These Quarterly Reports aren’t as special now that Sound Transit has beefed up their monthly reports, but in past pieces there were some graphs I don’t post in monthly report posts. Do people still want me to do these quarterly summaries? Is there any additional information in the reports you’d like me to track and display?

Total Sound Transit boardings increased nearly 10% during Q3 2014, compared to the same period of 2013. Year-to-date boardings totaled almost 24.8 million, on pace to exceed the SIP forecast of 31.1 million Sound Transit boardings for calendar year 2014. Ridership was up on all modes except Tacoma Link and Paratransit.

ST Express bus boardings were up 6.5%, with all but two routes showing increases. Growth in commuter ridership was evident with an 8% increase in average weekday boardings, from 57,934 to 62,549. ST Express service levels have remained consistent with 2013 service levels throughout 2014.

Sounder commuter rail experienced an impressive 13.5% increase in total boardings. Average weekday ridership exceeded 13,000 boardings, a new record, and both lines experienced growth. High ridership on weekend event trains also contributed towards the overall increase.

Tacoma Link light rail boardings declined during the quarter, continuing a trend that started during the fourth quarter of 2012. However, the decline was very small (-0.2%), indicating that the trend may be bottoming out.

Central Link light rail boardings were up 15.3% for the quarter, with weekday ridership averaging 37,242 boardings, an 18% increase compared to Q3 2013.

Q3 2014 route-level and corridor ridership information can be found on page 2; along with Q3 2014 and YTD 2014 service performance on pages 3 and 4, respectively.

Full report here. My charts below the fold.

First, ridership by quarter:

Now the 4 Quarter moving average:

Costs per boarding:

Cost per boarding moving average:

28 Replies to “Q3 2014 Sound Transit Quarterly Report”

  1. Another graph that would be neat to see is a farebox recovery percentage graph. It looks like ST express and central link are nearing 50% based on the cost per passenger graph.

    Perhaps the peak crush loads like those on the 577 and 590 are achieving over 100% farebox recovery.

    1. I was about to ask that too. The only service change has been an infill station, which increased headways from 10 minutes to 12 minutes. That would deter me from using it in marginal cases, but the community asked for the station and said the headways were acceptable. The 59x buses duplicating it haven’t changed, so it’s hard to believe so many people just got tired of the train and switched to one-seat rides all at once. The fare hasn’t changed; it’s still free, although it’s on a 2-year reprieve until 2016 (paid by downtown businesses). It might be related to other changes in downtown Tacoma and the recession.

    2. Here’s the official explanation from Sound Transit:

      “Tacoma Link ridership has decreased due to fewer Tacoma events, and fewer large-sized employers.”

      1. I don’t think Sound Transit’s explanation is that far off. Visit Tacoma- easy to do on either 590-series buses, or LINK to Sea-Tac, and 574 to Tacoma Dome.

        Streetcar starts at Tacoma Dome, across the street from Freighthouse Square, every 12 minutes through the day. Excellent Indian restaurant inside Freighthouse, and my favorite IT to ST coffee break cafe called Anthem, same building as Historical Museum.

        Which is just uphill from the Glass Museum, and a couple of blocks from the art museum. LeMay car museum just uphill from Freighthouse, too. All good reasons to go to Tacoma.

        And will be great reasons when Downtown Tacoma finally comes back to life. Because after a few hours at most, question about Tacoma LINK will be why they’ve got enough ridership for a streetcar line at all.

        Answer is that, in addition to the museums, Tacoma has a location a lot more beautiful than Seattle- from the Anthem and the rest of the bluff it sits on, there’s an amazing view of Mt. Rainier.

        And uphill, some beautiful neighborhoods- which will eventually be things that bring back new industries to provide the economy which will bring back the population that will return it from the Land of the Dead.

        Would bet that none of the above features anywhere near “pay their way” now. But the loss of them would leave an ugly pile of ruins that wouldn’t pay its maintenance either.

