Sounder Bruce (Flickr)
Sounder Bruce (Flickr)

Sorry folks, been busy and this was late. July’s Link Weekday/Saturday/Sunday average boardings were 40,442 / 32,873 / 26,375, growth of 8.3%, -3.9%, and -2.8% respectively over July 2014. Sounder’s weekday boardings were up 15.3% with ridership increasing on both lines. Tacoma Link’s weekday ridership increased 2.3%. Weekday ST Express ridership was up 4.7%. System wide weekday boardings were up 6.9%, and all boardings were up 3.2%. The complete July Ridership Summary is here.

My charts below the break.


65 Replies to “July 2015 Sound Transit Ridership Report: 40,000”

  1. Last June appears to be a new weekend boardings record for Link, and the first month ever to surpass the boardings of opening month.

  2. It will be interesting to see what happens between now and the opening of U-Link in 2016. Link just went to 6 min headways (a 25% capacity increase) and my understanding is that ST will be mixing in the occasional 3 and/or 4 car train. It’s hard to know if these capacity increase will result in increased ridership growth, or just better accommodation of the growth that is already occurring.

    That said, 40k is a great number. Congrats to ST on that.

    Of course when U-Link opens these numbers will look small.

  3. A side note: the Paratransit numbers are way down. It seems that the County is tightening qualification requirements for a program that is already very difficult to get into. This is alarming.

    1. As I understand it, there’s a new agreement about who Rainier Valley paratransit boardings get billed to, and more of them are going to Metro. Have you heard something about tightened qualifications as well?

      1. I clicked on the link in the article that says, “here.” That took me to the ST performance page. It reads, “Paratransit services, provided by King County Metro, declined 21% compared to June 2014. Changes in eligibility requirements and ongoing recertification has resulted in a higher number of participants transitioning to fixed route service.”

      2. Ah, thanks. I would hope that they’re being provided with adequate support so as to navigate fixed-route service well, but the phrasing of that point implies otherwise… which is slightly disturbing.

    2. Tightening eligibility and transitioning folks from paratransit to fixed route is far from alarming. It’s fiscally responsible.

      1. Especially since the subsidy for paratransit averages 40 a person (iirc the subsidy can reach over 200 dollars at certain times of the day). If those riders can participate in the CAT program or take fixed route service, they should.

    3. When the paratransit requirement was initially put into the ADA, it was supposed to be a temporary program until all the subways and buses were ADA-accessible. It’s turned out the sidewalks are often missing or inaccessible too, and need to be made accessible too (which should have been obvious), which is going to keep paratransit around quite a bit longer….

      But the original goal was for paratransit to disappear by making the fixed-route system *and* the taxis fully accessible.

      This is taking longer than it ought to. Particularly the sidewalks and the taxis.

    1. Will you be driving to the station? Or taking 169+166+B? Or bicycling? You can’t be taking 169+180+B because it would be easier to use SeaTac station.

      1. Ah yes, I mostly ride B. It should have a geographic number in the 100-series, then I’d remember it.

    2. I would be surprised if the effect of Angle Lake’s opening is statistically significant. But then again, I’m just shooting off predictions from my armchair, like many of us here :)

      1. It might make more of a difference of the proposed office parks at Angle Lake station happen.

        Its not certain yet how many folks will get there by bus or bicycle, but you can probably count on the garage being full.

      2. Well…under normal circumstances Angle Lake opening would be statistically significant, but following after the U-Link opening it will be hard to separate the effects.

        The ridership increase due to Angle Lake will get swamped in the ridership tsunami that will be U-Link.

  4. Remarkable to see such steady YoY growth without line expansions or lots of large scale TOD near the MLK stations.

    I’m curious whether specific stations have been driving the growth, or is it broad-based? I’m not a regular rider (airport and stadiums mostly) but I’ve noticed more airport passengers on my trips this summer.

    1. Last time I was down in the area (RV/MLK) I saw a lot of new units being built… probably coming online this next year. The development long promised is finally coming to at least two of the stations on the MLK segment, and I suspect that it will add fuel to the fire that will be Link ridership growth next year.

