Sounder Bruce (Flickr)
Sounder Bruce (Flickr)

Yesterday, Sound Transit released its latest figures on ULink, including daily ridership for April. Weekday ridership is holding at roughly 60,000 per day, and two Fridays in April (8th and 29th) set new records at 82,000 weekday riders:

In April we reported early ridership trends on Link light rail were beating expectations after opening two new stations on Capitol Hill and the University of Washington. On this the two-month anniversary of opening the University Link extension, we think it’s a good time to check in on our early ridership estimates. It turns out our early ridership estimates for a record-breaking day was low and we set another ridership record in late April.

Sound Transit collects and verifies ridership data over the course of several weeks. The latest updates show Link set two new single-day ridership records on April 8 and April 29 with an estimated 82,000 riders – surpassing the previous single-day record of an estimated 71,500 on February 5, 2014 when Seattle celebrated the Seahawks Super Bowl victory downtown.

The update also confirmed that most ULink trips are taking less than the conservative 8 minutes the schedule quotes, and closer to their 6-minute promised time once buses leave the tunnel:

Trips between the University of Washington and downtown Seattle are averaging two minutes faster than initially expected – dropping from an already impressive eight minutes to six minutes between UW Station and Westlake. The initial eight-minute trip estimates were based on early train testing. Real-world experience shows those trips are taking six minutes. Our online schedules are now being updated to reflect the faster trip times.

Lastly, the update also contained proportional station level ridership for the first time. Each station is listed as its percentage of all Link boardings, and UW Station has vaulted into second place behind Westlake:

  1. Westlake (16.2%)
  2. University of Washington (15.5%)
  3. Sea-Tac Airport (10.6%)
  4. Capitol Hill (10.3%)
  5. International District (7.8%)
  6. University Street (7%)
  7. Tukwila Int’l Blvd (6.2%)
  8. Pioneer Square (4.7%)
  9. Beacon Hill (3.9%)
  10. Columbia City (3.8%)
  11. Othello (3.6%)
  12. Mount Baker (3.3%)
  13. Rainier Beach (2.5%)
  14. Sodo (2.4%)
  15. Stadium (2.1%)

127 Replies to “Latest ULink Figures Crack 80K”

  1. I can’t wait to see those station level ridership numbers once North Link opens…..

    1. Yeah, imagine what happens when we have a U-District station that’s actually near where people already are.

    2. I would expect most of the UW station boardings to move to U-District station, and some to Roosevelt station. I don’t expect a whole lot of boardings from UW station to move to Northgate station because Northgate to Downtown is still handled by the 41. It would be interesting if the integer number of boardings at UW station actually went down when Northgate link opens.

      1. Re the 41. You don’t think that when Northgate station happens that Metro won’t cut/modify the 41 since it will be duplicating what link does. I loved the 43 and now that it’s rush hour only the line is cut as far as I am concerned. Same fate will likely happen to the 41.

      2. I don’t expect most UW boardings to move to UDistrict. UDistrict will certainly be a huge destination, but from points both east and west (Fremont, Wallingford, Ballard, Ravenna, etc) it will be safer, flatter, and quicker to bike to UW station on The Burke than busing to UDistrict. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if UW boardings that move up to Roosevelt and UDistrict are quickly replaced by brand new riders using the UW station.

      3. I say that as someone who lives less than 1mi from the future Roosevelt station, btw. I use the UW station a few times a month, and when Roosevelt opens I will probably starting using it multiple times per week. If I still lived at my old place in Bryant, I’d probably already be biking to the UW station multiple times per week.

    3. Indeed. When Northgate station opens, many buses that used to go to either the U-District or Downtown will terminate at Northgate. This will be a big win as it will enable the buses to avoid surface-street congestion (which is particularly bad between I-5 and the UW campus during peak commute times).

  2. Those two 80K+ days. April 29th was #viadoom, right? What happened on the 8th?

    1. April 8th featured Comic-Con and Mariners Opening Day.

      April 29th featured another Mariners sell-out for Felix Hernandez, plus the first day of Viadoom.

  3. My first experience with a crush-loaded train was yesterday (Friday). Departed UW Station around 6:45pm. I was reading a book so I didn’t notice how full it got then, but after Capitol Hill I realized that every seat and standing space in my car was full, even on the upper level that standees often shun. It reminded me of a 73X, both in how full it was and how and the doors remained open while people squeezed past each other in the aisles to get to the door. (I do think people should have been more proactive in moving to the door after leaving the previous station rather than waiting until the train stops at their station, but that’s an education issue.) At Stadium a bunch of people got off, and I moved to the door with them because I was getting off at SODO. After Stadium there were twelve standees remaining.

    1. Noooobody expects the Spanish Solution.

      Dwell time is going to kill tunnel capacity after 2041.

    2. A separate car for folks with much luggage, regular and even oversize bikes, and large dogs would help a lot.

      1. Keep pushing Sound Transit on this!

        Here’s an example dog + luggage + bike + wheelchair mix that I tweeted at them.

        They’re promising more open space in new trains, but let’s make sure they end up with open, flexible space as opposed to trying to classify different spaces (ie, “this is wheelchair space, that is stroller space, that over there is luggage space, and put your bike on this awkward rack here that doesn’t fit cargo bikes “).

  4. “3. Sea-Tac Airport (10.6%)”

    So much for airports being a poor place for subway ridership.

    1. Supposedly Seatac is expecting its busiest summer ever, so I wouldn’t expect that number to go down much.

    2. That is what happens when you don’t have other options. If there was still an express bus from downtown, I expect that number would be much less.

