Sound Transit spokesperson Bruce Gray has informed us that a compilation error caused some of the station level data we released earlier to be incorrect.  In Service Change 19 (June 9, 2012 to September 28, 2012) the information from page one did not match that from page four.  I’ve uploaded the corrected data here and updated the original post and my spreadsheet.  While on the subject of station data, I’d like to draw your attention to some analysis done by John Niles at his Public Interest Transportation Forum.  Link’s high seasonal variation is almost entirely due to fluxuations at Westlake, SeaTac and Stadium Stations.  John’s interesting graphs below the fold:



29 Replies to “ST Updates Link Station Data Report”

  1. Much minutia about next to nothing.

    Of course Seatac station will see the highest seasonal variation, and of course this variation will peak in the summer. Why? Because, you know, I’d just be willing to bet that most carless tourists arrive via the airport, and, you know, summer IS the tourist season after all.

    And of course the DT stations will see the same seasonal variation. Why? Because this is where most of the carless, Link riding tourists are going to/from. Ditto to a lesser extent for the Stadium station, although with the M’s stinking up the place as bad as they are it is still a weak echo of the variation DT and at Seatac.

    But who cares anyhow? Ridership is ridership, and the trends will reverse anyhow when Husky Link opens and we have two major educational institutions coming onto the Link line.

    The only interesting thing in JN’s plots is the strong and linear ridership increase at the BH and RV stations. This bodes very well for Link ridership in the future.

    1. It’s not just tourist, it’s also locals traveling to the Airport. All modes of transportation have their own trend. Ski lift ridership drops to zero in the summer but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. When Link goes to the UW we’ll likely see the opposite trend, with weaker summer ridership to UW and stronger at other times of the year. It’s just the nature of travel.

      1. I agree that it’s not all tourists, but so what if it was? Are tourist riders somehow less than other riders? Should we try and extrapolate them out completely, or maybe just only count them as 3/5ths of all other riders?

        (I’m not directing this at you, but at the general idea that some riders are better than others.)

    2. I think the data interpretation is important, even at this level of minutia, because of our predictive abilities for ridership at future stops. Of course we can suspect that the station at 65th and 12th NE will be dominated by commuters and park-n-riders, and so suspecting can reason that the future stop there will be subject to less significant seasonal peaks and valleys. Now, we have more data to support that supposition.

      On the other hand, this might help us determine whether it would be worth it to place a stop near Holgate if/when the Sonics come back.

    3. “the strong and linear ridership increase at the BH and RV stations”

      This is the most interesting thing to me also.Ridership at these stations has increased almost 50% since 2010.

      1. I wonder what it was about Summer of 2011 that was such a pronounced turning point.

    4. Lazarus, so what that John Niles is anti-transit? I find the trend he uncovered interesting. Link’s seasonal variance, especially the fact that its different from Metro’s has been the topic of discussion more than a few times in the past and I thought our readers would appreciate some more information on why.

      1. FOUL.
        John Niles is anything BUT anti transit. He is very pro transportation by whatever means offers efficient and environmentally sustainable service for our urban cities. He is against dumping limited tax revenue, coming mostly from poor or average wage earners, into systems that do little to increase the number of people using transit. We have lots of examples in the Seattle Transit ‘Hall of Shame’.
        Just look around you. Our basic transit service is in crisis, with service levels being reduced to those of 10 and 20 years ago, while we have done little to meet growing population trends for the future.
        Link has added a mear 6,200 new transit trips since planning started over two decades ago.
        JN tries very hard to present and preserve documents. He offers commentary of situations that deserve our thoughts and some answers before repeating past mistakes.
        I’ll take an army of JN’s anyday, over mindless cheerleading of transit that drains resources away from things that actually work.

      2. Can you cite any example of Niles supporting an increase of resources to transit, either fiscal or in-kind (e.g. Road space)?

        I certainly have never known him to positively support any transit measure, even ones focused on modest bus improvements he claims he supports like the VLF.

