July13MvgAvgDue to the August Operations Committee meeting being cancelled, Sound Transit didn’t tablulate June’s ridership numbers until earlier this month, so you get two updates for the price of one.

June’s Central Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday boardings were out of the park at 31,953/29,517/21,853, growth of 14.2%, 27.5%, and 20.2% respectively over June 2012. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 4.7% (up 5% on the South Line, down 1% on the North Line).  Total Tacoma Link ridership was down 8.7% with weekday ridership declining 1.8%. Weekday ST Express ridership was up 7.8%.  Of special mention are the crosslake routes.  The 545, 550, and 554 had year over year increases of 19%, 17% and 18% respectfully.

July’s Central Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday boardings were 31,947/32,853/23,879, growth of 10.7%, 22.3%, and 16.3% respectively over June 2012. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 16.9% (up 18% on the South Line, up 7% on the North Line).  Total Tacoma Link ridership was up 2.4% but weekday ridership declined 1.2%. Weekday ST Express ridership was up 7.8%.  Crosslake routes continued to show strong growth.  The 545, 550, and 554 had year over year increases of 18%, 19% and 15% respectfully.

Link has seen double digit ridership growth ten out of the past twelve months, with an average of 10.9% over the period.

My Link charts below the fold.

July13Weekday July13Saturday July13Sunday July13Growth July13MvgAvg

The growth rate dip in December 2012 was obviously in response to the spike in ridership the previous December, but I wonder what the dip this last May was all about.

45 Replies to “June and July ST Ridership Reports”

    1. There are already lots of cars on the way for University Link. I suspect some could be pressed into service early if needed.

      1. um … are you sure about that? I think we have gotten all that are needed for ULink … East Link and North Link extensions will require more … but I think for the ULink they have all that they are planning to get.

      2. We got all of them already? I thought they were still delivering vehicles…

        Just goes to show how little info there is out there about this. My fault for going off the wiki.

  1. I wonder what effect the new streetcar on first hill will have on these numbers when it opens next year…

  2. Wow. These are crazy good numbers. Not much to criticize about numbers this good.

    I’m continually amazed by the growth in Central Link ridership. Normally these systems see diminishing ridership growth as people get used to them, but Central Link continues to see strong and near linear ridership growth.

    Congrats to ST.

    1. It would be interesting to see the relative numbers of bus ridership as well, but I suspect transit ridership in general is going up city wide. In that context its not too surprising that central link ridership keeps going up (though perhaps these numbers are even better than we should have expected?).

      I also wonder if we could match this with some numbers on the number of people going car-less in Seattle (especially downtown). I would not be surprised if there was some correlation in those numbers as well.

      1. In general, Metro’s blockbuster routes get about 10K riders/day. Before Link opened in 2009, the old 194 got 4,800 and the old 42 got about 3,500. The 48 used to travel on MLK and was the leading route before LINK opened (14,000/day), but that’s obviously not comparable because of the C.D./UDist/Green Lake/Loyal Heights segments. Direct comparison is impossible, but it’s clear that Link is creating new and growing ridership.

        I’d be curious to see if the 36’s ridership has suffered or plateaued, considering that Link is twice as fast as $.25 cheaper for Beacon Hill-Downtown trips.

      2. But that would be good… the last thing we want is for ultra-expensive Link to be gaining passengers by cannabilizing merely super-expensive Metro.

        More generally, I wonder whether increased transit use is a temprary phenomoenon brought on by the ongoing downturn in employment that has disproportionately affected the young (a group that in many ways is most able to eschew a car based lifestyle anyway), or whether it represents a real shift in values. The good news is that it may not matter: people who adopt a car free lifestyle through necessity may come to embrace it as a bona fide choice.

        I’d also be interested in how it correlates with single car household prevalence (normalizeed to exclude single person housholds).

      3. Does anyone know what ridershp was projected (during planning) to be at this point? A lot of noise has been made by transit foes about Link’s misleadingly high projections. I’m curious how valid these criticisms are.

      4. William, downturns in employment reduce transit ridership, they don’t increase it. The number one driver of transit ridership by a mile is still trips to and from work.

      5. I was being imprecise… unemployment depresses transit. Underemployment, juggling multiple jobs, and general economic insecurity (which I definitely am seeing a lot of even with the low headline figures for unemployment) less so.

        That said, my thinking may just be wrong.

