June continued Sound Transit’s run of strong ridership growth. Total Link boardings reached 1,000,000 for the first time. The Sound Transit system as a whole crossed 110k average weekday boardings for the first time.

June’s Central Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday average boardings were 36,486 / 29,077 / 24,782, growth of 14.2%, -1.5%, and 13.4% respectively over June 2013. Saturday is the first negative number I recall for Link, however the weekend average still increased as a whole. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 3.2% with ridership increasing on both lines. Total Tacoma Link weekday ridership increased .9%, hopefully signalling a stabilization of ridership on that line. Weekday ST Express ridership was up 7.4%. System wide weekday boardings were up 8.7%, and all boardings were up 10.3%. The complete June Ridership Summary is here.

My charts below the fold.JUN14WeekdayRidership JUN14WeekendBoardings JUN14WeekdayChange JUN14WeekdayMovingAVG JUN14WeekdayMovingAvgChange

28 Replies to “June 2014 Sound Transit Ridership Report – One MILLION boardings”

  1. It’s good news that the growth is still accelerating as a percentage, ie, the second derivative is positive.

    BTW, I think that first graph is getting enough year-lines that it’s not as useful as it used to be.

    1. I actually like the graph more as it gets more stacked lines – festive! Though this graph will get pretty silly when U-Link opens… this format probably doesnt do so well with giant jumps.

    2. I want to know what happened in December. Looking at the last chart (2nd derivative) up until that point the growth rate was basically stable, moving around 10-11%. However ever since it has been sky rocketing.

    3. Well, Seattle’s had a really weird ridership history here.

      The normal pattern for introducing an urban rail line into a city is that ridership builds up over the first year or two (usually showing a big boom in ridership over any buses which the rail line replaced), but then stabilizes and grows in concert with ridership on the buses, with population, or with employment. You’re seeing this in Minneapolis-St. Paul, for example, where the latest light rail line immediately showed a 20% jump in ridership over the buses it replaced (IIRC). But if that were what was going on, you’d expect a 2%-5% year-over-year growth rate on Link by now.

      It seems like Seattleites were exceptionally conservative and were avoiding Link Light Rail for years, out of conservatism or something. Maybe Seattle’s “anti-rail bias” is finally breaking down. If so, we’ll probably see a big jump up as the social stigma against Link disappears, and then it’ll stabilize to normal growth patterns. Of course, by then U-Link will be opening — but maybe it will have a more “normal” ridership growth pattern, with people switching over to it within the first year or two.

  2. Hello, I did some quick math and I found that the MAX capacity would be 322,400 riders per day; well over some the maximum on the chart.

    That seems low … can you show your math behind this? Someone posted a question on the vacancy, obviously that would be The MAX capacity at every ride, minus these numbers.

    According the schedule, and based on 200 passengers per train, there would be 1612 rides per day = 322400 rides per day.

    -Thank you

    1. With two car trains crush load is 400 per train. 250-300 is a more normal number for a “full” train.

    2. The max capacity is technically way more than that. It’s 200 people per car x 2 cars x stations visits per day (the number of times any train stops at any station per day), because presumably people could get on and off at each station or something.

      1. In Portland’s case now the routes going from point a to downtown and another point b, you’ll have a lot of turnover downtown. Also the zoo has a lot of turnover predictably.

        Same thing will happen with university link. Lots of turnover in downtown

  3. Any Chance of including Sound Transit’s original projections, and their most recent revised projections along with these posts, just for curiosity’s sake. I think it would be really neat to see how actual is turning out relative to projected.

    But I suppose posting downtown’s employment numbers in each of the projections and the actual would be necessary too for context. still, it’d be really interesting.

    1. I believe we’ve been down this path before at STB, at least in the comments section. The question quickly becomes: which projection? The one including the original line with a much different system? The projections before ST’s early financial problems or after? I don’t remember the exact issues with each projection, but none seemed like a good candidate to track. I think we’ll have a better time tracking ST2, as I think so far construction is mostly mirroring the original plan.

