Peter Lorimer (Flickr)
4-Car Link Train. Peter Lorimer (Flickr)

Following up on yesterday’s ridership report, here are three charts to file in the back of your head the next time you hear an ostensibly pro-transit voice arguing that scalable transit investments “could be done better and more cheaply with buses.”

The first chart shows that if Link were its own transit agency, it would now be the 5th largest in the state, behind only Metro (to whom no one comes close), Washington State Ferries, the rest of Sound Transit, and Spokane Transit. This despite being only a single 15-mile line that serves little current density.
Annual Ridership By Agency
The second chart shows Metro and Sound Transit ridership by route.  Link is in a league of its own, and it’s just getting started.  Link has triple the ridership of any other single transit route in the region.

Data from Metro 2014 Service Guidelines Report, Sound Transit 2015 SIP, and July 2015 Link data . Only routes with more 1,000 weekday riders shown. Sound Transit routes shown in teal, Rapid Ride in red, and other Metro routes in Purple.

UntitledThe third chart shows Link capacity today and in 2023. At full ST2 buildout, with 4-car trains running every 3 minutes, Link will have between 4-7x more capacity it has today. I can’t wait to vote on ST3.

Link is far from perfect. Its speed is compromised by at-grade running on MLK, it misses the commercial heart of the Rainier Valley, its stop spacing is too wide in its tunneled sections etc etc. But it still rocks, and its performance will increasingly be a difference of kind not degree. Where scalability and capacity matter, there’s nothing like high-quality rail.

136 Replies to “Link is in a League of Its Own”

    1. I included that because their individual ridership (also shown) isn’t terribly impressive, but most people think of them as a combined trunk route.

    2. The 510+512 are listed separately in the chart, but you can add their numbers together: 2835+3420 = 5255 boardings, just below the 71 by itself. Adding in the 511 gets you another 3709, putting you at a very respectable 8964 altogether, between the 120 and 545.

      1. To expand on how they’re run, the 71/2/3 is run differently from the 510/1/2. The three routes have separate tails in northeast Seattle but then run together as a common trunk from the UW to downtown. Each route has 30-minute service individually, but they combine for a 10-minute trunk. It’s sort of like the 201/202 in Snohomish County… for an even better comparison, imagine if one of them went off to Lake Stevens after Everett instead of continuing to Smokey Point.

    3. The separate routes are also listed for comparison.

      It’s also worth looking at them combined because that’s the nucleus of ridership for UW Station and U-District Station. If you append it to the current Link row, most of those people will switch to Link in 2016 and all of them will in 2021. So it’s the minimum ridership to expect, and it will make the Link row 3 1/2 times longer than the second-highest row.

      1. So, we have
        71/72/73 which are going to be Link soon

        It’s interesting to look at the other high-ridership routes:

        E — someone figured out this should have RapidRide treatment, I guess…
        7 — major trolleybus route. How about some exclusive lanes?
        48 — oughtta be a trolleybus, just needs a few blocks of wire. How about some exclusive lanes, too?
        D — someone figured out this should have RapidRide treatment, I guesss…
        36 — another major trolleybus route. How about some exclusive lanes?
        Sounder South — another impressive example of what you can get with even infrequent rail service.
        8 — Which section is this ridership on?

    4. Community Transit figures I the second chart would be handy. The lack of 400 series data from CT reduces the value accuracy of any extrapolated 510/511/512 ‘trunk data’. A lot of people use 415/417 for transit to Ash Way/Lynnwood TC respectively (admittedly fewer than if the evening commute buses were on time). Then there is the 402 which off loads a decent amount from the 510/511 during rush hour. The other 400 series CT buses offload stress from the 51# and single occupant lanes as well. All valuable data points to have had.

    5. +1

      Also, consider the combined 3/4 routing…one of the few that makes a profit for metro

  1. U Link will be a game changer for this city. But I think when it gets to Northgate, that’s when we’ll really be kicking ourselves for not having built this thing (and more) decades ago.

    Second chart reminds me what an incredible waste Sounder North is.

      1. Trade the Sounder North slots to WSDOT for use in additional Cascades service, perhaps? In exchange, WSDOT could help out Sound Transit with something, probably…

    1. Especially since Northgate link will naturally intersect several high use, high capacity bus routes.

      Having lines like the 40, 44, 48, 70, 62 (new 16) and the 67 (among others) intersect Link at multiple stations will transform our bus network overnight into something that is a lot more reliable and easier to use to get around.

      Even without the inevitable restructures that would leverage Northgate link, the existing network would benefit a lot from this change. I look forward to seeing what the new network will look like when north link opens though.

      1. +1 Northgate link will hopefully transform North seattle via fast, favored, and frequent feeders

    1. From this rider’s perspective, the buses seem a lot more full then they were in previous years that I rode.

      Numbers would be interesting though. Its the most heavily used RR route so it would be worth seeing what difference that switch made (though that would be difficult to separate from the effect of the booming economy).

      1. So, right about the level of the 31 (which I happened to ride to work today). I don’t want to be the rare voice defending all the dumb decisions that get made around streetcars, but I’ve never really been convinced the SLUT is that bad.

      2. Thanks Glenn. For reference, the Seattle Center to Westlake Center Monorail serves about 2,000,000 a year or 5479.5 (say 5,480) people a day. Most of whom are tourists or marathon runners or in my case Tuesday (PIX 2015) attendees or special event goers….

      3. Despite being largely used by tourists, the Monorail is quite a workhorse, especially for its age.

        I do wish we could have integrated it into the orca system. I suspect it could do a lot more heavy lifting than it does now. Traffic can be pretty bad through belltown towards LQA/Uptown and having a reliable, fast transfer like the monorail is hard to beat without spending billions and waiting a decade or more.

      4. I’m not sure matching the numbers of the 31 is really much to celebrate for the streetcar

      5. Hindsight is 20/20

        The SLU SC could have been more effective if it has been implemented in a more effective manner (Redundant sentence is redundant, I know). A sweet shame, that is. Especially now that Bio Tech has moved into SLU, the SC connecting to the UW would have been a valuable option. More so when you consider walking to north SLU after taking the Link down from the U-District would be miserable in the rain. Not that it rains here any more. Further connections to the south, to Pioneer Square if not SODO, would have ridership red lined as people board for games on weekdays. Oh well.

      6. The SLUT gets the connection to Pioneer Square and the International District with the CCC. The study numbers show very strong ridership and a huge bump for the current SLUT stops.