      1. What’s the “this”? A crush load here would make any other subway system in the world cancel service for lack of ridership.

        But their dwell time is usually much less because their passengers have long since gotten all the moves down so well that they don’t wake up ’til question of “12 or 16 ounce latte?” arises.
        Or the one from their chief about projections about what’s killing ridership.

        Though he’ll understand that figures from express bus ridership generally have to wait a month or two ’til the bus gets out of traffic.


      2. I am referring to high ridership at SeaTac. If you could have a bus that generally takes 20 minutes (and stops in front of the terminal) or a train that takes 40 and stops far away, I expect the bus would attract substantial ridership. We’ll never know since Link is the only viable transit to the airport for a lot of people.

      3. Yeah, not really. Tourist and visitors aren’t taking that express bus regardless of the time difference.

        Did you ever ride the 194? It was definitely quicker (unless traffic sucked), but I wouldn’t call it more convenient. Getting luggage on and off the bus is a hassle, and even if you happen to travel light, having to crawl over people with luggage to get off was always a problem.

        And there was also the added anxiety of potentially being stuck on the bus in I-5 grid lock and missing your flight.

        I’ll take the extra ten minutes on the train any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

      4. In coming from the airport, an express bus can make a lot of sense (for a local).

        But going to the airport, what matters is not the length of a typical trip, but the length of the slowest 5% or even 1% of trips, because that’s what you have to plan for. If you typically save 10 minutes by taking the bus, but one time in twenty traffic is terrible and you’re twenty minutes late to the airport, what do you do? You leave 20 minutes early, because you don’t want to miss your flight.

        Missing a flight is expensive, in money, time, and headache. As long as that is true, the way to measure the speed of transportation is not the average or median speed, but the speed of the slowest 5%-1% of trips, because that’s what you have to plan for. That’s why Link is competitive with taking the bus and even with driving, at some hours, when going to the airport.

      5. @EHS — I don’t know about that. Given the hassle of passing through security, it is damn near impossible to time anything these days. You could have a fast ride to the airport, but still miss your plane because of security (or the opposite). I think the people who are trying to time things are getting a ride to the airport (typically faster than anything). Those who travel frequently (or don’t want to spend the money) are taking transit.

        For occasional trips, the train is more comfortable. It is easier to get luggage on and off. It is also more obvious. Folks know about it and consider it (which was not the case with the bus). This is especially true for those who travel here. It is pretty common for people to notice that “the train” goes there, so they take it into the city (only to then wonder how to get to their hotel). I just got back from Oakland, and my wife exhibited this classic behavior. Once she noticed that BART went to the airport, she wanted to take it. But she had to make sure that it was a train to train transfer, not a bus to train transfer. Regular airport travelers, those who can get a ride, and employees don’t care about that sort of thing.

        Speaking of which, I think this may have a lot to do with the increase. Without a doubt, consistency is essential when showing up for work. I would imagine a lot of employees travel during rush hour (which is not necessarily the case with those booking a flight). My guess is the relatively high numbers are the result of all of this. Frequent flyers (especially those that live in Rainier Valley), workers and the occasional tourist. We aren’t talking huge numbers here — around 6,000 a day. Travel to and from SeaTac might be surprisingly high, but it is still relatively small (more people go from Northgate to downtown, for example).

      6. Don’t forget about the people who are asked to pick up their ‘tourist’ friend/family member at SeaTac, who really don’t want to drive through Seattle to get there (and back).

      7. The 574’s arriving and leaving the airport around 5 AM both are packed with airport employees. Similarly I don’t think I’ve ridden a RR A where there haven’t been a number of people who appear to be airport employees getting on/off at either the skybridge or the airport entrance off of 99.

      8. @Jim — Are you going to tell them to take the subway? Some friend (or cousin/uncle/nephew) you are. Maybe a brother. A brother could get away with that. :)

    3. To be fair, Capitol Hill’s ridership would be third on the list if service had been restructured with an eye toward *increasing* connections to the station and *reducing* duplicative service.

      1. I agree.

        #43 provided great connections and was largely gut as a service connection. Restore the #43.

        #10 provided great connections in the neighborhood including Pine/Pike and was moved to replace some of the gaps created by the loss of the #43. Restore the #10.

    4. It will be interesting to see how high it goes with each additional station. Angel lake will add a significant amount of boardings, Federal Way, and Tacoma. Maybe someday they will have to put an electrical walkway.

      1. The moving walkway idea was discussed when the airport station was in design, but there is not enough headroom in the garage to install one. Those things are like icebergs, the part that you see above the floor represents only a small portion of the overall machine. They need 2′-3′ of space below for all the guts and machinery.

        They would need to build a new structure to carry a people mover, but maybe that could happen as part of the airport expansion discussions that are just beginning at the Port.

        The situation at Sea-Tac doesn’t seem so bad after you go to O’Hare in Chicago and try to catch the Blue line into the city. By the time you get to the train you feel like you’ve already walked far enough to be downtown.

      2. They should expand the airport terminals to the north of the existing terminals so a new short direct foot bridge running due west could be built linking the station. Instead they are building the new terminal to the south of the existing terminals.

      3. I’m not sure how that would work with a new terminal connected to the Link station. Passengers would still have to check in and go through security. So either you’d need to move/add ticket counters and security checkpoints to the new terminal. Or people could walk into the new terminal but would immediately have to take a shuttle train over to the main terminal. Likewise, if arriving passenger baggage is still routed to the main terminal baggage claim, people would still have to walk. And if your flight wasn’t leaving out of the new terminal, you’d still have to make your way to the main terminal anyway.

