Sounder Bruce (Flickr)
Sounder Bruce (Flickr)

Though we’ve already covered daily ridership for ULink’s first full month – a weekday average of 60,000 with spikes above 80,000 – Sound Transit also recently released its April systemwide summary. The figures are as robust as you’d expect, with 79% year-over-year growth for Link Light Rail, clocking in at 60,000 weekday boardings versus 33,000 a year ago.

ULink is also trending roughly 30% above Sound Transit’s target, with 200 passengers per trip compared to the April 2016 target of 150.

Sounder continued its robust growth, with 600 passengers per trip and 5% year over year growth. Sounder carries 1/4 as many weekday riders as Link (15k vs 60k), a healthy figure for just a couple dozen daily trips.

But April also crossed another interesting threshold, as Link now carries more total riders than all 28 Sound Transit Express routes combined. To be fair, this is largely due to Link’s very high weekend frequency relative to ST Express, and ST Express still carries slightly more weekday passengers (65k versus 60k), but likely not for long as ULink growth continues and Angle Lake opens in late summer/early fall.

Link vs STX 2

Link vs. STX

99 Replies to “Link Is Now Bigger Than All ST Express Routes Combined”

  1. No big surprise. I think it has always been understood that Link will surpass ST Express both in total ridership and in average weekday ridership sometime after U-Link opened. What is so surprising is that it is happening so soon.

    So the question now is, “What to do about STEx?” As NG-Link and East-Link come on line an arguement can be made for redeploying the service, but I think ST always viewed STEx as an interim service to be phased out as Link got deployed region wide. And a case can be made that the enabeling legislation in fact mandates this.

    But no need to change for at least the next 5 years. Just sit back and watch Link rock. The critics of LR must be losing sleep at night.

    1. Careful, Bruce. Exaggerated media “Horse Race” fixation could cause a horrible transit (and everything else weaker he thinks is weaker than he is) critic for Chief of State. LINK’s heavy ridership is like scoop-shoveling. The thicker the load at any given place, the more more coal moved with every swing.

      Meantime, ST Express is working as planned: fast service along the kind of major routes that will be put to rail when ridership finally demands. Which if it had shorter headways, reserved lanes and publicity would have a lot heavier ridership now.

      The 574 could get more legislators from their offices to the Airport. For rallies about the bathroom defense that dwarfs the war on ISIS. But the 550 has always been signature ST Express. Rubber-tired light rail, Tunnel and all, ’til LINK gets to the Kemper Freeman Memorial Station.

      Near-future, less gripes if EastLINK is a Day Late and a Dollar Short even getting to Rainier Avenue. Or the I-90 bridge turns out to be Titanic II, like a famous critic warned us Board meeting before last.

      Always thought the 512 should’ve run DSTT when it would’ve had poles on the roof. Just like Atlantic Base, would’ve given new drivers better choice of work, and proof that guts yield better vacation pick than seniority.

      Too bad 1200 volt catenary is so hard on double-deckers. Though 2-way diamond lanes from Northgate south will be good even after Lynnwood LINK opens. ST3 “provisional?”


    2. There are several ST Express routes that are clearly not duplicative with Link and Sounder, even when ST3 is built out.

      One of the interesting moves in the latest ST3 draft is having Highline Station open as part of Federal Way Link, so the Highline Station truncation proposal is no longer a thing to fret over.

      Some ST Express ridership is already switching to Link, including a chunk of 522 riders embracing the more frequent Metro 372 and transferring at UW Station, as hinted at in the 1st quarter ridership report.

      1. I didn’t mean to say that ST Express should only serve lines intended to become LINK. Though I do think it’s important to be sure that people who live along projected LINK lines will have some service there well before LINK arrives.

        Pretty much the way we did for the DSTT. Which got several initially reluctant suburbs to keep paying for rail service they still haven’t received in 25 years. Not criticizing LINK for taking too much time, but noting that our phased approach is worth imitating.

        Meantime, I also think that for service with word “Express” in its name, buses should be given every assist they need to run as fast as possible. Reserved lanes. Pre-empted signals. Removed parking.

        So that whether or not an ST Express route becomes a LINK line, its performance will connect the company colors with “Fast and Reliable” in the public mind system-wide.


    3. ST Express will remain long-term, just not all the routes that duplicate Link. ST has already introduced the 541 (Overlake-UW) as a step toward the post-ST2 network. As to whether ST will redeploy the service hours or delete them to pay for Link, it’s not as simple as that. The board decides ST Express’s service hours independent of Link. In January ST released three alternatives for ST Express in 2023 (the map shows only the largest one). Two scenarios have fewer hours than today, while one has more hours. The hours are redeployed into a Link-complementary network. All Seattle routes are truncated at KDM, Lynnwood, Bellevue, or UW, but they all become full-time frequent (I’m not sure how the multiple branches in Tacoma/Lakewood form into routes or the frequency on each branch, and evening frequency is ambiguous). What this shows is that ST is not depending on the STEX service hours to fund Link operations, otherwise it would not be considering the high alternative.

      KDM Station is postponed one year in ST3 to open with Federal Way in 2024. But if ST3 fails, I assume it will revert to a 2023 opening. Also, these bus alternatives were done before the ST3 system plan was solidified. So if the Federal Way extension opens in 2024, that would impact the south end STEX lines. It appears that ST does not consider SeaTac must-serve by the buses, so they could all be truncated at Federal Way and the 577 disappear. However, Metro’s long-term plan has a Federal Way-downtown Express route, and the definition of Express is every 30 minutes, so that could replace it. However, there’s some wiggle room to make it peak-only, thus replacing the 17x rather than the 577.

      1. Also, those plans include some BRT corridors, which won’t “count” towards the annual service hours budgeted for STex, right?

      2. The BRT money in ST3 for RR-C, RR-D and Madison BRT will be capped contributions (to SDOT?) for capital improvements, so yes, they won’t count as operating expense.

        I-405 BRT and SR-522 BRT would have both capital and operating costs.

    4. If I were still a Tacoma-to-Seattle (off-peak, so no sounder) commuter, I’d be trying to figure out the plan STEX with the ST III buildout. Specifically, I’d want some reasons to believe the 590-series would not be going away entirely before I’d consider voting yes. I strongly support more light rail, even it includes some dubious value-added projects. But asking me to sacrifice 25-45 minutes a day for the privilege of riding the rails is a step too far.

      1. Remember that st3 also promises “all day” sounder, so unless you’re working the graveyard shift you have that option as well.

      2. Actually ST3 just has ‘Sounder improvements’ as they aren’t falling into BNSF’s trap again.

      3. Not me. I would appreciate the frequency even at the expense of speed. Sounder or not, the trip will still take an hour on either rail system, given there are no proposed Sounder speed improvements in ST3, existing freight impacts and only hourly frequency planned.

      4. The degradation to Tacoma-Seattle service will happen whether or not Link reaches Tacoma; it’s already locked in from the KDM extension in ST2. The task for anyone who cares about effective Tacoma-Seattle service is to block any restructure that takes away the 590/594 or truncates them anywhere south of Sodo until we get all-day and faster Sounder, preferably by implementing Troy’s proposal to smooth out the curves and allow 200 kmph travel.

