August14MvgAvgGrowthLast month I asked when Link’s ridership was going to slow down. Hope you didn’t pick August, because Link grew a whopping 21% in that month!

August’s Central Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday average boardings were 39,210 / 30,159 / 27,458, growth of 21.0%, 0.5%, and 13.3% respectively over August 2013. Similar to June and July Saturday was low, however the weekend average still increased as a whole. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 14.4% with ridership increasing on both lines. Tacoma Link’s weekday ridership decreased 1.9%. Weekday ST Express ridership was up 6.4%. System wide weekday boardings were up 11.5%, and all boardings were up 7.7%. The complete August Ridership Summary is here.

My charts below the fold.August14WeekdayAugust14GrowthAugust14MvgAvgAugust14MvgAvgGrowth

92 Replies to “August 2014 Sound Transit Ridership Report – My Oh My”

  1. Spectacular! How could the Globaltelemetrics data be so wrong? I think I sense some pundits rolling over in their credibility grave right now….

    It’s time to move Link to 6 min headways and accelerate moving DSTT buses to the surface to accomadate.

    1. I agree that peak-of-peak Link frequency ought to be increased a little … next summer.

      If Metro were to move the 255 upstairs sooner rather than later, and either allow more buses to board at a bay or split the Bay A buses, that tortuous 16-minute northbound peak-of-peak tunnel trip could be reduced enough to save ST a trainset *and* save Metro a chunk of change from cutting a few minutes off of each of its northbound runs.

      That said, I expect the need to add more 550s will be even more urgent. Repeated pleas for riders to move back, all the way back, yes further please, could become a serious drag if not remedied with more elbow room.

      The same could be said for the upper sections on the end of each Link car. Folks, move all the way to the end of the car, so that Link’s capacity is truly being fully utilized, please. Standing in the mid-section is also okay.

      1. Lazarus, and Brent, as well as Dow Constantine, the whole King County Council, ST Deputy CEO Mike Harbour and the Sound Transit Board:

        1. Quit using bus fareboxes in the DSTT and put fare collection off board and policed by fare inspection- starting this next Monday morning.

        You’ll double your boarding capacity (one door times two) and give people two shorter aisles to fill instead of one long one.

        2. Re-assign and retrain DSTT security guards to become station agents, directing passengers around stations and most of all getting all their questions answered so drivers will never have to do it.

        More efficient circulation will immediately make stations safer. And if personnel keep their radios, they can call the police to handle real threats- with same result.

        3. Start working on a long list of other measures to improve operations- including reinstating some of the capabilities built into the DSTT but never implemented.

        4. After that, finish a complete network of bus lanes and signal pre-empt all over Downtown Seattle- with county to follow.

        When surface ops mean streets instead of parking spaces, then start putting buses on the upper side of the pavement.

        In other words, get the vet, let the foreleg heal, and above all stop re-breaking it daily like Mob involvement before you send Sea Biscuit to the glue factory. Win in a walk. Bet on it.


      2. @brent

        6 mins IS the next service level, and anything less won’t satisfy the ridership demand anyhow.


        Metro shouldn’t invest anymore scarce tax dollars on DSTT ops. We all know buses come out in 2019 anyhow, and in 25 plus years of operation Meteo has NEVER been able to operate the tunnel to its full potential. They need to face the facts and start to just move on.

        Now it is back to Oysterfest for me……

      3. @Lazarus,

        Service levels are not quantum mechanics. The overcrowding is a spike within one particular hour, not a reason to congest the tunnel for three hours.

        ST has two Link operators on standby to insert extra trains when needed. I hope ST adjusts the regular schedule to add one or two trains during the busiest hour as next summer apporaches. Beyond that is overkill.

      4. @Brent,

        That is why when you move Link to 6 min headways you also move one or two bus routes to the surface. Because while increasing the frequency of your most reliable mode while simultaneously reducing the frequency of your least reliable and most problematic mode you raise overall reliability for everyone using the tunnel.

        Surfacing some bus routes is a win-win for all remaining DSTT users, and if you surface those routes that you already know will be supplanted by Link after the UW extension opens, then really nobody is inconvenienced.

    2. The reason why the increase in ridership on Link is because the word has gotten out that you don’t have to pay. Fare evasion is a given by more riders than you can imagine. My unscientific observation would estimate that Sound Transit is content to overlook the multitudes that ride free. After all, you don’t have to contend with a bus driver insisting that you must pay fare. When the trains are packed (as they most frequently are during rush hours), fare inspectors are powerless in catching cheaters. Furthermore, once they remove one or two cheater, the rest of the load is free to go. The savings by cheaters are well worth the risk of paying the $124 fine for non payment of fare. It would be very beneficial for Sound Transit to have a system where you have to pay to get onto the loading platform. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars that would come through the “farebox” annually if this was the payment system.