      7. The streetcar should never have been built. That should be obvious by now, but if it isn’t, consider that its capacity (which is never close to being realized) is no greater than one of our buses. So basically, Link carries a lot of people because it operates in a fast and frequent manner, but also because it can carry a lot more people. Even if the streetcar achieved the former, it can never achieve the latter. It was a waste of money — money that could have been put into better bus service, or better stops on Link.

      8. You are comparing average daily for streetcar to average weekday for Link and bus. Streetcar average daily is about 2500, about the same as route 12, but it is a short line that requires far fewer service hours. In passengers per ser if hour, it is already one of the most efficient routes in the system.

      9. I’m sure if Metro painted a bus Pink and called it the “Pink Express” and ran it from one part of downtown to the other, than it would be “one of the most efficient routes in the system”, but that sure as hell doesn’t mean we should be painting our buses pink.

      1. Only recently has the ridership been that high, and that is because it now operates some 8 or so miles of route. This really should be a much higher number because everything along the line is congested and fairly high density by Portland standards.

        They are operating Portland Streetcar every 15 minutes when nearby bus routes are operating every 6 minutes (take a look at the 14).

        The ridership could probably double on it and have a positive impact on the rest of the system if simple lane separation had been allowed.

      2. It was 13,500-14,000 for just the NS line a few years ago. I have no clue what the CL has been carrying, although as of September 2015 the CL line is completely different now and actually of use.

  2. When ULink opens, the E will be the region’s highest ridership bus route. As such, does it “deserve” some spot improvements to improve service? What would you do to improve it?

    1. Full transit lanes and a stop diet. If Swift is poor man’s light rail in Snohomish County, RapidRide is poor man’s light rail in King County. That means it should act like it and be funded like it. Even if it doesn’t have a local overlay (so it can’t have as few stops as Swift), at least cut the 5-block spacing between 73rd and 105th in half. Shoreline also has excessive stations, but given that Shoreline has come through with full BAT lanes (putting Seattle to shame) and upzones around all its stations (putting Seattle even more to shame), and the fact that it’s the end of the line rather than the middle, I’m less concerned about Shoreline.

      1. Agreed.

        Stops at 72nd, 80th, 90th and 100th could be dropped with relatively little pain to existing riders. Unlike the stretch north of 105th, this stretch actually has useable sidewalks for most of its length and is quite walkable between stations.

        Removing the after-hours/weekend parking would also be a boon to the line. The BAT lanes should be bus/turn only 24/7 like most of the bus lanes on 99 in Snohomish County.

      2. @Seattle Straphanger

        Since the bus stop there is a shared island, it would require building a new bus stop to the Green Lake side.

      3. The Lynnwood deviation is there because residents don’t think it’s safe to cross Aurora at the crosswalk north of the station, and there’s not much room for a station there.

      4. Full transit lanes is the big change. I sometimes drive Aurora during heavy traffic times. In the north end (above around 100th) I will see the bus pass me. But as we get close to around 80th, I often catch up with the bus (as it picks up people) and then we are all stuck together in the same mess. This is ridiculous. The bus should sail by me.

        I don’t know how many of the stops are off board, but more of them should be. I’m a bit less enthused about a stop diet. Five blocks or so is about right by my book. The key is that the bus should stop, open up all the doors, then start moving a few seconds later.

        I would skip the northbound Linden detour. That is very annoying. I think the city should be able to carve out space for a stop at around 65th, right here: The outside lane should be a 24 hour bus lane. That would mean that all you need is a crosswalk from the lake to the stop (it looks to be there, but a bit faded). Those on the other side have to cross under the bridge at 63rd or cross north of there, in the signaled crosswalk (at around 68th). There is another stop at 76th, so this doesn’t leave that big of a hole It would be a bit of an inconvenience for some, but for the greater good.

        I would also add the Fremont stop (talked about here a few years ago). A stop at the south end of the Aurora bridge would be a very good thing. Not only would that provide a good connection to Fremont below, but there are increasing number of apartments on that part of Aurora.

      5. I wish there was a really good way to make a stop in lower Fremont. A stop-pair north of 38th is really too far north, and getting to the stops from the opposite side of the road would not be very straightforward, but at least the natural walking paths to the stops would be reasonably safe (better than 46th, certainly). Moving a block south into the interchange triangles makes for shorter, but much less safe walking routes from the south (worse than 46th, which is saying something), and probably makes navigating the interchange harder for drivers (especially southbound).

        Maybe with some new traffic signals (and a few other changes) buses could use 38th to pull on and off the freeway and serve existing stops (the ones the 16 uses today); located on the outer edge of the interchange, these are safer and more straightforward to access, especially from the south. Parts of it would be a tough sell for local residents, but might be palatable if paired with sorely needed safety improvements and maintenance on Bridge Way and Fremont Way. Making these stops would take significantly more time than just stopping along Aurora, even with the best possible signal priority… and it still isn’t a real easy walk from the core of lower Fremont. A transfer from the 26, 31, or 32 at 35th/Troll, for instance, would be a fairly steep two-to-three-block walk (to/from the southbound stop it’s a little over three blocks if you can’t handle stairs or rutted unpaved alleys).

        A stop around this area would be a big win for Fremont’s transit connectivity even if it’s not the ideal of an elevator stop over 35th. I’ve walked up to 46th, and across the onramps from the west, enough times to know that.

        As for south of the bridge… I actually think Lynn (currently the first stop south of the bridge) really is the first good place to stop. It’s probably the first place, southbound, where it’s safe to stop a bus, for one thing. It’s also the first place where there’s an acceptable pedestrian route across Aurora.

    2. Even if there isn’t an all-day local shadow, some of peak-period E-line trips could be converted to an express variant, stopping north of Denny only at transfer points, and every other stop in Belltown skipped as well. I would expect a route like this to do quite well. The only problem is if bad traffic prevents the express bus from being able to effectively pass a local (due to the non-bus-lanes being a parking lot), it kind of defeats the purpose.

      1. No, and that is probably a smart decision. Think of it like the B-Line in Vancouver. Eventually you want it to be rail, but it isn’t essential for building a transit system that is the envy of just about every city in North America (they are third in North American transit ridership per capita). The main thing we should do is make it better and complement it with good rail stations (and other bus service). If I want to go from Lake City to say, 100th and Aurora, I should be able to catch a very frequent bus headed to the Link station at NE 130th. Then I should stay on the bus until it gets to Aurora. A couple minutes later, I should be able to take the E south to my destination. That’s fast, and if the Aurora section is in its own lane (and there is traffic) it would be faster than driving.