      6. @william — this might help: http://www.bettertransport.info/pitf/Sound%20Transit%20Initial%20Segment%20B&A%20Study%20Final%20Report%202012_07_24%20draft.pdf

        The second table in section 5 shows ridership projected and actual ridership as of 2011…not too current, but it might help. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know why the “annualization factor” reverses the numbers, but the list of factors affecting ridership (the first table in the section) makes it seem like ridership is quite a ways off from the numbers initially predicted.

        Those numbers, along with what ends up being the actual final cost (and coming to terms with the perpetual underestimating of build costs) will continue to be interesting postmortem topics.

      7. Re: unemployment levels. According to the BLS, total employees in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area finally surpassed the June 2008 peak on July 2013. I assume that the traditional job centers (e.g., downtown Seattle) get filled first as people had back to work, and that this probably explains the rapid growth. My guess is that this will taper off once those vacancies reach normal levels (fairly soon).

      8. @Jeff…but they are building capacity downtown like you wouldn’t believe…so it may not taper off.

  3. People are discovering, for the first time around here, how much they enjoy getting places fast. And they are moving to take advantage of it. It’s not a coincidence that Columbia City, as a real-estate destination, went from “hot” to “batshit insane” in the years immediately after Link opened.

    Can’t wait for more lines to open.

    1. @David Lawson

      …and they are learning how great it is to be able to go places fast without having to spend lots of time and money finding PARKING. The trouble with finding parking in downtown Seattle alone should be a big enough argument to get people to start using transit. Once they try a real system like link though, its hard to go back…. ;)

      1. People who really want PARKING can still shop or live in Bellevue, Tukwila, or University Village. The majority of people don’t work downtown so parking downtown is irrelevant to them. Yet in spite of these, ridership grows on Link and Metro in southeast Seattle and other places.

      2. @Mike Orr
        I am not saying that I actually want parking, but when I have had occasions where I had to drive downtown, the parking experience made me regret it every time.

        It makes me look forward to the time in which the transit to most parts of town becomes nearly as fast and efficient as going by car so I won’t even have to use one 2-3 times a month.

      3. Parking downtown isn’t really all that difficult… if I’m not being cost conscious I can find it. That said, I’m cheap and I like transit, so all else being equal, I’ll generally ride the bus into town. I do think that sensible discussions need to be had about whether it makes sense for governement to provide free barking out in the suburbs to facilitate this behavior — I certainly enjoy that they do, but I’m not convinced it’s really an efficient use of the money they collect.

  4. What’s weird is how low weekday ridership is vs. Sat. and Sun. ridership. In a normal transit situation you’ve got twice as many people boarding buses and trains on a weekday vs. a Sat. or Sun. Take a look at the figures from the greater NYC area:


    The rail figures are five million boardings on weekdays, vs. 2.8 million boardings on Saturdays. Given the exceedingly high regressive tax costs here, the fact that so few locals use the train to commute means: 1) the station locations are not good, and 2) it really isn’t taking cars off the road.

      1. Link has become very popular with stadium guests especially from South of the city. Even with 4 or 5 people in a car parking at Tukwila or even Sea-Tac and taking Link is cheaper than parking near the stadium, not to mention avoiding the traffic gridlock. I’ve experienced crush loaded platforms of patrons waiting to board trains.

        If this keeps up, ST will need to consider adding non scheduled trains that go directly to ID or Stadium station to load passengers southbound.

      2. You should have seen Link last Saturday evening. I was waiting to head northbound, and saw a crush-loaded southbound train pass every 2-3 minutes. I’ve never seen that in Seattle before! Perfect storm of Mariners and Sounders games ending at the same time.

      3. Cultural life in New York is heavily Manhattan-oriented. People don’t go to Queens much unless they live there or work there, and they don’t go between Queens and Brooklyn much because most of what they want to go to is in Manhattan. Of course, in a city of 7 million “not going much” is still tens of thousands of people, but that doesn’t obscure the dominant trip patterns which are overwhelmingly within Manhattan or to Manhattan. I actually think it should be more balanced by putting more destinations in the other bouroughs, and that Seattle/Pugetopolis is better balanced between downtown and other areas, but changing a deep-set Manhattan bias is not very feasable.

    1. Evil Comparison, look deeper into the numbers. Summer is the only time when weekends start to approach weekday ridership (and this month is an anomaly, only other time Saturdays have been higher was opening weekend). Winter time is a different story. Look at earlier this year, Weekday January 2013 was 50% higher than Saturday 2013.