      5. Erik, I would be fine with a 10-15 midday service truncating at KDM and direct peak service to Seattle if ST3 fails. Beyond that though, Sounder all day service, while great will still be far too infrequent and in truth longer if we’re talking service into actual Downtown Seattle. Sounder still suffers the last mile issue. Compare King Street to IDS and it’s virtually identical in travel time and no transfer penalty with Link.

      6. The Sounder service increases are all for Sounder South, not North. ST2 will add a peak, reverse peak, and midday run as I recall. The maximum Sounder expansion ST is considering in ST3 would be hourly into the evening and some weekend service. A mid level would be anywhere from ST2 to that. ST is in negotiation with BNSF over a total package price for a third track and hourly timeslots so it can pick and choose at fixed prices. Rogoff said at Thursday’s meeting that the negotiations may go past the Novermber election. Until they’re finished ST won’t say how much service it will add or how much money it has allocated for Sounder, because then BNSF would set the price to whatever ST has and wouldn’t negotiate down.

      7. I don’t understand the appeal of direct buses peak and transfering to Link off-peak.

        If we can’t fix the HOV lanes, then during the peak, a direct bus will (by 2023) be no faster than a transfer to Link. Off-peak, the direct bus will still have the travel-time advantage, so direct off-peak and forced-transfer in the peak makes more sense.

        If we can fix the HOV lanes, then a direct bus would be far superior to a transfer to Link (35 minutes vs. 65 for Tacoma Dome to Sodo).

        While some people would rather spend an extra 20 minutes on the train rather than 10 at the station, I want to minimize total travel time, and light rail from Tacoma to Seattle does not do that.

        Tacoma Dome to King Street/IDS is 59 minutes by Sounder and ~70 by Link. That 70 has a hard minimum due to federal speed limits and the section in the Rainier Valley where Link actually does what light rail should do. Any change we make that makes Link more functional as a light rail system (adding infill stations) will add a little to the time.

        Sounder, on the other hand, can be sped up. 40 minute run times from Tacoma to Seattle should be possible just with an additional track; implementing Troy’s proposal would get the time below 30 minutes for Tacoma to Seattle with all the current stations plus BAR. Hourly runs gives an average wait time of 30 minutes, for a total trip tome of 60-70 against Link’s 73. Of course, for a moderate-distance trip like Tacoma-Seattle, planned travel will be more common than spontaneous, so the 30-40 figure is more important than 60-70.

      8. Your point is noted Mike. I understand BNSF negotiations and how ST would rather play that close to the vest. Eric to your point I understand just what you’re saying regarding differences in mode speed but ultimately I would rather the frequency. Link Seattle to Tacoma time considers Westlake as part of its projection not IDS. That would put the run time to IDS minutes sooner and thus equivalent to Sounder speeds and at six times the frequency. Speed improvements are at this point more a pipe dream and even if possible it’s another BNSF negotiation. A 594 at half hour frequency to Seattle is still a poorer solution than a ST2 version bus to link transfer at higher frequencies in my eyes. One I would happily take if available even if it takes a little longer.

      9. Sounder or not, the trip will still take an hour on either rail system

        The trip will take considerably longer than an hour on link–that’s the problem.

      10. Today, we have all-day service between Tacoma and Seattle that takes about 50 minutes from Tacoma Dome to 4th/Pine, plus wait time, with service every 30 minutes. Whatever we do, we should not allow service to degrade significantly from this.

        Link presumably improves frequency, but also increases travel time from 50 minutes to 70. Thus, a 5-minute wait for Link would be time-equivalent to a 25-minute wait for the 594, which would be a huge regression. In theory, an all-day Sounder every 30 minutes would be an acceptable substitute for the 594 – slightly longer travel time, but significantly improved reliability to compensate. For off-peak Lakewood->Seattle trips, Sounder all the way would probably actually be faster than the 594 because the 594’s slog through downtown Tacoma eats up a ton of time (and is highly variable depending on traffic).

        But, the above is only true if Sounder were to really run all day, every 30 minutes. And, as long as BNSF owns the tracks, we are unlikely to get anything close to this, in practice. More likely, if ST 3 Sounder improvements is similar in size to ST 2, we’ll get a few new peak-hour trips, plus some shoulder trips, perhaps, arriving at King St. Station around 9-9:30 AM or departing King St. Station around 2:30-3 PM or 6:30-7 PM. Maybe even one daily round trip Saturday-Sunday, similar to what CalTrain does with the Baby Bullet runs.
        While this type of improvement would certainly benefit commuters into Seattle, it is a level of service nowhere near what could reasonably be considered an acceptable replacement of the 594.

      11. asdf I respectfully disagree with both you and djw. 30 minute sounder service would be great but there will be absolutely no difference between the two services when total run time is considered. None. Transfer penalties from King St and midday bus frequency and run time between the ID and Pine St during the midday will cancel out any savings earned from Sounder. Hell, I’ll likely lose time in this scenario. I say this as a Sounder commuter.

        The loss in time will be significant but not altogether different than the 510-512 restructure that add about 15 minutes extra run time in exchange for frequency. Something this blog endorsed and supported pretty heavily. It also knitted the north sound regionally by connecting the area better. I suspect Link and increased bidirectional Sounder service would have similar effect for the south sound. It’s not always about Seattle.

      12. “Transfer penalties from King St and midday bus frequency and run time between the ID and Pine St during the midday will cancel out any savings earned from Sounder.”

        That’s fair enough if you’re talking about Sounder vs. 594 (at least if you’re coming from Tacoma Dome, rather than Lakewood), but not true for Sounder vs. Link. A 25-minute time penalty is huge, and the transfer penalty at King St. Station is not nearly that much. A 70-minute travel time, plus wait time, is never going to be remotely time-competitive with driving in anything but the worst traffic conditions. Even people who don’t want to park downtown will drive down I-5 and switch over to the train closer to Seattle (perhaps BAR Station).

      13. >> Not me. I would appreciate the frequency [of Link] even at the expense of speed.

        The 590/594 is fairly frequent headed northbound (southbound, not so much). I wish I had an easy way to graph it, because it does go up and down quite a bit, and is hard to express in a few sentences (but I’ll try):

        Tacoma to Seattle:

        4:08 – 4:48 — Every 20 minutes
        4:48 – 8:48 — 5 to 8 minutes
        9:02 – 2:02 — Every 20 minutes
        2:02 – 3:35 — Every 30 minutes
        3:35 – 6:05 — 13 or 17 minutes (alternating)
        6:05 – 10:30 — Every 30 minutes

        From a north bound direction, taking Link will rarely make sense, even if you just miss a bus. Before 2:00 PM, the only reason to take a train is if you are going somewhere else (SeaTac) or just feel like taking the train. Just to break it down some more:

        For the early bid trips, I just don’t think that many people wake up that early, which is why they don’t run the bus that often. It is hard to imagine many people switching to the train at that hour, since I would imagine that bus is very fast. As a result, I wouldn’t imagine ST would run the train that often then.