        Once we get to the point where replacing any part of that with rail makes sense (and we don’t have much higher priorities) we will have caught up with cities like Vancouver. That will be a great day, whether we end up building any additional rail or not. But like you say, that won’t happen anytime soon.

  3. The ridership data you show for Link actually represents ridership that was achieved under the old 7.5 min headways, whereas your capacity chart shows the current 6 min headways (which we don’t have ridership data for yet)..

    That is a disconnect of 25% in capacity that you aren’t claiming in your “4-7x” statement. I.e., 2023 capacity will be much more than the 4-7x what the 40k ridership number was achieved with.

    Link has been beating the pants off any of the Metro individual routes for a long time now, but that fact has been a bit under the radar.

    Once U-Link opens in 2016 the ridership imbalance will be even greater.

    1. Good point about the ridership being achieved under 7.5 minute headways. But the capacity chart is still correct, no?

      2015 off-peak is 2-car trains at 10 minutes = 12 LRVs per hour per direction. Full ST2 build is 4-car trains at 3 minutes = 80 LRVs per hour per direction. 80/12 = 6.67. That’s where I got 7x from.

      1. The capacity chart is correct per the capacity we went to last weekend (it was only last weekend, right?). But the capacity shown shouldn’t be linked with the 40k ridership level.

        A third bar on the chart representing the previous 7.5 min headways would make it obvious.

        Also maybe add the SLU SC to your “ridership by route” chart. It’s surprising, but the SLU SC actually outperforms many of Metro’s standard routes.

    2. Ridership does not follow 1:1 with capacity. All you can say is a few people will find the train less crowded and me more willing to use it. The bigger issue is frequency. If you double the frequency, people will find it more than twice as convenient, but the actual ridership may be below or above that. When the A doubled the frequency over the 174, the increase was 50% rather than 100% after a few years. But long term it should go above 100%.

      1. Correct. But lack of capacity can constrict ridership. Given how fast Link ridership is growing, ST needs to do everything they can to stay ahead of demand.

      2. If trains are often full then expansion is needed anyway. I haven’t seen Link at that point though. Just when there’s a ballgame crowd or other occasional event.

      3. The added frequency for Link was severely compromised afternoons this week due to DSTT congestion. Peak of peak saw several Link trains 5 minutes or more late leaving Pine SB for Westlake and sometimes even later SB from IDS. With no dispatching for buses both inbound and outbound the bunching of key routes (41, 550, 71s) created station dwell times of over 5 minutes especially at Westlake.

        Link performance suffered in the south end from traffic signal cascade loss due to train bunching and corresponding lack of adherence to the station traffic timers at MBS and RBS (the cascade system frequently seizes when trains follow each other closer than five minutes apart),

        The new six minute headway schedule has removed the train recovery time at SEA making it difficult to recover from late operation. (train recovery went from twelve minute average to five during peak).

        Surface street and freeway congestion seem to be the cause of this. The number of buses arriving in the DSTT at any given time during peak frequently exceeds the optimal capacity. No dispatching further complicates this with groups of buses in disorder relative to the bays they must serve.

        From my perch in the cab of a Link train whether waiting for congestion to clear ahead of me in the DSTT or listening to our controller radio elsewhere on the route it is painfully clear that our “control” of the situation is Laissez faire. Everyone seems to have thrown in the towel on bus/rail DSTT joint use – the buses will be out soon so why care?

      4. Jeff Doppmann, comment of the week right there dude. +1,001.

        The fact you drive a lovely light rail train might have something to do with it. I swear I’d love to try driving one of those things and just see how fast one of those bad boys can go!

        But yeah, having to sit or sometimes stand in a light rail cab waiting to get to a station is a real drag. Sometimes my feet kill me.

      5. @Good point, Jeff. I think your last statement hit the nail on the head. It is really sad. Not to say that joint operation is always easy, but it is obvious that no one is even trying to do little things (let alone big things) to make it better. Not only does it screw up people now, but it screws up the way that ignorant people look at the system. It is a bit like RapidRide calling itself BRT, or if the South Lake Union Streetcar called itself light rail. Do you think anyone would vote for light rail if the SLUS was called light rail? Of course not. But with joint operation being so terrible, it gives joint operations a really bad name.

        Of course, it isn’t just the fact that there is joint operations. The “Oh, that is good enough” attitude goes back to Metro. When the Ride Free zone ended (and I am glad it ended) there was no real response. The obvious answer at that point was to go with off board payment in the tunnel. Every station is designed for that. Yes, it requires turn styles, and yes it requires a security guard or two — but maybe that is a good idea anyway. The end result would have been thousands if not millions of hours saved before the train and buses started competing for space.

      6. >> The bigger issue is frequency.

        Yep. Exactly. (see especially “Frequency Matters”). By the way, I really like reading Jarrett Walker. For those software nerds (is that redundant) his writing reminds me of the patterns book on software. If you have an analytical mind and have been thinking hard about this stuff, nothing he says is too shocking. But it is really well written, he has little insights, and explains the concepts so well that it is a joy to read. Plus you get to add to your vocabulary — it is quite common in both cases to go “yeah, I know that — so that is what that is called, cool”.

        Oh, and as I said below, the big drawback to surface running on Rainier Valley is not the very minor speed difference, but what it means from a frequency and operations standpoint. We can’t run small trains every couple minutes like our neighbors to the north. That being said, that isn’t possible right now anyway, as Jeff points out (tunnel problems). But eventually, we may regret not being able to run the trains more often down there; not because we have exceeded the capacity, but because running them more often leads to much better service.

      7. The headway problem along MLK is exactly what I feared when ST decided to give us more frequent trains instead of twice as much additional capacity, as Zach points out on another thread.

        Total wait+travel time has gone up, not down, as a result of the new train schedule. Though I wish it were not the case, I now get to say “I told you so.”

        What’s even more maddening about this decision where marketeers trump the engineers, is that the faux-6-minute-headway on MLK is only temporary. Once East Link opens, it will go back to 7.5 minute headway.

        As far as I can see, this was just a ruse to push buses out of the tunnel. I don’t believe for one second that ST is incapable of devising an algorithm for taking some two-car trains out of service and replacing them with three- or four-car trains for peak runs.

        Which will sell ST3 better? This mess that we warned ST would be a mess, or putting out longer trains with more capacity than projected to be necessary for the first year of U-Link, and giving more riders seating room while they mull over how they will vote on ST3?