      1. There is nothing that stops fare enforcement from making one of the Link only stations temporarily into a prove your payment on the way out/way in system. Get three or four teams of fare enforcement, two or three teams could check the fares, and one or two could issue tickets. They could also have King County Sheriffs already onsite to support.

      2. @Nick

        I’ve actually had this happen a few times at TIBS- the fare enforcement officers checked people as they got on or off the escalator/stairs. It was a bit annoying the one time it happened when I was late and running to catch the train.

        In principle, they could do fare inspections at any of the Link stations outside the downtown tunnel, and when the buses are kicked out of the tunnel, they could check tickets and Orca cards at the DSTT stations as well.

  2. Why, Why, Why?
    21% gains, 5 years after start-up are unprecedented. Clearly Link is doing a lot right to get to this point, but I see little factual analysis as to why. Anecdotal evidence or plain old opinion is all I hear, but nailing this down is really important, as Metro ridership is relatively flat in comparison. Smarter people than I should have some answers by now, and see if those facts are transportable to Metro operations.
    Weekday Link ridership is close to Sat/Sun, so it’s not hoards of commuters filling up mega-P&R lots. Which station pairs grew fastest? That would be a huge clue.
    Anyone else have factual data on WHY?

      1. Because that way they can’t rise from the dead, suck the transmission fluid, and eat the tires of the living.

        Sheesh, forget Dr. Van Helsing and Brad Pitt! Doesn’t anybody ever read their warranty or listen to their insurance agent?


      2. It seems like understanding why Link has had 2 years of double-digit ridership growth would help ST improve the accuracy of future ridership forecasts, allowing them to make better decisions about capital expenditures and service provisioning. In the longer run, understanding what drives ridership growth could help better plan future Link lines and extensions.

        Looking at the ridership reports, it looks like ST has been underestimating Link’s ridership growth- in the June 2014 Service Delivery Report, Link’s year-to-date boardings was 11.6% higher than what they had “budgeted” for. This doesn’t matter much when there’s slack in the system, but when we approach the limits of Link capacity for a given headway and train length, ST needs better forecasting. It looks like we’ll be reaching such a point next summer, when Link may need to go to 6 minute peak headways to meet demand. Then we may reach the limits of peak capacity again sometime between the opening of U-Link and Northgate Link, and need 3 or even 4 car trains, which would probably require ST to expedite their purchase of light rail vehicles.

        Aside from the bump in ridership when the new stations open in 2016, ST seems to be forecasting 3-6% annual ridership growth through 2019. If the ridership growth is closer to what it has been since 2012, they would need to revise their service and capital plans. It would be useful to understand why the growth has been so high- if the same factors will remain in place for the rest of the decade, then ST should revise it’s future ridership estimate upwards, and revise it’s service and purchasing plans.

        It also might be worth taking a look at whether the ridership estimates for the proposed options studied under ST’s Long Range Plan should be revised in light of Central Link’s ridership growth.

      3. Now if Sound Transit would understand this data, and use it when making future decisions about ST 3. All I see about ST 3 is “new new new” studies, “Screen lines” (who came up with this stupidity), etc., etc. etc. instead of taking their real world information, expanding upon that to come up with the next major round of service improvement.

      1. Wait. Is Seattle heavily subsidizing parking, and not giving buses priority, just to raise parking productivity numbers? I don’t think I buy that.

      2. Right, genius. All those parking meters on Edmunds, Ferdinand, Hudson and Alaska are driving the poor gentrifiers of Columbia City to abandon their cars and take Link! Oh the humanity!

        Link goes nowhere near the “Pike and Pine area on Capitol Hill”. At least, not yet.

        Normally your emesis has some vague connection to reality. This however is ideological grasping at straws.

      3. Parking fees: Bus riders don’t pay for downtown parking, either. And their ridership has gone up too. And that was the explicit intention of the fees: to drive people to transit (but not specifically Link). So you can blame parking fees for the increase that’s common to bus and Link, but not for the Link-specific increase.

        So what other reasons could there be? Please take a ride on the 71/72/73X between 7:30am-noon or 4-8pm, or the 550 at rush hour or on some weekends. Note how traffic sometimes adds 15-30 minutes to the trip, and how the buses are often 10-30 minutes late and you miss your transfer, the change fumblers, and the discomfort of standing on a bus — compared to a train with four large doors, more standing room, off-board payment, less danger of delay, more all-day frequency, and less stress. The train attracts both bus riders, those who can’t get on a bus because it’s full or they can’t risk a 30-minute delay, and those who like the greater convenience of Link. P.S. Real-time arrival signs for Link would boost ridership even more.