        When a bus does encounter congestion, it is very frequent. So about the only time when taking Sounder or Link might be competitive with Link (from a speed perspective), the bus is just as frequent. At best Link can run every six minutes — a minimal improvement if any — and I doubt Link will do that for this stretch (it would just be too costly). Even with all of these bus runs (and Sounder), transit ridership from all of Tacoma to Seattle is still a few thousand (not tens of thousands). Ridership for the other sections would add to that, but being slower to Seattle would subtract. My guess is there might be a couple runs of 6 minutes, but a fairly quick switch to 12 minute frequency from Tacoma to SeaTac.

        Anyway, for much of the day, the bus runs every 20 minutes. I would consider that pretty good for a bus like this, and tough to beat with Link. I could see Link running every fifteen minutes, or switch over at 10:00 AM (instead of 9:00) but that is about it.

        After 2:00 Link finally gets competitive. The 30 minute running from 2:00 to 3:30 is very annoying, and I would expect Link to more frequent than this. It doesn’t become that frequent during rush hour, either. There is plenty of congestion heading northbound, so if Link was more frequent than the buses, it might be the better choice.

        Seattle to Tacoma:

        5:30 – 6:00 — 30 minutes
        6:00 – 7:15 — 15 minutes
        7:15 – 12:45 — 30 minutes
        12:45 – 2:20 — 20 minutes
        2:20 – 3:30 — 10 minutes
        3:30 – 6:00 — 6-8 minutes
        6:00 – 7:00 — 12 minutes
        7:00 – 8:45 — 20-23 minutes
        8:45 – 11:45 — every 30 minutes

        Southbound it is lot messier. I could see Link being competitive, assuming the bus routes didn’t change. In the morning, the bus is pretty fast*, but not very frequent. 15 to 30 minutes is terrible. If I wanted to head down to Tacoma at 8:00 AM, I would expect better than 30 minute frequency, but I wouldn’t get it.

        It gets much better in the afternoon, and is always competitive with Link, in my opinion (when the bus runs every 20 minutes, it is at least very fast). Then things get worse for the bus. At 6:00 you have 12 minute frequency, which isn’t bad, but you also have congestion then. At 7:00 you have 20 minute frequency, and it gets worse after that.

        From what I can tell, the buses could be competitive with Link (in terms of frequency) for a relatively small amount of money. The biggest expense would be adding night service (both directions) but that is about it. From a northbound perspective, it is especially cheap. A couple extra buses in the middle of the day and you have 20 minute (or better) frequency all day long.

        The biggest problem is the dead-heading. If the buses simply stopped dead-heading, then you could have very good frequency all day long (and only need to add extra buses at night). For an express route connecting two cities it is especially annoying. Most of the time is spent on the freeway. You don’t save that much time by dead-heading. You do eliminate the time spent slogging through downtown Seattle and Tacoma, but I could see fixing that fairly easily. Just have two versions of the bus. From downtown Seattle, you can sometimes pick up a bus heading southbound on 4th. But during “reverse commute” times, you have to pick it up heading northbound on 2nd. In other words, you just ride the dead-head. Given the distances involved, I think that would make a lot of sense. It is not that weird of a thing, either (the 77 runs south through downtown, then heads north, to Maple Leaf). If you did that, then waiting for a bus would be the fastest way to get from one city to the other, even if the train was running frequently.

        * I don’t know if traffic from Tacoma to Seattle in the HOV lanes gets congested in the morning. Through Seattle it seems to be fairly free flowing, but it might get back in Tacoma.

      14. asdf I only argue Sounder vs Link. You’re correct there is no scenario in which Link will be faster than the bus. The bus however, will never be as frequent or consistent and is subject to freeway traffic coming out of Lakewood. It will be time competitive with the bus during commuter hours with the nearly the same level of frequency and of course higher capacity. You also need to account the Sounder wait time (up to 15 minutes) and mainline congestion into your scenario. I have been “inconvenienced” by such things in my commute consistently. My only saving grace is that I work in the ID so I don’t have to also factor in getting from downtown to King Street. That is a rat race.

        Ross to your point on schedule I get where you are going and on paper it looks well and good. In practice, not so much. Trips to Seattle at the early hours of the morning are well utilized if the garage usage I see in the morning is any indication. Sounder trips mind you start fairly early also. In the afternoon peak, buses are surprisingly not as well utilized and that’s likely due to the nature of the I-5 southbound commute. Travel between Federal Way and Fife can take up to 45 minutes HOV or general lane. Sounder is at least consistent save for the impacts mentioned above. As for the deadheads, those inbound buses stay in Seattle near the SODO rail maintenance facility on Airport Way so as to save money.

        Link is projected to run down here same as currently. 10 min midday, six minute peak and 15 min early morning/late night, same as everywhere else systemwide except the main trunk between DSTT and Mariner in Everett. Whether or not you believe the levels are necessary or even believable are besides the point. Peak of peak it takes consistently about 1hr, 15min to travel between the Tacoma Dome and the Downtown CBD in the morning via the 590. Worse if there are accidents. Beyond the consistent frequency is the fact the train will be able to stitch the area better than the bus options. I’m hoping that ST does what Metro is attempting and use Link and Sounder to branch service and enhance more local connection. Going anywhere north to south with the current bus system is a pain. Link would go a long way toward a more interconnected system.

      15. @Eric I don’t understand the appeal of direct buses peak and transferring to Link off-peak. …

        I agree. Good comment. The obvious answer (for Tacoma) is to run buses fairly frequently and try to run Sounder faster. If you can speed up Sounder, and make it faster than a bus, then that would be great. But you would still want frequent bus service as a complement. I doubt you will be able to make Sounder frequent enough to compete with the bus (to Tacoma — for places like Auburn it may be a different story).

        To get to 10 minute frequency all day and night would be expensive, but not that expensive. If you shifted buses around (meaning running every ten minutes even though you sometimes run more frequently now) then it would be about a 30% increase in service. But that would probably result in crowded buses. I’m sure there are folks who see the train, but are willing to wait a couple minutes to catch the bus, because it is faster. But if the tables were turned, and the train was faster than the bus, then the bus would probably be fine if it just ran every 10 minutes all day long.

        Even if you kept the schedule the same, but added service so that buses never ran less than every ten minutes (from 4:00 AM to 10:30 PM northbound, and 5:30 AM to midnight southbound) it wouldn’t break the bank. It would require about 60% more buses. That is probably a lot cheaper than improving the frequency (let alone the speed) of Sounder and definitely cheaper than extending Link to Tacoma. The result would be very good service between the two cities (I wish my bus ran that often).

    5. I believe that the ST board removed the ‘interim’ designation from ST Express late last year.

  2. If you look at the recent service improvements on ST express, while there’s a lot more buses during rush hour than there used to be, getting home from an evening event downtown is still as difficult as ever. Effectively, anybody who rides the 522, 545, or 554 home from a Mariner’s game at 10:00 at night is depending on nearly everybody else to drive, otherwise, one bus per hour would simply not have room for all the passengers. People who drive to evening events downtown due to lack of transit service home after the event has a direct effect on afternoon rush hour traffic congestion before the event.