      8. “The added frequency for Link was severely compromised afternoons this week due to DSTT congestion.”

        this every week

        When I used to ride the 71/72/73 between 4:30 and 7pm (I now take the 43 or 49 because the 70s are b**ked), at leat once a week it would take 5-10 minutes to get into Westlake Station, and another 5-10 minutes to get into University Street Station. So a 5-minute delay is actually better than it was.

  4. Two thoughts:

    First, congrats to Link. I sure wish there becomes a focus and emphasis on more light rail, cheaper, faster. It’s well beyond time we in the transit community demanded fast-tracking & regulatory relief out of the state legislature to get light rail done ahead of schedule for less cost. Frankly, I wish it were cost-effective to build light rail from Bellingham to Olympia by 2035 with supporting lines in Seattle & possibly Tacoma, and instead we will be lucky if we get one spine from Everett to Tacoma.

    Second, notice how underperforming Sounder North is? Sounder North is performing as a RURAL line connecting three Snohomish County cities of significance to Seattle. Just thought I’d point that out.

    1. I can’t imagine using something like link in most of the vast stretches between cities in Skagit and Whatcom counties.

      North of Everett, an upgraded express bus system or sounder style service makes a lot more sense. There is simply not enough population to support link levels of service that far out. I’m all for boosting bus service hours though. Frequency can be quite freeing, especially on the roads less impacted by rush hour commuters.

      1. I wonder how much slower a Bellingham Olympia link would be compared to a similar bus. imagine stopping every two miles and a top speed of 55 for the entire route… God that’d be awful.

  5. A better way to depict transit capacity isn’t train cars per hour, but trains per hour, or better yet, people per hour. Train cars is rather meaningless to most as the general public doesn’t know the capacity of a 4-car train (~800 people) or they might think there’s a train car coming every minute rather than 4 every 3 min. In the freight or automotive realm, counting individual vehicles per hour is a logical measurement.

    1. I chose traincars because people too often dismiss consist length as a determiner of capacity. For instance, even though I’m happy we’re running 2-car trains every 6 minutes during peak (20 LRVs/hour), we’d have 20% more capacity and additional tunnel bus slots if we’d kept it at 7.5 minutes but added a 3rd car to each (24 LRVs/hour).

      1. A train with fewer cars and more frequency will carry more than a train with more cars and less frequency, assuming the same number of cars per hour. Look at how RT operates light rail in Sacramento (often 4 car trains at 15 min frequency). If those were 2 car trains at 7.5 minute frequency the ridership would be much higher. For every 100% increase in frequency you can conservatively expect a 20% bonus in ridership. Frequency rules.

      2. Under normal circumstances I would agree. However, wih the tunnel tangle overall service could get worse with an increase in frequency.

  6. Is there a simple way to figure out which routes link replaced? I know there’s been some development because of link, but would be interesting to see what routes it mainly replaced and what their former ridership was compared to link now. Would show how much more people will switch from car to light rail vs bus.

    1. Routes Link replaced:
      – 194 (nonstop downtown->airport)
      – 42 (MLK to downtown, all-day local + peak-only express)
      – 39 (Seward Park->downtown, local)
      – 174 (airport->downtown local – was only airport->downtown option after 7 PM, when the 194 stopped running)

      Routes that still exist (but Link probably siphoned some passengers from):
      – 7, 36

      1. Given the continued strong ridership on routes 7 and 36, I would argue that Link has induced people out of driving more than out of riding these two routes.

      2. The 7 is really a different corridor south of Columbia City where the distance between MLK and Rainier widens. The 36 serves a lot of stops not at the station. But the ridership increase is probably just part of a general phenomenon: if you add a train and keep a semi-parallel bus route, ridership on both increases because the total network is more convenient for more people and more trips. This has happened on Link and the 7 and 8; the D and 40; and Swift and CT 101. Metro is clearly anticipating it with Link and the 49.

  7. Thought experiment. If Link was a bus route, but served the exact same destinations with the same frequency and capacity, what would its ridership be?

    What I’m getting at is rail bias. Is it real, and is that showing up in Link ridership stats?

    1. Rail bias or not, I’m tired of waiting for buses that don’t show up on time in the evening because Sports Ball is happening or the sun is out. Because of this, people stop taking dedicated neighborhood express buses. They don’t know if the last bus has shown up, thus they either drive to work or pile on to the already over capacity park and ride lots because Downtown to PnR/TC is much more reliable. As people stop using the later Neighborhood express buses, the Transit Authorities think people don’t need the buses and cut later runs.

      Then there is the issue that downtown stops later in the route’s pickup sequence can’t pick up anyone because they’re full. Wasting gas for an empty bus to sit in traffic is visually unbecoming of a “green” city, so the TA don’t allow for mid-pickup sequence starts. With rails (that do not have at grade crossings), you don’t have to wait for traffic. Not to mention, mid-pickup sequence starts are a lot easier (DC does this during rush hour).

      It would seem that the only other real solution is to create dedicated bus lanes on the highways, on/off ramps and high capacity arteries. Which would be great for emergency response vehicles! Ultimately, the compromise would be stealing lanes and capacity from single occupant lanes.

      We’re not proposing that we close roads, reduce highway capacity (the 405 debacle) or stop service to areas. We’re proposing that we put money towards statistically significantly-more-efficient means of moving people. While I’d love to ride a submarine to work… Yeah, I have a rail bias and I’m sure many have Rail Bias. I’m okay with that, coming from an east coast city that has a great rail transit option.

    2. Its kind of an irrelevant question, because there is no kind of bus route we would have ever built that has the amazingly fast routing that ulink will have when it opens.

      I can’t imagine us digging 1.x billion dollars of tunnel just to stick slightly cheaper and much lower capacity buses in there… not to mention the problems with turning the things around.

    3. A bus route serving the Link stations, but running on regular streets would at least twice as long as Link does between downtown and the airport.

    4. Well, the 42/142 sort of served the same “set of stations” at least, in the RV. It was a DOG that finally had to be killed in spite of the lamentations of the five passengers who rode it every day.

      There is a lot of service and a lot of patrons on the top of Beacon Hill, but the trolleys that serve the area go north/south through the neighborhood and so are available to many more people.

      The old 174 was a modest success and the 194 very popular at the airport, but neither of them topped 6 or 8,000 riders per day ever.

    5. You could probably look at service that starts and stops in the tunnel itself. Remember, the most important part of Link was not build by Sound Transit. So how does the ridership from one end of downtown via the train compare to ridership (in the tunnel) on the bus. My guess is that it is roughly the same. I don’t think anyone stands at the stop, then says “Oh, a bus — icky — I’ll just wait for a train”. Of course, this is with the operational advantage of Link (off board payment) that used to be part of the entire system (including the buses) but is no longer there. Not that I miss the ride free zone (it was ridiculous) but that would balance the scales quite a bit.