    2. The other thing is economic recovery. Link opened during the recession. The impact of that bit of misfortune is going away.

      1. Good observation, Glenn. But let me add the hope that the employment and economic improvement made possible LINK and similar projects nationwide will help strengthen our country to speed the end of the current Depression.

        And also help prevent its recurrence when gentrification goes the way of the Hindenburg. “It’s bursting into flames! It’s crashing to the ground…!”

        Though meantime, a traffic and weather-free connection between Sea-Tac Airport and the University of Washington will be of great value whatever happens to the economy.

        If only to facilitate the welcome Syria-to-Germany-level voyage of gentry fleeing from South Lake Union. But mainly, Seattle will have one less reason to be jealous of MAX.

        At least as soon as Sea-Tac Airport after almost a decade joins Portland in creating the presence regional transit deserves at an international airport.

        Instead of a little-mentioned embarrassment at the end of a walk through a parking garage. Which will always give visitors the worst possible impression of our economy and the city attached to it until remedied.

        Mark Dublin

      2. Oh, there are things about Link that will be vastly better than MAX.

        Link serves the airport on its way to elsewhere. The Portland airport is too isolated for that, unless a massive expensive tunnel under the runways is built. It just wouldn’t be worth it.

        Most cities in the USA have no rail transit at all to their airport.

      3. In addition, there was a remarkably slow uptake of Link, even *considering* the recession. First year numbers were startlingly low compared to most models — apparently Seattleites were very conservative and wanted to keep riding buses instead of them newfangled trains.

        They’ve gotten over that.

    3. Columbia City Station area is under Capitol-Hill-levels of development right now. >1000 units coming online now. Rainier Vista completely redeveloped at higher densities, equivalent of 2 square blocks geting ~500 units in the next 12 months, ~200 more units going in right at the intersection where the stations is…

      That station will be PACKED in a year.

      If we want to push density – look to Montlake. That should be 4 square blocks of TOD gold right there. Never happen though. Density runs away from $$$ in this town.

    4. I think it’s a mix of factors, including growth in Rainier Valley (and everywhere in Seattle) as housing becomes more and more expensive. Passenger traffic at Seatac has been increasing dramatically, in part due to the battle between Delta and Alaska ( – to the point that this year it’s the fastest growing airport in the country. I can’t help but imagine that such growth would translate to higher Link ridership…

  5. Did you ever get the per-station boarding data, Matt? I’d love to see where the ridership is going to/coming from.

    1. +1

      This would be cool to see. Boarding data should be solid. I’d love to see station pairs, but unfortunately there’s probably a lot of unknown destinations because of people not tapping off.

      1. I made a little vis when I was playing around with ST’s boarding data that might be of interest: link here. Note the data only goes through 2013.

        I’d imagine there’s a lot you’d want to do with it, but not having the link pairs (observer continuity between tapping on and off) makes it difficult.

      2. Can any data set be used for your active graphic, Alper?

        I would love to see the Amtrak Cascades data in that form.

      3. I make sure to tap on and off with my employer ORCA just to help the data for the people here ;) (also it’s the Right Thing To Do)

  6. Tacoma Link: The Ride To Nowhere! Reality TV coming soon to late night on your channel.

    1. Sometime back in the 1980s, I rode the Illinois Central electric line from Chicago to University Park. I figured that typically anyplace that has a university is usually an interesting place.

      When I got off the train I found a parking lot, a smallish paved road leading to it, and pretty much everything in all directions visible from the platform was corn stalks.

      THAT is a ride to nowhere.

      I’ve heard that thanks to the unlimited sprawl complex we have in this country that the area around this station is now an actual community of sorts. Looking at Google Street View, it looks like they’ve made the road a four lane road since then, and let some of the trees grow up so that you can’t see the huge expanse of corn fields from the station as well.

      I’d be nice if there were a good way to get Tacoma Link out to that big new development at Point Ruston. That plus the Point Defiance ferry plus bus transfers at Old Tacoma might provide some decent ridership. However, you would have to do this as an elevated line above the BNSF as there isn’t space to put something like that through there. It would be terribly expensive for not a huge amount of benefit.

