Oct13MvgAvgAnother month, another double digit weekday ridership gain for Link and the fifth month in a row of over 30,000 weekday riders.

October’s Central Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday boardings were 30,423/21,058/22,200, growth of 11.6%, 5.8%, and 28.8% respectively over October 2012. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 2% (up 2% on the South Line, North Line was almost the same as last year).  Total Tacoma Link ridership was down 5.8% with weekday ridership declining 6.2%. Weekday ST Express ridership was up 6%, with most growth occurring on Crosslake, South King and Pierce routes. Complete October Ridership Summary here.

Link has seen double digit weekday ridership growth nine out of the past twelve months, and October year to date total ridership was up 10.7% compared to October of last year.

My Link charts below the fold.


28 Replies to “October 2013 Sound Transit Ridership Report”

    1. I would imagine a big part of it (from a few years ago at least) was the relocation of Frank Russell’s headquarters from Tacoma to Seattle. Probably unrelated to the year-over-year change though.

    2. Sound Transit recently added an extra stop to Tacoma Link. Sounds good for ridership at first glance, except that the spacing was already pretty close, and the new station was already within walking distance of the existing stations. Meanwhile, stopping at the extra stop messed up the signal timings, forcing trains into 12 minute, rather than 10 minute headways weekdays, or 24 minute, rather than 20 minute headways on Sundays. All in all, slower travel times, and longer wait times, mean fewer riders.

      And if ST starts charging fares for the service, expect ridership to fall off a cliff.

  1. Does anyone know where most of the additional riders are traveling to/from?
    The Ride Free Area ended last September, so it seems logical that Link is capturing a fair share of former bus riders who now have to pay in the DSTT.

    1. Ah. So what you are saying is that for all these years Link ridership has been artificially suppressed because it has been competing with a “free” bus system in the DSTT? And that now that Link is competing on a more equal footing its ridership is surging?

      Personally I don’t believe it. There is no obvious change in the trend-line associated with the end of the RFZ, and ridership on all modes is generally up anyhow.

      1. Ah, nothing so sinister as you suggest. Just wondering why.
        Metro ridership in the same period was flat (’12-382k v ’13-385k), and only grew an average of less than 2% since Link started up. Both had the same service levels over that period.

      2. @mic: Should this really be surprising? Link provides better transit service (faster and more reliable between most destination pairs) than Seattle has ever had. Since Link opened people have been moving, new development has happened, and connecting transit has been adjusted in ways that complement Link. These changes have happened gradually and are still happening (especially near Mount Baker).

        When people move near Link stations today, sometimes this doesn’t result in a population increase because they’re replacing people that have moved out… but the people moving in are more likely to value Link, which is both a cause and a result of higher housing prices near stations. Uniquely excellent transit service attracts more people and more new development, and thus higher prices; people that don’t care about excellent transit service are less likely to tolerate the higher cost and move out. This is far from an unequivocally positive phenomenon (it might be a boon for incumbent property owners and be displacement for renters), but if ridership growth outstrips population and job growth that could be part of the reason.

      3. We moved to Columbia City in April 2012, b/c of Link. It took me six months to get a job where I could take Link to work. Even then, due to the need to transfer, it was 35-50 minutes instead of 25 driving so if I were running late I would just drive. It wasn’t until last month that I got a job DT and so take it everyday.

        My wife just got a job in SLU, so she’ll go from a car commute to Issaquah to Link commute in January.

        In other words, it takes time for people to adjust to a totally new option like Link.

      4. October 2012 was the first full month without the RFZ, and the first full month for the highly-promoted C/D Line (which is getting daily ridership only a binary order of magnitude less than Link). People who have never ridden transit before were trying the RapidRide, (and some then complaining about having to stand, wait a few minutes for the next bus when one was packed and they wanted to wait for a less-packed bus, or just didn’t like that the bus wasn’t showing up in perfect intervals of every eight minutes, and then followed through on threats to go back to driving if they didn’t start getting a bus showing up right on time and having a seat for them).

    2. I think it would be more interesting to compare these trend lines against the population growth of downtown.

    3. I think it’s dishonest, or at least mistaken, to cite Link’s “superior transit service” as the reason for an uptick in ridership, when pretty much all public transit competition was eliminated due to phony excuse of “duplication of service.”