      Generally speaking, I don’t think there is much “rail bias”, if by that you mean that people will prefer one mode over another. People prefer speed and reliability and don’t care how it is achieved. The train provides this — most buses don’t. Off board payment, level boarding and grade separation are all possible with buses, they just aren’t done around here. Transit is not Disneyland (

      As Charles said, it would have been rather silly to build a bus based system like this anyway. Theoretically, you have built the Beacon Hill tunnel and the overhead ramps and run various buses on them. But the old downtown bus tunnel didn’t serve one route, it served dozens, which happened to converge into the same spot. If you ran this one line, you might have capacity problems on the Rainier Valley section as well. Either that, or do away with signal priority, which would have lead to bus bunching. But I’m just guessing. I’m not sure how many of the riders only go through the parts that are grade separated (Mount Baker to Westlake or Rainier Beach to the airport). So you could have kept the infrequent runs on Rainier Valley, and increased frequency from Mount Baker to downtown, but the section to the airport might be pretty crowded by now. Or not — I really don’t know. But either way, it would have been ridiculous. When you spend that much money on a *line* (not a convergence point) then it makes sense to go with rail.

      1. Rail bias is documented to be 10%-20%, given identical service levels in other ways. Speed, reliability, frequency, are all very important of course, but there seems to be a residual rail bias.

        It’s generally suspected that most of the “core” rail bias is about ride quality. Some of it is probably the fact that train drivers can’t suddenly drive dangerously or get lost; I’ve heard that anecdotally.

  8. Thanks for making this point! Link’s numbers really are off the charts compared to any of Seattle’s individual bus routes. Just goes to show, even with the ways in which Link is non-optimal, it got grade separation (mostly) right, and that shows up in the ridership numbers.

    I think this really shows why rail bias exists, and why it’s basically justified. If you’re going to acquire the ROW for grade separation, that’s already the expensive part of building true high capacity transit. Might as well put down rails and get the higher capacity benefits & lower operating cost that comes with multi car trains.

    1. How exactly is that “rail bias”? That is just common sense. It is simply building what is appropriate for the area. No one is suggesting we build light rail from Ballard to the UW and put buses in there, because there is no cost benefit to doing so. But in other cases, leveraging existing infrastructure to build a bus based system with a much larger coverage area is much more effective at moving people. It is simply a matter of picking the right tool for the job.

      “Rail bias” would be if people actually prefer riding the train over a similarly performing bus. As the numbers show for the streetcar, that just isn’t the case. People ride transit that works — that is fast and frequent. They really don’t care what form it takes — this ain’t Disneyland (

      1. People actually do consistently prefer a train over a similarly performing bus. But only by 10%-20%. This shows up even in the SLUS numbers, though you don’t have any buses quite that infrequent in that part of town!

  9. Zach – without also including information on COST you have completely failed to support your opening argument that scalable transit investments CAN’T “be done better and more cheaply with buses”.

    And besides – a categorical statement about either buses or rail being better than one another is going to simply be wrong. They are both tools that have different advantages and disadvantages. Buses will be more cost effective in the vast majority of instances where you have a need for a “scalable transit investment”.

    And rail really shines when you need to couple multiple vehicles together to handle peak loads. That is one chart you should show to really hit home what rail is doing, and why its the right tool for this corridor.

    1. So you mean we should show a passenger per driver chart to show the hourly wages saved by filling trains full of people instead of buses?

    2. You raise excellent points. I’m sure the data can be aggregated and adjusted for inflation regarding the miles of I-5 used for transit. Your point about transit options as tools is valuable as well. When people bring up the ‘war on cars/drivers’ and cite monies going to rail transit, I laugh because they make it sound as though by creating another tool we are somehow going to restrict use of highways and cars by implementing rail transit.

      The hours lost to sitting in traffic versus time gained by using rail transit is a little bit of a red herring. I wager that time saved weekly is rather low per person and any aggregate becomes relatively pointless especially framed by the dearth of quantifiable increase to the individual’s monthly bank balance. The real advantage is stress reduction and the impact that less stress has on our work day. This is a little more difficult to quantify.

    3. Thanks Chazz. I’m not an unconditional rail booster, and I’m a noted skeptic of streetcars, but you’re right that some sort of intermodal capacity chart would help my case. Running quick numbers, 4-car trains, each car with capacity for 157 people, running every 3 minutes, is a max of 12,560 people per hour per direction. To achieve the same capacity on 100-passenger articulated buses, you’d need 125.6 buses per hour, or a frequency of every 30 seconds, which is impractical with human operators, in addition to having 6.3 times the labor costs.

      1. Yes, but that is capacity that so far is largely unmet. Besides, it misses the point. What would we have done with the money if we hadn’t spent it on light rail? The short answer is that we would have added a lot of extra bus service. Since it is impossible to say where those buses would have gone, it is impossible to convincingly make the case that light rail was the right investment. The highest demand section is actually well suited for very frequent buses — that is the section in the *bus* (now transit) tunnel. Add off-board payment, level boarding (and/or allow buses to once again pass other buses) and you can get close to that thirty second mark (and certainly close to our current level of service, which is not even close to the capacity you mention).*

        My gut tells me that light rail, with all of its flaws, was the right decision. As the line finally builds the most important section**, we will finally see ridership that takes advantage of the labor savings and capacity advantages that you mention. It is also unlikely that infrastructure improvements (such as the Beacon Hill tunnel or the ramps to SeaTac) would have been built without rail. That just doesn’t make sense, given the nature of that area.

        * This would make for an interesting analysis. How many buses traveled in the tunnel before LInk?.The numbers for when we had the ride free zone would be especially helpful (since it enabled off board payment, albeit with horrible consequences elsewhere). Compare that to the number of people who ride the train through the tunnel. Would buses now be crush loaded, if not for Link? My guess is that isn’t the case.

        ** Who does this? I would be very curious to know if anyone knows of any subway system in America (or anywhere else for that matter) that built the most important section years after opening? Really bizarre.

      2. “What would we have done with the money if we hadn’t spent it on light rail? The short answer is that we would have added a lot of extra bus service.”

        Maybe. Or we may have done nothing, or added some bus service. It would be hard to get a bus measure passed for the same amount of investment as Link. The reason RapidRide is so minimal is they didn’t think a larger investment would pass.

      3. RossB: it’s actually surprisingly common for a city building a metro system to build the most important section SECOND. I haven’t quite figured out why; you can probably come up with some political reasons. A less important section often gets the political forces together to get built first.