      4. Truth is, Sam, that for decades we’ve been subsidizing huge amounts of parking for motorists- but it really would be better if we stopped giving them misleading names like Stewart Street, I-5, the SR 520 and I-90 floating bridges, and stuff like that.

        By all the rules of parking everywhere though, public and private, we’re entitled to have the lots patrolled by meter maids. And having towing companies “boot” cars overstaying their time.
        Mitigating punishment, or course, by fact that tow trucks can’t get into the lots, and neither violators or anybody else are going to sneak out.

        So let’s get onto Congress and other relevant authorities to apply truth in labeling laws and change Interstate sign shapes from shields to Diamonds with “D” capitalized.

        Unfortunately, a major part of the subsidy is really hard to advertize- since I only know about the Sixth Fleet and a sky-full of drones and jets because Edward Snowden told me. And now that you know too, we’re both dog-meat.

        Good company, though. The late Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa is thought to be part of a freeway somewhere in the east. Really will miss Charming Rita.


      5. And that was the explicit intention of the fees: to drive people to transit (but not specifically Link). So you can blame parking fees for the increase that’s common to bus and Link, but not for the Link-specific increase.

        I disagree. People in Tacoma have told me that the reason they started charing for downtown parking is that parking spaces were occupied for such long periods during so many days that businesses were complaining that people couldn’t find anywhere to park.

        There are only so many parking spaces available on the side of each street, and you only need several people to occupy them to consume them all. Parking garages are hugely expensive to build. This is why some hotels in Seattle charge as much as $45 a day if a guest brings a car with them.

        If anything is being subsidized, it is on-street parking.

        Sam, I know you are a good conservative. So, don’t you agree that government should not compete with private industry? Shouldn’t the government get out of the business of publicly subsidized parking, eliminate all on-street parking, and let private business handle it instead? Even the cheapest parking structure in Seattle is $3 per hour.
        Yet, the core area of downtown Seattle charges only $2.50 per hour!
        This is obviously unfair government competition with private industry, and thus the more publicly subsidized parking that is eliminated from the street the better.

        At least, that is what I usually hear most conservatives talking about when it comes to government providing a service that competes with private industry.

        If I am wrong about what the usual thinking is, then please correct me.

    1. Agreed. Given the lack of meaningful upzones and TOD, amply evidenced by Joe’s depressing Othello station photo below, this is a bit of a head-scratcher.

      1. Othello is about to get several large projects so that photo will be a great historical archive soon.

    2. As for station growth, it’s been very well distributed between Rainier Valley stations on one end and downtown on the other. The airport has contributed, but Rainier Valley-downtown travel is really what’s driving this growth.

      I would guess, especially given the even distribution of the growth, that’s a combination of several factors:

      1) Continued fast residential growth in Columbia City
      2) People near Othello, many of whom are not English speakers, getting more comfortable with using the train
      3) People along the 7, 8, and 36 getting more comfortable with transferring from the bus to the train at Mt. Baker or BHS, as they realize just how slow the 7 and 36 really are through the ID

      1. Myself and a few others I know do this. Transfer at Westlake though and try to avoid the 7 entirely.

    3. Ok, so then instead of you tools yappin’ at me, why don’t you try answering mic’s question. At least I made an attempt. Answer the question or continue on with your echo chamber.

      1. “Heavily subsidize the product, then make the alternatives hurt, or eliminate them altogether.”
        Sound about right. It has nothing to do with parking though. The alternative is Metro, and it is getting worse, not better.

        Meanwhile, as David said, more people are living in the area and figuring out that while Link is not great, it beats the alternative (the alternative as being stuck in traffic or riding Metro).

      2. Sorry Brent. I was at conservation land trust Board retreat all day, and just got home. I care about the answer from the professional transit planners or others, but I have nothing to add to the discussion that is factual evidence, useful to charting courses for others success stories to be told..

    4. Can Metro improve service as much as Link? Can Metro alleviate bunching, crowding, and delays during peak hours and major events to that degree? If not it won’t grow like that.

      I wouldn’t expect this particular pattern of growth over time in most of Seattle. UW and the I-5 corridor are already primed for high ridership at the outset. Where Link stations south of Stadium could largely be considered new transit nodes, the other planned stations in Seattle are mostly at existing transit centers or neighborhood centers. Many stations will have prominent P&Rs, which provide initial riders but won’t contribute to year-over-year growth. Bel-Red, where the construction won’t be nearly done when the trains start running, might have a pattern like this. Northgate, too, for a different reason — its prominent auto-oriented businesses are still going strong, with no plans for replacement yet, but after Link opens changes oriented toward the new stream of people arriving on foot are inevitable.