      1. I think we have too, but I also think that we’re actually getting close to them, which is why I think it would be neat now. But I just don’t remember what they were. I think 2009’s opening year predictions and 2014 or 2013 (which ever actually exists) would be neat. But I also think noting the employment numbers expected in the 2009, 2013/14 projections and where we actually are alongside them would be interesting too because that helps provide context for why we are over/under. It doesn’t just put up the numbers in a vacuum. And ST2 has already been scaled back from the original vote, so I kind of doubt that it will be any easier to track than ST1 since we voted right at the beginning of the recession, then tax revenue came tumbling down and things got revised. The plans are always predictions made based on the best guess – I just think it would be neat to see what was the best guess. I dunno, maybe not.

      2. Quoting Josh F from the comments section of that post:

        “Well if you’re really looking for the ridership projections that got the project built, the answer would be 107,000 per day for a line from the U-District to Angle Lake (http://www.soundtransit.org/Documents/pdf/news/reports/Sound%20Move/199605_SoundMove_AppendixC_Benefits.pdf page C6)”

        Frankly, I think most of the subsequent projections have had a much more half-assed quality to them than this one. The methodology of the later projections for Central Link was suspect, as it appears to have reused the estimates which were based on Central Link as an extension of the U-Link – Downtown line; but obviously ridership is going to be less if you have to change to a bus to get to the University.

        In 2016 and 2017 after U-Link is open, we can all take a look and see how close the ridership is to the projections. Ridership should be somewhat lower than projections, because the 1996 projections assumed that the US would not mire itself in a decade-long depression, and the US proceeded to mire itself in a decade-long depression.

  4. Love it. I saw this post yesterday but was too busy to post anything. Now, after 20ish hours, there are only 7 replies — and none of the usual whining by the anti-Link, anti-ST crowd.

    Could it be that the continued double digit growth in Link ridership is finally silencing the critics? If so, it’s a real positive development.

    It’s hard to know how long this ridership trend will continue, but it is certainly good news now. And it will all become a moot point anyhow in 2016 when U-Link opens and ridership goes through the roof.

    Can hardly wait.

    1. I love it too!

      Although at some point it has to slow down. Even if Link continues to add people, as the pool of existing riders increases, each new rider adds less and growth as a percentage. Which is why it is weird that the ridership’s rate of increase is actually increasing. Madness.

      1. The whole city is madness right now though. Fastest growing city in the country, a tower crane on every other block – its amazing walking around the place. The pace of expansion in every way here is just un believable! It’s AWESOME to watch!

      2. There seems to have been some sort of weird ridership suppression early on — anti-rail stigma? Conservatism? Because Seattle didn’t get the sort of booming first-year ridership which *every other city in the US* gets when it builds a rail line like this. I think we’re seeing a sort of catch-up growth as people who were, for some reason, avoiding Link decide that Link is OK.

      3. You know why most of those systems have great numbers right out of the gate? PARKING. By not building parking at Link stations, we decided to play the long game and sacrifice initial ridership in exchange for protecting its long-term growth capacity with TOD. Even though very little Rainier Valley TOD has materialized to date, we’re still seeing accelerating growth, which is pretty damn exciting.

      4. At some point it has to slow down and I am sure it will. Of course the Seattle Times will immediately declare that LR has ridership problems, but with the ridership levels we are seeing it is nearly impossible to call Link anything but a success.

        Personally I just hope we continue to see good ridership gains until 2016, at which point the big jump in ridership when U-Link opens will completely reset perceptions of the system.

        All in all, very good news all around.

      5. Link’s initial growth was stunted by several things.
        1) “Save Our Valley” types boycotting it.
        2) The recession.
        3) The several-year halt in building construction.
        4) Lack of crosstown service to reach the station.
        5) Poor people (cash riders, non-English speaking riders) hesitant to use it.

        All of these have gradually diminished over time, although they’re not entirely gone.

        Re crosstown service, Metro was going to boost the 39 (now 50) between Seward Park and Othello station when Link opened, but then the City Council gave the 42 a one-year reprieve and those hours got swallowed. The 50 has since gotten frequent part of the time, but evenings/Sundays it’s hourly, and its off-hours Seward Park ridership is so dismal it’s hard to justify more than that. (However, Admiral/Alki should clearly have more frequency.)

      6. Zach: No, it isn’t just lack of parking. There’s no parking on the Minneapolis Central Corridor route, for example, and I believe there was no *new* parking on the Hiawatha Line (though there was a gobload of old parking at places like the Mall of America). Yet they showed the *standard* ridership buildup pattern, with people flocking to the lines immediately.