        Assuming the new terminal will be a small satellite terminal like the current N and S terminals are, I don’t see any of that being likely. This was poor unfixable design from the start putting the parking garage directly in between the train station and the terminal.

      4. @Larry

        You do realize that the parking garage at the airport was built years before anyone even thought of having light rail service the airport.

    5. Do I have any right to be grumpy about the airport riders with all their luggage? We did build the damn thing to the airport, so it’s good that they use it, but gawd do they take up a lot of space. It is fun to give visitors directions and sightseeing advice at least.

      1. I have wondered if it would be worth while to charge people additional fare for non-carry on size luggage. I’ve seen a few people with multiple giant bags just holding them in the aisle and blocking access. Maybe an additional fare (and enforcement) might encourage those people to travel lighter or take a cab.

        I don’t have any issue with smaller bags, but I wish people would start recognizing that they can slide them under their seats rather than blocking the aisle.

      2. We sure put a lot of seats in the way of luggage, bikes, and standing capacity. We even put a fold-down seat in the way of wheelchairs and scooters.

      3. true. Seems like the lower floor area of the cars should at least be aisle facing rather than the 2x configuration.

      4. Easy and cheap – remove some seats. This is mass transit not a luxury bus to connect to a luxury cruise ship from the luxurious Four Seasons.

      5. The Paris solution was to have all seats flip up, and (big and) all passengers were expected to stand during crush loads. I’d eat my hat if the Seattle transit culture managed that.

    6. 1. It’s a busy airport.

      2. Lots of hotels across the street, many cheaper than staying in Seattle.

      3. RapidRide A feeds the station. It’s faster to transfer there than go to TIBS.

      4. Link doesn’t really serve that many places yet.

      1. It will be interesting to see what happens when Angle Lake opens. My bet is many will choose to transfer there but if frequency on A Line is low, it is about the same travel time from TIBS to SeaTac and make the transfer.

      2. The time I took it, I was astounded at how slow it was, though the trip planner suggested a transfer at TIBS. On the northbound trip, due to the speed, I transferred at the airport and if making that same trip again would probably do the same both directions. It may not be any faster but it sure feels like it.

      3. The A definitely seems slower to me between TIB and SeaTac and it has two stops in between. SeaTac has a better northbound transfer than southbound, because southbound you have to cross the street on the bridge, go down, wait for a light, and then cross the street again. That might be enough to make people transfer at TIB sometimes. I don’t know what Angle Lake Station will be like for transfers, but hopefully better than that.

    7. It’s hard to say what Seatac Station’s 10.6% share of Link boardings means.

      SeaTac AIrport has about 42 million passengers in 2015- about 2.5 times Link’s projected 2016 ridership. There should be a lot of people using Link to go and from the airport.

      At the same time, unless you work at the airport, or you fly frequently for your job, the airport isn’t somewhere you go more than a few times a year. In the past year, I’ve used the UW, Capitol Hill, DSTT, Sodo, Mount Baker, and Columbia City Link stations more than I’ve used the SeaTac Link station, because those stations get me to places that I go in my day-to-day life. If the Airport station is getting a large percentage of boardings, it could just mean there’s a large portion of the population that uses Link a few times a year to access the airport, but rarely, if ever, uses Link for their other trips.

      1. That’s just it. A few people live near the other stations, but half the population goes to the airport once a year or more, so one day there’s one person from X, the next day a person from Y, etc. On top of that are visitors who take Link because (A) that’s what they’d do in other cities, and (B) they don’t know or trust the bus routes and don’t want to get lost/stuck/on a long milk run. Once they get downtown and settled they might take the D to Ballard because there’s no train and it’s guaranteed frequent, or the 49 to the U-District to see what’s in between and because somebody told them U-District station isn’t finished yet and UW Station is in the middle of nowhere. (Although the UW campus itself is a significant tourist attraction and for that UW Station is suitable. I took a friend on a walking tour of the campus and the U-District, and what he wanted to see most was Husky Stadium.)

  5. UW will absolutrely lose its 2nd place status once Northgate Link opens. If nothing else, a lot of that ridership will use UW station instead.

    By that point I expect we’ll be well over 100k riders though, so UW station’s actual rider numbers might not even go down much when this happens.

    Anyone else wondering if we’ll hit 100k daily riders even before Northgate link opens?

    1. Some people are using UW Station under duress until U-District and Roosevelt Stations open. But a lot of students will remain, maybe half the ridership. Also, there hasn’t been a Husky Stadium event yet? I don’t expect UW Station to be a significant transfer point long-term. just the 520 buses and the 48. But it will still have tens of thousands of riders because of the university, and for that it’s good that it has two escalators and two large elevators for surges and university expansion.

      1. And you also have to remember that the UW station is next door to the UW Medical Center. Every time I’ve waited for a train at UW station, half the people on the platform were wearing scrubs. If anything that will only increase as the line extends north.

    2. Well, link ridership is growing by about 15% per year. With an average daily ridership now of ~60,000 15% of that is 9,000. So in 5 years link would gain 45,000 riders, enough to push it over the 100,000 mark. But 15% growth probably won’t hold for the next 5 years, and North Link is on track to open early so we might not make it there. Regardless link will definitely have 100,000 daily boardings post North Link.

    3. Its as long a walk between the Neptune and the Hub as it is between Husky Stadium and the Hub. My point is that HSS will keep a fair amount of traffic even after Udist station opens.