      I think it’s also the case that the first Link line primed the rest of the city for faster growth. It took developers some time to buy into the idea that people would really find it that attractive, and it won’t take them so long along future lines.

      1. Metro could use a few localized light rail lines of its own. Not quite Link mind you due to the construction cost, but something more like MAX yellow line, only actually going somewhere.

        Why? $0.51 per passenger per mile for one. Better reliability over buses for another.

      2. Can Metro improve service as much as Link?

        No. Not unless it has more money, which seems unlikely. Sounds Transit has grown from half empty buses and trains, to three quarter full buses and trains. Metro has reached capacity on a lot of their lines. They would love to max those out and run those buses a lot more often, but they can’t, unless they cut other buses. Doing so would then violate their unwritten mandate: to provide transit for a wide region. Sound Transit has no such mandate. Sound Transit doesn’t have to worry about cutting bus service to Magnolia, because unlike Metro, it never had bus service to Magnolia.

        Of course, that doesn’t mean Metro can’t run better routes, like this:
        But even though that would be much better, ridership would probably level off pretty quickly, as riders got tired of trying to cram onto buses, seeing full buses pass them by, etc.

      3. That’s exactly the problem. They can’t possibly provide any improvements in service using only buses. They have maxed out their capacity by maxing out their capacity to pay for service.

        MAX yellow line was paid for by a mixture of urban development funds, federal grants, and assorted other funds that did not require the extensive process of a more expensive route.

        It is the same type of funding mechanism that was used to build the South Lake Union line, only instead of building it for 60 foot long trains running in mixed traffic in the street it was built for 200 foot long trains separated from traffic in the road median.

        Sure, it would have been nice had TriMet had the budget to build something fast like Link. They didn’t, however, and bus route #5 was a horribly overcrowded and slow mess that no longer worked as a bus route.

        It was a 5 year project from the start of planning in 1999 to opening day of service in 2004, and cost $350 million.

        I have a lot of respect for Link as it is what is needed for the longer distance trips, but the only solution for slow, overcrowded bus routes that are expensive per passenger to operate is:

        1. Make it separated from traffic.

        2. Use higher capacity vehicles.

        2 isn’t going to be possible as Metro is already using the longest legal road vehicle in the USA. Making service separated from traffic means creating dedicated lanes.

        So, you wind up looking at an intermediate capacity light rail project.

      4. Which Metro route would have a nice simple street light-rail conversion with dedicated ROW where it needs it? The Westlake Streetcar would inevitably run in mixed traffic everywhere there’s typically congestion: SLU, the Fremont Bridge, lower Fremont, and Ballard. With that level of reliability you don’t need capacity because nobody will bother to ride. Maybe if we build a 3rd Ave W car bridge and designate ROW on the existing bridge and its approaches for transit then we can revisit that idea.

        Downtown speed won’t be great even with dedicated ROW, but that’s just as true in Portland, and the 1st Ave thingy might have dedicated ROW (on 1st only) if it gets built. Shame the big transfer node is so far uphill, or you could picture it continuing as a surface light-rail line to Ballard. So there are the options near Lake Union (aside from the U District, which is finally getting a subway soon).

        Then you have Capitol Hill and First Hill, where the FHSC will one day have vehicles and start running. The routes to/from downtown are too steep (or have grade breaks that are too crazy) for long vehicles. The routes between them aren’t wide enough for dedicated ROW. So much for that idea. SF-style neighborhood surface rail might be a good fit in parts of the Central District (it’s close enough to so many places that it doesn’t typically need super-high speed), but good luck finding the ROW to avoid horrible reliability through the congested parts.

      5. Well we are seeing SDOT take a roll in improving Metro with bus lanes and BRT like Madison BRT

      6. Other than perhaps Aurora North of the ship canal I can’t really think of a corridor with the demand to justify rail, the space needed for dedicated lanes, and relatively low grades. Even then you are faced with the problem of what to do about the ship canal crossing, something that won’t be cheap, especially if you want to keep transit out of mixed traffic.

    5. It’s really ST who should be asking this. Who are the new riders and why are they appearing now? Are the overall answers to where people live, why they’re taking Link, where they’re going, and whether they previously used a bus for the same trip changing over time?

      The default urbanist theory is that the pent-up demand for quality transit is larger than people assume, and that’s what’s happening now. Some of it is conscious demand: people know they’re going to take Link as soon as it opens. Other is unconscious demand: people don’t initially think they want Link, but as time goes on they realize how convenient it is and start taking it.