        It’s not just Seattle. It’s rather dangerous because sometimes the most important part doesn’t get built for a long time — Puerto Rico is an unfortunate example here.

    4. A categorical statement about either buses or rail being better than one another is going to simply be wrong.

      Well said, Chazz. Perhaps obvious to someone in the field, or others, but not obvious to everyone. That being said, I’m confident that Zach believes this to be true.

      1. Anticipating this objection, I ended the piece with “where scalability and capacity matter, there’s nothing like high-quality rail,” but I probably should have expanded upon it. I love buses, and for the life of me I don’t understand the mixed-traffic streetcar fetish, which turns what’s usually a feature (fixed guideways) into a bug by subjecting it to obstructions and unreliable traffic. Mixed-traffic streetcars are just buses in straitjackets.

        I would never make a categorical differentiation simply between ‘buses’ and ‘rail’, but you simply will never have a 628-passenger bus running every 3 minutes with just 1 operator, but we will have that a few years from now on Link. There are really no examples in this country of politicians having the perseverance to create any bus-based system that meets the quality of the best rail systems. Rail is not inherently better by any means, but rail and buses have different performance ceilings on both the high and low ends. High-quality rail is unbeatable, and low-quality rail can be worse than the worst buses.

      2. Yeah….

        I always say that rail thrives on volume. You may do well with a streetcar even in mixed traffic if you have a multi-articulated very long streetcar…

        Of course dedicated right-of-way benefits both trains and buses, but it can be narrower for trains, and for some reason seems to be easier to get than bus lanes.

  10. Zach, the league LINK shares is a very small one, but a real transit Legion of Merit. Qualification is design and operations tailored to meet unusual local needs.

    I call it “The Loki League”, ever since a Norse scholar told me that Thor’s evil brother can also be considered “the god of Unconventional Solutions.”

    Co-members include the San Francisco cable cars- coal-mining rail propulsion to prevent horse-murder- the cable-grip portion of the Trieste streetcar system in Italy, the cogway assist to the LRV’s in Stuttgart that push bike-rack flatcars, and the 50-mile mountain-crossing trolleybus line in Crimea that proves Stalinists are behind all bus electrification.

    Whether ST staff likes it or not, our regional transit system opened service 9/15/1990, with the first dual-power bus through a railroad-spec’d DSTT portal in service. Definite closing date for this distinction still to be determined.

    But here’s real question: Six years after opening day, how did the King County portion of I-90 place in the Urban Freeway League?

    Mark Dublin

    1. There’s a big wild card in that, though – how much of the cost to build and maintain roads should be counted under the capital cost for buses?

      Though even so, the figures would be very interesting, even if they’re only normalized by operating cost.

      1. Bingo. A lot of the costs of buses show up in someone else’s budget. But it doesn’t mean the costs aren’t real.

        And just moving this many people on one route with buses would be problematic. The 71/72/73 carry about one third of what Link carries and look at the investment that has to be made in those routes. It really is stunning that we have allowed that situation to exist unchanged for so long.

    2. Operating cost per passenger trip is already lower than Metro buses. It will take a long time to amortize the capital cost, but it really is a permanenty kind of thing you know. There will still be trains running through Beacon Hill Tunnel in 2015. They may look different and will probably run all the way downtown on an elevated structure, but they’ll still be there, serving tens of thousands of people per day.

      You can be damn certain that new 101 story tower would not be planned for downtown Seattle were it not for Link. Now you may not like it, but the economic value added by that building alone will pay for operation of a few miles of it each year.

    3. The real comparison is going to be how many billions you would have to spend on road expansion had Link not been built.

      $1 billion doesn’t get you much highway in a dense urban environment.

      1. I think the answer to that is zero. If Link wasn’t built, the money would have gone into extra bus service. Figuring out whether that would have been a better value or not is extremely difficult. In some cases, it wouldn’t make much difference at all. Link added a lot of infrastructure improvements, such as the tunnel under Beacon Hill. This has resulted in much faster speeds and much better reliability. There is simply no substitute for that. If you try and take the 41 in the evening (hell, late afternoon) from Northgate to downtown, you know what I’m talking about. The bus crawls. It takes forever, since the express lanes are going the wrong direction, and everyone is on the main line (and there are no HOV lanes on the main line). This is where you are absolutely correct — a freeway project to solve that problem (adding HOV lanes to I-5) would cost a huge amount of money (although still a bit cheaper than a huge tunnel). It would, of course, be a lot less effective (since it would only work for getting downtown or other spots along the freeway). From that perspective, spending money on light rail was the way to go. Big time.

        But lets not ignore one of the biggest weaknesses of our system — frequency. A billion would enable a lot of frequent buses. This is often the difference between a bus trip or a drive. If you have to wait 15 minutes for a transfer, then sometimes the drive is worth it. This is why, for example, so many people drive during rush hour (with the express lanes). A lot of them aren’t headed downtown, they are headed through downtown. The bus is faster for the first part of the journey (to downtown) but not the second — not if it involves an extremely long wait. What is true for trips via downtown is true for trips via the U-District, or dozens of other transfer points. Frequency matters, and a billion or two spent on buses can buy a lot of it.

        That is why I say it is really tough trade-off and not at all obvious that we are better off with the route we took. I’m guessing we are — the infrastructure improvements are very important — but I don’t think it is obvious and this post sheds very little light on the subject. Let’s not forget that the main reason we built this *particular* light rail line was political. Folks knew (or had a very good inkling) that it would carry a lot fewer people than a line from Capitol Hill to Henderson Street (wherever that was going to be). So far, the numbers don’t come close to that estimate (of 60,000). But building that was risky. The slightest “Bertha style” hiccup and light rail would have been toast (perhaps temporarily, perhaps for a very long time). So ST wanted to prove they could build a light rail line and they did. It helped that it went a long ways, even if didn’t carry *that* many people (still doesn’t) just because people view things from a mileage standpoint (it is easy to compare a light rail line to a freeway, even though they function very differently).

      2. @rossB,

        Your post is extremely subjective and therfore hard to respond to in any meaningful way, but let me just say this:

        The decision to build south first was not political – it was in fact pragmatic. As anyone who has worked on a big projection that becomes mired in trouble will tell you, sometimes the most effective strategy is to reduce scope and tackle what you can first.

        That is what ST did with Central Link. When the original tunnel plan fell apart they retreated and did what the could first. They had promised the voters UW to the airport, so they built DT to the airport first while working out the thornier issues of U Link. We will see the fruition do their work next year.