      3. Of course you would. You and he share the same ‘only buses now, only buses tomorrow, only buses forever’ ideology.

      4. That’s just not right.
        There is a hierarchy of modes that fill certain needs in the most economical way, ranging from bus to BRT, then into trams, light rail, and finally heavy rail. All have their place and work best when deployed to fit the demand.
        We’ve focussed too many of our limited resources chasing the marginal riders on the fringes, and squandered away our ability to meet the high demands in all but a few cases. UW to CBD is the prime example of where frequent heavy rail is justified. Of course we didn’t need to go subway all the way to a marginal station location at Husky Stdm with crappy bus/rail interface.
        The eastside and south could have been better served with a robust BRT/HOV 3+ system employing lots of TSM improvements to minimize disruptions, like interchange flyover ramps for transit.
        Metro ‘s 194 was a 30 min ride to the airport, with better ontime arrive statistics than Link has. The 194 could have been upgraded to BRT standards, with all the bells and whistles, plus an extension of the E-3 busway to Michigan for pennies on the dollar over Central Link, alleviating the need to cannibalize our workhorse bus system.
        Seattle is building upon the failed model of BART, and the current metrics prove it. I’m ready for ULink to open, so the excuse of the day can begin, countering why we spent so much to get there for so few new riders, costing double that of the bus to accomplish the mission on a daily basis.
        Your right, I don’t support $50 rail rides from Mukilteo when the bus can do it for far less.

      5. Matthew Johnson says:
        June 14, 2013 at 4:45 pm

        Lazarus, so what that John Niles is anti-transit? I find the trend he uncovered interesting.

        Nice job of trolling. Push this out and then assert, “You and he share the same ‘only buses now, only buses tomorrow, only buses forever’ ideology.” Comments on this blog are trending to zero as the choir has gone on summer break. Maybe, just maybe, there are places where buses now, buses tomorrow make sense. Maybe there are places that “forever” won’t don’t warrant light rail. Just maybe.

      6. Bernie, nice straw man.

        Being opposed to every rail project in the region is NOT the same as asserting that some places are better served with buses. No one here would disagree with that statement.

      7. JN’s anti-rail bias is both well known and well documented. We don’t have to rehash that here, but with the growing success of Link he does seem to be growing ever more quiet. This is a good thing for those of us who truely care about hi cap transit in Seattle.

        This post by JN is a prime example. The “discovery” of seasonal variation is hardly a real discovery at all, and its existance is largely immaterial to the success of Link anyhow. Meanwhile JN’s own data shows a rather astounding level of growth in Link’s core ridership base.

      8. JN is anti-rail, as can be seen in his older comments here. But he also sends us statistics of interest to STB, regardless of whether they support or contradict his position. That’s the mark of an honest debater and a gentleman, and something some of our politicians could learn from.

      9. Mike Orr, maybe in the past John Niles sent us stuff but Sound Transit staff sent me all the data posted in the Station Data threads and in my Ridership Reports. I only read his blog to know what arguments transit opponents are likely to be using. When I saw these graphs I thought them worth sharing since a correction post is pretty light on it’s own. While I disagree with his conclusion (Link ridership somehow counts less) the trend he uncovered is interesting. I have the same data (and have posted it all on STB so that people don’t have to go to his site to get it) and could have made similar graphs once I’d seen his, but he deserves credit for his work, thus the citation and link back.

      10. Killing Sounder North is a position that defacto supports more bus service. The ST tax base is fixed. If the money wasn’t wasted on commuter rail it would transport many more people via ST Express buses. Central Link numbers are encouraging because unlike the majority of systems that level out after 2 years ridership is still growing. The detour through RV however still looks like a dumb and expensive mistake. Gorgetown, without the benefit of rail is more of an up and coming neighborhood. Beacon Hill has some development happening but nothing that’s going to bring thousands of all day riders. Niles may never go out and campaign for more money for transit but like me believes the huge amount we already spend, more than health and safety combined, would go a lot farther if it weren’t wasted.

      11. At least from my personal experience, Link has had better on-time performance than the 194, at least on days where there isn’t track work going on. Also, the 194 was packed and there were times when I had to let a 194 bus go by and wait for the next one. When the 194 did get delayed, it was almost never on the freeway – usually, the delays were caused by each person entering and exiting bus one at a time, via either pay as you enter, or pay as you shove to the exit. And the 194 ran less frequently than Link, especially on evenings and weekends. And one thing about the 194 that everyone seems to forget is that the last trip left the airport as early as 7 in the evening. After that, you were stuck with the 174, which took at least 45 minutes to get downtown, on top of the overcrowding and loading delays of the 194.