      Eliminating the alternatives: Metro has done little of that. The number of people who used to be on the 39 and 42 is a small fraction of Link’s growth, and it all occurred five years ago, not now. Looking at the extensions, it’s well known which routes were/will be replaced: the 194, 550, and 512. So we automatically subtract those riders. But again, that has nothing to do with Link’s growth this year or last year or the year before.

      1. ST’s ‘Before and After Study’ (required for FTA funding of the line), took a deep dive into what actually happened two years after start up. It’s been five years, and ST is now meeting those original projections going towards 2020. Now would be a good time to dust off the study, and have the consultant update the numbers, which would show not only where and when the ridership gains occurred, how corridor buses contribute or detract from that mode share, and possibly what is driving this double digit growth with a good sampling of riders over several weeks.
        I really think there is something to be learned from this, and hope ST has the same curiosity that I have. If the ‘Choice Rider’ is showing up because of X, Y, ans Z, then perhaps Metro can target those same riders on other corridors – both long and short term. If it’s just rail bias, then Metro is pretty much screwed!

      2. It’s not just rail bias, Link is hands down a superior product to anything else available (or even possible) in this region.

    6. Well, for one, the recession has impacted Metro much more than ST. Metro has been telling people that bus cuts are coming for the last 6 months, and warning that bus cuts would be necessary sans more funding the previous 11 months. Meanwhile, Sound Transit is pounding out ST3, ST2 already passed, and are building out link to Bellevue, Lynnwood and the U-District, as well as talking about making link run every 6 minutes and doubling individual train capacity. People who would take Metro don’t want to start now because it’s about to get reduced, while people that live in the vicinity of Link are riding more (for everything, hence why weekend almost matches weekday), because Link is not getting reduced, and is in fact only growing. That might be part of the reason.

      1. Another reason that Sound Transit may be doing so well ridership wise is they also operates the more “premier” and heavy ridership services. When they started up, they took over the 226 (550) from metro, 590-595 from PT, and later inherited the old 194 from Metro in the form of the 574 (a new route that existed since startup), 577 and 578. They also added more service along the long haul/choice corridors. When they did so they freed up a lot of service hours to be re-invested in local service (or as in the case of PT offset the I-695 cuts) but left the local agency’s with whatever was left. Its interesting to note that even with the lack of a cash fare transfer they still seem to be doing well ridership wise.

      2. Mr. Z is making a very important point here.

        Here’s a theory: Certain of the King County Metro lines in places population, jobs, or bus service increased (the C Line in West Seattle, the Highway 520 routes, the A Line in SeaTac and Tukwila, 218 to Issaquah Highlands, the 70-series buses in SLU) are gaining ridership by one-quarter to one-half since the recession, and/or they overflow. But Metro as an agency shows smaller percentage growth because the denominator (400,000 boardings for every route in the county) is bigger than Link’s (which started just shy of 20k/day in 2009). And some of Metro’s riders have switched to Link, including cross-downtown trips.

    7. These last several months I’ve had to make frequent pm rush hour trips southward from Seattle. Through a corridor where rush hour street and highway transit blockages are a hundred percent given, both LINK and Sounder are the only services that keep moving while everything on rubber tires is stuck.

      For this reason, between IDS and Sea-Tac, and between King Street Station and Tacoma, LINK and Sounder are generally more reliable than ST Express buses like the 594- even though scheduled Sounder time takes twice as long as the competing bus ride.

      Sounder often experiences delays over problems I wish ST would quit calling “issues” (terrible train-related folk song lyrics: “He come around a hill and his brave heart stood still ’cause he had issues with the headlight in his eyes”…you see my point.)

      But I still prefer to ride Sounder, not only because highway issues with traffic are always more aggravating than the ones affecting trains, but also because even a slow train has both leg- and bathrooms.

      And seating with tables makes an hour of work time available every trip. In other words, many of passengers’ choices owe to things that aren’t quantifiable- which gives computer-interpreted surveys a lot of trouble.

      Mark Dublin

    8. Is there more Metro can do to improve the quality of their service? Yes of course there is, this blog has highlighted more than a few of them.

      However I don’t think there is much that can be learned from looking at Link as it is such a totally different, a totally superior product. The only way to replicate Link’s success is to build more Link, which we’re doing.

      I look forward to your support for an ST3 package that will build even more.

    9. Why?

      Because, for reasons I don’t fully understand, Link underperformed terribly for its first few years. It’s now catching up to where it *should have been all along*. Other cities get the extra ridership within a year; for Link, it took over 5 years.