        Per your comment about ST promising 60,000 riders on the Cap Hill line, what exactly is your point? That line isn’t open yet so your statement is immaterial. Come back 2 years after U-Link opens and we can have a more meaningful discussion about that. Until then your comments are just FUD.

        And that is it for me this weekend. I’m jumping in the car and heading down to Mason County, because there ain’t no transit between Seattle and Oysterfest

      3. @Lazurus — Yes, I look forward to riding Link to First Hill, five years after it should have opened.

        Sorry, but that is my point. The decision to build a lesser performing section first means that we have five years of lesser service. If you include the U-District station (that is bizarrely not part of U-Link) then you have over ten years of lesser service, all costing roughly the same amount.

        That might seem inconsequential, but it costs us money. It costs people time. The ripple effects on the whole system are huge. I wouldn’t even ride Link, but Link from the U-District through downtown would change my world. Buses would go a lot more often to the U-District, meaning a trip from Pinehurst to Fremont would be a lot faster.

        But of course the decision to go to the airport was political. You can even read about it! They had guys on one side arguing that we should try and build the most productive section first. You had other guys saying we should just build something to prove that we can build something. The politicians on the “just build something” end won. It was a gutless political decision, just as leaving out First Hill was a gutless political decision.

        I fail to see why you think I should be thrilled to see the fruition of their work next year. Hell, even folks in the neighborhood aren’t happy with the changes! Have you read the comments about the Capitol Hill/C. D. bus restructures? After several attempts, Metro is ready to just say forget about it. Sound Transit gave us too little to work with — we can’t make it work. Oh, and ask someone from Kirkland if they are happy with Link. The folks there must be excited. Now they can take an express bus, transfer to Link at the Montlake Station …. oh, wait, there is no Montlake Station.

        So, just to rehash — built in the wrong order, no First Hill station, no 520 station, no additional station that would make the bus service on the most densely populated large area of the city function properly. The engineers knew better, the transit experts knew better, even some of the politicians knew better. But other politicians overrode them. For political reasons, obviously.

      4. “If Link wasn’t built, the money would have gone into extra bus service.”

        That’s not a foregone conclusion. They would have had to sell a bus network on its own merits, it probably would have been less comprehensive than Link, and it may or may not have passed.

      5. “The decision to build south first was not political – it was in fact pragmatic.”

        “They had guys on one side arguing that we should try and build the most productive section first. You had other guys saying we should just build something to prove that we can build something.”

        You’re both right; it’s just a question of whether the word “political” applies. Everything officials decide is political because they’re politicians. But the decision was pragmatic: that it’s better to succeed at building something small first than to fail at building something big first. If University Link had gotten into cost overruns and delays it could have scuttled high-capacity transit for another thirty years until our children grew up and said, “Why the hell didn’t they build a regionwide network in the 1990s; we’d be much better off then.”

      6. “Political” is a contentless insult. All decisions reflect competing priorities, and by saying stuff he doesn’t support is “political”, Ross insinuating that his policy preferences are objective and value-neutral, which of course they are not.

    4. That would be a good start. But as I said below, you really need to look at the big picture. How much has transit ridership increased because of Link? This isn’t easy to answer, but my guess is not that much. A lot of the trips were trips that were previously performed by buses, and for a lot of those trips, the buses were (or are) just as good. I’m talking, of course, about trips within the tunnel. Trips outside the tunnel are a different matter, so we could start with that number (whatever that is — the post doesn’t break it down). But what were those numbers before? Somehow people got (or still get) from Rainier Valley or the airport on the bus. But has the increased frequency and reliability of Link translated to a huge increase? If so, how much? Then you have the restructures that are part of this. This is often left out when it comes to analyzing the contribution that light rail can make. For example, a station at NE 130th would allow for a new (fairly frequent) bus from Lake City to Bitter Lake. Of course most of those riders would be headed downtown but some would be going from one end of town to the other. Those are brand new riders, and they wouldn’t be riding if not for light rail.

      Of course it is tough to estimate the effectiveness of any line, for that reason. But in this case, I think it is relatively simple. I don’t think there was much in the way of new routes or restructures when Link went in (although I could be wrong). It has decent ridership, but not that many coattails. On the other hand, other parts of Link will have huge ripple effects throughout the system, especially as it gets up to the U-District.

  11. What a dopey post. Of course when you run a train from the airport, then by sports stadiums and a dense transit dependent neighborhood, then heavily subsidize the fare, then eliminate most other public transportation competition, then lower the speed limit on roads, then take away lanes on the roads, then start tolling the roads, then have it go to downtown, people are going to ride the thing. Stop acting like it’s a surprise or that people are being drawn to a superior product.

    1. Hey Sammy, I rode the light rail when I could during Seafair instead of the bus – even if it meant a longer walk to/from the AIRBNB – because I gotta tell ya the grade separation & therefore schedule reliability made it worth it. So get stuffed.

    2. Sam — I have two honest questions.

      A couple of days ago you weren’t very impressed with the continued increase in Link ridership, saying “Popularity has nothing to do with quality.” So what metric would you use to measure Link’s “quality”?

      Also, which roads along Link’s route are being tolled?

    3. Whenever there’s a – Look at all the people riding Link-post, I’m going to point out some of the other reasons why people are riding it, which are rarely included in these kind of rah rah posts. Yes, grade separation and frequency and reliability are reasons it’s popular. But there are a lot of other, more important factors that go into the post’s numbers. I just like to remind everyone of those other factors. Is that ok? I’m not anti-Link. I ride it. I’m saying let’s be completely honest about all the reasons why people choose/have to ride it.

    4. Sam says: “Stop acting like it’s a surprise or that people are being drawn to a superior product.”

      Sure, Link is better than all the other options, but that doesn’t mean it’s a superior product. Except that, yes it does.

    5. then heavily subsidize the fare,

      So, lets look at a few numbers.

      According to the region 10 database for Metro, in 2013 (the most recent year posted), the average cost for a Metro transit passenger is $0.90 per passenger per mile.
      Fare revenues were $122,812,905 and annual passenger miles were 488,016,061, so the fare revenue was about $0.25 per passenger mile.
      So, the subsidy for trying to run Link with buses would be about $0.65 per passenger mile.

      If we look at Link for 2013:
      we see that the operating expense for Link is $0.70 per passenger mile.
      Fare revenues were $14,845,952 and annual passenger miles were 75,662,813, so the fare revenue was about $0.19 per passenger mile.
      So, the subsidy for Link is about $0.51 per passenger mile.