        Mike: thanks for your explanations. The lack of crosstown service is an interesting one: most cities immediately restructure their bus networks to connect to the rail line and use it efficiently; Seattle didn’t really do that. That could be a large part of it.

  5. I’ll echo the sense that there was some “weirdness” around light rail in this city early on. I was born and raised here, spent 7 years in Chicago not owning a car, and moved back in 2007. In Chicago, rents are higher the closer to rail stations you were. Apartments had lower vacancy rates. Property values reflected it. On our return to Seattle, we bought a house close to Link. Explaining this logic to people, we mostly got blank stares and flat responses. They didn’t believe it. They thought we were being mooney-eyed speculators and were destined to be disappointed.

    We still get people in our neighborhood going “huh…” wonderingly, when we tell them we fly downtown from Columbia City on the light rail with the family on weekends, shop, eat, hang out, and fly home. It literally doesn’t occur to them they could be using it for something other than commuting and maybe the ballgame.

    Seattle has an ingrained car culture and mindset. People are just dense about transit and its actual impacts on mobility, property, neighborhoods, etc. We still just barely ‘get it.’ Weird.

    1. In Moscow and London too, rents go up predictably the closer you are to a station. But those are long-established systems. Link is new, and Seattle hasn’t had comprehensive frequent transit since the 1940s, so more people’s first choice is cars and they don’t know much about the transit network. Link’s initial segment is also in a redlined area that a lot of people are still paranoid about going to; that’s the only reason it hasn’t become a huge construction-and-luxury-unit mecca like Capitol Hill and the U-District.

      Rents will inevitably skew toward the Chicago/London/Moscow model as Link gets more established and built out. I just hope that Link and comprehensive frequent transit keeps a step ahead of it, so that people who are pushed out of the most prestigious station areas will have places to move to without having to suffer half-hourly buses that take an hour to get to downtown. In those other cities rapid transit goes everywhere so there are many neighborhoods to choose from, some less expensive than others. But in Seattle there are only two or three neighborhoods approaching Chicago’s level of transit, so you either live there or you’re effectively in suburbia. We must spread comprehensive transit out before the “station rent premium” factor goes into high gear.

      1. “Link’s initial segment is also in a redlined area that a lot of people are still paranoid about going to”

        I wonder how much this had to do with it. I can’t actually think of many other cities where the very first line built went mostly through a formerly redlined neighborhood and stoked bigotry-based fears.

        There’s LA and the Blue Line, of course, but in LA the latent demand was monumental and everyone’s ridership models were vastly underestimating the level of rail bias, so it had great first-year numbers anyway. I think it did show an unusual level of later growth, if I remember correctly…

        There’s also San Diego’s Blue Line, but I don’t know much about its ridership history…

    2. Thanks for this interesting comment, nullbull.

      In many other cities with brand new lines, you did not get the same reaction; people (and developers!) were slavering over locations near the first Minneapolis, San Diego, Portland, and even Dallas and Houston light rail lines from day one. I suppose this really does indicate some sort of cultural difference in Seattle going in.

  6. The line from Westlake Mall to Tukwila was forecast to have 42,500 average weekday boardings in 2020, including 29,000 new riders daily. That was the estimate to the feds to get the New Starts money in 2002. You can see that in the FTA 2003 ffga report:


    Those numbers went up of course when the extension to the airport was built, as that station was a huge people-magnet.

    The agency has not come close to serving 29,000 new riders daily (most of the riders are transplants from buses and tourists/occasional riders).

    1. Wallace — seems like they will hit 42k by 2020 considering the added utility of the system with U-Link opening. Re: New riders: Don’t people who would have taken a taxi or rented a car at the airport count? Why not? Also — do we have data on how many people are new riders on the system? LInk is more popular a multiple over the bus lines it replaced. I’m interested to see if U to Angle Lake can make 100k by 2020. Conventional wisdom is that it will be a little short of that goal, but if you add in the First Hill Street Car numbers (which you should, its mitigation for the lack of the First Hill Station) it will probably make it. I’m guessing U-Link will be even more popular than its projections.

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