    1. There’s a cap on the number of day games that the Mariners can play (I think they are limited to 12 weekday games starting before 7pm). As Link gets built out, it would be worth looking at increasing the number of weekday games allowed. If more games started at 3pm, especially during the summer school break, fans could ride transit to the game and still be able to use fairly frequent transit service for the trip home at about 6pm. As a parent, I would also be more willing to let my teenagers attend a day game than a night game without being supervised by an adult.

      1. Watch it, Guy. Being allowed to ride the CTA “L” to the Chicago Art Institute for charcoal drawing lessons every Saturday when I was 8…Oh, the Humanity! A warped carbon and copper addict who can’t shut up about the Electroliner. And will always visit the mummy when SAM puts one by the cafeteria.

        Once drew a Renault before I even knew what one was. Have personally seen this continuing danger crossing generation line. Whole train-load of grade school kids headed for University Street Station with their own Picasso drawings that would’ve sent Picasso back to the Art Institute with a stick of charcoal. Howard Street “L”.

        Even more ominous: family riding in from Tukwila telling me their kids now liked LINK ride better than whatever they were using it to go see. You’ve been warned. So don’t blame me if your kids come in waving their LINK runcard in your face.

        Just be grateful I got chained to a radiator in an Aurora (Route 6 before it turned into 358) motel so I couldn’t publicly comment that permanent dual-power trolley bus/ light rail joint ops were ST’s express to the Future!

        Too bad Beacon Hill station has already got them.


    2. I’ve switched to Link for DT events whereas I used to drive. Link is totally unaffected by post event congestion.

      1. Link is affected by dwell time for crushloading and the slow crawl across Royal Brougham, where drunk fans see a train and decide to duck under the gate and beat it. Human stupidity forces Link to treat that intersection as slower than a school zone after events. So post-event congestion does add minutes to Link’s travel time. Dear gate-duckers: There will be another train in about five minutes. Getting your bones crunched is forever.

        Link’s approach from Capitol Hill to Westlake is also variable, depending on DSTT traffic. I’ve been on a train recently that sat still about three minutes before getting to the Westlake platform. But I’ve also been on a train that did UW to Beacon Hill in 19.5 minutes, with the only slowdown being dwell for a crowd to board at Westlake. But I see the online schedule now says 20 minutes for that span, where it used to say 22 minutes. (And it will only get faster when the trains no longer have to switch tracks at UWS and the buses leave the DSTT, lifting the slow order in the tubes between the stations.)

        Unfortunately, that means the train is leaving ahead of what the book, some of the station printed schedules, and the electronic departure signs say. The schedules will be impacted again when trains start going to Angle Lake Station in testing mode in the next month or two, reducing travel time to and from SeaTac Airport Station by something like a minute.

      2. What you’re describing are post event Link delays measured in minutes, whereas traffic delays routinely reach 30 mins to an hour. I don’t think Link dwell time delays and Seattle traffic are comparable.

      3. He is not talking about post even congestion, but lack of service. As he clearly states, for many bus routes, the problem is lack of buses, not congestion.

  3. I have long been a critic of Sound Transit’s rosy projections and will continue my criticism of ST’s bragging that U Link opened early and under budget, but I am very willing to admit that these ridership numbers are impressive. I’ve never been happier to be wrong.

    1. History will record that U-Link opened ahead of schedule and under budget. Let it go or spend the next x years banging your head against the wall.

      And the more successful Link is per ridership the less people will care about yesterday’s costs. It’s just the way people are.

      1. It is true that history is written by the winners, but George Washington is still a traitor and a terrorist according to King George. A particular version of history doesn’t change the event, just the perception. And there’s your philosophic thought of the day. Over and out.

      2. I am suggesting that people love Link because it is smooth, fast, frequent, and doesn’t get stuck in traffic. Arguments about historical facts are largely among geeks.

        ST has delivered a high-quality line. Have fun arguing that it isn’t.

      3. Link’s operational cost and fares are already below Metro’s for some trip pairs, and this trend will increase as more parts of the city can use Link.

      4. It did though. To claim otherwise is to believe that projects start times are when they start existing in someone’s mind, rather than when shovel hits ground. From that perspective, the 2nd Abe subway is a century over schedule.

      5. History will say both, that Link missed its original estimate but exceeded its post-2005 estimates. It will also note that (1) the original board was inexperienced because there never had been rapid transit in this region, (2) the new estimates were based on more detailed engineering studies that weren’t available when the original estimates were made, and (3) voters approved the revised estimates in 2008 which vacates the earlier ones.

        If an estimate is unrealistic, one should discount the estimate, not blame the results for not matching it.

      6. >> ST has delivered a high-quality line. Have fun arguing that it isn’t.

        Sure, why not. It does sound fun.

        Anyone with any sense has noted that UW to downtown is by far the best line that could be built in Washington state. Including Capitol Hill is essential. Sound Transit got that right. Once you decide to do that, you really can’t fuck up too badly. You can put the UW station(s) just about anywhere, and still get plenty of people. They managed to put in just about the worst possible place, but it still works. Congratulations for digging a hole and putting the rail in it.

        But the weak location for the UW station is a minor problem compared to the biggest weakness, which is the lack of stations. Anyone notice anything interesting about the numbers released before. While the Capitol Hill Station is hugely popular — fourth most popular in our entire line — more people ride the train from Rainier Valley. Why is that? Because there are more stations! Columbia City, Othello, Mount Baker and Rainier Beach are at the bottom half of stations, but together they make up 13.2% of the ridership. More people ride this from the Rainier Valley than the entire Central Area. It is even competitive with the area north of the ship canal. There is nothing magical about Rainier Valley. It has way less density by the stations and way fewer people to draw from. It just has more stations, that’s all.

        Leaving out First Hill was stupid, as was 23rd and Madison. Adding a station next to 520 would make a lot of sense, but there are other ways to solve that problem (e. g. another bridge, just for buses, connecting 520 with Link). Those two (or three) stations would have resulted in the leap you would expect from covering the most essential part of state. Without a doubt this was a huge improvement — no one with any sense would argue against a line from the UW to downtown — it is just that it could be so much better, with a relatively small amount of money spent building a couple more stations.

      7. The poor UW station location is all on the University of Washington. Sound Transit wanted a station under Rainier Vista between Stevens Way and the Triangle. This would have provided much better bus transfers and better access to the central campus while stil providing good access to UWMC and the buses on Pacific.

        As for First Hill it is a shame the station wasn’t included, but if it had been Sound Transit would not have been able to build the line in the first place. If the station had been left in it would have cost an extra billion dollars at least between the cost of the station and the loss of federal grants.

      8. >> The poor UW station location is all on the University of Washington.

        So they screwed up the negotiation with another public agency. Kudos for having the right idea in the first place, but ultimately they failed. It shouldn’t have been that hard to put pressure on the state to give them a good station, but they didn’t. I never read about the controversy in the paper, they never organized a protest, nothing. Nor did they work the back channels to get it done. My guess is they didn’t want to make waves because they screwed up everything else prior to that (e. g. guessing and then convincing the public they could build a line from the UW to the airport for only a couple billion).