        Go check it out.


      2. Lots of fun stuff for the kids and (grand)parents in downtown Tacoma. From Seattle ride ST 594 express which leaves half-hourly. A great Lego play area at Freighthouse Square. Ride Tacoma Link to the Children’s Museum, Museum of Glass, State History Museum, which has a special model train show every December, and the Tacoma Art Museum. Catch the bus back to Seattle across the street from the State History Museum. During the summer a walk along Thea Foss Waterway Park is very enjoyable.
        Ot take the PT 11 to Point Defiance and visit the Zoo. From there ferry to Vashon and connecting Metro bus to to the other end. Another ferry ride to Fauntleroy to connect with RR C lline back to downtown Seattle. All very doable without a car.

      3. >> Tacoma has a location a lot more beautiful than Seattle

        Oh, I wouldn’t say that. While Tacoma has a much nicer view of Rainier, Seattle has a much nicer view of the Olympics. Overall I would say it is a wash. Same with Everett. It’s view of the Cascades is very nice (Three Fingers, Whitehorse, Pilchuck, etc.) but it’s view of the Olympics isn’t that great, since the far northern Olympics are fairly rounded.

        But yeah, Tacoma is an interesting place with an interesting history and a very nice natural location.

  2. It’s impressive that Central Link continues to a show a substantial increase in ridership. No doubt that can be attributed to robust job growth in DT Seattle. But where are the people coming from? The P&R at TIB has been full for some time now. What stations are showing the greatest increase in boardings and is this indicative of development happening near stations or is it primarily people transferring from buses?

    1. I think the only way to answer some of these questions is to a survey of ridership and find out what is and isn’t working. Every once in a while TriMet does this, but their surveys have some questions that I don’t see as providing useful information, or don’t have a very desirable option to check.

      Also, instead of sending out hordes of transit survey staff, you could probably get just as good results at a far cheaper price by using an internet based survey.

    2. I think main answer is that after five years of operation, the passenger public has finally noticed that LINK is there. Which is what generally what happens with any transit line or system. Also highways. Would bet that I-90 was nowhere near capacity five years after opening.

      Individually or collectively, people don’t- and often can’t- adjust their travel patterns fast. It’s not just convenience or amenity. It’s generally work hours and location. But eventually, curiosity or chance will show people the possibility and desirability of the new system.

      And also, it is true that homes, shopping, and work are developing around the stations. I wish some of them weren’t as ugly and overbearing as the ones at Othello Station and Downtown Columbia City, not to mention Ballard.

      But looking at the construction quality of these monstrosities, the railroad will outlast them by a decades, and provide a reason to build new ones when these collapse, burn down, or be ordered demolished by the authorities.

      Unlike cattle cars, even at rush hour passengers board transit because they find it and like it. Which causes the same to hold for the neighborhoods it passes through.


      1. Interesting numbers. I’m going to, somewhat arbitrarily, call SODO and stations north as destination and Beacon Hill south origination. If I’m interpreting the charts right,TIB and the SeaTac account for +1100 boardings per day. RV and Beacon Hill about +1800. Dividing the 13,000 daily boardings by two to get trips I’d say for 2011-2013 17% of the growth is TIB/SEA and 28% is RV and Beacon Hill. So it’s a combination of long haul transfers and infill development (or people going back to work). Considering the economy was stalled from about 2008 to 2012 and development is slow to get rolling but then “snowballs” I’d expect these trends leading to increased ridership will accelerate in the next few years.

    3. Impressive? No. Predictable? Yes. When the poor are priced out of their Seattle area homes by gentrifiers and rising rents caused by increased density, and forced to move out to the hinterlands, then have to commute back into town on public transit because the war on cars has made driving too expensive, it’s hardly reason to pat ST on the back for increased ridership. We actually should be hanging our heads in shame for forcing families out of their Seattle homes and to move to Tukwila and Kent and beyond. THAT’S why transit use is increasing.