      Thus, this “heavily subsidize the fare” is actually probably less of a subsidy than what would be happening if the service were operated with buses.

      This statistic will get vastly better as SoundTransit takes steps to improve the operating methods. For example, three and four car Link trains will produce some vast increases in driver productivity.

      1. “For example, three and four car Link trains will produce some vast increases in driver productivity.”

        Trains. They’re good with large numbers of people.

        This is the basic thing about trains. They scale up really well. They don’t scale down so well. But they scale up *really really* well.

  12. Interesting numbers, but the text is ridiculous. It shows a very bizarre, if not naive view of public transportation.

    First of all, we should look at the overall system, and how Link (and every other piece of it) fits into it. If light rail is working well, then we should see bus service increase along with it. Suggesting that light rail is better than bus service (or beating the hell out of a straw man) misses the point. Good rail leads to good bus service (or at least it should).

    Second, it makes sense to look at how much things cost. Link cost a lot to build, and costs a lot to run. I’m not saying it isn’t justified, but getting excited because we finally got to 40,000 is meaningless as an abstraction. It only makes sense when compared to other potential uses of the money. For example, it was estimated that a line from “Capitol Hill to Henderson Street would carry about 60,000 passengers daily” ( This is the line that they could have built first. It is hard to be too excited about a line that has only 2/3 the number of riders (many years after it opened) than one we could have built.

    Third, the worse part about the surface alignment in Rainier Valley is not the speed reduction, but the fact that it reduces the possibility of really frequent, automated trains (like our neighbors to the north have). A minor point, perhaps, but this is a transit blog. You should know better. You should know about the importance of frequency.

    Fourth, even the comparisons are silly. As you say, Link is puny compared to Metro. It is still smaller than the rest of Sound Transit! But because it is a single line, it should be compared to individual bus lines? What kind of sense does that make? Should buses that converge be considered “one bus line” or multiple bus lines (I guess by the chart the answer is “it depends”). Well, if the 71/72/73 can be combined, why not combine the bus tunnel routes? Really, what is the number of riders for buses that use the bus tunnel? How does it compare to Link? What were the numbers before buses had to be kicked out — or when there was a ride free zone? For that matter, how many trips on Link (or the buses) are only in the tunnel? The last question is meaningful and gives just a hint as to how effective this thing is. After all, Link taking credit for the tunnel (arguably the most important piece of the system) is a bit like Trevor Noah taking credit for the high ratings of the Daily Show.

    I’m sorry to be so critical; I normally really love what you write Zach, but this kind of light rail cheer leading is at best pointless, and at worse counter productive. We have a civic responsibility to be critical of our public transit system (as well as all our systems) and ask ourselves how we can do a better job in the future.

    The fact that you “can’t wait to vote on ST3” suggests (I’m assuming) that you will vote yes, regardless of what is proposed. As you say, “there’s nothing like high-quality rail”. But what if Sound Transit proposes a new line that is nothing like high-quality rail? What if they build a line that is crap? Will you still be excited to vote for it, because any rail is better than no rail?

    I think you know that such a position is ridiculous.

    1. A properly aligned bus/rail system is crucial as is overall quality and efficacy.

      That said, and more to your point, when the overall sentiment of workers traveling to Seattle’s business district is resentment of buses or the unwillingness to relinquish their personal space by way of their car, simply proving the basic need for a better solution becomes highly valuable. There is a lot of fear and complex social-psychology in the mix. While there are plenty of intelligent people out there that want a more thorough dialogue, I wager they are by no means a voting majority.

      Never the less, I love your critical analysis! I would enjoy an article that addressed, in depth, nuanced points that you and others have raised. I also think that as a whole most are not ready to dive in to that extent. No one article will suffice. There is a wealth of perspective and information to be written about and read.

      1. Thanks, the one point I would dicker with is the idea that people hate their bus. Oddly enough, a lot of people I’ve talked to love Sound Transit buses. Obviously some of this is cherry picking. Sound Transit express bus service is express service to areas not necessarily served that well by Metro (whose motto could easily be “We’ll get you there, eventually”). This is anecdotal, for sure, but I think Sound Transit buses are very popular — Metro buses, not so much.

      2. I’m duplicit on the matter of liking my Express service to North Lynnwood. Reliable and great in the morning. Almost useless in the evening if I work 30 minutes past 5…. The double decker buses are the best, though. That investment added favor to how I perceive service and I wager bolstered overall bus transit perception for those who ride them.

    2. +1 especially on the lining up to vote of ST 3.

      The spine promise just seems something not to be very excited for since extending LRT to Tacoma and Everett via Paine Field seems like a waste of money without considering the operational implications of having such a large route. My thinking has and will be to finish the extensions to Federal Way and Redmond first and foremost. Look for a new rail project for Seattle-Tacoma for all day Sounder with bus connection to SeaTac at Tukwilla.

      All day Sounder should be the priority.

    3. Ross, I agree with this comment. When you have a high-capacity line that runs for 15 miles and most of the transit around it is designed to funnel riders into it, of course it’s going to have a lot of riders! For what we spent on it, I would be disappointed if it didn’t have the highest ridership!

  13. No one knows when Link will have the short headway in the ST2 capacity sentence. Four car trains with six minute headway would still be impressive (4x10x200) 8,000. Today, there are many lines on which ST has not improved service frequency. ST not procured additional LRV for U Link. there is a budget constraint.

      1. Surely it must be an oversight. The RapidRide F Line must indded be capturing at least 50% of the thousands of trips taken between Renton and Burien every day given its arrow-straight route with high quality reservations and signal priority throughout. Why would anyone NOT take it for his or her daily commute between those two compact urban metropoli?

      2. I assume the data for route 140 (3600 daily boardings) is what you are looking for, since that is the route that was converted to the F Line in the middle of 2014.

        I was on an F that was SRO from Southcenter to TIBS on a Saturday evening a couple months ago.

      3. I’ve taken the F to The Landing seven times in the -past year. Sometimes I’m the only person on the bus east of Southcenter station, sometimes there are 1 or 2 others. West of Southcenter station it’s well used.

      4. That’s just a reflection of the general ridership in Renton. 2-4 people at the transit center at a time, and at the South Renton P&R. It’s surprising because much of Renton is at a similar economic level as Kent and Rainier Valley, yet those areas have much more ridership. I think it’s because downtown Renton was so heavily decimated in the 1960s, and all the residential neighborhoods are too far to walk from it and have pedestrian-unfriendly boulevards connecting them, that people just drive even if they’re poor.

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