      Also as was pointed out earlier (in my station data thread), the summer surge in ridership is almost entirely due to four stations, Sea-Tac, Tukwila International Boulevard Station, Stadium Station, and Westlake. Basically travelers and south King County/Pierce County residents going to events and downtown. Almost all of them would have taken I-5 otherwise so even with the summer surge Link is most definitely taking cars off our most important highways.

    2. @ Evil Comparison: I disagree, I think its a healthy sign of people living off the train instead of JUST commuting off it. Chicago’s red line has 85% of weekday ridership on saturdays because people depend on the train for getting around. My station (Grand/State) Sees 10,000 on weekdays and 11,500 on saturdays (magnificent mile shopping and all, backed up by a robust residential population who uses the train to go anywhere). Its not that odd, and is indeed a sign of a healthy train system IMO.

  5. It’s great to see growing ridership!

    I’m curious to know if these are new riders, riders who were using KC Metro, or just better record keeping because of the removal of the free fare zone for the DSTT.

    1. Since Link charged in the RFA, the RFA’s elimination didn’t change the way Link boardings are counted. Only ST Express changed its counting methodology.

      1. That assumes riders are paying their full fare. The incentive to pay full fare is less on an ST Express bus than on a Metro bus, as ST Express drivers don’t have a paper transfer to offer when riders dig in their pockets and put in the last 25 pennies. I’ve never seen anyone given a recorded warning for fare evasion on buses (even RapidRide), although I’ve seen one group of young riders arrested en masse on the 41 when it arrived at Convention Place, with half a platoon of officers waiting for it. They were doing more than just evading the fare.

        ST Express probably has a harder time proving fare evasion when they don’t offer proof-of-payment.

        As for fare evasion on Link, a letter I got back from the ST police department said the fare evasion rate is 4%. (That includes ne’er-do-wells like me, who occasionally double-tap their sufficient monthly pass before boarding.) One thing Erica Barnett picked up on long ago, and that troubles me, is the difference in rider demographics between the 7 and Link. If I am nervous about double-tapping again, running into the same officer, and getting fined even though I’ve clearly pre-paid in full and followed all lawful instructions (which say nothing about double-tapping anywhere I’ve looked), imagine how many southeast Seattleites avoid Link altogether because they can’t afford the train, much less the fines or risk of arrest, and merely hope the bus drivers will let them on for free. Did I mention how overwhelmingly white the fare enforcement division is? I’m betting a low-income ORCA will increase southeast Seattle ridership.

        For some in Southeast Seattle, Link is like Elysium. The rich ride Link. The rest of us ride the 7. It’s better up there.

    2. If Link’s ridership were merely former bus riders, and no new bus riders replaced them on the bus, then there would be a significant decrease on some of the bus routes paralleling Link since 2009. But there has not been a significant decrease in ridership on the 7, 8, or 36. So Link’s net effect in Rainier/Beacon is like being a bus route’s worth of new riders, and TIB is like another route, and SeaTac is like part of a third route.

      (The 106 has probably decreased, but it was changed so extensively that it’s effectively a different corridor than it was. The old 106 was express and doesn’t exist anymore, so it’s less desirable to go downtown in, but the new route opens a corridor to Georgetown that didn’t have a bus previously.)

  6. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) was told by Sound Transit in 2003 — when the $500 million Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) was awarded — that the predicted fall 2011 average weekday light rail ridership would be 32,500, a number not yet reached in the summer of 2013 as the charts above illustrate. This forecast is documented in the Before and After Study cited above in the comment by “brick.”

    1. 31953 vs 32500? Oh my. Stop the presses. We have a major disaster on or hands.

      Give it up John. The numbers are strong and getting better by the minute. The system is working and nobody is having second thoughts. Find something new to complain about..

    2. John, considering Employment numbers in Seattle did not reach 2008 numbers until July of this year (in other words a ‘lost half decade’) only being two years behind estimates made in 2003 is when put in context three years ahead.

      Even better, we are well on our a way to meeting our 2020 goals EVEN WITH the Great Recession.

      Just give it up.

      1. Thanks Matthew for compiling these numbers so we don’t need to refer to Niles’ site any longer.

    3. The FTA also knows that probably every transit system in the country lost ridership in 2008 and is slowly gaining it back, and that would affect its other grant recipients too. The issue is whether ST overestimated potential ridership beyond this cyclical drop. Also, the average employment rate is an average across all professions. Rainier Valley has a disproporionate number of low-skilled workers whose unemployment rate may still be higher.

  7. I’m Curious where the cost per boarding sits when its carrying so many people! Very Exciting!

Comments are closed.