      1. In 2006 I took the train there. It was a weekend in the winter (long story). The station is still between the edge of Chicago’s continuous sprawl and the still-defined town of Monee, still utterly desolate. There are some warehouses around, which you’d expect near the first freeway exit past the edge of the continuous sprawl (in this case the Manhattan-Monee exit from I-57). It’s curious that the train line ends where it does. Maybe Monee didn’t join the Metra district but University Park did.

        Anyway, that’s a different kind of ride to nowhere. The station serves an obvious purpose and I imagine people do use it on weekdays (as cheap as Metra fares are compared to parking downtown). And the line as a whole is certainly useful, especially farther north. Tacoma Link is more like short streetcar lines everywhere: it doesn’t go far enough fast enough to satisfy many of today’s travel needs. Running non-stop, stuck between the water and a steep hillside, all the way to one random new development and a ferry connection to a sparsely populated island (with essentially nothing directly across, not even much of a parking lot) swings too far in the other direction. The real proposals for Tacoma Link extensions run through established, continuous urbanity. Unfortunately chasing ideal land use leads to some semi-goofy U-shaped proposals…

      2. University Park was a planned community, planned as a “New Town”, built in 1967… and the Illinois Central extended there as part of the plan in 1969. It was never as successful as they hoped, and basically stopped growing in 1974.

  7. Anyone know what is going on the Link farebox recovery in the linked ST report? It shows farebox recovery climbing from 25% to 40% to 60% in the past few months, but a footnote to the table says don’t trust it, use the 12 month rolling average instead. The other ST modes don’t show such volatility in farebox recovery.

    Another surprising fact is the Sounder is reported as having farebox recovery similar to ST Express Bus, both around 30%. I had thought Sounder was a massive subsidy pit, but even with Sounder North included it holds its own against Express buses.

    1. Very good points about sounder. I believe though that a reduction of the sounder fare would further increase sounder’s farebox recovery.

      1. What’s going on with Sounder? Sounder South does *extremely* well and as a result swamps the poor performance of Sounder North. Sounder South does *way* better than the express buses financially.

    2. It shows farebox recovery climbing from 25% to 40% to 60% in the past few months, but a footnote to the table says don’t trust it, use the 12 month rolling average instead.

      It sounds like there is some sort of quarterly expense or something like that. Recurring payments for station cleaning and escalator repair? Seattle City Light payments happening every two months? Quarterly lease payments of some sort?

  8. “What happened between 2011 and 2015? Nothing, really. The problem was that in 2011 the system was too young to judge whether it was a success or a failure. In 2009, DoDo himself explained that there is a five-year curve in any new HSR line, that there is a ramp-up period that builders and governments just have to ride out rather than panic and make bad decisions that would compromise the effectiveness of the system. Basically, ridership on a new HSR line will take about 5 years to reach its full potential, and governments have to be willing to let that process unfold naturally, rather than panicking in the face of bad press in the second or third year”–California High Speed Rail Blog

    Sounds exactly like what’s happening to Central Link

  9. Gangnam Style Youtube views: 2.4 billion.

    Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus, & Orchestra, Op. 80 with Leonard Bernstein conducting and Rudolf Serkin on piano: 20 views.

    Popularity has nothing to do with quality.

    1. You forgot the link to the Choral Fantasy. Duh-duh-da-duh, dut-dut-dah-duh, dut-dut-da-doo-dut-dut-dut!

    2. If not ridership, what metrics would you use to determine the “quality” of the Link?

  10. Someone has archived one of TriMet’s quick fact sheets from 1996:

    Some interesting parallels, and statistics it would be interesting to have about Link:

    + When MAX started service, MAX ridership to 1996 increased 35% over the 10 years after it was built.