      1. You want to see some Real Rising Rents – Look at San Francisco, and how they haven’t allowed any increases in density to be built.

      2. No fair! You guys get to have a war on cars?!? I assume it’s because McCord got tired of the perpetual traffic jam through their base and is now calling down air strikes on I-5? Or is Bangor getting to launch cruise missiles? Do tell! I’ll be sure to buy a well timed ticket to White Horse so I can watch from the air.

        As far as housing prices go, what should Seattle do? Publicly finance housing developments? Portland’s South Waterfront and Pearl District had a lot of public involvement from the Portland Development Commission. You either have to create price controls or increase the supply. Since you don’t like increasing the supply I assume you would prefer to see price controls?

      3. “We” aren’t “forcing families out of their Seattle homes”. If anybody (well, “thing”) is doing the forcing it’s the “invisible hand”. I thought you were a ‘Publican, Sam. Are you losing your faith in the free market? Breaking a cold sweat at supply and demand? Thinking secret Socialist thoughts at 3 AM?

        As I’ve banged on and on about, Seattle has been “discovered”. It has a HOT! HOT! HOT! economy now to go with it’s among-the-best-in-the-world location and physical beauty. Dude, absent a complete cratering of the software business — yeah, that’s likely — or The Big One out in the subduction zone, you wouldn’t be able to keep people away from Seattle with a battalion armed with SAW’s on all the inbound Interstates.

        Well, maybe for a little while; but they’d figure out how to use the back roads.

      4. Activist: somebody who vocally advocates the same opinion over time.

        Troll: somebody who seems to advocate whatever will anger the most people at the moment, and whose views change inconsistently over time. This raises doubts that he believes what he says, and makes it impossible to tell what he really believes.

        Yes, Sam, it’s all Sound Transit’s fault that rents in Seattle are rising, not. Your argument suggests people lived in Seattle and had cars, then moved to the suburbs and got rid of their cars, and now commute to Seattle on transit. Specifically Link, Sounder, and the 150, since you mentioned Tukwila and Kent. There are three things wrong with that.
        (1) People who move to the suburbs are more likely to buy cars than get rid of them, since they can’t go to the grocery store or anywhere without it.
        (2) They could have stayed in Seattle and gotten rid of their car and they’d have more money for rent and other things.
        (3) If they’re commuting to Seattle, they probably have a reasonably-paying job downtown, so they could afford to stay in Seattle. The people who are priced out of Seattle have minimum-wage or below-median jobs. In that case they can probably find a comparable job in their suburb, so they wouldn’t be commuting to Seattle.

    4. Rise in express bus service seems to keeping pace. Where is that coming from? Anyway, I think the long and short of it is that it is a combination of a lot of things. Bad traffic leads to people checking out alternatives (like taking an express bus or the train). People move around and it makes sense to move someplace fairly convenient and fairly cheap (e. g. Rainier Valley). All that plus overall growth leads to more transit use. I think Tacoma ridership isn’t growing because unlike Seattle, Tacoma isn’t growing.

  3. Still maintain that the War On Horses was a lot worse, Sam. Successful genocide, really. Hardly any left outside of stables in Redmond. Where no working horse will ever live- especially on a stud farm, except maybe Seabiscuit. And in any horse language from Belgium to Mongolia the long way, “Glue factory” is same as Auschwitz. More likely, survivors still don’t want to talk about it.

    Also, casualty-wise, from huge amount of my motoring experience, would rather have my car Gatling gunned by a flight of A-10’s than spend a rush hour in Lynnwood. Or stuck for three hours in traffic a mile south of Everett after a fender bender at the Ship Canal.

    But let’s look at some electric rail experience for examples. It was fairly common for streetcar companies, called “traction companies” in those days, to build housing developments at the ends of their lines- as a “draw” to provide themselves with passengers.

    If ST could start to do this itself, as a public agency rather than a profit-making business, it might very well take care of the problem you’re calling attention to: rents or prices ordinary people can afford, served well by transit.