        As for First Hill it is a shame the station wasn’t included, but if it had been Sound Transit would not have been able to build the line in the first place. If the station had been left in it would have cost an extra billion dollars at least between the cost of the station and the loss of federal grants.

        Again, another screw up. First of all, I don’t see why the federal government would deny funding for a line that it is more useful. If anything, it would be the other way around (“Sounds good .. wait, you are only adding one station in the most densely populated part of the entire state? Are you sure you know what you are doing? Maybe we’ll give the money to someone else”). But federal grants aside, it is crazy to think that it would cost an extra billion dollar for a station. It wouldn’t cost that much for a couple stations (as I propose). Even big underground stations don’t cost that much (look at the downtown tunnel, which is full of them). Besides, maybe it would be worth it. It is crazy to me to think that people are excited about spending a bunch of money so that light rail runs above ground, instead of on what is essentially a freeway (no crossing streets) along Elliot and 15th, but are OK with skipping critical stations that would transform the region. Nothing has changed for anyone in the greater Central Area if you don’t live, work or visit an area very close to Seattle Central (Community) College. That sucks considering the fact that the line itself runs right under your very neighborhood. That is a major failing.

        So, yeah, of course this is a good line (you couldn’t help but build a good one) but it isn’t great. It wasn’t even a great value, since they blew a once in the lifetime opportunity. This does not include the stations that the original Forward Thrust plan had. That route would have been great. You can make up all the excuses you want, but they only reinforce the idea that this is good, and frankly, below average for that segment. They had other worries. It was always more important that this be a regional line (spreading outward to the airport and beyond) than function as a well designed subway would. They were willing to let parts of this be well below average, so that other parts — far less important parts, in my opinion — get build.

    2. Cool down, Brent. Time’s on your side. Like with bicycles and grooved rail (honest comparison, not making light of tragedies) and the warning-free streetcar tracks across crowded plazas in Europe, I doubt it’ll take 70 years for the public to understand street rail again. Which every light-rail car is where necessary, by good working definition.

      Same with boarding the packed cars that are urban rail’s chief badge of success. Will be great to see Seattle times editorial writers switch complaints from low ridership to subhumanity. 180 degrees in mid-sentence, like Big Brother’s 1984 commie stooge speakers changing enemies from Eurasia to Eastasia.

      Same head of state also Disappeared the rest of our Advisory Group members who could testify we had the congestion problem solved years before DSTT opened. Can pass lie detector that a trusted source told me that one of the original signal switchboard has been seen in the broom close that used to be IDS staging control room.

      Underground schedule constipation is best example yet of seven years overdue cost-free improvement. Dow Constantine gets on Supervisory channel with word that anybody enforcing schedule instead of headway will be stuffed into next rolling container of their own stupidity.

      Especially if it’s unnecessarily stuck behind a bus.


    3. @Jay — The ridership numbers for this section are pretty much right on line with what everyone here (including me) said they would be. I expect them to go up a bit (20,000 new riders seems a tad small). It all became rather obvious when Metro did the restructure. Put it this way — how the hell are you supposed to get from the UW to downtown now, if not Link? They cancelled the frequent bus service (71/72/73). They also made connecting service much more frequent. For example, i have a friend who lives close to 25th Avenue NE and 65th NE (in Ravenna). The 76 is a much faster way for him to get downtown. But if a 372 comes by, he will take that, and transfer to Link. Add in the other trips (UW to Capitol Hill and Capitol Hill to downtown) and we can expect around 25,000 riders a day easily. It would likely be much higher with a First Hill station (and a station at 23rd and Madison, and one at the intersection of 520 and Link) but we’ll never find out. Anyway, this is the most urban section of rail that Sound Transit will likely ever build (I don’t count downtown, since ST didn’t build that). So of course it has been successful. This is where light rail makes sense. It is what we should have built first (with a lot more stations). But even with all the flaws, it is still a great improvement in the transit network, and we should expect decent ridership as a result.

      1. I don’t fault ST for boring tunnels under Beacon Hill, and learning from their mistakes, before attempting to do same under the ship canal.

      2. “I don’t fault ST for boring tunnels under Beacon Hill, and learning from their mistakes, before attempting to do same under the ship canal.”

        You think that was strategy, then? Wait, this section between DT and UW is the most important one we can build, which will affect the most riders – we really don’t want to mess that one up. Let’s practice on this other line first.

      3. That was at least part of the intent of the board and staff. They tried building U-District to Downtown first but the construction bids came back much higher than expected causing an agency crisis.

        The airport to downtown segment was ready to build, allowed forward progress to be made and gave the agency some experience before tackling UW-Downtown.

      4. That is not quite accurate, Chris. The board was split. Earling, the chairman, wanted to build the Capitol Hill segment first ( Other people wanted to build something else. Ultimately, the decision was made to go south, because it was less risky. They figured they would “get their foot in the door” so to speak. Build something that everyone could see themselves using (a trip to the airport) and satisfy the suburban interests (since it leaves the city). I get that.

        But then why the hell do you turn around and skip First Hill? For that matter, why the hell does this not even include 23rd and Madison in the first place, even though it was obviously part of the Forward Thrust plan? Build the airport line first if you think it is politically necessary*. But don’t then turn around and skip stations. If you don’t have the money, then only go to Capitol Hill. It isn’t like this goes to the U-District, the logical terminus for the first wave of construction. First Hill, Capitol Hill, or 23rd and Madison would all make excellent end points as we wait to build out. But if your goal is to run lines to Everett (and it is) then they really don’t matter, and that is the problem.

        *Although Earling, a mayor from the bustling city of Edmonds thought it might make sense to maximize ridership first. You know, build the best bang for your buck. Build in the core, then expand outward. Crazy idea, I know.

    4. The definition of budget and schedule demands very much where you put the goalposts. If you out the start at the point the first construction contract is signed Link has been on or ahead of schedule and under budget. Really you can go back to the point where the board updated the schedules and budgets and Sound Transit has bee “on time and on budget” since then.

      Of course some want to hold Sound Transit to vague promises made during the RTD process including the timeline for Everett and Northgate.

      Sound Transit has also taken heat for revising the ST2 scope and schedule because of the 2008-2010 recession.

      Honestly I think the varoius issues in delivering Sound Move and ST2 have led Sound Transit to make extremely conservative taking worst case numbers for tax revenue, construction cost, and schedule for ST3.

      BTW I find it very interesting that those who claim Sound Transit is “lying” about U Link being under budget and ahead of schedule rarely hold road projects to the same standard. Nobody tries to hold WSDOT to vague schedules and budgets proposed decades ago for projects that haven’t even started construction. For that matter there seems to be little accountability for projects once construction starts. How many have been late and over budget? Where is the accountability?

      1. Well, I won’t bring up the fact that ST was late and spent way more money to achieve something they told voters they could do, if they won’t turn around and claim they managed to build everything ahead of schedule and under budget.