  6. This ridership level is a great accomplishment and people are still learning about the utility of the UW connection. It will be interesting to see ridership levels on the NE Seattle bus routes. I took the 75 the other morning and it was very full and made many stops along Sand Point. I concluded it is faster to ride my bike to Husky stadium station rather than wait for a 75.

    I see a surprising amount of people with luggage arriving and departing at UW as well. In general, I think we underestimate the amount of stress involved with driving cars around the City. Perhaps especially to the airport.

    1. The expense of parking at the airport is a big factor. It’s a lot cheaper to leave your car at home.

      1. For regular trips like commuting, whether for driving or transit riding, people generally learn a set of choices. One advantage of a car is that driver can adjust for conditions that can change by the hour, let alone the day.

        However, fate of every good side-route- I generally call them “Freeway-Free”- is that when too many other drivers figure them out, they don’t work anymore. So since CSI Dupont just went off the air, it could take a long time to connect a spate of unexplained brake failures with someone’s hate for Fort Lewis traffic.

        Meaning that I wish Sounder would get to Olympia before everybody knows where Chambers Bay community-gates itself to keep several thousand of us out every morning.

        “May 20 at 6:03 PM

        ST Express 590/594 and 592 are experiencing substantial delays of up to 60 minutes due to a 6 mile back-up from a previous accident on SB I-5 at Mounts Rd.”

        Though this may be due to same cause that’s going to show LINK improvement: People deciding to use express buses to avoid crowding and dwell times.


    2. It would interesting to know how many trips on Lyft or Uber begin or end at the UW Station. I suspect most of the people arriving at the UW Station with luggage are being dropped off in a car, rather than riding a connecting bus. Considering that pretty much all of Seattle north of the ship canal and east of I-5 is within a $10-$12’ish ride to the UW Station, one-way, traveling this way still looks like a bargain compared to driving to the airport and parking. And depending on how long one has to wait for the parking shuttle, using Link might even be just as quick.

      1. There are also a lot of Eastside people that would rather drop their friends and relatives off at UW station instead of driving them all the way to the airport. That will change in 2023.

      2. Issues around drop off and pick up are only going to grow. ST2 cities and stations are ignoring this terribly. Whether it’s people jumping out of cars at I-5/145th Street or HOV drivers dropping off people at NE 6th and 112th in Downtown Bellevue, it is going to be a problem until pressure is applied to change. Unfortunately, it will probably take some pedestrian fatalities to wake up the elected officials about this problem.

    3. Before U-Link there was a sizeable number of people with luggage who rode all the way from Westlake to SeaTac, probably more than from all other stations combined. Because Westlake represented not just downtown but all of north Seattle. Now that UW Station has opened, some of them have switched to it, and others probably didn’t take Link to the airport before.

      1. Indeed, ST’s chart shows much larger ridership growth percentage at the other three DSTT stations than at Westlake. Even so, Westlake has gained more actual boardings than any of the other downtown stations. SODO and Stadium had a huge percentage jump as well.

    4. As could be said in the thread bemoaning loss of the 124 above, airport trips are all about reliability. Most people are fine if they’re five minutes late to work one day in ten, but not at all OK with missing one in ten flights because of traffic. Is there anything you give as big of a margin of error for as a plane flight?

      The reliability of Link is what drives Seatac ridership (that and airport workers).

      1. I wonder how many people miss flights because LINK is being held for some reason that’s not its fault along MLK. It might just be a matter of turning into a grown-up city.

        But I wonder if anybody else would absolutely refuse to build an express line, like along Boeing Field with a stop there, joining the Rainier Valley track at Boeing Access Rd.

        Or if not, “undercut” the crossings at Columbia City, Othello, and Rainier Beach stations. And forbidding all traffic crossing the right of way. Missing flights due to transit delay is not just a tie-dye era “Bad Trip” for passengers.

        It’s a total “Seattle is Bummer City!” for ST’s image. Rumor will get around that stoners leave peels from the bananas they smoke on the rails.


      2. As I said above, I doubt that plays a part in anyone’s thinking these days. Passing through security is a much bigger roll of the dice. The long and short of it is you have to spend a very long time in the airport. I doubt that very many passengers prefer Link because it is more reliable (but slower). I think employees, especially ones in Rainier Valley, are the main beneficiaries of Link to the airport.

        On the other hand, it is more comfortable. Getting luggage on and off is a lot easier. It is also more obvious, especially for folks from out of town. There is an assumption that a train is faster or more convenient, even when it isn’t. I’m also curious if there are people who head south from Tukwila (on the train). That seems like a sneaky way to save a few bucks if you have a meeting in another city that day.

    1. I don’t blame ST for lowering expectations. If they had kept saying the projected time was 6 minutes once they knew it would take a few weeks to get to that, anti-transit campaigners would be all over it, saying ST had broken another “promise”.

      Every projection gets turned into a “promise” by the anti-transit campaigners, so ST is forced to underpromise.

      The same game is going on with the ridership projections.

      Now we have the Times, not known for supporting light rail ballot measures, decrying the public getting a few hundred thousand dollars spent to benefit them with a safe and fantastic opening day party, instead of being added to the $1.8 million in ad buys ST is making with the Times this year.

      Manufactured outrage over small differences in travel time projections and the fact that the public got a piece of ST’s promotional budget just show how little ammo the Times has against the larger debate over the benefits of the ST3 package.

      Sound Transit is looking presidential. The Times is looking schoolboyish.