        I suppose, if you think exclusively about downtown->airport trips, for less than the cost of building Link, we could have added a bunch of additional trips to the 194 to match Link’s frequency and span, added luggage racks on the buses, and converted it to a proof-of-payment system, with off-board fare payment at every stop (perhaps excluding SODO, which almost never got used). But then, the Ranier Valley would have been left with nothing but a super-slow 7 or 42 to get downtown, as well as no way to transit option whatsoever to get to the airport in under an hour (I guess 39->194 was the least bad option, but they were all terrible). I suppose we could have fixed this problem too by throwing even more buses at the problem, but by the time we had enough extra buses to handle all the trip patterns that Link enables, with a reasonable frequency and span, the operating costs would likely cost more than Link in the long run.

      12. When I look at data like this I think..maybe all we really did need was a fast LINK from the airport to downtown with some suburban stations with high parking capacity.

        I go to my fallback argument that what we need is transportation, not transit. Thus the Sounder with enhancements like more frequent service and express stations where the Cascades can stop at Kent, Auburn, are far more valuable to the citizens of all Washington.

        People want homes at low cost. High speed metropolitan rail can reduce some traffic and bring them to workplaces and venues that allow this. But we must always remember…we are a region with a populace that wants point to point transportation, not just one single city.

      13. As long as we’re speculating on what the data means, here’s a thought that the 2.6 Bil spent to get to the airport could have been deployed in multiple ways, that in the aggregate, yield many more new riders.
        Screenlining Central Link to measure riders going to/from Tukwila/Seatac show about 8,000 each direction daily in the peak summer months. Using ST design factors of 25.4 to determine the peak hourly load, in the peak direction, yields 315 riders in an hour. Using artic BRT buses, at 50 seated, would be 6.2 buses per hour, or 10 minute service, roughly the same as Link, but costing 1/2 as much for the stated hourly cost to run the service, and capital cost of maybe $500 mil to extend E-3 to directly access the HOV lanes, then the extra HOV lane up the hill to HWY 99. Those buses could have continued as RR-A down to FWTC, negating the need to run rail to FedWay. Link will never compete with express buses from Seattle to FWTC, so why even try.
        Now, what to do with the extra 2 Bil. and all the savings of not building BART 2 in the countryside for equity purposes.
        How about a complete makeover of both Rainier and MLK to streetcars in semi exclusive guideway that merge at Mt Baker Stn, then up to Jackson and through DSTT 3rd Ave Transit Mall, with money left over.
        Now, that’s just as ‘Pro Transit’ as Link is, but focuses on getting more bodies out of cars, over building gargantuan stations, tunnels through mountains and elevated guideways to Seatac. Not sexy, but effective transport, ala JN.

      14. Opps, forgot to multiply by 2, so that’s a bus in the peak every 5 minutes, not 10, with turnbacks at SeaTac.

      15. And after all that you have little more than Buses Stuck in Traffic, you’ve done nothing for transit riders in the RV, you’ve done nothing to increase ridership, and your entire transit system his held hostage to the whims of crazy Republican Sens like King and Benton.

        No thanks, not for me. And not for Seattle either.

  2. I’ve always been a little puzzled at the underutilization of University Street Station by tourists. It’s just as close to Pike Place as Westlake, is the closest station to the waterfront, is underneath Benaroya, and is the most convenient stop for lots of major hotels (Monaco, W, Hilton, Renaissance, Fairmont Olympic, 4 Seasons, etc). But outside rush hour it’s very very quiet, even as the mostly-trolley bus stop right above it is bustling. It’s probably a wayfinding and marketing issue, as the entrances to it are the most difficult to see of all the DSTT stations. None of the 3 entrances (1, 2, 3) are easily seen unless you know what you’re looking for.

    1. Who ever designed the entrance to USS off of 2nd really screwed up. The long turning corridor is extremely scary at night, because you can’t see in front or in back of you. I go to 3rd just to avoid it.

  3. “Hey, john, why didn’t you tell me you took your family on the link that weekend? Now I have to update the ridership stats.”

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