of course, but that’s a question for another day. Maybe that would be the case for an eastside crosstown line also? I haven’t really thought about that.

      1. John, I’ve been wondering that myself for years…why are we building only one part of LINK at a time? Is it money? Availablity of workers? Environmental studies? Once the route from Husky Stadium to Northgate has been finalized, is it possible to work on the route from three points: Husky stadium going northward, Roosevelt going southward and Northgate going southward? It seems to me that the money has already been authorized by taxpayers so it shouldn’t matter when it is spent, whether little-by-little or all at once.

      2. “why are we building only one part of LINK at a time”

        My belief?

        Mostly NIMBYs. If you do one part at a time, you can divide and conquer the NIMBYs. If you do it all at once, they all join together and manage to vote down the project.

  5. So, if 2,000 people are getting on and off at Tukwila station every day, but the station only contains 600 parking spaces, how are the remaining 1,400 people getting to and from the station? Are they transferring from the A or 140? Is it predominately private car pickup and dropoff? Or is there some mysterious TOD around there that I am not aware of?

    1. As a daily Link->140 commuter I see a decent number of inter-modal transfers. Not much TOD around, although you do see some walkers. There are also usually one or two pickups/drop offs.

    2. Some of those parking spaces could be reused during the day. Case in point, someone going to Seattle for the evening can probably find a parking space as commuters go home.

      Some people might carpool.

      Some people might hide-n-ride.

      1. The question seemed to assume that all cars in a park and ride are necessarily single occupancy vehicles. You don’t have to “carpool” if two spouses drive together, for instance.

        I’ve also seen bike racks full at TIBS.

      2. As far as I’m concerned, two people sharing a ride are carpooling even if they live together. They could drive two cars, after all.

      3. I do that a lot for concerts and ballgames. For a 7:30 Mariners game I might go in early and get a spot at 3:30 pm as the first commuters come home.

        Although lately I just park at Kent Station, take the 4:52 pm Sounder in and the 150 bus back and just eat the longer bus time on the way back.

      4. Smarter Mariner Fans are likely to find a parking space at TIBS for a weekday evening game waiting for a large number of commuters arriving to fetch their personal chariot around 540PM.

    3. I’ve also seen hotel shuttles from Southcenter and Renton drop off at Tukwila also.

      1. That’s pretty good. I once stayed at a hotel in Redwood City that would shuttle guests 10 miles to and from San Francisco Airport free of charge. Yet they refused to transport guests at all to and from the CalTrain station, a mere 1 mile from the hotel, right on the way to the airport.

  6. I work at the airport and ride the light rail and I see both workers and travelers using the system. The number of travelers will vary depending on flight schedules. As the day goes on and more flights are arriving the number travelers going toward downtown increase. For passengers who are departing it depends on flight schedules as there are 3 busy periods through out the day, Early in the morning, middle of the day and late afternoon into the early evening.

    1. My empirical observation, at least for 10 PM inbound on a Sunday night, is that nearly everyone on the train is going all the way to downtown from the airport. Obviously, other times, the trends would be different.

    2. It is interesting that there are so many boardings southbound at TIBS. Are people using it as free airport parking, or are airport (and near airport, like hotels and restaurants) workers using it as their park and ride (as they have every right to do)?

      1. I’m curious if some people get dropped off at TIBS to go to the airport, rather than the airport itself, in an effort to avoid the congestion in the departure lane.

        From the perspective of the air traveler, the trip would usually take longer this way, but it might save time for the person driving. And if traffic thus far was light and you’re way early (and you already have a transit pass, so no train fare), switching to Link at this point costs effectively nothing.

      2. I’m curious if some people get dropped off at TIBS to go to the airport, rather than the airport itself

        Yeah right, think this through and I’m sure you’ll realize the answer is, “No fucking way.”

      3. I bet some of those “boardings” are people getting off so others can get by, and then getting back on.

        The same goes for all the northbound boardings in University St Station.

  7. OMG, I just realized Link is depopulating Seattle at the rate of 249 people per day. That’s the difference between NB and SB daily riders.
    Seattle will be empty in just 7 years at this rate.

    1. Damn, math doesn’t lie := However, you forgot to take into account the people that are moving to Seattle. Perhaps the exodus you see is just the people being relocated to Kent due to gentrification? Obviously the rich people moving in won’t be using welfare transit.

    2. There’s a simple explanation: People carpool to get to their 9-5 latte-shift white-collar jobs downtown, and then go home at unpredictable times, with some missing their carpool.

  8. A few weeks ago I made the casual observation that, outside of Franklin HS students, Mt. Baker Station doesn’t seem to be growing as fast as the other valley stations. The numbers do show that there is a significant drop in passenger numbers during the summer period when schools are on break–even though ST’s summer period (mid-June to the end of September) includes about 6 week of time when the Seattle School District is in session.

    From the data: during the 3 summer periods (2010, 2011, 2012) the average weekday boardings at Mt. Baker were 2196, 2288, 1843 which shows a drop in station usage over the 3 year period. But the trend reverses during the fall/winter period, when Franklin HS is in session (2429, 2733, 3079). It seems that Mt. Baker Station is working out great for Franklin HS students, but everyone else seems to be losing interest.

    1. One factor is that Mt Baker has less housing around it than the other stations. Columbia City and Othello both have new TOD, and Rainier Beach has gotten some townhouses nearby (as well ridership from the area southeast of it). Mt Baker has one TOD under construction. But it’s zoned as a larger urban center than the others, so hopefully if things go right (and the TC is moved and the bow-tie idea gets a closer look), it will become one of the highest-ridership stations in the valley.

    2. Check your math. You’re counting both boardings and alightings (getting off the train) as a boarding. Boardings were 1113, 1174, and 1031 for your periods. No big deal, just wanted to point it out.

      1. Yup, I was using the B+A numbers. I should have said “riders” or “usage” instead of “boardings”. Thanks.

    1. Do you have a better option? Further north and you encroach on the ridershed for Othello. Further south is a low density commercial/industrial wasteland. Without it, the Rainier Beach and South Beacon Hill neighborhoods are under-served.

      What would you change?

  9. I noticed that the weekday boardings at Pioneer Square in period E, summer 2010 were 1,524 and in period 19 two years later, summer 2012 were 935, a considerable drop for a growing service, and anomalous. Seems more like a data error than a representation of something that happened, so I reported this to ST management.

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