        As for holding WSDOT accountable, don’t get me started. I have written my rep about the stupid projects they are spending money on (and I’m not anti-roads, unlike a lot of environmentalists). You bet your ass I think the SR 99 tunnel is a mess, and I hold the folks accountable. Even when it is done, it won’t be very good (since it lacks ramps at Western). But it is going to take way longer and cost a bunch more than they promised. If, a few months from now, they revise their estimates, hire a new crew to finish the job, and then get it done faster and cheaper than the revised estimate, I will certainly call bullshit on that as well.

  4. Does ST have any room in its budget to improve off-peak STEx frequency? As is noted above, much of Link’s all-day ridership numbers is attributable to its good all-day frequency. I find it interesting that we’re planning on spending billions of dollars to (more or less) replace bus routes that only operate (at best) half-hourly off-peak. The 550 is STEx’s flagship route, and it is only half-hourly on weekends. I’ve been on a 550 that’s been crush-loaded Saturday afternoon (think there was some kind of sports match). The 545 (STEx’s second-highest ridership route) even drops down to hourly after 8PM on weekends.

    Can ST give us a little preview of Link?

    1. It’s actually every 15 mins Saturday and every half hour Sunday. But I agree. Whenever i ride the 550 on Sunday, it’s always crowded.

      1. Ah, you’re right, I forgot that 550 has separate Saturday/Sunday schedules, while the 545 is the same for both.

        In any event, ideally 512, 545, and 550 would have 15 minute service every day of the week, since they’re the routes that will be most replaced by Link as it expands.

      2. It would be easier if you just pointed out any non-crowded buses, when you come across one.

        The sad thing about the transit agencies’ responsiveness to critics clucking about “empty buses” is that the agencies then respond to the critics instead of allowing room for growth.

        But, yeah, running route 550 only half-hourly on Sundays is ridiculous. How about every 20 minutes? That might mesh better with Link transfers at IDS than every 15 minutes.

        BTW, route 545 is half-hourly ALL DAY on weekends.

        It is no wonder that Link’s weekend ridership is so much larger than the sum total of all ST Express routes.

      3. The 15 minute frequency on the 550 is daytime hours only. Evening, it drops back to 30 minutes. ST does interline the 550 and 554 to provide 15-minute combined frequency on Sunday – at least for those willing to drive to Mercer Island to catch the bus.

        Outside of the 550, the only ST express route with any kind of 15-minute weekend service at all is the 512, but 15-minute service on that route exists only on Saturdays, during the daytime, with service again reverting to 30 minutes in the evenings (with an intermediate period of 20 minutes in the late afternoon/early evening). The 512 could be worse – it at least maintains its 30-minute frequency all the way until the close of service – when the 510 and 511 were separate, they each dropped to hourly, as early as 7 PM.

        I haven’t seen the details of ST’s budget, but I do believe they have the money to significantly increase the level of service on ST express, but the board refuses to do so because they view ST express as a distraction from rail, which they see as their real mission.

        I would be very interested to know what short-term changes to ST Express Service we should expect to see if ST 3 passes – some all-day frequency improvements to the 512, 522, 545, 550, and 554, and others, taking effect in 2017, rather than 2040, would go a long way towards securing my vote for the package.

    2. more important than weekend service is lowering deadhead rate by running reverse direction routes.

      in the morning at i90 && rainier eastbound, see 5:1 deadhead to in-service ratio for ST buses.
      its a lot of service hours and operator time just taking up a lane on i90.

    3. I think once East Link opens that will free up a lot of service hours that can be reinvested elsewhere. Will be interesting to see how much of that investment goes towards increased frequency, or if they add a route here or there in the system to anticipate some ST3 service corridors

    4. I’ve been bugging ST about off-peak and weekend 550 frequency for years. Nothing much has changed, although I’m cautiously optimistic the 550 will see improvements as “mitigation” for East Link construction.

      For the 545, losing the Overlake TC deviation from noon-3pm and after 7pm (meaning only use it during the PM peak) might free up enough service hours to improve evening frequency. It costs 3-6 minutes per trip depending on time of day. Heck getting the Olive Way freeway stop built would save ~5 minutes pre trip in the morning.

      1. It’s unfortunate that even with the 541, there really does need to be a diversion to OTC in the afternoon peak. There’s just not enough space at the SB 520 (NE 40th St) stop for everyone who waits for the 545 at OTC.

    5. The 2016 service report (that Jason was kind enough to link to below) mentions the 550 quite a bit in its “unfunded service needs” section. This includes weekend service. They would like to add another trip on Saturday and 9 trips on Sunday (5 westbound and 4 eastbound). So they are aware of the situation, and will hopefully find the money to make those improvements.

      For 2016, there are no plans for improving the line, which I find odd. The 550 carries more than any other ST bus route, yet they are adding service to a lot more areas. This might be an attempt to bolster those locations (e. g. the Issaquah buses carry fewer people, but maybe that is because it doesn’t run that often) but I do find that odd, nonetheless. If increasing the frequency of an Issaquah bus will raise its ridership, then I assume that increasing the Sunday frequency on a bus that is very popular on the weekday will do the same (if not more). The 550 has the second highest boardings per trip (edged out barely by the 511, which only operates during rush hour). It seems like you should be trying to build on your success, not try to save a line that is highly questionable.

      Or, in the case of the 554, a very questionable tail. It turns out that before the Issaquah Highlands Park and ride, less than a half dozen people ride the bus towards Seattle. That segment should be cut, and the money put into more useful service.

  5. I commute by Link every day, and the trains are always crowded.

    What’s involved in adding more 3-car Link trains to the day? Does it cost ST more money?

    1. Recent information is that ST operates only two 3-car trains on weekdays, and then only during peak hours. It does cost ST something to operate that third car — electricity and maintenance costs primarily.

      UW students are making plans now for their housing in the fall, and I suspect many of them are looking at neighborhoods that suddenly become easily accessible because Link now goes to the UW. The increased UW ridership in the fall, coupled with growing event ridership (the Mariners in the playoffs!), will inevitably force the issue of more 3-car trains. Hopefully they will get to the level originally called for — 2- and 3-car trains alternating with one another.

      1. Don’t forget to include the extra time to Angle Lake Station when calculating the spare ratio.

      2. The extra approx. 6 minutes of cycle time added at Angle Lake doesn’t matter very much. ST can still operate 6-minute headways during peak hours while alternating 2- and 3-car trains.

        Heck, with a spare ration right at 10 percent, they can even operate all 3-car trains during peak periods.

    2. To allw for more passenger space in the first two cars, it would maje much sense to have a third platform-type car for those with much luggage, large dogs, bicycles (especially the cargo-type), large strollers, even wheel chairs. Seats along the side could be the flap-up type to maximize useable space when necessary.

      1. Yes to all except the flip-up seats! Those seats stay flipped down even when the car is full. They could be flipped up, but nobody ever relinquishes those seats to make room for more standing passengers.

    3. In Portland I saw that some of the cars, where they’re coupled to an adjacent car, have a U-shaped seating area at the end instead of a driver’s compartment, This adds around ten seats plus standing spaces, and there are windows all around to bring in daylight. Not all of the inner car ends had this but some of them did.