      I don’t know why Seattle was so culturally resistant to Link at first. Perhaps developers didn’t build as much infill, transit-oriented development; in most cities, they build and open that *before* the transit line actually opens, in anticipation of it.

      But anyway, the results here are, in my opinion, entirely a matter of “catching up” with the numbers you would have predicted if Seattle had been like Minneapolis, San Diego, LA, etc.

    10. Maybe we don’t know why (outside of the anecdotal explanations) because the city is growing so insanely fast right now that we can barely count people, let alone account for the massive shifts in mobility choices they are making. The transportation system isn’t even done initially digesting Uber and Car2Go, biking numbers are spiking, infrastructures are hitting tipping points all over the city, and faster than planners and budgets can account for them. Combine all this change with a huge increase in population and density and we have a recipe for an equation whose variables are… well… massively variable right now.

      I think it’s just really, very dynamic out there, and there is no system in the city immune from the effect of this insane boom we’re going through.

      I bet we don’t get this sorted until the population increases slow, the cranes dwindle down to a more reasonable number, vacancy rates on dense rental properties go up to something more sustainable, etc. And by then, ULink will have opened and we’ll be staring Northgate and East Link in the eye.

      Buckle up.

  3. It doesn’t have data for station pairs, but a few months back Matthew posted number showing per station growth:

    Anecdotally (sorry) my neighbors and I are part of this growth thanks to Columbia City adding lots of new housing and new people. When we talk amongst ourselves about why we decided to move to CC the proximity to Link is a big factor. Proximity to a Metro line doesn’t quite have that same ring.

    1. This. I know a couple who built a lovely new house on Hudson when Link was under construction for about $450K. They recently sold it for $750K. Sixty-five percent is a pretty darn good return on seven years, especially over a period during which most housing prices cratered and have only recently returned to pre-bust levels. Throughout the entire neighborhood the little cottages are being replaced by large homes and side-by-sides. There is considerable infill going on as well.

      Many of the newcomers are affluent folks who work downtown; they’re good candidates for Link rider. The folks they replaced were much less wealthy — yes, I know, social justice issues are involved, but the folks who sold out recently have reaped a nice windfall. They also by and large didn’t work downtown so they drove to their employment or took a bus to the industrial district or southward.

      1. Spot on.

        Link is the reason I’m looking for an apartment/house share in Columbia City. I’d rather be north of the ship canal, but the prices and traffic both conspire to send me south.

      2. Andy, join the Columbia City FB page. People will post mother in law and house sharing stuff there sometimes that isn’t on Craigslist.

      3. So, the *typical* pattern for cities which install a new urban rail line is that the developers jump in and build big buildings and claim the profits from them *even before the line opens*, with people flocking in in *anticipation* of the line.

        This didn’t happen in Seattle for some reason. Maybe a “show me” mentality? Anyway, the numbers which Link is showing now are in line with the original original projections… it’s actually the lower numbers during the earlier years which are the oddity which needs explanation.

      4. Nathanael, there was this little thing called the Great Recession that neatly coincided with Link’s opening.

      5. Yeah, but like I said, usually the buildings actually open before the rail line does. In anticipation. Which would have been pre-recession.

    2. Thanks for the refresher on Mathews post stating.”…as many as two thirds of new trips are likely starting or ending in Southeast Seattle…” (with graphs to support the conclusion). Airport gains were less than half of those for MLK stations, while Westlake continues to bustle at the end of the line.
      Turnover in housing (both SF and MF) would likely show the shift in Choice Riders displacing other non-Link riders, when compared to similar neighborhoods in Seattle along other transit corridors.
      It may not be too late for RapidRide to tap into that market, if Metro and SDOT can focus on fast, reliable and frequent trips as the mantra going forward.

  4. I can’t offer any of the factual data you’re looking for, but would suggest that it’s largely a result of demographic sorting.

    There has definitely been growth in Rainier Valley, but not enough TOD to suggest this kind of uptick. Rather, it seems that folks like Abe, who are specifically drawn to living near rail, have been gradually moving, and through attrition, new development, and probably some gentrification, are replacing a less rail-centric portion of the population.

    As rents in other spots (particularly Capitol Hill) have been soaring lately, this process has probably accelerated. Now that U-Link is less than 18 months away, people know that soon they’ll be able to get quickly and easily to Cap Hill and the U-District, which further accelerates this.

    1. Totally anecdotal, but here is the Johnson story.

      March 12 – We moved to Columbia City, because of Link. My wife was working in Issaquah (drove) and I was looking for work. I rode Link when possible but it wasn’t a daily occurrence.

      August 12 – I got a part time job in Tukwila. Link +140 was 45 minutes, driving 25. I’d take transit probably 2 times a week. Wife still drove.

