Oct14WeekdayMovingAvgChangeThe bad news: October saw the lowest percentage growth in Link ridership in the past year and half. The good news is that still translates to 6.8% growth with an additional 2,079 weekday boardings compared to October 2013.

Octobers’s Central Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday average boardings were 32,502 / 22,138 / 19,761, growth of 6.8%, 5.1%, and -11.0% respectively compared to October 2013. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 15.9% with ridership increasing on both lines. Tacoma Link’s weekday ridership decreased 0.6%. Weekday ST Express ridership was up 7.4%. System wide weekday boardings were up 7.9%, and all boardings were up 7.0%. The complete October Ridership Summary is here.

My charts below the fold.

Oct14WeekdayRidership Oct14WeekendRidership Oct14WeekdayChange Oct14WeekdayMovingAvg Oct14WeekdayMovingAvgChange

16 Replies to “October 2014 Sound Transit Ridership Report – What’s the Ugly?”

  1. At least for the weekends, October was a pretty light sports month. The Seahawks had only 1 home game(Sunday 10/12 vs. Dallas). The Sounders only had 1 weekend home game (Saturday 10/25 vs. LA) but that isn’t especially unusual. The Sounders didn’t play a single home game at CenturyLink in June and yet ridership looked solid.

    The Sounders did have a Friday night match (10/10 vs. Vancouver), which would be a positive for the weekday numbers, but they did have quite a few weeknight matches this season.

    1. Yeah, I would expect weekend ridership to be very volatile, and heavily dependent on sporting (or other) events.

  2. Wasn’t Link ridership up considerably more than usual in September? Like 15% instead of the typical 10%? Now October Link ridership is up only 6.8%. So maybe something happened so that a lot of October’s growth happened at the end of September instead. If so, November Link ridership will go back to being approximately 10% higher than a year before.

    1. I think there may be something to that. In general, Link is up about 4,000 more than last year. Some months that is 6,000, but other months that is 2,000.

      Looking at the numbers again though, it does seem like there is a big rise in the summer, when the weather is good. This seems to happen every year, but was especially big this year. Since Link doesn’t cover that much area, I wonder if the rise in ridership is due to people being willing to walk a fair amount and then ride the train. I can understand this. I know people who walk from downtown all the way to Phinney Ridge in the summer. In this case, it might be someone who takes the train from downtown to Rainier Beach, then walks a mile to their home. In the summer time this is fine, but as the days get short and the nights get cold, they just take a bus.

      1. I know my younger daughter likes to walk/ride her bike to school when it’s nice, but now wants to take the school bus [note that taking the bus takes about a half hour longer]. And I’m much more willing to contemplate walking home from the MI park and ride in the summer if I miss the last bus down the Island — it’s the darkness and potential muddiness that drives the decision for me more than the cold and/or rain.

        Also, I find summer schedules a lot more laid back: during the school year there’s lots of demands on my morning and evening time that make spending more time commuting very unattractive, and that increase the appeal of having on demand transportation available.

      2. Good point, Frank. That is quite possible, and it may be a little of both. I think we could make a better guess if we saw the station by station numbers. If the Stadium station had a big boost then it is definitely the Mariners. If SeaTac booms in the summer, than that is tourism. But the Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill stops I assume are mostly locals.

  3. “I always assumed the summer boost was due to tourism + mariners.

    You mean “tourism – mariners”, don’t you?

    1. Central Link ridership is seasonal. It always has dropped in the fall. It always is lower in winter than in summer.

      The ridership in 2014 is also not reaching the officially forecast 37,800 weekday average expected in 2011, but Sound Transit and its fans do not care.

      1. Give it a year and a half, John, and the stations in service will catch up with those upon which the projections were based. Do you have any reason to believe Link’s ridership won’t immediately rise above 50,000 per month right after UW Station opens?

        Thanks, also, for property referring to projections as projections. Some transit critics mislabel them as “promises”.

  4. Re: the Mariners’ impact on Link ridership: It’s easy to forget when you’re sitting in an empty-feeling Safeco Field that baseball is still the most-attended sport in America, because there are just so many games. Typically baseball teams play 6 games per week in season, and almost always the day off is a weekday, so that’s 4 weekday games and 2 weekend games per week. Half of the games are at home, and a typical person that takes Link to a home game will take it twice for each home game (it’s possible that if there’s a big Ms bar scene near the field that important away games would draw fans to the area, too, but that would only be a big ridership event for a very small number of games). So in terms of per-day ridership, the weekday Mariners bump is 4/5 * ad * md, where ad is average weekday attendance and md is weekday Link modeshare. For weekends it’s simply ae * me, the subscript e referring to weekend rather than weekday. I imagine attendance is greater on weekends and Link modeshare is greater on weekdays, but I don’t have attendance numbers split by day of week or any modeshare numbers.

    This year the Mariners drew ~25.5k per home game; last year it was ~21.7k (the Mariners had the greatest year-over-year attendance growth of any MLB team, for obvious reasons). So for fully in-season months (essentially April, May, June, August, September — July has a week off for the All-Star break, so knock a quarter off the numbers), the contribution to weekday average ridership for 2014 is about 20.1k times the modeshare. For weekends it’s about 25.5k times the modeshare. And Mariners-related contribution to ridership growth is around 3,000 times modeshare on weekdays, 3,800 times modeshare on weekends.

    Unfortunately we can only speculate on modeshare, and it’s likely to have grown year-over-year, too. And then my impression is that Mariners attendance picked up late in the season, so the impact on Link ridership was probably greatest in late-season months. Anyway, if a third of Mariners fans took Link (that feels really high to me, given Link’s fairly limited coverage), a strong Mariners team would add about 1,000 to the average weekday ridership in season, compared to a weak Mariners team. Again, it’s probably less than this overall, maybe approaching it toward the end of the season. And if that many people take Link to the game, the Mariners being in season would contribute about 6,000-7,000 to average weekday ridership, compared to being out-of-season. As a sanity check, we might compare typical April to March ridership numbers — the difference isn’t nearly this great, so we figure the Mariners impact must be less than this, and thus modeshare is surely less than 1/3, and so the difference between a good and bad Mariners team is probably much less than 1,000.

    Another factor is that the baseball season is not totally uniform. The Mariners were at home more than usual in August and on the road more than usual in September. They played 11 home games in April, 17 in May (!), 15 in June, 14 in July, 15 in August, and only 9 in September. A home-heavy vs. away-heavy month could contribute to per-day average ridership swings, but probably less than 1,000.

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