      1. And let’s face it, the days of single car Link trains are mostly over.

  6. Sound Transit has truly thrown its cap over the wall, and we got the math to back it up. Let us defend Sound Transit in bold colors and straight math in the months ahead so we can get the offense – all of the offense, not just the superhuman quarterback – their football back!

  7. News flash: Apples are now bigger than oranges!

    OK, enough of that. Looking at the chart, what looks damning are the numbers for ST Express. So, I’m guessing they are running the same number of buses as they have for a while. Is this the case. I remember reading that there are a bunch of routes that seemed pretty crowded and they wanted to add service. Did they do that or not?

    I would like to see more farebox recovery and cost per rider data. I would assume that Link is clearly ahead, since the trains now include a very cost effective section. How cost effective are the express routes. I would assume that some are not that cost effective in the middle of the day, but that sort of subsidization makes sense as a means to grow ridership.

    Speaking of data, any chance we can get updated bus numbers as well? I’m curious as to how much of Link’s success is due to people switching from other buses, or now taking transit instead of driving. That shouldn’t be a key metric, but it could give us a rough idea of the popularity of the system.

    1. The March restructure added route 541. I think that was a no impact change in terms of service hours, but it should add to the efficiency of the bus network. ST’s report says that ST Express is affected by crowded buses and traffic congestion compared to April 2015.

      Read the full ST report to get farebox recovery data for all modes. You’ll need to wait for the quarterly report for per-route data on ridership. Not including Metro routes of course.

      1. As far as I know, no routes were cut to fund the 541, so service hours definitely increased. The March restructure also added 542 service to the weekday midday period for the first time, with half-hourly service between 10:30 AM and 2:30 PM (increasing to every 15 minutes during rush hour).

        I often work from home in the mornings, and so, make a lot of U-District->Microsoft trips around 11 AM. At first, I assumed that I would continue getting on the 545 at Montlake Freeway Station because it runs every 15 minutes, rather than 542 running every 30 minutes. But, eventually, I started riding the 542 every day, in spite of the lower frequency. The fact that the midday 542 runs consistently on time, and has a place to wait for it not bombarded by freeway noise is a huge important over the 545, which is more frequent on paper, (but not necessarily in practice due to bunching). Ridership on these trips is not great, but it is improving (about 8 people per trip now vs. about 4 people per trip a couple months ago). And weekday midday trips are relatively cheap to provide, since they avoid long deadheads to/from the base carrying zero riders. Before midday 542 service existed, I would frequently see about 10 people per trip board the 545 at Montlake Freeway Station (~20 per half hour), so there is definitely potential for ridership on these trips to increase further.

        During the afternoon trip home (which is during the PM peak), people have definitely discovered the 541. I think a fair number of riders have learned to simply wait at OTC for whatever vehicle is coming first. If it’s a 545, ride it all the way downtown, if it’s a 541, get off at the Montlake Triangle and transfer to Link.

    2. ST Express platform hours have remained fairly flat for the past several years. There has been some minor growth, mostly for reliability it seems. Service changes have largely been shuffling the deck chairs, as it were, to push more service into peak periods to accommodate peak demand. The 512 restructure was an example of this. This has the side effect of matching service levels to demand fairly aggressively so the service is generally very “efficient.”

      This year ST is increasing or has increased service (adding platform hours) on a variety of routes, and is also shuffling hours around some more.

      The 2016 Service Implementation Plan has a bunch of data including ridership and cost data.

      1. The 512 restructure wasn’t just about efficiency. It improved connectivity within Snohomish County, and was much celebrated here at STB.

    3. Last I looked at the numbers, the cost per passenger mile was:

      ST Express: $0.44 per passenger mile
      MAX: $0.50 per passenger mile
      Link: $1.38 per passenger mile

      I don’t really know how else you compare the services since they cover different areas and serve different purposes. Cost per rider is irrelevant as they cover different trip lengths.

      At that cost per passenger mile, ST express is comparable to a cheaply operated light rail system (MAX). At those numbers, there can’t be too many empty buses.

      1. Glenn,

        Is the accounting methodology consistent between ST and TriMet? Even within ST, I could see some oddities arise, since ST is including track maintenance as an operating cost, and track expansion as a capital cost, while STEx likely doesn’t have any road-related operating costs, and few road-related capital costs, since other agencies take care of them.

      2. Those are from the Federal Transit Administration report summaries. I think they have to be pretty close to the same for accounting at the federal level.

        Most bus operations in the database are in the $3 to $5 per passenger mile range, and they wouldn’t be having road expenses either.

      3. ST Express benefits greatly from that particular metric. It typically has long freeway-running segments with decent loads. Typical metropolitan bus routes may have large loads, but much less velocity.

      4. Yeah, what aw said. For that metric, a Greyhound bus performs better than a typical subway. Personally, for a starting metric, I could care less about miles. I want to know, essentially, if a bus is being used a lot or not. The 44 may be slogging its way through town, but it is still performing a very valuable service. More people are using it than, say, an express from Issaquah to Northgate. To be fair, the 555/556 doesn’t run that often, while the 44 does. That is why boardings per hour seems to be a decent metric.

        One way to measure this is cost per boarding. ST doesn’t list this, but they do list subsidy per boarding, which is pretty close. The only thing I don’t like about it is that different fares are charged. I would prefer a starting metric (cost per boarding) which would be the same as subsidy per boarding if the fares were all the same. In any event, the data is in there, but it is a bit out of date. The 2016 performance report only has it for 2014. Link was subsidizing each rider at $3.57 per trip. That is almost exactly the same as it is for the 550 (the most popular ST bus). There are a few buses that are lower than that (e. g. the 510 and 511 are both under two dollars) but not many. Link is certainly in the first quartile of service (better than 3/4 of the buses) and is likely a lot better now. From an operational standpoint, U-Link is obviously a huge success. Very few miles (very little in the way of operational costs) for a lot of new passengers.

        Not that we should get too crazy about ridership numbers. It is only a good starting point. If you don’t have that, you’ve screwed up, and their is no point in doing any further analysis. But even if you have good numbers, it doesn’t mean anything has changed. It may just mean people have switched from one slow mode of public transport to another.

      5. The thing is, you know Link to Tacoma isn’t going to be the same as the existing line. It costs more to move the passengers a longer distance.

        According to the National Transit Database figures:

        The cost per rider (Operating Expense per Unlinked Trip), it’s $6.39 per ST Express and $5.39 for Link. Considering that Link is shorter than many ST Express bus routes, and some of the ST Express routes that aren’t used very well, the indication still seems to be that for stuff like Tacoma to Seattle the cost per rider may be cheaper by ST Express and there may be some financial advantage to keeping the direct express.

  8. JayH, sorry I had to spend this much time learning the Gaelic for “Inbred brain-dead poverty-stricken German result of the Saxon-Brits not being able to generate a king of their own, or build a single cable-car line or locomotive, let alone save a half penny!” To which modern Scots would add: “Whom being dead for a couple of hundred years hasn’t rendered anymore competent or useful.”