      January 13 – Part time became full time. Now I took transit 3 to 4 times a week. Wife still drove.

      January 14 – Both my wife and I get jobs in the city. I’m at IDS and take Link everyday. My wife is in SLU and takes Link 3-4 times a week.

      September 14 – My brother and his fiance sell their car in Mobile and move in with us. They are looking for work but take Link everywhere.

    2. >Now that U-Link is less than 18 months away, people know that soon they’ll be able to get quickly and easily to Cap Hill and the U-District

      That is 100% correct. My wife and I purchased in Columbia City because we see properties near Link becoming a hotter and hotter commodity the more Link expands. Why pay through the nose so we can live in/near Capitol Hill when it’s going to be so easy for us to get there in a bit over a year? And in a few more years we’ll be able to easily get to even more places.

      Buy into it while we can before the rest of the region starts waking up and realizes what’s happening.

    3. Hmm. Usually the demographic sorting happens very early, even before the line is built, with people moving in anticipation of it.

      Maybe there’s some reason why it happened later in Seattle. Too many failed votes, too much suspicion that it wouldn’t really be built? I don’t know.

  5. They should probably remove the 2009 opening weekend fare free period from the statistics, since it’s obviously a huge outlier.

    1. These aren’t ST’s charts, they are my own I’ve built using their monthly ridership reports. I agree that opening weekend is an outlier but I don’t really see the damage from keeping it in.

      1. I’m looking forward to seeing paid weekend ridership beat that opening weekend number next year.

  6. Could these results be skewed due to how August sat on the calender?

    There were 5 full weekends and 4 full weeks of weekdays in August 2014.

    1. The five weekends soften the result. Weekdays are still strongest ridership, and this August had fewer of them than last year.

    2. That’s an interesting thing to bring up, CTA in Chicago puts on their reports a calendar adjusted version of the ridership and the actual ridership for each month to account for that, which is interesting.

  7. Given how strong the weekends are going, I wonder if its time for Link’s weekends to get a bit more frequency, and perhaps have the same service on Saturday and Sunday. The lack of parity for service on Sunday versus Saturday has always frustrated me.

    1. Are they back to two car trains full time on nights/weekends? its been a while since I have seen a single car out there.

      1. I live quite close to the tracks and see the trains going by whenever I’m home. From what I see they always run two-car assemblies, at least at the hours that I’m awake.

    2. Between 6 AM and midnight, the level of service on Saturday and Sunday is the same. There are a lot more people out late on Saturday nights than Sunday nights, so an extra hour of service in the evening on Saturday nights is warranted.

      1. I agree the frequency of weekend service is mostly good enough. There are a few weekend Link improvements I would like to see, at least by the time U-Link opens, though more in span than frequency:

        * Extend full Sunday night service to at least 12:30am
        * Extend Friday and Saturday night service to about 2am
        * Possibly run trains at 10 minute headways until 11pm or midnight on Friday and Saturday nights

      2. Yes, please.

        When the Link gets to Cap Hill and U District, and the bars are open til 2 AM, lots of people would love to take the train from there to their homes in CC and RV. Cough cough.

  8. As good as Link is doing, it could be doing better.

    Just out of curiosity, I entered my friend’s house at 22nd & W Dravus as the origin and Seward Park as the destination for a weekday into the trip planner. This used to be easy for me to do, as the 39 and 33 were through routed. The time I selected was 9 am on Tuesday, Oct 14th.

    The best trip Metro’s trip planner came up with today was 33 to 594, transfer to the 50 at Othello station: 80 minutes. 15 or so minutes required for each transfer.

    Google transit finds 33 -> Link -> 50 at 89 minutes, with the Link -> 50 transfer happening at Othello Street, which is south of Seward Park.

    Transfering to and from the 50 at Columbia City or even Sodo? Apparently the schedules don’t work out too well as neither found a solution that would work for that.

    Yes, I know that timed transfers can’t work for every route to every destination. However, the 50 doesn’t go downtown but instead feeds into core routes that do. Having routes like that have good transfer times to the core network (Link, express buses) are a rather key part of getting good ridership.

    Maybe I just happened to grab a bad time, but still the best schedule I found was bus only, with half an hour (15 minutes at each transfer) of transfer times. Reorganizing things based around the Aleks Plan might make Link even more useful than it is now.

    1. The normal way would be to take the 33 downtown, Link to Othello, and the 50 to Seward Park. The 50 is the successor to the 39. It makes a big S shape, from Othello station to Columbia City station to SODO station to Alki. You could catch it at either of other stations but Othello is the closest to Seward Park.

      For the 594 it must have said SODO station because the 504 doesn’t go anywhere near Othello station.