      In manufacturing, there’s something called planned obsolescence, where a product is designed in such a way that people have to buy it multiple times. Designing products in this way stimulates demand because consumers keep having to buy the product over and over again. Similarly, Link was designed in such a way as to not alleviate freeway congestion. When you combine that fact with other recent strategic maneuvers from various groups to: Reduce road and freeway lanes, fight new road construction, fight parking spaces, advocated for increased MVET, and so on, what you have is a light rail system that is designed to slightly increase its ridership, but not because of any inherently superior service, but because the other options are becoming too costly in terms of time and money.

      PS, I hope you people know how lucky you are that I’ve chosen this blog to honor with my wisdom and insight.

      1. So, Sam:

        If the full-length 42 were still around, running every half hour, would you eschew Link in its favor?

        If you were standing at the Beacon Hill Red Apple and needed to get downtown, would you eagerly get on the 36?

        I can only assume you like to spend extra time on public transit when you don’t have to. That’s interesting given how much you like to criticize public transit.

      2. David, with the routes 36 and 42, the answer is no, I would not take them instead of Link. But with the old route 194,, for most hours of the day, I would take that from the airport to downtown over Link. And in the future, for most of the hours of the day, I would take the route 545 from the OTC to downtown over Link, if the 545 is still running.

        Here’s my point. There are other factors that are causing Link’s ridership increase than just its own awesomeness.

      3. It makes zero sense to attribute Link’s increase in ridership between 2012 and 2013 to the cancellation of the 194 when the very last trip on the 194 happened in February 2010.

      4. I wasn’t attributing Links increase to the cancellation of the 194. I was saying that I would take Link over the routes you listed, but take other bus routes over Link. I’m not anti-transit. I think King County has one of the best bus systems in America. And ST has a very good express bus system. And not even against light rail. When alignments are designed smartly, and not overly compromised or overly political, then that mode can’t be beat.

      5. Let me ask you this – if the 194 were still running and you were waiting in the tunnel and saw a Link train come first (which, it most likely would, due to its superior frequency), would you take it, or let it go by in hopes of a 194 arriving soon.

      6. I think King County has one of the best bus systems in America.

        Spoken like a person who consistently claims to make a habit of not leaving his house.

      7. Thank you again Sam for taking time from your hectic ‘Transportation Guru’ duties to ponder my little question. At least you make as much or more sense as others just saying it’s better because it’s better. If, on the other hand the 10% increase mostly came from something else, and that was something that Metro could do also, a 10% bump in bus ridership would be a nice Christmas present.

      8. “When alignments are designed smartly, and not overly compromised or overly political, then that mode can’t be beat.”

        Sam, what are your criteria for a “smart” v. a “compromised” or “political” alignment? And could you point to an example of a “smart” alignment here, either built or planned?

      9. Let’s see: The 34 and 39 already didn’t exist a year ago. The RFZ already didn’t exist a year ago. The Sounders hosted the same number of October mid-week matches (two) in 2013 as they did in 2012. So, the huge year-on-year grown in ridership should be attributed to the cancellation of the 42 in February (causing both its riders to choose Link over, say, transferring to the equally awesome 7).

  2. Am I the only one noticing that Sunday ridership is higher than Saturday ridership? Of course Seahawks games must’ve contributed to it but that means a lot of people taking link to the game (which is a good thing!)

    1. According to the ridership analysis, “Average Sunday boardings on Central Link were up almost 29%
      due to strong event ridership on Sundays.” But, there was only one Seahawks home game in October…I wonder if there were some other events going on.

      1. Attendance for the Galaxy match on Sunday, October 27, 2013 was 66,216. That was the only Sunday home match in October, with no Saturday home matches.

        Attendance for the Timbers match on Sunday, October 7, 2012 was 66,452. Attendance for the FC Dallas match on Sunday, October 21 was 38,755. There were no Saturday home matches in October 2012.

        So, the Sounders helped Sunday ridership beat Saturday ridership, but total Sounders ridership probably decreased, year-on-year.

        The attendance figures for the two October 2012 mid-week matches aren’t shown, but I doubt they are significantly less than the attendance for the two October 2013 mid-week matches, totalling 70,000.

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