      1. I really think that for a lot less money, the party could have been a lot more fun for the politicians, who I think have enough ceremonies in their term to just wish they could get a gold pass to keep and ride the train all day.

        Would also be pretty exciting for special-needs County Council members to get “enhanced” well, that’s what they call torture! rides suited to the elements of LINK travel whey individually have a Special Need to see.

        For instance, whoever thought up using fareboxes in the Tunnel should be assisted, like maybe through their appointments secretary, to get a cab ride on a Friday pm rush hour with a game in town.

        And an international flight to catch. So they can see from a driver’s point of view, and relate from a passenger’s point of view, why certain decisions should be blamed on somebody else, and credit claimed for fixing them.

        I can also think of one or two of them- like the one who probably arranged the fare-box travesty- going “Wheeeeee” from Tukwila International to Rainier Beach. EastLINK opening should be fine with a foot and bicycle race, with the Blue Angels flying overhead, and everybody getting a free life-jacket with words “Just in Case” printed on them.

        Just to give The Times something to REALLY be alarmed about. Except it would cost less. Also, we might want to wait ’till the 2020 election before we call ourselves Presidential. Dog-Catcherial should be ok, since brown labs love everybody, even the ones who want to catch them.


    2. That was 2014. Link opened in 2016. That’s two years for further study and refinement of the estimates and actually being able to test Link trains through the tunnel. I don’t understand why people think beforehand estimates can be 100% perfect. You don’t know how many people will use Link or how fast the bus interactions will be until after people try it out and the bus restructure is done, like how meteoroligists can say it might rain today but not with 100% certainty because it depends on the due point just barely crossing the saturation point which it might or might not do, or like how whether A or B will win a UFC fight. ST’s early estimate was 6 minutes. Testing in 2015 showed it was likely not to make that goal so they gave it 8 minutes. Now in actual use it’s reaching 6 most of the time, which means it may get even lower than that when the buses leave.

    3. Every former 1960’s Gibson guitar-owning ST passenger is probably still irritated that not a single BN engineer on Sounder has ever given up their life to be on time. Though trestle north of Tacoma Dome has tempting potential.

      Good thing trains now have numbers like 1501 instead of 9. But: actual railroad history shows swift cure: give Sounder a Federal mail contract imposing savage fines for every minute late. JP Morgan would fix those two lying minutes with a click of the telegraph.

      And the sailor in that great pic would know why nobody on LINK can match the on-time arrival record of any self-respecting clipper captain around Cape Horn into ‘Frisco:

      No such thing as a light-rail chantey, removing the only thing that can make yer scurvy crew get those pantographs aloft without trippin’ over their own bare feet!

      “LCC likes whiskey and our Chief likes rum, Heave away, Santy Ano!
      And the crew like ’em both but we gotta take breath tests” just doesn’t scan.


  7. I’m curious if there’s any way to account for the trips that don’t tap out. I suspect they inflate the numbers for both ends of the route.

    1. They know how many taps are tap ons.

      The figures in the station breakdown above are based on ORCA tap-ons and ticket sales.

    2. If you ride the full length of the route, or at least enough to incur the full fare, there’s not really any need to tap out. Before u-link, I did that many times between Westlake and the airport.

      1. Don’t you have to be careful doing this if you board going the other direction? I think the first tap would be a tap-off, and you would need to notice that and do a second tap.

      2. Skylar, the ORCA card readers time out your tap on after a certain period. I’m not sure exactly how long, but I’d guess its 2 hours or so.

      1. I just looked at the press release. The overall ridership data is generated by the passenger counters at the doors, but the boarding data is generated by Orca taps and TVM sales.

        That being said, its boarding not alighting data. So it doesn’t matter where people get off for the station by station data.

  8. When U-link first opened, I naturally assumed that I would be taking Link all the time from Capitol Hill to the U-district and not ride the #49 anymore. Somewhat surprisingly, this has turned out to not be the case. It turns out that when the travel time between Husky Stadium and the U-district is accounted for, that Link and the #49 take almost exactly the same amount of time, which means you can treat the bus and train like a combined route, and take whichever vehicle comes first (using OneBusAway to decide where to wait), regardless of whether it runs on tracks or rubber tires.

    I have also been traveling to Capitol Hill a lot more often than before, now that there are effectively 10 trips per hour (49 and Link, combined), rather than 4 (not counting the 43, which is considerably slower than the 49). I have also been stopping in Capitol Hill for dinner, between downtown and the UW, a fair number of times, something that would have been too far out of the way before U-link opened. I suspect the businesses along Broadway are getting a nice boost as a result.

    1. I have halfway between Westlake and Capitol Hill, so while I expected I would probably take Link because I like trains, I didn’t realize that most of my trips would be between Capitol Hill and UW and how dramatically faster that is compared to the 49 or 43. We talked a fair amount about how Link woujld eat the 49’s lunch from Westlake to Capitol Hill, although we couldn’t be certain because of people’s inertia and how willing they’d be to walk further. But we kind of overlooked the dramatic improvement on the other side of Capitol Hill Station, which does not have a 10 or 11 or 47 to supplement the 49. We focused so much on the plight of those living near 20th & John or 23rd & Aloha that we didn’t notice the people who would benefit from a Broadway-to-UW express.

      I had one asdf2-like experience on Link’s opening day, where I took the 49 from the U-District farmer’s market (50th) to Pine Street to avoid Link’s long lines, and it became more serendipidous when I decided I didn’t like the book I’d just checked out of the University Library so I stopped at Capitol Hill library (Republican St) to return it. At the time I thought, “The 49 will still be popular from the northern U-District to north Capitol Hill.” And maybe it is. But most of my trips now are to 65th Street, not 45th, and for that it’s not better to take the 49.