      The trip planner comes up wtih these ridiculous itineraries sometimes, throwing in a few stops on an ST route or an express route or backtracking in the middle of the trip. It’s probably trying to minimize wait time.

      1. its interesting to try and plan trips in the vortex around Sea-Tac Airport. All because the 574 does not serve TIBS, it will route you entirely on the A, send you to burien, and all sorts of crazy things because of that missing mile to get from the airport to the RR “F”

      2. There is no sugar-coating this, but the amount of time required to take transit between any point north of downtown and any point south of downtown is downright embarrassing. Planned Link extensions will solve the problem to some extent, at least for people leaving near I-5, but I realize it won’t do squat for Magnolia.

        That said, even with the current transit network, there are tricks you could use to get from 22nd and Dravus to Seward Park in less than 89 minutes. If the schedules between the 33 and the 50 are that out-of-whack, walking over to Interbay and grabbing the D-line may be an option. (Yes, I know it has that awful slog through Lower Queen Anne, but at least it’s somewhat frequent). On the other side, it’s only about a 30-minute or so walk to Seward Park from either Columbia City or Othello Station, so if the wait for the 50 is more than a few minutes, walking could be faster.

        If I were making the trip spontaneously on a Sunday, I would probably do something like this:
        1) Pull out OneBusAway and see if #33 is coming soon.
        – Yes => Board #33 at 22nd and Dravus
        – No => Walk to 15th and wait for the D-line
        2) Get off either bus at 3rd and Pine and head to the tunnel to catch Link
        3) As train approaches Columbia City Station, pull out OneBusAway again. Is the 50 coming soon? If so, get off and wait for the 50, else continue.
        4) Pull out OneBusAway and get estimated wait time for the 50 going the other way at Othello Station. Is the expected wait time longer than 10 minutes? If so, get off the train at Columbia City Station, put phone away, and walk the rest of the way to Seward Park. Otherwise, continue.
        5) As you approach Othello Station, use OneBusAway, along with looking out the window, to verify that you have actually made the connection to the 50 (that it didn’t leave without you as the train approached). If you are able to make the connection, wait for it. If not, just forget about the 50 and start walking.

      3. I’d probably use the Link routing too, just because Seattle I-5 buses and I seem to have a bad case of congestion magnetism.

        Most people would probably try for the routing that seems to be 9 minutes faster though.

        The Aleks Plan seems to do a pretty good job at reducing transfer penalties.

    1. Yes, the Mariners have most definitely had an impact over the summer. By my reckoning they are responsible for the 5% extra growth we’ve seen this summer compared to the last couple of years (averaging ~16% growth instead of ~11%).

      However, I don’t understand the argument that event ridership ‘doesn’t count’ when it comes to ridership. Weekday game traffic is already horrible, can you imagine how bad it’d be with an extra 5,000, 10,000 cars trying to get into and out of SODO?

      In fact, I believe that once U-Link and Angle Lake stations are open (1k more parking stalls and 4 car trains) the city should put some pressure on the stadiums to do what the US Airways Center in Phoenix does when it comes to events. Include the price of a round trip light rail ticket into all event tickets. Event tickets are acceptable fare mediums on event days.

      1. If we’re going to do that, we’d better be prepared to run extra trains as needed so that everybody going to the game can get home. Similar with buses for people coming from neighborhoods like Ballard or Bellevue that won’t be served with Link.

      2. This was done by the UW for over 20 years–your game ticket was proof of fare on both the special shuttle buses and local routes as well. When they moved back to the renovated Husky Stadium last year, they went to charging $5 for the round trip shuttle buses to local P&Rs. (I think it is less if you buy a season pass for the shuttles with your season tickets; I walk or tailgate so don’t know.) I do agree that they should go back to the old way of having the ticket be your proof of fare.

        The system worked astoundingly well (I believe between 20-25,000 take transit for any given game) and is by far the fastest way out of the area after games.

        It will be interesting to see how this system is affected after the subway station opens for the 2016 season. I’m expecting a good number of people to immediately begin taking Link.

  9. I can assure you that Sound Transit is low-balling the fare evasion numbers. If they catch only 1 person on a two car train carrying two hundred or more rider, you can be sure there are 20 or 30 more that escaped being nabbed on that trip. It’s just too easy!

    1. You know, you could ask Sound Transit how they get to the fare evasion number. I’d gander that they take the total number of purchased tickets/ORCA card taps, and compare that to what the automatic passenger counters come up with. But thats just a guess.

      1. Any fare medium that can be checked onboard can also be checked in the fare required area. If the fare medium can be abused onboard it can be abused offboard.

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