    And in addition to the Scots, no one else in the world has to care what King George III would say about anybody either. The banks, railroads, libraries and cable cars are still here. Nothing against the King himself, who the movie says was a very nice man. And even nice kings are complete pawns of Black Adder imitators. This is just about somebody really prejudiced opinion.

    Also remember heritage of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie- who’d have said same things about current Republican Party his forebears said about Geordie.

    Except in pointed and convincing English. And due to respect for another nation’s real work ethic, not blaming Germany in general for the king. So the fact that that since the French helped us win our independence many more people consciously pattern themselves on Carnegie than on Geordie proves that perception matters a lot less than results.

    And RossB, cost out the time and expense needed to dig Bertha’s older sister out from under the whole caved-in Swedish Hospital neighborhood in addition to Swedish Hospital. And then let the Press interview your accountant about ST’s real performance. And then, like the Scots said about King George…well, count yourself lucky nobody this side of Blaine can understand Gaelic at all.


  9. A note on apples and oranges:

    The passengers per trip measurement does not measure maximum passenger load per trip, which would be more relevant for capacity planners.

    Before U-Link, there were some passengers alighting in time to make room for others to board the same LRV, but most weren’t. With U-Link, there are a lot more popular non-overlapping trips, like UW to Capitol Hill and Capitol Hill to Westlake.

    The PM bottleneck is southbound between Pioneer Square and International District / Chinatown. So, someone could hang out at Pioneer Square during peak and watch if they want to see if peak-of-peak crushloading is causing too much dwell time, or passengers to wait for the next train.

    Regardless of need, I think it would be wise of Sound Transit to run all 3-car trains all day when Angle Lake Station opens, and then keep them running through early November. Let’s find out if spaciousness induces additional choice ridership. ST has deployed overcapacity before, and then rolled it back after collecting a year of data, until the passenger load outweighed the cost savings of one-car consists. It can do similarly again, but probably does not need a full year of data.

  10. Congrats to ST by having 60K during the first month!

    Having said that, why didn’t the fare box recovery go up? The ridership goes up much higher than the train service hours so it should – but it isn’t moving by the 20-30 percent that the math would suggest.

    1. It appears that total monthly boardings went up 79 percent and farebox recovery went up about 20 percent. With service hours seemingly only growing by 20 percent, I would have expected this number to be at least 30 percent higher, and more like 40-50 percent higher.

      1. A couple of factors that may explain part of the difference:

        Fare evasion has ticked up since the expanded service started. However it’s only slightly higher than April ’15, so it’s not going to matter much.

        With increased Link frequency in the DSTT and some bus routes being kicked upstairs, ST is responsible for a larger portion of the DSTT bond payments.

  11. The opening year (2016) average weekday ridership increment to be caused by the University Link extension (two stations) was forecast in 2007 to be 28,600. That number is available on the FTA New Starts document pages I posted back then at Expectations for ridership to be generated by the Capitol Hill Station have always been extraordinary, since it is, or was expected to be, sitting in the densest urban area of Washington State.

    Be that as it may, I have added the 28,600 incremental target to the Link average weekday ridership in 2015 of 35,573 to establish an Original Official Target (as of 2007) for an average weekday average for Link post U-Link to be 28,600 plus 35,573, rounded, 64,200.

    In fact, the average weekday ridership reported to me by Sound Transit for the 33 weekdays since the U Link opening on March 19 is 59,445, rounded to 60K, as the news above puts it.

    Two new stations were opened, so of course ridership is higher. But is the customer count high enough compared to the forecasts of the ridership that justified the $813 million in Federal funding that helped to pay for its construction? I say no.

    Since 60K is less than 64K, and especially because extraordinary rerouting of feeder buses (not contemplated until Dow Constantine’s Transit Integration Initiative began) was planned and implemented before the Link opening to maximize ridership, and a giant opening, headline-grabbing celebration was held to boost ridership (according to Bruce Gray quoted in The Seattle Times) my take is that U Link is not yet making its ridership numbers as set in 2007.

    I reported my U Link conclusion last Thursday to the ST Board in public testimony as follows: “…the daily ridership on Link light rail with two new stations, while higher of course, is coming in below the target set in 2007 in the Full Funding Grant Agreement, despite the agency’s expensive and disruptive
    efforts to promote U Link ridership.”

    Am I missing anything? I mean aside from the possibility that ridership will go up and up in the months to come and all we are seeing so far is a slow start…

    1. John, I got faith it’ll go up. But then again, I’m Mr. True Believer the guy on the Sound Transit defense who just want to get some planning geek her football back to score touchdowns!

      Good research!

    2. John – It appears that the 28,600 is for the segment north of Westlake. Keep in mind that the 60k boardings include those who have gotten on the train south of Doentown but got off at Westlake before the extension opened. This, they are still part of your original before # as well as part of the 28,600. Your math isn’t accounting for these through riders.

      1. The station activity report ( estimates 25.8 percent of station activity is at the two new stations. 60,400 weekday boardings means 120,800 daily entries or exits. 25.8 percent of that is 31,200 riders coming or going at the two new stations. Of course, that double-counts the trips between the two stations — so this is technically too high just like John’s method was too low.

        I think that given the two methods presented here that ST has satisfied the projection of 28,600 new riders on Link in the opening year – and that the definitive answer cannot be determined without station pair information.

    3. John, please. This is a 100-year system ST is building. No need to keep obsessing over ridership on day one or day 100. Ridership will indeed go up and up in the future, near and distant, and that’s more than a mere “possibility.”

      1. Roger,

        I’m pushing back on ST public relations hype that is trying to make U Link performance in the present day the harbinger of rail ridership for ST3 in the 2040s. The TV advertising we taxpayers are paying for to promote ridership seems almost like desperation.

        Bottom line I’m seeing so far: despite trying as hard as it can, Sound Transit is not yet delivering the ridership promised to be achieved by 2010 for Sound Move with the massive investment of billions begun in that earlier era, and continuing with ST2. The so-called “starter line” is not yet in place. It’s 2016 and the 105,000 daily average (2010 goal) for the U District to Angle Lake starter line is not even in the SIP for the next five years. Because U District doesn’t even open until 2021.

        The promises go on and on. Sound Transit has shown us the costs (double what was said) and shown us the time to build (double what was said), so now show us the ridership promised. So far, it’s all hype and faith. Faith that local government can reorganize future land use and mobility around a fleet of puny trains that simply won’t be able to go when and where most trips are going to be.

        But first, show me the ridership of 105,000 per day promised back in 1996!


      2. Yes, ST failed to meet its 2010 Link ridership goal due in no small part to that little phenomenon knowns as the Great Recession. You remember that, part of the GW Bush legacy.

        As for “puny trains that simply won’t be able to go when and where most trips are going to be.” As you well understand, Link light rail does not stand alone. It’s the trunk line, the backbone of a *transit system.* Many Link riders use buses for part of their trips on that transit system. It bears repeating: Transit system. Transit System.

  12. STEX will still be needed in the north, east, south ends and in the valley but where is light rail we can create a new service with the buses light rail jumpers (ST LRJ) these would serve the important or major light rail stations

Comments are closed.