    Even better would be to encourage small manufacturing to locate in these places- and/or be created by the residents themselves. This way, seeing to it that both working people and their work become part of the transit-served network.

    Would be many times cheaper than to extend utilities from roads to sewers over ever longer and wider distances. The war both on waste and also on life that Is REALLY BO-RING AND TOTALLY SUCKS- can be won! Will go in with you on a billboard with Uncle Sam holding a Springfield, pointing and roaring.


    1. It was fairly common for streetcar companies, called “traction companies” in those days, to build housing developments at the ends of their lines- as a “draw” to provide themselves with passengers.

      Other way around actually. I read a piece a while back on the Tacoma lines. The utilities built the housing out in the sticks where they could turn a quick buck on cheap land. They then had customers for their electricity and since roads were poor to non-existent to these remote locations they had to build the rail line; which they also powered and collected the revenue. The big difference between this and ST is that ST is a public agency funded mostly by general revenue (as opposed to fares) to improve transportation. It’s mandate is not to compete with private developers or to provide social services.

      1. Was thinking of Shaker Heights in Cleveland. Also remember an amusement park in Denver that I was told was car-line created. Still, were the automobile roads so much different? Could be a which-came- first thing.

        People were doubtless already looking to move away from the cities when the Interstate Highway System was created. But these defense highways quickly accelerated the process- involving a shift of their own original purpose.

        Also providing a subsidy so massive to both private developers and the automotive industries that the rail-related development I’m discussing would amount to pennies on the dollar repayment.

        As to competition, in the corporate world’s formative years, the grant of limited liability to shareholders- effectively protecting them from the individual risk of personal lawsuits that came with other types of consortiums- was granted with the firm understanding that the corporation existed for the public good. Failing which…charter revoked.

        So taking heed of how loudly certain ideologues thunder about the need for personal responsibility among people with a fraction of their incomes- it’s time to take them at their word. By restoring the personal responsibility- and liability- of absolutely everyone in business, especially profit-making ones.

        And also reminding everybody that for the same public benefit that governments built an automobile related country in the past- it’s perfectly right that a transit-related one succeed it now that such is necessary. To fulfill the same public benefit as in the past.

        Mark Dublin

      2. The Tacoma lines ran from 1890-1830. The Ford Model T was produced from 1908 to 1927. Roads that existed at the time were built for horses. Travel outside of cities was arduous to say the least at the beginning of this era. By the time car ownership became wide spread the railroads were history.

        FWIW, the article I was thinking about was published in the free South Sound weekly “Senior Scene”. Lots of great articles with original material often provided by the authors own experience. One such example is Laying out a town. The article on the electric railroads may predate their online archives.

      3. Then why do corporations have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders, but no similar duty to society?

      4. A corporation is nothing but it’s shareholders. We like to think of corporations as an entity with a life of it’s own but they are just an abstraction. However, the rules society has placed on companies, be they corporations or privately held do in fact place a lot of emphasis on the “good of society”. EPA, minimum wages, 40 hr wk, health care and double taxation. First the “corporation” is taxed and then the shareholders are taxed again on profits all to pay for the “Great Society”. But what’s this got to do with electric power companies from 100 years ago?

      5. Actually, a lot of the electric power companies were originally organized solely to provide power for the streetcar lines, and were subsidiaries of the streetcar companies. They sold electricity to other people as a sideline — a sideline which eventually outgrew the original business.

      6. A lot of electric power companies? Everything I’ve read points to early electric power companies being formed to serve industry. Starting out they were small affairs without the capital to build much of anything unless the demand was quite literally “next door”. And the early lines were horse drawn or steam powered. The land barons of Seattle and Tacoma were mostly behind the street car lines. Electric utilities came later and mostly lost their shirt; somewhat ironically because of government interference with the market. Anyway, their demise resulted in Seattle City Light taking over the franchise for the whole City which in retrospect seems to have been a good thing.

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