    + During that same period, bus ridership increased 38%

    Some of this I can tell you because I lived through it. For example, one reason the bus ridership went up was that building MAX allowed for the redeployment of a lot of service hours into the busiest bus routes. However, MAX also allowed for easy bus transfers and made getting between local buses faster than it had been. Thus, a single MAX ride might also involve a single bus trip or a bus trip at each end of it. Neither of those bus trips would have been made had MAX not allowed for the faster connection speed between the two bus routes.

    It would be really interesting to know how Link ridership is also impacting all the other transit modes.

  11. I wish they’d bump 9pm – 1am from every 15 minutes to every 10 minutes. I don’t really care about 5-6am. 15 minute headways are horribly inconvenient. Loads more people would choose to take LINK at night if they knew they’d never have to wait more than 10 minutes.

  12. Is there an official ridership forecast for U-Link opening? 71/2/3/4 show about 20,000 daily weekday boardings alone. Plenty of UW folks use the ST routes between Montlake Freeway Station and downtown (WAY faster than the 70s). There’s probably a bus that connects Capitol Hill and UW, which will now be pointless. Plus everyone in NE Seattle who is able to bike and works downtown will start biking to UW Station on BGT (they will need about 20,000 bike racks).

    All told, I predict Link ridership will double overnight to 80,000, and cruise quickly up to 100,000 or 120,000.

    1. I’m not quite as optimistic as you. I am thinking more like 60,000 – 65,000. Within a year maybe 80,000. It would be fun to start a pool.

      1. Yeah, roughly 60,000 in the first year, then creeping up…

        Might start a bit lower if some of the people taking the 71/2/3 are already catching Link to go further south.

    2. Lots of hyperboles here. A few UW folks use the 512 to downtown. People take the 43 and 49 and get off at other stops besides Broadway & John. And the 43 is being deleted if the final proposal goes through. Tens of thousands of people in north Seattle are not going to get a bike; this is not Amsterdam, and if they wanted to ride a bike they’d already be doing so. And if they’re on a bike, why not continue riding downtown if they’re already at the Ship Canal? If you’re near Roosevelt Avenue there’s Eastlake, Fairview, and Lakeview Blvd. If you’re near Fremont Avenue there’s Westlake and Dexter.

      1. Mike: This is a rare occasion where I fully disagree with you. People don’t bike commute for a variety of reasons, but safety looms large.

        The Burke plus Link connection is huge for people who live north of the ship canal. It won’t happen all at once but bike + Link will be a major connection.

        The upsides? A nearly all trail connection, no riding in DT Seattle, no sketchy bridge crossings.

        Following the numbers on this is going to be a big story here over the next couple of years. I concur that it won’t be tens of thousands per day, but it will be very significant.

      2. Two huge reasons bike + Link will attract many more N Seattle to DT commuters than biking alone currently does. Safety is 1 — that is why my wife biked 3 miles on BGT to U District then got on a 7[1/2/3] there, but would never dream of crossing University Bridge. Biking on Eastlake is terrifying for most people, while BGT is safe and flat. I bike commuted every day in DC but also was too scared to ride Eastlake or Dexter down from above ship canal. Even East Marginal Way is preferable, from our new home in West Seattle.

        2nd reason is timing– for many many commutes, bike+Link will actually be faster than driving, and certainly WAY faster than present bus service or present ‘bike all the way’ commutes. I agree it will take time for that info to get out there, but it will. Plenty of folks own bikes now for recreation, and the cost of a new commuter bike at REI is no more than 2-3 months of downtown parking costs.

        Sadly, UW has seen fit to close the BGT (again) from west side of campus to the new stadium, until summer 2016, so my estimates are probably a little premature. Everyone coming from west on BGT will still have to mix with a million buses and cars on Stevens Way to reach the stadium station. :-/

  13. The monthly report for August 2015 also shows impressive numbers, with central link posting 39k weekday riders, just shy of 40k for a second month in a row. On the report it also says that total ridership on all ST modes was over 120k for the third month in a row, “a feat that had not been reached prior to this year”. Way to go sound transit!

    And sounder trains, at least going southbound, are definately not anything to sneeze at. Even though most of the stations aren’t very impressive, the ridership growth has been very impressive!

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