    2. As someone who lives a block off Broadway, I can confirm that restaurants are busier and sidewalks are fuller.

    3. Lost Lake is advertising their happy hour on Link… $2.99 cheeseburger with fries plus you can get a can of PBR for $1

    4. I’ve noticed an uptick in college students on Cap Hill since the Capitol Hill station opened.

    5. I work downtown and now sometimes ride Link to Capitol Hill and back for lunch.

  9. Be sure to check out the link to the ST press release for more data! The Saturday data and the growth in activity at existing stations is quite curious (like the 42 percent annual growth average at Columbia City).

    1. Yes, the ST press release breaks down percent growth in ridership at each station (April 2015 to April 2016). With that you can roughly estimate where UW/Capitol Hill ridership is going. Assuming that most transit boardings are part of a round trip, a boarding at UW or Capitol Hill results in a new boarding elsewhere in the system.

      The biggest increases were in the DSTT (not Westlake), which has nearly doubled in use: University +92%, Pioneer Square +82%, ID +89%. Next biggest increases are in the SODO segment: Stadium +61%, and SODO +64% (surprisingly).

      Stations at the far southern end of the line have hardly budged since U-Link: TIBS +13%, Airport +16%.

      My takeaways: The highest demand is from U-Link to downtown, but Westlake is too short of a trip (especially from Capitol Hill) to justify the subway access time. Stations deeper into downtown have benefited the most. Capitol Hill-ID in 8 minutes was never possible before (not even by car).

      Second, U-Link riders have been attending stadium events in large numbers, but not so much the airport. A scheduled 44 minutes from UW to Sea-Tac hasn’t been too attractive so far.

      1. The reason that Westlake didn’t grow like other Downtown stations is that it was at the end of the line – and now it isn’t. The ride- through riders aren’t counted. So, someone who used to ride Link and transfer to take a 43 to Cap Hill or UW no longer shows up in Westlake station activity.

      2. “SODO +64% (surprisingly)”

        That could be people transferring to Link from the 101, 150, and 59x going to UW.

      3. I’ve ridden the train from Westlake to Capitol Hill Station several times, and I definitely prefer it over the 49. The 49 is excruciatingly slow with the jog between Pike and Pine, and numerous stoplights. The Capitol Hill->U-district section of the 49 typically moves much faster (assuming the U-bridge isn’t open for boat traffic).

        From my experience so far, the north section of the 49 has been having decent ridership, maybe not quite as high as it was before U-link opened, but still plenty to justify the level of service that the 49 gets. Once the U-district station opens and all-day frequency improves from every 10 minutes to 5 (when Central Link and East Link combine), I suspect the number of people riding the 49 all the way through will decrease significantly. But the 49 will still get plenty of activity as a feeder bus serving the stops in between, and as a Link shadow bus during the late-night hours when Link is not running.

      4. I think it’s interesting that Mt. Baker Station has only grown +16% YoY compared to Columbia City’s growth of +42% and Beacon Hill’s +39% growth.. A Link trip MBS>Husky Stadium takes 22 minutes and the 48 schedule shows a peak hour trip time of 25 minutes (MBS>Montalke) or 34 minutes (MBS>45th & University). I guess it’s still faster and more convenient to take the 48 for lots of riders near MBS. That might change once Link is extended further north.

      5. Guyonbeaconhill, I suspect that the lower Mt Baker growth is because the UW students now stay on the train rather than transfer to and from Route 48.

      6. Regarding MBS, the same is true from Capitol Hill, at least as long as the 9 continues to exist. It takes about the same time (Link might even be slightly faster, not sure), but with station access time it’s at least a wash. Plus if you’re going somewhere on Rainier that isn’t right at MBS and need to transfer, the 9 can be a clear winner.

      7. Re Mt Baker Station, you also have to consider the lack of things around it. People go to Columbia City for the historic district, restaurants, movie theater, library, art walk, PCC, farmers’ market etc. Beacon Hill was heavily adopted by the local community for its convenience, and visitors also use it to go to the neighborhood businesses and the library. Mt Baker looks like a transplant from a 1970s suburban commercial district: there’s not much within walking distance. Some people make a trip for the Thai restaurant, but they probably don’t stop for a Philly cheesesteak unless it’s on their way. Mt Baker was designated a hub urban village, which means it’s expected to have more office buildings than the rest of southeast Seattle, but the latest zoning stunted them and drops off in just two blocks.

      8. Yeah, what Mike said (and what others said). The big problem with the Mount Baker station (reported here years ago) is that it is a terrible station. It is hard to get to and especially hard to transfer to. It is next to a park, a laundry facility, and a parking lot. This eliminates about half of the potential walk up customers. For the other half, it is a pain in the ass. But the worst part by far is that it is extremely difficult to make a transfer. If you are riding the 7, and in a hurry to get to the I. D., you are better off sticking with the bus. It just isn’t worth the time to actually get to the platform, let alone the time waiting for the transfer. This is a huge issue, given the number of people that ride the 7 (or other buses). That represents huge numbers of riders in our system, yet it is obvious by looking at these numbers that very few people are making the transfer. It is a huge failing in our system and one that I hope isn’t repeated that often in the future.

        Meanwhile, Columbia City is an easy station to get to. The numbers are growing because the neighborhood is growing (and some of those folks now prefer Link as a means to get to the UW or Capitol Hill).

    2. Columbia City Station is definitely busier. Probably due (at least in part) to the new apartments like The Angeline, Greehouse and City Line as well as folks moving to the neighborhood to be closer to the train.

  10. The 8-minute travel time in the original schedules was ridiculously long for a 3.1 mile segment with only one intermediate stop anyways. That’s an average speed of only 23.25 MPH. Waaayyyy slow than such a long segment with only one stop should be.

    1. It was probably padded with the assumption that the train would sit there for two minutes approaching Westlake Station while a 101 or 550 loads up (southbound) or a 41 (northbound).

      Also, at the time the schedules were drawn up, it was not decided yet that Metro would truncate/eliminate the 71/72/73, so had they still been around, that would have clogged up the tunnel further.

  11. At 60k passengers w/ 15 stations, Link is at 4,000 passengers/station (weekday).

    For comparison, using wikipedia figures:

    MAX: 1.2k
    BART: 10k
    SkyTrain: 8.5k

    By miles of track:

    Link: 3.2k
    MAX: 1.95k
    BART: 4k
    SkyTrain: 9k

    I don’t present these as if maximizing riders per mile or station is our goal, or we should be mad at ST being worse than skytrain, or proud to be better than MAX.

    Our system is new, so we both haven’t had the time for TOD to develop, or for that matter to build out into the suburbs where construction is cheaper but the land use far worse, diluting our ridership per station/mile. We’ve got hills that don’t allow Vancouver or Portland style cheap construction or perfectly gridded bus networks. MAX’s numbers include streetcars.

    But it’s interesting, nonetheless.

    1. Sidebet: When do we surpass MAX ridership? Can we ~double with six years of growth plus Northgate link?

      MAX is of course expanding too – I’d bet we won’t catch them until 2023, but with Eastlink and Lynwood link both coming online then, we should easily pass our southern neighbors and never look back.

      1. MAX is expanding?!? I wouldn’t hold my breathe on Barbur MAX, plus it manages to miss both OHSU and PCC to solely run down a state highway lined with sprawl while being one block over from I-5 that severs most cross streets. Oh, and would run through Tigard, an anti-rail suburb that passed a vote than any transit project that might impact streets has to go before voters.

      2. ST projects that Central Link will average 83,000 weekday boardings in the year prior to the Northgate extension opening. Link should be able to top 100,000 with Northgate open, but I doubt the system can surpass Max until East Link opens.

        This is significantly more ridership than any other single-line rail system in the US. The only comparable system in the Edmonton light rail, which exceeded 100,000 daily riders with a single line (last year they opened a 3-station spur, so it is not a direct comparison any more). I am slowly working on a Page 2 post about how Edmonton provides that much capacity.

      3. If Community transit truncates most of their seattle Express routes at Northgate, that could really boost Link ridership numbers. I’d imagine Snohomish would love to reinvest those service hours elsewhere

      4. Max is listed on Wikipedia at about 117k boardings on an average weekday. EHS and Chad are probably right that Lynnwood and Eastlink will probably need to open to overtake Max – but that day will come!

      5. Article in today’s Oregonian says average weekday for MAX is around 130k.

    2. Chad,

      I think you would need to have at least 3 car trains running full time to get to 83,000 boardings per day in the next 3 years. I am betting if they were added now the capacity would be utilized in short order and we haven’t hit summer peak yet. I am curious to know what is needed to run 3 car trains regularly at Weekend frequency let alone how much it would cost to reduce the spare ratio in order to have a few more 3 car trains running.

      1. I don’t think running 3-car trains will induce more ridership outside of peak. More frequency might.

    3. Unlike certain other systems, MAX ridership would probably go up if a few stations were eliminated.

    4. >> We’ve got hills that don’t allow Vancouver or Portland style cheap construction

      I get the reference to Portland, but what difference do the hills (or lack thereof) make in Vancouver? Their system (so far as I know) is entirely underground or above ground. We are the ones that saved money by putting things on the ground. Our hills definitely limit some options (running rail in some cases would mean extremely deep stations) but our costs should be similar.

      For example, running light rail to North Vancouver would be just about as expensive as running rail to West Seattle. You have a major waterway to cross, with large freight traffic to clear. If Vancouver ever built rail to North Vancouver, it would be elevated, as it will be in West Seattle (if it is built).

      The big difference between the two systems is that ours ignores bus to rail interaction and focuses on symbolic rail to suburban areas, while theirs is highly effective.

    1. Be careful what you wish for. If ST were to run 3-car trains all day, it would do so at 15-minute headway.

  12. Spectacular. Really good numbers. Ridership growth will only make it better.

    So nice to see that removing buses from the DSTT has had such a positive impact on Link transit times. Getting to 6 mins instead of 8 mins is great, and wouldn’t have been possible without removing bus routes from the DSTT. Can we do even better by removing more routes?

    Pure station boarding data is great to see. Kudos to ST for generating it. I suspect UW Station and Cap Hill will continue to grow as patterns shift.

    Also, can we possibly get an update to the “League of Its Own” post that ranks Link ridership vs Metro by route ridership? Including the two streetcar lines? Might be very informative.

    Also, can we

    1. Rude to finish other people’s sentences, but how ’bout:

      “after 25 years, start using the multi-million dollar signal system that the world’s top rail engineers installed to coordinate service for however many buses we needed to run while rail was being built?”

      Inquiring minds demand to know! Both of them! But you don’t need to be very inquisitive to figure why there are only a couple minds left that give a crap.


    2. September will see a change in the tunnel buses. Route 106 will no longer be in the tunnel, a topic we have beaten to death. As for route 124 possibly going in (which would mean a net increase in tunnel traffic), Metro will have to make a decision by September.

      The big speed change will be when the buses get evicted in 2017 or 2018, after which the speed limit in the tubes will likely increase, and the train won’t have cross-traffic to deal with in the stub tunnel. The opening of Angle Lake Station should shorten the travel time to Airport Station. The opening of Northgate Link should shorten travel time to UW Station. Perhaps introduction of ATC will also help with speed. I’m not going to guess how much these events will impact travel time, otherwise we’ll have someone claiming Sound Transit “promised” a certain speed which was one minute too fast or one minute too slow, and it wasn’t even ST’s projection.

      As for ridership comparisons, Link’s ridership was less than 1/10th of Metro’s total ridership before the station openings, and is now roughly 1/7th. It is still way above any single Metro route in ridership.

      It appear Link’s ridership will be roughly equal to the cumulative ST Express ridership in April, but those numbers have not been released yet. Link ridership still has some climbing to do to pass the rest of ST, and Washington State Ferries. So, if Link were its own transit agency, it would now be the 4th in the state in ridership, having now left Spokane Transit, Pierce Transit, and Community Transit in the dust.

      When critics talk about light rail not providing ridership to justify the cost, they will continue to talk as if (1) Every penny spent on light rail construction so far should be divided by current ridership; (2) The federal government did not contribute; (3) The rosiest projection ever offered is “promised” ridership: (4) The entire ST3 cost to district taxpayers is being spent on light rail construction, and not operations and maintenance of all the modes; and (5) That spending $800K on having a safe and fun opening day party should have instead been added to the $1.8 million in ad revenue the Times is getting from ST this year; and that holding that party is somehow a reason to not continue building the light rail network. I dare them to say the ad buys with the Statesman are waste.

  13. Is ST *still* running only two 3-car trains? Just two trippers out for peak hours only?

    I was on one of those jam-packed 2-car trains the other evening. It was painful. And it was just a routine weekday with no big events, the Mariners were out of town.

      1. After the match, I headed to IDS. A 3-car train came along, adding another couple minutes of dwell time as people rushed to the rear train, and than runners kept on boarding. The rear car was comfortably spacious, in contrast to the front two.

        I saw no sign saying “3 car-train”.

        When I got off the train at CHS, the arrival-time sign said the next trains to UWS would be in 40, 50, and 60 minutes. When I came back to the station, the sign said the next train southbound would be arriving in 3 minutes as it pulled up. The signs insisted the headway was 10 minutes.

        About 40% of the riders departed from my northbound train at CHS, which tracks about right with ST’s station boarding table.

    1. I would add that the lack of more three-car trains after such a big proclamation that they were happening makes ST look deceitful. That’s one very fast way to get a rider to vote no rather than yes on ST3. How stupid does ST think the riders are?

      1. Can you point to a public proclamation where ST said they would be running 3-car trains in perpetuity?

      2. An announcement that there would be some 3-car trains from time to time to handle crowds is not a promised to schedule them regularly (though being able to expect them would make them more useful).

  14. According to the 2016 ST SIP, with 62 LRV, they can have a maximum of 10 of the 19 trains at three cars. Even with that, three-car trains at seven minute headway provide more capacity than two and 10/19 car trains on a six minute headway.

  15. I’m surprised that ST is surprised with these numbers. These are pretty much what I expected. I can’t find the old comment but I expected around a 20 to 25,000, based on the changes. The big reason is that the 71, 72, 73 were truncated. They carried around 17,000 people before the change. So, my thinking is like so:

    UW to downtown — 10,000 from the old 71/72/73 (and I think that is conservative). A few more from the restructure to the NE. I know anecdotally, that a lot of people prefer the faster bus (e. g. 76) but often take the train because it is a lot more frequent.

    Capitol Hill to downtown — 5,000 (again being conservative). This one is harder to call, since a lot of buses went to close to their, but those buses still exist, and I would have to look at specific stop ridership numbers anyway.

    UW to Capitol Hill — Arguably the greatest value added (this is a much faster trip). But there is no U-District station yet, so for some, the 49 (which has added service) makes a lot more sense. Still, the 43 was no slouch, so I would add in another 5,000 for this.

    All those numbers are conservative, which is why I would say 20,000 to 25,000, which is pretty much where we are at. I do wonder how many new riders are using transit because of the changes. Simply looking at transit ridership growth before and after the restructure would give us a hint, though. Like ridership number, neither should govern our thinking, but it is a good starting point (sometimes all you do is make life a lot better for current transit users — nothing wrong with that).

    It is important to remember that this is by far the most important section in the entire state. UW to downtown is the key element in our entire system. It is obvious when you look at the census data, and even more obvious when you consider that both the UW and downtown are extremely popular destinations (with Capitol Hill being much better than average). You really can’t screw this up too much (well, you could — you could have skipped Capitol Hill). But these numbers aren’t impressive to me, nor should they impress anyone. If done right, we should be talking about 80,000 people on a regular basis, if not 100,000. Stops at First Hill, 23rd as well as 520 would not only pick up huge numbers of riders walking to the station, but provide the sort of bus to rail network used so effectively in cities like Vancouver.

    Meanwhile, once in a while, 80,000 people ride Link in one day. I fail to see why that is headline news. I’m sure buses did the exact same thing (and do the exact same thing). The 44, for example, is quite crowded on Husky football games (exhibiting large spikes compared to a typical Saturday). That is interesting, of course, but hardly impressive.

Comments are closed.